Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Ocean Life

By Sadie Ellenson

The fresh ocean air hits my face. As I walk along, I can’t help, but think about how much the ocean and its shores are related in life.

Rocks. They can represent what is in our life like the events. Some events in our lives are HUGE others are small. Some of the obstacles in life makes us wobbly. Others make us jagged. There are happenings that are smooth that allow us to carry on. There are life events that are just like the gorgeous white rocks that erase all the bad and ugly ones.

The sand is all the in between parts in life. The time where we are living without interruptions and without many of the major and minor events. The sand is how we are able to keep moving. So many events, good or bad, would wear a person out. The sand keeps consistency and sanity.

The best part is that everyone has different rock formations and different amounts of sand in their life. Some people have had bigger life events. Some people have had a lot of smaller events that are the size of a bigger rock. Other people have had so many wobbly and jagged events that they are being worn out by the constant beating. There are also people who have had the smooth and sturdy events without a snaggy one. And of course there is a mixture.

People act the way they do because of their rock formations. The way we react to the different rocks in life and the way we chose to build the formations, makes us who we are.

Everyone has a story. Everyone has gone through things. We are made the people we are today not by the situations in life, but how we react to them.

.....We can chose to let our rocks pile up OR we can chose to let the water wash them away as quickly as they came....

Cahir Castle

By Kelly Boyle

Cahir Castle is located in Cahir town centre, South Tipperary, on an island in the river Suir. It was originally built in 1142 by Conor O’Brien, prince of Thomond. In the 14th century, the powerful Butler family owned the castle. During the 18th century it fell into ruin, but was restored in the 1840s. Now it is a national monument, managed by the Office of Public Works, open for guided tours and an audiovisual shows.

During the Irish Confederate Wars the castle was besieged twice. Outside one of the walls, this cannonball was left as a parting gift to the castle.

“Mind your head and watch your step.” This was a key phrase our tour guide kept repeating to us. The stairwells in the castle were dominantly designed to trick attackers. They were constructed unevenly and spiraled to the right. This set up was intended so that the attacker would trip and have to switch their sword to their left hand, making them weaker. The door frames were also very short so that the attacker would have to bow their head to enter, not realize what was waiting for them on the other side.

Through the first set of gates an attacker would be locked into a trap chamber. Here, the defenders of the castle could shoot down upon them or set the timber roof on fire and collapse it upon them. You can still see evidence of the flames from the burns that cover the walls.

In the grand hall, above where the lord and lady would sit, was mounted a pair of enormous antlers. These belonged to a 10,000 year old extinct Giant Irish deer. The span of this set was a little over eight feet.

We were delighted in the stories of how the grand hall was used for entertainment. Upon the arrival of a guest, the lady of the house would greet them at the door with three welcome drinks. The drinks were ale, wine, and the water of life (whiskey). If the visitor could drink all three they were welcomed in and allowed to stay as long as they pleased. When they did depart, they were given three flasks filled with these same drinks.

We also discovered that this castle has been featured in the movies Braveheart and Excalibur, as well as the HBO show The Tutors.

Of all the castles we explored on this trip, I’ll admit that this was my favorite. I loved it’s rich history, and was purely amazed by the buildings natural elegance.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Big Day in Dublin

By Wes Grimm

I am going to try and describe this day with as much detail that I can without it being 5 pages long...

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Started out with a very rude smacking of the alarm clock at 7:30 and waking up the rest of the roommates to go down for breakfast in the hostel we were staying at. We had to wait in line for our beautifully delicious full Irish breakfast. We ate that quickly and then went back up to shower and change. After we met our group out in front of the hostel, we made our way to Trinity College to see the book of Kells and the Long Room. The long room is a big library that feels like the library from Harry Potter and is filled with first edition books. For example they have the first edition of Gulliver's Travels by Johnathan Swift and have many first editions of Atlases that somewhat have the correct shape of countries and continents. We then left the College at about 11:00 AM.

Then I had a choice to either go to the Guinness factory or go to the National Museum of Architecture. I actually chose to go National Museum of Architecture, not because I don't like Guinness (I love it!) but because the National Museum was free. I am very glad I chose the museum because they had an exhibit about the Bog bodies that were found in Ireland. These bodies were preserved unbelievably well in the bogs. It has something to do with the acidity of the bogs that keeps the bodies so well preserved. There were four bodies on display and each had a little description on how they died and how and where they were found. Some of the bodies still had facial hair, finger nails, and almost full heads of hair. These people were sacrificed in around 2000-1000 B.C and still weren't bald. Our group of about 8 students left the Museum at about 12:45 to get some lunch.

We stopped and had a quick bite to eat at "Mama's Revenge" which was actually a burrito place. I ate a really spicy quesadilla. We then walked a couple blocks and got on the bus, full of the rest of the drunk students that decided to go to the Guinness factory at about 1:30 PM. It was a very entertaining and fun bus ride.

Then half of our group got dropped off at Kilmainham jail, and the rest of the group and I got dropped off at the National Museum- Collins Barracks. There we saw many exhibits about the Easter Rising in Ireland. Also many other exhibits about other battles that Ireland fought in dating way back, to before 1850. They had many uniforms and the weapons that were used in the many battles including the battle of the Boyne and WWII. From the outside it looked like a small museum but once we got in we realized that it was huge and had to try and soak as much information in as possible, in the hour that we had there. We then left the museum and swapped places with other group at about 3:30.

We got to Kilmainham jail and had to wait in line for a tour, we got super lucky and we were in the second to last tour of the day. The jail was really old and somewhat creepy like many old jails. We learned a lot from our tour guide; for example the jail held women, children and men in it at one time. Also that the youngest person in the prison was of the age of 5 and was put in there for 2 months when he was caught trying to steal a bronze ring during the great potato famine. Also the main corridor or holding area has been used in many movies and music videos. It has been used in the Italian Job, the Shawshank Redemption , and many other movies. The main corridor has been used in many music videos and for concerts because the acoustics in it are unbelievably good. The acoustics were made to be so great so that guards could even hear the prisoners whisper from across the giant room. Our tour finished at about half 5. That's the Irish way of saying 5:30.

The rest of the group got back on the bus and drove off to pick up the people back at the museum. Three others and I decided it would be a fun idea to go bouldering. We were going to go bouldering at a place named Gravity. We finally made Gravity at about 6:30. We filled out paperwork and got our climbing shoes and were free to climb the wall. The walls were no bigger than 25 ft and you didn't have a rope tied to you so you had to climb up and then climb back down. There were different color routes that you could choose from and each color had a different difficulty. It was a blast. All four of us could feel our arm muscles tighten up and our hands get ripped apart from climbing the wall. We were all exhausted and starving by the time 7:45 rolled around.

We left Gravity and our first goal was to find food as quick as possible on our journey home. I call it a journey because Google maps told us that we were 5.4 km away and it would take us an hour and 6 minutes to walk back to our hostel. We quickly found a fast food place that I do not recall the name of, all we cared about was that it had food. We all ordered our food and waited about 5 minutes for it. Once we received our food we walked out the door and started to devour the food. I don't think the food made it any farther than 4 blocks. We were all satisfied but all we wanted to do was relax and put our feet up, which was a problem because we still had a long way back to the hostel. We started to speed walk and I think we would have given the Olympic Speed walking team a run for their money. We saw a lot of Dublin that we wouldn't have seen. We made it back to our hostel in one hour exactly. We were all proud that we were 6 minutes faster than the Google maps time and it took each of us about 6 minutes to fall asleep after we made it up to our beds.

It was quite the day jam packed full of fun and interesting experiences and I can honestly say I would do them all again!

Monday, April 28, 2014

An Elevated Epiphany

By Joy Anderson

Today I climbed Mt Ben Goram. This hill is a part of the mountain range surrounding Croagh Patrick. Tom took four students with him on this day trek, and I was lucky enough to secure a spot and tag along. When we arrived at the base of the mountain, we hopped a fence into a sheep pasture and began our ascent. The climb was easy enough at first—dodge some sheep droppings here, hop over some boggy mud puddles there. As we got higher and higher the wind picked up, and the difficulty increased. Although the farther we went, the more my muscles strained, the view looking out over the ocean and the islands was worth every step. Halfway up, the wind had become so loud that talking was no longer an option, this posed no issue to our group, however, because we were all too out of breath to speak even if we had the choice.

Climbing became a reflective, internal time. I prayed, talking to the people I’ve been missing most and hoping they were with me while I journeyed upward. My coach was especially on my mind. With the beautiful view, the coursing adrenaline, and the spiritual connection this place inspired, I have no doubt that she would have loved every moment of this adventure.

Before anyone realized it, we had passed the line between ground and sky and were surrounded by misty clouds. The wind threw curling tendrils of cloud down the mountainside as it whipped around us. The fog was so thick that it obscured the surrounding mountains and distant ocean. Looking down and being unable to see the ground was dizzying, but it left me with an exhilarating realization. We were nearing the top.

The last part of the climb was the steepest and most strenuous. Feet slipping on the wet stones, boots sinking into boggy muck, I kept moving forward. I ignored the sounds of my own labored breathing and forgot the burning in my legs, nothing mattered but reaching the peak.

Gasping, sweating, and smiling, I triumphantly crossed the summit of Ben Goram. The wind was incredible. Never before have I been literally held up by something I cannot see. It blew the water out of my eyes and the air out of my lungs. The heavy clouds made it impossible to see down the mountainside, interfering with the view from the top of the world. Despite this, nothing could detract from the feeling of reaching the top. I found a rock and rested there until the others arrived, equally amazed and exhausted. Once we began to feel the bite of the chilling wind, we commenced our descent back to earth.

Whereas on the way up, we walked together in single file, as we traveled downward, we went our separate ways. Making little zigzags so as not to tumble face-first down the mountainside, each person picked their way back at their own pace. True to how we live our lives, we all chose our own path. Sometimes these paths would cross, and other times we would find ourselves alone. One moment someone would be ahead, the next they would fall behind. Criss-crossing down the mountainside made it clear how easy following in someone else’s footsteps can be, but how much more rewarding it is to forge your own path.

By the time we reached the bottom of Ben Goram, I had found my center. My body felt alive and strong, and my spirit felt refreshed. The events of today have been indescribable, and once again, I have come to the conclusion that I truly am the luckiest.

The Crane

By Molly Burgstahler

The rolling beat of a traditional Irish jig rocked the building as the musicians lost themselves in the tune and the audience stomped their feet and clapped their hands. My friends and I were greeted at the door by a friendly bouncer, whose large build, dark hair, crinkly beard, and colorful scarf immediately brought to mind Rubeus Hagrid, the lovable half-giant from Harry Potter. We were spending a weekend in Galway as part of our study abroad program in Ireland. It was Saturday night, and we’d been searching for a traditional music session everywhere we could think of. After striking out in a few different pubs, we decided to take the advice of the cheerful young woman whom we’d bought pie from earlier that night, and ventured across the bridge to The Crane.

The Crane, built in the 1800s, has long been known to Galway locals as one of the best pubs in town. Offering live traditional music seven nights a week, the pub is thought have been the launching pad for several Irish singers and bands. Its location slightly off the beaten track allows for a less touristy experience, although it’s beginning to be discovered, and tends to be packed most nights with locals and visitors alike.

Entering west Galway, we peered down the darker streets. Unsure where the pub was, we followed a group of younger people around the corner to a street filled with pubs and restaurants. We took in the scene as we searched for some sign we were heading in the right direction.

Neon lights glowed aggressively above the sidewalks, advertising the pubs and restaurants all up and down the street. The harsh light contrasted sharply with the dark buildings. A dizzying mass of people swarmed in and out of buildings, queuing in some spots and clumping up like blood clots blocking the path in others. Music pounded the air, the thudding bass making me wonder nervously if we’d wandered into the area of town where the clubs were. Wrappers and scraps of paper littered the curb, an old receipt skidded along the sidewalk in the damp breeze.

Around the corner and suddenly the few streetlights seemed very dim compared to the pub lights behind us. We decided to go one more block, and if we didn’t see The Crane we would turn around. Maybe we had a bit of Irish luck with us that night, because as soon as we turned the corner we could see the Crane on the other side of an odd intersection about a block away.

Upon arriving, we peeked into the brightly lit pub in full swing downstairs, then made our way up the worn wooden stairs into a dark room packed with people standing shoulder to shoulder. Several people sat in a dimly lit area that was slightly raised above the rest of the room. All were holding a musical instrument and had at least one drink in front of them. People sat at low tables surrounding the stage, and the rest of the room could barely move without bumping into others. A bar lined the back of the room, the bartenders constantly scrambling to keep up with the orders.

Most of the time there were up to 15 people playing at once: several guitars and fiddles, two flutes, and a concertina. A concertina is very similar to an accordion, but smaller and more cylindrical as opposed to the rectangular prism of an accordion. At one point, someone called the audience to attention with a class and spoon. When we all finally quieted down, one man played his guitar and sang. Those in the room who knew the words joined in on the chorus. Following his solo, the elderly man next to him performed a short solo on the concertina. Much to our disappointment, no one played the uilleann pipes (pronounced “ill-in” or “ill-yun” depending on regional dialect) until we were leaving, so we weren’t able to hear much of them.

After rubbing shoulders with the rest of the crowd for a while, we headed downstairs for a pint to go with the lively music. It was only slightly less crowded. Fascinated by the style and instruments so different from what we were used to, I have no doubt we would have stayed all night if we’d had seats upstairs. Instead, we called it a night around midnight, grateful to have found the corner bar. On our way out, the bouncer held the door again. “Have a good rest of your night, ladies.”

Bucket Lists

By Willie Brakke

I have never come up with a bucket list before this trip. I have always liked the idea, and I have a number of things that I would put on my life bucket list such as go to machu piccu or climb in Yosemite.

I decided to make an Ireland bucket list about 3 months before I left, and here is an abridged version of said list.

1. Buy a sweater
2. Climb Crough Patrick bare foot
3. Go rock climbing outside and not sustain any injuries
4. Sleep outside
5. Surf
6. Get so lost that I have to ask for directions
7. Do art
8. Send Letters
9. Chase a rainbow
10. Eat dinner with an Irish family or person in their home

How much of this have I done? Not much. I have been here for well over a month and I have completed 3 of the list above (1,3, and 8).

Number 1 was completed on the South trip. I know what you are thinking, and yes it has elbow patches, but it also has shoulder patches!

Number 3 has been a project. I have found a few places to climb outside, and I am planning on finding a climbing gym while on spring break.

8 has also been an ongoing process, and I realize that I have not written as many letters as I would have liked, but hey it is a work in progress.

Am I disappointed? No, I know that I will get the ones done that I am supposed to get done. I don’t see it as a list of things that I need to do, more as a list of suggestions, a gentle nudge in the direction of adventure.

This weekend I intend to complete numbers 4, 6, maybe 9 and hopefully a little more 3. There is a place to camp not too far from where we are staying in Louisburgh, and near there there is an abandon stone building that I hope to climb around on.

As always comments and feedback is appreciated.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

25th Annual Russian Language Study Tour 2014

The 25th annual Russian Language Study Tour, a unique cultural and academic exchange between the College of St. Scholastica, St. Martin's University in Washington, and Petrozavodsk State University, located in Duluth's Russian sister city, will take place this summer in June and July. Students from St. Scholastica, St. Martin's University, Gustavus Adolphus College and the University of Minnesota will be studying and taking part in the anniversary celebrations in Russia. 

Excitement is building as we plan our travels to St. Petersburg, Petrozavodsk, Kizhi and Moscow.
Watch the blog for posts from our students as they explore new territory this summer!