January 2006 Reflection

It’s only been a little over two months since the first reflection on my time in Ireland, and a lot has changed! I no longer feel like a foreigner in a different country. The initial process of cultural adaptation and adjustment has faded. In terms of the day-to-day lifestyle, I’m settled in, with Cork as a home-base, which is nice. But that just means I have to look a little closer for the adventure, which certainly exists here and beyond!

On the academic side of things, all is going well. I found a lab to join in which to do my research project for the biotechnology program in which I’m studying. It’s in Dr. Paul O’Toole’s microbiology lab. The lab has a Jekyl-and-Hyde nature to it. Half of its members are working on probiotics — the ‘good’ bacteria, the kind that you find in yogurt. The other half, myself included, are studying the genetics of stomach pathogen (called Helicobacter pylori). It’s all been very interesting and is great hands-on experience. The lab team is a brilliant, diverse group of people, with representatives from Holland, China, (Ireland of course), and soon France will be included in that list.

Thanks to some inspiration from one of the runners in the lab, I’ve decided to do the London marathon in late April. Many of the runners gain spots to the marathon by running for a charity, and that’s how I got my spot. I’ll be running for Concern, a charity in Ireland and the UK that fights poverty in some of the poorest areas of the world. Email me (rcwaters@gmail.com) if you’d like to donate or want more info! 100% goes to Concern, specifically for an education project in Mozambique.

I spent the winter break in Romania and Moldova. A good experience – very cold, much snow, amazing orthodox churches, the majestic Carpathian mountains, and a lot of travel by train. I met many interesting travelers from a variety of places — Latvia, Russia, Hong Kong, Ukraine — along the way and so was never really on my own for all that long. The spontaneity of it all was indeed the best, as it usually is with travel. I spent Christmas with a group of youths I met at a church that morning, and had the treat of having some traditional Romanian food with one of their families. New Year’s was spent in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, and was quite a blast! Not Time’s Square, but still good.

The more adventurous stories are easy to write about and probably more interesting to read. But the Cork life here, though no Carpathian mountains or Romanian/Moldovan food, makes this year worthwhile. There’s a small market in Cork where you can get just about anything — and indeed anything organically grown! — which is fantastic. There are pseudo-jogging trails by the river. They are muddy, sometimes under water, and go through cow pastures. There are the narrow inner-city alleyways through which one can just wander aimlessly. And then there are the hills around Cork. A run or a cycle up the hills gives a great view of the city and the fields on the other side…when it’s not raining. Until next time!

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