January 2006 Reflection

Happy New Year to you! I am just returning from spending the holidays at home, and preparing for my first semester finals this coming week at Magee.

There has been plenty of good craic since November–shortly after my first journal entry my Peace and Conflict Studies class took a field trip to Dublin for briefings with representatives of the Taioseach’s office, the Foreign Ministry and US Embassy. One highlight was U.S. Ambassador James Kenny, who spent over an hour meeting with us and answering our questions. That discussion made me appreciate just how much work America has done and continues to do for peace in the North. The Ambassador’s generosity was repeated in inviting all the Mitchells down to his residence Dublin in earlyDecember.

One advantage to living in Ireland is that the books of one of my new favorite authors, Bernard Cornwell, is much more well known and available. My girlfriend and I read Sharpe’s Tiger together when she visited in November, and we have continued the Sharpe series, a story about a rogue British Infantryman during the Napoleonic Wars.

Some of the best craic of the fall has surely been Tony’s Table Quiz. Every Wednesday night is quiz night at the Linen Hall pub in Derry City. My flatmates and some other UU students and I have gone every week without fail, to compete against other pub goers at anagrams, music, football, and soap operas.

My Scottish roommate happens to be a fan of all of these–but the last was his specialty. One magical night, we won a case of Budweiser, of all beers, the night before thanksgiving, of all days. In addition to our Scot’s expert knowledge of “Coronation Street” I was lucky to receive such Maine-related questions such as, “Who wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin?”, “What U.S. state is known as the Pine Tree State?”; and, “What animal was the movie Andre about?” We’ll look to continue the weekly tradition this spring.

While it was my first Thanksgiving away from the States, we had no problem celebrating it. Carie brought a can of pumpkin pie filling from home (they don’t seem to have pumpkin pie in Ireland!?, and I braved the blizzard-like elements to procure the rest of the ingredients. It was an excellent dinner with excellent people–some of them having their first Thanksgiving. It was followed up the next day by another wonderful dinner at Melissa’s apartment at University College Dublin. The relationships I am developing with the Irish and the other Mitchells are what I have been most thankful for.

The best day of the last two months was the opportunity to meet Senator Mitchell in Belfast. We were able to see the human side to a man so accomplished–one who, like the Irish I’ve met, was a good storyteller and quick witted. The most important advice that I took from him was to be professionally flexible in the coming years–he had originally wanted to be a teacher, but he joined the army, then became a judge. I am at a position where I know I want to do non-profitwork and public service–but am unsure exactly where I want to work and what future degrees I want to attain. While it can be challenging to be among other scholars who are already enrolled in PhD and Law programs, remaining open right now is in another sense liberating for me at this point in my life. I am glad the Senator affirmed that.

I return to Ireland in a year that is going by quickly, resolved to take even more advantage of my time there. I am bringing a special companion that I left behind last semestr–my tenor sax–to hopefully start playing with some other student musicians. I also anticipate attending the approaching Bloody Sunday anniversary, which is a must. Lastly, this February I am looking forward to making use of my USIT travel stipend to travel to Krakow and see Auschwitz and various John Paul II sites.

I want to add a special congratulations to Sarah Wappett from Georgetown, a new Mitchell who will be studying in Dublin next year. Hoya Saxa, Sarah!

Cheers!

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