May. Reflection on an almost complete year.
My classes have ended, exams all taken, undergraduates gone to their homes, and the Mitchell reunion – the ‘end-of-year’ festivities for the Mitchell group – has just passed. The classes were valuable, a range of medicine-meets-microbiology areas that I enjoyed and of which I’m sure I will benefit in my future studies. In the research lab, the positive, meaningful, eureka-like results are slow in their coming. A certain point in the investigative process will be reached, only to bring to light a tiny mistake made a few steps back. But it’s progress, and I’m learning a lot. So that said, it’s been successful so far and hopefully will be even better this summer.
And that’s the status of the academics. Enjoyable, intriguing, continuing, but only part of the year’s experience. During the past few months, I had been busily running circles around the only grass/dirt trail in Cork (asphalt is tough for me to run on) and somewhat awkwardly asking random people around UCC to donate to the charity called Concern, for which I was raising money with the marathon as a platform to do so. The fundraising went brilliantly. I was pleasantly surprised by the generosity of the Irish. I’ve heard and read this fact in several places – the Irish, by amount donated per head, are the most generous in Europe. Some attribute it to the fact that many people still remember what it was like to be a poor nation and are more than ready to help others. That remembrance must have been passed on to the younger generous as well. Whatever the reason, people gave, and gave generously – Americans as well! (If you want to learn more about Concern, go to www.concern.net. They have a write-up about the marathon as well). The marathon itself went well, despite a start that was too fast. Crossing that finish line was fantastic!
My family, except one of us three brothers – who had college classes – came to Ireland to visit in April. I meet them in Dublin, and then we took a speed-tour of south/central Ireland… Clonmacnoise (excellent!), Galway, the burren, the Cliffs of Moher (on a rainy day), Limerick briefly, Killarney and the Ring of Kerry (on a sunny day), Cork. It was a great tour, as I hadn’t explored some of the places. The family was thrilled to be in Ireland – they had been talking about the trip for some time, and left wanting to return. Maybe this summer. With my winter break spent in eastern Europe rather than home, it was very very nice to seem them.
The likely common thread amongst all the Mitchell journal entries this time around will be the Mitchell reunion. Most of the Mitchell alumni from all past years were able to unite in Dublin for a weekend in May. Faces and bios from the Mitchell website were finally paired with personalities. Young Irish leaders in their fields also attended the events, which consisted of a celebration of the year’s coming to a close (for the current Mitchell scholars), discussions on ways to enhance US-Ireland relations, and a brainstorming session on how to better the Mitchell Scholarship program. Most valuable of all was simply meeting and talking with the Mitchell alumni and the Irish leaders. It’s always inspiring to get to know, though only briefly during this weekend event, brilliant and good-hearted people. I’d say US-Irish relations are in very good hands. After the weekend, also very memorable was the trip to Limerick made by the current year’s Mitchell scholars – a remarkably interesting tour of Glenstal Abbey and musically wondrous evening with Professor Micheal O Suilleahbhain. The others continued on to Dingle while I went back to Cork for my last exam.
The year is just about over. Amazingly quickly this year has gone by. Of course, that’s what I said about each previous school year for the past decade or so. But I won’t be in Ireland next year, so that makes the remaining months all the more important to me. There are still so many things that I’d like to do…none really related to travel or sight-seeing, but about getting more involved with Cork life and the community here. There are more and more different aspects of the community that I keep discovering and want to get involved much more with service organizations, churches, the arts, etc. That’s this summer’s goal. I have until 18 September. For now, I’m packing for a trip with Liza to Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. Should be an experience!