What can I say that pictures cannot? They describe family, friends, travel, and experiences that I can never hope to convey in words. Heather and I arrived in Ireland at the beginning of September and have loved every moment of being here. It has not been without its changes, but the meshing of the two different cultures is a welcomed experience. Ireland is a beautiful country with wonderful people.
We started our journey flying out of Washington Dulles International on September 1st The red-eye flight landed us in Dublin early in the morning of the 2nd. Originally from Washington State, walking outside to cloudy skies and the feeling that it might rain was, in a strange way, a comforting feeling of home. Yet we were still in another country, and we some how had to get ourselves and the ridiculously large bags we brought with us onto the bus, then onto the train, then to our new apartment somewhere in Maynooth, County Kildare. The size and number of bags we brought with us was our first lesson of living in Ireland: we brought too much with us! We had four large suitcases, two carry-ons, plus a personal bag each. One would not believe the number of stares we received as we managed our way out of the airport to the bus terminal. The bus driver looked in disbelief as we hauled our luggage onto the bus, filling up the only space there was available for bags. We told him where we wanted to go and he said he would “give us a shout” when it was time for us to get off.
The train station was an even more humorous adventure as it was hardly distinguishable from the outside, not to mention the very narrow pedestrian bridge we had to cross in order to get to the correct platform. Once in Maynooth, getting the six bags across another bridge proved just as entertaining as the first, but we had made it to our new town and our new home.
It was surprisingly easy for both Heather and me to make our small apartment in Maynooth home. With three different grocery stores and a number of small restaurants, Maynooth is a wonderfully small town that really provides everything we could possibly need. Having decided to not get a car while in Ireland, we walk everywhere we go. I have to admit, there is not quite as much to do socially in Maynooth, aside from four or five pubs, but that is what is so great about where Maynooth is situated in relation to Dublin. Whether by rail or bus, we can get to Dublin in about an hour or less. There is lots to see and do around Dublin’s center, on top of the fascinating history that is still visible just walking around. At the General Post Office, for example, bullet holes from the 1916 Easter Rising still remain in the pillars at the front of the building!
I have not been stationary since living here and have made every effort to see the country as much as possible. Within the two weeks of being in country, we traveled twice out to Galway to visit Joey. Taking a few of the different local tours in Galway, we had the chance to see the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, Connemara, The Kylemore Abbey, the Arran Islands, so much more. The pictures tell it all, but these places contain a beauty and majesty that I have seen only a few times in my life. Check out some of the slideshows below for pictures from all our trips.
Heather and I did not make all these trips on our own. Throughout the pictures there are many of the first friends we made in the Mitchell Program: the other scholars. It was great coming to another country with eight good friends. It has been a blast getting to know the other scholars! Heather and I are fortunate that we live close to a few, and not too far away from the others. During the Convocation in Cork, we gathered for the first time since our initial meeting in Washington D.C. I had a great time getting to know the other scholars, and I have enjoyed getting to know them better since. We go out to eat together, travel together, and have a great time. While in Cork, we spent some time at the Ballymaloe Cooking School watching a culinary master make a delicious meal. I had a great time there! We also traveled out to Cobh where we learned a great deal about it history from Mrs. Wilson. It was a charming small town on the water. Experiences like those two made it a wonderful weekend with the other scholars.
The scenery around Ireland is unbelievable, and with every place we went, there was a story that came along with it. The picture below is of a cottage on the Arran Islands that we passed. As we were passing the cottage, our driver told us about the “Daylight Tax” that existed for a time while the British were in Ireland. People would be taxed for based on the number of windows they had in their cottages. So it was either pay the tax, or brick up the windows and deal with less light.
Out in Connemara, we passed this beautiful stream that fed into a lake on the other side of the lake. I cannot remember the name of the lake, but if you look closely, there is a little house on the edge of the water. It was in this building that an government official would live in order to watch for and prevent people from fishing the lake.
During the famine in Ireland, walls like the one below were built around the Burren, and other places in Ireland, in order to provide work to the Irish. We saw these walls everywhere and the interesting thing is that they served no functional purpose besides providing jobs.
The tours we took were awesome. It was great to hear about the different places we passed and the stories that described their history. Better than that, we we were learning from people whose ancestors were a part of that history.
Traveling is not all that I do. We have just been able to do quite a bit because we arrived in country three weeks before my program at the National University of Ireland even started. My program has been equally as enjoyable as living in Ireland, and it is exactly what I was looking for coming from the Naval Academy. Many of my instructors teach at both the university and the Irish Command and Staff College. There is also a number of students in the program who are members of the Irish Defense Forces. The diversity of the students allows for really interesting discussions and perspectives different from what I might experience in a master’s program in the U.S. The material is interesting, as it covers a broad range of strategic theory and issues. We will receive approval for our thesis proposals soon.
One of the aspects of living in Ireland that has been particularly interesting has been getting to know the Irish people. They are a warm and welcoming group of people. I have already made a few Irish friends from my program, and actually had one over for dinner a couple weeks ago. Outside of school, I have made a number of other friends in Ireland, in particular with guys from the Dublin Fire Brigade.
A couple of weeks after arriving, we were encouraged to seek out an internship in an area or field that interested us. With my background being that of an infantry Marine, I looked for something similar to that of the Marine Corps. Through the U.S.-Ireland Alliance, I was able to secure an internship with the Dublin Fire Brigade, which has been one of the most interesting things I have done thus far in Ireland. Serving strictly as an observer, I have been able to integrate myself with the different members of the DFB. The organization and brotherhood is quite similar to that of the Marine Corps, and I have to admit to a certain feeling of home that I thought I would not have in Ireland. They are a great group of men, now friends, whom share a common interest in service and familial relationships that develop due to the nature of the service they provide.
All in all, Ireland is wonderful and exciting place to live. I am fortunate to be apart of this program and have the opportunity to assimilate myself within the Irish culture and people. Already, time has flown by, but not without having experienced the beauty of Ireland’s landscape, the welcome of Ireland’s people, and the promise of many more amazing experiences.