Robert Louis Stevenson said “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” Those are words I have tried to live by in the second part of my Mitchell adventure. Since I last wrote, I have become very familiar with the Citylink bus schedule and the 208 kilometers between Galway and the Dublin Airport. My travels have taken me to long weekends in Rome, Madrid, Munich, Amsterdam, and Brussels. Kyle has been my travel companion for many of these adventures, and since neither one of us are huge on logistics every day we have spent in a new city has ended with unexpected and wonderfully entertaining adventures. A couple of highlights include going for a morning run in Rome and literally running into the Colosseum (if there is any better way to improve your running pace than to picture throngs of Romans heading into the Colosseum to see gladiators battle for their lives I have yet to find it), jumping off the high dive and swimming in the same pool that Mark Spitz won seven gold medals at the infamous 1972 Munich Olympics (this continued my adherence to my year long rule of swimming in every body of water I come across), getting to see my first European soccer match in front of a raucous crowd in Madrid, walking through Anne Frank’s hiding place in Amsterdam, and spending lazy afternoons at spectacular Christmas markets (although I am truly biased towards the unique combination of chocolate macaroons, cannolis, ostrich burgers, and live renditions of “Fairytale of New York” that I got to experience every day in Galway’s Christmas market).
As a reformed athlete I have also made it my mission to find a gym in every European city that I have traveled to, and I have had some of my most entertaining experiences while hanging out in the morning by various squat racks (in my humble opinion Amsterdam, strangely enough, has the best gym facilities in Europe). From conversations with the Attorney General of Australia to a Belgian chocolatier, I have learned more about the history and culture of the places I have traveled to and received advice on all the local hotspots by hanging in the gym. And while I fully support taking tours and pub crawling your way through new cities, I must say that this gym hopping idea could get some serious traction.
While on the subject of gyms, my Irish athletic career is still going strong. The basketball season has really taken off, and my Galway University team is going to be a real force to be reckoned with come the inter-varsity championship. All my sports commitments have also been another great way to travel Ireland, and getting my Irish teammates to regale me with family stories of the various towns we play in is a real treat. I must admit though that my boxing career has come to an end without me having my “dare to be great” Rocky moment. My last match ended in an easy decision for the judges, and I made a promise to someone back home that I would retire my boxing gloves before too much damage was done to my face and brain. I think I may replace my boxing training with an April marathon through the breathtaking Connemara Mountains.
My family (minus one of my brothers) also recently made the trip to Ireland. It was great to see them and show them where I have spent the last months. During the days we traveled to many Galway-accessible sites, including the Aran Islands and Kylemore Abby, and at night I showed them how Galway truly shines with a pint of Guinness, some live music, and great conversation by a warm fire. It was a truly memorable trip, and the smiles and laughs that were shared will last a lifetime. So I would just like to thank my family for making the trip to see me. I love you all so much.
I was also very excited for my family to visit, because December brought a harshness to Ireland that I had not yet seen. It was the coldest December in the history of Ireland (so cold in fact that I have taken up crocheting in an attempt to keep myself somewhat warm), and I think it was pretty reflective of the mood of many classmates since England has been called in to bail out the Irish economy. I am in an LLM program this year, so all my classmates already possess their law degrees. It has been really interesting to see the change in their desire to stay in Ireland since the year has progressed. At the beginning of the semester, most of my classmates were excited to find jobs within the Irish legal community after the year ended. Now everyone has been asking for advice on how to get a job abroad in either the United States or Australia. What has also been interesting is that I spend my days with my very young classmates, but my nights hanging out in an “old man” pub. During the day, I hear my classmates blame their elder generation for the current state of the economy and express an unwillingness to fix problems they did not create, but at night my elderly friends tell me how easy my classmates have it and that they should be ashamed to even think about leaving the country. I have no idea which side is correct (maybe they both are), but there is a very real generational divide right now in how the country should move forward.
One last aside before I leave you. With the Super Bowl one week away, I must tell you about my meeting with Ambassador Rooney (who also owns the Steelers). Steven Sifuentes invited Yongjun and me to attend the Dublin Marine Corp ball with his wife, Heather, and him. Besides getting to see Steven tear it up on the dance floor, we all got to meet Ambassador Rooney. I had this idea that if we got to meet him, I could convince the Ambassador to take me to Pittsburgh with him to watch his Steelers in action. Apparently, I am not that charming or charismatic, because although he politely laughed at my proposal, I am still waiting for my Dublin-to-North Texas invitation for the Superbowl.