A couple of weeks ago, I was observing the firefighters of the Dublin Fire Brigade on one of their ambulances. We had received a call to respond to a young man who had been assaulted. When we arrived at the incident, the Gardai were already in attendance and had the man sitting down trying to piece together what had happened. The medics dressed his wounds and then put him in the back of the ambulance. At this stage, the Gardai continued in their attempts to get some details about his attackers and what had happened. They were not getting very far as this young man was a visiting student from Venezuela who spoke broken English. Once I knew he spoke Spanish, I was able to immediately help translate for the Gardai and then help the ambulance crew get some critical information from him. This was an amazing experience! I learned Spanish after living with my father’s family in Mexico for seven months as a teenager; I had been asked to translate, though I am not fully fluent, for a group of us that went down to Peru on a culture immersion trip while at the Naval Academy; and I had the experience of observing on the ambulance with the Dublin Fire Brigade which aided me in knowing what information was needed. Much of my international experiences blended at this moment, enabling me to help on the ambulance.
What does international travel bring you? For me, it helps me to be comfortable in a range a different situations, amongst many different cultures. Having the opportunity to spend a year in Ireland has added greatly to my comfort with different cultures. This comfort, I think, is fundamental to me personally, especially as my time to return to operational forces of the Marine Corps next summer draws closer.
In the more immediate future, Heather’s and my time here in the Ireland is rapidly drawing to a close. We are sad to be leaving the Emerald Isle as it has become our home. To finish off our year as Mitchell Scholars, we spent a final extended weekend with each other. We had the opportunity to visit Limerick where a few of us went out and toured the milk market. I love these little open air markets and will miss them when we leave. One of the highlights of the weekend was walking around the Glenstal Abby where I certainly gained a greater appreciation for what they do, how they live, and, my favorite, how well they can cook! The weekend ended with a final gathering where we received our Mitchell Scholar rings and had the chance to spend our last evening with the other scholars. I am sad that our time together has to come to end, but I take great joy in knowing that the friendships that we have formed will continue for many years!
One of the greatest experiences that I will take away from our time will be how deeply we assimilated and felt connected to to the Irish people. Beginning with the Dublin Fire Brigade, they have become good friends, even brothers, of a similar relationships that I have with many Marines back in the United States. These guys really do provide an excellent service to the community, and it has been a privilege to be welcomed into their ranks. Over the last year, they have taught me a great deal about what the brigade does and, more important for me, provided me with a “home away from home” experience. I went to the Naval Academy to become an officer of Marines, and then I took a break to come to Ireland, but that does not mean I have not had the itching desire to be back amongst Marines. The firefighters of the DFB have helped me to put those desires at bay by letting me into an environment that is, in terms of a brotherhood, similar to the Marine Corps.
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Heather and I have found many Irish families that welcomed us from the moment we stepped through the church’s door. We immediately had different families inviting us over for dinner, asking us if we needed any help, and even providing a weekly ride to the building every Sunday. Over the course of the year, Heather and I have had the good fortune to serve in different capacities within the church. While Heather watches over nursery age children, I am a primary teacher for children 8 – 10 years old. I truly felt that I had fully assimilated when one of my primary children asked me to baptize him, as is customary when a child turns 8 years of age. It was an incredible experience! Even when my sister came, we volunteered (yes we volunteered her as well) to help run a couple of stations for a primary activity where children learned how to help their families out with chores around the house and think about what they wanted to do when they grew up. I was able to bring my turn out gear from the Fire Brigade-which was a big hit!
Throughout the course of the year, it was a bit of a challenge to get close to my peers within the program at Maynooth. Through no fault of anybody, much of the course work was simply done independently, outside of the classroom. It was not until the end of the year that I started to really get to know my peers and establish long term friendships. One of the best ways this occurred was through a number of trips that my course director and other professors had put together. With the exception of maybe one or two, I think I took advantage of them all.“My program offered a two day long trip down to Cork where, for the first time in many years, we toured the training ground of Fort Davis. “
With these different trips, Heather and I both were able to make wonderful friends right there in our little town of Maynooth. We are even looking forward to the thesis submission date where a number of us are planning on getting together.
I know it just recently happened, but for Heather and I, Ireland was a not only a new experience for both of us individually, but also as a married couple. We experienced so many “firsts” together here, of which the most recent was our first Easter together. We spent the entire Saturday preparing everything from deserts to appetizers. Heather even made her first Honey glazed orange-pineapple Ham which turned out fantastic. Amongst the other things visible below, we had no-bake cheesecake, funeral potatoes, mashed potatoes, baked sweet peppers, salad (provided by Kyle), and carrot cake. It was a fantastic meal and we even were able to have Kyle and Yongjun join us!
“Our tiny dorm-room sized fridge filled full of our Easter spread! ““My uncle in Mexico was slagging me a couple of days ago that I simply put on the apron for the picture, but I assure you I actually participated in some of the cooking!”
In closing, let me simply express how wonderful a time we have had in Ireland! It is going to be incredibly hard to leave, but we are leaving with so many different experiences that are lives are so much the better for having had them.