Saturday, November 15, 2014

Chasing Coasts...with my Wellies in the Water

"Just WHO proclaimed there wouldn't be rain?" My friend Lexi cried as we stepped out of the Centra this morning where some of us were grabbing breakfast or drinks. "Oops, sorry, I should have kept my mouth shut", I whimpered. "But hey, it's not raining where we're headed__ see that blue spot up there!?" James put in a hopeful word. But I had already whipped out my now broken thrift-shop umbrella. "Look Lexi, it's now gotten the better of me...this umbrella isn't so great anymore." But we were close to the city center where we soon hopped onto the coach for our anticipated day trip with O'Brien's. Besides us three, there were the two Christina's, as well as a few others on the coach who'd just happened to book the same tour as us. We left for West Co. Cork and the Mizen, or southernmost point of Ireland. My friend James is from England(the area of Mr. Darcy in Pride & Prejudice), but now lives in Whales and is living here a short time for his Apple job, and therefore wanted to do sightseeing like us students. He and I happened to sit in the seats behind a very lovey-dovey German couple who kept petting each other's faces and kissing. James and I just snickered about it and tried to focus on good conversation and the lovely scenery out the windows. Our bus driver was a normal professional Irish driver, let me tell you, we were almost ALL very motion sick by the time we reached the town of Bantry. He had been going like 100 km around those super windy barely-two-track roads across the countryside. At once point there was also a sharp slam-on-the-brakes as we narrowly scraped a haul truck on a curve. Anyway, in Bantry(just a stop on the way), we all lined up in the Pharmacy to get motion sickness tablets! Then we got fresh air by walking along the water and down to the beach. With the motion sickness tablets starting to kick in, we chatted cheerily about the boats on the water, about the gypsies living nearby, and about the swan who was out on a morning swim.

On the road again, we headed for the southern point again, hoping this shorter leg of the journey would be easier on our tummies. Thankfully it was. But whatever help that was, because when we got there our breath was taken away the Beauty. The sun had broken out of the clouds at just the perfect time, and here we were standing on a plateau over the HUGE Atlantic. I've always known that the Atlantic is huge,but...this time my small eyes helplessly realized that IT was more than they could contain. There were cliffs...wave masses crashing into salt puree phantoms, ever high upon the most jagged rocks I've ever seen. I laughed to James,"The sea is saucy and the rocks dashing," knowing the sea and rocks have played for all the ages past. Up ahead we all crossed probably the grandest bridge I'll ever cross. The Atlantic expanse on my left and a God-sized ragged rock window on my right, with more rock walls and sea inlets beyond. And then I realized, if I were Amelia Earhart, this would be the PERfect rock cavern to dip your little plane down into and swoop around and up. I may just have to be the Amelia Earhart come-back-to-life and get my own plane to do this. It'd be totally worth it! It was sharp and deep, and the sun rays beamed over it's shadows, turning it into an enormous luminous hole toward heaven. Naturally we all turned crazy and realized our car sickness had been more than worth it. (Unfortunately I couldn't capture this rock chasm at its best).

There is a lighthouse out here, but it happens to be perched a lot a rocky spit-of-an-island, so we merely toured the lighthouse chambers, such as where the keepers lived. Now I have the old lighthouse scene plugged into my mind for any future novels I just may happen to write, haha. I've tried to envision the living space of lighthouse keepers for a long time now, especially after reading about Captain Jim in Anne's House of Dreams. Now I've got it. The Keepers live the lonely-beautiful. They have a dedication that courageously faces the deadly sea and then pet her calm and sleep, all the while keeping the light beaming for all the brave ships of the Northern sea. I contemplated such a life and story as I perched on the Island's southern tip lookout, literally yelling out,"Hey America out there!"(I know you're out there). I am far from home and yet I feel at home, and just can't keep my 'wellies'(rain boots) out of the water!!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Whiskey and the Wildlife of the Land

Early November in Ireland. Means you're busier with assignments at college and the rainy days have increased. So you feel quite lucky when it's a sunny day for traveling about. I did a whiskey tour this past Saturday, to the Jameson Whiskey Distillery. It was actually a field trip with my International Marketing & Management class, and this was just one of our stops. What history lies here__ while walking the historic courtyard you can almost hear the men blowing up the whiskey with gunpowder to test if it was any good or not. That was called 'shot whiskey' in olden days. You can easily imagine the old water wheel turning and making electricity for the blowers and pulley systems. You can imagine the farmers hauling in the barley from their fields...wagon wheels jiggling upon the uneven cobblestone. This place is old for sure, though they haven't made whiskey here since the 1970's or something like that. However they do still have some aging in barrels in one of  the dark, cool warehouses. What I found interesting is that while U.S. whiskey is only distilled once, the Irish distill their's three times. I especially loved the barrels everywhere, and there was furniture made from barrels everywhere too! Being a lover of design, I could hardly keep my eyes and hands of the barrel chairs. If you've ever seen barrel making, or a video of them being made, you gain high respect. It's a lot of work! And nowadays, especially here on the Emerald Island, they use barrels not only for alcohol but for decor as well.

After lunch at the Distillery cafe(sandwiches and soup), me and the rest of my class headed off to Fota Wildlife Preserve. This is truly an unforgettable place to me. I saw so many animals here that I've never seen before in my life, since I've never been to a big zoo or anything. This place was like a "little Africa" or "little Asia" really, as they take such animals as zebras, tigers, giraffes, monkeys, kangaroos, & many others, to protect, manage, and breed their species. I stood in the beginning of the park a bit dumbfounded, looking around thinking,"Wow, you'd never expect to see this in Ireland, it's so exotic!" Because, for one, it's not indoors at all, bit actually most of the animals are just in farm-type fences, if even that. The kangaroos and moneys practically free-roam, especially the many birds they have there too. I tried to get quality shots of as many animals as I could, but there were still plenty that I missed.For instance, the red pandas were curled up taking naps in the branches of their tree so it was hard to get capture them well. And some of the moneys....well as I mentioned some moneys are hardly penned and even have a "money island" for a natural-like habitat, but other kinds are surrounded by high fence. The zebras reminded me of horses, though a bit shorter and well, 'wilder-looking'.

Just look at these beautiful creatures! And yes, Ostriches ARE huge; so are giraffes! However, cheetahs and tigers aren't necessarily as big as I'd imagined. They are super strong and powerful looking though! I think my favorite were the giraffes.Oh my but the tiger too...have you ever looked into a tigers's huge cat-eyes? They are truly stunning creatures! Seeing all these amazing creatures, I realize just what a sense of variety and creativity God has. Obviously this place isn't a zoo exactly, but they do take some of the animals from the Dublin zoo, as well as other places around he world. It was just so incredible that I got to see so many of the animals in one day that I've been wanting to see my whole life!!!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

This City I Love

Well I've been living here in Cork City for at least two months now, and I couldn't love it more! Rain or shine, cold or pleasant, my heart is here. And the funny thing is, I haven't even seen all the city yet, I realized just last weekend. There are whole other sides of town that I haven't even visited yet. Last Saturday the other ISA students from Galway came down to "my city" and I got to experience the pride and joy of showing them around. First I met up with them in the Crawford Art Gallery, and that was funny because I sort of got lost trying to find the place. I do feel dumb about that because I've been living here for two months now and it should be easy. But hey, how is one supposed to find something they've never been to before? Anyway, the gallery is absolutely LOVely and I want to go back there now!

It was a very rainy Saturday. And before I met up with the Galway girls I had a parsnip soup lunch in the Farmgate Cafe with my friend Lexi. We went shopping a little together too, as we were planning a potluck for that night. Poor girl, Lexi's umbrella wasn't working right as the wind kept blowing it inside out, so she ended up getting pretty wet. My U.S. thrift-shop one was fairing out fine to keep the top part of me dry, but my boots were aweful. I've been wearing my boots everywhere lately, so that's probably why the wear-n'-tear caused them to start leaking. So I went into one charity shop after another until I found a pair of rain boots for 6.50 euro. I then took my wet socks and other boots off and stuffed them in my backpack, so I could wear the dry rain boots. They helped some, since we did a whole bunch of walking around the city, showing the Galway girls UCC campus and the English Market, etc. By evening though, I had blisters on my feet. But since the rain had stopped I delightedly put my Chaco sandals on. I made my Swiss potato kugel for the potluck, and chocolate chip cookies for dessert. After the potluck I went with a couple of the girls I'd invited to the potluck, to a pub where most of the other students were, and handed them the left-over chocolate chip cookies. (There was some great live music in there.) I wanted them all to feel at home in "my city." I was just bummed I couldn't invite all ten+ girls to the potluck, because they're all fabulous!

Sunday after church, I hung out with my Irish friend Anna. They skies played like kittens with sun and cloud most of the day, but Anna took me to new lookouts of the city. Off of Penrose Quay there are some steep-hilled streets, and the views of the city are just stunning! While climbing the street we also popped into one of the crafty shops along the way, and I saw yet others that I totally want to return to later on. A thought also crossed my mind: "Why be in such a hurry to travel all over when I'm in such a great place right here?" I feel blessed to live here.