Maddie in Ireland: One Month In (Part 1)

Hey kids!

I’d like to start off by apologizing to you. I just know you’ve been refreshing this page anxiously for two weeks straight, waiting for my next installment about my adventures in Ireland and I am sorry for leaving you hanging. I am a horrible person and I apologize for an increases in blood pressure that may have occurred as a result of your prolonged wait.

“Where have you been Maddie? Why haven’t you kept in touch with me?” I’m sure you’re frantically asking. “Well,” I calmly reply to you, “I’ve been alllll over. Horribly busy actually. But I’m here now, children, and I have ~so~ much to tell you!”

Where should I start? Should I tell you about the people I know? Perhaps my visit to the Cliffs of Moher as promised? How about my Valentines Day spent with my girls? Or should I tell you about my visit to the Aran Islands? Maybe I’ll talk about going to Oxford to visit fellow Spiders studying abroad? Or the few days I spent exploring London by myself? What about the time I visited Stonehenge? Maybe my classes?

But then I think, porque no los dos? Or rather, porque no los siete?… Is, is that how you say it? Because, honestly, I have no clue. I took Italian, sooo I’m way out of my depth here. Well, however you say it, how do you feel about me telling you about all of it? (Spoiler alert: regardless of how you feel, I’m gonna tell you all about it).

Since I’d rather not skimp on the details, but I also don’t want to force you to read an entire novel, tonight I will write about the first tres activity-thingies listed and will continue the next few tomorrow. Good? Good.

The People

You know how in the beginning of any new program— high school, college, summer camp, a Super Bowl party at your weird friend Jeremy’s house— everyone tends to clump together? Like, everyone finds someone, sticks with them, gradually sticking onto new people, until there’s a group of about fifteen (secretly scared) people who are trying to navigate their new world without leaving each others side? Studying abroad works like that, too. You find a group right off the bat during Orientation and you do things constantly together before even finding out if you have things in common or even if you really like each other. Lucky for me, it has now been six weeks and I am very sure that the group I happened to cling onto, the first few people I met, were the right group to cling onto. They are all wonderful people with whom I actually have things in common and 100% like. We go on trips together (knowing that we like each other), we go to Trivia Night at the pub, we go cheese-tasting, we go on searches for a place that sells milkshakes at 2 a.m., we try and dissect Irish culture, we fight over who actually ate the last piece of pie, we help each other study, we battle the rain together, we have fun together, we experience Ireland, we explore new things, and we do it all together. The world is beautiful and awesome and strange and terrifying, but the people you’re with— whether you met them at Orientation, or because you saw them performing magic tricks one night, or because you’re both part of the Mountaineering Society— are the ones who can help you most see that.

 

Ain't we cute?

Ain’t we cute?

 

In conclusion, my friends— who, as you may have guessed, I have met through Orientation, seeing them perform magic tricks, and being part of the Mountaineering Society, among various other social interactions— are the best. Irish, Americans, Thai… we’re all awesome and are all helping each other through this beautiful, awesome, strange, terrifying world.

How precious.

 

The Cliffs of Moher

Lol, I told y’all I’d talk about this awhile back, so lets get down to bidness. After the first week of school, we— meaning my core group of friends who had found each other during Orientation— decided we had had enough of dumb Galway and its rich history, quaint streets, and charming people. We needed to leave this town.

So, we booked a tour, hopped on a quick bus, drove for two hours on the incredibly windy “Make-ye-sick” road (as our bus driver delicately put it), and just randomly pulled up to an ancient castle. No biggie. Just a centuries old building built in the middle of a lake. After spending half an hour or so at Caisleain Dhun Guaire, or Dunguaire Castle, we then headed off to Ailwee cave*. There was a tour of the cave, but I chose to stay behind and wander around the mountain. Technically there was a path I was supposed to follow if I wanted to explore— and I am in no way condoning going off designated paths—, but I totally went off the designated path (What can I say? I was raised in the mountains. If I see a cool tree in the distance, I’m gonna go look at that tree). I was rewarded by:

1) Finding some random statues of humanoid figures among the trees far away from the path. If I’m being honest, they were pretty frightening at first, but when you got closer turned out to be very beautiful and almost comforting.

 

Statue

 

2) Climbing to the top of the mountain and feeling the pure ecstasy you can only feel when standing at the top of a mountain. I will openly admit to raising my arms above my head, jumping, and yelling, a la Rocky finally climbing the Philadelphia Stairs.

3) Finally, finally, finally understanding why there the Landscape is such a large part of the Irish identity. The Land is haunting and halfway here, halfway there, half real, half a dream, faded, vivid, and so absolutely alive. The forest and the hills and the sun… it all just fills you. You don’t just see the land, you feel it. It sticks with you, even when you return to the city with all of its concrete and plastic and swarms of people.

 

Land

 

After the cave we hopped on the bus again and were taken to the legendary ~Cliffs of Moher~. The Cliffs were incredible. No poet, no painter, no photographer— and certainly not me— could ever convey the beauty and mystery of the cliffs. If Sir Patrick Stewart could be a geographic feature, that geographic feature would be only be half as awesome and wise as those cliffs.

After a few hours at The Cliffs of Moher, the bus returned to pick us up, we stopped by a seashore to take a few obligatory Instagram sunset pictures, and returned home.

I was exhausted, freezing, grouchy, covered in mud, had cut my hand pretty badly on a sharp rock, and it was all worth it.

*Fun fact, Ailwee actually served as the inspiration for Gollum’s cave in JR Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

 

Valentines Day Wif Ma Femayls

Hey you guys, guess what! I just celebrated my twentieth time being single on Valentines Day! Isn’t that just the greatest? There is no way I’m cynical and bitter! I must love seeing all the couples happy in their loving relationships! Yay!

…Did you read those sentences with a sarcastic voice? You shouldn’t have. I actually do love Valentine’s Day. I’m neither cynical nor bitter, cute couples make me happy, and I don’t mind being single, because I have some rad friends that I get to celebrate with. This year we celebrated the power of female friendship with Galentine’s Day and then later the power of friendship of both genders with Palentine’s Day.

The original plan was to go to a local restaurant and treat ourselves to a wine and cheese tasting, but then it started to rain, yada, yada, yada… long story short, we were really not up to walking the 20 minutes to the restaurant. Lucky for us— meaning myself and two female friends— there is actually a restaurant in our apartment complex. We headed straight to Scotty’s Steakhouse, sat down next to a family with three adorable children who played peek-a-boo with us and frequently blew kisses, and proceeded to eat our massive hamburgers until we were uncomfortably full. One friend passed around presents she had gotten us (I started to cry, because of course I did… it was really sweet) and thus, with that wonderful gesture, concluded Galentine’s Day. This conclusion was immediately followed by the beginning of Palentine’s Day as a male friend joined us for dessert.

After dessert we, still uncomfortably full, headed back to all of our apartments. I immediately went to bed where I, no joke, dreamt of chocolate. How Valentine’s-Day-ish is that?

 

Well, thats it for tonight, dear readers. Check in for the other cinco activities soon.

Isn’t it a wonderful world?

Maddie

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