This weekend started with traditional Irish games and so many new activities that were fun. On friday our group got to venture over to the Rugby field to get our first lesson on one of the Irish sports. Although we play rugby in the U.S., their version is much more rough and fast paced. We got to ride over in cars this time, which was a little bit different on the left side of the road. Once there, a few men from the sports club, and Peter, who helped us organize the lesson, were there to give us tips and drills. Some of the drills were silly, and I guess I asked a lot of questions. I assumed there was a point to all the chest bumps and shoulder bumps, but soon found it was just for fun. I think what I liked best was the genuine fun we were all having together. It was pretty cool to try something new, especially with 26 others who had no idea. My roommates and I were ready wit our mouth guards and intimidating faces. Too bad we had to face the boys for most of our drills. Cai and I played it up and tried to look serious. The funniest part however was the moment when Liz moved out of the way with the tackling pad by her side, only to let Cai flying to the ground on top of her. By the end we got to play a little game of touch rugby with all of us, and I even scored! (If that’s even what you call it) After an elbow to the nose and a few tackles, all of us woke up sore the next day. Who knows maybe we will be the next “Hurst” rugby team!
Saturday was another day of Irish culture. We were invited to attend Christy Moore’s concert in Cappoquin. He is well known in Ireland fr his music. I enjoyed it. Although it wasn’t something I would listen to every day, it was nice to hear the stories behind them and get a feel for Irish folk music. He was a middle aged guy and had anther older man playing so many types of guitars. The guitarist reminded me of dad when he’s older! Both musicians seemed passionate about their music. It was a surprise that they even said a shout out to us, and dedicated a song to the Mercyhurst Students. Afterward, we got to go to the pub owned by the Mayor of Waterford. She was so kind and even made ribs and sausages for us to try. Although I hated the sight of the pigs bone, I have to admit they were good! There, we mingled and talked. I enjoyed trying our first “Irish Flag”s with Damien, the Mayor of Dungarvan. Soon, students got the jukebox to work, and we all got to sing to oldies such as spice girls. I am sure the locals were laughing at the music coming out of the back room! After “shout” came on, even Keiko was dancing and singing with us. We really enjoyed our night (and bus ride home) together in Cappoquin.
Sunday brought yet another Irish tradition of Hurling. Many of us hose to go to the Hurling Game which was Waterford against Lismore. The sport is so fast and dangerous that someone even had to be taken away in an ambulance. There are about thirty payers on the large field at once. The payers do not wear any padding and run around in a combination of what seems like baseball, soccer, football and hockey all in one. We got to sit right behind some of the Lismore players, and even got to talk to a few after they turned around and asked us where we were from. I think it was obvious we were a bit confused with the game, but we caught on the the goals and points and most of the concept. Luckily, Waterford won, and everyone was in a good mood.
After, we got some food at the hotel Pub, and relaxed before catching up on a little homework. Speaking of food- it is so different here! In fact, there is absolutely no Macaroni and cheese. Just a few other reminders to anyone traveling to Ireland: Grilled Cheese is called toasted cheese, other wise you will get a single piece of bread with melted cheese on top. Hamburgers are not like American hamburgers and remind me more of meatloaf, and mustard tastes more like horseradish mixed in. A few differences I have enjoyed however, have been the constant supply of fish, (the Salmon is my favorite), the deep fried brie cheese, the orange pop like drink, and the filling potatoes.
After the weekend, Monday only brought more fun, but this time with more history. We started the day learning about grave sights near Dungarvan. One site we went to was abandoned, and reminded me of the secret garden, but with an eriee feeling to it. Leonard, an old local man that lives “jus down the road” told us stories about the grave-sight, the famine and why it had been the way it was. I was amazed with the ruins of the old tombs, and ivy and grass that covered everything. Hopefully, we will be going back to help Leonard clean it up and restore some of the history that lies there.
Our next stop on the Monday bus tour was Ardmore. Here, we saw one of the first churches and towers created in the 9th and 12th century by a monk by the name of Declan. Although st. Patrick often gets all the credit for bringing Christianity to Ireland, it was Declan who actually brought it first. He was a monk that traveled to Ireland, before Patrick was sent from Rome to spread Christianity. In Ardmore, we saw this beautiful place on the hill, tombs, graveyards, and the church itself. Some of the engravings can still be made out as Adam and eve, and Mother Mary with the baby. I loved the history behind it. Down the hillside the Atlantic Ocean seemed so blue. We got to spend a few minutes there and enjoy the view before traveling up another hill to see Declan’s Hermitage. This was the quietest and most peaceful place, and seemed so green even compared to the fields we had passed all day on the bus. The ruins of his Hermitage were beautiful, and as we walked in you could hear bagpipes playing tin the distance. It felt better than something in the movies. We each got a turn to trace over the crosses that have been traced for good luck for hundreds and hundreds of years.
Next stop was Lismore. Here we learned about Lismore Castle, got a bite to eat and tried to manage down the mushroom soup they had kindly given us. Lismore Castle and the surrounding cathedrals were impressive. You couldn’t help but feel the history here. The cathedral had a tomb which is said to bring bad luck when touched. Although my roommate seemed to have bad luck after touching it, I am still waiting to see if I will. Inside was white and light green with beautiful windows. The Castle itself is owned by the current Duke of Devonshire, but can be rented out for a large price. (Apparently, the Kennedy’s still come each year) The tour guide told us about the connections of people who had lived there. Surprisingly, through an affair, even our music star Fergie is related!
After leaving Lismore, we traveled up the mountains into Mount Melleray Abbey in Waterford. Here, the monks still live and pray. It was stunning to see such a large building and cathedral in such a rural place. We got to go inside, and say a few prayers for our families, or whoever we wanted to think of. There was a quietness abut most of the places we went on Monday, that made me think about history and how important it is. It also shows how much sweat and tears people have put into their religions, family and life itself.