We’re here!!!!! Well actually we landed in Dublin a few days ago, but the 30 hrs of travel have occurred over several days. The first part of trip was pretty rough. After saying goodbye to family back home, Mom, Kyle and I headed to Erie, so I could catch the bus to Chicago. After a day there, mom and Kyle dropped me off at Lance, Anthony and P.J’s. It was good to see the boys before we left, and I was excited when they drove us to catch the bus! We were FINALLY on our way, and it was becoming a reality. However, the bus ride was pretty rough. I don’t think anyone slept much because of the bumpy ride. We drove directly past the city of Chicago, passing the Sears Tower as we headed closer to the airport. Once there, we couldn’t check in until three p.m. so the food court became the groups’ new camp for the next few hours. Here we became rather tired and by the time we got past security, I would say exhaustion was setting in. The plane ride went fine and flight EI 124 took off on time, leaving us time to watch movies and finally get some sleep, which was much needed. Cai, Liz, Dave and I all got to sit near each other on the plane. Upon arrival we swiftly moved through customs, and the official “you are in IRELAND stamp” was thumped onto my passport. After this check point we were warmly greeted by the Dungarvan City Officials. The worst part of the travels happened after waiting ….and waiting…and waiting…only to find out my bright pink luggage was lost! Of course, I would be the one to have lost luggage!
After the greeting and a Irish breakfast at a nice hotel, the Dungarvan officials lead us to the bus to get to our home for the next ten weeks. The bus was very nice. We were shocked by the left side driving for the first day or so! Every turn felt the wrong way, every cross walk was scary. (remember while in IRE, look right first!) “Round abouts’ were another new idea for me. The traffic moves continuously instead of having many stop signs like back home. The way to “County Waterford” was longer than expected, but the sights of sheep, green fields and new architecture kept me awake and excited. After going up and around the small mountain in front of us we reached home, Dungarvan! We settled into our beautiful townhouses. They left us a few groceries to make us feel at home, as well as treating us to a three course dinner. I’ve found that the Irish are very welcoming and amazingly hospitable. It feels so safe and at home here. Everyone reaches out and offers their hand if we need anything, and sandwiches always always have the crust cut off, perfectly. – Just an extra touch seems to always be present. That night we took time to look around the town a bit with Heidi and settle in. I was excited to see that skype works and will be keeping in touch with family and friends via skype. Although the five hour time difference can be somewhat confusing.
Good news arrived on Saturday that my luggage was on its way. That morning we went to what is their city hall, to be welcomed officially by the city. All of the city and county officials were here, and after hearing about how Mercyhurst and Dungarvan first started this process, the twinning of the cities and finally how we are the first group from the United States to be welcomed in the town…we all felt very blessed to be such a part of history between two countries. Most of us did not realize until that point just how big this was, and what it really meant for the cities of Erie as well as Dungarvan; and Ireland and the U.S. in general. I truly felt like in some small way we were all making a contribution to history! After the ceremony ended we were greeted with dancing and Irish music from a few local children, as well as more food and refreshments. We received info on how to join in with activities in the area, and shook hands with so many people from the city. We even saw the grocery store employee who helped us on the first day, and she remembered us! It seems that everyone here in Ireland is helpful and connected to the town in a deeper way than in the U.S. Things go slightly slower, but everyone really experiences what they are doing as apposed to quickly getting a million things done as we do in the states! Later in the day we got to tour the whole city, see our classrooms that were set aside for us in the theater and art gallery, and buy a few essentials.
We headed back to our “Mew” to rest before, yes, another reception…while waiting Liz and I decided to make tea. However, directions and labels on food in Ireland is very confusing. We used an electronic tea pot, while laughed at the confusing directions, as if we were reading Chinese. After a few attempts, and a little guessing, we successfully made a “pot of tea”. We have yet to try out the coffee, as the grinds and directions look very different. This simple action of making coffee and tea made us laugh at how simple things are made in the U.S. While in Ireland, it is more about the process.
At night, we got to go to Merry’s Pub for our first night on the town. This was such a wonderful and warm experience. We talked with the officials of the town, over a glass of our first Guinness! We bonded with some of the wives as well, and got insider tips on where to go. Laughing and talking for hours we enjoyed ourselves. The mayor of Dungarvan, Damien celebrated with us, and we learned what each of our names were translated in traditional Irish. Mine became pronounced “Circa”, or Sadie for a common nickname for Sarah. I especially got a laugh out of one of the wives, Maura. We all bonded and found ourselves laughing like friends. We found out where the dance club was- “Creation”. Here, we realized yet another difference. The girls dress up so much. While we were in our jeans and nice sweaters, the girls in Ire. wear dresses and heels. We were also surprised after talking to two local guys, Peter and Liam, that when at clubs, the guys and girls dance separately, and instead, make it more of a show for each other. While we felt like no guys wanted to dance with us, the guys explained that this was just how it is in Ire. The few young people we talked with were also very welcoming however, and told us more about young life in Ire. Needless to say, I will be happy when my luggage arrives so I can have some heeled boots to wear out next time! Returning home, Caileen and I made some good American grilled cheese and went over our night. It is so different in many ways, but is quickly feeling like a home away from home. I think Ireland has a way of doing that to everyone who visits. Our next adventure will be the daily life, now that the receptions and initial welcoming is over. Now it is time for classes and seeing what daily life is like, here in Dungarvan, Ireland!