Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Too Heavy

So it is late but the guilt of not posting since I've been home is hanging heavy, so I've decided to heave that weight off of me by finally sitting down to one of the four possible computers in this house and blogging. So much has happened since I've been home, that this could prove to be my longest post yet, but again, it is late and I'm tired, so I'll just hit the highlights for y'all.

My brother's wedding was wonderful! The bed and breakfast, the old county jail, was fun as it was all of Ben's friends and our pastor and family that had this whole place to ourselves. Too many jokes were made about the groom's side of this shindig staying in the "Slammer," but they never really got old. We had just enough snow Friday night to make everything pretty but not too bad to travel in. The rehearsal dinner was yummy, although I was the subject of abuse for both of Ben and Eva's impromptu speeches with the excuse being I haven't been in the country for the last 4 months, so they had a lot of 'catching up' to do. Saturday brought on the big day and an early start with a 10:30am wedding time. Us girls just did our own hair and make-up and everything was going well. You know, the typical bridesmaid routine, hold the flowers lower than you think you should, try to pretend your feet don't hurt in your killer shoes (pain is beauty, pain is beauty, pain is beauty . . .) and try not to cry as I have a direct line of vision to my brother so sincerely promising to love and protect, honor and cherish the love of his life for well, the rest of their lives. I blame the tears on the fact that I hadn't seen him since Easter!!! The rest of the wedding again, fairly typical, pictures took way too long, good food, sweet toasts, cake, yatta yatta and bang... they are off for the honeymoon and oh my gosh, my BROTHER IS MARRIED! But all along it just felt right. We were all excited but not giddy or overwhelmed because we have all had this contentment about my brother and Eva so it all just seemed natural I guess is the best word to describe. So they have now safely returned from a fun-filled week in Orlando and face the reality of work tomorrow and are ridiculously happy, which is actually really cute.

CHRISTMAS! Merry Christmas to y'all by the way. Christmas was nice here, even though slightly different than our traditional way to celebrate the wonderful holiday. First off, Ben was gone, the 11:00pm service at church was slim and didn't last until midnight, Aunt Sylvia had knee surgery and didn't come to Christmas Eve service with us, then Christmas day was actually celebrated with my dad's sister and husband, aunt Sylvia, Grandma and mom and dad. Every other year it has just been the 4 of us. And this year I thought I would tackle Christmas dinner all on my own, well most of it at least. My part of the amazing meal was the turkey, corn casserole, the pie, the veggies and cheese sauce and the potatoes. Mom had much more hair on her head this year as she typically gets fairly stressed about preparing Christmas dinner. Everything turned out great! I was so proud of myself! Sylvia graciously donated a 20.83 pound turkey, so 'Norman' was a doozy after our 10 pounder named 'Hamilton' in Ireland. Don't ask why I name the turkeys, I'm not sure of the reason myself. So on to the good stuff... the presents! Mom crotch ed a beautiful butterfly blanket for me that was by far my favorite gift :) Other nice things came in small packages, aka, jewelry and checks, but that blanket was amazing and I know there was so much love put into every knot of it :)

Preparing Christmas dinner was a lot of work, but so was going through all of my stuff in storage in the barns and moving into my apartment at Purdue. Mom and I had fun painting and 'speckling' my loft and then I had more fun than one should have with dad loading the truck with all of the furniture and my stuff and hauling it up three flights of stairs! I'm really proud of us for getting it done, but my arms are still slightly limp from all of the heavy lifting. But my room looks great and is only going to get better when I finish bringing over the rest of my stuff when I officially move in next Friday. Black and green are my colors and ya, its going to be awesome!

Wedding, Christmas, moving in, those are the biggies that I've been up to, but I've squeezed in some time for some shopping, saw Avatar and Sherlock Holmes, and rode Chip today over at New Castle. It's been a pretty packed 'break' so far and it's no where near to being over. New Year's Eve tomorrow night with Grandma; trip down to Kentucky to spend more time with the newly weds (I think they just want me to bring more of their stuff down honestly since they couldn't fit it all in their car); meeting up with friends; putting 2009 into the scrap-book; and gosh-darn it, I'd like some time just to read and chillax!!!!!

So there folks, the weight has been lifted, I feel no more guilt, Hallelujah!
Happy New Year Y'all!

Britt

Monday, December 14, 2009

So Close . . .

I can't believe it! One more final and a magical night then I'm on a plane going home!!!! I haven't been this excited about something in a really, really long time. And the excitement just keeps building with Ben's wedding on SATURDAY!!!!! My brother is getting married!!! I think the reality of that statement is just escalated by the fact that I haven't seen him since Easter which means March which is way, way too long ago!!!!

Ah---- Can hardly think between the excitement and the exhaustion. I practically pulled an all-nighter last night studying for my Equine Health and Husbandry exam this morning. Like literally, I woke up yesterday at 11:30, studying by 12. Then took a break to run and shower and get a snack at 3:30, back to the books by 4:30. Quick run to my friends to deliver some cold medicine around 8 and then back at it by 9. I literally did not take any substantial breaks until about 6:20am this morning and grabbed a few winks with my alarm set for 7:05 to catch the 7:30 shuttle to the testing center. At the testing center by 8 and studies until about 8:50 and took the exam for the 2 hours! It went well I think, it was just so much information to remember because I had no clue what she would put on the exam and how much detail she expected. EHV 1, 3 and 4, EVA (not to be confused with EAV), Equine Influenza H7N7 and H3N8, Rotovirus, Strangles, Rhodicoccus Equi, mycotoxins, MRLS, West Nile, COPH, EIPH, EIA, evolution of the horse, welfare, husbandry, parasitology, chronobiology, angular limb diformities and I could seriously still give you more topics that could have come up. I eventually crashed for a few hours this afternoon, but I'm soon to bed so I can get up early in the morning to finishing packing, cleaning and brush up for my economics exam that's at 3. Then ICESKATING!!!!! So excited to cap off my great time here with my girls! :)

Little plug for Purdue here as I was walking the Vet Science building today to find one of my professors and noticed that one of the offices had Purdue degrees in the window and sure enough it was Alan Gerrard, who used to be an animal science professor at Purdue. I used to put his mail in his mailbox for him when I worked in the animal science office :) So if there is a spare moment tomorrow, doubtful, then I'll swing by and see if he is in :)

K- going to spend the next hour happily finishing my packing and then going to bed so I'm fully rested for my last full day in IRELAND!!!!! I'll probably jump back on here at least one more time before I leave, just to once again express my excitement, but if not, then I'll talk to y'all again from INDIANA!!!!!!

Cheers,
Britt

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Taking a Moment

I can't believe it, December the 5th flew right by me. The 5th marked the one year anniversary of my friend, John Romine's final journey here on Earth. But, I suppose it could be viewed as me continuing on with my life and living like he wants us all to do anyways.

It wasn't until tonight when I was leaving my friend's apartment and talking with Erica and reminiscing about this past year that I realized the date flew right by me as I was preparing for finals and going home soon. A part of me feels bad, but in a way again, I know John wanted everyone that knew him to continue on with their lives and I still think about him time to time as I will never completely forget about him. I still wear my remembrance bracelet to this day as I try to live by his example. Humble and selfless are the two main attributes that pop in my head when I think of John, followed by John Deere and Belted Galloway's, his two main loves in his life besides his family and friends of course.

So just wanted to take a moment and remember, reflect and honor a life well lived, one with much faith, all be it short. Thanks John. We miss you down here, but know you are in a better place.

Cheers to you John from Dublin!
Britt

Friday, December 11, 2009

Focus

So funny story:
When we had our family vacation to Fort Lauderdale, Florida when I was probably about 12 (that's close enough) we were all walking out of a McDonalds together and there sat two Ford Focus coups side by side in the parking lot. We had been seeing a lot of those on the roads and as they were fairly new, and we were making jokes about being 'focused' while driving. Example: Me after seeing a Focus on the road, "Dad, Dad - FOCUS," said with an undertone that a teacher would have with a student while slightly reprimanding them. Dad: "Ok, ok, I'm focusing." Well, when we saw the two Focuses parked side by side, Dad turned to me using his index and middle fingers to point to his eyes and then to mine while saying "FOCUS." It has continued to be a little joke between him and I til this day.

Why did I just share a random childhood account with you? Well, its my blog and I can do what I want and two it just popped into my head when I was thinking about what to title this post as that is what I need to do to get through these last few days in Ireland with my finals and three, its better than just blabbing about my finals :)

But it is indeed so true, if I just focus I am quite capable of great things. Like cramming for an exam for about 8 hours and then rocking that exam out! I find that if I'm 'Under Pressure' (little Queen reference there if you didn't get it), I do so much better. I know its my last chance to really get this stuff and I think I would actually feel unprepared if I didn't cram, like it is now a vital part to my study equation. Oh- well, time efficient I say, that way I don't waste away every evening studying a little bit not as effectively, and I can be using that time for other things like packing (I have all of my clothes packed already) and other things to enjoy myself like watching Pineapple Express with my friends last night :)

Speaking of which, stupid movie, but funny all the same. But my friends have developed a new nickname for me, The Black Knight. I suppose it is from whenever we go to exercise classes together at the gym, I always push myself as far as I can go and have been called out by the instructors for doing a good job and there were a few circumstances where I could open a jar or get something to work when the other girls couldn't. More coincidence I feel, but at first when things like that happened, they were "Cassidisms," according to Erica. Well, the girls got on a big Monty Python kick and they then dubbed me the Black Knight because he never gives up even after having his arm chopped off in a dual and still going saying, "It's merely a flesh wound." I might actually have to watch the movie again now, but it's been an ongoing joke and it went to new heights last night as "Black Knight jokes" instead of "Chuck Norris jokes" starting coming out. Probably my favorite one was something like, "If the Black Knight is late, time just better slow the **** down," or "The Black Knight doesn't breath, she holds air captive." Of course these were made 10 times better because of Erica's dramatic delivery.

Those girls rock my socks off, literally as Alyssa especially has an obsession with socks. I'm really going to miss Erica and Mariel, but super excited to have Alyssa at Purdue with me so we can continue hanging out and all. Well, this post has turned into the complete opposite of my title, which is focus as I went off on like two or three tangents there. So I'm going to study for awhile and then the girls and I are taking a break and going to tour the Jameson Distillery since we haven't been yet. Should be a good time :)

Countdown:
Friday (Today): Study, Jameson and study some more!
Saturday: Final from 12 to 2, then starting to study for my finals on Monday and Tuesday!
Sunday: Studying and cleaning my room!
Monday: Final from 9 until 11, studying for my final the next day and final roommate dinner.
Tuesday: Final from 3 to 5, then hitting the town to admire the Christmas lights and go ice-skating with the girls for my last night in Dublin (has all the works for a magical last night!)
Wednesday: Catch the 10 am Aircoach to the airport for my 12:30 flight time back HOME!!!!!! Home by 8ish Eastern time :)

PS: Gma is being released from Bennett Rehab Center the 16th as well :) Yahoo!

Cheers from Dublin!
Britt

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Scotland in Detail: Part 3: A Royal Day

So apologies that this didn't come sooner, but I have been taking part in a practice that is done by students all over the world called, CRAMMING! Where one tries to smash as much information in their head and go over it and over it, so they can 'brain puke' (lovely term that I created from Mr. Thomas's Economic and Government Exams back my senior year in high school) it all back out in an answer booklet. Good times :)

But I do not want to neglect you of a full detailed report, or as much as I can remember at this point with all of this other information fighting for space in my memory, of my final day in Scotland.

Mariel, Sarah Jay and I decided to slow the pace down a little bit and picked a few things we would like to see and went from there. At the top of our list was the Holyroodhouse Palace, which is the residence of the Queen herself while in Scotland, typically during the summer, its warmer. The Palace was quite fittingly at the bottom of the Royal Mile, meaning it was a nice and easy downhill 15 minute walk from our hostel. We got a small discount on admission from the tour company the previous day and set out exploring the palace with the aid of a wonderful little audio guide :) Mariel and I tried to especially take our time and soak it all in as the tour told the history of the different monarchs and the story of Mary Queen of Scots. She had a rough life and I'm not being sarcastic in the fact that she was a monarch, because she ended up spending half her life in prison and was executed. Sarah Jay seemed to fly through pretty fast, but obviously enjoyed it because she signed up for free admission for a year! Or maybe she was trying to take advantage of a good deal? Probably a couple of the most bazaar pieces on display in the Palace was a loch of Mary's hair and a casting (I think and hope) of Robert the Bruce's skull. He was another 'freedom fighter' like William Wallace, but played the political game as well as he was a noble. So some claim him not to be a true 'freedom fighter,' like William Wallace was.



The Palace was beautiful in all of its decadence, but it was the Abby that the Palace was built adjacently to that caused reverence. Even in its ruined state, one can still picture the grandeur that this place of worship used to have and for that fact, still has. It was slightly creepy as there were graves all around, but the beautiful blue sky set a beautiful backdrop to the pillars and walls still standing of the Abby.




We meandered our way back to the hostel for some light refreshment and then inquired about how to get to Leif, as the Royal Yacht Britannia has been decommissioned and is now stationed in the harbor there and set up for tours :) Once again, we had a small discount on admission to the yacht from our tour the previous day, which gave us the idea to do it in the first place. The bus was super easy and I will never get over the feeling of excitement and the giddiness I get when I climb up to the top of a double-decker bus. The view is so much better and just that fact that I'm on a double-decker bus in a major European city! I have been here for 4 months and the effect hasn't worn off yet :)

We followed the signs to the yacht and I finally stepped foot on my boat! Well, I wish it were mine. A slight name change (take out one of the "n's" and add a second "t"), a few tug-boats and some comrades in crime and I'm golden. Any takers? Once again, we were equipped with audio equipment to guide us through the different decks of the yacht. Basically, the boat was split in half, with the crew's quarters and their working areas on one half and then the rest of the space was for the Queen, her family and any guests. Seems slightly unfair when looking at the sailor's little bunk, versus the Queens bedroom, sitting room, sun deck and huge dining room! But I guess the Queen gets special attention, being the Queen and all. I got a few kicks throughout the tour taking pictures next to things that had the name "Britannia" on it and filled in some of the staff as they looked at me kind of funny, so I explained that my name was Brittania. Considering you can't hear the spelling change, everyone assumed it was the same thing and in my mind, it was close enough!



The tour of the yacht took longer than the palace believe it or not. So then we had plenty of time to comfortably go back to the hostel, pick up our luggage, finish off our food and get the airlink back to the Edinburgh Airport. While at the airport, we ran into a girl from Ohio that goes to Taylor University in Indiana, who was studying abroad with their Freshmen Irish Studies program. Eva, my brother's fiance and soon wife, went to Taylor so I heard all about this program as her brother went on it. The world seemed to keep getting smaller, as some Notre Dame students who were also studying at UCD happened to be in Edinburgh over the same days as we were over study week and had the same flight back to Dublin.

So that brings me back to Dublin, with a mountain of finals standing between me and going home. But there was one big perk left- my article for the Irish Field came out!!!! It is such a cool feeling to see my name in print and the article turned out really good. I have gotten facebook messages and congratulations from my Irish friends over here. I bought two copies and plan on bringing them home to have mom laminate :)

So finals update:
I thought my econ exam was yesterday, but I got it confused with the "Intermediate Macroeconimcs" exam instead. So I showed up all studied and 'ready' for an exam that is worth 100% of my grade, only to realize that it is next Tuesday at 3! So I see it as time just miss-allocated and not time lost spent studying for it. It turned out ok though because it is still on before my flight home and the final that I put off studying for this morning turned out to be really good. I fudged up slightly on one of the ratios, but overall, I feel that my brain puke was adequate enough to maintain an 'A' for my Business Management class.

But here is where the coolest thing happened. As I was about halfway through, feeling pretty good as I had my little outline done for all of the questions and was now in the process of actually writing out my answers, I noticed something flying around. It turns out it was a butterfly. Our finals are at the Royal Dublin Society in two huge halls, with 800 some desks set-up in each hall. So this butterfly decided to land on desk number 494, which was my desk and stay there for about a whole minute, just as calm as can be. Now most of you probably already know what butterflies mean to me. They're my "God-symbol" and after being all worked up last night about the mistaken time on my final and the stresses of the rest of my finals and just wanting to be home, I took a moment to say some thank you's to God and to take a deep breath and I then knew its all good! It wasn't like Micheal or Gabriel coming down from Heaven, but close enough for me and especially now!!!!

Tomorrow afternoon is Farm Management, then Saturday Equine Industries, Monday Equine Health and Husbandry, then next Tuesday finally Intermediate Microeconomics!

So best of luck to everyone taking finals and I wish you the best with your cramming and brain puking! Don't forget that you're not alone while going through your exams or any of your trials in life - Yay God!

Cheers,
Britt

PS: Spellcheck on here always flags my name, but not the other spelling of Britannia. According to Mom, she wanted to spell it the same way, but Dad thought the double "t's" would be better as I would inevitably go by "Britt" and the double "t's" would be better suited. So thank you Dad for giving me a last name (surname) that always comes up in spell-check, I know you didn't have much choice in that matter, but when you did have a choice, you still stuck me with a weird name. Well, on the 'bright side', it just proves that I have a very 'colorful' name :)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Scotland in Detail: Part 2: Family History Lesson

Sorry to neglect all of you that I know were hanging on by the edge of your seat to hear all about my second day in Edinburgh. Ok, maybe not, I just like being dramatic every once and a while. So I suppose there isn't a better way to start my day then by reminiscing about my trip still, despite having a final tomorrow that counts for 100% of my grade in my econ class :(

Day 2 started bright and early, as we booked a tour that included the nearby city of Stirling to see the Stirling Castle, a National Forest and Loch Lomend. Being the 'slow' season for tourism at the beginning of December- our 16 coach bus only had 7 people in it so the three of us got some great information just chatting with our guide Dereck, who was great! He was very animated telling his stories with plenty of sound effects. The only thing that made me nervous was that he kept pointing and looking at the map that was pinned up at the front of the bus trying to further illustrate and give us reference points during his stories and to show us where we were at and such. The roads in Scotland aren't much different than the roads in Ireland - narrow and curvy on the country roads and crazy busy on the major motarways. Even with Dereck's long arms and very capable driving abilities, I would have preferred that he kept both hands on the wheel, 10 and 2 preferably as well :)


First stop was Stirling Castle which was a lot like Edinburgh's Castle in that it was built on an old inactive volcano in the middle of the town. Stirling is known as the 'key' to Scotland as it was the major thorough fair between the highlands and the lowlands. It has a fair sized river flowing through the town and back in the day, Stirling was the only good crossing point and you had to do under the shadow of this intimidating castle. Even though it was freezing- literally around 32 degrees (Fahrenheit), we took the little guided tour of the castle and our guide was a very cute little Scotsman that was very enthused to tell us all about the castle. The most interesting thing I learned from the tour was that the chapel that was built by James the VI I believe for his son, James the VII to be baptised in was exactly 3 and a 1/3 smaller sized scale model of the temple that King Solomon built. This chapel was fairly impressive on its own, so it got my mind imagining how magnificent King Solomon's temple must have been to be three times bigger, especially when technology was even worse back then!



It was also in the Chapel that I had a 'deja vu' experience. No, I didn't see my horse from home (our Arabian is named Deja Vu), but one of the tapestries on the wall was the culprit to triggering this experience. My Mom is a nut about Scotland and all the history of the old time Kings and Queens, seriously she would have been a great tour guide and I could have saved a lot of money, not paying guides to tell me stuff she could have, but she's not here. So, our house if you have ever been to it has a um, 'unique' style of decor. Sometimes I feel like mom was decorating a palace when decorating/ designing our house with rich paisley patterns, a heavy metal fireplace, a huge stone wall in our family room, open wood beams in the family, dining room and kitchen, are you starting to get the picture? Well going down one of our hallways there are tapestries hanging as well. Not near the size of the ones that I saw in the chapel in Stirling, but one of them was the same image. A unicorn surrounded by small circle fence with a single tree. I was taken back at first and then just had to chuckle to myself as I realized how legitimately my mom was into this stuff.



After Stirling we were off through the forests and flirting with the highlands and lowlands divide along our route. There is a definite difference between the two and how people can live up there, especially without modern day heating systems, is beyond me. I mean the cows can survive because it looks like they literally have a shag carpet for their hair! The forests had an old-time, ancient feel to them. I was ready for the trees to get up and start moving as the woods also had a magical feel to them as well. At one point we were hiking around Loch Lomend and I just took a minute, looked up and around myself and once again, couldn't believe I was in Scotland! It was also along this ride that I found myself translating the questions and answers between a fellow tourist who was from South Korea and our guide. They were both speaking English, but just imagine a heavy Asian accent and a heavy Scottish accent, now you can see the need for translation. Dereck was trying to tell the guest that there were deer in the forests and my translation to the guest was 'Bambi.' He then nodded and smiled! Leave it to Walt Disney to be the ultimate translator!



It was after our lunch stop as I was going into the gift shop that Dereck told me part of the history of my family's name, Campbell. Campbell is my mom's maiden name and my middle name and will be the name of my daughter if I ever have one. As I was going into the gift shop, Dereck told me that it was the normal tartan stuff, etc., but then that's when I told him I wanted to pick up something that represented my clan and told him how my mom's maiden name was Campbell. He kind of chuckled and said I'll tell you some stories of the Campbells when we get back on the bus.

So there was this 'incident' where a good amount of the MacDonald Clan got wiped out and the majority of the guilty party were people from the Campbell Clan. See, the MacDonald's had not pledged allegiance to the new King in a timely manner and the government wanted to teach them a lesson and decided that they could blame it on clan warfare as the MacDonalds and the Campbells were not the best of friends. But Dereck informed me that it really was the government's fault as the Campbell's were just following orders and the order was found signed by the King and is now on display in a museum in Edinburgh. But Dereck then sang a little childhood ditty to me that Scottish children sing on the playground that wasn't the nicest about the Campbell clan :(. So yes, I still want to name my daughter Campbell someday, despite this little tale. They were a powerful clan back in the day, knew how to sway with the politics and obviously still produced some good offspring ;).

The rest of the tour was a little walk down by the loch and then, back to Edinburgh. We had about a 2 hour turn around until our show, "We Will Rock You," which was the time we had designated to try us some Haggis :) YUM! I'll save you the details of what haggis is on here and just trust you to google it, but I will tell you this, hot dogs are made in a similar process. But, I love hot dogs and the haggis turned out pretty good too! Then it was off to the show! It was great! Great music, good acting, awesome dancing and the actors weren't sore for the eyes either, even from our balcony seats!




Then it was back to the hostel as we had another jam packed day in Scotland. After our hot chocolate and tea it was off to bed! Phew, and we still had a whole other day to go in the city! The palace was the only thing for sure on our agenda so we decided to sleep in a little bit and go with the flow. But, our 'Royal Day,' as Mariel likes to put it, shall be saved for another time as I have yet successfully procrastinated some more from studying by writing this :)


Econ final tomorrow morning worth 100% of my grade! We'll see how this goes - say a little prayer please!

Oh and update on Grandma- she was moved to the Bennett Rehab Center in St. John's Hospital where she is going to receive the needed therapy to her vocal chords where apparently the tear is and if that works, then surgery will not be needed. In the mean time though, the feeding tube has to stay in until the surgery site is totally healed, as everything in that general area is very fragile. The general thought is that she had a minor stroke or something that caused damage to her vocal chords and that is what caused the 'pouch' to grow in her throat. So during the MRI's and such, early signs of Alzheimer's were found. But, the doctors and case workers still felt like it would be okay that she stay in her apartment at Southdale Towers as it is a retirement complex, so that gives her her independence for awhile longer now, but still means that we'll have to keep a closer eye on her. She's where she needs to be though in Bennett, but also means that she won't be going to my brother's wedding :(. That's disappointing, but traveling that far is something that the doctors vetoed. We'll have to take some extra pictures then for her.

The extra's:
- Picked up two copies of the Irish Field yesterday that had my article in it!
- 10 days til home!

Cheers from Dublin,
Britt

Friday, December 4, 2009

Scotland in Detail: Part 1: Canadian Guide?

I highly suggest that if you ever tour any major European City to look into the free walking tours. The one that we went on was great! Well, since nothing is really free, the guides work strictly on a tip-base so they make the tours as entertaining as possible in order to keep you hooked until the end! And our guide, Kate, did just that! Kate is a young 25 year-old that literally fell in love with Edinburgh when touring about 6 years ago- and decided to make it her home ever since. She clearly answered two questions before we started the tour, one being about her "Scottish accent," which she obviously did not have since she was from Canada!

Our first day on this adventure started at 3 am when we got up to leave by 3:30 am to catch the 4:00 am Aircoach to the airport. I have missed the Aircoach before and at that time in the morning it only comes once an hour, so we were standing at the stop in the cold at 3:40 am surprisingly enough with a few other Americans who were studying abroad as well.

He touch down in Edinburgh about a quarter til 8 and hit up the tourist information where we pick up fliers, maps and book our tickets for the musical, "We Will Rock You," for the next night. It's starting to get light, so we hop in the bus to take us to the City Centre where our hostel was right on the Royal Mile. Seeing the city for the first time in the early morning light added even more to this magical city. I know it sounds goofy- but this city is seriously the most beautiful city I have ever been to. Once we got down into the City Centre and you see this huge castle sitting on a huge rock in the middle of the city, you seriously have to do a double take, blink a few times and still wonder if you are in a childhood fairytale or a dream. Seriously, a jutting rock in the middle of the city with a castle sitting on top of it!



We easily find our hostel which is right off the Royal Mile, get checked in, drop our stuff off and were out of the door before it was even 9 am. We book a coach tour for the next day so we could see some of the country as well and then we hiked up the Royal Mile to the castle gates just as they were opening for the day. We had about an hour and half to explore the castle before our walking tour was going to start at 11. Being that it was St. Andrew's Day, we got in for free and it was here that I truly appreciated the garment known as the kilt. I always rolled my eyes when my mom said things like, 'There is nothing sexier than a man in a kilt." GROSS MOM! But that was before I laid eyes on a guy that worked at the castle in the Great Hall. Ok mom, I see what you mean now! I was too big of a chicken to go up and start a conversation, but stayed and truly appreciated the 'Great Hall' longer than I think most tourist would ;)



And I looked around the rest of the castle as well, including the Honors of Scotland, the chapel, the prison and all of the bedchambers, etc. Could have spent more time there, but our tour was soon to start, so after a hot chocolate from Starbucks, we began our tour with Kate. Highlights included Sarah's ear getting mailed to the Cross of something, I can't remember the name, for stealing some haggis for me since I was hungry; Seeing the chapel where the Queen Knights all of the Knights in the Order of the Thistle, including Sean Connery recently; Learning about Greyfriar's Bobby (google it); Seeing the Elephant Cafe where the first two books of Harry Potter were written by J.K. Rowling; Learning the true story behind Dr. Jyckle and Mr. Hyde; Heard stories of murder and mystery and the epic tale of the Stone of Destiny! At the end of the tour I tipped Kate five pounds because she was really good and Sarah Jay and Mariel and I were getting pretty hungry and were freezing! So it was time to go back to the hostel, get some hot tea and hot chocolate and find a grocery store.





After getting some substance in us- we headed out to enjoy the fireworks to celebrate St. Andrew's Day that were going off at the castle! I was quite impressed with the display personally as I was still in my childhood amazement state of mind - I'm in Scotland, in a beautiful city and there are fireworks lighting the night sky! Then it was time to call it a night as we had been up since 3 am remember?

Fantastic first day in Edinburgh and we still had our highland tour the next day, tickets for "We Will Rock You," and another day to still decide what we wanted to do! But those adventures will come in Part 2 and 3 as I have wasted plenty of good study time uploading pictures on facebook and blogging :)

Some other tid-bits of excitement:
- My article is getting published tomorrow in the Irish Field!
- I got an A+ on my last Business Management MCQ on marketing!
- I got another A+ on my last Farm Management assignment!
- I'm enjoying my advent calander as a countdown until I go home and it says 12 days!
- Christmas Party tonight with the girls :)

Cheers from Dublin!

Britt

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Scotland!!!!

There is so much to tell about this trip and so little to write about in the next few days with finals, I have decided to blog in installments. Since I have some comments about my rather long, meaning you have to scroll, blogs in the past, this should remedy the problem :)

So this post is to serve as an overview of the trip! BRILLIANT! My mom said it was Heaven on Earth, and I agree with her, it was! Scotland has a unique landscape, different I feel from the rest of the United Kingdom, very proud people, a rich history and kilts. Need I say more? So these next few days, I'll break down the individual adventures as my friends Sarah Jay, Mariel and I packed in plenty of them within three days.

Our hostel was the High Street Hostel and was the perfect location! Set just a 20 meter walk off the Royal Mile and it only took us about 10 minutes to get up to the castle. The farthest walk we had to do, besides the walking tour itself, was down to the Edinburgh Playhouse were we saw the musical, "We Will Rock You," which was actually written by Queen and featured 24 Queen songs according to the flier! And that was only about a 20 minute walk max!

The trip consisted of both Edinburgh and Stirling Castle, Holyroodhouse Palace, The Royal Yacht Britannia (I was really excited about this!), Loch Lomend, small sample of the Highlands, tasting of haggis and the musical! Yea, we kept ourselves quite busy and out of trouble for a few days :)

But now, back in Dublin, with a slight cold and plenty to study I have to change gears. Update on grandma is that she came through her surgery on Monday fine, but failed her 'swallow test' the other day and a leak was discovered in her esophagus now going into her lungs. So that's not so good and requires the feeding tube to still be in place. Apparently she is slightly confused by the whole situation as most would be after undergoing the drugs, but then add to the fact that she's 91. Also, since she hasn't been able to swallow well, she hasn't been taking her blood pressure medicine and it has been on the rise with all of the added stress - go figure! My great aunt Mary Ruth, Grandma's youngest sister, has agreed to stay in town until Saturday, so at least Gma has some company and mom and dad have been visiting frequently trying to figure out where to go from here. So all in all, kind of scary, and means at least one more surgery. So continued prayers please.

And the count is down to 13 days until I'm home and 16 days until my bro gets hitched!
Cheers from Dublin and stay tuned for more about Scotland - I'll even throw in a few pics!

Britt

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Off to Scotland!

Its 3:15 in the morning and I'm leaving in 15 minutes to go to Scotland! I'm pretty excited, despite the wee hour of the morning that it is! I'm going with my friend Mariel and Sarah Jay. Should be a good last big bang to my time over here in Ireland.
Just wanted to ask a quick favor of y'all though before I leave. Please send your love, thoughts and prayers to my Grandma Martha today as she is having surgery today at the age of 91. The surgery itself isn't that major, but just worried about putting someone her age under.
So as I'm off for another adventure, I'm still remembering those back home :)
16 days - love and miss you all!

Talk to y'all again in three days!
Cheers!

Britt

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Tis the Season!

"Tis the season to be jolly . . ."
The girlies and I set out for a Christmas Bazaar about a 30 minute walk from campus held at St. Killian's School, which is a French and German school. This place was packed with traditional and nontraditional Christmas gifts from both countries, people with all sorts of nationalities and smells that truly whetted the appetite!

It started at the gate into the school grounds were we paid the 'family fare,' because one it saved us money and two, we truly have become a little family! Then once we finally got into the school, I would say about half of it was filled with vendors and decorated for the season. After having a spectacular Thanksgiving meal, I feel ready to move onto Christmas! To let y'all in on a little secret, I've been listening to Christmas music for about a week now :)

Of course we didn't leave this wonderful cultural experience with our hands empty! Erika got a little house that you're suppose to burn incense in, but she just got it for her family's Christmas village. Alyssa got a really cute pair of handmade earrings. I got two kikoys which are African pieces of colorful fabric that you can wear all sorts of ways, but I bought them mainly for being scarfs. I also enjoyed a pipe man, which was this yummy sweet bread shaped like a man and he was holding a pipe and his feet were dipped in chocolate to look like he had boots on! YUM! Felt slightly cannibalistic, but it was yummy! And the best part was that we all got the advent calenders that have little doors on them with pieces of chocolate behind them to count down to Christmas! I used to always get them as a kid and when we found them for a euro- Deal!

In other Irish news - the Irish rugby team beat the reining world champion South African team today in Dublin in a foggy, cold match. I caught the last 10 minutes or so of the match at my place and I thought my Irish roommate was going to have a heart-attack as the Irish held off the South African's final push and came out victorious 15-10. Professional rugby players are HUGE! Their necks are the size of a telephone pole! One of Irish player's shirt got ripped and it was seriously like the Hulk was busting outta his clothes, minus the being green part. So, yay! Go Ireland! :)

When I said a foggy and cold match, I meant it! It was cold today! The day started out very clear but soon this fog set in and it was kind of weird. Cool, but weird. And it was just cold all day! I didn't bring my big winter coat with me, so I had plenty of layers on and I think my saving grace was the fact that we were walking and not just standing outside. I can't imagine what it would be like to just sit and watch a game, but they had body heat going for them as the crowd for the rugby game was a sold-out one.

Upcoming events:
- Josh, my roommate that moved to Lyon, France for an internship is coming back for a visit. He'll be here tomorrow then most of the week.
- I'm leaving for Scotland early Monday morning! This has all the makings to be one of the best trips yet, except its not the whole crew going, but I'm super excited to go. But I do have to say that I think that my mom is even more excited for me to go to 'heaven on earth.' She has sent me some documentaries or programs that she has shown her classes that I still have watch before I leave.

- Finals! No joke- I am actually worried about these. My grade for my economics class is based 100% on my final. The lack of continual assessment has really been a major bummer for me and I probably haven't been the most studious student since I've been here, so after I get back from Scotland, I am going to have no life! But that will let the time go by faster and then I'm home!
- HOME! That is close enough on the radar for me to mention! 17 days now as it is now Sunday morning. I really can't believe it! 2 and half weeks and then stage three of three of this crazy year will be done! Then you know, no big deal, but my brother is getting married! So, no, no excitement over here! lol! Try jubilation, elation and pure joy! Again, disclaimer- Ireland is great, but Indiana rocks my socks and there is truly no place like home! :)

Alright- bedtime and I'm off to Scotland in a little more than 24 hours!
Cheers to you all!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving - Again!

Just wanted to put up a quick note to let y'all know that I didn't go without the traditional Thanksgiving meal today in Ireland. Although the International Office here on campus put on a Thanksgiving meal for us, my friends and I wanted to take it a step further and attempt to prepare a traditional meal on our own- no moms or grandmas! SCARY! Preparations for a 7:30 dining time started around 1 with the making of my pie crust.
With recipes in hand, us girls hit the kitchen and by 7:30 right on the dot we had the following spread:

Main Course:
An amazing turkey - fully basted and 'carved' by yours truly!
Homemade corn casserole - Alyssa's favorite Thanksgiving dish and impressively made with Ireland's lack of corn products!
Broccoli and Cauliflower with cheese and glazed carrots - even me, not liking veggies, ate these suckers right up!
Mashed potatoes - peeled and cooked the real way with gloves of garlic added!
Stuffing- that was actually used as stuffing inside the turkey.

Dessert:
Sugar Cream Pie - which is actually Milk Pie apparently in some other countries.
Carrot Cake - we like to keep some of our desserts healthy.
Brownies - our Australian friend felt like she needed to contribute somehow :)

It was a very delightful evening with music and candles and we did it all without our moms! Well, we got our recipes off of them and some substitution advice and probably learned everything we do know about cooking from them after years of watching - but we did it! And now I'm stuffed!

So tis off to bed with me,
without any football to see.
But I shall go happily,
for cooking is no longer a mystery.
Twas a Thanksgiving with lots of style,
spent here on the Emerald Isle :)

Cheers!

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I would especially like to wish a warm and happy Thanksgiving to my Mom, Dad and my brother Ben who are celebrating the day down in Lexington Kentucky. This year is kind of weird for my family and the holidays as I'm over here in Ireland for Thanksgiving and Ben will be on his honeymoon over Christmas.

Ben couldn't get off of work today to come home for Thanksgiving so the parents went to him. At first the plan was originally to eat out, but Ben still insisted on a traditional Thanksgiving with the three of them so Mom is up for the challenge today of cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen. I really hope that they take pictures because Mom is all about the presentation of the meal and all and I can just see it now- my brother's mismatched china, silverware and glasses compared to mom's antique china, sterling silver silverware and crystal glasses or pewter goblets. The one common thread though will be that they will have the family together. It'll be my turn for the one-on-one attention at Christmas, so I'm alright with that ;)

Alright- so here's a go at the traditional list of what I'm thankful for:

- Obviously family and friends! Being away from them has truly made me thankful for my friends and family back in the States after I realized that I miss them like crazy! And I'm thankful for my new friends here in Ireland too. Alyssa, Mariel, Erika, Ally, Miriam, all my Equine Industry classmates, the Equestrian Club members, and I could keep going. These people have made Ireland such a great time for me and I'm excited to share a great Thanksgiving meal with most of them later today :)

- My health. It seems especially cancer effects everyone in one form or another. Currently my neighbor is struggling with esophagus cancer and doing well, but cancer is such a scary thing. I'm thankful that I've had the motivation to work out over here and I'll probably be coming home weighing less or at least a lot more toned :)

- Using writing as an outlet. I really think the 'click-clack' of the keys on my keyboard is therapy for me. Through this blog, songs and other random writings that I've done here it's really been awesome for me to put words together and come out with a pretty cool product. This is a gift that I've just recently really used and I love it!

- This past year. I can't even begin to count the experiences and opportunities I've had this past year. Texas was amazing because it was me trying something totally new. New job, new place, new style of riding and I really fell in love with the lone star state. I developed a great family and community down there and I can't wait to go back for a visit. Then off to Reno. While yes it was a new place again, it was my second summer with Deere so I had an idea of what was going on, but my project was something totally new that threw a whole new learning curve at me and opened doors to places I thought I would only see if I'm lucky enough to vacation there someday! Now IRELAND?!?!?!?!?! I am truly a blessed person and I realize that and try my hardest everyday not to take it for granted but to seize the opportunity to its fullest.

So it is indeed "Right to give our Thanks and Praise" today and everyday. I try to thank God for the many blessings that He gives me everyday and I hope y'all have a warm, happy and very blessed Thanksgiving!

Cheers!
Britt

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

GGGEEEEZZZZZ!!!

It's WINDY! I honestly have never experienced wind like this before. Its bad. My poor hair really doesn't stand a chance - especially with how long it is now. My low ponytail when my hair is straight is about a foot and half long now!

Its sad cuz I'll run in the rain and the cold, but not this wind. It would be pointless, you would hardly go anywhere. I'll jut be doing the classes at the gym more often I suppose.

So today is a strike day for the public sector. Lots of lectures were cancelled and the buses are pretty much not running at all. Good thing all my classes were already done and I don't need to go anywhere today. So today I wrote a letter of support for my academic advisor for an award that he was nominated for and also a letter of support for the field trips that we got to take for one of my classes this semester. The teacher has been getting some grief from the department about the cost of transportation and all. These trips were amazing and I happily wrote a letter for my teacher :) Then I went and bought my ticket for "A Nightmare Before Christmas" that the Drama Society is putting on that I'm seeing with my friends tonight :) That will be fun!

But, I have a test in the morning! A marketing MCQ (Multiple Choice Question) Exam. Really, I should be able to go over my notes for a little bit and be grand - even though its probably one of the careers I'll end up in, marketing really is just common sense!

Do you like the 'face lift' I gave to my blog? I do! Nice change of pace!
Countdown is at 22 days, so I better go and study, study, study! Oh Boy!

Cheers!

PS. How was that for a short blog Sarah Jay?

Monday, November 23, 2009

I'm Published Again - This Time in Ireland!

This will be a short (short for my usual) but exciting post to let y'all feel the excitement that I have right now! Today in my Irish Equine Industries class we presented our media projects. We were to find a news story and write an article, then present all of our research and such to our lecturer and the editor of the Irish Field, a national Equine newspaper here in Ireland. I was excited at the very beginning of the semester when I heard about this project, but unsure what I would write about to appeal to a mainly Thoroughbred Racing readership.

I knew I wanted to do something to tie me being American and loving the American Quarter Horse to the Irish Equine Industry. First stop- the Internet and Google! What did I find? The Irish Quarter Horse Association. I thought originally doing a story on the Association itself and its efforts to grow and all, but then I came across a news blurb about Ollie Galligan, an Irishman who had moved to the States to open his own reining training business and his efforts to qualify for the World Equestrian Games. SWEET! Perfect- my favorite discipline, an Irishman representing his country in a sport that most of the Irish Equine Industry knows nothing about. Sounds like news to me!

I then contacted Ollie who was more than willing to cooperate and contribute and I was "off to the races," actually off to Galway where I wrote the article on the bus ride there :) So right, keeping this short- the article came out great! Had my friend Andrea Caudill from AQHA edit it for me so it was in tip-top shape and turned it in.

After going through pretty much the same story as I did with you to the class today presenting my article and showing them some pretty sweet YouTube videos of the different maneuvers of reining, I turned it over for questions and received nothing but wonderful compliments from both my lecturer and the editor of the Irish Field! Mark, the editor, even admitted to googling my article to make sure it wasn't something already published, because it was that good! He said that it was written so well that he could put it in, as is, for the next issue and that I really should consider becoming a journalist! This was all in front of the class, so I wasn't sure how to take it all really- humbly of course and say the most sincere thank you that I could. Definitely said some more thank you's to the AQHA publications staff as they took this fresh piece of canvas, with apparently some hidden talent, and painted a beautiful journalist out if it!

So I can't wait to pick up a copy this Saturday's Irish Field and hopefully see my article and I'm really excited to drum up some press for Ollie! He's a great guy with a great story who took a huge risk coming to the States and it's paid off well for him.

So what am I thankful for this Thanksgiving? Truly recognizing my gift of writing and using it to help others. God has blessed me with so much and getting this article published and receiving those wonderful compliments today, makes me excited to see what the future will hold and where else my byline might pop up! Even though the magazines at AQHA had an international readership, this is still way cool to be published in an Irish publication!

Cheers!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

My 51st Post!

Since I started this blog in the summer, my blog dashboard thing says that I am currently writing my 51st post! At this point I think I must have been allergic to that writing bug when it bit me last Spring! But, I haven't minded and I hope that I have brought some sunshine, entertainment into any one's life who reads this or at least provided them some time-wasting material :)
The count-down to being home now officially stands at 25 days! Again, please let me re-iterate that the countdown does not exist because I hate it here so much that I just want to go home, it exists because I'm really excited to finally be HOME! A year away is far too much for this Indiana girl- but its been great really! And Ireland is great- just wanted to clear that up!
I've been a nerd these past few days and plan to continue that pattern except for during my trip to Scotland coming up in about a week. I've been studying like crazy- cuz my finals count from anywhere from 60% to 100% of my marks here at UCD. Stupid really and I hate this kind of assessment- I don't do well with them, but its what they do here and I don't have a choice really. But I did go out for my roommate Ally's bday last night. We went to a new club that I hadn't been to before called The Palace. It was pretty cool I suppose- but really just the same old, same old: Broken class on the dance floor, annoying guys that won't leave you alone and the occasional alcoholic beverage spilt on you. I love dancing with my girls- and that's all I wanted- I literally had to shove a guy off of me three times last night... grrrr... was seriously going to deck him if he tried one more time! I was sober all night and I should be more positive because I tend to give that impression that I'm a positive person apparently, so I will say the music was cool, the lights and fog machine were redic and the place was decorated pretty cool. It was Ally's bday and that's where she wanted to go- so Happy BDAY Ally!
Last weekend's trip to Galway was Amazing! I know I blogged about it last Saturday night and the only addition I will make to it is a brief description of church on Sunday and then add some pictures for you. I went to a Methodist church Sunday morning like a 2 minute walk from my hostile. The main preacher was gone, but the associate gave me a warm welcome. I was actually the first one there, before the pastor before anyone and it was 3 minutes before the service was suppose to start! Once the music started going, I looked around to realize I was 1 of the maybe 15 white people there. The majority of the congregation was African, which was actually way cool! It was a very young church with plenty of little ones and it was a fairly high-energy atmosphere in the room. The sermon was somewhat scattered and long ( I had to leave before she was done to catch my bus back to Dublin) but the main part that stuck with me was when she talked about our relationship to God through our Spirit. This includes your conscious and your intuition- not feelings, emotions or thoughts. This was the kind of relationship that Christ has with God- so in tune with his SPIRIT that he could communicate to God in this manner. Something to definitely work on for all of us I'm assuming.
The Church
"Living on the Edge"
That's about a 100 meter drop!
Cliffs of Moher!


Going beyond the barriers - well worth it!


Again, living on the edge- these were smaller cliffs though.


I got an assignment back from my Farm Management class. Its a 400 level class and has proven to be somewhat challenging for me. This assignment was based on our farm visit to a dairy that we made and was basically a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats for those of you who haven't had that ingrained into your head through marketing and management classes.) I was worried for a few reasons- 1) I'm not that familiar with Dairy operations to begin with 2) Definitely not familiar with an IRISH Dairy operation and 3) I sort of let the due date creep up on me like the night before at 11 pm. But here's the good news... I got a B on it :) Yay for having good writing skills. I think I lost the most marks on the partial budget aspect of it, but when the teacher was going over it I hit most of the main points that he was looking for and said that an A or a B were both very good marks :)

Alrighty... back to the books. Studying will help this time fly by and I'll be home soon! :) The Christmas decorations around Dublin aren't helping my case of homesickness.

Cheers!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Time is Ticking

I know the subject of my last post was not very upbeat or happy- but it was definitely a good reality check for me, one I needed to appreciate the right things in life for the remaining time that I am here in Ireland. A month from Monday!
I'm sitting in my hostel in Galway enjoying the free Wi-Fi and figured I would take this opportunity to catch y'all up on the Tetrathlon in a little more detail, my week and then this fabolous weekend so far!

Tetrathlon- So I know I gave y'all the just in my last post, but it was truly an amazing weekend. I was so proud of myself for competing and finishing! The scores came in and it turns out I did not do that shabby for never of hearing of this competition until about 3 months ago. I ended up 21st out of 53 girls that competed- respectable in my book. Don't forget that 6th place finish in the shooting :) And just the overall 'craic' of it all- including rocking out the cowboy boots! Pictures keep surfacing from the weekend and its great to see them all :)
Quick funny story about the shooting though- you get a 4 minute practice round before shooting your two rounds of 5 shots. My first practice shot I took- I hit the light bulb above the target and must have hit some sort of wire as the rest of the 14 or so targets' light bulbs went out as well! Great start! Obviously needing help, one of the senior members on the team that was acting as a coach came over and gave me some pointers that were obviously very good as I was the best female shooter from UCD! :)
The jumping was absolutely thrilling! Every jump was such a rush! I was pretty excited to go over the last jump though and still be on top of the horse. There was a medic team there all day and I just about introduced myself first thing in the morning- you know, get the awkward 'get-to-know you stage' over with :) But that was unneeded and a lot of my teammates thought I did pretty good for my first time, the captain of our team found out after the fact that I have never jumped and said she didn't even realize! So I must of done something right :)

This week was good- just tried to get a lot of work done so I could take off for the weekend. I have a media project due for my Equine Industries class and I did my article on an Irishman that moved to America to become a reining horse trainer! Perfect! I really like how the article turned out and hopefully it'll get published :) Oh- this week was also used to catch up on my sleep from last weekend. Seriously, a 6-hour nap isn't normal- but it was much needed on Wednesday and the rain definitely helped sooth me sleep.

GALWAY!!! All of this leads me to where I am now! My friends Alyssa, Mariel and myself headed out Thursday afternoon to Galway. The first night we just cooked in the hostel and walked around town some and called it a night as we had an early ferry to catch to the Aran Islands. A bus ride was needed first to get to the ferry and it took us along the Galway coastline which was just the first indicator that this was going to be an amazing weekend. Then the ferry ride! Out on the open waters, which as a Midwesterner, I don't get much of that ;) Then we made it to the island, waded through all the guys trying to give us tours, found our hostel and got on bikes and away we went! The weather was perfect and we had about an hour or so ride to the other side of the island to get the fort ruins. Literally, we walked right up to the cliff's edge- absolutely breathtaking! Then we rode back along the coastline and even though we were beat- it was well worth the physical exercise!

Our hostel on the island was a bit shady to say the least, it was towards the outside of town it was basically a house that has been turned into a hostel. But it was a bed and an adventure to say the least, especially walking down the pitch-black road to go to the local pub for dinner. We were creative with our forms to find warmth as the hostel was somewhat cold. We lingered in the pub for awhile, I lit a coal fire and we cuddled under blankets.

The next morning started before the sun was even up and we enjoyed a sunrise ferry ride back to mainland! The views and the scenery just kept getting better and better. It was cold on the top deck, but totally worth it :) Once back in Galway, we met our friend Erika who came down this morning and we were off for the bus tour of the Cliffs of Moher. Again, very breathtaking and fabulous weather. As Mariel says, we are just lucky when it comes to weather- hardly a raindrop so far this weekend. Also, Mariel was playing mom the entire tour cuz I was going past those signs that say 'do not pass' and she was expressing her concern. But everyone else was doing it and I'm writing this blog aren't I? The bus tour took us to some other very scenic areas as well for plenty of photo-ops. I have had to be very conservative with my camera use though this weekend unfortunately. Silly me, working up until the minute we left on Thursday, forgot to charge my battery. So it came on very sparingly and used wisely. I still got some great pictures though, which I'll try to add later.

Alright... tomorrow morning I found a Methodist church like a minute from the hostel, so I'm going to check that out in the morning and I think us girls are just going to tour the town and then catch the bus back to Dublin at 4!

Seriously, I have been so blessed with all of these opportunities and to take in God's creation- literally this weekend, it took my breath away! A month left- still lots to do, plenty to study and then I'M HOME! :)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Reality - Life

So this blog I know was scheduled to be a play-by-play blow of the weekend and all its great stories about the tetrathlon this weekend- well I'll give that a quick summary, because there are more important and real things going on in my life as of tonight.

Shooting- shot an 86 out of 100- good for 6th place out of the 55 some odd girls competing.
Running- took off about 10 seconds off my mile time.
Swimming- swam my goal of 125 meters in 3 minutes.
Riding- stayed on for a clear round with a refusal

Personally, I'm dealing with a lot tonight. I've had some major reality checks, cutting very deep. I was notified about the loss of Tyler Hatheway, the little brother of one of my good friends from high school, Josh, through a mutual friend on facebook. I know, sounds lame to hear on facebook, but being in Ireland- not too many other ways. I instantly starting crying- suddenly hit by grief for the family. I only met Tyler a hand full of times either at Josh's house during a study session or at a school function. He was Josh's 'little' brother, although he was physically bigger than Josh. Although they bickered and fought like most brothers do- I could tell that Josh loved him and even maybe liked him just a little bit.

Josh's dad was/ is a fairly consistent substitute teacher in the system as his other job allowed him the opportunity, and Mr. Hatheway truly saw it as an opportunity- he really connected with the kids and although he never came out and professed his Christianity while introducing himself to the class, you could tell he was one of those men who just loved God.

Josh was one of of my closer friends in high school and I regret the fact that this thing called college happened and we haven't kept in touch much. Now, I'm beginning to question why we got along so well cuz he would pester you and pick on you and debate with you until you were blue in the face. But that's Josh for you. I could have sworn that he as going to be a lawyer someday, but his love for physics got in the way for that. Josh and I tutored over at the middle school together and had great times creaming the kids in dodge ball and knock-out. We would occasionally let them win or gain a slight advantage, just to make them feel good about themselves, but we had to feel good about ourselves too :) We were also very active and involved in the South Madison Youth Commission together along with the same team for Teens Against Tobacco Use. Basically all that means is that we skipped a lot of school to do good things in the community :) Haha, it was definitely for legit reasons why we were excused out of class, but I'll admit we might have took our time getting back enjoying a Ricker's pop every now and then. Overall, we just got on really well and I'll admit, I even had a crush on him sophomore year. Obviously that didn't work out, as he is now engaged to a lovely young lady named Beth Brunner and I know they will both be extremely happy together.

His mother is lovely as well. Always extremely warm and welcoming and the kind of person that unintentionally stretches your grocery store run out by at least 20 minutes because its just nice to stop and chat for a bit if you ran into each other. I can't even imagine a mother's grief for a child. I hope I never have to. This past year I have known two mothers personally who have to battle with this grief. Carol Romine is about to witness the 1 year anniversary of her son dieing at the age of 22, and now, November 8th will always be in the back of Mrs. Hatheway's mind.

After seeing how some people treated the gift of life this weekend, basically abusing their bodies with personal choices made, and comparing it to a kid, a high school senior, who just lost his- a major case of reality has set in. What is really important in my life? Seriously, if I were to go, how would people remember me? Questions that are horrible to think about but you answer them with every choice that you make, everyday, every minute that you live. Ok, maybe not whether you want cereal or toast for breakfast, but you know what I mean.

So if you wouldn't mind, whether you know the Hatheways or not, whether you're a religious person or not, please keep them in your thoughts and pray for strength during this confusing, difficult and sad time.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Tetrathlon

"Tetrathlon? What is that?" I'm sure that is what some of you are thinking right now. No, it's not a triathlon, but a tetrathlon where one competes in running, swimming, shooting and show jumping! And I'm crazy enough to do it! And I leave in 2 and half hours for it :)

I first saw this competition on the UCD Equestrian website when I was looking through the different sports clubs before I came here. As soon as I saw it I knew I wanted to compete and the time has finally come. So here's a breakdown of the events and then the events outside the events- aka the socializing that is going down this weekend as well:

4:00- leave UCD to Kells

Friday night- Rubik's Cube theme party where you show up wearing ridiculous solid colored clothing representing all the colors of the rubik's cube. Object is to end up in one color by the end of the night, but I kind of like the clothes that I'm going to be wearing, so no switching for me!

Saturday- Running: Time trial for 1500 meters, just shy of a mile.
Swimming: How many lengths of the pool that you can swim in 3 minutes (doesn't sound hard, but it is!)
Shooting: Pistols and you get a score out of 200, that's 20 shots w/ a bulls-eye counting as 10 points

Saturday night- FORMAL BALL!!! I'm super excited cuz the 'hard part' in my mind will be over and then I get to dress up and be pretty for the night :) I have a long black sparkley dress :)

Sunday- Show jumping! This will be my first full course to ever jump. Should be a riot especially since I'm going to be sporting the Justin, lime-green topped cowboy boots with a borrowed Hunt outfit- for those of you who aren't getting a hysterical visual in your head, pictures will be posted, but its going to be obvious that I'm American and I don't care that its obvious :) All my Irish friends think its going to be hilarious- which it will be!

Sunday afternoon- come back to Dublin and study like crazy for an exam I have on Monday :(

So this is it- I'm just going with a good attitude and what happens, happens and I'm just going to try and have a blast knowing that this will be one of the experiences that will make my Ireland adventure so memorable! So wish me luck!!!!!

Cheers :)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Freak Out!

These past few days could be described as a series of 'freak outs.' Disclaimer: Nothing major happened, no bodily harm, no random attempts of any Egyptian business men picking me up, so don't hit the panic button or anything.

The first in the series I'm going to describe to you is just Halloween in general. I'm not really around children here in Dublin unless I'm in town and they are out with their parents, so some of the costumes I saw this weekend and last week (not just Halloween night), that ADULTS were wearing were a little frightening- the point of Halloween I suppose. I'll even include the moment when I was turning the corner and literally bumped into somebody who had scary clown make-up on. Somewhat comical now that I look back on it.
My Halloween was spent with my friend Sarah Jay and her friend from home, whose name was Sarah as well. I went as a cowgirl for just about the 4th straight year, but in all fairness I was 'Butch Cassidy' with my bestest friend 'The Sundance Kid' who was played by one of my bestest friends in real life, Miss Lindsey Junk. But, I promise, nothing remotely close to a cowgirl or Western themed outfit next year! We spent the majority of the evening at a really cool pub called the Bleeding Horse. Supposedly after some myth if you put the blood of a horse into a fountain in a nearby country-town, then you'll live forever- at least that is what an intoxicated Rockstar told me. It was a neat pub though with lots of steps and side rooms. Almost like a maze really. I was leading the three of us into the pub and as we were approaching the bouncers (who were also in costume as knights), one said to me, "Wait! Don't say anything . . . you guys are American!" Of course he was right- I think it was the John Deere camo hat that gave us away and the other Sarah had a Cubs jersey and hat on? How could he guess?

The next freak out was actually a very good one! It happened yesterday on yet another field trip that I took as part of one of my classes. We went to Jim Bolger's main training yard about 2 hours away from Dublin and this place was 'class, deadly and brilliant' according to my Irish classmates, my American adjectives used to describe this place would be amazing and awesome! He has 100 horses there in full training, enough walkers to have 60 horses walking at once, two all-weather gallops, two grass gallops, 2 horse spas and a treadmill! Not to mention the big 'lories' or horse trailers he had parked. Oh and a good looking John Deere tractor to keep the gallops maintained :) . The treadmill was the best part of the trip! He actually pulled a horse in and put him on and went through the gaits with us. It was awesome to actually see the horse in one spot going through all the gaits, you usually just observe this as they are passing by, but to see a horse in a run, pounding away at this treadmill was an amazing sight to see. I wish I would have seen this when trying to learn the gaits of the horse, cuz it would have made so much more sense as you could see the diagonal feet moving at the trot and the three beats of the canter! Sorry, I've switched over into horse mode, but it was just crazy cool!

Another 'freak-out' moment happened last night that I caused to someone else. My parents teach at Lapel High School and have for, um, awhile now, and their seniors have the option of taking a trip to Europe every year. One of the English teachers started it like 14 years ago and just has kept it going as they study British Literature, so why not take 17 and 18 year-olds on a 10 day whirl-wind tour of Europe? Anyways... my mom sent over a little care package that included my dress for the ball this weekend at the tetrathlon, with Jerry, the main teacher. So I had yet another adventure in down-town Dublin trying to find their hotel, which I successfully did :). I walk into the restaurant part and I see a boy wearing an Indiana State shirt and hear the American accents and walk over to the table where I recognize one of the boys as a kid from my church. He was too absorbed in his card game to notice me, so I said his name really loud in an accusing tone and he and all the other boys looked at me like, "What the heck?" The look on Will's face was priceless. I have already shared the experience with his little sister, which I'm sure she'll get a good, gut-wrenching laugh out of. Anyways, through the breaks in his stammers, I informed them that I'm studying abroad for the semester, yatta, yatta, but it was such a good 'freak out!'

So it was just freaky Monday yesterday as the final freak-out that I'm going to describe to you also occurred yesterday, but drug into the wee hours of this morning. I knew I had an assignment coming due in my Farm Management class, so I pulled out that paper to check on when that date was at 11pm last night, and sure enough it was today, November 3rd! @#$%!- yep that was pretty much my feeling last night and cause for a freak out for sure. So I stayed up until about 2:30 this morning with the help of chocolate digestives (cookies that are supposed to be eaten with tea, but are amazing on their own and typically really cheap) and orange juice. I got the majority of it done and then decided to get some sleep and finish it later this morning. So I went to bed and woke up at 7 to finish it and had a finished product at 8:30 this morning :) I get to class at 10am, have it all printed out and find out that it wasn't due until 5pm today. At that point though, I was done with it and turned it in. Maybe he'll give me a wink for having it done by class time. Some of the kids hadn't even started on it yet. I mean, I wasn't much better, but at least I appeared prepared, and its all about the impressions right?

Welp, I'm going to get started on another assignment that I know is due in two weeks, so I prevent a future freak-out. I hope all your Halloweens were great and that you're not having the amount of freak-outs that I've being having recently, although, not all have been bad.
Have a terrific Tuesday everyone.

Cheers!

Friday, October 30, 2009

News

Extra, extra, read all about it!
So there has been some exciting news recently in my life pertaining to both things here in Ireland in the near future and then things in the semi-close future like this December and summer.
Let's take things in chronological order shall we?

1- I made the team for the tetrathlon competition representing UCD. It sounds like a lot bigger deal than what it is, but I'm a team of 4 with 3 others girls who are still competitive, but we're not the first ranked team, therefore not as much pressure to defend UCD's champion title. So I get to go and have fun, get a crazy good workout in for one weekend, get to attempt to not make a fool of myself jumping my first course (in my cowboy boots if the captain will let me), get dressed up for the ball and did I mention have a lot of fun? That's next weekend and I'm all paid up :)

2- Final Exam timetables finally came out! I find things here in Ireland are slightly less organized as they took forever to get the schedule posted! I have been slightly worried ever since I came over that finals would mess me up coming home in time for my brother's wedding, but dread no more- I have two days to spare! My mom's first thought, "Can you move up your flight?" LOL! I told her it would cost me too much and she'd see me soon enough! Finals are from December 7th through December 19th, excluding Sundays and I thought it would be just my luck that I would have one towards the end of those two weeks, but I suppose that 4-leaf clover I found on the side of the track one day is proving helpful :) Here's how those two weeks look for me:

- Monday Dec. 7th- ECON 20010 9:00am to 11:00am
- Tuesday Dec. 8th- AERD 20030 9:00am to 11:00am
- Wednesday Dec. 9th- AERD 40010 3:00pm to 5:00pm
- Saturday Dec. 12th- ANSC 30210 12:00pm to 2:00pm
- Monday Dec. 14- ANSC 30220 9:00am to 11:00am

All of the finals are at the Royal Dublin Society in the City Center, so that is going to be a lot of bus rides! I find it weird that they are all off campus. But, just in case a gorilla and a banana team from Purdue would want to come and streak through my finals- there you go! I think it would be epic- "Gorilla and Banana come to Dublin!"
So with all of that, I'll have two days to spare to pack, get around and say all of my goodbyes and not feel rushed when leaving for home :)

3- My summer plans have been decided as well. I have decided to go back with John Deere again this summer for my 3rd internship with them. I was looking into some different ways to spend my summer, but they just weren't working out the way that they needed to in order to make them possible. I'll be at Harvester Works this summer in Moline, IL, which is about a 5/6 hour drive, depending on how fast I push good 'ol Gerdy, from home. It'll be another great experience I'm sure to diversify myself within the company as all three of my internships have been and will be very different from one another. So that's a huge relief to have that all decided.

Oh ya... there is this little holiday called Halloween this weekend! Most of my friends went up north to Londonderry/Derry for the festivities up there, which I hear are suppose to be ridiculous, but I decided to stay in Dublin this weekend. I still plan on dressing up and doing the Halloween thing, just on a smaller scale. One doesn't have to be too creative to guess what I'm "fixin" to be. Something that is simple for me to do, doesn't involve going out and buying a costume and a part I feel I play very well. I'll let "y'all" figure it out :)

I hope you enjoyed my news as much as I did telling y'all about it! Have a safe and happy Halloween everyone :)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Taste of Home

The count stands at 49 days left, including today, in Ireland. I have been here for 58 days now- meaning I'm on the negative sloped end of my journey. Not negative in a bad connotation because there are still plenty of things to do and people to see here in Ireland for me! And its on days like today with the sun out, the leaves changing color and a decent schedule to fill my time that I enjoy!

This past Monday was a Bank Holiday here in Ireland. As my friend Sarah Jay put it- "It's like Memorial Day, Labor Day or Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but they just don't name it." It is the only University scheduled day off- but I've taken a few more to get my traveling in ;) So with this long weekend I was finally reunited with a couple of the kids from the Ulster Peace Project Limavady- Anderson 2002. Words can not even start to describe how awesome it was to see them again and to be in a 'home.'

I started my trip early on Saturday morning and as I was about 200 meters from the bus stop, about 7 minutes early, I saw the bus I needed fly right past the stop. The next one wasn't coming for another hour- dang it- not the way I wanted to start my trip. Next course of action was to figure out the public bus system to get to the airport. I have ridden them back from the airport once, so I figured I could reverse the process. Then an angel in the form of a taxi driver named John McGennuiss pulled up saying he needed a two person minimum and would charge us the same rate that the bus I missed did! I was at the airport in plenty of time, along with a new friend who is also from America who was meeting her mom at the airport :) So, I got the bus to Belfast, on my way to meet Lucy and her dad, Basil :)


The weekend was great- minus the rain, rain and more rain. But I came here expecting it to rain, so I didn't let it 'rain on my parade' or 'dampen my spirits' at all. The North was still very pretty as Basil took me the scenic way home along the coast. The weekend basically consisted of eating, eating and then eating some more between Lucy's mom, Margaret's, home-cooking and then Lucy's and mine baking. But there was some serious hiking/ walking around Giants Causeway and Dunluce Castle on Sunday though in all fairness.

Lucy and I seemed to fall right back into our relationship with each other after being apart for so long. We would send the occasional email and then facebook was a great invention to keep us in touch during the years apart. I never thought I would be in Lucy's house someday when she came over to America. I think I'm the first one of the Americans to come over here, besides my friend Anna who studied for a semester in Belgium and my Irish friend Kevin went to meet up with her for a long weekend. I also got to catch up with Kevin as we had a night out in Limavady at The Corner Bar. The main part of the pub was your more traditional pub atmosphere I suppose and had a small group singing local Irish music. We escaped to the back room where a band was setting up to play but was quiet to start with to chat and catch up as Lucy and Kevin hadn't seen each other in a while either. I taught Kevin to two-step and Lucy and I got hit on by a couple of older local gents, but it was all in the name of fun I suppose!


The 'Northern Ireland/ local" things I did- Had Maud's Icecream, toured Giants Causeway and Dunluce Castle, had to wait for sheep to cross the road, drove around the coastline, had a homemade currey, tried the local Bushmill's whiskey, walked the walls of Londonderry/ Derry, experienced a wee bit of pub life and I even have a hand-knitted wool hat, thanks to Basil's insistence and hospitality, to remember my time up North.

Last Thursday I also got to celebrate my friend's Katie birthday by going on a Trek ride with her. It was one of the best rides I've ever had. No offence Chip, I miss you and all, but this was on a Connemara dark bay named Jake who loved to run up those hills! It was raining off and on and my pretty pink Northface rain jacket now has some mud splatters from Katie's horse, who was in front of me. But seriously, towards the end of the ride there was a good long stretch where the horses know they are close to home and they are allowed to literally run full-out! I haven't been in a saddle in awhile, not to mention an English saddle, so I was a little unnerved going into the ride. But the first big run was up a hill and I wasn't expecting it and Jake just went for it- after that- I had the need for speed! It was so thrilling and after I realized that Jake was a sturdy mount and he knew what he was doing, we just had a blast! But anyways- that last stretch, I stood up in the irons a little bit and time literally stood still as well. I was riding along a treeline and then a stone fence that opened up to a beautiful green pasture and then on out to the rolling Irish countryside. Even with the sheer power that was going at full speed underneath me, I was perfectly relaxed and trying to take in the moment. It just about matched the time I took Chip out early in the alfalfa field one summer morning bareback with the butterflies everywhere. Just peaceful and perfect!



Last night we had an apartment dinner to send our roommate Josh off with style. He left for his internship in France this morning and so we had a feast last night- breakfast for dinner- pancakes (with tons of toppings), bacon, sausages, toast, eggs, juice, banana milk and probably some things that I'm forgetting. We all pitched in and got a tour book of Lyon, the city that Josh is moving to, and then a scarf as a little memento from all of us. I'm going to miss that kid, he's from Indiana as well and did his undergrad at Purdue, so it was nice have some commonality so far from home. Depending on finances, might go to France to visit him- he's been tempting me with skiing/ boarding in the Alps- how amazing would that be?


Welp... better wrap this guy up and throw some pictures in it and then get off to class. I have some down-time these next two weeks before the big Tetrathlon weekend, and I need to get some serious studying done!

Cheers!