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Proud parents Francis and Muireann with baby Liam in the pram

Sitting, taking tea in a house in Dublin a couple weeks ago, I was greeted (in the thickest of Dublin accents) with, “Oh! It’s the great Parnell!”

What a welcome!

After three years, Jon and I were reunited with the MacCumhaill family, back in their lovely home in the cozy outskirts of Dublin.

Allow me to back up. In the summer of 2006, I traveled to East Africa for the first time to do research on fair trade crafts for my senior thesis. I happened upon Uganda Crafts and spent a month there as a volunteer and researcher. I was lucky enough to meet Muireann, an Irish woman who had been working with Uganda Crafts for 6 months.  Muireann was engaged to a Ugandan man at the time, and we hit it off splendidly from the beginning. After a month exploring markets in Kampala, hanging out at each others’ homes, and having a few nights out on the town, it was time for me to leave Uganda. Muireann told me that if I ever happened to come to Ireland, to let her know, and I told her I would do just that.

A couple months later, Jon and I realized that we needed to use some flight vouchers we’d earned earlier in the year. We also recognized that Thanksgiving break was on the horizon. On a whim, I checked flight prices to Dublin. Lo and behold, they cost almost exactly the amount of our travel vouchers. I got in touch with Muireann to see if she thought her family might take us in for a couple of nights, and I got even better news: Muireann would be in Dublin at that time, not in Uganda! Elated, I booked our tickets and counted the days until our trip.

When we arrived in Dublin, Muireann took us under her wing. We stayed with her family, the MacCumhaills, and they welcomed us as if we were long lost relatives. We ate most of our meals with the family, and got to know everyone over delicious Irish dinners. We couldn’t believe how lucky we were.

After three years, Jon and I found ourselves back in the same living room. So much had changed for both families: Jon and I were married and had spent a year in Uganda; Muireann and Francis were now married and the new parents to beautiful baby Liam, and made the move to Northern Ireland; older brother Fionn had been married a month prior. But gathering together again, it was like we had never left. We heard an update from Fionn Sr. about how business was going, and looked at wedding pictures with Fionn Jr.. Siobhan joined us for a walk around the botanic gardens, and Eimear chatted with us about school. I left their house feeling warm and fuzzy all over, grateful for the exuberant welcome the second time around.

Beyond the entire MacCumhaill family, it’s been EXTRA good to spend time with Muireann, Francis and Liam. Last weekend, they came to Galway, and we had the chance to catch up in more depth, especially about Uganda-related topics. And, we also had the chance to eat a lot of good food, and have a few pints out. In two weekends, Jon and I will visit Muireann and Francis up in Northern Ireland, where they have a house out in the country. We’re excited to go!

The past couple months have been wonderful, in that I’ve been introduced to so many great new friends. But this reunion with old friends has brought me at least as much joy.

Muireann and me on the Ha' Penny bridge in Dublin, 2006

On Tuesday morning, I dug my bright pink rain boots out of the closet for the first time this year. I had been saving them for a day when the weather was really bad, and Tuesday morning’s weather certainly fit that description. I carefully folded my jeans inside the boots, slipped on my pink raincoat, pulled the hood over my head, and ventured out of the apartment towards the library.

Outside, I faced the rain, which was falling diagonally from the sky in sheets. I struggled against the wind, alongside the rushing River Corrib, past silly Irish women who appeared to care more about fashion than staying dry. Proud of my sensible American roots, I marched on through the cold rain (which turned to hail for a moment) to class.

I’d been warned about the unending rain in Ireland, especially in Galway. But I had no idea that it would be so… severe. I’ve been told many times by native Galwegians that people in Galway don’t use umbrellas because they are no match for the wind and horizontal rain that Galway experiences. In fact, on my walks back and forth from campus, I’ve seen many broken umbrellas, crumpled knots of metal and plastic, abandoned on the street. The umbrellas really couldn’t hold up against the forces of nature in Galway.

As the week has progressed, the rain has continued, unrelentingly, to fall. The River Corrib has been swelling increasingly higher. I have used my bright pink boots on a number of occasions, and have begun to get used to being perpetually damp.

the raging River Corrib, swollen from days of rain.

Thankfully, yesterday morning, I found out that this weather isn’t actually normal. In fact, this November has been the rainiest in 30 years! I was relieved to find this out, because if this were normal, I wouldn’t want to see bad.

Beyond the discomfort of being wet, the rain has brought some more serious problems. The flooding throughout Ireland has been terrible. Roads have flooded, almost completely cutting Galway off from the rest of the country. Flooding has affected downtown areas as well, including smaller towns like Ballinasloe and large towns like Cork. Cork is a mess, as the river Lee broke its banks and has left downtown Cork underwater. The University there has cancelled classes for the next week, and some students are left without housing.

So far, none of the flooding has directly affected us. We have friends that have been unable to travel to or from Galway because of the roads flooding, but luckily this weekend we aren’t traveling. The only possible problem for us would be if the River Corrib flooded, as our first floor apartment is approximately 40 feet from its banks. There are no indications that that will happen, so don’t worry too much. 🙂

As we speak, thunder rolls quietly, the trees are dancing in the wind, and the rain continues. From the safety and warmth of our apartment, it’s actually kind of beautiful. But I am quite grateful that I decided to bring along my huge pink boots.

On Monday Lauren and I traveled 90 minutes south to Limerick. Lauren had an afternoon interview to do some work with Irish Aid and I tagged along for the fun of it.

Limerick is often portrayed as a gritty, rough place. In his Pulitzer Prize winning book Angela’s Ashes Frank McCourt claims that “in Limerick you are only allowed to say you love God, and babies, and horses that win. Anything else is softness in the head.” In our three short months here, we’ve heard several people refer to Limerick as “stab city” – a crude reference based on the stereotype that Limerick is plagued by violent gang activity.

Six hours isn’t enough to to break down or substantiate existing stereotypes, but we certainly had a nice afternoon and found it to be a lovely city.

We spent the morning at King John’s Castle. Originally built in the 12th century, the castle is Ireland’s most intact medieval stronghold.

As we walked around the castle, I kept wishing the walls could talk. Its absolutely overwhelming to think about how much history is wrapped up in them. Even now, archeologists are excavating part of the grounds where they’ve discovered Viking houses that predate the castle.

Of course, King John himself never visited the castle. But, it was there for him…just in case. Oh monarchy and its rediculous excess…I guess I should give him credit for signing the Magna Carta at least.

After the castle we had a lovely lunch at the Sage Cafe…a lucky find that wasn’t listed in any guide books. If you ever find yourself in Limerick, we highly recommend it.

And a little later, we were greeted by a beautiful rainbow…

Sometimes the rain is worth it.

Every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday morning I walk to campus for 9:00am class…along the river, by the duck coffee shop (the ledge along the canal where ducks gather every morning to chat), past the St. Nicholas Cathedral, and onto campus.

When I’m on time (which has been surprisingly more frequent than usual) I cross paths with an older Irish man who makes a short journey across the street from his house to the church. He is remarkably consistent…every morning, 8:50, like clockwork.

When I encounter him on his daily pilgrimage, I often feel an internal longing for the continuity that marks his day-to-day experience—a reaction that has surprised no one more than me.

My parents used to joke about my need for regularity as a kid. My childhood babysitter served pasta and homemade bread every day at 12:00 sharp. If it was a few minutes off, I felt off as well. In the evenings at home, I methodically created my seat in the living room, placing a large cup of water and the TV remote in the same place each night. I valued holiday traditions above almost all else. I’m using the same backpack right now that I did in high school.

I was a creature of habit.

The past few years haven’t been very hospitable for such a creature, however. Living out of a bag is now the rule, not the exception. At least once a week I seem to say goodbye to a friend I may not see for months or years, if ever. As hard as I try to force little morsels of monotony into each day, the flux has taken over.

I suppose its good to feel a bit out of control. After all, control in life is always an illusion. Our only choice, really, is to surrender to the rule of uncertainty. But we all need some lines of continuity to remind us of who we are, and who we were, as we try to figure out who it is were going to become.

I have hope that someday I’ll have a daily walk somewhere…like the old man in Galway. But, until then, I’ll have to remain open to the flux…and be thankful that I have a life partner for the journey.

A couple favorite articles from the past week.

  • A look at Sesame Street’s success in educating children, and how its strategies could be applied to other interventions.
  • A friend’s reflections on creating art outside of major centers of culture.  I think a lot of what he has to say can be applied to some of us outside the art world too, wherever we find ourselves.
  • Another friend, and former coworker at the Interfaith Youth Core, writes about the tragedy at Fort Hood.
  • Cool New York Times tool shows the unemployment rate for different groups of Americans, divided by sex, age, race, and education level.  Overall, a powerful tool.

Belfast. Germany. Cork. London. Dublin.

My past five weekends have been a little crazy. Every weekend I’ve been in another city; sometimes in another country. It’s true that I was voted “most likely to travel the world” in high school. . . However, I generally tend to do my traveling a little bit more slowly than this. Or at least stay somewhere for a week. That being said, the past five weeks have been exhilarating, fun, and at times a little stressful.

One of the highlights of the past couple weeks (and the reason for a couple of the trips) was having friends Laura and Jordan come visit. The four of us make quite a set. We have matching initials (well now that we’re all married at least), we all like to eat … a lot, and we have reached a level in our friendships where it is ok to tease each other about being cranky. Now that’s love. Laura and Jordan hung out in Galway while I slaved over a paper, without whining even once that I was neglecting them. Instead, they explored the city on their own and made a trip to the Cliffs of Moher (ask them about the wind!). During the weekends, however, we escaped little old Galway for some bigger cities: London and Dublin.

st. paul's cathedral

It was Laura’s, Jon’s AND my first time in London. And boy, did we ever cram as much as we could into our four days there. From walking around its diverse neighborhoods, to seeing Big Ben, the Rosetta Stone, and St. Paul’s Cathedral with our own eyes, we were a foursome on the move. And we managed to fit in as much coffee, food, and dessert as our stomachs could handle. Of course, the trip did have its hiccups. The London Underground closed down basically all the subway lines we needed during the weekend. We got lost within the financial/diamond district during lunchtime on Saturday, when NOTHING was open and we were hungry. Etc. The little snafus add up to the beauty of travel, in my opinion, and always lead you to places you would’ve never seen otherwise.

laura and jordan in london

enjoying fall colors in Hyde Park

temple church door

gorgeous door at Temple Church

albert's gate

beautiful details of the gate surrounding a memorial to Prince Albert.

Having Laura and Jordan here to be a part of our lives in Ireland, to visit the university and cheer me on as I finished my fourth paper in as many weeks, was such a pleasure. Getting to do London (and a bit of Dublin) was the cherry on top. It was sad to see them go!

This coming weekend we’re staying in Galway. Mostly. There will be a quick trip to Limerick thrown in. But after five weeks of cross-country or out-of-Ireland travel, Limerick will be a breeze. Please do check out our Picasa site to see photos from these, and other, adventures!


Welcome to our blog! Follow along with us as we travel and experience life as a couple of 20-somethings - with all its ups and downs. We hope to post photos, short videos, stories about our daily life and not-so-daily adventures, and thoughts on what’s going on in the world.

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