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

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