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As greedy, short-sighted capitalists surround us daily, Warren Buffet provides a dose of humility and wisdom. Listen to him writing on his pledge to give away 99% of his wealth to charity:

“My wealth has come from a combination of living in America, some lucky genes, and compound interest. Both my children and I won what I call the ovarian lottery. (For starters, the odds against my 1930 birth taking place in the U.S. were at least 30 to 1. My being male and white also removed huge obstacles that a majority of Americans then faced.) My luck was accentuated by my living in a market system that sometimes produces distorted results, though overall it serves our country well. I’ve worked in an economy that rewards someone who saves the lives of others on a battlefield with a medal, rewards a great teacher with thank-you notes from parents, but rewards those who can detect the mispricing of securities with sums reaching into the billions. In short, fate’s distribution of long straws is wildly capricious. The reaction of my family and me to our extraordinary good fortune is not guilt, but rather gratitude. Were we to use more than 1% of my claim checks on ourselves, neither our happiness nor our well-being would be enhanced. In contrast, that remaining 99% can have a huge effect on the health and welfare of others. That reality sets an obvious course for me and my family: Keep all we can conceivably need and distribute the rest to society, for its needs. My pledge starts us down that course.”

The circumstances we are born into have something to do with luck? Capitalism works well overall but produces some widely distorted results? There is a point at which more wealth does nothing to enhance well-being and happiness? All obvious truths, but still truths worth making in times like these.

Read Buffett’s full comments here, and learn about his and Bill Gates campaign to encourage American billionaires to commit to giving at least 50% of their wealth away philanthropically.

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Last week the other Mitchells and I gathered for our last Irish adventure.

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First, we had an event at Farmleigh, once the home of the Guinness family in Dublin, where we received rings commemorating our year in Ireland.  The President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, was on hand to present them to us.  It was a lovely reception, and President McAleese was a wonderful speaker and very warm in person.

The next day, we headed to Glenstal Abbey, a monastery in County Limerick.  The Abbey is situated on some gorgeous grounds with glens, conifer forests, and gardens.  We were given a guided tour by one of the monks, who told us the history of certain trees, and wove in thoughtful reflections on humans, their environment, and life in general.  We also got a chance to visit a small chapel that holds a number of old Russian and Greek icons, complete with explanations of icons and the Orthodox church from a monk who has written books on the topic. Afterwards, we visited the Abbey’s library, which holds a number of rare and antique manuscripts, including texts from the 1400s and first edition Irish novels.  Oh, and how could I forget the tea and freshly baked cakes and pastries that awaited us when we needed a break!  All in all, the most perfect way I can imagine to spend an afternoon.

The remainder of our final retreat was spent in the town of Listowel and at the gorgeous Glin Castle.  We were in Listowel, in County Kerry, for the annual Writer’s Week festival, which brings in authors and poets and playwrights and artists for readings, discussions, and plays.  Two of the highlights for me were seeing The World’s Wife, a play based on the poetry of British Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, and hearing Irish author Roddy Doyle read some of his work and answer questions.  I also had a lot of time just hanging out around town with the Mitchells, which was nice.

I hadn’t thought too much about the goodbye at the end of the weekend.  So I was not prepared for the dread and sadness I felt as we pulled up to the Limerick train station at the end of the weekend, where I hopped out to take a train back to Galway.  Although I know that I’ll be seeing my Mitchell friends pretty frequently in the years to come – both at official Mitchell alumni events and wherever else we happen to be – suddenly I realized that this goodbye marked The End of our year in Ireland as a group.  This makes me acutely aware that it is almost time to say goodbye to everything else in Ireland – our gorgeous apartment, my wonderful Irish friends, and beautiful Galway.

Before the goodbyes, though, I have to finish a draft of my thesis. I’ll be trying to focus all of my energy on that rather than mourning my departure.  Hopefully I’ll be able to turn some sad emotions into positive outcomes… Wish me luck (I’ve got a week and a couple days to go for the thesis draft)!

It took nine months, but I’ve finally learned my lesson. When you run on the promenade in Galway, you have to kick the wall.

Our friend Avril, who gets up early every morning and walks the prom, has told me several times that ‘its just what you do’. The directive didn’t quite sink in for me until today, however, when I saw a girl who couldn’t have been older than five give it a big strong boot as she walked aimlessly by.

The ‘wall’ marks the two mile point from where the River Corrib lets out into Galway Bay. Standing about five feet and made of the gray stones that permeate the Connemara countryside, it divides the bayside promenade from a local golf course.

‘Kicking the wall’ is one of those small things that you can only learn by getting to know a place. Its not in the travel book or on the city council website. It’s a piece of local knowledge – the kind that’s only privy to folks that make this place home.

As transients for the better part of three years, Lauren and I have learned through experience how hard it can be to tap into the local knowledge of a place when you’re ‘not from around here’. But, I think, we’ve also learned a bit about its beauty. There is something special and worthwhile about having some things that are shared locally – amongst ‘us’. Its what bonds neighborhoods and cultures and sustains traditions. Its what makes places communities and not just amalgamations of atomized individuals.

When you float with the wind, perhaps you ought to lose a little sway.

Kofi Annan, the former United Nations Secretary General, once allegedly ignored advice that he should wear a warm hat while on a trip to Minnesota in winter. “Never think you know more than the natives”, he apparently lamented.

In two weeks Lauren and I leave Ireland to return, first, to Minnesota. I can’t help but wonder what local knowledge about my home – from the U.S. as a whole down to my old neighborhoods – will now be invisible to me. What have people learned while I’ve been gone? Or, rather, what have I forgotten?

I guess, as my anonymous little kicking friend reminded me today, the only way to find out is to listen and to watch…to assume that everyone around you has something to teach.

(And, maybe its about time for me to stick around somewhere too…)

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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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