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This was our motto throughout Ellen’s visit to Ireland. Thinking of getting another pint of Bulmer’s at the pub? Go ahead – you only live once. Should we go to Blarney castle despite the snow and the fact that the roads are nearly impassable? Probably, since you only live once. Chat with some intoxicated guys (who all seem to be named Paddy) about politics on your way home at night? Well, you only live once.

We were so lucky to have Ellen visit us for 2 whole weeks, while we were on break and feeling relaxed after a nice Christmas. We tried to take advantage of the time off from work to explore, but came up against an old enemy when trying to make plans: the weather. It’s been a while since the weather has prevented us from doing much – after all, Uganda is pretty much perfect all year long, and we visited the midwest in its prime over the summer. And although I didn’t think the weather was really that bad, Ireland was definitely not prepared for it. So we took advantage of as much as we could, and when we were doubtful about whether or not to go ahead with a plan, we asked ourselves the question: “How many times do you live?” The answer: just once. And we had a blast. Exhibits A and B:

Blarney Castle, beautiful in the snow!

a lovely view of Dublin from the top of the Guinness Brewery.

Ellen really made some tracks around Ireland during her two weeks. We spent a couple of days in Dublin, mostly sliding around on the icy sidewalks and thinking about our next cup of tea. We also visited Christchurch cathedral, the Dublin Writer’s museum, a couple of cute pubs, and paid a visit to Muireann and Liam. We had the pleasure of being accompanied by Michael and his friend Jackie, who was also visiting him.

After Dublin, we took a quick trip to Cork and got to spend time with another Mitchell scholar, Jon, and explore the pleasant city. We also made a (very quick!) trip to Blarney Castle, which was breathtaking in the snow… but also VERY cold. Ellen later took day trips to the Cliffs of Moher and to Sligo.

And how can we forget our time in Galway? We did some great ‘traditional’ Irish stuff with Ellen – traditional music at the Crane Bar, dancing at Monroe’s Tavern, walking along the Promenade, and meandering through town.

All in all, it was a fantastic two weeks, and so great to have Ellen here with us. Since we lived together until I moved to Uganda, it was just like old times. Having friends like Ellen come through has reminded me and Jon how lucky we are to have such incredible people in our lives. And it has given us the opportunity to get outside of our normal Galway routine and live a little more. We are blessed indeed.

we'll miss you Ellen!

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Sometimes I forget where I am. It’s not early Alzheimers, or even just ditzy forgetfulness (which I am prone to), it’s the sheer amount of change and movement that’s been a part of my life for the last couple of years. I wake up in the morning and spend a few confused minutes trying to orient myself. Even my dream last night had me in Ann Arbor, Michigan visiting my sister and my friend Matt, and in Philadelphia, visiting friends (newly married!) Katherine and Sean. In each city, I was desperately looking for a place to stay the night, to eat a meal, to settle down a little.

In the mornings when I finally do realize what city and country I am in, I remember that I am in Galway, Ireland. And I am beginning a new life, again.

This past summer was a wild roller coaster ride of time with friends, precious moments with family, travels around the United States, and mental preparation for another move across the ocean. And then, two weeks before leaving for Ireland, my world was turned completely upside down with my most intimate encounter with death to date. My stepfather Greg, lovingly known as Paco, died of natural causes while canoeing in Canada. To say it was unexpected would be the understatement of the year. Paco was one of the most active, healthiest people I have ever known.

I wish I could just write this blog, with my observations and commentary on life in Ireland, without having to acknowledge his death. But I feel that I have to, if I am to be honest about my life here. Because it is not as if I am only beginning a new life in a new country. Not anymore. Now, I am beginning to learn to live with the knowledge of the existence of death in a way I never had to before. I am having to re-teach myself to trust that the people I love will, in fact, be around tomorrow; that I’m not about to lose another person. I am constantly reminding myself to savor the good moments, and to follow my dreams, and to carpe diem! – and all of those cliches. I am doing all of these things, while at the same time, beginning a life again in a new country.

And thank God that country is Ireland. It is a place that practically forces you to feel things more deeply. Its sad history – the oppression, the famine, the poverty – is all around. The constant reminders of it are never far away and are as permeating as the English language, the language of colonization. And at the same time, the good things are somehow so much more sweet. Fast, joyful discussions about anything and everything shared over a pint of beer or a glass of wine. The comfort of a cup of hot tea taken inside a warm house while the wind and rain pound the trees outside. Swans gracefully drifting along the riverbank. Rainbows, the ocean, and so much GREEN. Ireland is so full of life. So it makes for an excellent place to begin again, and to live out a few of those cliches.

And this is where I will leave you for now. After all, I am supposed to be a student, and I have reading to do. I promise more on what my new life here is actually like. And I promise it soon – we should have internet in our place as soon as tomorrow. Until then, slan go foill (bye for now).

Beautiful Galway Bay on a sunny afternoon.

Beautiful Galway Bay on a sunny afternoon.

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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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