2013 Global Scrapbook
Experiencing an Incredible Ireland
I am lucky enough to call myself a traveler. I have been on more than my fair share of amazing family vacations. From gallivanting across Tuscany, road tripping to Canada, and sunbathing on Barcelona beaches I would say I’ve found a knack and love for travel. I will be a senior at Boston College by the time this article gets to you, which is a scary thought in itself. Not only do I attend BC as a student, but also have the responsibility of being an athlete. I play lacrosse for the university brings an entirely new definition to the word busy, so going abroad during the year was a big no-go for me. But, as I watched my friends post pictures to Facebook and Instagram of their treks across the globe (Australia, South Africa, Tanzania, and Turkey… just to name a few), I became determined to find a way to study abroad and experience something new without abandoning my duties at school.
I cannot say enough amazing things about BC and the programs they offer to their students, but that’s an entirely separate story. One day I decided to walk into our Office of International Programs and just ask about what kind of programs they would be able to offer students confined to specific travel dates. Not only was I taken aback by the number of summer programs they offered, but honestly I felt a little ignorant to the fact that I had never known about them before. You name a place and they will make sure you get there. From Bali to Beijing and Qatar to Quito you can pretty much go wherever you please. The classes also span across the summer months making it easily accessible and flexible for students.
After some serious deliberation (I was highly considering Qatar or Bali) I chose a much more simple, Dublin. An English speaking country with a pretty tame plane ride seemed great and an added bonus was the class being offered was, The Business, History, and Politics of Sport. Yes you read that correctly, a class abroad about sports. When I phoned my parents, who were extremely supportive of me going aboard, to tell them I had decided on the class my mom almost choked. “A class about sports, you’re kidding me right? Am I paying for this?” she said, but the opportunity to study somewhere new would be one of the best decisions of my life.
Lucky for me, I would not be making the journey alone, two of my teammates and best friends decided to pack their bags and head over with me. We had a secret countdown hanging in our lockers and on our computers of the number of days until we left the good ole’ U.S. of A. On May 28 my journey began, as I boarded a plane back to Boston with four bags and an incredibly excited smile. Two days later we headed to Dublin. After a seriously uncomfortable overnight flight and a valiant attempt to watch “The Hobbit”, we looked out our window and all we could see was green.
Walking out of the airport we were a tired and clueless trio of American girls. We looked and felt like we had just been pulled out of a garbage can. But within a few hours and after a long nap we were raring and ready to go explore Dublin. We spent our first week in Dublin, then off to Galway for a week, and then back to Dublin to end the class. I feel like the trip went by so fast it was almost impossible to take it all in but I somehow still remember each tiny detail from every moment we were there.
If you could get your butt out of bed on time to catch the bus each morning my professor was extremely impressed. Boston College owns two buildings right on St. Stephen’s Green, the centerpiece of Dublin, an amazing place to experience class every morning. We took fascinating small field trips to all of the important sporting venues and spoke with many individuals in the sports industry in Ireland, which included horse racing. We visited and were given tours by the CEOs of both major stadiums, The Aviva and Croke Park. In the following weeks we also got to see a World Cup qualifier for the Irish soccer team at the Aviva and a Gaelic hurling game, an ancient and traditional Irish sport at Croke Park. We also trekked to Phoenix Park (one of the largest public parks in the world. It is 4x the size of Central Park in New York), and the K-Club, the venue where they held the 2006 Ryder Cup. And that was just while we were in Dublin.
We then traveled to Galway, which is on the west coast of Ireland, a seemingly short distance considering we drove the entire width of the country in three hours. Each day after class, Professor Cronin would give us free time to walk around the city and explore, which is the only real way to experience a new place. The number of tiny pubs and quaint seafood restaurants we discovered made the trip seem so much more intricate and special. We rode bikes around the Aran Islands and stood on the edge of the Cliffs of Moher. After reading this article, if you’re immediately inclined to book a trip to Ireland, which you should be, if you make it to Galway be sure to stop at The King’s Head pub, you won’t be disappointed.
Our last week in Dublin was a great one and was just as special as the first. The last day was bittersweet, people who had three weeks prior been strangers were now like family. Luckily for me, I still had two more weeks in Ireland with my own family who decided to fly over and visit.
Just by chance, this past spring at BC I had an exchange roommate in our off campus house who was from Dublin. To make an incredibly long story short, we became best friends. Orna lives in Lusk, a quiet country town about 30 minutes north of Dublin. She takes the train in every morning, as she attends Trinity University, which is right in the heart of Dublin’s city centre. Throughout my entire stay in Ireland, Orna’s family was so gracious to help with anything I, or my suitemates needed. Knowing my love for horses, Orna set up an incredible trek for the two of us through the Cooley Mountains in County Louth. Orna, who doesn’t ride, really bit a bullet for me by volunteering herself so I could do something I had always dreamed of doing. And what a trooper she was. Not only did it pour cold rain for majority of our trek, Orna’s horse was, to put it politely, somewhat uncooperative. The scenery was incredible and if you are a horse lover, which if you’re reading this magazine, I’m sure you are, riding in Ireland is something you must add to your bucket list.
When my parents arrived we literally drove the entire country. We logged over 1,000 driving miles, seeing the sites. We were lucky enough to be able to book two nights at the Ashford Castle in County Mayo. And when I say castle, it looked like it was straight out of a Medieval Times Show. Again I was provided the opportunity to ride again, this time with my mom, who also has very little riding experience but has been the unwavering supporter of my riding ambitions and goals. We laughed together the entire way and it was such a great day for the both of us, sharing something that I love and that she has learned to love. My brother and I also got take a falconry class, which was quite a memorable moment. We then drove to the Connemara Coast, Killarney, Dingle, Kerry, and Cork all over a five-day period (we spent quite a lot of time in the car). We finally ended up in Kildare. Kildare is home to the National Stud of Ireland. The National Stud houses some of Ireland’s and the world’s finest thoroughbred stallions. The barn was immaculate, the pastures were pristine and it was everything you would imagine when you think of a high-class thoroughbred breeding operation. The stud is home to eight stallions, including Invincible Spirit, whose stud fee is more than $85,000 US dollars. They had a few babies on display; lazily oblivious to the expectation they would soon be burdened with, a natural accompaniment to their prestigious pedigrees.
After leaving Kildare, we took a puddle-jumper over to Edinburgh, Scotland for the weekend, another amazing city that was delighted to host American tourists. Flying back to Dublin, it started to sink in that my time abroad was coming to a close. We stayed in the Shelbourne Hotel, a historic and well-known hotel in Dublin, which made the last few days of my stay in the capital city so enjoyable. After visiting the must-see Guinness Factory, I took my parents and brother some of my favorite spots in the city to eat, see, and just take in. On our last day in Ireland, we took the train to Powerscourt House in County Wicklow, a beautifully manicured 19-acre garden.
As we boarded our plane the next day to head back to the U.S., all I could think about was how much I had grown as a person, friend, and daughter during my time in Ireland. Being responsible for yourself in a different country with different values will unquestionably push any individual outside of their comfort zone, as I experienced on several occasions during my stay. The Irish people though, are phenomenal in every way. Whether it be giving you directions (which they are notoriously bad at), giving recommendations of the finest places to eat and see, or asking if Baltimore is truly like the HBO show, “The Wire”, the best way to sum it up is that they genuinely love Americans. In a time where our country has been given hefty sum of criticism and scrutiny, I felt so safe and welcomed in a country that I feel like in the future I could one-day call home. I miss Ireland already, but I can’t help but smile knowing that my future travels will certainly bring me back.
Sheep, Stone Fences, and Guinness - Ireland 2013
One cold night night in February I heard Nicole Shank ask my husband, Christian Philip, in passing, "Hey, want to go horseback riding in Ireland this spring?" Having recently retired and with an open schedule, he said yes. I was not so sure that this would actually come to pass, but at the end of April after lots of planning, along with Dean Fischer, we were on our way.
Now the concept of open schedule did not account for the fact that the trip was planned just two weeks before we were moving to Southern Pines, North Carolina. But we did need a break from packing and this was a lovely way to take one.
We arrived in Dublin having structured the travel to do some touring before and after riding. After dropping off our luggage we explored neighborhoods in this very walkable city, criss-crossing the River Liffey, eventually stopping for dinner at the oldest pub in Dublin, the Brazen Head. Our first full day in Dublin we discovered the full Irish breakfast, which spares very little in terms of quantity or calories. With full stomachs we set out to see the sights. Heading to the Dublin Castle we learned that it was closed for renovation so we visited the gardens and park, which were beautiful. Next we walked to Trinity College and its Library, which holds all material published in Ireland and the United Kingdom, as well as the Book of Kells. Here's a travel tip - pay the extra dollar or two and take the tour of the college given by one of the students. It's very informative and beats having your nose in a guidebook, reading details. Fun fact - Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, attended Trinity College.
A late lunch on Grafton Street and a walk alongside the Dublin Green was enjoyable as we headed to the Guinness Brewery. Can you believe it closes at 5 pm? No worries, Guinness flows freely in Ireland. As we walked behind the brewery we saw a local corner bar and moments later a man rode up on a sulky, being driven by a young Saddlebred. A friend of the rider stumbled out of the bar and wanted to drive the cart. Let's just say that don't drink and drive applies to horses as well as automobiles.
Next we visited the oldest bar, not to be confused with a pub, which serves meals, had a few pints and finished the night listening to some music.
We left Dublin the following day to explore more of Ireland by heading Northwest to Clonmacnoise, founded in 545 by St. Kieran. The monastery was reduced to ruins in 1552 by English troops and what remains today are ancient grave slabs and a sandstone Cross of Scriptures. Our final stop this day was in Loughrea, County Galway, to start our Aille Cross Dartfield jumping holiday. We stayed at The Meadow Court which was wonderful and a recommended stay. We knew that there was a fifth person joining our group, and just a few moments before our departure Kit showed up in the hotel lobby. She had come from NYC and no idea what she was about to encounter from our established group of four, but Kit was a wonderful addition and a joy to be with. I don't think that she ever rode a horse she didn't fall in love with.
Willie Leahy is well known in the Irish riding world and has hosted many Americans on his various tours. We chose to create a 4-day riding package, focusing on cross-country jumping. We were greeted by "Hi, I'm Willie, you must be thirsty, have a drink". Not an uncommon greeting upon meeting someone. A few moments later we were served something unfamiliar, but being appreciative guests we took a sip, quickly realizing that we had been served whisky, water, and depending on who the mixologist was that day, a dash of sugar and a sprinkle of cloves. This was served to us three times each day.
After Willie learned a bit more about all of us we set out to meet our mounts and ride. Soon after we were hacking around the fields filled with horses and sheep, LOTS of sheep. First task of the day was herding them from one field to another, which we all quickly became quite skilled at achieving. But this was an exercise in futility as the stone fences separating the various fields was less than three feet tall and sheep are natural jumpers.
Next we tried a few jumps ourselves, hacked back through a pond on the property to get the mud off the horse's legs, and it was time for lunch and more whisky and water.
The barn was a few stair steps to ground level but the horses were used to taking the stairs to the mounting block.
In the afternoon we did some more jumping and exploring the farm. Willie gave us each pointers about our individual horses and ended the first day on a good note. Each day brought a morning hack and a different array of jumps, including stonewalls, irrigation pipes (which the horses didn't like) ditches and banks. I think we all favored the arched wishing well, surrounded by a stonewall, essentially an in and out.
Two afternoons we trailered the horses over to Willie's home where we rode on some of his other properties. Not too many sheep over there, but plenty of cattle, which we gently coaxed over to other fields. Dean got a taste of being a rancher when he helped Willie untangle a horse from a fence gate. Afterwards, Willie thought it was time to jump higher than sheep-height stone fences, no warning - here we go! The horses knew their jobs and after Kit got used to my yelping as we went over the fences we all got into a rhythm and had fun. A stop over at Willie's home included just-baked bread and butter, served by his wife.
No trip is complete without mentioning some characters one meets along the way. At Dartfield, we met sweet Sarah, daughter of the program manager, probably twelve years old. Very outgoing, self-assured, a good rider, and she loved her dog Lizzie. And since Sarah was a jumper, her dog Lizzie should be one as well; training seemed to be going quite well. And then there was Joe the Farrier, who had more problems than there are stars in the sky. Truth is that Joe was a likable guy and smart, but he had trouble taking responsibility for anything. Charles was a trainer from Pennsylvania who was working on the farm. He was quiet and a bit sneaky, and one day he was our guide. You never knew which jump he was going to or what path he’d take next. We think he got pleasure out of keeping us on guard. When our four days of riding were over, we left Kit at Dartfield for what she thought was two more days of riding, but turned out to be two days of being a farm hand with a little riding tossed in.
Our tour of Ireland continued as we headed further west to the Ring of Kerry and the Cliffs of Moher, both beautiful sights. We even had a stay in a castle, the Ballyseede Castle Hotel, which was tastefully renovated though kept its old world charm. And of course we kissed the Blarney Stone, staying at the Blarney Woolen Mills.
Heading back south to Dublin, we took in the Rock of Cashel, a 60-meter limestone outcrop topped by a croup of buildings, dating back to the 13th Century. The wind was fierce on top of that rock, but we took it all in as the last site on our tour. Our ten-day vacation was pretty close to perfect and Dean and Nicole are great travelers; we hope to travel with them again soon.
Teaching in Tanzania
I traveled to Tanzania with fifteen of my high school peers and three of our teachers to visit our sister school in Tanga, Tanzania. Chumbageni Primary School created the partnership with The Key School ten years ago and after a decade of bonding, a strong friendship has been formed. Our group of nineteen began our journey to Tanga on July 9th, 2013. We were greeted at the Dar Es Salaam airport by our trusted friend and guide, Halifa, the principle at Chumbageni Primary School. We spent one week in Tanga bonding with the Chumbageni student through games, sports and songs.
The overall trip to Tanzania was incredible, they're not exaggerating when they tell you