Archive for the ‘Jessica in Ireland’ Category


Jessica: Home and lessons learned

June 20, 2011

So… I guess I’m back!

When people ask me, “How was Ireland?” what can I really say?? I’ve been trying to come up with a sentence to sum it up, because from my last study abroad or any trip I’ve taken, people will ask and tune out 2 sentences in since, frankly, it’s hard to understand. It’s not a sad thing to realize, but there’s no way to truly capture the experience.

I saw beautiful things, sad things; I was exhausted and energized; I met some of the most amazing people, and I learned a LOT. Not just the things like Irish history, but of leadership–that vague term that people throw around without truly knowing what it means.

My basic lessons are these takeaways, outside of technical information:

  • Value of one, power of all: we all matter, and I am continually shaped by every individual I come across. Every story you hear, every person you spend any amount of time with, impacts you somehow–and it should. I’ve written in my journal the lessons I’ve learned from others, something that Emily Smith once told me to do. And there were people we met who simply stepped up and did what they thought needed to be done–and moved mountains by doing so.
  • Listen listen listen: why do we keep relearning this lesson? Because we still mess it up. I would like to get better at not always needing to chime in, just to sit, pause, and absorb before I have to open my big mouth
  • People will surprise you: What happens when you force 25 people to hang out for nearly a month? You give those people who you judge upon first meeting a second, third, fourth chance. You are exposed to them in multiple different situations till you realize, “Wow, I actually really enjoy you, and I had a bad first impression.” It’s humbling and makes you feel like an ass–so the lesson here is keep your judgments to yourself (avoid that mob mentality, dudes) and then be open to them changing.
  • On that note, avoid poisoning the well. We started expressing our displeasure with certain situations or people and that is TOXIC. If you can’t just stand up to change it, at least don’t perpetuate it to the best of your ability–because we all need to vent.
I already miss having my roommates around, and it’s weird being fully in control of my life’s schedule again… Again, what I’d like to take home with me is letting go a little bit of overscheduling myself as well as just going out to enjoy life: do MY to do list. As Kelsey says, I spend too much time doing things for others, not for myself. This trip reminds me that we all have our OWN to do list we want to accomplish–I will work on not forgetting it.
In the meantime I will definitely enjoy half and half in my coffee, abundance of public restrooms and the friends I came home to.

Jessica: An Cosain, Parliament and so many feelings

June 11, 2011

Pronounced On- Casahn, this is Irish for The Footpath. This place is in southwest Dublin in a place that has people in need of education and community services; this place has employed many women in the area and provided child care and education for many others at a fraction of the cost.

This place was started by two people who saw there was a need for all these things in the Tallaught West community. It seems like a simple idea but they actually did something about it. This place is truly a family–you have small intimate classes and start with short reflection time to get present/mindfulness with silence and song. Then you learn.

They have several different levels and programs- they have one for children, those for young mothers who couldn’t go on with their education, those for those going back to school, etc. They have gotten accreditation for many different programs to give these people a chance at a life. It’s really quite simple but so inspiring. It again, like Suffolk Lenadoon communities, reminds me of the value of one, the power of all. That it just takes ordinary people to push things in an extraordinary way–it could be anyone. So why not me?

What rules am I following that don’t exist? How do I box myself in? How can I make a vision a reality? How do I break things down? Who sees my vision with me and how can I deliberately go forward, creating a supportive network and environment to do so?

It’s so easy to fall in the trap of just ticking those tasks off your to-do list, to just get caught in the mundane and FORGET about your own to do list. I’ve forgotten about how to help myself succeed, how to get the most out of MY time. I just had to get a little reminder.

Saw most of Romeo and Juliet before we got so chilled to the bone that we had to leave. Whoops. I feel terrible because they were brilliant (and Romeo was so cute) but I would’ve died. Again let’s say there have been four days that have NOT rained.

The packing has started– it’s so crazy to know we’re going back so soon. So far 7 of us going in on my second bag. 

Yesterday we observed Dublin’s parliament–not surprisingly similar to the House at home, where men sit in a U shaped, stadium-style seating with individual booths and microphones where some higher-up presided over the conversation… where I also counted 7 people texting on their phones.

Also, I find that the higher up your title, the less direct your answers tend to be. AKA We’ve been asking questions that we don’t really get answered, just get talked about in circles.

We’ve been sharing our final presentations–a leadership analysis on someone we have encountered on this trip, their qualities, their success in this context and others, and comparing what our leadership qualities are in contrast. It’s been interesting to see who chose who and what their stories are. It tells me a lot about people’s perceptions about others and themselves.

We had a closing moment with telling the group what we’ve taken away from the trip. It was really touching to hear what people see as valuable and what people appreciated from the experience.

What I took away was pieces of everyone: being such a relational person, I believe very much in being shaped by the people we meet and the things we experience, so in essence, I learned a lesson from everyone on this trip. Believe me I’ve written them down in my journal. And they are things I will take with me forever.

Now, we’re all on the home stretch and starting the packing process. My suitcase is half full but somehow I’ll be cramming things into the thing near the end of the night. How did I end up with 6 glasses and 4 mugs? Beats me. But there are many things I’m excited for:

  • Chicken wings
  • Customer service
  • Being able to share little moments in my day with those close to me
  • Being able to text someone, “Where are you?” or “what’s the plan?”
  • Mowgli 🙂
  • Friends went unsaid
  • Dollar drinks. Anywhere.
  • Dollar bills – I’m tired of this dollar coin business
  • Being able to do my hair and not blow out my hair dryer
  • Having my own keys to my apartment
  • Flat walking paths
  • Toilets that flush nearly every time
  • Other songs besides Mr. Saxobeat, Give Me Tonight, California King Bed, and Judas
  • Mexican food
  • cute reunions

Jessica: Points of difference

June 9, 2011

There are lots of little things that make up culture shock between Ireland and home. Here are a few:

  • No one seems to use half and half. For anything. So I cool down my Americanos with “semi-skimmed milk” or whole milk.
  • The washer and dryers are in one unit- and take 5 times as long, sounding like rocket ships taking off
  • The symbol of Ireland is the Harp, and the color of the country is Blue, not green. Huh.
  • “What’s the Craic?” (pronounced “crack”); the term means “fun” or “what’s good,” hence why they made a shirt that said, “What’s the craic, Barack?” when he visited
  • Flipping off people is the peace sign, knuckles facing out
  • All students in Belfast seemed to wear uniforms– which leads to some ridiculously high heels and crazy hair
  • Shorts are the “going out” outfit, as they don’t often wear them during the day due to rain, it is the risque way to show leg going out
  • They wear rompers. And jumpsuits. A lot. With heavy floral pattern. Imagine Jasmine’s flouncy pants but with flowers all over them. In real life.
  • There’s a lot of dyed red/magenta hair–and it’s not frowned upon
  • Lots of consignment shops dedicated to cancer research or pets in need of vets in Belfast
  • Dogs dont have to be leashed–they run freely and are well trained to stay with their owners
  • The flute is a manly instrument here
  • Fire doors. EVERYWHERE. Fire extinguishers. Everywhere. We’re lucky that we found the ONE for our entire Minneapolis apartment building.
  • You have to switch all the outlets on to use them
  • The “goth” look is… cool?
  • Everything shuts down pretty early unless it’s a pub. But in Belfast they close at 1.
  • 9 Euro for a pack of cigarettes; or about 8 pounds in Belfast
  • Ireland is home to the highest heels I’ve ever seen. There are no heels in a normal range for me, I am on my tip toes.
  • In Dublin, you pay 1 Euro extra for each additional person in the taxi.
  • Many places in Europe charge you for bags at the grocery store
  • Less preservatives here–food spoils faster; apparently the EU doesn’t allow chemicals unless they’re proven to be safe. The USDA allows it until it’s proven harmful. Good job, America
  • Everything is in military time
  • People don’t really wear leggings. Just tights.
  • They greet you with “hey-ya”
  • Solicitors here means “lawyer,” “to let” means for rent, “take away” is take out, “chips” are fries, “crisps” are chips, a man’s wallet is wallet, a woman’s wallet is her purse, and her purse is her handbag, “prams” are strollers, they say “holiday” instead of vacation, “give way” instead of yield signs, and countless others that Kelsey Bitney would be better at remembering…
  • I can’t find chicken noodle soup ANYWHERE.
  • The days in the summer are LONG here–it is light out till 9 or 10 in May
  • I don’t ever see locals wearing rain boots.
  • Lack of public restrooms and trash cans. Bad news.

Anyway this is NOT an exhaustive list.

But I must say, Dublin doesn’t seem to have any Irish culture but rather just a metropolitan, going-out, tourist culture. It’s very hard to find it endearing when it feels SO commercialized everywhere–it’s quite the culture shock from Belfast, which feels like home.

Not to mention several rooms in the hotel have run out of toilet paper but apparently so is the main office soooo we’ll see what happens with that. Rationing TP is not what I planned for in a hotel. Overall it’s kind of hilarious because the plan is now to hoard TP at every dining establishment we go to from now on.

Other recent happenings:

  • St. Stephen’s Green with Rachel- a giant beautiful park in the middle of this crazy city
  • Caught short parody performance of Macbeth there
  • Got tickets for Romeo and Juliet for Wednesday, since tonight was sold out
  • Shopped at Penneys
  • Went to part of a church service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and listened ot the men’s choir sing- GORGEOUS acoustics in the chamber.
  • Analyzed my spending so far– ew. Not pretty.
  • Watched Michael Collins for class
  • Laughed hysterically with my roommates

Jessica: History, history, history

June 6, 2011

I feel like I’ve spent like 8 hours just learning about history. All day. Two hours learning Irish history with the founding and the development of the city. Then 4 hours learning about the history of random things in the city on a bus tour. Then another two hours learning about literary history on a pub tour. I’m tired of history for the rest of the summer.

The biggest things I noticed today, specific to my own experience and those around me:

  • It’s notable if you find a local. All tourists here.
  • I could get a meal deal of a 6 inch sandwich with a drink for 3 pounds (5 bucks) in Belfast and here it’s just 4.20 Euro for just a 6 inch sandwich. 
  • Customer Service is not common. AKA my friends waited an hour for their food at a restaurant, had to get their cold sandwiches thrown into a box and threw money down to pay because they had to leave; Jodie hadn’t gotten her food—they took her order but never wrote it down. No food.
  • I got a double Kraken and Coke in Belfast for 5 pounds (which is on the expensive side) and here, that same thing is 10 euro. Insane. 
  • There are more “hen parties” and “stag parties” here than I’ve ever seen in my life back home—aka bachellorette and bachelor parties. They take it to the max, make it a destination thing, everyone dresses up in a theme, and it’s usually something insane for men and promiscuous for women
  • Trinity College isn’t really real—it existed hundreds of years ago as a divinity school; it’s now Dublin University

This morning we were walking to our destination and all the sudden we hear a crack. We turn around and there was a man who had just fallen into the street and cracked his head. We ran toward him and pulled him off the street before the traffic light turned green. He was bleeding everywhere from his head and was breathing but passed out. We assumed he was severely intoxicated. Everyone was gawking as they drove by, naturally, but two cars stopped and one called 999 for help.

Bri and Shannon kept the man calm as he started to stir, and we waited forever for police and ambulance. There was some kind of wound on his side, blood smeared on his stomach, and some other scratches on his back. It almost made me vomit watching it all happen. It shocked me how passersby would just come up and ask him what was going on, if he was drunk, etc. I’ve never seen anything like that happen before.

Tomorrow I’m planning on walking around to the gardens, some shops just for fun, watching a boy’s choir sing at St Patrick’s Cathedral, and seeing Romeo and Juliet at Trinity! It’ll be nice to get a break from the group experience, as tensions have started to rise, and we need a break.


Jessica: Last night in Belfast

June 4, 2011

It feels like yesterday that we all checked into this place, and now we are moving out tomorrow. And I bet Dublin will go by so fast, and suddenly I will be home in Minnesota and broke! Yay!

Yesterday we went to another community organization called Intercomm in Northern Belfast. This group was started by two guys from both sides of the Troubles who had been in prison, knowing they had to do something about the post cease fire. Turns out both communities have had the same problems and work together now to try to break down barriers. 

The thing that strikes me the most is how violent it is and it’s not a big deal. It was a regular thing to have bombs go off, to know people who went to prison for no reason, to work with someone who had killed someone you knew. There was a punishment called the Six Pack where they would shoot your knees, ankles and your elbows. For some boys it became a badge of honor. I’m not sure how they were still functioning human beings after that but apparently it was hot. 

Another tactic was having women, instructed by paramilitaries, seduce men to homes where they were ambushed and killed. It’s incredible how stark the contrast can be from one area to the next—one row of houses were great and kept up, the next row was pretty deserted. There were like four inhabited homes and the rest were abandoned, boarded up. It was eerie. Add the Eminem music blaring from a van neaby and you get the picture. 

Today I met my friend Missy’s friends Lorcan and Conor, they drove home the point most of all. They spoke very seriously and casually about the violence here. Lorcan, a very Catholic name, would never get hired in certain areas. He can tell what religion all of his classmates are without knowing their names—it’s become part if their culture to identify that part of you immediately. 

To some, your religion is more of an ethnicity. You are born into it; it doesn’t matter if you practice it. They’d be quiet in the pub because they could tell the guys next to us were Protestant, and they got very anxious when they found out another crowd of guys were English. It’s just insane how REAL and pervasive this is in their lives. Lorcan lied about where he lived to someone because he was in a more Protestant pub. 

Here, kids will chase after you until you get to a certain invisible, but very real, line in the road or city. Based on things so subtle that give away your identity. 

It will be intereting to see the point of view of those in the Republic the next few days.

Also my body feels somewhat broken from walking probably 20 miles today. Seriously.


Jessica: Corrymeela

June 3, 2011

What an opportunity to go to Corrymeela. This experience was so great. It reminds me of LeaderShape in a way, because of how it deliberately developed us throughout the time and gave us a transformative experience through questioning and a safe space.

We arrived Monday and were immediately welcome. I had the best room ever with the most beautiful view of the coast, ocean, fields, cliffs, and SHEEP! I’ve gotten a newfound love and adoration for lambs. I want one as a pet. 

Anyway we signed in by telling everyone what our names mean and where it came from. We definitely take for granted how much our names really represent a huge part of our identity. We set up some ground rules which is always important to me because it gets everyone on the same page before we even start.

Then we moved to doing team building exercises in three teams—it was a ton of fun, one was moving a volleyball with a ring and strings to the other room, maneuvering a ball through a wooden maze with holes, getting us all through a hula hoop as fast as possible, then the human spider web. It was really cool getting to interact with people we didn’t normally hang out with. The energy created was amazingly positive and invigorated us. 

We learned about some conflict models to put a framework to the topic we are studying to focus what a positive community looks like, what the view of success was… It was kind of cool! 

After dinner there is worship in the Croi (pronounced Cree, Irish for heart) and we rediscovered the value of just silence. We took those moments listening to a boys choir to recollect ourselves and just be in the midst of Corrymeela craziness. 

That night we went down to the beach via a great half mile walk along a stone walled road by the cliffs. We went out on the bridge/walkway thing to the rocks and watched the sun set.

Worship the next morning covered the topics of being open and closed—what makes us open and what makes us close. It reminds me what I can do to keep people open. Bre also shared with us her guitar playing and song, and I sang in the crazy awesome acoustics of the chamber.

Then we got together to talk about perspective. We went over how our lenses are shaped, as shown by our first reactions to certain words (woman, single mother, men, Muslims, Republicans, Charlie Sheen, Sarah Palin). It was really powerful to see that despite all of us seeing the same thing we all interpreted it differently through distortion, deletion and generalizing information.

The funniest one we talked about was Change Blindness which makes us ignore change in our environment as we try to deal—they showed an experiment with a man stopping to ask for directions on a map. In the middle of the conversation, movers with a giant poster would interrupt and the man would swap out with another man who would continue the conversation. None of them noticed the man was different!!! The worst was when he swapped out for someone black!! She didn’t even realize!! Just so interesting how our perceptions are definitely not all reality. 

Then we did what’s called the Walking Debate activity. They read a statement, and we stand toward Agree or Disagree. The topics were of course very emotional and deep. For instance, they stated “gay pride parades are disruptive.” this statement was touchy for many reasons, but it came down to how you defined disruptive. To me, ALL parades are disruptive, loud noises, redirected traffic, etc. So in that light, yes, they are disruptive but that has nothing to do with the CONTENT of the parade. That one got heated real fast. 

Another was about how it was right to have killed Osama on Pakistan soil. At some point someone was speaking, and someone else made an exasperated, “oh my god.” she got very upset and called him out, saying how rude he was and how he was talking over her. It really brought to life how we really need to adhere to these rules we made for ourselves, how we need to respect and listen, and how all these things we do or say really affect the environment we are in, and that is constantly shaped by everything we do or say (or don’t). It was a really humbling conversation to have. 

That was probably the best part of the experience: forcing myself to take a stance on an issue. Most of these things I havent thought about, much less take a stance. Then to have to verbalize my thoughts was developmental in and of itself—and the lesson is of course in the WAY I verbalize my thoughts to others, how they interact with me in regards to what I share, etc, just to have a successful open dialogue. 

During lunch we got to talk about the opportunity to come back to Corrymeela to volunteer with them for different amounts of time- I am highly considering this. It would be a different way to study positive change and leadership. 

This afternoon we went to a cliff walk to sit quietly with ourselves and reflect. It was nice to have time to stop and think about what we were experiencing, writing down our thoughts and processing. And it was absolutely breathtaking, with views of the ocean, cliffs, cows, and Scotland In the distance. What a way to end the day. 



Jessica: Scotland and back

May 29, 2011

Scotland was amazing. It was super packed though with it being Bank Holiday, so it was a little overwhelming at times. It rained a ton which was a bummer- today was the first day it didnt rain at all. But we saw amazing art, street performers, the castle, shops, it was wonderful. I was definitely consumed with nostalgia at times, and I for some reason got way homesick during this weekend. 

We had our flight at 8 am so we left the hotel at six. For those who know me, this is entirely way too early. We got there and there were about eight others who had been there since midnight or one because they didn’t get a hotel for Saturday night—cheap but they were all deliriously tired LOL. May have been worth the money for me. 

We got home and just slept so hard. It’s amazing how we have only been here a week and it felt like coming home. There is a comfort here and seeing the familiar buildings and stores. It felt good to not be so busy. 

We officially made friends with the Starbucks barista Daryl (does this surprise anyone??) and it turns out when we made friends in Facebook that he is best friends with the two brothers Connor and Callum. Small. World. So we hung out tonight at the Eg and celebrated their football team’s big win. Can’t understand them sometimes but it’s okay—apparently they barely can either LOL.

Daryl confirms that with generations passing, the conflict is resolving and people just want to move on, mix, and be done with it. Coming from a mixed marriage himself he actually isn’t religious and in Ireland being Catholic is easy—they go to church for like forty minutes and it’s the same thing every time whereas Protestants are seen as more extreme because they go to church more and it’s different and “people were speaking in tongues and I was freaked out.” 

He coaches a basketball team for Peace—meaning he coaches a team with mixed religions and tries to bring them together through the sport. How cool is that?? Its exactly where we are going tomorrow. Corrymeela is that organization we visited that focuses on creating peace and conflict resolution amongst Protestants and Catholics through many facilitations and conversations which will be awesome to see!


Jessica: Time

May 23, 2011

The thing that has stuck out on this trip is the store hours everyone holds. There’s no guarantee that things will be open when you want them to be open. For instance, some friends and I went wandering Saturday evening around 7 for a dessert or cafe. Starbucks was closed, as were all the buildings around the area. Really?? In America things would almost be guaranteed to be open on such a busy day. People are going to go out on a Saturday. Here, pubs close at 11 most days. That would be absurd in America. 

But it makes me think, wow we really rely on places to go to when we do things, and we are on all the time. The average American works 9 weeks more than anyone else in the world. NINE WEEKS. We expect availability of services whenever we want, and that’s just not how it is here. We are often told the rest of the world thinks of time differently, and are often not in a rush. We have a different lifestyle. No wonder we are over stimulated and rely so much on time. 

I wish I could take this lack of rigid structure and whatnot home. But it’s just not my lifestyle. Without so many of my home obligations, I can just walk around and roam and explore. Obviously I have responsibilities and things to tend to when I get back, but it’s a nice little break from the crazy schedule. 

Another thing that strikes me is that I am exhausted from the full days since I’m not used to this kind of schedule. So it’s time to force sleep upon myself tonight to be ready for an early class, more presentations by community organizers and then a walking pub tour/crawl in the evening before we will probably stay out to watch a huge football game. 

I’m of course laughing at the irony that Minnesota probably has great weather right now. My positive energies lie with those affected by the tornadoes in Missouri and North Minneapolis.

Today we made a Starbucks stop and went to the Corrymeela Center in the city to learn more about what they do. Turns out with the deeply embedded prejudices and conflict between Catholics (also generally more Republican and wanting a separate Ireland) and Protestants (those who descended from and want to unite with England) Corrymeela tries to facilitate conversation between these people to build communities and make them realize they’re not al that different. 

In the afternoon we took a bus tour of the deeper layers of Belfast and toured the other more run down areas where there is a lot of social housing and murals. Its crazy because the town is segregated, not by race, but by religion—there are literally walls still up to separate them. You can tell if you’re in a Protestant neighborhood if there are red white and blue colors, while Catholics use green white and orange. The murals on the Catholic side criticize the racism and oppression while the Protestants have murals that commemorate British heroes. Both have murals for those who have died in the many bombings that have occurred against each other. From a country who doesn’t really segregate by religion (by name, anyway) it’s interesting to see such a physical split and such conflict that still lingers even now. 


Jessica: Sightseeing

May 22, 2011

Today was the busiest day ever, I was bone tired at the end of it—so I stress fr anyone going on this trip in the future, SLEEP and REST. 

We went on a nice scenic bus ride to the north shore of Ireland to Carrick-a-Rede. I’m not really sure what it means or what the significance is, but it has been amazing. We originally were going Saturday but the weather is insane so we changed to today. Which I am so grateful for because it was breath taking. We trekked a mile to the bridge and looked at the cliffs, crags, rocks and water crashing on the shore in the dazzling sunlight (when it wasn’t raining in spurts of five minutes). 

There were a lot of girls terrified of the rope bridge especially in the strong winds today, but it was really safe and easy to cross with netting and supports to support us. I felt like if I kept my arms up my body would fly away, I was even having trouble breathing. 

After that we went to the Giant’s Causeway, where legend goes that two giants from Ireland and Scotland built a causeway together or something. Aka a volcano erupted and created amazing hexagonal columns that cluster together to create cliffs and stuff. It’s beautiful with the ocean crashing in, but it killed me to climb around. 

Then we saw the Dunluce Castle ruins—again on the coast it was breath taking. I dropped my camera so there’s a small dent in the lens thing, but again, beautiful to see the stone and structure standing there. LOTS of photos of me today wearing my work out chic clothing.

Everyone passed out on the bus and I am so grateful people are probably not going out tonight because we are trying to be smart for another busy day tomorrow. Attempt number two to cook tonight. We will see ow this goes !!


Jessica: Tips for travel to Ireland

May 21, 2011

For anyone thinking about traveling to Ireland… Here arer a few tips as I remember them. 

  • yes you actually need a raincoat with a hood. Because you get sick of umbrellas and my cheap one has started leaking
  • pack snacks from home
  • live in leggings. They’re easier to handle wet than jeans
  • book your travel weekends earlier than a week ahead of time…
  • sunglasses.
  • get a crossover bag—waterproof if possible
  • bring a watch and water bottle
  • Starbucks gift cards work here. I’m not sure how.
  • only a few straighteners or hair dryers from home ever work here
  • while withdrawing money, make it count if you’re withdrawing from the ATM because they’ll charge you like five dollars every time (or four pounds converting cash)
  • I have yet to see locals wearing rain boots.
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