Volunteering at Fighting Words

The social norms in Ireland are different than in America, even though there are still many similarities. For example, one thing I notice is that wherever I go there are numerous groups of individuals, whether Irish or of foreign descent, walking around. Many of them are tourists visiting the city, and when I pass by, I always notice the varying accents of the different groups. Moreover, when I walk throughout the city, I notice that individuals are casually strolling as they are talking, which is significantly different from what I experience in the big cities in America, where everyone seems to be in a rush.

More importantly, I see the different social interactions among children and adults at Fighting Words. Prior to coming to Ireland to study and volunteer, I did not really know what to expect from Fighting Words. I did some background research prior to starting, but when I arrived for my first day at Fighting Words for orientation, I realized it was a special place.

The first session was a refreshing experience for me. And every following session, the kids would have their own cliques or groups that talked a lot, especially during the initial story portion of the session. And then when they headed into their individual writing sessions, they would continue to talk, which is similar to my experiences being in class with my friends, especially in primary and secondary school, where I would always want to sit next to the boys and converse, even if I was supposed to be working.

The kids would always want to write the funniest, most outrageous stories to impress and make their friends laugh. It was hilarious sitting back and listening to the stories and reflecting on my own adolescence. I found myself being more interactive with the kids, talking to them, trying to get an idea of where they were coming from. However, since there is a new group of kids every week, it is hard to get to know them. I did have one interesting run-in with two boys in one of my sessions. It turned out that one of the boys was flying to America the next day and we talked about New York and President Trump and what we thought about him. The session ended before we could talk more, but that boy still is stuck in my mind.

In future sessions, I now have acquired better communication and small-talk skills to not only talk to my students, but also to kids my age, and also be able to adapt that conversation to speaking to adults. Volunteering at Fighting Words has been a breath of fresh air. It has provided me with an entirely new set of skills when I return to America, talking to my friends. It has been a great semester!

My Bus Trip

It was a cold Thursday afternoon as the heat of the sun faded away into the background. I had just finished up my last class of the week, and I am exhausted, sort of. I am looking forward to breathing the outside air. I step out of the IES Abroad Center to the bus stop.

Here comes the 1,2,3 bus, and when I step onto it, my journey begins. I stomp my way upstairs and sit down in a twin row of chairs. As I walk to my seat, I see a black kid, probably 13 or 14 years old, furiously working on homework in his seat. On the right side, there is a man with his headphones in, staring out of the window into a sort of abyss, I guess. As I seat myself and the bus shudders into movement, I glance behind me and see a young couple huddle together enjoying the warmth of each other’s overcoats. There is another intriguing man, which I would say was mid-twenties, with a stand in a plastic case at the front of the bus, gripping it securely between his arms. The bus continues for a bit, then again shudders to a halt.

More people get on the bus. A man in his twenties dressed in a nice suit passes by me. He was wearing a grey suit with a purple shirt and purple socks. I see a woman kiss her boyfriend, then board the bus. She has peach eyeliner, I notice, as she picks her way to a seat in the back. I get off the bus for 45 minutes, then board it again for the return trip back home.

A 30 year old Asian with a McDonald’s smoothie sits down in front of me. He has rimmed shaped glasses and a backpack filled with papers. Later, another man with a phone sits down beside him. The man with the grey suit gets off the bus and disappears into the downtown crowd. As the bus weaves its way towards Thomas Street, I look outside the window and see the numerous bikers braving the close quarters of road travel, trying to get home.

A younger man with a red beard and no hair rides perilously close to the huge bus. For a second I thought that he went under, but then he reappears as the bus crosses an intersection. A woman with a white overcoat and delicate hair rides alongside the bus, then I lose sight of her. I have no idea where she went, but my journey continues. The bus lurches to a stop: I have arrived at Thomas Street.

I look back at the bus, and see another couple comforting each other for their long journey home. The lady is wearing a black overcoat and, well, I could not see what the man was wearing. I walk 100m to Binary Hub and spot several women and men with shopping bags, with groceries overflowing as I smile with joy. I have made it home from my short journey.

Accommodation in Dublin

 

So, guys, I have been on the move the past 5 weeks. I have adjusted myself to classes, friends, cooking, bar-hopping, and most important of all: my accommodation. I have 4 roommates (Peter, Ethan, Evan, and Pierce) in this flat. Each person gets their own room, and there is a kitchen that is separate from the rooms, and a hallway in the middle of the flat.

We are living in Binary Hub, an apartment complex in the Liberties, a neighborhood of Dublin city.  This is the place I come home to every night. The place is nice, with a bed, bath, closet, drawers. It is simple, yet practical for such a busy man. I will admit it is kind of on the small side, but that does not take away from its modern look and feel.

The bed does not feel half bad at night, especially after a long night out. I occasionally summon it for right-before-I-go-to-sleep study sessions, but the results usually end with me falling asleep. Actually, today, I snoozed my alarm like 10 times to get up for a 9:30 class. Because the bed felt so good, I almost did not get up. Bit I did make it on time to class! The bed can be a blessing and a curse. But getting my rest is extremely important, especially being abroad, because my body has only been used to Dublin for 5 weeks. Rest, rest, rest! Sadly I have a little cold right now but I am slowly working my way over it with rest and hydration.

So, this is a brief look into my accommodation for the next 7 weeks (it is crazy that I only have 2 months left). More to come next week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Belfast, Game of Thrones, and Getting Lost

I am the king of the throne! This past weekend I ventured to Belfast, along with many of the Dublin IES Students. It was the best trip I have ever taken. On Friday, we visited the Northern Ireland Parliament (you might know a little bit about BREXIT, and if you do not know what it is, you should research it a little bit). Right now there is no border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, but the two areas could not be any different.

Friday night, me and my friends went out to a bar called Crusty Onion near our hotel. It was fun and we met a guy who was actually moving to Dublin to start working the next day. We had a fun time getting to know each other better. Saturday night was an adventure for me. Some bars and clubs in both Dublin and Belfast prohibit joggers/sweatpants because they are “track suits.” So me and a friend were preparing to go to a bar and the man at the front door did not let me pass. Then, to make things worse, my phone had just died so I had no navigation or means to get a taxi, since I was not carrying enough pounds. My friend made the tough decision to go into the bar, and I made the trek back to the hotel.

I got completely turned around, walking to the wrong side of town. I walked all the way back down town, which was probably a 2-3 miles trek all together. I was able to eventually orient myself towards the hotel. Then I decided to go to McDonald’s. There were many drunk people there, and unfortunately they were not able to read my card so I left empty-handed. It was around 2 am at this point, so I decided to return to the hotel. However, the next day was a better experience.

We had lunch at a seaside village, where Games of Thrones was principally filmed for seasons 1-3. We took a bike tour, and then headed back to Dublin. I am sort of dreading my early day Monday, but Belfast was GREAT!


 

 

 

 

Dublin architecture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was strolling around the city one day when I decided to snap some pics of the surrounding buildings. The architecture is very gothic, very fitting for a city that is known for its Gothic culture, especially in architecture and literature.

One interesting fact is that the author of Dracula, Bram Stoker, was himself a Dubliner, exploring the town while writing his masterpiece. James Joyce is another name that comes to mind for famous authors. Rody Dowell is a more recent name too, but the city is home to some of the most unique and talented authors we have seen.

Now, back to the building architecture, it is such a departure from what I see in my hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan. The buildings here are historically old but symbols of Dublin’s historical significance and culture. It was just a leisurely stroll through the heart of the city but Dublin is such a beautiful place. Every day you encounter something new, fresh, that opens your mind and eyes to this city. I can finally say that I am adjusting to my new home for the next 3 months. My travel plans are still being finalized so more abroad trips are to come. Stay tuned!

Causey Farm

I awoke Saturday morning with a start.  I realized that today I was going to a place called Causey Farms. I did not do any prior research on the destination but was looking forward to a fresh experience. I am still trying to figure out travel plans, foreign and abroad, but Causey was the perfect place to go to take my mind off of those fears. Me and my fellow Study Abroaders boarded a bus and trekked the 90 minutes to the farm.

  

When we arrived, I stepped off the bus and was immediately greeted by a friendly black and white dog. There was a beautiful white lab that was extremely friendly and was just chilling, enjoying the landscape and the day herself. Meanwhile, it began to rain, and the ground turned to muck, but we continued on. I was glad that I wore the boots that I bought for 12 Euro at a thrift store (shoes and clothes are pretty cheap in Dublin, guys and girls).

  

We petted animals, fed donkeys, milked a cow, and best of all, jumped into a bog (actually I didn’t, but you get the point). Then, when it was all said and done, we collected and ate the bread that I forgot to mention we made at the beginning of our journey. I needed some butter for it because it is quite tasty! What a eventful day in the life of a Study Abroader in Dublin! Stay tuned for more adventures.

  

  

P.S. Causey Farms is a great place. If you are ever in Ireland and you need a place to visit, stop by and explore another interesting facet of the great country of Ireland. Then I slept the 90 minutes back to Dublin. It was a pretty good Saturday afternoon. There will be more from me soon!

 

Shopping

So I went out on a journey for groceries for the first time in Dublin.  I was surprised at the differences between groceries stores in Dublin and in Holland, Kalamazoo, and all of America.

The store is called SPAR and it was hard to navigate.  They did not even have everything I was looking for, like tissue or bigger food items.  I got toilet paper (yes, my residence did not provide it for me), juice, rice (love it!), and cleaning supplies because those will come in quite handy.  I realize that I have become a morning person in my week in Dublin. Back to the point, it was a refreshing experience going to a place I had never been to before and establishing new techniques for something that I take for granted everyday: grocery shopping.

Take note, people, for your future study abroad trips because the world is a lot bigger than just the America that you live in today.  I know that the next time that I venture out for groceries, I will also bring a trusty bag and list with me, so that I can figure out what I got at one store and what I need at another store.  My first week in Dublin continues, and there is more to come!