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Astral Week(end)s

Time October 13th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Ignoring the arguably greater importance of discussing what classes and things like that are at Trinity, or maybe things that I’ve discovered or do in Dublin, I opt instead to jump to a more immediate topic which occurred this past weekend and from which my body is still recovering from the abuse I put it through.  Butler took all of its participants from all over the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (Dublin, Galway, Cork, Limerick, Belfast, etc.) to a place called Killary Adventure Company, near Leenane. Killary is one of those “adventure camp/park” places where you can go and do lots of outdoor activities, including, but not limited to: zip-lining, kayaking, laser tag, (clay) pigeon shooting, archery, tubing (called ringo here, crazy Irish), rock walls, and so forth.

The four or five hour bus ride from Dublin along Ireland’s highways was one of the most enjoyable bus rides, if not the most enjoyable, that I’ve ever been on.  Luscious green fields broken apart by small stone walls and dotted with sheep grazing filled your eyes every way you looked.  As we got closer to the coast, gentle but beautiful hills began to rise up without impeding any of the farms, which just continued their way up the sides.  Killary is set on Ireland’s only fjord, which fact they seem to be immensely proud of as they would constantly remind us, and the scenery is something to be seen to be believed.  Seeing the inlet, nestled between sets of hills, which led to the ocean was something out of a postcard, but for once actually tangible.  Of the fifty or sixty people there, I think I heard almost all make a remark at some point about the beauty that lay in front of us.  I think that counts for something.

Unfortunately since there are only two people from Dublin my dear flat-mate and myself were at a slight disadvantage with the groups from other cities, as they had somewhere between ten and thirty people per group, as well having been together for well over a month.  Needless to say there were cliques and all of those sorts of things.  Some exclusion did occur, but for the most part people were quite friendly, open, and receptive, and I did end up making a number of friends.  It also made for a wonderful time for the “Small World” effect to work its magic.  My flat-mate found someone from her home college, and I met a girl from the same town in rural, central Minnesota that I’m from and was best friends with one of my high school classmates.  Small world!

Saturday morning, after a quaint breakfast, we began our “activities.”  I signed up to do clay pigeon shooting and archery for the morning section, since it seemed like fun and not too intense, something I’m not fond of in the morning.  Archery was first up, set to the lovely tunes of Bob Dylan and the Kings of Leon by way of our instructor’s iPod and portable speakers.  I wasn’t a fantastic shot by any means; if I were a William Tell or Robin Hood I would be bragging about it “be not afeared,” but I didn’t fair too badly and I was the first to get inside the inner circle, just outside the bulls-eye.  Shooting was a bit of a different story.  First-person shooters on the computer apparently don’t give you the “real feel” of aiming and recoil of a twelve-gauge, so I was about a one-for-five with that one, but it was still loads of fun.

Lunch was a multitude of different sandwiches, delicious and warm soup, and soda bread that with every slice made you crave it more and more until I think everyone ended up eating an entire loaf each.  Post-lunch had us on our afternoon activities, which for me meant going kayaking, cliff jumping, and gorge walking.  I was hesitant about kayaking because I could see from about a half-kilometer away there were white caps on the water where we would be kayaking.  It was really windy.  And by windy, I mean someone checked and saw that there were warnings for gale force winds in our area, and we would be out in the middle of them.  Rough and windy, just the way I like it.

They gave us wetsuits to change into down near the beach, which would be a saving grace shortly thereafter, because the water was absolutely frigid and the wetsuits kept us from being soaked to the bone.  They told us that the water was actually quite warm that day, but I’ve been told such things before and it’s always been a load of horse-hockey to me.  Granted, I am a huge wimp when it comes to water temperature. Normal outside temps, whatever, I don’t care if it’s forty below, I’m from Minnesota and I don’t care, but once I’m in the water I freak out and feel like I’m going hypothermic.  But not that day!  No, into the cold waters we went, paddles in hand and butts in kayaks.  Unfortunately the aforementioned winds were actually that strong which made it a struggle to get even fifty yards from shore.  We tried playing “kayak games” which ended up with most of us falling out of kayaks countless times and banging our bodies every which way.  But we still had fun, even if it was in a masochistic way.  We walked to a nearby cliff where we took turns jumping off and back into the freezing waters, don’t ask me why.  From there a guide took us on a gorge walk that went through a large portion of the camp, where we climbed up waterfalls and did other gorge-walking related activities.

After a steaming hot shower I was able to raise my body temperature to something above a cryogenic state, aided by another warm and hearty meal.  And bread, lots and lots of bread.  For this evening, the camp had prepared a “disco” for our entertainment, to which most of us were rather wary and apprehensive about what that would be like and if it would be any fun at all.  Certain activities ended up taking place among different groups at the camp which gradually lowered inhibitions and led to most of the people slowly joining in on the “disco” session.  The “disco” was just a normal sort of dance party type thing, with the exception of the DJ being about sixty years old.  Another exception was that the DJ really rocked and played an amazing mix of songs.  I think almost every student, most of the instructors at the camp, and even some of the Butler staff, joined in on the fun, dancing and rocking out like mad until the wee hours of the morning.

Thus following morning came much sooner than desired, along with a bunch of its friends such as bruises, blisters, and stiff necks, mostly from the dancing but a fair share came from kayaking as well.  Fortunately the activity I picked for the morning wouldn’t require much movement or anything that would further stress my body: laser-tag.  We were given camouflaged clothing, war paint, and realistically heavy imitation guns for our game of laser tag in the woods.  This is where my nerdy side kicked in and I was able to try and live out my computer games and war-movie memories and fantasies.  I decided that the best course of camouflage would be to draw a large handle-bar moustache on myself so I’d be indistinguishable from the many moustached-trees and shrubs of Ireland.  I spent quite a bit of time crawling around in the mud, sniping my opponents or creeping up to flank them.  At one point as I was squaring off against someone, during a game of capture the flag, I heard her gun go off saying, “low ammunition.”  She then made a last ditch run for our flag, and I, with full ammo, made chase after her, laser-gun blazing.  She didn’t make it far.  It was through this that I was able to feel like I was in scenes of Platoon and that sort of thing, which was pretty awesome in my lame book.

A couple of hours later, after a big group photo, we said our goodbyes and got back onto our respective buses.  It was a long and sore bus ride home, but again, full of beautiful scenery.  My body feels like it’s been run over by a truck a few times, and I didn’t do nearly enough reading that I should have, but I made some great friends, and had a wonderful time.  Not bad Butler, what’s next?

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