Saint Patrick’s Day is a week away and it’s been a while since I last wrote, so I thought I would take a moment to fill you guys in on what’s happening here in Limerick.
In my last post, I explained that I was playing for a soccer team in Tipperary, Cloughjordan F.C.. It’s been a lot of fun training with the other guys and getting to know some of them. It’s about a thirty minute trip to where we train so I catch a ride with one of my teammates, Simon. Simon actually went to the University of Limerick and studied Mechanical Engineering. Luckily for me, he lives nearby in Annacotty, Limerick so he drives me to and from practices and games. Other than being a genuinely good guy, he’s a great soccer player… Probably the best on our team! He has kind of taken me under his wing at practices because I am one of the younger guys on the team. It’s cool to think that not only soccer, but sports in general, enables people like myself to forge relationships with those whom they otherwise wouldn’t. Being able to play soccer in Ireland has certainly made my study abroad experience that much more authentic. I’m glad I made this decision.
My time spent in Belfast, Northern Ireland was great. The Antrim Coast Tour was the most aesthetically satisfying sightseeing I have ever done. Views from the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, Dunluce Castle and the Giant’s Causeway were stunning, to say the least. Some of the places I had the pleasure of seeing have been filmed in the popular series, Game of Thrones. However, the best part of the trip was the Black Taxi Tour. In traditional style, Black Cab drivers brought us throughout the Shankhill Road and Falls Road communities, which to this day, are divided by a 40+ foot wall with gates that are locked at 7 p.m. every night. “The Peace Wall” as it is known, divides the Roman Catholic (Separatist) and Protestant (Loyalist) communities. This wall was constructed to try and keep the two sides from waging war on the other during a period of time coined, “The Troubles”. This is the common name for the ethno-nationalist conflict in Northern Ireland, which started in the late 1960’s and was said to have ended with the signing of the Good Friday Act in 1998… Although violence between the two occur sporadically to this day. I had the pleasure of signing my name alongside thousands of other names on the Peace Wall. Underneath my name I wrote the phrase 26+6=1, which stands for the 26 counties in the Republic of Ireland and the 6 counties in Northern Ireland to form one Ireland. That was one of the most profound experiences in my life, it really resonated with me.
Last week was Raise and Give (Charity) Week at the University of Limerick. It is a great cause which raises money for four separate charities. The weeklong event is comprised of not only charity, but fun activities and a bit (a lot) of partying! I had a great time with some of my new Irish friends as they showed me how to “do” RAG Week the right way. The highlight of my week was probably going to see the DJ’s Dzeko & Torres. They are big back home in the States so I thought I’d go just to say I saw them. I’m glad I did because I had an awesome time. It would be great if I could try and implement something similar at Franklin & Marshall College; I’ll have to think about that.
Another great experience I had was visiting the historic Thousand Park which is the home to Munster Rugby. Munster is known for being a powerhouse in world club rugby. Although this season they’re middle of the road in the Guinness Pro-12 Rugby League, it was cool to see a live match. Munster faced the Newport Gwen Dragons and won with a squad which was comprised of reserves due to the ongoing Six Nations tournament in which Ireland is in. Many of the Irish National Team’s players also play for Munster at the club level… But international duties always comes first.
Like I said earlier, it’s about a week until Saint Patrick’s Day. I think I am going to stay here in Limerick and enjoy myself. I’m looking forward to seeing my best friend, Matt and potentially two other close friends, Greg and Conor. Matt is currently studying in Copenhagen, Denmark while Greg and Conor are studying in Glasgow, Scotland. It will be great to see them. Other than that, I look forward to spending some time with my family over Easter break and seeing more of what Ireland has to offer. Other than that, I am pretty busy with school work which will be taking up some of my time before I head to Amsterdam with Matt at the beginning of April. I am so excited for that trip!
Talk to you guys soon!