Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Leaving on a jet plane..

Hey all...so the weather in southwest Ireland has roughly resembled the wind and rain of coastal Connecticut combined with the inconsistency of a sun/rain/sleet combo and anything else unpredictable of Alabama. This morning my friend Liz drove me up to Kerry Airport (just past Killarney) where although it was sunny and sort of hot, you could see the stratus rain clouds (woohoo teaching geography!) in the background and the leftover snow-covered mountains from the night before. Sure it was cold last night, but the point is combined with the on and off rain/sun/rain/overcast/rain/sun of the past couple weeks, I feel even more at home now.

I currently sit in Kerry Airport, hours early on purpose of course, before my 4:30pm flight to Luton Airport in London. There I will take a train to St. Pancras Station where my cousin of my cousin Carolyn, and her husband Matt whom live nearby, agreed to pick me up and let me crash with them for a few nights. (First of all I looked up rules of kinship and their names and I still have no idea what to call a cousin of a cousin). I am sure we'll do drinks and dinner tonight but it is of course good to have a friend in London as I would surely be lost and only wanting to find a bed to sleep in tonight. All my other exploring will be saved for tomorrow. Get ready, who knows what Goula and 10 days throughout Europe can have in store.

I will try and update as much as possible throughout the next week or two but for those of you that aren't sure, I should be alive and well and have posted again at the latest by next Saturday, April 10th.

A quick update on this past weekend. Friday night Kathryn's sister came into town and we all went out and did the usual. Fridays are increasingly becoming my favorite night in Kenmare as Saturdays tend to be overcrowded and usually more annoying than anything. Saturday I went with a group of 50 students (of all ages) and two other teachers up to see the Gaelic Football (GAA) All-Ireland Final in Ennis, Co. Clare. It was the older class of boys that played and Kenmare was celebrating Saturday night as the boys won their match. It was my first ever Gaelic Football match and it was just a great day. Gaelic Football is an Irish creation and is best described as a combination of soccer and rugby. From what I remember, it is very similar to the game Speedball we used to play in gym at Waterford High. Needless to say, the bus ride home and the bonfire and celebrations by the town for the win was amazing. I had a great time on the bus bonding with the kids, playing charades (and failing miserably) and basically just having a great time. Although I was their teacher, I definitely like just part of the Kenmare gang for the day and it was great.

Also, on Sunday the music teacher from the school, Veronica Whitehead had me over for dinner. I play soccer with her husband and have met her daughter out on the weekends (we had a long discussion on how awesome Six Flags is once), so I was familiar with the family. I sat there for a few hours and and we just talked, about everything. Veronica just went to Amsterdam with a group of students so she gave me all the good info from that country, in which I will end my journey.

Ok, so ten days and one backpack means from strategic planning. I did decide to bring my laptop for research and updating purposes as well as my ipod and camera. So obviously being very careful, the rest of the bag had to be packed as light as possible.

Roughly 5-7 black t-shirts, pairs of boxers and socks (each)
1 Towel
Some maps of Amsterdam
1 book
Passport and Flight info
1 thermal, 1 button down, 1 cardigan (jumper)
Jacket, jeans and sneakers all on my body at the moment

That's about it. On to the first part of the journey and as Joey from Friends would say when he went there, "it's London baby!"


'Our Love' by Rhett Miller-another Scrubs soundtrack favorite. The song rocks, nuff said.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

London Calling

Hey all...so Easter Holiday trip is finally booked, well, sorta...I booked my there and back flights. Next Tuesday (March 30th) I will be leaving Kerry Airport outside of Killarney (about 45 minutes away) and flying into Luton Airport in London. Not exactly sure on how long I will stay but since I will know a few people in London, probably two nights there at least. My coming home flight is on Thursday, April 8th from Amsterdam to Dublin. That night I will spend a night in Dublin and will drive home with Lisa O'Shea who will be flying into Dublin from her holiday as well on Friday. Everything in between will be determined as I go although I have a rough plan. London, to Paris, then most likely to the Austrian-German border as I have a friend that lives in Kleinwalsertal, Austria and is a ski instructor. After the Easter weekend, I plan on hitting up either Prague or Brussels or both, and then finally Amsterdam (all by train). If you aren't familiar with Europe, my travel path will represent almost like a squished loop, ending back near the English Channel. We'll see what I have time for but my goal is to get around as cheaply as possible. So far for two flights, 150 Euro. The other goal is to see Europe and wherever I go, take pictures, don't get beat up, and have fun.

As far as school is concerned, I wrap up tomorrow teaching. This is always terribly sad times but I will be back for the first week after the break, just not teaching. So I haven't officially said goodbye to the teachers and students yet. Lots of young hearts will be broken...

Tomorrow I have a loaded schedule of classes and observations (as I have been sitting in on other teacher's history classes as part of my research. But hopefully this will allow for a quick day before a nice weekend resting up in Kenmare.

That is all for now,

Song of the day: 'The Galway Girl' by Steve Earle. An Irish favorite at the local pub on a Saturday night, I am sure you can hear this at least once a night at any dancing spot in Ireland on the weekends. The song is kind of addicting and now I am learning all the words so I can sing it when it comes on and not just be limited to singing 'Love Shack.'

Sunday, March 21, 2010

One Month Countdown

Hey all...so this weekend was one of the best in the last few weeks in Kenmare. It was highlighted by Lisa's birthday dinner/celebration yesterday. All of Lisa's daughters, the three other Americans and other friends were all in attendance. Pizza, cupcakes, cookies, and a few (or more) bottles of Proseco made it a lively evening of chatting and just hanging out. We all eventually made it into town as well and it was a happening Saturday night.

For some reason, if I am out late on a given night two things the next day will always happen: 1) I wake up extremely early for no reason whatsoever and 2), I end up having a great workout. So this morning after waking up first at a little after 7, I then only made it to a little after 8, I watched a movie then went to the gym. I had pretty much rested on Saturday so today I was well rested and it felt great. I actually ran for the longest I had ever have on the treadmill. I did 5k in under 30 minutes if you believe those machines. Now this may not seem like a lot to runners out there but I usually am good for 20 minutes max. End of story, it was one of those good work out days.

Tomorrow I don't have that much of a busy day, or week for that matter. But my COST director in Ireland, his Deputy Assistant or whatever the title is, will be coming in to observe me for one lesson. I'm not too worried about it but it will begin my last week as a full time teacher in Ireland. Today is actually one month until I fly back to the States, and after this week, I have two weeks off for Easter Holiday. More on that to come soon.

A couple observations on life in Ireland. First of all, there are dogs everywhere. This may sound like a dumb statement, but I mean most of them just walk around randomly by themselves. You may have seen one particular dog in my pictures that I almost always see sitting in front of a butcher shop. Today just on a walk to and from the supermarket I counted 5 dogs. Dogs here just seemed to be trained to be more independent. The first place I lived in, there were two dogs and they both lived outside; even when it was freezing temperatures in January.

Also I have written a lot on differences in food in the country. There are actually more options than I thought there might be, even in Kenmare which is a small town. However, as someone that occasionally likes a delicious salad, I think I am most disappointed in the lack of ranch dressing. I have found ranch dressing ONCE in Kenmare and it was at a small Petrol Station (and it wasn't that great). What is going on here?! The local Supervalu doesn't carry it and it was most missed last night with our pizza meal. I tried to describe to the Irish the benefits of the ranch dressing and pizza combination but it just did not work. I often find people in New England do not get this duo either however, it is hard to explain when people do not even have ranch dressing in their country to refer too. Ridiculous. I miss Hidden Valley.

I love how Glee is on here like four days a week. Glee, lesson plan, bed. Talk to y'all tomorrow. Happy Spring by the way...


Song of the day: 'Question' by Old 97s. This song which is on my newly purchased Scrubs Soundtrack Vol. 2, has been one of my favorites lately. Well I watched the episode yesterday that it came from, and it is when Turk proposes to Carla (for those Scrub nerds). Anyway, in the spirit of the weddings I am attending this summer, I felt it was appropriate. It's a good listen!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Working Hard to Get MY Thrill

Hey all...so I usually come up with lots of random thoughts during the day that I always say, 'hey, that would be nice for my blog.' However when it comes down to putting finger to keyboard I usually go blank. I think this is similar how you always know what you need to get from the grocery store but when you get there, unless you have written down a list you always forget ONE thing and it always is the most important thing (today it was water). Anyway, the end of the week is here and I have to say, I am excited.

Last night was soccer night. I did pretty well, although I played goalie for the first time and I gave up a few goals. I don't think they were all entirely my fault but that's okay. Other than that I have sensed I have been getting better every week after a long hiatus from futbol; which is what I can only hope for. Ended up extremely sore today but it felt gooood.

Today I had one class and it was only a cover for another teacher so it wasn't even my class. All my students had workshops or other activities today. The talent show was today and featured a number of songs, sketches, and other musical numbers. Initially Lisa and I were supposed to be the 'halftime entertainment' while the judges picked a winner but that fell through which was fine with me. A group of sixth years (or seniors) put on a sketch which poked fun at some of the teachers. Basically I was represented in the sketch and I was being introduced to many of the other teachers in the school. It was tasteful and very funny. Today was a good day.

It's Friday night and Kathryn and I are about to hit up....well you know, I'm in Ireland. Hopefully this weekend will be fun, relaxing, and I can think of lots of things I want to write on here and then forget all about them.

Cheers and good weekend,

Song of the day: 'Don't Stop Believin' by Journey (covered by the cast of Glee). (This is going to be a new addition to my blog as every day music runs my life and well, keeps me going sometimes. This song although a classic, just lately has been making be feel like I can fly and do anything. Great song, just like all of the Glee soundtrack).

P.S. Just saw Ireland is getting Jersey Shore on Sunday....great...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Goula's Travels

Hey all...so yes, St. Patrick's Day in Ireland was fun but although it was technically on a Wednesday, kind of resembled any other weekend night out in Kenmare. I had a couple options to get out of town for the day but at the end of the day Ashley ('New American') and I walked around the town some more. It started off as a wonderful day and then clouds and rain came in and are still here a day later. It was actually kind of sad the weather turned out that way. However it did not stop me from catching some live music and hitting up the pubs. It was a nice day off from school and the divided week was 'savage.' The next couple weekends will be exciting as this there are birthdays, visitors, and Easter holiday trips. I also have been assured by many that Americans take the holiday way more seriously than the Irish actually do, so I hope y'all's was a nice day too.

I think I have finally decided on my Easter Holiday trip. I have two weeks off and being in Europe, how could I not take advantage of cheap fares for planes and trains (I didn't mean to rhyme). Initially my grandmother Joan hooked me onto this idea about a Eurail pass which is a set fee, and you can hop on just about any train and go to a number of European countries. This seems fit for exactly what I would do. Originally I just planned on London for a few days, and although I know a few people that will be there (including American friends Kathryn and Ashley from here), I feel as a sole traveler I can do whatever I want and that includes seeing as many places as possible. After talking to Justin and Bob on Tuesday night (local Irishmen), I am motivated to see many places. My plan is to travel to a number of European cities and spend a day (or less) in each one. I think I will fly to London and begin from there. As most of the major cities are close together, train travel times or no more than a couple hours a piece. Right now I am thinking, London, Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam. However things could change and cities added on my European tour. Nothing is finalized yet but that is the plan.

Today is an easy day as it is Arts Week and all my classes are attending films, or workshops, or concerts in school. I really have no need to be here but there is supposed to be a local musician putting a concert on in school that is supposed to be pretty good. Google 'Mick Hanly' if interested.

Less than five weeks left and teaching responsibilities are winding down, time to enjoy Europe.

Happy recovery day,

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Matthew in Ireland

Hey all...so sorry for the delay since the last blog. I will be sure to update more frequently with my time left, which now is just about 5 weeks left. This past week as well as the next two leading up to the Easter Holiday have been.will be busy but fun.

This week I remained pretty busy despite having a few less classes then the previous weeks. Tomorrow starts the school's Arts Week which I helped out with setting up this past week; like I mentioned handling the brochure design for the week's events. This coming week should be pretty fun with many events scheduled such as film showings, Irish dancing as well as a talent show on Friday. Being Ireland, we have Wednesday off for Patty's day and I am not sure on plans yet for that day.

Yesterday a few of us went to Cork for the day, which was nice. Cork for a 'bigger' city, is pretty convenient to get around. However the weather was kind of cloudy and we pretty much saw everything we wanted to see, so Kathryn and I saw Alice in Wonderland. I have to say, as someone who isn't a huge fan of Tim Burton, I was extremely impressed and into it. Not really having a good idea of what the entire story line was about, it was great to just not expect anything. Of course a matinee showing of a children's movie on a Saturday was probably not the smartest thing. I swear people were opening candy packages the entire time. Also although there was no crying, some parents are just completely fine with their children screaming and laughing and talking extremely loud like. I guess as long as they aren't crying it's all good. That combined with the teen girls behind us talking a little too much, made it kind of obnoxious. However I was so deeply concentrated on the movie to get rid of all the distractions I just got lost in Wonderland and it was really great. The scenery, costumes, music, and quirky characters were all really spectacular. A must see!

I didn't do much last night. I ended up napping at 7pm and decided to forget the alarm and ignore calls to go out and slept till 3am. Watched Mighty Ducks and went back to bed for a few hours. The Mighty Duck movies are amazing. Probably watching the second one tonight.

Anyway, nothing too exciting to talk about. This week should have more events happening as last week I was mainly busy with schoolwork for my students and for AU. However life is good...I'm in Ireland.


Sunday, March 7, 2010


Hey all...since my last post I have been staying busy. First with school, I have been getting involved and helping out with our school's 'Arts Week' which during the week of St. Patty's Day, many paintings, sculptures, films, photography and music among other things will be showcased. There are some guest artists but the whole point of the week, is to get students involved in the arts and showcase some of the young student talent. I talked to Joe the Arts teacher who is organizer/power to delegate tasks to others and he hooked me up with being responsible for the Arts Week Brochure. This I would say is extremely important as it needs to be somewhat finalized a week ahead of time (this Monday) and will have all the weeks events and artists featured on it. Two of the Transition Years I teach have been getting most of the information but if there is anything I have done, it has been to annoy the other teachers organizing the events of arts week to get me the information for the brochure. It is kind of fun and I am the one that other teachers have come to to find out information about the Arts Week. Yeah, I'm pretty important.

Friday evening Kathryn, Lisa and her daughter and friend went to what is known as a Table Quiz. Being my second in the last two weeks, teams of four get together usually go to raise money for some sort of event. This week was for an upcoming Horse Show. How it works is there are 8-10 rounds of ten questions each, ranging from everything from current events, geography, sports and of course, equestrian questions, etc. It is fun because I think everybody does not realize what kinds of weird trivia you actually know until you are actually asked the question. We had 8 rounds this week and our team of five (we cheated) came in 4th out of 25, not bad. We were one position short of placing for a prize but Lisa won a raffle and got a bottle of SoCo that I think will be saved for a later date. Half our team was young and almost all under 30 years old, so I was proud.

Later Friday night we went over a friends house and I am proud to say between the two nights this weekend, I was only in a pub once and for only about an hour. Oh, the table quiz doesn't count (because it was in a restaurant) although it is a necessity to have a pint or three to help remember your prior knowledge.

Some of the local Irish friends I have met and seem to end up hanging out with on the weekends, were out Friday as well. However I only mention them as I met a couple new guys this weekend that have had the same first reaction as a couple of the other guys I know; I look like Chino Moreno. Who is Chino Moreno? Well he is the lead singer of this punk band The Deftones that have been around for a while. I have never really been a huge fan but I of course knew who they were. Now I have gotten a few celebrity look-a-like comments before: Vin Diesel (when I used to shave my head-still don't see it), the lead singer of 311, Dane Cook (thanks but I feel very inaccurate) and now Chino Moreno. All of the guys, who are friends and I am sure have said things to each other, have said I look like this guy, before he got fat. This can only be a compliment I think.

Now that I have been uploading pictures, I will be posting more on here too (although facebook still has all of them). Saturday I walked into town and had a nice lunch at the Truffle Pig; a nice soup, sandwich, and salad place. On the way to and from the gym, I walked around for about an hour and took more pictures of Kenmare which I will soon post up. It was a beautiful weekend and perfect weather to just walk around and enjoy Ireland. Since I have not uploaded them yet I will leave you with some next blog. Today is a busy day with school work for Auburn among other things. But I am focused and need to get back to work. More to come soon :)


Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Hey all...so it is becoming more and more obvious to me how clumsy I can be. The scary thing is it is not consistent. Over the past few years I have been in charge of taking thousands of hot Italian dishes to tables and drinks with minimal incidents. Sure everyone spills a drink or two when serving (and maybe once a dessert on a young girl in my first week that she ended up buying), but I have actually had dreams about dropping people's food on them which thank god, has never happened. Now I have dropped plates after the fact but that is a different story.

My point is, if I am not paying attention to little things now, I feel like a bull in a china closet. Just last night I partially walked into my bathroom door and stubbed my toe on a bag on the floor, all while brushing my teeth. Just now in school I was walking in the teacher break room and hit my funny bone on the refrigerator. And these are daily events most days.

Another thing that may not be classified as clumsy but is just plain dumb, is whenever I have a new bottle of beverage (usually water) I usually spill a little on my chin. This is like a 90% guarantee. I do not know, for someone that is halfway decent at pool, can hit a small golf ball hundreds of yards away as well stay on a moving treadmill for 20 minutes, you would think my coordination is up to par. These small things do not bother me, but do conclude that I am a little off-balance.

As for Irish news, I am helping some students organize the school's Arts Week in two weeks. Should be fun, more on that later.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Cultural Differences

Hey all...isn't it amazing how fast time flies? My ex-complicated relationship Jeff Zito started his last blog with a rhetorical question, so I figured I would do the same. I mean really, I knew time here in Ireland would fly and go by faster than every other semester in my life but it just never fails to jump out and grab you. I know February is short, but March 1st already makes me wonder where it really goes. If my calculations are correct, tomorrow marks the 50th day I have been in Ireland. Tomorrow will also mark the day I have 50 days left here in Kenmare. It is exciting, scary, and surprising all at once when you think about it this way. In 7 weeks I will be flying back to the wonderful state of Connecticut for a weekend and then back down to Alabama where I am almost positive I will be located for a while. Of course I miss these places more and more everyday however, I have always been pretty patient when it came to getting back to the places I love. Obviously being in a miraculous place such as Ireland makes it easier, but although I miss my homes in the States, when the time comes to be back, the time will come. Until then, more fun Irish times are to be had.

I did some reflecting on my blog and although I think blogs are more fun when they are about what you think as opposed to what you have done, I realized I haven't really talked a lot about Ireland itself and what I have observed. That is why I have chosen to write some short statements about my observations about some cultural similarities but mainly differences that I have seen between here and the United States. Here goes...

EDUCATION: I have already told you a lot about the education system here, and the major differences of class structure and subjects within the school. However, there are a few additions. First, teacher camaraderie at the school is just, different. Obviously my experiences of what I have to compare it to are slim, but every chance teachers get, they are either working or hanging out in the break room. At Opelika High, teachers were very nice and pleasant, but lunch was a quick 26 minutes and teachers ate in the cafeteria with the students, split among four different lunch waves. In Ireland, most schools have twenty minute breaks around 11 and then 45 minutes for lunch at 1:15. Students are allowed to walk into town which could only be possible in a small town. However this allows for teacher breaks and lunches to be filled with teachers chatting away about things usually other than school. It is really nice to have this time and get to know the teachers. Another thing, since the population is smaller and the towns spread out, some students have to travel up to 30 kilometers to get to school. School districts often encompass many towns bringing a variety of Irish personalities, but no minorities.

TRANSPORTATION: Students take public bus transportation that live in the towns in the outskirts of Kenmare. Bus Eireann runs all over the country and it may take time, with a combination of busses, trains, and planes, you can get anywhere in the country for a decent price. Public transportation is not a new idea however, the country has only a few highways leading into major cities. Unlike the interstate system if America, most of the roads are small, windy roads that lead to long travel times even for short distances. However this also results in Irish drivers of small cars driving extremely fast when they shouldn't be. Getting around is not terrible or even hard, it is just different.

WEATHER: True to reputation, weather is usually pretty consistent with temperatures around freezing overnight and usually low to mid forties during the day. Southern Ireland is usually pretty wet although weather in the last couple weeks has been bright and sunny most days. Unlike the inconsistent temperatures of the Deep South and the blizzards and ice of the Northeast, Irish weather though wet at times, very rarely deviates from the norm. It is nice although I do miss weekends with rain, snow, and a tornado all in one.

RESTAURANTS & PUBS: I know I have mentioned the pubs and restaurants here. Although I have not been to many, I probably have actually eaten at the two local Chinese restaurants the most. What I want to mention here is the service industry employees at these places. Soon upon arriving, I realized and was informed that you do not tip bartenders and not really servers as well. Every time I tipped a bartender (most recently this weekend) they are always kind enough to inform me that "you do not do that here." After getting a tip of mine picked up by a friend off the bar because they thought someone had left it, I realized that it was not normal to do so. It is just weird for me being a server in a restaurant, NOT to tip others that work in restaurants and pubs. Oh well....I'll get over it.

POLITICS & SOCIETY: I combine these two very important aspects of any culture just because, I really do not know much about either. Politics are talked about at a national level sometimes, but rarely locally do I hear or see anything about politics in Kenmare. I am learning a lot about society but I am referring to people in this case. I have met many Americans, English, some French and even Slovakians. However, the majority are white Irish people. This is obviously what you would expect in this part of the country during the non-tourist season. There are many different types of people, it is just not the melting pot I am used to from the States. This leads me too:

TOURISM: Irish towns are clearly set-up for tourism, especially in Kerry and the towns of Kenmare, Killarney, and Dingle that are located in this wonderful county. The restaurants, hotels, B&Bs and other sites in these towns are huge tourist destinations during the Spring and Summer. Places like Galway and the other cities and towns, offer travelers hostel accommodations like the rest of Europe. During my road trip I spent four nights around Europe and spent only 67 Euro for the four nights combined. I think my pub tabs were higher. We have thousands of hotels in the States, obviously, especially in our major cities which tend to be Irish destinations of interest. Almost anyone I have talked to that has been to the States has either been to Boston, New York, or Florida (and still some do not know Connecticut). However, hotels are usually pricey and although the B&Bs are present, I do not think America supports cheap sleeping arrangements for the foreign travelers. Part of this may be because the United States is not as close to other nations as Ireland is to the rest of Europe.

TELEVISION: My final two topics are nothing new as far as subjects of my blogging. Television here, if you have Sky cable or whatever it is called, you will have all the channels you need. I am delighted to have the option of watching Scrubs like 5 hours a day as it is on even more than it is in the States which is great. But TV shows and movies usually come much later here. For instance, I am happily watching the first season of Glee all over again as it started in January although it aired in the States during the fall. Movies are the same way in that they arrive a little late but I guess that is what happens when you do not have Hollywood.

FOOD: Finally...my favorite topic. Although I have talked about restaurants and pubs I have had many fun experiences in the local Supervalu. This is the cheapest and largest grocery store in the area and often are found more than the giant Tescos which are the Irish equivalent of Wal-Mart. Supervalus are not huge but you can get everything you need. Immediately I noticed a huge difference in some foods when I bought a bag of Doritos my first week here. They just were not the same. The Pringles taste good but things like ketchup, bread, and even yogurt all taste just a little different, even if it is a brand that is also made in the U.S. For instance, Yoplait yogurt is not even close to what we have in the States but things like Cadbury Creme Eggs are totally different. Admittedly I was addicted there for a few weeks but Cadbury is an Irish brand. However, things like yogurt and ice cream vary in quality and price. They do have Ben & Jerry's here but usually a pint is 4-7 Euro (around $6-10). Obviously being imported has made Ben & Jerry's almost as valuable as diamonds, but this is one thing that does taste the same. However many groceries are different, especially when it comes to Gatorade and Powerade, cheese and bread. It just tastes so different that although these differences have allowed for changes in my diet, food here is more normal than I thought it was. I mean, I can always get good quality Chinese...

I am sorry this blog was long but I just felt like sharing a few observations I've had about the culture itself. More to come soon. Need to get back to work, we'll talk soon.