Hey all...so I understand the constant threat of terrorism, especially when there is nothing between Shannon Airport and Boston except sea, safety is an issue. But judging the security procedures I went through at Shannon, the worst terrorists of all go right through Ireland. Yeah, ok. Better safe than sorry I suppose. I just don't understand why I do NOT have to take my shoes off at the security checkpoint because they have 'new machines' yet I have to take them off when I get to the waiting room at my gate. My bags also got dissected twice and my body violated by the oldest man on this planet but like I said, better safe than sorry.
Really I could care less as I am extremely excited to be heading back to the USA shortly, and only lose out on about two hours of time (thank you time zones). With this comes a bit of sadness despite the weeks I have ahead of me, and along the way I have met some amazing people. I'll do my best to review just some of the Irish that have touched my heart (sorry, sort of corny).
Fin was one of the first Irishmen I actually sat down and had a conversation with, and I realized I would need to practice deciphering the Irish brogue very quickly. Fin was the bartender at the local pub I went to on my first night in Kenmare. After a lonnnnng day of traveling Fin was nice enough to talk to me about my travels and I ended up heading back on the weekend to shoot some pool. I wasn't ready to take on Guinness so every time I ordered a Budweiser, Fin was always asking me if I was home sick? Good guy.
Sheila was the first person to house me and even picked me up from the Killarney bus station after I didn't make it in time for the bus down to Kenmare. Not knowing the routes that well and figuring things out, Sheila made a long travel day worth it by giving me a sort of warm bed after a long day in the wind and rain. Although I left her house after a few weeks, her kindness at the time still was appreciated.
Joe who I would meet on the streets of Kenmare it seemed like clockwork, every night for the first couple weeks, turned out to be the husband of Mary, one of the very nice secretaries at the school I would call my work for over three months. Joe gets a special mention as he was someone I always enjoyed running into and he was the first to person to tell me there was another American in town. Which leads me to...
Kathryn, my American buddy (although from the University of Georgia. Don't worry, she's still cool). After weekends in Kenmare, nights in Dublin, and one kick ass road trip around the western part of Ireland, Kathryn and I were the new American friends that everyone got to know. I really am not sure if this is quite the reputation, needless to say every weekend usually started with a pint at Crowley's or PF's with Kathryn and ended with a dance session at the Square Pint. I knew I would have to get to know people in which I did, but having another American teacher in town sure made it a lot better. Who knows when we will see each other again Kathryn, but because you're living a couple hours away, I am sure it will be sooner rather than later. :)
Denis took me in after a couple weeks and was a great guy to live with. Laid back and nice, Denis was kind enough to house me and drive me anywhere when need be. Anyone going to Kenmare, live with Denis.
Michelle was one of many really nice ladies that worked at the Supervalu (the local grocery store) in which I walked by everyday from Denis' to work and back. The Supervalu was visited at least every other day and Michelle was always kind enough to ask 'how I was getting on' and about my experience in the school.
Lisa and the O'Shea Girls are probably the group of women that made me feel most like I had a home in Kenmare, without actually living there. After inviting me to dinner a few times in the first few weeks and Lisa introducing herself to me the very first day of school in her Irish/American accent (she's a teacher), I never felt so welcomed into a community. Lisa and her four daughters, Cailla, Caiohme, Siobhan, and Aoife (good luck with pronunciations), could have been the sweetest people I came across in Ireland. Humorous, kind, and wickedly intelligent, all five women alone are enough of a reason for me to come back to Ireland someday. For some reason, I think that will happen.
Liz and Sandra were two local girls around my age that I met and ended up staying with the last week I was there from the delay. Liz I met at the local gym and in all honesty, she may have been part of the reason I continued to make it to the gym everyday :). Sweet, sarcastic, and hilarious, both girls made me realize more and more everyday that sometimes no matter what is going on, make sure you take time for yourself and if you're lucky, enjoy that time with a good friend too.
Effe and Lucky are a Turkish man and his Chinese wife who own the local 'chipper.' Needless to say, many a nights after dancing off hundreds of calories at the Square Pint, I needed to make sure to put them back on with some Garlic Chips & Cheese (chips being fries). They both always greeted me with a smile before they sent me home with food that did nothing but clog my arteries some more. Well worth it.
Jason and other local guys Mike and Ronan to name just a few, are great musicians but more importantly, regulars at the pub that I got to know through a variety of common friends. The guys had stories and humor that made me laugh for sometimes hours on end.
Kim and Stephen are friends with Kathryn whom they met when studying at Georgia (don't worry, also cool). They were nice enough to let me stay with them two weekends in Dublin and also provided me with two puppies to play with while I was there.
Dermot and Maureen are Kenmare Community School's Principal and Vice Principal who seemingly with ease welcomed me in although I knew it was more trouble making my schedule then they would ever lead me to believe. Both were super kind and were truly just the heads representing a school of teachers, staff, and students that all welcomed me with the upmost respect and kindness that I hope any new teacher would receive.
Majella, Diane, Veronika, and Deklin and the rest of the Kenmare staff all had their vital role in making sure I felt at home every single day I was there. Majella acoompanied me and 50+ students to the All Ireland Boys Gaelic Football Final in which Kenmare came out victorious. Needless to say the three hour ride home on the bus and that night I will never forget. Diane was one of the many Geography, History, and Civics teachers that handed over her classroom with no gripes, complaints, or hesitation as they all had the respect and confidence I would go in and do my job. As a teacher, giving up your classroom to anyone is hard and they let me know from day one, I was welcome. Veronika the school's music teacher, let me sit in on her classes every week and even had me over for dinner. I had met her husband before playing soccer and her daughter at the pubs, so I felt comfortable when I was there. Deklin, the school's caretaker, was the one that got me involved playing soccer on Thursday nights with guys younger and older than me. Although I may have been a little rusty, getting out and running in the cool Irish weather made me miss soccer, and now that I think about it, makes me miss Ireland.
There are many many more individuals, teachers, and Kenmarians that I met that I immediately fell for. Kenmare is truly remarkable for a small Irish town and I think is the perfect balance of old and new. Everyone was so kind and after interviewing many teachers, almost all said they enjoyed the small town feel of Kenmare more than anything. The Irish country side is brilliant and I am extremely happy I made it there and to other places like London, Prague, and Amsterdam. I was and am incredibly lucky to be apart of a trip like this at all, let alone in a beautiful town like Kenmare where all three and a half months I felt like I was in a place I belonged. I was at home.
There is no doubt experiences like this will change you. Maybe it was the Irish air but I constantly thought about what I was supposed to do after this trip, this summer, and in the Fall. If there is one thing I know, it is just to enjoy yourself no matter what you are doing and no matter where you are. I would like to think I have always made a conscious effort to improve myself on all levels everyday, but being in Ireland has truly motivated me to do things I have never done before, and to improve on the things I have. Those are yet to be discussed although I have my own list I have started of what I need to be doing in the near future.
Although this is a month after my 'departure', my thoughts from when I left to now that I have been home for a month have not and will not change. For all the reasons listed above I will be back in Ireland someday although only one of them would be needed. As I am about to head into work in Auburn AL all I can say is thank you for anyone that made this trip possible, supported me, and enjoyed it with me. Even if it was the occasional reading of my discheveled works of my blog, thanks for being there. It is a wonderful feeling that whether I choose to stay in Auburn, or go back to CT, or even spend some time in places like Mobile or other parts of this country or other countries like Ireland, I will always feel I have a home. And for that, I am one lucky dude.