It seemed routine. The rush of the early morning, hugging Mom goodbye, and getting ready to walk through security. The difference this time, I was with a group of twenty other people. And I was bound for Shannon, Ireland. Through intermittent sleeping during the flight time over, I thought to myself the impact this trip could have. It felt weird to head to a country that I was not Thailand and that my role in going as a tourist. I still felt estranged from the idea of the trip until the moment of sipping my first cup of Irish breakfast tea. I smiled as the warmth filled my heart with the feeling of something new, yet comforting. This trip has the power to impact me. I just have to have the courage to let it.
After landing we all enjoyed our first Irish breakfast, which included blood pudding, sausage, mushrooms, roasted tomato, potatoes, and toast. Through overtired giggles and four cups of tea each, we enjoyed our first moments in Ireland. We then drove through the greenery of Ireland to the location of Bunratty Castle. The castle was impressively large with narrow stairs, but had a certain creepy essence. I enjoyed ascending and descending the towers and looking out at the countryside of Ireland. The thing that struck me the most probably was the reality of medieval life and the harshness of it. The rooms were drafty and had a strange feeling about them. I can see why locals think all the old buildings are haunted. The draft creates noise and the closed in walls create an unsettling feeling. After descending to the dungeon where they outlandishly showed a dead guy, I was about done with exploring!
We then drove over to Ennis (or Innish by locals). Ennis is one of the few cities preserved to its original medieval form. The town did not have a patron or wealthy noble looking after it, so the streets never were widened and the town was especially poor during the famine. The last recorded person to die from the famine was located in Ennis. Our tour guide Jane guided our steps through stories about the towns mysteries, murders, and political reform. I was fascinated by the rich history and how much the history was buried within old buildings. As we walked around the town, I observed local life happen. People moved in and out of shops, hustled about, and the school children clustered in flocks. Life was similar yet quite different. It moved and swayed at a pace unfamiliar to me. Our walking tour shifted to the towns Abbey. Our next guide spoke quickly due to the drooping eyes of the jet lagged group. My eyes were still wide towards the beautiful history and the need to preserve it. At first glance the building is just falling apart stone, but history reveals the genuine care for the site to be known and understood. As I listened to the guides stories, I glanced down at what appeared to be a tombstone. The message on the stone displayed his genuine love and his heartache towards her loss. There were several stones layed out on the ground throughout the building. All in tribute towards someone. If it is one thing I have noticed an iut Irish culture, is the power of bonds and the cherishment of honoring a life.
With tired souls and drooping eyes, the group was dropped off at a hostel. A beautiful town with little shops dispating their trade. The town was quiet, but calm. I felt at ease. My heart was calm and content as a couple of us wandered around the town. What a blessing it is to learn a new culture and to learn a different way of life.
For the next three weeks I will be traveling around Ireland and Scotland with fellow peers, I look forward to the adventure and am praying for everyone back home!