Monthly Archives: December 2011

2011 in review (by WordPress.com)

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,000 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 33 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Epilogue: Christmas at Home (Dec. 25)

I’ve been home about a week and a half now.  I have been reunited with family, friends, and Skyline Chili.  I have shared stories, pictures, and gifts.  I miss Ireland, but it is good to be back, and I cannot wait to be back in Bloomington.  I will miss my adventures in Ireland, and I will miss chronicling them as well.  I will always be happy to relay stories about my life and adventures, but this will be the last post for this blog.  I hope you have all enjoyed reading as much as I have enjoyed writing.  Thanks for accompanying me on this journey.  I hope that you all have a Merry Christmas, and you find your own adventures in the coming years.  Sáinte.

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Flying Home (Dec. 12)

It’s been several hours since I left the airport in Amsterdam, and we are now firmly in the middle of the Atlantic.  A couple movies have played, and the journey has not been too bad.  I’m sitting fairly comfortably in the aisle seat with next to an infant that seems more than happy to sleep for almost the entirety of the eight hour voyage.  Despite the relative pleasantness of the my circumstances, the way home has always made me a little restless, and I am about ready to be done with traveling, since I have been in a plane for about six of the last eight hours when I left the dark, rainy, windy tarmac of Zurich.  Somebody across the aisle lifts the plastic shield that keeps the passengers of the plane protected from the air that surrounds them.  Blue and light flood this small space, and I am reminded of one of my favorite things about flying.  No matter how cloudy, rainy, windy, dreary, or dark it appears on the ground, if you rise high enough above it, there is nothing but blue skies, puffs of cloud and sunshine to meets the eye.

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On Top (Dec. 11)

The wind is strong, the air is thin, and the cold is biting, but beneath the white shell of my coat and thick Irish wool, I am warm.  The sun is bright on one side, and a shadow keeps the snow cold on the one side.  I can see for miles, and Dave produces a compass from one of the many pockets that populate his pants so that we can point ourselves South in hopes of seeing the Matterhorn.  Nearly three thousand meters in the atmosphere, and all I see are white-tipped spines and low, wispy clouds that cover a few choice summits.  Eventually we speed down on waxed planks clamped to stiff boots, looking for occasional pockets of powder amongst the runways of ice.  Legs aching and nose stinging from the descent, we climb back into line to pack into a cable car to taxi us back to the top.  I think I like being on top about as much as I like going down.

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Surrounded (Dec. 10)

We have been traveling by train for about two hours.  We have just changed trains for the third time…and this train is going up through a blasted out tunnel.  Finally, the slow paced locomotive comes to a stop, and after struggling with the door for a moment or two, we clamber out onto the platform, and make our way to the parking lot with skis, poles, and boots on our shoulders. “Well Dennis, here are the mountains,” Dave says and points ahead to where the several towering giants raise the horizon by a couple thousand meters.  I just look on in awe and bliss for a while.  Then, I turn ninety degrees and see more peaks. Ninety degrees and more peaks.  Ninety more degrees and there, once again, snow piles upon rock that rises to meet the sky.  I am surrounded.  I laugh, smile and start moving to where we will find our beds, because it is late, the mountains are inviting, so tomorrow is going to be a full day among them.

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A Day in Zurich (Dec. 9)

After waking up late, and sharing a breakfast (lunch?) of different breads and preserves with Alexandra, I hopped on the train into Zurich to meet up with Dave.  As I made my way through the crowded station, past the Christmas market packed with stalls full potential gifts, I allowed myself to get lost in the smells of hot food and drink and the sounds of a language that I had no clue about.  Finally Dave and I meet and greet each like brothers under the towering evergreen tree that dominates the market.  Dave walks me around the city that I hadn’t seen for eight years, and the last time I saw it, it was concentrated with more flesh, fur, and piercings than I had ever seen in my life.  The evening is clear enough that while we walk along the river trading stories we can see the snow-capped mountains in the distance.

“Can we stop by a Starbucks before we go back, I need to use the Wi-Fi to see if the materials for my model are in yet?”  So we make our way to the least busy Starbucks and find a seat.  I decide on a holiday drink, and Dave settles on hot chocolate.  As Dave approaches the counter he turns around, “I’m going to order in English…that’s one of the reasons I like coming here.”

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The Plane Leaves at Five (Dec. 8)

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The plane leaves at five, which means I have to be there around three, which means I need to catch a taxi around 230.  That only gives me a few hours left in Dublin.  One last walk up to city center, and a few, slow, enjoyable laps around St. Stephens Green. Coffee at Bewley’s overlooking Grafton street, and a trip across the River Liffey to buy one of the famed Irish sweaters.  Taking a nice leisurely walk back down to Rathmines to say good-byes at the IES center and turn in keys.  “Young man, it’s been a pleasure.  Take care.”  “The pleasure has been all mine, you do the same, and keep in touch.”

“Bye Leah, tell everyone else I said bye.”  Bags go into the trunk of a taxi. “Bye Brandon, keep in touch.”  Checked in at the airport, bags have been put on moving belt that will eventually get them to my plane, and I have time to kill.  One last Guinness in the Dublin airport.  Good-bye Ireland, thanks for everything.

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Departure or Birthday Dinner (Dec. 7)

I’ve been at dinner for about fifteen or twenty minutes catching up with people I haven’t seen since the first month we were here.  “Guys, bring it in, I just found out something in the bathroom.  Closer, nobody can hear.” “Alright Eamon, what is it” “I just found out that…it’s Dennis’s birthday” Oh, here we go.  For a while I’m given a hard time for not telling those that I haven’t seen in months that it is my birthday, but soon conversation moves away from it…well until dessert anyway, then…HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU…

Departure speeches are given, jokes are made, prizes are given for the photo contest, dinner wraps up, hugs and goodbyes are said, and before we leave for my real birthday celebration, all the administrators collectively turn their head as a shot glass topped by a blue flickering flame is brought my way with both of my roommates in tow. Sláinte.

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Packing (Dec. 6)

It’s not easy to do this, not just because leaving is bittersweet, but because I need to keep a few days worth of clothes handy because I’m not leaving until Thursday, and then I’m going to be in Switzerland for a few days.  So, I guess all there is to do is throw all the things that I know I won’t need for the next few days into a suitcase or backpack.  Work out clothes (check), most t-shirts and jeans (check), throw a jacket, a couple shirts and a pair of khakis into a donation pile and a couple pairs of tattered jeans into a trash pile (check).  Gifts, souvenirs, papers and books find their way to a suitcase, and soon the room is sparse and that makes departure seem imminent, but leaves tomorrow for departure and birthday celebrations!

 

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Everything is In (Dec. 5)

Everything is in now.  I have taken an exam and turned in a paper for the class that usually stands alone on this day; I have given my guidance to the U.S. Secretary of State; I have pounded out a much shorter paper that was much more frustrating;  I have flipped through and dogged eared a play, while I clicked, rewound, and rewatched a movie all the time focusing on the unheard minority, and finally, I have created, written (and rewritten), edited, printed out and handed over three works of fiction.  It’s all turned in now, which means we are all leaving soon.  So many of us gathered in the apartment downstairs to celebrate a birthday, lament the ever-approaching departure, and speak excitedly of home.

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