Episode 5 - Refreshing (Re)Connections


I took a break from updating last week as Storm Ciara interrupted and canceled a good chunk of my plans, so last week was very much normal college living. Here's what you missed:

1) My Arts class attended a performance of the Uilleann Pipes (Hand Pipes) by Paddy Keenan, a famously accomplished Traveler Piper. It was unlike anything I've experienced before. I was prepared to watch a man come out and play an instrument similar to the bagpipes but was surprised when an instrument akin to a vacuum cleaner appeared on stage.

The instrument on the left works similarly to the accordion, it pulls in air through a small box that you pump and out through the pipes. Doesn't it look like a Dyson?

2) Due to the stormy weather, the Capital of Culture opening ceremony was canceled and instead the city of Galway invited the entire community cast of volunteers to a little "pity party". It was peak Galway hospitality and filled with so many thankful and wonderfully apologetic organizers who provided everyone in attendance with free food and drinks. 

The group of NUIG girls involved in the ceremony, 

all decked out in our costumes.

    Dancing, laughter, and comradery flooded the venue with all these wonderfully diverse and dedicated people I have spent each rehearsal growing in appreciation for. The cast chanted the town cry we had practiced for so long as the percussionists broke out their drums to give the performance they were limited from giving to the whole town. We danced and laughed and spoke with people of all ages and origins and interests all night long.

Two of the girls I got to know well throughout the rehearsals

 attending the celebration. Both are NUIG students from Palestine.

3 Things I am Grateful For:

1) Family.

2) People who match my energy

3) Used book stores

3 Things I am Learning:

1) Even imperfect plans can be recovered

2) Don't trust bus times...

3) Open mind and open heart is the only way to travel

Jump to this Thursday, I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Belfast to visit my mom's cousin's family: the John Murrays. While I have grown up with many of my mom's cousins on our giant yearly vacation, I was still a bit anxious. The last time I met up with them, the main topic of discussion was the existence of the tooth fairy... so it had been a while.

All of that anxiety was quickly assuaged when Veronica Murray came to pick me up from the bus station. She spotted me right away on the recognition that I look "just like my mom" and enveloped me in her kind embrace. Veronica and I met up with her son Patrick and the three of us got dinner before meeting up with John Murray.

My cousin Patrick and I at the Crown.

The next morning, Veronica was kind enough to bring me all over Belfast. We started our morning with a Black Taxi Tour- a guided history of the locations of the Irish Troubles. Veronica grew up in Belfast during the tumultuous violent time, with her father involved in its politics as he started his own political group at the time. She told me a story about her father receiving a phone call when she was about 8 years old from a man demanding money in exchange for Veronica, who they claimed to have kidnapped. Veronica's father calmly told them they had the wrong child, as his daughter was sitting right there in front of him. She learned the next day at school that they lifted the wrong child from her 3rd-grade class. Absolutely chilling stuff. It was so interesting to hear the tour guide explaining each spot with the added perspective of what Veronica experienced.

Veronica and I in front of one of the murals

The tour was incredibly interesting and presented both sides of the violence and its effect on those living there. We saw the memorials on both the Catholic and Protestant sides immortalizing all of the innocent lost during that time. The guide told us that 70% of the people living in that area want to keep the wall separating the area up, showing that distrust and fear are still present there today. More highlights from the day included the Ulster Museum, walking all around the Cathedral Quarter, and seeing Belfast Castle.

My mom's cousin John Murray and I at Belfast Castle

We ended the night with some good food, a musical (Kiss me Kate), and some Graham Norton.

On Saturday, John, Veronica and I met up with my cousin Daniel and we walked to St. George's market. That afternoon we drove to their weekend home in Rostrevor, which sits on the water on the Northern Ireland side overlooking Ireland.


Truly a beautiful spot; many of the scenes from Game of Thrones were filmed in the Belfast and Rostrevor area and for good reason. I met my cousin Nicky at their Rostrevor place and the four of us ate dinner together and went to a pub for some music. We went to mass the next day and I left for my bus back to Galway.

EXCEPT- that I spontaneously decided to head to Dublin for the day where I met up with my roommate Ella. We had talked about how neither of us had done Dublin despite being here for so long and flying in and out of the airport, so we dedicated Sunday and Monday to seeing what the city had to offer. 

We checked into a hostel and grabbed some of the best cheap Vietnamese food (Viet Pho) and ran in and out of Temple Bar in a matter of 10 minutes (so overwhelming crowded.. pretty but over hyped). 

The next day we saw Trinity College, which was incredibly impressive and beautiful. It was there that we visited the Long Room in the old library and the Book of Kells.

 The long room has the most extensive collection of beautiful books I have ever seen. It was the spot filmed for many Harry Potter scenes and lives up to all the hype it receives. From Trinity, we went to the Jameson Distillery for a tour and tasting.

It was incredibly interactive and filled with 4D experiences (smell the barley before it's milled.. feel the heat from the fermentation..). We finished our stay with a meal at the Brazen Head, Ireland's oldest pub, where Ella and I split an order of Bangers and Mash. Delicious.

Irish Phrase of the Week:

Tá scéalta le hinsint ag an Lucht Siúil = They who travel have stories to tell.

With love from Galway,