Episode 8 - There's a Pint Waiting at the Bottom


I drafted this post a while back, but so much of it came from a place of resentment. After steeping in a year's worth of a pandemic, I came back to this to finish the last few installments of what was easily the craziest timeline of my college experience thus far. So, here is a reflection on March 6th-18th 2020, a very late and long-forgotten edition. Let's go!

3 Things I'm Grateful For:

1) The stability found in those around me

2) Embracing life

3) Hospitality

3 Things I'm Learning:

1) The only snow that exists in Ireland is about 2,000 feet above ground

2) Live in gratitude for the things you have seen and spend less time mourning what you lost

3) Wish goodbye with the same tone as a thank you.

Much of my last few weeks was a tumultuous and confusing time. We know this. I am not going to entertain that narrative further than, "Wow, everything moved so quickly." But, while everyone around me was fleeing or getting pulled or trapped... Ireland was in a strange limbo of not having any cases yet and shutting down entrance into the country. While navigating the, "If I left right now I would be trapped in O'Hare with a few hundred people...", I decided to hang back until things calmed down to check a few bucket list items off (safely).

Remember when O'Hare looked like this in March 2020? That was what I was avoiding...

Friday, March 6th, I booked a trip to Kylemore Abbey, a gorgeous Benedictine monastery situated on the water that is one of those, "This place looks fake" locations.


I hopped on a bus that traveled through Connemara National Park and befriended another solo traveler on the drive. Zara was here working full-time after growing up in Russia, and we hit it off- chatting about our time spent in Ireland and taking photos of the other that we would have otherwise missed out on.


We spent the day exploring the halls of the Abbey and the gorgeous Victorian Gardens, grateful for the sunny weather that was just creeping out with the March calendar. We ooh'd at the Irish Fjords and ahh'd at the animals that Connemara provided... And sighed in relief when we no longer had to navigate the zagged roads via bus at the end of the day.

I made plans with Zara for later in the week and ran back to my house, where I was getting ready to meet up with a girl from Benet who was visiting Galway from her abroad trip in Wales.

Carli Mlsna and I grabbed some dinner and talked high school, and later swapped stories of college over pints and Irish music. Ora et Labora, folks.

Sunday, March 8th, I finally embarked on a NUIG Mountaineering Trip. This was a group that I have been pining over since first arriving, constantly attending events and hoping-PRAYING- for a clear Sunday morning to hike Connemara National Park. I woke up at 6am, packed a sack lunch, and rushed over to a bus joining the gaggle of excited students, praising the sun for rising correctly. Like all spontaneous plans of mine, this one would not go off without a hitch, as I learned fairly quickly I was in for a little more than I had bargained.

"Good Morning Skilled Mountaineers! This morning's summit is that of Mweelrea, which as we all know is the highest peak in County Mayo. Our peak is a dangerous one, which is why this summit is the culmination of all the training we have invested the past few months,"

Now, every single one of those words was news to me, especially when the only training I was participating in was the walk from my house to the closest pub for drinks and fries, but I have mastered the art of fake confidence. The girl sitting across the row from me, however, had very little control over her jaw that had fallen to the floor of the bus very early into that sentence. I befriended Lorie immediately.

Lorie was a full-time student from France who, like me, had prepared for the journey ahead of us by exploring the wonderful world of carbohydrates. She laughed at my concern over the passengers joining us ("Lorie! I didn't know I had to bring poles to this event!") and I giggled at her interpretation of hiking gear, ("I brought my Burberry scarf because it's warmer than my silk ones, but then couldn't decide on the leather jacket or the puffer." She had thankfully opted for the puffer route).

We trudged up the mountain alongside everyone else, eating up any (slightly backhanded) compliments we received from the group on our pace. We chatted with Cormac from Cork about his plan to spend the summer working in Chicago and taught Nicolas from Germany the difference between the word "elbow" and "earlobe". Melanie from Oregon told us that she summited her first mountain at 4 and Lukas from Austria told us his military training was strictly mountaineering work. We took lunch three hours into our journey, where I enjoyed my peanut butter sandwich next to Lorie's leftover sushi.

We found snow a little further up, the first I had seen in all of Ireland, and paused for a brief snowball fight. It was Marta from Spain's first experience of snow, a fact Kristin from Norway laughed off. The whole journey was beautiful. Definitely challenging and lived up to its warning in difficulty, but totally worth the work.

The descend was a harder pill to swallow. I was winded at this point, about four hours in on a vertical path downward, so the Irish guides hilariously tried to motivate us with a pub at the bottom of the summit. Descending, I most definitely lost Lorie in a pit of mud that covered her to her mid-thigh, and, in my rescue efforts, I slipped in and managed to get waist-deep into the mess. Our rescue team used those handy poles of theirs to scoop us out, bewildered by our ability to laugh off our misadventure. We arrived at the pub around five, where Lorie and I entered in our decadent mud look, among those pesky experienced hikers who had the foresight to bring an extra pair of clothes for the pub.I exchanged numbers with our new friends and promised Lorie I'd call her up if I ever find myself in Marseilles.Monday the 9th was Ella's last day in Ireland. We skipped our morning courses and woke up at 6am to Kayak with the NUIG group. They were "practicing" on the "calm waters". I would have defined it as "Olympic training" on the "speeding rapids", but there's that language barrier in Ireland...

Matilda, Alex, and I hugged Ella goodbye (with all the strength I could muster to lift my completely dead, kayak exhausted arms) and cried about the finale to "Back with the Ex" and not about Ella at all... really, we swear, we're just moved by Australian reality television...

Irish Phrase of the Week:

go raibh maith agat = Thank you