Things to do on a Rainy Day in Dublin

On Monday in Dublin, it rained all day. Whitney and I had planned to visit the Book of Kells and do a walking tour of Trinity College. We decided to scrap the walking tour, since it was outside, and find something else to do in the morning. We had passed Christ Church cathedral the day before and felt inspired to go on a guided tour. I am glad we did because the tour ended up being one of my favorite things.

view from christ church

Christ Church is 1,000 years old.

christchurch floor
Cathedral floor
christ church stained glass
Stained glass

Our tour guide was funny and informative. We learned a lot about the history of Dublin and of the church. We even got to ring the church bells!

ringing the bells

Also, Christ Church has a famous organ that was donated in the 1920s. The only problem was, it didn’t work. They took it apart and found a mummified cat and rat inside! This story was the inspiration behind the cartoon “Tom and Jerry.”

mumified cat and mouse

That afternoon, we went to see the Book of Kells and Trinity Library, both famous sites on the Trinity College campus. The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript (meaning, a text supplemented with illustrations) of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) that was created sometime around 800 AD. Pictures weren’t allowed, so I have none to show you. Several people had recommended the Book of Kells before I went on my trip. Honestly, though, it wasn’t my favorite thing that we did.

The Trinity Library had an impressive collection of books.

trinity library
Trinity College library

trinity library 2

It was still raining after our tours, so Whit and I decided to go to the Jameson Distillery for a drink at their bar. We had a great time sampling different whiskeys and shooting the breeze with the bartenders. We topped off our evening by pub-hopping near our hotel.

jameson distillery

My Dublin tip for the day:
Take a guided tour of Christ Church cathedral!



Knitting Class in Dublin, Ireland

Hi, everyone! Did you miss me? I am back to blogging after a full two weeks off. It’s been nice to have time away. I spent my spring break in Ireland with Whitney, my childhood friend.

I got to Dublin on a Saturday afternoon. Whit arrived the next morning (Easter Sunday) from Los Angeles. If it were me I would have been dead tired, but Whit was a real champ and arrived ready to see the city. She had a surprise planned for me and I had no idea what it was.

But first! We had to stop for a drink at Dublin’s oldest pub.

brazen head pub.jpg

Next up was the surprise. I had kind of thought it would be a facial or massage or something. I was wrong, though! Whitney took me to a loom knitting class where we got to make our own Merino wool scarves. (How cool is that?!)Β We took our class with Liadian Aiken.

knitting class
Knitting class
choosing yarn
Choosing our yarn colors
plotting colors
Plotting colors on a grid
Setting up the loom …
threading the loom
Starting with a sample

Things went well at first but then my yarn kept falling off the hooks. Righting it was a tedious process where our instructor had to re-hook each loop back on the loom. My yarn fell off about five or six times. 😦

knitting going well
When things went well …
knitting mistake
When things did not go well 😦 !!!

But FINALLY we finished and I am really happy with the result.

Now I have a beautiful, warm scarf that I handmade and that will remind me of Ireland and spending time with Whitney. πŸ™‚ I love it so much! I wore it all week.

Here’s a little video of some live pub music that evening:

I’ve got lots more to share about Ireland. Four upcoming posts will be about my trip.

Friday Gratitude: Erin go Bragh

Hey, Everyone! I got exciting news this week: I finally learned the date for my Peace Corps Close of Service (COS). Not only did I get my first choice of dates (there were three), but so did everyone else in my cohort. πŸ™‚ I’ve already shared the exact date with my family and friends via email. Here, I’ll just say that I’m going home in mid-July!

On Monday, I was really excited to get my date. I got the email while I was on the bus and when I got to my house, I immediately began looking for flights home. Then Monday night, I cried as I got ready for bed, thinking of leaving my friends here. Then Tuesday morning, I woke up feeling restless and bored and wanting to just leeeeeave already. Such is the roller coaster of PC emotions. :-/

Media consumption this week:

  • I read Where Men Win Glory by Jon Krakauer after two different friends recently brought it up in conversation. It tells the story of Pat Tillman, who famously left the NFL to become an Army Ranger. Though I don’t have an interest in football or war, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
  • I found a copy of Stealing Buddha’s Dinner by Bich Minh Nguyen in our Peace Corps library. It is the writer’s memoir of growing up as a Vietnamese refugee in Grand Rapids, Michigan during the 1980s. She is only a few years older than I am and though I’m from eastern Michigan (I don’t think I’ve ever been to Grand Rapids), I could relate to much of what she had to say about growing up in the state.

I wrote another article for LinkedIn about my experiences with mindfulness as a Peace Corps volunteer. If you’d like to read it, click here.

And finally, I am heading to Ireland on Saturday! My friend and I are spending 3 days in Dublin and 3 days in Galway and then returning to Dublin to fly out. We have tours booked for Trinity College, Kilmainham Gaol Prison, and the Guinness brewery. We’re playing the rest by ear. Can’t wait!

My plan is to take two weeks off from blogging and be back online Monday, April 16 with posts about my Ireland trip. I’ll be traveling next week and then the week after, I’d like to spend time making changes to the back-end of the blog.

As always, you can follow along with me on Instagram. I’ll be sure to post some photos from Ireland along the way. πŸ™‚

Image via weclipart

Chapters of Life

“When people change / They gain a peace but they lose one, too.” — Future Islands, Seasons

In coming (close to) the end of my Peace Corps service, I’ve done some reflecting on my life and I came to a kind of realization recently. I used to think of the “chapters” of my life as being centered around big, obvious changes: getting a new job, moving, beginning or ending relationships. But I have come to think that instead, my life has had overarching themes that transcend whatever changes are happening. The changes reflect the overall theme at the time, but they aren’t necessarily markers of larger shifts in perspective.

That may sound a bit confusing, so let me explain. It is easy to think of my Peace Corps service as this weird, two-year chapter of my life. But after doing some thinking, I realize that this big change I made (joining the Peace Corps and moving to Kosovo) is actually part of a larger theme, one that’s been going on for the last 7 years (all of my thirties to this point).

I spent my twenties in jobs I didn’t care about and relationships that did not make me happy. When I turned 30, I had a talk with myself and realized I needed to gain better focus and enthusiasm for life. I took the time to research and explore new career options, went to graduate school to earn a master’s degree, gained experience in my new field, and joined the Peace Corps. All of these changes have been part of an overarching theme — to become the best version of me. That sounds cheesy, but it is true.

I now have a career I love (social work) and I’ve finally reached my goal of traveling internationally. I used to be jealous of people who were able to travel, and I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way. I once heard that jealousy can be used as a tool to highlight what we don’t have but what we want for our own lives. Traveling was always hugely important to me, and I cringed at the idea of “settling down” before I had a chance to get out and explore other countries.

As my Peace Corps service winds down, I wonder if this chapter of my life is also coming to a close. I could be wrong, but I think it is. It has had its challenges, certainly, but it has also been the best and most significant chapter of my life thus far.

If I had to make predictions about the next chapter of my life (which, again, could be wrong), I think I will spend time “digging deeply in the same ditch.” That’s an expression an improv teacher of mine used to use, which means committing to a scene and pushing further with the same idea. I would like to find a job where I’ll want to stay for a good long while, and make a home of my own (I want to buy a place but I’m not sure how quickly that will happen).

Several people have asked me whether I’ll return to Chicago or Boston or stay in Michigan. I may have said this before, but just to restate: I want to create a new life somewhere I haven’t previously lived (I guess Kosovo gets crossed off that list, too. Ha!) #movingon #lookingahead #freshstart

So, these are my “deep thoughts” for now. I know my Peace Corps friends are spending time doing reflections of their own, which is, I think, a natural part of ending our service. I wanted to share my own thoughts to let everyone know you aren’t alone!

I Visited a Mosque

One thing I wanted to do while living in Kosovo was to visit a mosque. Though Kosovo is a predominately Islamic country, I live in a Catholic village and we don’t have a mosque, so I hadn’t been to one. I was a bit nervous because I didn’t know the rules for someone who 1) is a woman and 2) isn’t Muslim. I asked a local and he suggested covering my head as a sign of respect and taking care not to visit during the daily call to prayer times. Otherwise, he said visiting should be fine.

I’d seen this mosque in Pristina (pictures below) from the outside and decided that it was the one I’d visit. I covered my head with my scarf and took off my shoes (though I think that has more to do with culture and less to do with religion) before I went inside.

mosque 1.JPG
Outside view
mosque ceiling
Entrance ceiling
mosque light
mosque 2
My friend said only old mosques have corners like these and that they are probably used for prayer because the walls are thick.

It was dark inside the mosque and when I got home, I discovered most of my pictures were too dark or blurry to post. 😦

Here is a previous picture I had posted of the outside of a mosque and it is one of my favorite photos I’ve taken in Kosovo.

Friday Post

I usually title my Friday posts “Friday Gratitude” but in all honesty, I’m not feeling super grateful this week. I’ve been dealing with a safety issue at my site (nothing to do with my host family). Our Peace Corps safety and security manager came out to visit me this week. I thought about writing about the situation, but it would just be a long, ranting post and nobody wants to read that. But it has really been bumming me out. Not that there’s ever a time I welcome stress, but I had hoped the last few months of my service would be smooth sailing.

I leave for Ireland in a week and I am looking forward to a longer break from life here in Kosovo. When I get back, I’ll have roughly 12 weeks left of service. Not gonna lie — time has been dragging lately. I’ve tried to re-frame it as only 12 more weekends left to spend time with my friends here, and that does help shift the perspective a bit.

My creativity has been latent lately, too. I haven’t had the urge to crochet or write creatively much at all. Instead of getting down on myself about it, I’m just accepting it for what it is. Perhaps my vacation and a change of scenery will act as a catalyst to restart my left brain.

An exercise I like to do is to check in with the “Peace Corps Chart of Emotions” from time to time. According to the chart, which I find to be pretty accurate, this is how I should expect to feel:

new doc 27_1

Months 24-27:

  • Fright (I’ve been frightened at my site lately … does that count?)
  • Confusion (Not really …)
  • Alienation (At times, yes. I had heard that during the second year of PC service, people become busier and spend less time with their cohort. I have definitely found this to be true of myself and my friends.)
  • Anxiety (Oh, yes!)
  • Panic (Kind of an extreme emotion … I’d say no? But maybe that’ll come?)
  • Giddiness (When I think of going home, YES)
  • Impatience (When am I getting out of here?)
  • Obsession with planning and scheduling (Hahahaha, yes! [Sierra, I am looking at you, too!])

So, that’s where I’m at. How are all of you?

Media consumption this week …

  • I read Moon Called by Patricia Briggs upon the recommendation of another volunteer. I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction lately and wanted something lighter to read (this book is all about werewolves and shape shifters). It was okay but I probably won’t read more of the series.
  • I’ve started re-watchedΒ Top of the Lake, which I had watched shortly before moving to Kosovo. It’s a strange but compelling series and if you are looking for something to binge, I highly recommend it.
Snow day
It snowed again …

Thanks for listening. Have a good weekend, and I will talk to you on Monday.

Three Classroom Activities You Can Do Using Only Index Cards and Crayons

As the title of this post states, here are three classroom activities you can do using only index cards and crayons.

First up is Jeopardy! What I love about this is that it is endlessly adaptable to all different subjects and grade levels. You can swap out categories or add to them to re-use the game while keeping it fresh. (Also, my students LOVE it!)

classroom jeapordy 1

For younger kids, I’ve focused on simple topics like colors, animals, and shapes. For older kids, I’ve used topics like actions, professions, past tense, telling time, and U.S. trivia. (I’m always interested to see if students know who America’s first president was or when our Independence day is.)

classroom jeapordy 2

The only difficulty with this game is that the cards are small, so I end up circling the classroom for all the students to see the clues. This problem would be eliminated if I had an overhead projector (but I don’t).

To play Jeopardy in the classroom, I divide students into groups and then tape the cards to the chalkboard. The groups go back and forth, choosing clues until they are all gone. Then, we tally the points to see who won.

Jeopardy classroom game
Rhyme, Missing Letter, Food and Places make good topics, too!

Next up is this easy-to-make ABC challenge. I cut index cards in half and wrote out sets of the alphabet in different colors. Students formed groups and had to put the letters in order.

classroom activity alphabet

ABC classroom activity

For a further challenge, my teaching counterpart asked the students to see how many words they could make. Our students were clever enough to build on the words, crossword-puzzle style. (I wish I’d gotten a picture, but my phone died.)

Finally, here is an idea for a numbers challenge. Use index cards to write out the numbers 1-10. Divide students into different groups. Give one number to each student. Then, time each group to see who can line up in numerical order the fastest. (I let them do a practice run and then I time them.) πŸ™‚

Here are some other activities, materials, and lesson plans I have used in my classroom: