Easter Break

FOREWARNING: Super long post as it was probably the most exciting two weeks of my life ever, thus far.

Over the past two weeks, I have been on holiday from school as a sort of Easter and spring break. It worked out well to have this in the middle of my teaching as a refresher and time to travel to countries I won’t be hitting after I finish up in Ireland. I had many new experiences and many items checked off the bucket list! Let me give a brief recap of the places I visited/things I did. Also, I literally put up over 600 photos on facebook in the past couple days with complete captions, so that will help tell the story, too. GO LOOK AT THEM!

Teaching during that last week before break was fine. I actually had the opportunity to go to Dublin on Monday for a field trip with the 4th Class boys to see the exhibit of Tutankhamen. It was there and back in one day (the trip is 3.5 hours), so it was a long day but wonderfully worth it because I got to experience the age of students here that I had for student teaching back in the states and I got to see the exhibit! Having Monday off helped the remainder of the week to fly by AND they took a half day on Friday…not exactly sure why, but I’m not complaining. 🙂 So the students arrived at ten to 9 and left at 12.


Racheal and I originally planned on going up to Scotland for a few days at the start of Easter break and when we first looked, tickets were super cheap. Unfortunately though, when we went to book them, they had literally over tripled in price and neither of us could afford it for only a few days trip. But as fate would have it, a teacher recommended this little town on the west coast of Ireland (near Galway) called Lahinch. She said it was neat, one of the best places to surf in the world, and wouldn’t be too far of a bus trip for us (and a lot cheaper!). So we went. And it was INCREDIBLE. Lahinch was a tiny town with literally only one main road and only one hostel (there are hotels, too, but the hostels are where youth tend to stay and they’re a lot cheaper). We went Saturday and stayed through Tuesday, so we got to know the people who worked there and several other groups of people, including some from Ukraine and France.  It was a musical weekend as well, which was probably one of my favorite aspects. Many of the people we were with could play guitar, so there were “jam sessions” every night in the kitchen, we went to the pubs together, then came back, drank tea, and played guitar/sang as a huge group. They know so many old-school American classics too…I was actually slightly embarrassed when these other people from all over the world knew ones that I didn’t! ahah.

What else? Well also in Lahinch, we took surfing lessons! Wahoo! I actually surprised myself and was quite good…got up on my first try and rode it in. However, I think it may have been beginner’s luck as it was much harder after that. But it was SO much fun and a feeling that you can’t beat…I actually went again on my own on Tuesday before we left. You just rent the wetsuit for the day or however long you want to use it, and then the guy at the hostel let me borrow a board they had. Let me tell you though…the boards they give you during your surf lesson is light and buoyant and made of something like foam. So when I started using this longboard the next time, it was muchhhh more difficult. I definitely wiped out pretty badly several times and the waves are so big that during one of them, I was caught in the ripcurl part and had no idea which way was up and the board hit me in my head. Quite scary until I finally came up to the surface and had all the wind knocked out of me. ahha

We also traveled to the Burren with my friend, Lauren, and her family (I was with Racheal, my roommate, in Lahinch).  Her parents had come to visit her and they rented a car, which was quite frightening as her dad does not typically drive a manual…or drive on the right side of the car…or drive on the left side of the road…or drive up mountains…or drive on roads with a size actually for one car as it goes around the sharpest angles you’ve ever seen. I seriously was in the middle of the back seat gripping everything I could for dear life and my heart was pounding the entire time. haha. But anyways, the Burren is a huge area which is just made up of rocks with cracks down into the Earth. It was formed from glaciers thousands of years ago and there’s a famous tomb there that we took pictures of, though I cannot remember what it was called exactly (see facebook…sorry, it just takes SO long to upload on here).  On the way back from the Burren, Lauren’s parents dropped Racheal and I off at the Cliffs of Moher. Literally just dropped us off on the road, and we were going to find a way home later ( don’t worry…we asked them to do this since they had already seen the cliffs the day prior). So as we were walking up, this security guard approached us and demanded that we go pay or whatever. It’s a touristy area and to enter the actual cliff area, you have to pay like 4 euro. He thought we were trying to evade the price by just getting dropped off since most people pay when they park. They apparently had been radio’ing about us (security guards from other areas) and he tracked us down. haha.

So we saw the cliffs, which were STUNNING of course. I think people about had a heart attack when RAcheal at one point just walked over and sat over the edge. And then later, I crawled out to the edge and laid over it partially to take a picture. There literally is nothing to stop you from falling off the side. You just have to use your own judgment as to how close you want to get (or depending on who you are…lack of judgment). Racheal had hurt her foot earlier in the day, though, when we were climbing up the chimney and walls of this ancient cottage in the Burren, so I explored the rest of the cliffs on my own. You can walk along the path, which gets dangerously close to the edge at times, and head out to the end. There are about 4 or 5 large cliffs that stick out and as you get further and further, there are fewer people. So of course, I wandered to the second to last one and just enjoyed the moment. I definitely attempted to take many self-timer shots, too. ahah. I will admit that I was scared from time to time since heights tend to freak me out if I get too close. And there were lots of bees! I kept thinking to myself, “If I die out here from a beesting or I fall off the cliff, no one will ever know!” But clearly, I was fine. hahaah

Now…to get home from the Cliffs back to Lahinch. It was only a few miles, so we decided to start walking….WARNING: PARENTS MAY NOT WANT TO READ THE NEXT PART….and decided to hitch hike. I felt silly at first, but then it was actually really fun to see who might pick us up. After about 20 minutes or so of us casually strolling down the road in super rural Ireland with farmland, hills, and cows/sheep everywhere, a huge van pulls over on the road in front of us and a lovely woman hops out, waves her arm toward us and yells in an Australian accent, “C’mon girls…hop in!” We ran toward the van and discovered it was an Australian family who had come to visit their son over a holiday because he was spending the year working in Dublin. We climbed all the way to the back seat and struck up conversation with the son as they drove us back to Lahinch. We hopped out, said thanks a million times, and they were on their way! (Racheal snuck a creepy picture of the van to capture the moment haah) We were perfectly safe and it was quite exhilarating. Oh, and believe you me, we wouldn’t have even tried if we had not been told by the guys at the hostel that people generally do it quite often in that area and it’s pretty safe.

So that was part one of our trip. Tuesday night, we caught the bus back to Cork, I packed and laid out some plans for the rest, and then headed to the airport Wednesday morning to catch a flight to London!


I actually was traveling to London by myself, in hopes of running into another group of IU teachers that would be staying at the same hostel, but made plans for myself if not. So I arrived there, figured out the train to Victoria station, figured out the underground/tube system, and found my hostel all by myself. I was quite proud, especially since I have ZERO navigational sense. After I checked in, however, I realized how large of a hostel it was. I knew I was staying a 15-bed mixed dorm (meaning guys and girls are mixed), but I did NOT realize the beds were three high! They were like little cubby holes with curtains and of course, I ended up with the bed on the very very top. It was funny to try and stand on the ladder while making the bed with my backpack on. Later the second night, I actually fell from the ladder because I couldn’t reach the ground even when hanging from a low rung, so it was quite an entertaining scene, I’m sure. But anyways, that Wednesday night, I decided to go exploring so I saw the British Museum which was really neat, but absolutely huge! After awhile, I was more admiring things rather than reading everything. Then I wandered around the city, stopping here and there, and then grabbed dinner and ate it in one of the parks since it was a beautiful evening. On the way home, I actually got quite lost and did not make it home until after dark, which was kind of scary since it was a quiet part of the city. I wanted to avoid looking like a lost tourist, so I looked at maps at the bus stops instead of standing on the street randomly with a huge map in my hands. ahah.

That night back at the hostel, I ran into the other three who are also student teaching in Ireland and we made plans for the next day. We headed to the Tower of London first thing, which was a good idea because there were not any crowds. (Saw St. Paul’s Cathedral on the way, too.) So we got to see the Crown Jewels, which were unreal. I cannot even fathom them being real though…I feel like i need to pick them up and feel the weight because all of the pieces are so decked out that they nearly are gaudy. The history of things at the tower were neat, though, especially since I’m somewhat familiar with English history just from reading books in that era and family history things (thanks, Zachary…all of those conversations we’ve had helped me out! :))

At that point, the other three had this river cruise booked, so I went off on my own again…saw the Tower Bridge/walked across it, saw the recreation of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (I didn’t go in because it was so expensive…just pictures haha), and wandered to the Tate Modern. It was definitely my favorite museum of the entire trip, although some of the pieces were perhaps so modern that I couldn’t even really understand how they are art? For example, one “piece” was a mirror. Legitimately just a mirror, hanging on the wall, with a little description next to it about art being the viewer and transcendence of this or that and blah blah. I didn’t understand it (though I guess I can, but still…really?), so I just took a picture. ha.

We had dinner plans at 6 because we had gotten half-price tickets to see “Phantom of the Opera” at Her Majesty’s Theatre later that evening (I know, Mom…sorry I couldn’t tape it for you. You would have LOVED it. Unreal.), but I thought I had just enough time to catch a couple undergrounds over to Westminster. I made it, saw the bridge, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey (which was actually closed in preparation for the royal wedding a week later…too bad I couldn’t have been coming for my wedding rehearsal to become the Duchess of Cambridge, eh?). This would be the point where I made a silly mistake. I planned originally to head back to the Westminster tube station to then get to the area where we were going to eat dinner. But then I saw a sign for Victoria station and thought to myself, “Oh, then that must be nearer so I’ll go there instead.” WRONG. The station was literally at least another mile or more down the road and I didn’t even make it to the station until just about 6pm. I then proceeded to be THAT person…Holding my purse and running through the underground stations and up the left side of the escalators, all while in a dress (casual, but still). I had one transfer and then made it to dinner in about fifteen minutes. It all worked out, but I literally felt like I was in a movie. haha. Dinner was fabulous with a glass of wine and the show was even better. We were exhausted, so we crashed for the night.

Friday, two of the other people went with me to see the National Gallery Museum where there was also some sort of event going on for Good Friday outside. We went to that big toy store (can’t remember what it was called) with literally at least 7 floors. The main stairwell was recreated into scenes from Chronicles of Narnia, too, which was so neat. I felt like a child again wandering through it and looking at games from my childhood and whatnot. Also, there was a 50th anniversary Ken doll in his original outfit of short little red bathing trunks and a blazer uniform outfit. He was snazzy. Right next to him, they were selling a Barbie and Ken wedding set (I”m assuming for the royal wedding), where Ken magically developed Justin Bieber-like hair….really? haha. We saw Buckingham Palace a bit later as well…kinda neat then when I was watching the wedding and saw exactly where I was 7 days prior! 🙂

We explored Harrod’s, which was this massive department store with the most incredible food courts I’ve ever seen. And you could buy just one of anything, so I literally got like three different pieces of sushi, then a mediterranean thing, some cous cous and other stuff. I had like nine small items, which all together made a strange, but delicious lunch….which we ate in Hyde Park as it was yet another beautiful day. (I have been so lucky with the weather here. People keep asking if we brought the good weather with us because it’s hardly rained here in Ireland either…knock on wood. :)) We met up with Lauren, one of the other girls and then headed back to Harrods for a few bottles of wine, which we also enjoyed in the park…along with some gelato. haha. It was a much needed, more relaxing day after the insanely busy one of sightseeing the day prior. Oh, and about Harrod’s though…I saw and looked at this crocodile jacket in the Gucci area…the only one of its kind jsut hanging out…looked at the price tag…31,200.75 euros. That’s like $50,000 probably. I figured I probably shouldn’t touch it anymore. hahah

That night, Lauren and I had absolutely nothing to do until our Eurostar chunnel train that goes under the English Channel left at nearly 7am. We hadn’t booked a hostel either in order to save money since we’d have to leave…so we basically wandered around.  We were in a completely Arab neighborhood with Lebanese restaurants and hookah bars up and down the streets. We were just two young, white girls…tourists…with all our stuff. It was a bit unnerving, though still exciting. In the spirit of having new experiences, we ended up eating a late dinner at one of the Lebanese restaurants where you just sit out on the street and I smoked hookah for my first time. We got some straaange looks from everyone around us, but we had a great time. We then caught the last underground train to our train station….where we proceeded to try and “sleep” the rest of the night until our chunnel left. Needless to say, there was little sleeping done. It was a nicer station since it’s where the international train leaves from, so I slept leaning against the wall in this little cafe, then tried to sleep on these cold metal benches holding my backpack….nothing was too great. But hey, I guess I now have a better understanding of what it might feel like to be homeless, so it was a good experience. 🙂

On the chunnel, we obviously passed out hardcore, but I noticed that every so often when I would awaken, we weren’t moving or weren’t moving very fast. Turns out that our train broke down. haha. We got to the Paris Gare du Nord station over an hour late, so the entire station was mass chaos. Lauren and I were both still groggy and with neither of us knowing French, it was quite an adventure trying to figure out what bus we needed.


So I feel the need to preface this for my parents, family, etc…I am ALWAYS being safe and calculating the risks before I do anything…you know I am a smart girl and have a good gut instinct. That being said, Lauren and I did not have anywhere to stay in Paris on that Saturday night until just about 48 hours prior. We were looking to “couch surf”, which is this whole website thing…go look it up if you’re interested to find out more. It’s actually really neat and I am SO happy we did it, even though I at first thought it might be a bit sketchy. But anyways, so back to catching the bus in Paris…we were headed to this guy’s place who had offered to host us last minute through the couch surfing site. He was also hosting several other people that night, so it would be a bit crowded but we were ecstatic for a few reasons: 1. All the hostels were booked already since it was Easter weekend. 2. You get to stay for free. 3. We had absolutely no plans or ideas about what to do while we were there and with couch surfing, you can hang out with them or at least ask ideas and hints about what to do/see.

So we arrive at this guy’s apartment and he tells us about this couch surfing community picnic happening at the Eiffel Tower. Obviously we were down, so we stopped on the way there for a bottle of wine (literally like 3 or 4 euros for decent wine…crazy) and a piece of quiche lorraine from a little corner cafe, which was to die for.  We then spent most of the rest of the day (until it began raining and we all moved inside) hanging out with the neatest people from all over the world with the opportunity to practice my french, spanish, and english and just learning all sorts of interesting things. If I ever even achieve being half as cool as some of the people I met, my life would be complete. haha. Also, to Papa, I DID have a glass of chardonnay next to the Eiffel Tower…just for you. In fact, I may have had the whole bottle. 🙂

The next day we got a bit of a late start, but Lauren and I realized we had to book it if we wanted to make it to see anything! (Our flight back to Dublin was late that night) Unfortunately, we had our backpacks still and didn’t want to carry them all around the city, so we had to lock those up at the train station and then back track to start sightseeing, which wasted some time. However, we still made it to see St. Michel, Notre Dame (beautiful…kept making me think of the Disney movie, too haha), the Louvre (we actually got in for free!!!! We were waiting in line and must have been in the right place at the right time because this woman comes up and asks if we wanted her two tickets…we were like, uhhh are they good? And sure enough, we were able to cut the rest of the line and go in a side entrance to walk straight in! Got to see the Mona Lisa of couurse and a bunch of other famous things that I can’t remember…it was pretty packed and we were nearly museum’ed out haha)

After the Louvre, we grabbed some food at this cafe just down the road which, typical Paris, was fantastic. Then we wandered through some gardens, saw some beautiful sites, walked down Champs de Elysee which is like the major shopping street and saw the Arc de Triomphe. As we walked down a side road to head back to the Eiffel Tower, it must have been the high fashion shopping area because there was literally like a Fendi, Dior, and Valentino store all in a row. Oh! And how could I forget? In the garden/parks, we got crepes with Nutella and bananas from a little place. They were probably the highlight of my trip. hahaha. But seriously, so fantastic and we ate them on this little bench, while this couple on the bench nearby snuggled and kissed. It felt like the perfect Parisian moment on a sunny day.

We very nearly missed our flight later that night, too, because we did not realize the train took so long to reach the Charles de Gaulle airport….so AGAIN, I felt like I was on a movie and was practically sprinting through the airport and on moving sidewalks that were more like mini-roller coasters. 🙂 Then back to Dublin, where we were staying at Lauren’s place (she lives with a delightful gay couple, one of whom is a teacher at her school). I took a muuuuuch needed shower and passed out.


Bright and early the next morning though, we were up and at ’em again. We made french toast for breakfast, then headed to the Guinness Factory to do some of the touristy things of Dublin. In the factory, there is this photo contest going on so we made fools of ourselves as I took a picture with my pint trying to hold a scorpion (cheerleading move) next to the sign. Outside on the sidewalk (or “footpath” as they call it here in Ireland), we used self timer to take pictures of us doing handstands beneath the signs. We’re going to submit them to the contest and obviously win the 1000 euro top prize….ahha. Not.

Let’s see…I saw some other sights in Dublin…St. Stephen’s Green (large park), Grafton Street (shopping area), Trinity College (where we proceeded to do IU symbols in front of one of the buildings), Temple Bar, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. All of which were beautiful, but to be honest, I love Cork City much much more! 🙂 We got some pub grub for dinner, complete with my first Irish coffee since arriving, and then wandered around until we found a pub with some live music. We must have wandered to the right place because this couple was fabulous. Check out my facebook for a brief video of them playing and the girl singing…she had an awesome, throaty voice.


Wow, these adventures just keep going, don’t they? Sorry it’s so long…i guess this is kind of a journal for myself as well, so I’m just writing through stream of consciousness here and hoping you can all follow my ramblings. 🙂

There’s only one bus that goes to Glendalough each day and one bus that returns to Dublin. Let me clarify…Glendalough is a tiny town within County Wicklow and is where the Wicklow National Park is with all of the mountains and whatnot. Later in the night, we were going to somehow get to the actual TOWN of Wicklow, which is still within its own county on the east coast actually situated on the Irish Sea. So we took the one bus into Glendalough and had all our stuff in our backpacks with us.

The woman at the information desk where we asked for a map of the national park advised us to do this easy, one hour hike just around the two lakes. I nodded and smiled like yeah thank you, but in my head (and Lauren was in agreement), I didn’t want to do the “easy” one! So we got our bearings, read through the map and different trails, and chose the hardest one…entitled Steep Hill with a little danger symbol next to it about cliff edges and needing navigational experience, blah blah. I was a little bit concerned, but we had a compass, tennis shoes on, water, and two footlong Subway sandwiches (first American food I’ve had here yet!) to eat along the way as we felt hungry. Turns out we went the wrong way on this trail and we ended up hiking up these huge rocks next to a waterfall and slowly meandered our way up the mountain. It took foreeeever and was really hard especially with our backpacks, but it was incredible to look behind you after hiking a bit and look at the view…it got better and better each time. When we reached a good stopping point a couple hours in, we sat on this giant rock and ate our sandwiches. We were so far up, though, that the wind was insane and cold so we moved on pretty quickly. Once we got to the cliff edge area, there were these ancient wooden log-type things laid out to guide your path, which was helpful. We also did brief video checkpoints along the way (though we never did one at the very very top unfortunately), and it’s funny to watch how our attitude and enthusiasm fades as they go on. It was definitely a wonderful hike and incredibly beautiful, but by the end of it over four hours later, my legs were shaking and like jello…I was ready to take a break. haah

However….we actually had no idea at this point how we were going to reach the actual town of Wicklow from Glendalough. We knew it was just over a 30 minutes drive and there was a cab we might be able to call, but it was 40 euros and we didn’t want to take it unless we had to. PARENTAL WARNING AGAIN. Yes, we hitch hiked again. We had to do it twice because the first guy could only take us down the road a bit to Laragh, a tiny tiny little corner stop basically with one pub, one shop, and a hotel which is actually connected to the pub. We stood there for awhile, tried to make a sign but then realized it was actually more confusing for people, and then waited…hopeful.

To be honest, the van that stopped to pick us up was the sketchiest thing you could have asked for (oh, I wish I had a picture!). It waas kinda like those “Free candy!” vans, but instead it was like a water pump and well drilling type company truck. So we had to share the front seat with this middle-aged man, who of course I noticed didn’t have a wedding ring on as he pushed tools and random things off the seat apologizing for the mess (though he looked perfectly normal and nice). Lauren and I were kinda like, ehhhhh is this a good idea, but then chose to go for it. Along the way, I was chattering up a storm and trying to make conversation to cover up my nervousness (typical). He at first said he was just going to Arklow on his way home from work and couldn’t take us all the way to Wicklow. But then he turns down an even more rural side road than we were already on, curving up a mountainside/forests, and mentions that it’s a backroad to Wicklow. He was literally driving SO fast and I was freaked out and all I could think about was how he was going to use his tools to kill us and then either throw us off the side of a mountain or put them in his van. I was totally thinking “Dexter”, the TV show. hahaha. Anyways, his phone rings and it’s his wife (assuming he didn’t wear his ring because of the type of work he does), and he tells her what he’s doing, when he’s home, etc…instantly I felt better knowing someone was expecting him. And then we discovered he had three young children and it was great. Haha. He actually ended up taking us all the way to Wicklow, where he dropped us off on the main road (another tiny town) and we were able to wander around for a bit to find our hostel.

Wicklow was wonderful…small coastal town with a few good pubs, local shops, nice people, and a beautiful view. We didn’t do anything too particularly noteworthy while there besides hanging out with people at the hostel, playing cards and teaching the Irish some American card games (Egyptian Ratscrew or Kemps, anyone??), wandering around the coast and seeing an old lighthouse, a ruined Black Castle, getting groceries and making a full breakfast at the hostel, hanging out in a tiny cafe and drinking amazing cappuccinos and homemade apple pie with freshly whipped cream while playing Rummy for awhile, exploring the shops, etc. It was a wonderful end to a hectic, go go go few weeks of traveling. Then we caught a train back to Dublin that evening, hung out with Lauren’s hosts for a bit, drank some wine and recorded funny events of the break, and passed out.

The end of it all

Thursday I spent some time in the city centre area of Dublin and then caught the long bus back to Cork. I caught up with Regina (my host), told her all the stories of the trip, and pretty much had a relaxing weekend from then on. I wrote a paper on the service learning project I had to do at a family centre/preschool (one of the IU class requirements), wrote a scholarship essay about my experience abroad, explored Cork a bit more on Saturday and discovered many festivals and little things happening so I just soaked it all in, uploaded a zillion photos, went for a jog, caught up with friends from home via skype and facebook, and booked pretty much my bank account’s worth of travel for after I finish teaching. It was insane to try and find some of the connections I needed (for a cheap price, that is). I spent hours and hours researching, but it’s mostly all booked now! There’s just a few trains I need to figure out, which is a relief.

I head back to school on Wednesday, so tomorrow I’m going to try and start my last field assignment I have to do for IU. They take quite a long time to complete and since I have ZERO motivation to do schoolwork while I’m here, they take me twice as long…at least.

It’s been a bit crazy though, as I see people getting teaching jobs or applying for them right now. It isn’t even in the front of my mind since I know I’ll be in Spain for the next school year. However, it does definitely worry me that I won’t remember everything teaching knowledge-wise, be able to get the same references, or have the same interview skills/tips in my head when I begin applying next year. Perhaps I’ll just continue pushing off the real world as long as I can…stay overseas and keep teaching (if I enjoy it…hopefully)? Get a masters? Get another masters? Become a professional student? Probably. 🙂

That’s all. Like I said, please please see facebook photos and let me know what you think! 🙂 I’ve also put up/been tagged in a couple videos, some from the hike and others from music in pubs and hostels. For those of you that aren’t friends with me on facebook, email me at ccwoodward1989@gmail.com and I can send you some pictures perhaps! My internet is often quite screwy here at the house, but it doesn’t take as long to attach.

I’m pretty much exactly halfway through my time overseas and I could not be more excited about how it is going. For those of you that i haven’t had a chance to speak to in awhile, email me and let me know a good time to get on skype. I can’t skype after 5pm your time because of the time difference and when the others go to bed. So we might need to plan a time! 🙂

Love and miss everyone!

Recap & Upcoming Events

Since I’m awful at keeping up on my blogging, I’d like to give you a few highlights of my last two weeks. Note–These are not in chronological order of occurrence…it’s more like the order in which my mind remembers things out of the blue.

— Irish dancing class [also met many German secondary school girls who are exchange students…they thought I, too, was in secondary school (middle/high school)…awesome]. They have soft shoes and hard shoes, which are basically like tap shoes. Apparently I’m a natural. haha…all those years of dance put me in a good position!

— Observed an Under-15’s soccer match between two local clubs and began talking to the Irish around me to learn all about it. I literally just started talking to them while I was standing in the park on my way home from the dance class, and they were incredibly friendly and welcoming. It’s amazing how people are around this area.

— Weekend in Galway, which included making friends from Canada, Germany, and New Zealand

— A visit to the Aran Islands where we rented bikes

— Field trip to Dublin with the 4th class boys to see the Tutankhamun exhibit (first experience at Supermac’s on the way home…their McDonald’s equivalent)

— More fantastic meals by Regina, including a traditional Irish stew one night, but then homemade vegetarian pizza another night piled with deliciousness (I now will eat anything, I think…including mushrooms, cucumbers, and tomatoes, all of which I did not like coming over)

— Almost getting blown away like Mary Poppins on the way to school yesterday morning…literally had to hold on to the umbrella at the top and bottom and hold it nearly horizontal)

— Getting my own Irish mobile number! It’s awesome to have someone ask for your number now and not have to be like, “Uhh….email? Facebook?”

— Completing my service learning project at the family centre/preschool. It was wonderful and hope to volunteer there a few more times before I leave so I can see the kids again!

— Successfully using “class” in a texting conversation. Class is like “awesome” in the states. I also am successful at telling the time (half nine), calling the older boys “lads”, adding “like” to the end of sentences (very much part of the Cork dialect…they’ll say things such as, “He just kept carrying on like.” I used to want to respond with, “like? Like what??!!”), attempting to use “craic” (it was good craic last weekend), and saying “How are you getting on?” rather than “How are you?”.  One last note on this: their English is more proper than ours, or should I say, more accurate. So my old-fashioned wording that sounds awkward in the states sometimes perfectly fits in here. Example–at the supermarket today (not “grocery store”), I inquired of an employee, “Where might I find the hummus?”

— Wrecking my bike on the Aran Islands as I tried to take a moving photograph and ended up hitting the front brakes instead of back. I also pricked my behind and hand with some nettles, so they proceeded to sting and become irritated allll day.

— Making best friends with a dog on the shores of the island and playing fetch for awhile.

— Getting my produce and yogurt for the week’s lunches at the “Vegetable Man” down the street. It’s basically a little corner shop and he brings in everything from nearby in Ireland, so it’s all fresh and organic and amaazing. I’m becoming spoiled with good produce.

— Going on a couple runs longer than I have done before. The air here must have an effect on that. haha

— Hanging out with a couple Irish people around my age several times. I feel so knowledgeable now. Also, I made friends with a couple Italians that I’ve seen out a few times now and they are helping me with my spanish…a little strange, haah.

— Playing Connect 4 and Jenga (or “Tension Tower” as it was called) in the pubs.

— Learning about the soccer teams from England, Manchester United and Chelsea, and watching them in the pub.

— Left my umbrella hanging on a hook in the pub last night…hoping it doesn’t rain on the way to school/home tomorrow (we have a half day and finish at 12 and then it’s the two week Easter break, which is actually two weeks and two more school days!)

— Making English friends (whom I called British and was laughed at)…one girl actually heads up a dance studio over there.

— Doing a fantastic job at procrastinating on my schoolwork for IU….which I actually need to be doing now, so I’ll move on to the upcoming events on the horizon.

Coming up soon:

— Surfing lessons!!!! Scotland became too expensive to visit over Easter Break because we did not book flights when they were super cheap (dumb move), so Racheal and I are going to Lahinch on the west coast of Ireland, and it’s apparently known for surfing. There is a place that does classes, so we’re all signed up to do it on Sunday! Hopefully I don’t die.

— All of the Lahinch visit (it’s a small town), and we also plan on going to the Cliffs of Moher which is only like 6 km away from the town…if the weather is nice, we’ll probably just walk from the town.

— Midleton Farmer’s Market…this is about a 30 minute drive east of Cork and Regina usually goes about once a  month, so Racheal and I are going to join her this Saturday. I’m really excited because I love the farmer’s market in Bloomington, but this one is apparently incredible.

— London. After I return to Cork from Lahinch on Tuesday, I’m flying to London Wednesday morning and meeting up with a few other student teachers that are spread across Ireland. We’ll explore London for a few days and hopefully spot the soon-to-be royal couple?? The wedding is happening while we’re there, which is crazy.

— Paris. Lauren and I will taking the chunnel to Paris early early Saturday morning (so basically we’re going to sleep in the station the night before to save money haha). Explore Paris Saturday and Sunday…hopefully find somewhere to stay Saturday night, perhaps through Couchsurfing and fly back to Dublin late Sunday night.

— Dublin. Since Lauren is student teaching in Dublin, I’m gonna stay there a few days when we return from Paris and explore the city. Even though I went for the field trip on Monday with the 4th class for the Tutankhamun exhibit, I really didn’t get to see too much.

— County Wicklow/Glendalough. Hopefully while I’m in Dublin, we’ll take a day trip/overnight trip(?) south to County Wicklow. There is a national park here, which is where P.S. I Love You was filmed, so obviously I’m ecstatic. There are plenty of hiking opportunities and mountainous ranges.

— Maybe another Irish dancing class?? They are every Thursday night, and I’m hoping I can go a couple more times before I leave.

— SCHOOLWORK. I kind of forgot how to do actual schoolwork, what with the student teaching being so different and all. When I return to Cork for the last 5 days or so of my Easter break, I plan on whipping out some of the work that would be coming up.

— Making a plan to stay here forever. (Now, don’t get me wrong to all of my family and friends–I love you and miss you, but I have never been happier for such a long, consecutive period of time than I have been here. I am hardly stressed at all which, as many of you know and would agree, is completely rare for me! The motto here is basically: “Work to live, don’t live to work” and I wholeheartedly agree, even if I am still too much of an overachiever here, too.

I’d say that about covers everything. I don’t have time right now to put up pictures on the blog, so if you want to see them, please look on facebook! For those of you that I haven’t spoken to in awhile, either add me on skype (courtney.c.woodward) or email me at ccwoodward1989@gmail.com. I check my email everyday, although it will be less over break since I’ll be traveling.

Oh, and HAPPY LITTLE 5!!!!! Good luck to my Theta riders. 🙂

Quote of the week: “Happiness is not the absence of problems, but the ability to deal with them.”

Gougane Barra–Untouched beauty

This past week/weekend, we took it a little easy in order to get some schoolwork done and catch up on sleep. On Saturday, our host, Regina, took us to Gougane Barra to go hiking, which is an area in West Cork. It was about an hour drive, but as always, it was lovely scenery (and I didn’t get motion sickness, which is always a plus haha). St. Finbarr’s Church is also in this area, and we were able to enter this tiny, one-room church with candles always glowing and a calm silence. Here are a few pictures:

St. Finbarr's Church from afar. It was right next to the mountains, lake, and a gated entrance with a cemetery area nearby.

One section of the cemetery near the church. There was also information about bishop visits or something, but I'm pretty sure I'm completely wrong on all that.

Afterward, we began hiking through literally the most surreal area. I would venture a guess that this has been my favorite place thus far, though of course, I love different things about different areas.  As for peace and beauty, however, Gougane Barra had it in excess.  It was quite a workout trying to climb some of these steep hills though! I kept having to grab into the mossy ground for a grip until we found the path. We even had to stretch from rock to rock to cross through the top of one of the many waterfalls. I tried to take several pictures, but was awkwardly posed in many of them. Please bear with my awkward picture-taking abilities.

View from the area near the church still

The area we were hiking within the forest

At one of the lookouts of Gougane Barra. From left to right is Racheal (another IU teacher), Meghan (from Penn State), Regina (our Irish host), and myself. We all are roommates together!

Trying to capture a picture of myself with the loveliness behind me!

There were sheep just randomly roaming throughout the mountainous regions. Of course I followed most of them and was obsessed.

Waterfalls were everywhere.

On the way to Kenmare in County Kerry for lunch, we drove over the Healy Pass. This is one picture from when we stopped the car on the side of the road. It was stunning, even though it was rainy.

We stopped at a little restaurant in Kenmare (on the west coast in County Kerry) for lunch with Regina. I am still trying to be adventurous with my eating here and got an open-faced local crab sandwich. It was positively delicious. 🙂 By the end of this trip, I'm pretty sure I'll eat nearly anything. Not the picky eater I was as a child!

As you can see in the pictures, we also went to Kenmare for lunch and wandered around the small village-like town for a bit. Unfortunately, I did not take any other pictures there besides of my food. haha. But again, I put other pictures on facebook, as well as some of my classroom/school in Cork!  I have yet to get any of my actual students, however, and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to because of privacy acts and whatnot. Apologies.

My favorite part of this trip so far are the friends I’ve made from all over the world, and it’s only been three weeks! Here are some of the countries: Irish (all over), England, Wales, Belgium, Australian, Lithuanian, different parts of the United States, and Canada. By the end of this trip and my travels, I’ll definitely be able to add more to the list, but it is so exciting and interesting to hear the different accents and hear about their lives. 🙂


My quote of the week: We often forget, do what you want. You are living your life for yourself, not anyone else. #CTL

Big News

Hello! So I’ve already been horrible about updating as it’s been a week and a half since my last post.  I’ve become quite busy at school, am soaking up the city, and traveled again this past weekend to nearby Kinsale and Blarney.  Our seemingly endless work for IU has officially begun, too, so I am either heading to the public library this week or finding a coffeeshop with free wifi because, as many of my friends know, I can never focus at home. I find a million other things to do.

My time at Togher has been become suddenly laden with responsibilities as I began subbing around for other teachers as necessary. The first class teacher in particular was out on Friday and then left suddenly Monday morning after becoming ill.  She could not make it back, so I’ve had her class three days in a row now.  I almost feel like I’m student teaching again! However, it’s hard to completely follow her plans for a few reasons:

1) I clearly can’t teach the Irish curriculum. The boys laugh at me when I try to tell them to put their belongings in their “mála scoile” (schoolbag), get in the “lina”, go to the “halla” (their gym-type place), and count “A haon, a dó, a trí” (1,2,3). So I didn’t bother with Irish.

2) They have Social, Environmental, and Science Education (SESE) curriculum that teaches social sciences, history, science and environment things, and how to be a good citizen of Ireland. One lesson in particular dealt with the comparison of clothing then and now…I thought I was capable of this, but I kept calling everything by the wrong names. Their sweatshirt things that they wear on Tuesday/Thursday for PE are called “jumpers” (they wear the “tracksuit” on those days and regular uniforms, including a tie, collared shirt, and sweater over it, on the rest of the days).  They also call pants “trousers”, although it sounded like that was arguable. They have special baby clothing names and different shirt names, though I can’t think of any more right now. Oh, and tennis shoes are called “runners”.

3) One of the scheduled math lessons dealt with weight, but then I looked at it and went “uhhh….I don’t know the metric system!” I couldn’t estimate an object being over or under 1 kg well enough because I’m so used to pounds. So I skipped that one and dealt with money, which was interesting enough since they use the euro. However, I feel comfortable enough now with it that it was fine! They have coins for 1c, 2c, 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, 1euro, and 2euro.  Then bills for 5, 10, and so on. It’s strange sometimes, though, because I don’t feel like I have any money, but then I look at my bills and realize I have like 20 euros!

4) They incorporate art, music, and drama within the primary classroom. While I think this is absolutely wonderful and I can see the difference it makes with the students, I was a little unprepared. I stuck with a drama lesson going along with their oral language lesson and was quite successful though. The boys enjoy that time.

All in all, the subbing for other teachers is going fairly well and I enjoy getting the experience even if I do miss my Senior Infants class a little bit! They’re making clay pots this week for Mum’s Day on Sunday (theirs is different from in the US).  Today at the end of the day, I read aloud “Don’t Let the Pigeons Drive the Bus” to my first class. They found it hysterical and then made me read it a second time.  Betsy, Ellen, and Katelyn–Yes, this was the one I read aloud to you in the bat room last semester when you were such willing students. 🙂 Also, I had the chance to watch my first class boys play and learn techniques in hurling, the traditional Irish sport. It was interesting, even if they were running around slightly wild. It’d be like teaching first graders in the states to play football, in a way.


In addition to school, I began my service learning project today at the Togher  Family Centre.  It’s basically a preschool, and I’ll be going there after the schoolday to help out there. It’s only been one day, though, and I am positively exhausted. Kids wear you out! 🙂


I need ideas from you! Racheal, Meghan, and I would like to make Regina, our host, a “typical” American meal. Obviously, there is a lot of variety available, but we didn’t want to do something she’s already made us….her meals are delicious and as I write this, I can smell the stir fry she’s currently making in the other room!  We were thinking homemade macaroni and cheese with…??? Ideas are welcome!


Over the past week, we have gone to the pubs several time and met some amazing people! Namely, I can now claim friends in San Diego, CA and Australia…Racheal’s boyfriend, Matt, came to visit her and they stayed in a hostel where they met these two guys, each traveling alone.  We spent some time with them and I got a good feel of Australian life, too, which was exciting. 🙂

Saturday, a large group of us went to Kinsale. We walked a ton, climbed out onto some rocks in the ocean, saw the free version of Fort Charles (we didn’t want to pay to enter, so we wandered around and I climbed up on a wall for the view, promptly getting into trouble), and a few other things. I’ve discovered that my new favorite verb, which I have used SO much since being here, is WANDER. I never thought I’d be a wanderer because I’m such a planner, but it’s true. I’m the one always planning the buses, hostels as necessary, and ideas on what to do, but when we reach a place…we simply wander. It’s the most wonderful feeling in the world.

View of the Kinsale Seaport as we began walking along one of the trails toward the fort

Still heading toward the fort...it's off in the distance

Partial view from Fort Charles while on the wall, soon to get in trouble!

Sunday morning we went to Blarney, with the castle and stone and all that. The day started out hectic, though, when I blearily woke up to my alarm at 9:30am after not too much sleep…the bus left at 10:30 for Blarney. I then get on my computer and notice that it is actually 10:30am. The time change happened for us that night, and I forgot to change my clock when I came home. 😦 Lauren was visiting from Dublin and in her own hostel. Racheal was with Matt at their hostel with our shared cell phone. Ross was at his homestay about five minutes away. Meghan and I had no way to get ahold of anybody else to figure out if they woke up on time or what was happening (besides texting from my computer via Skype, but the recipient can’t respond, making it somewhat unhelpful). Luckily, it all worked out because no one was on time and we caught the next bus.

Blarney was simply lovely and the grounds were much larger than I thought; it wasn’t just the castle and stone. I kissed the stone, although it’s very high up and when you lay down and scoot backwards to kiss it upside down, it was a little frightening. Also, the stairwells in the castle were TINY, with steep steps and sharp spirals. Mom, you would have been incredibly claustrophobic. We wandered (:)) around afterward for awhile, seeing the stable yard, cave, battlements, poison garden, rock close and waterfall, the lake walk, Blarney House, and more. I took plenty of awkward solo pictures, as well as tons of scenery ones…check out facebook to see more!

Kissing the Blarney Stone

View from the top of the castle

Blarney Castle from one side


Now, for the big news…some of you have heard from me or through facebook, but I had applied for a grant through the Embassy of Spain last fall in order to be a teaching assistant there for next year. I found out Wednesday that I was awarded one of the grants and will be placed in the Galicia region in northwest Spain. After a couple days of internal debate and questioning, I accepted because I figure I have nothing to lose (even though I’m scared out of my mind). I don’t know too much about it, but after some research, I learned that it is actually somewhat different from the traditional Spain. It has a lot of Celtic background and I read to not expect the traditional bright colors and flamenco dancing. It is not a popular tourist area either, so there are very few English speakers. I guess I’ll get quite the baptism by fire when I arrive…hopefully my spanish will improve quickly!


I’ve put up close to 200 more pictures on facebook of the last week and a half, so if you’d like  to get a better idea, head there!

A birthday beyond words

We just returned from a trip to Killarney and Dingle. You can go to Google Maps here if you want to check where they are on the map.  It literally was the most unreal two days I’ve had yet, simply because of the people we met and the scenery we saw. I’ve finally figured out pictures and the Internet is working right now, so I’ll put a few on here but if you want to see more, go to Facebook! (Can someone help Nana and Papa set up a facebook account??)

Thursday night of St. Paddy’s Day, we went back out to the pubs and met many more people! Everything was absolutely crowded due to the holiday, though, and I felt like it was Little 500 at IU. I’m excited to see people again and maybe have them develop into friendships!

Friday morning, we had planned to catch the 8:30am bus to Killarney, but of course, we overslept and practically ran the 15 minutes to the bus stop with all our belongings only to miss the bus by less than three minutes. We stood there on the corner across from the bus stop and watched it pull away. 😦 At first, I was frustrated but then I realized, “Hey, I have nothing else to do today except whatever life throws at us, so it’s not a big deal!” The next bus was in an hour, so we just sat down and relaxed. Unfortunately, when we finally got on the bus, I got motion sickness and it was miserable. Once we reached Killarney, we wandered around the cute little town for awhile since we were waiting to meet another student teacher from IU who is living in Dublin.

While walking around, we had discussed how we wanted to see the Lakes of Killarney and the National Park there, but did not want to walk it all/could not walk it all. Luckily, we discovered horse carriage rides that take you through the park, by the lake, to the castle, let you get out to take pictures and back to the town centre. Since there were four of us, it was only 10 euros each and it was absolutely worth every penny. We got an awesome driver, too, who had been doing it all his life and knew all the history, made jokes, and was just fun. Our horse’s name was Barney, who was only 5 years old, so they’ve been trying to break him into it and we got to hear about the training they have to go through. I can’t think of all the names of things we saw except for the Ross Castle, which was restored a few years ago. Here’s a few pictures from that part of the trip:

The church we first saw when walking out of the Killarney bus/train station

Cute streets of Killarney!

Our horse, Barney, and carriage that took us through the national park of Killarney

The view in Killarney National Park

Going through the national park still

Ross Castle--The carriage driver let us get out and take pictures there

Standing in Ross Castle with the view behind me!

After our horse and carriage ride, we were starving and asked the driver for food recommendations so we went to a delicious little family place. We each ordered the soup of the day (came with delicious homemade brown soda bread…mmm) without even knowing what it was. I still don’t know what it was, but it was hands down some of the best soup ever.

Then we wandered around some more (pretty typical) and found the St. Mary’s Cathedral. This was the place that the older Theta from Northwestern was the pastor (or whatever they call it). However, I forgot the piece of paper with her name on it so I couldn’t ask anybody if she was still around. 😦  It was an incredible church, though, and apparently the spire is the second highest in all of Ireland. If you want more pictures, go to facebook! I’m uploading those next. Later, our bus was going to be arriving soon to take us to Dingle, so we grabbed a cup of coffee in a cute little cafe. It completely hit the spot and warmed us all up. The weather was beautiful the entire day and we had been incredibly lucky with the weather all week, but it was definitely windy and cold when you weren’t in the sun.

St. Mary's Cathedral

Inside St. Mary's Cathedral (The stained glass was incredible...I wish it could show up better)

Mmmm...coffee. And they served it with a little piece of chocolate, which was much needed. I had been craving it hard! 🙂

Courtney is a second name here (last name) sometimes, so I've seen it a few places! (I've also seen Woodward several times as it is a real estate business here in Cork...ironic, huh? And I saw a Cummins Sports, which I took a picture of also.)

Wow, well that took forever to put all those pictures, but I wanted to give you a taste of the different parts of my day in Killarney. On to Dingle, literally the most incredible place so far. I’m a bit nervous that the rest of my trip can’t live up to this weekend! But it was perfect since it was my birthday…literally the best yet, although I wish you all could have shared it with me.

The bus ride to Dingle wasn’t bad and I tried to take a few pictures through the windows. Here is one in which I accidentally caught a cyclist too!

Cyclist accidentally captured from the bus

When we reached Dingle, we got off at the bus stop and literally had no clue where to go. I had booked the hostel the day before and figured out all the bus transfers, but never figured out where the hostel actually was located. So we walked to the closest pub (right down the block, called Murphy’s…how Irish it that??) and asked. It being such a small town, the bartender knew exactly where it was. We ended up going back there for dinner later and I got my first fish and chips! I forgot to take a picture before I started eating, but here it is:

Fish and chips. I've been trying any food that's been offered, even if it's something I don't normally eat and it's all been wonderful! I'll come home the least picky eater. 🙂

Later that night, we searched around for a pub with live music. Luckily, we didn’t have to go far. Dingle was having an annual film festival, so there were plenty of people visiting (though it wasn’t too busy, which was good) and lots of pubs with live music. We ended up wandering into one, where yes, there was a dog wandering around inside. Then we went past another and almost didn’t go in until this guy saw us and yelled “Chicago!” because we had spoken with him at the last one and Lauren, one of the girls with us, is from Chicago. So we went in. Let me explain that this was the BEST CHOICE WE MADE ALL NIGHT. The reason being, we met an Irish man, who we began talking to, discussed what to do the next day, told us we needed to see Slea Head Drive (goes around the Dingle peninsula on the coastline), he found out we were on foot, he offered to drive us, we accepted, he was awesome and nice and totally cool (don’t worry, I followed my gut instinct. We didn’t just accept an offer like this from a creepy man…he’s wonderful), and so the next day, we met at 11am and he took us! Now commences…HIGHLIGHT OF MY LIFE. BEST BIRTHDAY EVER. I wish pictures could do the scenery justice, but it doesn’t. Here are a few below. Unfortunately, my camera died, so I didn’t get to take as many, but I am getting some of the pictures from my roommates here soon.

One area of the port in Dingle...small town, so cute

View of Dingle from the top of a church that we randomly discovered behind a stone wall and little gate. It was a mini-oasis that we stumbled upon!

Dead Man's Isle...the tiny island off in the distance that you can't see very well in the picture looks like a dead man lying down.

Looking over a cliff

Beautiful area on Slea Head

Sheep everywhere!

St. Brendan's Cliff - St. Brendan (sp?) apparently discovered America hundreds of years before the Vikings and they were on the sea 7 years before hitting land. I can't even imagine!

Connor's Pass - The highest point in Ireland that you can drive up to. Shane (the guy we met) was incredible and took us all over Slea Head. The weather was crazy windy and rainy, but the mist made it look mysterious and beautiful, too.

After the cold wind and rain at the top of the mountains, we stopped in a pub for some traditional Irish fare. Of course, I had to try the Irish lamb stew...delicious. (Again, I forgot to take the picture before I started eating!)

At the end of the day, while waiting for the bus at 4pm, we went to Shane’s house for some tea and to watch the rugby game. We also saw his family’s business, Dingle Crystal, which was absolutely beautiful.  Dingle was a wonderful town, had lovely scenery, and it all was better than anything I could have imagined.

Check out facebook for more pictures, as well as pictures from the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Cork. Sorry for such a lengthy post, but I wanted to share a bit of my wonderful birthday weekend with you all and you know how I can be wordy and give too many details. 🙂