Monday, August 24, 2015

Slieve League, Ireland

When I signed up for Irish classes in Glencolmcille, I really had no idea what to expect. As the trip got closer, I started to panic. What if I hated it? What if I got lost? What if it was terrible and there was no way to contact my family and no way to get out?? Every anxious what if scenario raced through my mind.

I seriously considered canceling and staying home where it was nice and safe and predictable.

My third day at Glencolmcille, some people from my class invited me to ride with them over to Slieve League, some of the highest sea cliffs in Ireland. Even though they're less famous than County Clare's Cliffs of Moher, they're about three times higher and stunningly beautiful.

As I stood on the platform, viewing this incredible scenery, eating ice cream and laughing with my new friends, I just kept thinking, "I can't believe I almost cancelled this trip."

As we explored, I thought about how I sometimes allowed fear to shape my decisions. How I gave up on things or avoided things because of what might happen. I looked out on the cliffs and thought to myself, "I never would have seen this beautiful corner of the world if I didn't do something that scared me."

So often I think that if I'm scared of something, that means it's bad. The known is safe, comfortable, and predictable. But isn't comfort zone just another word for status quo?

I'm glad I said yes.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Silver Strand

Glencolmcille is located in a beautiful part of Donegal with a lot of really interesting things to do and see just a short drive away. Even if you don't bring a car to Oideas Gael, you'll invariably get invited to go somewhere by someone with wheels.

That's how I got invited to go swimming in the Atlantic. In Donegal. In APRIL.

It all started as a joke between some of the girls about how they wanted to go swimming. Then it became a dare for other students. Then it became a challenge. Then our teachers caught wind of it and said we couldn't go swimming just anywhere, we had to go to the Silver Strand.

Once the details were sorted, our teachers wished us luck (and declined to tag along since they were NOT crazy) and we found ourselves hurtling along the tiny roads over to the Silver Strand (or An Trá Bhán, since we're learning Irish after all) near Malin Beag.

It was a beautiful afternoon. The sun was shining and the water looked lovely. Until you stuck a toe in, that is, and realized it was absolutely frigid. Mercifully, I hadn't packed a swimsuit so I volunteered myself to be the official photographer.

Braver souls than I.

My friends claimed that after the initial shock, it wasn't really that bad, but I'd say that was the hypothermia talking.

After they all returned, dripping and teeth chattering, we bundled up in towels and coats and drove back to the village, where we took over the local restaurant and celebrated the victory over steaming cups of tea and enormous plates of Irish home cooking.

If you're going to jump into a freezing ocean in April, at least you have tea and comfort food to look forward to afterwards.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Beach in Glencolmcille

The beach in Glencolmcille is a five minute walk from the school. In fact, from my classroom I could see the waves crashing onto the beach, tempting me away from verbs and grammar and into daydreams of walking along the beach on my lunch break.

The beach has a wild, rugged beauty, typical to Donegal. Our week in Glencolmcille was marked by picture perfect weather every day, so a group of students would usually get together to explore the beach after lunch.

To me, this is my idea of the perfect landscape. The beautiful rolling hills, green postcard-perfect fields studded with sheep and newborn lambs, dramatic cliffs set against crashing blue waves-even today, when I feel stressed I imagine myself back on the beach in Glencolmcille.