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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Drowning in the Rain

Sad news, ladies and gents. The hard drive of my laptop is officially dead! Won't be getting a new one until I'm back in the U.S. (my dad's got one I can have), so once I'm back in Bangor on Wednesday, you won't be hearing from me until the 18th or so.

Due to the death of my dear friend I am giving my Northern Ireland-tinted update now!

Originally I was to be staying here in Ballymoney until the 7th, but most of my friends have gone home for the summer and I'm having a great time, so I changed my flight to the 13th (my brothers birthday!). Advice: don't change your flight. I'm flying with EasyJet, which has pretty cheap flights, but they charge about 35ish pounds to change a flight... In the end, it was only one pound cheaper to change my flight than book a new one. I would regret the cost, but after talking to my mum (hahaha, using a British laptop and it said that 'mom' is misspelled) I was convinced that it was good to stay. She gave a fantastic argument: great times with friends that you hardly see does outweigh money every time! Well, ok, most times.

Right, so, what have I gotten up to as of late? Well, first of all, this first weekend of June was the jubilee weekend. What's that, you ask? Quite simple. The queen of England has been queen for 60 years, therefore the diamond jubilee!

Congratulations, ma'am.

I'd say that here in Northern Ireland it wasn't as big of a deal as it would be in England. The Celtic folk, especially in Wales, tend to have a sort of resentment towards the English and vice versa. Of course there were a few jubilee teas being held, possibly a few parades, but not much, at least here in Ballymoney. In England, however, they did a lot. There was The Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the 3rd, the jubilee concert at Buckingham Palace on the 4th (PAUL MCCARTNEY PLAYED!!), and then just plain massive celebration on the 2nd and the 5th. I bought this sucker for my family in honour of the jubilee:

DELICIOUS. CHOCOLATE. DELICIOUS CHOCOLATE.

The picture doesn't do it justice, but that beauty is 400 grams. It's big. My family had better worship me. Just kidding, but my brothers had better appreciate me!

What did I do to celebrate? Well, I watched the, to be honest, really crappy jubilee concert (only so I could see Sir Paul) and then on the 5th the family I'm staying with threw a bbq and had a lot of friends and family over. It was good fun!

On the 2nd there was this really fun raft race in Portrush. Let me show you a quick map, actually, so you can get a grasp of how small Northern Ireland is.

... so... puny...

That dark green speck is Northern Ireland. Keep in mind that the population is about 1,685,000 and the area is 5,345 sq miles. Connecticut is 5,544 sq miles, so just slightly larger than Northern Ireland. To get an idea of where I come from, Texas has an area of 268,820 sq miles and a population of 25,674,681 (according to an estimation in 2011). Fort Worth alone had a population of 741,206, nearly half of Northern Ireland! Seriously, I would never be able to live here. Visiting is just grand though!

Anyway, back to the raft race! So every year Portrush holds a raft race where individual teams can enter a raft to race from the beach, around a bend, and into the harbour. It's honestly not that far, and I think the first place raft did it in about 10 minutes. Unfortunately I won't be able to load the pictures I took until I get home, but I'll get those up ASAP. Anyway, all these different designs are entered. There was a raft of smurfs, a raft of leprechauns, a raft made of Styrofoam (actually, quite a few of those)... the originality went on and on. It was a great laugh! This has been going on since 1982 and is used as a fundraiser to raise money for the Lifeboat which goes along the coast and helps anyone who may be stranded or whatever. In my opinion, it's a really cool/amusing fundraiser and definitely worth a visit! It usually happens on the last weekend of May/first weekend of June.

Hmm... oh yeah! London is hosting the Olympics... and I saw the torch in Bangor... well Northern Ireland was next up in the torch relay! I saw it again in Ballykelly! The story of us finding the torch was pretty funny. So first we were headed to Dervock to see the torch, but we got there literally as it was leaving. We hopped in the car and drove behind the advertising vans that go through first (like Coke and Samsung) into Ballykelly. Debbie (she and Benny are married with 3 kids Rebekah, Thomas, and Matthew with Rebekah being around my age) hopped out of the car with Matthew while Benny and I stayed in the car and started running towards the advertising vans (we thought the torch van was one of the vans directly behind). Benny lowered his window and asked a guy on the street where the torch was. It was right behind us.

Ha, so, Benny and I pulled into a B&B parking lot, parked the car, and headed to the street to find Debbie and Matthew. They had found out the same thing and were pretty much right across the street from us. Imagine, running away from the torch! Rebekah was in Spain at the time and I think Thomas was either revising for exams or working. Aw man, that was funny. We did see the torch though! 

This past week I haven't gotten up to much since Matthew is still in school, Benny and Debbie work, Thomas is revising and/or working, and Rebekah just got back from Spain, but it's been good. Today we headed to a reservoir near Coleraine and walked around while letting Pepsi (their black lab) run like mad. Gahh, it's so beautiful. Seriously, everything is green, lush, and just gorgeous. It reminds me quite a bit of Wales, though not as hilly, but it's definitely got more green and hills than England. Ha, and while Wales is loaded with sheep, Northern Ireland has a fair mix of cattle and sheep. A nice change in scenery. Just kidding. Oh, but you know how there are a lot of places along the east coast named after places in the UK? It's because they really do look so much alike. Last summer I spent a few days in upper New York state and it looks so much like the UK. I was pretty surprised when I first got here and noticed that.

Northern Ireland: gorgeous and always worth a visit! Be sure to pack an umbrella though... we had fantastic weather during the jubilee weekend, but it's pretty much been raining nonstop since then. There was even flash flooding in Wales! 

Before I go, a few quick terms for your enjoyment, my dear reader:

-brelly = umbrella
-what's the craic = what's up
-wellies = rain boots

I thought I had more terms until I typed them out. Clearly I was overestimating! If you do ever visit Northern Ireland, the accent isn't as difficult to understand as the Welsh accent, but it can still be difficult, especially if you're talking to an older person and/or if the person you're talking to is talking fast, which they tend to! So many times I'm caught off guard and have to ask people to repeat what they say. It's like learning a whole new language... nah, not that bad. 

Oh, a little confession as well:
I am so freaking excited to get back to the US. I miss the sun and heat!! I've never been so white this time of year! Or cold! I had to wear a winter coat the other day. Come on UK, it's summer time. Mr. Sun needs to shine.

K, I'm thinking that's about it. Can you believe I head home a week from tomorrow? I'm pretty much in shock with how fast this semester went by.

Real quick, just because I love looking at maps, here's a close up of Northern Ireland:

I'm in Ballymoney!

Oh yes! I completely forgot! From my trip in 2007, let me tell you, Giant's Causeway is amazing. Definitely worth a visit. Here are a few pictures of my own taking from 2007:

These rocks are perfect hexagons and litter the entirety of Giant's Causeway.

See? All over the place!

This is Finn McCool's dragon. More of nature's wonders!


This is the lot of us sitting on those incredible rocks. I'm in the front in the middle with the freaking awesome shoes and black jacket. Sara-anne, my host sister, is to the left. If you ever get the chance, definitely get involved in twin city/sister city programs!

Us trying to surf (there were no waves...). Thomas on the right (he looks a lot different now!), me in the middle, and my brother, Ashton, on the left. The water is so cold.

This is Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge in Antrim. So awesome.

This is a view of the coast from the bridge. I told you it's gorgeous!

The view straight down from the rope bridge.

This is Matthew, Sara-anne, Ashton, Thomas, and me in front of the smallest church in Northern Ireland (and Ireland). It is very very very very small. And I always look awkward in pictures, as seen throughout the entire lifespan of this blog!

I think that is a great note to end on. Hope y'all are doing great! Even though Wales lost in rugby to Australia today... sad times. Sad times indeed.

Nos da!

By the way, here's a link to the story of Finn McCool from the Giant's Causeway, worth a read!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Disclaimer!

Recently Arcadia has used my blog to advertise their study abroad program, which is fine by me (548 viewers on the 31st of May!), but I just want to note something real quick.

The adventure trips they have are fantastic, but only if you are doing a program in London. Their meet up place is always London and the meet up times are always in the morning around 8am. If you are studying in Wales, don't bother signing up for any of the events. Finding a train to get you there in time is iffy, and if you do happen to find a train to get you into London before 8am, you'll be catching a train around 5am. I've found it best, if studying in Wales, to do your own adventure trips. Just a little note!

Right, with that important notice out of the way, just an update on where I am. Currently, I am exploring the loveliness that is Ballymoney, Northern Ireland. In 2006-2008 I participated in Benbrook Sister Cities which had a sister city in Bled, Slovenia and Ballymoney. I wasn't fortunate enough to get involved in the Bled program before Benbrook City Council discontinued it, but I was heavily involved in the Ballymoney program. Result? I have lifelong friends here! I've actually already mentioned them in a previous post, but I'm back to visit them again before I head back to the U.S. I'm pretty excited; Northern Ireland is beautiful! I'll give a more thorough update on the shenanigans I get up to once I'm back in Bangor on the 8th of June.

Until then, bore da!