Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Ireland 43 - England 13....yeah that feels good.

So with the result of this past Saturday, last week's defeat against France drops into obscure distant memory amidst loud choruses of "Fields of Athenry"....

After having been scolded by my flat-mate Siobhan (from Belfast) because I haven't yet been to O'Neill's Pub in Winchester, I decided that's where I'd go to see the big match. It worked out well cause I'd just spend the day working on a course-mate of mine's house that he's rebuilding (he lives in Winchester). I had been lead to believe by Siobhan that there would be loads of Irish there for the match, and although I rarely have been to Irish pubs while abroad I though if there ever was an occasion to be with other Irish people for a match, this was it.

The days leading up to the match, people kept asking me "what's the big deal about Croke Park?" If I'm stuck for time I'll usually just remind people that the last time there was such a big British contingency present in the stadium was a day now known as "bloody Sunday." If you've seen the film Michael Collins you'll remember this portrayed in the scene where the British tanks break into the middle of the pitch and open fire on the players and crowd.

It's even more than that though isn't it. Even for myself, someone who's barely picked up a hurley except for in P.E., never been to a GAA match let alone in Croke park, and a child of immigrants, there was an odd tension in me at the thought of hearing "God Save the Queen" sung there. Croke Park and the GAA which owns it is a remaining symbol of Irish independence. The GAA didn't used to allow its members to play other "foreign" sports such as football and rugby, so there were many mixed emotions leading up to this Ireland - England rugby match. I seriously thank God, for everyone's sake, that Ireland won.

When I walked into O'Neill's pub, I was sadly dissapointed, yet not terribly surprised. It was jam packed with England supporters drinking Guinness. There was a small Irish group, dressed in green and crowded in a corner. We did break into a few choruses, and managed to make the best of a greatly diminished atmosphere, but there was really nothing that could wipe the smiles of our faces that night. I have to say, isn't it slightly ironic that a foreign-English sport, that used to be outlawed by the GAA is now the only international sport that we play where it represents a united Ireland? I love it.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Mary is Dead

I got the word from Benjamin a couple of days ago that our long enduring and faithful friend, Mary, my old jeep, has finally given in and passed. It's a sad thing losing one's first car. When I left her to Benjamin I didn't feel that I was losing her because she was in such good care and I knew that I would be able to see her if I ever wanted to. I got regular updates on how she was running and sort of felt that she was still here with me sometimes. However, this time it's more permamanet. In fairness Mary has done us well, many people well. She was already second hand when she first came into my sister-in-law, hailey's, hands, and then on marriage became my brother's posession also. She got passed down to me and I passed her on to Benjamin.

If you're wondering about the name, well you'd have had to seen this ad (click here to watch then press PLAY AD). It's a Mr. Kipling's Mince Pie ad, but you really have to see it to understand. Joeseph keep's screaming "Come on Mary!" and basically that's what I had to yell at my jeep every morning to get her to start, and she always did.

I've had many a good memory in that car. A 4 day road trip with my dad, pulling a giant trailer of my brother and hailey's stuff before starting my first year of university. My first time skidding off the road when driving in snow. Lifts for good friends who were car-less. Late night runs to Los Burritos....mid-day runs to Los Burritos.......morning runs to Los Burritos......good times.

According to Benjamin she had 210,473 miles on her when she died, not bad. On a more serious note though, Mary deciding to give up at this point now leaves Benjamin without a car to drive to his new job in the subarbs of Minneapolis. His job is really car-dependent, so this is quite a big deal. Please pray that somehow he'd be able to find a replacement, cause he really can't afford to be without this job at the moment. I'm sure he'd appreciate it.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

........spot the memories......

So, since most of you haven't got the chance to see my room....being that not too many people have come to visit me so far.....I thought I'd share with you the one shelf of stuff that I seem to take everywhere with me no matter where I'm living. It gets added to all the time, and is about the only colour to be found anywhere in my room....so let me take you through some of the pieces (wow this sounds cheesy, which it is....but who cares).

I've got sort of two rules when I get "souvenirs" from places i get either stuff that is just for normal common use in the place i'm visiting (such as bottles or signs..) which will remind me of the life I had somewhere or I get something that I can use later on (like a t-shirt or bracelet) that will remind me of where I've been after i'm gone whenever i wear it.

Probably the oldest thing up there in my list of memories is the mini-"Animal" the rowdy drummer Muppet which was randomly given to me one day by Rob Browne a good friend and ex-youth leader of mine........that's been to Chicago, Cambodia and back with me now to England....

moving on we got probably the next things are the diet coke and pepsi cans....these are going to make me BIG MONEY in the future (REALLY....) as they are still full cans of the dark stuff that went out of date before the turn of the millennium...that's how old they are....i have no reason what first compelled me to keep them back when I was a teenager but for some reason i still have them and well, don't quite want to give them up....

Next we got that familiar sign in the background with Iarnrod Eireann plastered on to it. This was a gift from Aprile Kavanagh....you know you've got a good friend when they'll steal for you.

Next the Egyptian bookmark was a gift from Jessica Hoffmeier who lead a bible study group for some of us students in Chicago. She'd done a degree in Near Eastern studies and was doing a masters in Archaeology (I think but probably wrong) as well. Let's just say that we got seriously in depth and she would spend time translating each passage fresh for us each week....that's commitment.

Directly to the right of the bookmark and under the pepsi bottle you can kind of see what looks like a glass eggcup. This I got at the famous restaurant Ed Debevics in Chicago...a restaurant where the staff are meant to be rude to you (don't ask me why). Anyway apparently this was the "world's smallest Sunday" and it came with a free glass holder. It was the only thing I could afford on the menu so that's what I got. It was from our first "big-sibs" outing to chicago during orientation to Wheaton....such a long time ago.

The silver Jameson flask was a gift from my brother for being in his wedding....hasn't gotten much use, but I'm sure that will change someday.

Next comes a bunch of stuff from my time in Jordan. All the glass bottles are all in arabic and the bracelets would get us some respect and friendly looks when we wore them around Amman.
That's where the money is from too.

There's a couple of other things my "70's" style sunglasses hanging at the back reminding me of California where I got them in a thrift shop.....The card at the side written to me by two friends from different parts of the world who ended up living almost next to each other (Laura Robinson, a friend from Ireland and Megan Hamilton, a friend from Wheaton).

There's the cambodia stuff, the Angkor beer shirt (made into wall hanging...it was a little too big...given to me by friends in Cambodia), the key chain my brother Teara gave to me, and the chopsticks I bought in the market (now inside the Pepsi or should I say "bebsi" bottle).

Then we got lastly but not least my "save the whales belt buckle" that my brother got me for graduation cause I'm "into social justice stuff.." and then the Chinese money envelope that a Chinese student who goes by the name of Daphne gave to me for helping her, carry her bags from the bus stop to her room back in September...I didn't see her again until December when she stopped by to give me my gift...completely unexpected.....

So there you have it (if you've lasted...this has been one of my more boring posts), most of my life fits onto a shelf.....crazy stuff...

Ireland 17- France 20

I just finished watching the Ireland v. France 6 nations match....what a game. It was probably one of the best, most tense matches I'd ever seen which just added to the feel of the experience with the first ever Rugby match played in Croke Park. You'd have loved us to win it in the end, but it wasn't meant to be. The French try in the last minute was too much too late in the game for Ireland to do anything about it....at least it was one for the memory.

Friday, February 09, 2007

I've just finished reading one of the most disturbing articles I've read in a long time. It's about a Kenyan tour-company which has started offering tours of Kibera, known as the African continent's largest slum.

'"People are getting tired of the Maasai Mara and wildlife. No one is enlightening us about other issues. So I've come up with a new thing -- slum tours," enthused James Asudi, general manager of Kenyan-based Victoria Safaris.'

This just seems sick to me. It does to other people too.

"What is this fascination with Kibera among people who do not know what real poverty means?" asked the Daily Nation, a Kenyan Newspaper.

'"They see us like puppets, they want to come and take pictures, have a little walk, tell their friends they've been to the worst slum in Africa," said car-wash worker David Kabala. "But nothing changes for us. If someone comes, let him do something for us. Or if they really want to know how we think and feel, come and spend a night, or walk round when it's pouring with rain here and the paths are like rivers."'

"Visits by tourists, which reached a crescendo during the recent anti-capitalist World Social Forum in Nairobi, were testing the local hospitality culture to the limit."

I think this last quote from the article sums up just how wrong this whole thing is.
"Kibera is the rave spot in Kenya," wrote one columnist sarcastically. "For where else can one see it all in one simple stop?The AIDS victims dying slowly on a cold, cardboard bed. The breastless teenager. ... Plastic-eating goats fighting small children ... and -- ah yes -- the famous 'shit-rolls-downhill-flying-toilets'. It is unbeatable."

This is what happens when all that comes up in western media when 'Africa' is mentioned is poverty, injustice, and war. These are the thing people now most commonly associate with Africa, because of constant repitition. Not to deny that these things exist, they do, but Africa is so much more than that. The peoples on this continent, (where I have never had the opportunity to travel to but only to know people who come from there) have vibrant lives and cultures and form the oldest societies on earth, not to mention the unbelievable richness and beauty of the continent geographically. I'm not in anyway qualified to talk about this subject. But slum tourism is rediculous, and I think all too common. Might "short term projects" also be guilty of this?

If you want to read the entire article for yourself click HERE.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Isle of Wig-ut (Wight).

So I've got this thing about pronouncing silent letter g's in words....for example I like to pronounce Tallaght as Tall-a-gut....and so with the Isle of Wight so close at hand, it's no exception. Granted, as you all know, i'm weird.

So a group of us from the BM4 medicine programme decided to go on a day trip to Wig-ut yesterday. Good times were had by all. Honestly though, I'm not exactly sure why the place is so popular. We spent the time and money to go over there and what did we do, well one group went shopping, another group went to watch rugby in a pub and yet another (that was the group I was in) decided to take a walk down the beach. It's strange though, I don't know why but somehow in my mind I felt I had an image of white sandy beaches and maybe a palm tree or two (just with how everyone always goes on about how idylic the Isle of Wig-ut is). What we found was just a normal rocky beach, and a sleepy town named Cowes, about the size of Blackrock, or maybe a little smaller.

Anyway, it's always the people that make the experience and we all had a good laugh. Ended up going out for a curry at night, which was an ordeal in itself, after somehow being verbally assaulted by two customers sitting near us (making us fear for our lives at provoking the wrath of the islanders), then after having the restaurant charge us almost 55 pounds more than they should have....David Rees and I, the more sober ones of the group, were able to argue them back down to what we were meant to pay. Anyway, let's just say there are plenty of stories and memories from the short day. I'll want to go back to Cowes and the Isle of Wig-ut someday, but I'll be okay if that's not for a while to come.

Meeting up at the Highfield bus stop. It's a beautiful day Rebecca (on right) using the occasion to sport her most trendy sunglasses. That's P on the Left.

Arriving into Cowes.
David and Kath.

Not a bad ending to a good day. (Kath, Pete and Tim).

Wheaton meets Southampton...

So I've been lucky enough to have a familiar face come visit me last weekend. Blake Sawicky who I knew during my Wheaton days, is studying for his masters in Marine Archaeology at UCL in London (a very good archaeology school). Anyway, last semester I had the chance to visit him for a weekend so this year, Blake has been able to spend a little time down here with me.....since Southampton is well...not exactly the tourist centre of the world, we did what I do with all the people who come visit me...i.e. go to Winchester. Winchester is full of all the history and architecture that you'd want to see, being the first capital of England and having one of the most well known Cathedrals.

Anyway, it's always good to have a familiar face around and some good conversation. Here's a few pics of our couple of days toegether.

This is blake. We're in the crypt of Winchester Cathedral where there's this suprising and reflective statue. We're lucky because it's been quite a while since the crypt has flooded enough to where the water relfects the light in the enitre room. When you're there it's really peaceful. I'm definitely going back.

Here's a better view.

This is the High Street, it was a bit random to come across a Native American busking group...but...yeah...what can you say.

Blake's dad has been telling him he needs to take more pictures of himself, when I offered to take one of him, he said he has to take them like this.....okay.....