Monday, June 29, 2009

Just Get There

“And what are ya here fer miss?”
“Business.” I smile. That sounds grown-up.
“Business? Really now?” The man from Immigration eyed my tie-dye shirt.
“Ok. An internship.” That still sounds grown up right?
“Aw right Miss. Fitzgerald. You have fun now,” he smiled and said those infamous words I wanted to hear. “Welcome to Ireland.”

I felt
like I was in a movie…I was in another country and Ireland was mine to do what I wanted with it. What an adventure… “I Have Confidence” from The Sound of Music was on repeat in my mind.
Then, of course, reality kicked in at full force.
It was a whirlwind. Get my baggage, change dollars into Euros. Where’s the bathroom? How do I watch my luggage when the two suitcases won’t fit in the stall? Coffee coffee coffee. Excuse me, where can I find a taxi? Sir how much will this cost? You don’t know where that address is? No I don’t either that’s why I’m asking you! What are you saying…that is not English. This must be the house! Mrs. Hayes? AH! Nice to meet you too. Yes, traveling was fine. I love your house! This is my room? You are going to work so I can sleep?
I love Ireland already. My host family has been so sweet to me. My room is great. And I start work tomorrow. I’ll update more…after SLEEP.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

An Ode to Packing

I did not know I had so many clothes,
Or so many shoes and so many bows.
The scarves and the coats add up too,
Oh what is my poor little luggage to do?

Then come the books, jewelry, and bags,
Still the more I add, the more my suitcase sags.
Two months abroad seems quite long,
But not wearing cute clothes seems just wrong!

What about my computer and iPod and phone?
How will these fit? It is simply unknown…
Oh wait…I see the light.
I know the solution for my flight!

I will swim to the island, no take a boat!
And then bring all my objects to keep afloat.
Because I need that black dress and some skirts,
And I want to bring about 30 shirts.

Of course I’ll wear heels, flats, and maybe tennis shoes?
There just is NO WAY for me to choose.
Excuse me, what did you say?
A cruise to Ireland would take 12 days!

Well. That changes things a little bit.
My wardrobe just took a hard hit.
I guess two 50 pound bags will have to do.
And a carry on, and personal bag too ;)

*This is a joke. I am not an idiot. But packing is literally making me crazy.*

Oh dear. At least it's all clean.


Monday, June 22, 2009


Time is ticking.
I have less than a week to pack, organize, and prepare for the trip to Ireland. I’ve also become a perpetual list-taking-note-maker. I’m nervous, I’m excited; I’m ready, I’m not; I’m organized and yet a complete mess. But, this is what I expected.
I briefly spoke with my host mother on the phone for about three minutes last week. She has a legitimate fast-pace Irish accent. I mean, I knew that…but when I heard her mention “15 to 20 Euros for a taxi” with that foreign twang I couldn’t help but smile. Ireland! The excitement hit all over again.
Now I’m sitting, and waiting.
The phone will ring within the next thirty minutes. Amy with CCI will call and go over my pre-departure orientation. We will discuss questions and last minute details so my adventure can begin.
So. I’m still sitting and waiting, clutching a red pen and a yellow pad of paper. The TV is blaring commercials and my dog is snoring. It’s a lazy summer day in VA and the rest of the house is quiet.
I think there’s 20 minutes left. My finger runs down the list of questions I need to ask; fourteen total. Is there anything I could have forgotten? Well yes, probably but I guess there is always email.
Tick- Tock.
Dear Phone,
Please ring.
An Anxious Brit


Monday, June 15, 2009

Adventures Past and Future

“Bow to your partner.
Now bow to your corner.
Take your partner’s hand.”

I have never been a country girl. Cowboy hats always seemed more like a prop from an old western movie and less like a fashion accessory. Country music makes me cringe, especially the poppy, southern yodeling one can often find on a random radio station. And living in the country itself? No, no. Not for me. Not for the girl who loves people and cities. It’s fine for others; don’t get me wrong…but not me.

Yet, here I was on a Friday night in early June at a barn dance. A man with a southern twang calls steps for the next move. Over 100 people are standing in or near the entrance of the old wooden barn.

It’s humid and sticky. My cotton dress was the lightest article of clothing I had packed, yet I am still burning up. Then again so is everyone else. My hair is a mess of frizzy curls and I haven’t been wearing shoes for the last two hours. I look down at my dirty feet and smile.

Now from what I’ve just written, you would think I would find this appalling, maybe even revolting. But of course…I love it.

Half of the barn before the dancing begins.

For five days this past week I went to visit Montreat, North Carolina. This small, Presbyterian-based community doubles as a conference center and college campus. During the summers, Montreat also becomes a day camp for pre-school aged children through high school teenagers. I worked here last summer, helping to run the day camp or “clubs.”

I never came here as a child like the majority of the staff. But my good friend Alice and her family were avid Montreat-goers. Her parents met at a barn dance, her family owns houses on Montreat property, and she grew up participating in clubs. Last year she asked both me and our mutual friend Kelley to join her and spend a summer in the hills of NC. I had visited briefly before and couldn’t resist the opportunity.

Mountains of North Carolina.

“Now raise your free hand.
If you’re raisin’ your right hand, you’re a right.
If you’re raisin’ your left hand, you’re a left.
That’s how we call the steps.”

I looked around the crowded barn as we prepared to “promenade”. I remember the first time I came to one of these dances, nearly four years ago on my second visit to Montreat. I had expected to be annoyed. I had assumed there would be cowboy hats, cowboy boots and horrifying music. I also was prepared to feel out of place and excluded from the many Montreat traditions that some practice from birth.
Yet Alice, her family, and her friends partnered with me and taught me the important steps and customs for both line and novelty dances. Alice assured me that I would not be out of place, and promised not to wander far from my possibly very embarrassing first attempts.

Now, four years later I am glad they proved me wrong. I am so happy to have had the opportunity to work and visit Montreat, understand its funny little customs, and appreciate its people. It’s not the country; it’s a mountain retreat. There are not many cowboy hats, and if there were I would have to deal with it, because that would be the Montreat way. One of my favorite aspects of this community is that there is not one type of person. There are not just republicans, or democrats, or visitors, or regulars. They are a congregation of many. Last year I found myself standing with an independent, vegetarian, pacifist and a pro-gun, republican, meat-eater. And it was great.

Some of the helpful dance instructors...

“Bow to your partner.
Bow to your corner.
And bow to the Stony Creek Boys.”

We applaud as the barn dance comes to an end and then pile in all sorts of vehicles to go to Blue Cone for milkshakes and ice cream. I already know nearly 30 people will be in line before we even park, but I can’t help but smile as we weave through mountain roads to complete a traditional Friday night.

I’m sad I will only visit Montreat once this summer, but Ireland is fast approaching and new experiences are waiting to be made. In less than two weeks, I will be participating in a different adventure, meeting diverse people, and learning more about myself in an unknown atmosphere.

But of course a visit to Montreat must be made every summer.

Me, Alice, and Kelley stopping by Blue Cone
after the barn dance.