blog · college life · ireland · study abroad · travel

Travel | Ireland: Day 3

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Our first experience riding the Hop On, Hop Off bus wasn’t particularly great. The driver, a Dublin native, rather brusquely stated that he didn’t like to hear his riders’ speaking. We were told, “Your talking has made me lose my track.” which appears to be interchangeable with the Americanism, “You made me lose my place.”

My instructor commented… “Not very nice! I didn’t hear this.”

I have noticed that the Irish phrasing sounds more solid, almost as if it carries the weight of age. The American way of saying things is often very impudent sounding, often quite brash. We are a young country, after all, and the older I get the more that I am able to recognize this.

Knowing the Irish are particularly proud of their breweries, I looked forward to getting a tour of one of the local facilities…


Teeling Distillery is the only working Distillery in Dublin. It is a small, family-owned business that returned to Dublin and became the producer of the first Dublin whiskey to be distilled within the city in over forty years.

Peter, a fast-talking, highly knowledgeable young man was our tour guide. He explained how the distillery tried to purchase the original land and when they couldn’t, decided to locate in the historic Liberties. The Liberties were located beyond the city walls and residents felt “at liberty” to brew whiskeys and beers without having to pay taxes on what they produced.

Peter sitting in front of Natalie.

We learned about the different ingredients and cooking processes that the Teeling Distillery has used for years. From the selection of grains to the three copper vats where the solution is cooked down to become their signature whiskeys, everything at Teelings speaks of quality.

Traditions of old and new techniques come together in the three vats named after the Teeling daughters — Alison, Natalie and Rebecca — to create a wonderfully smooth small batch whiskey.

During the tasting portion of the tour, Peter explained the correct¬†way to drink good Irish Whiskey…

  1. Start by swirling it in the cup. The natural oils of a good whiskey will leave a residue called peaks and tears on the glass.
  2. Second, smell the whiskey, breathing in the different scents.
  3. Third, take a small sip and swallow, breathing out immediately afterward to allow the alcohol fumes of that first taste to escape.
  4. After these steps, one may continue drinking, allowing each mouthful to sit on the tongue as the flavors and depths are revealed.

As the Teeling family says…

At the Farmer’s Market next door, a kind sort of haggling over prices occurred as vendors and their customers decided the worth of vegetables, fruits, meats, and more.

The people in attendance were of the community, speaking familiarly with vendors and other customers, reminding me of the small-town grocery store where I grew up. It seems that much of Ireland still has that small-town sense of community. The people truly care about each other and their country.

We traveled through Dublin by Hop On, Hop Off bus and hopped off across the River Liffey at the Story of the Irish show.

Guided through history by an actor portraying an ancient Celtic god, Crannog, we learned of the origins of the Irish people in their own words. Crannog is one of the Tuatha De Dannan, a people of magic who are honor bound to tell the truth, and is the guide who protects you as you travel through history.

The original Irish people migrated up the coast of Europe at the end of the last Ice Age. A few of these people crossed the water in skin boats to the island of Ireland, leaving the coast of a Britain still connected to the continent.

From that first landing the island was able to escape much of the war and conquering forces of the mainland. The island of Ireland was (and has been) so isolated from the world that the gene pool remained undiluted for thousands of years and a prosperous agricultural community developed. This group of people were technologically advanced and traded with lands as far away as Persia!

The most wonderful thing I was able to take away from the show is that there is currently a revival to bring back many of the ancient Irish traditions, the culture, and language.

Hearing tales of ancient Irish kings and of the steadfast, enduring soul of the people was truly inspiring.

blog · college life · ireland · study abroad · travel

Travel | Ireland: Day 2

FRIDAY, MAY 13, 2016

Walking to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells didn’t afford us the opportunity to hear much of the local language. Conversations became background noise as we entered the college grounds.

Honestly, the only draw I felt to the Book of Kells is the huge undertaking and great accomplishment that it was for the times.

The symbols of the Four Evangelists (from Wikipedia)

One of the most interesting things about the Book of Kells is that there were a number of different monks who had a hand in its creation. While it was not unusual for scribes and artist to embellish the copies they wrote, the intricacies and dedication to detail shown in the Book of Kells is truly remarkable!

Written over a thousand years ago, the Book of Kells is proof of the talented artisans living in Ireland at the time.

Not only does the Book of Kells share the gospel of Christ, it also incorporates imagery and symbology from ancient Celtic beliefs. Throughout the book, Celtic crosses, knot work, and creatures can be seen in vivid, full color detail.

I was impressed most by the use of color in the Book of Kells. From the commonly used yellow ochre to the highly expensive lapis lazuli, pigments were gathered from as far away as Southeast Asia.

Even today, the artwork contained in the Book of Kells is easily seen and enjoyed in its original, hand-written state. It remains nearly pristine on the vellum pages and can be viewed on a daily basis by visitors to Trinity College.

The Latin in which the Book of Kells, the Book of Darrow, and the Book of Armagh are written is the language used by the Catholic church. What is interesting about this is that, while it is a dead language, Latin is still widely used in Catholic church ceremonies around the world. Not so dead after all, is it?

The Long Room

Above the exhibition floor is the Long Room. Originally the main chamber of the Old Library, this room now contains over 200,000 of the oldest books in the Trinity College Library collection. These books are shelved on the original shelves and in gallery bookcases. Being able to see materials that are hundreds of years old is a priceless opportunity that I won’t soon forget!

As an aside, I was allergic to Trinity College. During our entire visit to Ireland, I only had an allergic reaction at the college. Alas, I will never be an archivist if I’m allergic to the materials I am supposed to be working with!  ūüėõ

In addition to the many priceless books at the Trinity College Library, there is also a harp. The oldest surviving harp in Ireland, it is an emblem of the early bardic societies.

After a brief communication snafu, Miranda, Bree, Sara, Brianna and I found a coffee shop with WiFi. We spent almost thirty minutes getting to know each other better.

Just like the coffee shops back home, students were completing work and friends were meeting to catch up with one another. Some things appear to be universal and coffee shops being a place for the community is one such thing. Yay!

My instructor made the following note in my journal. “So glad you did all become friends! –Doug B.”

Though small, our next stop proved to be quite an interesting little museum. The collection of the Dublin Writers Museum is housed in an 18th century mansion. The building has suffered from water damage and parts of the exhibit had been removed for restoration.

Even with the missing pieces, the items remaining in the exhibit and the self-guided audio tour painted a memorable image of the historical significance of Irish writers and literature.


We were even able to see Samuel Beckett’s infamous telephone! This was a specially made telephone that he had made; it had special buttons that would block or allow calls only when he desired them and only his close friends new when the accept calls button would be pressed.

The reading of an excerpt from Bram Stoker’s Dracula had be grinning long after I heard it. The dramatic flare of this most famous vampire story isn’t particularly poetic, but it is vivid and imaginative. I would love to read Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan La Fanu. It would be very interesting to compare the two stories that, quite possibly, started the tradition of vampire novelizations.

After the tour, I made a point of talking with the security guard. I asked him why he chose the job he now held. I was rewarded by his reply that the opportunity to meet people from all around the world is what makes his job so rewarding. We talked a little about American politics and it was most entertaining to see how his accent became more pronounced as he became more and more passionate about the topic.

I wasn’t surprised to find that the Irish do not like Donald Trump.

Walking the streets of Dublin on Friday night was a wonder! The city was absolutely buzzing with activity; both locals and tourists enjoying the beautiful weather, taking to the streets with friends and family. I heard so many accents during this first evening in the city; from German and Swedish to Korean and British and, of course, the native Irish lilt.

Celeste, Christine, Brianna, and I walked for absolutely AGES trying to find something for dinner! It seemed that every place we stopped was closed and we began to wonder if we should just find a convenience store and grab something from the shelves. When we finally found a restaurant we all liked the sound of, it turned out that they were out of the menu items we wanted. *sigh*

Finally, we decided on “authentic oriental food” and ate at the Noodle House. Yay, food!

The girl in the restaurant where we ate dinner spoke with a British accent, calling the bathroom a loo instead of toilet. She was very kind and explained that chicken gougan is sliced chicken breast, breaded and cooked.

I am curious to find out if the chicken gougan recipe matches at all with that of a chichen nugget or strip.

blog · college life · ireland · study abroad · travel

Travel | Ireland: Day 1

I will be sharing a series of posts about a recent study abroad trip to Ireland I took with my sister, Brianna.

While in Ireland, we were required to keep a daily journal for the World Literature II class¬†that was included in our final grade at the end of the trip… These posts will be all of what I wrote in the journal, additional thoughts (which will be indented), and pictures that weren’t shared with family via my Facebook page.

THURSDAY, MAY 12, 2016

Meeting at the Memphis International Airport, all seven study abroad students in one place, made this trip suddenly real! ¬†The airport is conveniently located, so we didn’t have far to drive at all.

Snacks aboard our Delta flight.  *nom, nom, nom*

I was too tired from my first international flight to notice more than the new accents in the Dublin airport. The first, and most readily noticeable, was the Irish accents and the second was that of the neighboring Brits.

Our final assignment for the World Literature class was to write about the language in Ireland. What were the differences? Nuances that we heard? Accents? Did the Irish use different words for things than Americans?

It was quite a broad assignment and was difficult to get into because of that.

I had heard Irish accents before traveling to Ireland, so it wasn’t really a shock to hear the accent again. In fact, it was really nice to hear the almost musical quality of the lilting language as the locals talked with us.

One of the most different things I noticed while in Ireland was how nice everyone was. People in Ireland seemed to be genuinely kind and, in every interaction I had with them, they were interested in me as a person and making sure that I enjoyed every part of my trip.

That first evening, Brianna and I walked a classmate, Celeste, back to her hotel. Because of a scheduling snafu, our group was split between two different hotels while in Dublin. On the return trip, we stopped at a McDonald’s restaurant for Street Passes. I only recently got into playing games on the Nintendo 3DS and (thanks to Corey B.) became addicted to collecting as many street passes as I possibly could… What better place to get exotic street passes than across the pond?

I was hoping that the menu (and staff) would say chips instead of fries, but it was not to be. I contented myself to eating a small order of french fries.¬†Interestingly, McDonald’s is one of Ireland’s largest employers and they started operating in the country in 1977! This is not something that I think is all that amazing, it’s just interesting.

I’ve never been a huge fan of fast food, but it was fascinating to see the different menu items they offered that I’ve never seen in America, such as the following:

  • Fish fingers
  • Sugar donut
  • Twisty fries
  • Chocolate filled donut
  • “Toasties” for breakfast

We went to sleep that first night exhausted and excited all at once.

blog · library life

Random | 2016 Battle of the Brains

One of my favorite things about working in the Youth Services department at the library, are the opportunities outside of our walls and I was excited to be asked to attend the 2016 Battle of the Brains competition at Houston High School in Germantown, Tennessee.  Battle of the Brains is a competition where young adults in the community are tasked with creating solutions to existing problems and to help assist in the planning of the future for their community.

This year, students were instructed to use math and science to tackle issues affecting Germantown’s future. ¬†I saw projects ranging from a station to change out the batteries of electric cars to increase range, car radios that would automatically turn volume levels down, a sort of hover train transit system, and many more!

I took the chance to write a little more about two of my favorite projects, one of which one First Place!

“Classroom of the Future”

Lucas M. and Alejandro S. are two students who are passionate about learning.  These are two young men who are dissatisfied with the current education system and who have spent countless hours pursuing topics discussed in the classroom in their own time.

Their project, Classroom of the Future, is an idea for a school where students can learn life skills, have the opportunity to be hands on with technology and other resources, and (best of all) are encouraged to learn and focus on topics they are passionate about.

It is encouraging and inspiring to see that youth in our community are passionate about learning and are concerned about the education system enough to come up with a plan to make it better.

“Sprinkler Sensors”

The four students who worked on the solution for over-consumption of water for lawns are resourceful and excited.  Their project considered three main areas; a rain level detector, a soil moisture sensor, and grass types working together to conserve water in Germantown.

The use of Fescue grass, a drought resistant grass that has deep roots and can help prevent erosion is just one part of the project. This grass would appeal to Germantown residents and businesses because it stays green year round.

Now, the two most important aspects of this project are the rain level detector which, unlike current models that are tripped by any rainfall, would only be activated when a certain level of rainfall has been reached.

Additionally, a smarter soil moisture sensor would monitor the level of moisture in the soil rather than the mere existence of moisture.  These three components were combined to create a feasible plan that could be implemented in the very near future.

Chae-Yeon P., Sally H., Mr. Kim, and Hameedha K.

Congratulations to the winning team for your “Sprinkler Sensor” success! ¬†And many congratulations to all of the students that participated in the 2016 Battle of the Brains competition. ¬†I was inspired by your passion and dedication and can’t wait to see what you create next. ¬†The sky is the limit and you are already flying!

blog · library life

Library | I Don’t Work Today!

For the first time in years, I arrived at the library ready to start my work week only to discover that I wasn’t scheduled.¬† It was my day off!¬† I’d completely forgotten that, with the Thanksgiving holiday this week, I was not scheduled to work on Monday.

As mentioned, this is the first time in YEARS that I came to work on my day off!¬† And I think I know why…

While working in a Youth Services department has never been a dream of mine, having the opportunity to work face-to-face with the public, be a major part of the collection development, and create programming for the community has been an interesting challenge.

I enjoy the work I am doing and the people I work with.¬† My co-workers are supportive and kind, always willing to lend a hand when needed or make a coffee run when the caffeine starts petering out.¬† ūüôā

So, with Thanksgiving right around the corner I would like to say, “Thank you” to the Youth Services department of the Germantown Community Library.¬† Thank you for welcoming me, allowing me the opportunity to try new things, and for supporting me throughout all the changes we’ve faced over the last year.

Y’all are wonderful and I’ll never be able to put into words how grateful I am for you!

blog · library life

Library | Panic At the Children’s Desk

After more than ten years at the Germantown Community Library, I made the craziest leap of my career and accepted a position as a Youth Services Library Associate.¬† Yeah, it was a surprise to me too, since I’d promised myself that I would never cross the maroon carpet into the Children’s Department.

For the most part, working in the Children’s Department has been a pretty good fit; there were the normal bumps and grumbles as staff tried to accommodate a new person into an already cohesive team, I’ve had more than my fair share of freaking out while trying to catch up on everything I’m not familiar with, and it’s been stressful in entirely new ways to be working with young people day in and day out.

Here are just a few of the crazy days that I’ve had since joining the “Collective.” ¬†(points to anyone who recognizes that reference)

One afternoon, I was the only staff person working at the Youth Services desk and I am embarrassed to admit that I panicked a little when six children all wanted to play with a different LEGO set (and then wanted to trade it for a different set moments later) and another handful of kids were asking for scissors, tape, and coloring pages.¬† While I couldn’t find the kid-safe scissors, we took Mom a pair of adult-scissors and found her to be happily surprised that her little girl “still needed her for something.”¬† I never did find the coloring pages with the “house on it” for another little girl.

Overall, it was the most stressful hour and a half I’ve had so far as a Youth Services Library Associate, but it was also one of the most fun (in the strangest of ways).¬† I was able to provide most of my patrons / customers with what they were looking for or something similar, the Teen Volunteer assigned to work the Summer Reading Desk was an invaluable source of support, and ultimately I found a home for all of the LEGO pieces that had lost their sets.¬† ūüėõ

Another encounter involved a young boy (maybe two or three) who was slamming a sign down again and again on the LEGO table. ¬†We had just recently had one of those sign holders break and shatter into extremely sharp pieces that I cut my finger on and I didn’t want him to get hurt either… so, I walked over and nicely asked him to be careful with the sign so it wouldn’t break. ¬†Mom made some comment that I took as exasperated humor and to which I responded with a smile and comment about the previously broken sign.

Barely twenty minutes later, I heard someone bouncing on top of the firetruck behind me (serious safety hazard, that) and turned to find the same boy. ¬†He was an exceptionally well behaved kid, I promise, but I’ve seen kids go head first over the edge of the firetruck and am paranoid about it happening again… but with more serious consequences than the last time.

So, I went over to talk to him, asking him to “make sure to sit down or kneel if he was on top of the fire truck” and heard Mom make a nasty comment about how this was the Children’s area and kids should be allowed to do kid things.¬† I was shocked by how angry she sounded and let her know that I was only looking out for her son’s safety, as I’d seen other children take tumbles off the fire truck.

Without looking at me, she said, “I don’t know why you’re so mean.¬† Where did the nice librarian go?¬† You should leave and have her come back.”

I don’t think that I’ve ever had someone say something so harsh to me before and even now, recounting the event a month later, I feel hurt by her response.¬† Truly, I don’t think that she was really angry with me but that she had had a long, frustrating day and I was an easy target.¬† I hope that she and her son continue to use our library in the future and that we are able to move past that first encounter and have a productive library-patron relationship.

AND today is Star Wars Reads Day, which is the first really big event that I have planned (and executed) and I’m really nervous about it.¬† Here’s hoping it is a resounding success!

There have been ups and downs, really nice people and not so nice people, busy days and slow days, and I have learned so many new things!¬† I am excited to see where this new position takes me and what cool things I get to do in the future… I may write about my current job duties, for they are varied and awesome!