Journal Entry #1

Think about how the land in the United States is divided. It is divided into states. Ireland is also divided but instead of calling them states they called counties. This past weekend I was able to visit a different county which is called County Kerry. County Kerry is about a two hour drive from Cork city and is full of history, nature and wonderful people. The trip I took is called, “The Ring of Kerry Heritage Weekend Tour” and is designed by my school, University College Cork, for International students, like myself, to learn more about traditions in Ireland. While on this tour I saw some amazing things in nature, such as: a waterfall, beaches, cliffs, moss covered trees various animals and the giant waves crashing onto the rocks of Ireland’s coast. I also learned how to Irish step dance, play Gaelic football and meet some really great people! Read on to hear more about the wonderful County Kerry!

It was Friday afternoon at 2:05pm when a bus of fifty college students departed from Cork City for the two hour journey to one of Ireland’s most beautiful places along the Southwest coast. We were headed for the town of Cahersiveen, pronounced “care-a-sah-vean,” which is located on the Atlantic coast in County Kerry. The population in Cahersiveen is only 1,294 people, but even though it was small, all of the people I met were extremely kind and thoughtful. Everyone was very excited for a weekend full of hiking, Irish dancing lessons, picture taking and some good old fashion fun or craic as the Irish call it.

The first stop that we made in County Kerry was the Crag Cave. This is a small cave that is made from limestone rock. Limestone rock is rock that is very rough and is usually made out of fragments, or little bits, of marine, or ocean, organisms such as coral. The Crag Cave was full of stalactites and stalagmites. Do you know what either of those words mean? Stalactites are cone shaped deposits of limestone water that hang from the roof of a cave. Stalagmites are the same thing except for hanging from the ceiling, they grow from the floor of the cave upwards. These form when limestone water drips and drips and drips and because of the little fragments it eventually builds up to make cone shaped columns.

Later on that evening, we listened to a local County Kerry lady who told us about growing up in Kerry and taught us Céili dancing. This type of dancing is very fast paced, as I soon discovered and is usually danced to live music. We had the pleasure of dancing to the drums and the accordion! There is a lot of hopping involved in Céili dancing so your legs get quite the work-out, but the energy boost that you get from swinging around the dance floor with your partner makes up for it!

Bright and early the next morning we were back on the bus. Everyone was looking a little sleepy, but we were more than ready to see the countryside of Kerry. We went to see the location of where the first transatlantic cable was laid. This cable is a giant rope of wires twisted together and then laid at the bottom of the ocean that runs from Valentia Island County Kerry, Ireland to the United States. When it was laid in 1866, this cable served as the main communication between Europe and the United Hiking in Ireland. States! You are probably asking yourself, “how did people communicate through a wire at the bottom of the ocean?” Well, they used a something called Morse code. Morse code is a way of sharing information by turning words into a series of clicks and then tapping these clicks into a special machine. People on one end would tap messages into the machine and a person on the other side of the world would translate the clicks back into words.

Throughout the rest of the weekend I was also able to see the beautiful outdoors and animals of County Kerry. My favorites included: seeing the crystal clear water fall which was located in the Killarney National Park. I also discovered the greenest tree trunks I have ever seen! They were green because they were covered in moss. Thanks to the constant rain in Ireland there is always a lot of moisture in the air and moss is a result of the moisture and can be found on almost every tree. I also loved playing with the baby calves and lambs, but my favorite part was seeing the tide come in at Danger Beach. It is called “Danger Beach” because the tide comes in so quickly it has been known to take people by surprise and sweep them out to sea.

Remeber how I said earlier that the people in Cahersiveen were extremely kind and thoughtful?  Well, this story will give you a little view into just how nice the people in Kerry really are. After a full day of hiking around the countryside we were given some free time on Saturday afternoon so a few friends and myself decided to go and see the castle that was in the movie Leap Year. Have you seen that movie? The bus driver dropped us off near the castle and told us we had a few hours to explore, but we would have to walk the two and a half miles back to our hotel. We were so excited to see the castle that we did not mind the hike back.

Just as we were getting off the bus we realized that we really needed to use the bathroom. We asked our bus driver, Tommy, if there was any place nearby, besides the bushes, to use the bathrooms. He said, “no,” but that we should “just go up to a house and ask to use their bathroom.” We were a little bit surprised that people would just let random strangers into their homes but three of my friends had to go so badly they decided to test it out.

The rest of our group decided to continue onto Ballcarberry Castle and along the way took bets if they would actually be welcomed into a house to use their bathroom. I admit that I doubted people would let three American girls, with muddy hiking boots, into their houses just to use their bathroom, but I was proven wrong. When my friends made it to the castle, about twenty minutes after us, they informed us that they were welcomed into the first house they had knocked on! The family that lived there was very interested in hearing about their study abroad adventures and let them in. Even though this was a very funny situation, it has taught me two important lessons. Number one is to go to the bathroom when there is a bathroom, otherwise you may be stuck walking through the countryside of Ireland and really, really have to go! Number two is not to be afraid of asking a question because you never know what the answer is going to be.

Overall, this weekend was one of the best I have had in Ireland so far! It was the perfect combination of being outdoors, talking to locals and learning about the amazing County Kerry!

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