Galway, Ireland. September 29th, “The Cliffs of insanity!” or “Wow. That’s awesome.”

So, yet again, this is blogged the day after. I chose to get lots of sleep instead of staying up late blogging while Tim talked to his girlfriend. There’s this strange feeling in the back of my throat and I’m not entirely sure what it is. I could be getting sick, or my allergies could be acting up. Either way, sleep felt like a good call.

Yesterday dawned at the usual time and upon exiting our room to seek breakfast I found that breakfast looked quite tasty. It was in fact quite good, this time though I finally decided that instant coffee just would not do and proceeded to get some tea. Good call. While we were eating breakfast and discussing our plans to head out to the Cliffs of Moher (well worth it if it’s sunny according to our Israeli roommate Yo-Tom) a Canadian girl started talking to us. It turned out that her friends and her were planning on catching the same 2 hour bus ride to the cliffs. She was very nice (as most Canadians are) and so we joined our team with hers and had friends for our trip. Yo-Tom also came on the bus ride. He seemed like he needed a friend and had previously invited us to do things with him, but he wasn’t much of a talker and I didn’t try real hard to get him to be a part of things either…Sigh. It’s got to suck being all the way in Ireland from Israel and not be able to make friends easily.

The bus ride was incredible. The Irish countryside which the day before had seemed all wet and unfortunate was suddenly gloriously sunny and great. The green fields were very very green and the barnyard animals seemed quite chipper out and about in the hilly, stone-walled places that they were in. As we drew near to where the cliffs are we passed through these hills that seemed to be made of square-ish stones. Really big ones. The grass made half-hearted attempts to cover the hills, and the result was this green-grey patchy business that stood boldly forth for many miles. There were rock walls that obviously were made by taking rocks from the hills and stacking them and they were enormously long. I though of it as the Irish equivalent of shoveling the walk that’s covered in snow…except that some unfortunate Irish boy spend his entire childhood building this wall to keep the sheep from wandering onto big rocky cliffs.

As we rode there Tim got somewhat car-sick and so the road there was not his most favorite of times. I on the other hand had a very pleasant time talking to the Canadian girls who came with us. They mentioned that the cliffs we were going to see were the “cliffs of Insanity” from the princess bride. That was a cool fact. I think there’s only one Canadian person that I haven’t enjoyed being around. So thus far the country has set a high bar. I was reminded of my friend Deanna in talking to them. Deanna is getting married soon to her fiancé Steve. They’re both Canadian and I hope I get invited to the wedding.

Eventually we got to the cliffs. It’s very hard to express how incredible it was to see these things. They apparently stretch 8km on the West Coast of Ireland and really give a man an idea of his mortality. They’re HUGE. Biggest cliffs I’ve ever been on that stretch many hundreds of feet down to a rock-filled greenish sea. A wall had been built to keep idiots from careening to their doom. There was also a sign that showed someone falling off the cliff with a line through it. I took it to be saying, “Don’t be a chump.” We explored the part of the cliff that had a little tower on it, but as Rick Steves had mentioned that one has to pay to go up the tower we decided to pass. I got some seriously great pictures. No doubt that Char Beck or Kile Peterson could snag better shots…but they weren’t here…So I took the si pies (sick pics).

As we walked on it was evident that some people had got really close to the cliffs and we weren’t sure of how that was done. Upon closer inspection there was a memorial to the people who died on the cliffs and a sign that said “private property” that one had to bypass to get on to the well-trodden path…lots of other people were out there so we went too. It was great. There was this place where you could lay on your stomach and look straight down into the crashing blue-green waves or if you looked out you could see the clouds stretching on forever over the Atlantic ocean. One of the Canadian girls we were with got very nervous about our looking over the edge and wanting to throw rocks over as well. No harm came of it, but she was probably right. We could have fallen to our doom. Didn’t happen though, and as a result we got some really cool pictures and memories. Only one of the Canadian girls (named Andy…dunno what that’s short for or if her parents named her Andrew…) was bold enough to go where Tim and I went. I was impressed, especially in the context of her worrier friend. Throwing rocks off the side was well worth it. I wish the rocks were bigger though…

On our way out (we really only had about an hour and a half before the bus left—the next bus exited at six…about 5 hours in the future) we got ice cream cones. Tim had been really craving ice cream almost the whole trip and had failed to get it when I bought it in Scotland. He got it this time. Way to go Tim. On the way back all of us fell asleep, while I think that I was the only one to have drooled on myself. Oh well.

We got back and bid the Canadian girls farewell and went looking for dinner at the grocery store, we chose to cook again, and this time I did some minor reflection on my diet and realized I need to start eating more fruits and vegetables. With that in mind I got some salad fixings and we had a full course meal complete with a tomato, spinach, and pepper salad. Big win.

After this we took some time to sit around and do things. I ended up going to mass at St.Nicholas’ Cathedral in Galway. I was really glad to have gone, especially since this last Sunday was the first Sunday here that I hadn’t been to church. Mass was a real treat, though the Irish catholics say everything so fast and the liturgy is just a hair different. I couldn’t keep up for the most part, whereas in US Catholic Mass I find myself being able to participate in about 90% of the mass through my Lutheran roots. Anyway, they were celebrating the feast of the Archangels and the homily was talking about the Angels that make up the heavenly host and that we walk alongside them in relationship with God. That was comforting. It’s nice to remember that I’m not without backup out here in lands unexplored by me.

When it came time for communion I went up expecting to receive a blessing from the officiant because I’m not Catholic. I don’t pretend to be anymore to trick them into giving me communion, but rather I cross my arms and get blessed instead. I think every Christian ought to receive communion, but I don’t see that it makes much sense to have to lie in action to participate in the Lord’s Supper. So, I went for the blessing, but the person giving us the elements (bread and wine) wasn’t a priest so he didn’t know what it meant. Instead of blessing me, he thought it meant that I wanted him to feed me communion. Which he did. So…well…I guess the Lord thought I needed communion too.

I walked through the Cathedral before leaving and looked at the stained glass and the murals. It was a beautiful building and the art that adorned the inside was totally different than anything that I’d yet seen in a Catholic Church. Dunno exactly how to convey that aside from saying that the glass seemed like more of a new-age interpretation of stained-glass art work. It was still great, but it was as though they wanted the old tradition to come out of new ideas of expression. An admirable move and tastefully done. They still had the standard things though. The crucifix, stations of the cross, etc…I liked it lots.

I went back to the hostel and blogged a bit and looked for couchsurfing options. It’ll work out just fine. I’m confident in the Lord on that one at least for today, if I can do that, if I can receive the daily bread that I need from the Lord then that will do. After I got done with the computer time Tim and I headed out to the live music pub again, but I didn’t find it as fun as last night. After awhile we headed back to the hostel and I went to bed.

It was a full and exciting day. Apparently the Canadian girls might be in Spain when I get there, it’d be nice to have friends there already…But I guess that either way the Lord will provide me with friends wherever I go. He has thus far. No reason to expect anything different.

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Galway, Ireland. September 28th “Adopted by Canadian mothers” or “North American hang out time”

So, this is written a day after what actually happened, thus the break in the blogging.

Tim and I got on board the train headed to Galway yesterday morning. The Irish train was very clean and comfortable. Especially compared to some of the English ones. As we sat at our table we were joined by two middle age Canadian women. Monica and Wendy. They were really kind, they talked to us nearly the whole trip, gave us apple slices and candy (both from their bag and from the trolley that sells candy), and gave us motherly advice while they showed us their pictures. It was lovely. Tim and I had forgotten to bring food for the train, so their snacks kept us alive, and it was so nice to be mothered for a couple hours by some wonderful people.

As we were chatting, the Irish countryside rolled by. It reminded me of the Washington coast. Wet, lots of farmland and barnyard animals, and raining. All the land seemed to be subdivided by these stone walls. It was like a flatter, less windy sort of Scotland.

As the train pulled in to Galway the rain stopped. We checked into our hostel (which remained virtually empty) and went out and bought lunch to cook at the hostel on the cheap. Not a bad set up here abouts. We had pasta, with chicken and sauce. Milk is very cheap here. Finding the super market was a bit of an adventure considering that it was hiding in the basement of a mall. Strange placement indeed.

After lunch Tim and I walked over to a park in the area and sat around on the beach in the sun for awhile. It was fun to see a variety of Irish rugby teams practicing their sport under the direction of seemingly irritated Irish coaches. The park (called the Cradagh…I think) is mostly a giant sporting complex with a walking trail. Alongside the park there is the bay and at the right side of the park is a huge boardwalk, complete with beaches that allow for sitting and talking to Jesus and also for throwing rocks into the water. We were under a bit of a time crunch towards the end of our time because it takes a bit to get to the park and also because our newly acquired Christian friends (from the Dublin hostel. Their names are Chelsea and Vita) from the hostel were coming to visit with us for the evening after a long day of riding bikes along the water. We met them the other day in Dublin prior to our leaving, Chelsea’s friend had one of those Jesus fish tattoos and I asked about it and then we found out that the other was a Christian. That facilitated some great time hanging out with nice people.

They met us at the hostel in Galway and we went out to get food as a team and enjoyed some nice conversation with people from home. Initially the plan was to get some pub food and listen to live music, unfortunately all the pubs stop serving food around 5. So that was out. Instead we went to a fancy hamburger shop that had two-for-one deals. The server was from the US and so instead of saying “chips” she said “fries.” Very culturally sensitive. I was convinced to get a hamburger with bleu cheese for the first time ever, it also came with chutney. I was jazzed about the chutney. It turned out to be very tasty and reasonably priced.

After dinner the girls had to leave, so we walked them to the train station and bid them farewell. They’re on the rest of their journey at this point, but having some friends to hang out with for a bit was really wonderful.

Tim and I returned to the hostel until the later in the evening live music started up. Galway is apparently a great focal point for live music of the Irish variety (aka people playing great songs for free in a pub). He took a nap and I stressed out about where I’m going to stay in Paris. I am finding that requesting people to host me on couchsurfing.com is taxing because it’s more or less a manifest lack of control. I send a request that may or may not be answered, then I wait. It’s difficult. I am excited for potential opportunities to share life with locals as opposed to the hostel thing, but it’s challenging to be able to trust God with the unknown in this sense. Not that I worry about who I stay with. I’m eager to hear about their lives and see what they think I should see. More that I worry about having someone to stay with at all. I know that at the end of the day I can check into a hostel and that won’t be terrible, but I also don’t want to spend outrageous amounts of money on lodging when a better, cheaper alternative is available. Mostly, the point is that the Lord has provided for me thus far and will continue to do so. I think I just need to pray in the middle of these things as opposed to getting bent out of shape about it in my head.

Basically, what it came down to was that I let it get the best of me. I worried, which is never useful, and in the process I became irritable and sweaty. As all this happened I knew exactly what was going on and that made me frustrated….balls.

Towards the end of this time, Tim woke up and we walked over to the pub to hear the local music. He asked me about what it would look like to actively trust God. That was a good thing to be pondering, basically I think it means looking at this trip in the context of God’s blessings (which are countless) and His faithfulness (which is great) and deciding not to worry. That’s what I’m sticking with.

When we got to the pub called Taeffes (or something like that, Galway is in the Gaelic speaking part of Ireland. People actively speak it and the signage is therefore more difficult to read/spell) and who should be there but the Canadian women who had adopted us earlier in the day! We sat down next to them and enjoyed some great music and a Guinness. Shortly thereafter we noticed that the people on the other side of us we from Kansas City. All the way from Missouri. Wow. At the same time the Canadian women had adopted two other foreign sons (both Frenchmen) who sat across the table from us. The eight of us sat in the same area and enjoyed each other’s company for the duration of the evening until the pub closed. Our fellow Americans bought both Tim and I another pint of Guinness with which we toasted the USA, our Canadian foster-mothers gave us more of their snacks, and our new-found French stepbrothers gave me advice on where I should visit around Marseilles and also possibly provided me with someone to stay with in Paris. It was a great time.

The live music consisted of a man playing guitar and another who switched between banjo and mandolin. I’m discovering that my Irish heritage plays out in unexpected ways. The Irish never tire of hearing the same songs over and over again. Neither do I. As such Tim and I have heard “wild rover”, “Galway Girl”, “There’s whiskey in the jar”, and a variety of U2 songs many times….and I love it. Wild rover is a particularly great song about repentance. Really. Look up the lyrics. It’s great. The guy singing was very talented and moved the capo on his guitar a variety of times without me ever noticing. It seems that in Dublin people sing songs about Galway and in Galway people sing songs about Dublin. It’s a nice relationship. It was also nice to know what the river Liffey was. It’s the river that runs through Dublin.

I requested that he play Galway girl (because we’re in Galway) and he obliged with a “surely.” He played the song and I think in the process guessed that I wasn’t from Ireland but rather the US. I think that he appreciated that I requested Galway girl and so then proceeded to play an American folk-tunes medly to end the evening. She’ll be coming around the mountain, John Denver’s Take me Home Country Roads, and When the Saints go Marching in. We laughed and clapped and sang like it was nobody’s business. I don’t think that I’ve had more fun listening to music than I did last night. I could really get used to the Irish way of listening to music, I think my mom and dad would love it.

After the last song Tim and I headed out to the hostel again and decided that we’d had a very good evening indeed. Tim stayed up too late talking to his girlfriend on the phone. Tsk tsk.

As always, your prayers are appreciated. Friday morning Tim heads home. That’ll be hard.

Dublin, Ireland. September 27th, “A well poured Guinness ought to take 119.5 seconds to be poured” or “Monks took lots of effort to make their books”

Today was that massive concentration of touristy business that happens every now and again. There were things that needed to be seen and there was a day to see it in. So, we went about it. Breakfast this morning was a tasty and whole-grain affair. I was very enthusiastic about the opportunity to eat well this morning. The usual hostel breakfasts leave lots to be desired, but today, I was pleased with the hostel breakfast. After breakfast Tim suggested we take some time to talk to spend time individually with the Lord Jesus. At first part of me was apprehensive about kneeling in prayer on hard wooden floors, but once I got there I was very glad that I did.

We set forth to change some money. That happened because I still had large quantities of “sterling” left from the UK.

Momentary note. Dublin is a city that is bisected by a river called the river Liffey. On either side of it there are buildings and whatnot and the river is crossed by multiple little bridges. Tim wanted to jump in the river. I told him I would not be doing any such thing on account of the river being gross.

Sometimes it seems like no one in the whole world can pronounce my first name correctly. Grade school teachers, Costa Ricans, Englishmen, Scotsmen, the Irish. Nobody. Oh well. That being said…

At this point we struck forth to see Trinity College and the Book of Kells. We got to Trinity College and Tim decided that instead of seeing the Book of Kells he wanted to lay out in the sun on the grass like all the other college students. Seeing as how we had achieved a very reasonably priced lunch in the student eatery I didn’t blame him. So I went and saw the book.

The book of Kells is a artistic copy of the four gospels from around 800AD and has been well preserved since then. It was viewed for some time as one of the principle treasures of Ireland. The process of making a book on vellum (sheepskin), then forging the dyes out of rocks and other sundries, and then finally writing the book in several stages leaves the viewer feeling like perhaps we’ve lost something in our desire to mass produce scripture. People took YEARS to make a single book, that today is made very fast. Not that this is inherently a bad thing, but I just thought about what it meant to spend vast amounts of time to produce a copy of scripture and how the way that copy was produced mattered. It made just looking at it an experience of theological contemplation and worship of the Lord and thankfulness for His gifts through men. For someone like me who struggles with life/faith as process the idea of spending so long in producing a book of Kells was seriously impressive.

After looking at the book of Kells and seeing the old room in the Trinity College library that holds all their ancient books and busts of old wise dead dudes, I went out onto the grass and fell asleep in the sun for about 20 minutes while the Irish college students behind me discussed capitalism. Napping was better, they missed out.

After the nap Tim and I went to the Guinness brewery tour. It took a bit of walking to get there, but willikers was it cool. The tour itself took several hours and was a very interesting and involved the process of making and history of a 251 year old beer. Arthur Guinness bought the lease for 9000 years in 1759…Lots of time left on that one. Really. 9000. I mean it. We were guided by a video of the master brewer being a bit of a goober for awhile, but you could tell that he secretly enjoyed it…and thus, so did I. It was a good time, and seeing the Guinness advertisements through the years was a lot of fun. We looked at a wall that instructed us on the proper pouring of a Guinness. It ought to take just short of two minutes to do it well, anything else and you’re wrecking it. Watch out US bar keeps. I’m on to it. At the end of the tour we got a “free” pint of Guinness in the Gravity bar. The place is probably the tallest building in Dublin and gives one views of the entire city and countryside. And while the sun is setting it is pretty dang epic.

After this Tim and I had dinner at the oldest pub in Ireland. It’s been there since 1178 or so…That was nuts. The food was good and the waiter more or less told us we were getting Guinness with dinner, we didn’t argue. We talked a bit about going to Galway tomorrow. It didn’t seem like Tim was going to go and that bummed me out a bit. As the evening wore on I started to think about what the rest of this trip will be like on my own and I think I started to allow myself to buy lies about how it wouldn’t work out and I would be friendless and lonely in strange places. I got really stressed out about it. Then the internet at the hostel wouldn’t work. SIGH.

Eventually, Tim decided that he wanted to go to Galway, but I also realized that I’d allowed myself to get chumped for about an hour by the Enemy. God’s provided well thus far and He will continue to do so. I’m not worried about that. I also am one of the most extroverted people I know…so meeting new friends doesn’t strike me as a terribly hard task. Example being the American girls we befriended at the hostel. They’re Christians too. That’s pretty rare as far as most hostelers go. Anyway they’re very friendly and we went to go listen to live music with them this evening and it was fun.

The point being that it’s far from impossible for God to work for my good here and through this experience. In fact that’s what He does all the time. I reckon owning that would be a good thing.

PS: My college loans are officially paid off. AmeriCorps dun’ good I guess. Praise be to the Lord for the gift of financial freedom.

PPS: Galway tomorrow. It’s on the Western Coast of Ireland. This means the ocean. I am jazzed.

Dublin, Ireland. September 26th, “Ireland Redeemed” or “Live music day”

So, I’ll be the first to admit that yesterday was not my favorite experience in Ireland. It may have unfairly colored my idea of this country, however, as soon as the clock hit 11am Ireland became one of my favorite places. Though, to be quite honest, I haven’t really been in a place thus far that I haven’t liked. I have many favorite places here. Anyway…

Why after 11am? Hmmm. I woke up with a migraine. Then I went downstairs to get my bag that I’d left at the desk overnight for security reasons. All good there. Then I decided in a headache-pained stupor that since I was up I should eat breakfast. I started to do that and managed to have interesting conversation with a few Irishmen in which I learned that A) The Irish aren’t impressed by celebrities who don’t play rugby (apparently). And B) The Irish have a sport using ash rods to throw a ball at high speeds—188 mph says google. No idea what it’s called, but it sounds crazy dangerous. That doesn’t sound that bad, but the migraine sometimes comes with vomiting. I did that too. Rough way to start the day. I returned to bed and stayed there until about 11 when checkout happened and then Tim and I walked to the other hostel where we had secured lodging.

As we trekked along, the migraine slowly went away. The sun was shining and the city was brisk and refreshing, unlike the terrible stench that inhabited our room from another hostel person. We got to the new hostel and it looked sharp and eventually was proved to be sharp. People have things in order at the four courts…one just needs to call ahead.

I had attempted to call Jeff Keuss’ friend Carys who I hoped to meet, but that hadn’t happened as of yet so I had a goal for the day. Tim and I dropped our luggage off in the luggage room and then walked on to get lunch and explore. We did that. Dublin is actually a very walkable and nice city. The sun being out reminded me of London. Dublin actually seems at times like a small London that is far more personable and far less caught up with what must be done. As a city vibe at least. We got lunch and then we decided to try and get a hold of a pay-phone because one cannot call mobile phones from hostels in Ireland. Why? Ask the Irish.

We wandered over to the Temple Bar area of town where pay phones were rumored to be. The phones are difficult to use and I was rejected several times by the irritating devices until I finally got through and arranged a time where Tim and I could meet with Carys and have a drink. Huzzah. Whilst we were out though, we found a thing that helps bring Dublin to life: Live Music. We found ourselves in an area where there are a few bars that have live music roughly all day. I entered one and was caught up in a sea of Irish people singing along to a folk song. So I bought a Guinness and enjoyed the vibe. Then we all sang “I would walk 500 miles.” Can’t beat that. No sir.

We ended up sitting in this one for a good long while and listened to a really impressive guitarist and an equally impressive (and not to mention really beautiful) violinist/vocalist do a set. They were really good. I heard U2’s “With or without you” played by other Irish people and it was great, I also heard lots of other impressive things. Check out rigthejig.com that’s their website. In the space of the day I heard the song “Galway girl” 3 times at least. It’s pretty good, but I’d never heard it before today. The Irish live music scene seems to be lots of playing songs people know and can sing along to or just blowing their minds with how skillfully Irish Cultural music can be played. All in all it was a great afternoon.

As 4ish approached I recalled that I wanted to go to an evening service at Christchurch Cathedral here in Dublin that according to the board started at 5:30 on the 4th Sunday of the month. I thought that was this Sunday. So, with that in mind I headed out of the great music early to go check into the hostel officially (check-in wasn’t till 3). I did that, and got to the church on time but the man told me the church was closing. I missed out on half the great music AND there was no service to participate in. Super frustrated, I returned to the hostel and took a shower (I hadn’t this morning due to feeling like crap).

Tim returned from the live music show telling me that he had in fact talked with the band. Sigh. I wanted to talk with the band…stupid misleading sign board.

After his return Tim and I headed out for a drink with Carys and her friend Burnice. It was nice to meet people who know people I know and we had some great conversation. It was nice talking with some local folks. It’s strange how in hostels you can do lots of things that don’t include actually meeting people in the places you go.

In the course of our conversationI heard that UPC used to have quite the link with Carys’ church in Dublin, but as of late that had not been the case. I was saddened by that, I think that having more than one link to European Christian communities couldn’t hurt. Right? Of course right. Anyway, I am excited to be able to go to church with the Morrows (that’s Carys’ last name) on Sunday at their church and to spend a bit more time with them before I leave the good land of Ireland. Her husband is a pastor at the church. I’m excited to meet him also. Maybe I can be a part of a broadening link with other Christian communities? Who knows but the Lord.

After our time with Carys and Burnice, Tim and I went to go get dinner and hear some more live music. We ate Kebabs. A kebab is a pita thing filled with meat cut from a rotating heating thing. I had lamb in my kebab. Big win.

After Kebabs we listened to some more live music. Folk music at one bar and then went to the back and found seats at another one where the music was largely songs we knew. Examples: U2, Bon Jovi, Galway Girl, etc…So, we sang REALLY LOUD with the people who sang loud also. The result was that without having a single drink we had a great time and got to be absurdly loud and sing along to songs we knew. Who knew singing in bars was so fun? I didn’t.

After that we headed back to the hostel. On our way out of the bar we had to wade through people and attempt not to spill their drinks. Also we avoided making accidental eye-contact with the people who were boldly making out in the bar. Tomorrow’s plans include the Guinness brewery tour, Trinity College, and a few other things. I’m excited for it. This hostel doesn’t smell bad at all.

Tim’s been asking me good questions and as a result I’ve been doing some thinking about the nature of the things I’ve been learning lately. Lots of them seem to do with me learning to trust the Lord. That’s a good thing. I’m grateful to be learning that. I think I need to do more of it…but it’s not an easy thing to do.

PS: Ireland is great. Just make sure to plan ahead with your hostel bookings.

Dublin, Ireland. September 25th. “Goodbye UK…Sigh.” Or “So, the port is 6km from the town, the bus line doesn’t go all the way, couchsurfing.org let us down, and the hostels are mostly full?”

Dublin, Ireland. “Goodbye UK…Sigh.” Or “So, the port is 6km from the town, the bus line doesn’t go all the way, couchsurfing.org let us down, and the hostels are mostly full?”

I’ll start with last night. It was a fairly peaceful evening. I read a bit and the went to bed early. In the morning I awoke feeling pretty well on my game or as much as possible. Tim and I checked out of the hostel and moved on to another long day of sitting while moving. The three trains we took went from Oxford to Crewe to Chester to Holyhead where the ferry to Ireland is. I brought food this time so I didn’t arrive anywhere filled with frustration. That was nice. I tried to talk to Jesus on the train, but it’s difficult to do that when everything is moving. I need a place to be still. In any case it wasn’t a wasted day seeing as how Tim and I managed to arrive in one piece in Holyhead, wales.

Wales is a beautiful place. Green hills mixed with the blue ocean are fantastically beautiful. The Welsh also have lots of sheep and tend to build these strange houses  that look like lighthouses right in the middle of sheep pasture…Dunno which boats they’re trying to stop, but either way…those boats know what not to hit. The language is bizarre. Nothing I’ve ever had the chance to experience before. It’s one of those things that make you realize that it’s not a romance language. Fun to read it though, lots of strange syllable combinations.

The welsh at this point are also known by me for their strangely open questions to foreigners. Prior to getting on the ferry Tim and I walked outside for a moment and were quickly accosted by several welsh youths. They told me I looked like Will Farrell, asked if we were from America, asked if we where Christians, and then for some reason asked whether we were virgins or not. We answered that we were to all the above. One said, “Well, I’m only 14 and I’ve lost my virginity.” Then she tried to get us to buy them alcohol. Trying to belittle potential alcohol buyers is not the best strategy for under-age drinkers. We guided the conversation away from that and on to actively telling them that “No, we’re not going to jump into the Irish sea from this bridge.” They asked us to repeatedly. Then we made up an excuse and left. They tried to get our facebook names. I told them my first name in the hopes that they would leave it alone and then never find me because they couldn’t spell it. Or I could have made a tactical error and I will have to ignore some friend requests.

Then Tim and I got on the ferry. It only takes 2 hours from Holyhead to Ireland. There are slot machines on the ferry that are hard to play, they show a Whinnie the Pooh movie, and the food is absurdly over-priced. HOWEVER, you get to go on the deck and play in the refreshingly frigid wind and watch the sun set over Ireland. I got some sick pics of that. (Si Pies for those of you who speak Char Beck.)

Upon getting to Ireland we realized that the port of Dublin is six kilometers from the city centre and we missed the one bus that might have brought us there. So we waited, discovered that it was absurdly cold out, and then managed to get the bus driver to take us to what sounded like “Bo Sirus”…It was actually “bus aras”…We got there and realized we had a good ways to go before we got to the hostel that looked good on the internet. We got there in time, and it was full. The next one after a few minutes was discovered to be…also full. Then we got to the last one and it was not full, but nor is it terribly lovely. We booked the nice hostel for the two nights after this one. I would love it if couchsurfing.org would help me out on this one, but thus far it has failed in the one regard I hoped it would come through on. Bah. The goal had not been to stay in hostels whatsoever. The hostel card still isn’t necessary though.

Walking around in the cold weather with 50 pounds of backpack and 2 rejections from places we’d hoped would help us out makes me grumpy, and also makes it frustratingly easy for me to say “Come on Jesus, what’s the deal? I thought trusting you made things go just fine…” It seems that I either I need to be a bit more participatory in my trust of the Lord or that I need to learn to trust Him even when I don’t get it and I’m cold and tired and hate maps because they make me feel like I should know where I am/where I’m going even when I’m lost on the map…SIGH. Your prayers would be/are appreciated.

In any case, Ireland has not been my favorite place thus far. Hopefully, I’ll get to meet Jeff Keuss’ friends tomorrow and hopefully I can change my pounds to Euros. I’m going to miss saying things like “quid”, “pence”, and “50p? Wow. Get it.” Now I’m using Euro Cents. Not as excitingly different.

I feel like my time in the UK might have spoiled me. I stayed with people I know in new places, I was used to how life moved there, and comfortable with the food and what to get where, etc…Now I’m back to figuring it out again. I want to avoid the hostels as much as I can, but in the UK it was far easier to find people to stay with who made the places I was in come alive. It was all laid out before me at that point…now the path is much more mysterious. Lots of opportunity to trust the Lord’s providence or lots of opportunity to make an ass of myself. Here’s hoping for the former.

Hello Ireland. Goodbye UK. Hello mystery. Goodbye comforting familiarity.

Oxford, UK. September 23rd and 24th, “CS Lewis Day” and “Sigh…Walkin’ around day.” Not in that order.

Well, Yesterday an unfortunate thing happened. My power cable turned evil and sparked at me. The spark did 2 things:

A) Broke the cable.

And

B) Flipped the circuit breaker in the hostel.

The music cut and it was a big awkward mess. In any case I didn’t have a chance to write about yesterday. Tim and I awoke, ate breakfast and then after stopping in Starbuck’s to use their wifi we went our separate ways for the day. I had planned to see my friend Jeff Keuss who is in town for a conference. Tim needed a haircut and a variety of other things that I didn’t. I sent a facebook message to Jeff and hoping to meet him for lunch at the pub that CS Lewis hung out in….That didn’t happen. It turns out that the Oxford wifi system was not opened to him so as it was we didn’t get to meet yesterday. Lots of walking for me. I went all over the place to roughly every location that I figured Jeff could be. I decided that one doesn’t cross the Atlantic hoping to see a friend and not see him especially when the town one is in is as small as Oxford. So I went about trying to narrow down free internet to get a hold of Jeff and also figuring out where he might be. Neither of those things worked and between the hours of 11 and 3:30 I was a frustrated camper walking around cobblestone streets between epically old buildings with ancient architecture. I also walked through an ABSURDLY well-groomed park. The sorts of parks that you see on TV for fancy people. That’s the park system here.

Anyway. I ended up failing to find Jeff, but I did successfully find free internet at the Oxford Social Sciences Library. That was a win. High five Oxford. Way to go.

Following all that, Tim and I got dinner. It wasn’t a terribly fast process. I was crazy tired after looking for Jeff and came back to the hostel and had both tea and coffee instead of taking the nap I probably should have taken. I also read the complimentary bible that is in one of the bookshelves here. I enjoyed that too. We set forth to get dinner and walked for a long time before we found anything. The hope was originally to eat at the Eagle and Child (CS Lewis/inklings pub) but it was full and the menu was limited by the crowded time. No go. Chinese food? Nah. Fancy French restaurants? Nope.

Eventually I was desperately hungry and we passed a restaurant that was called “FISH!” I took it to mean fish and chips and knowing my fierce hunger I desired the large pieces of fish that they had in there. So, we ate there for cheap…and while it tasted good…It really wasn’t worth it. It turns out that cheaply made fish and a mountain of chips (think fries) on a bench in a restaurant just isn’t worth the money you spend. I think that’s like a lot of things. Buying a cheapo pair of pants might be okay, but if one can afford a pair of pants that are nice and last for awhile, it will be more worthwhile I think. The old pair breaks and leaves you cold faster. Just a thought.

In any case, after dinner Tim and I headed back to the hostel with the goal of using the free cable internet at the hostel…when my power cable went bad. So, that didn’t work out. Instead I read a bit and eventually went to the McDonald’s across the street from Starbucks where one can get Starbuck’s free internet there. Hmmm…McDonald’s across the street from Starbuck’s…welcome to Oxford? I sorted out some banking and then sent a few emails, Tim on the other hand needed to chat with the girlfriend, so by the time he started I needed to sleep and then I went home and went to sleep with the goal of getting up early to see if Jeff could hang out this morning. I also asked around at the hostel and got a couple places that might allow me to fix my computer issue. I fell asleep super fast despite the chain-link bed mattress system that they have here.

I’ve been sleeping quite well during this whole trip. Even here in medieval bed. Tim isn’t having the same luck. Rough.

I awoke at 6:30 and via the kindness of someone awake at the hour I was able to see that Jeff was indeed able to do something this morning. As such I went back to bed for an hour and then got up and went over to St. Catherine’s college to meet Jeff at 9. That worked out and I got the opportunity to share my experience here with someone whose perspective I appreciate a lot. We got to hang out for about 2 hours and I got some really good pieces of wisdom to put in my pocket for the rest of the trip as well as free coffee and contact information for people Jeff suggested Tim and I visit in Ireland. The fancy conference he was at even gave me free coffee that was better than the hostel. All in all, it was a good morning. Jeff pointed out a few things that one ought to visit. I sent emails to the people he suggested Tim and I meet in Ireland and then looked at what the afternoon would look like.

Minor note: Oxford works in a system in which there are a variety of colleges. Each college has its own professors, classes, students, facilities, etc…One applies to Oxford through a college. Interesting. Thus CS Lewis and JRR Tolkein taught at different colleges, but were both professors at Oxford.

Secondary minor note: Staying in a hostel and speaking Spanish gets you lots of street cred. Mostly because you can talk to lots of people. I spoke to a fenchman yesterday who only knew French and Spanish. We both used our second language to communicate. It was fun.

The afternoon looked packed. I realized there were many things that needed to be done in the space of several hours. I needed to look at getting a new power cable, I wanted to see CS Lewis’ house, church, grave, and the chapel that he preached in, and also had to meet up with my friend Zach McNay around three. I got back to the hostel around noon. Game time.

I trekked out a ways to the electronics shop and decided that instead of hauling a useless piece of plastic around for a month longer, I ought to get a new power cord. It cost 30 pounds, but I think the sacrifice was worth it. The guy at the store was very helpful. Kudos to Dave at the hostel for suggesting where he did.

I returned to the hostel and then Tim and I went on a LONG walk. We stopped at St.Mary’s which is the church that CS Lewis delivered the “Weight of Glory” sermon in. Then we headed out to his house, church, and grave. It took a long time to get there. I really didn’t know how long it would take because on googlemaps it seems like everything is roughly a click or two away. It took a significant amount of time and some directions to get where we were going and it was pretty chilly out. Escaping Fall isn’t working very well.

In any case we got to the church CS Lewis went to. It’s called Holy Trinity. It’s still a church and looks very old. We couldn’t go in, but we did walk a few feet further and saw the grave of Mr. Lewis. It was a moment of mixed emotions for me. The man whose writing the Lord has used so much in helping me develop and walk with Him was buried there in front of me. He was buried in a humble church graveyard surrounded by other graves of people who probably knew him. It made me think of being “surrounded by a cloud of witnesses” like in Hebrews CH 11. If he was alive I would have shook his hand, as it was all I could do was be thankful for his writing and legacy and be sad that he wasn’t alive anymore. I thanked Jesus for him. I hope that someday perhaps I might become as faithful, honest, thoughtful, and wise as CS Lewis was. Is was strange to feel like I had fully realized my friend Mr. Lewis was really dead and that he wouldn’t be giving me his thoughts in person anytime soon. It might be strange to call him my friend, but I don’t know that he could be anything else.

After that Tim and I moved on and saw his house and nature reserve. It was a nice looking house in which someone actually lives in now. But at the end of the day it was just a house. I got the mandatory pictures and whatnot…but by that point I was tuckered out and a bit emotionally tired from having seen his grave. Heavy afternoon.

Following that Tim and I caught a bus back to town. It would have taken forever to get back to downtown Oxford and from there to see Zach otherwise. I made faces at a cute baby in the bus. She thought I was funny.

We got to where Zach had said he’d meet us and he did indeed meet us. Tim, Zach, and I went to get coffee at a place Zach knew about and we talked for awhile and got a silly photo together. It was a nice visit with someone from Seattle for everyone. Zach is studying philosophy at Oxford. Fancypants.

At this point I was both tired and hungry, but more the second. Tim was very cold. I found that the brisk weather worked well with my natural overheated-ness. I stayed at a nice temperature most of the day. Tim did not. So it was at this moment that I wanted food and Tim wanted to be warm. He went back to the hostel and I went to the Eagle and Child and had a chicken pie with vegetable to complete the CS Lewis day. I decided that since Tim wasn’t coming I would think of dinner as “dinner with Jesus” really I reckon they’re all dinners with Jesus aren’t they? I enjoyed my dinner with the Lord and then came back to the hostel feeling quite tired. Walking all day wears a man out. Not getting fat here. No sir.

Tim and I are taking the train out of here for Ireland in the morning. Last night in Oxford. I think I’ve accomplished the things I want to accomplish here. Hoping to have people to visit once we get to Dublin, I think places are better that way…When you know people.

Jeff Keuss said that someday I would look back on this time and wish I were wandering in Europe again. I think he might be right. Tim is getting pretty jazzed to get home and see his lovely girlfriend. I’m going to be ready to go when it’s time, but in thinking about it this morning I realized that after Tim leaves on the 1st I still have more time on my own than when Tim was traveling with me. I’m pretty jazzed about having more time still. This is quite the blessing.

Oxford, UK. September 22nd, “Earplugs at midnight” or “Lots of time in trains is still no fun”

So, this entry actually takes place on September 23rd. Last night after riding trains for a really long time and not eating anything substantial I managed to give myself a mildly debilitating headache. I get migraines from time to time, but in the genre of migraines there’s this one headache that just takes the edge off the day. I can’t think as fast, my balance is a bit off, and I’m sensitive to bright lights…but it doesn’t really hurt the way a real migraine would.

That’s what happened last night, so I went to bed early. But here’s a more detailed recap of the day.

We left the hostel in Edinburgh around 10:30 yesterday morning and boarded the first of two trains that we would be taking that day. The original idea was to buy some cheese to go with the crackers that I had, but the train was leaving too soon. So that didn’t happen. We spent several hours on the train. I listened to music and stared out the window as the Scottish countryside rolled away. I like Scotland a lot. It was sad to see it go. Especially since it limits my use of my library card in Edinburgh.

Our train eventually stopped in Wolverhampton where we were to transfer to a train bound for Oxford. It got there around 3 and Tim and I were very hungry so we went into the overpriced train café and bought mediocre sandwiches. I also got an orange, but it was the kind with that strange hard yellowish business inside, so it mostly just made a mess. I also tried to enjoy the can of Irn Bru that I bought in Scotland to try. Irn Bru is a Scottish beverage that claims to have used a secret recipe for 100 years. The secret recipe must be a sad piece of wrinkled paper somewhere…It was not good. Imagine liquid bubblegum. Some of you might love that. I did not. I needed to try it, but I don’t want it anymore. Ever.

Our train came ‘round and we got on board headed for Oxford. In due time we got there. This train ride was the first time that I’ve had to sit next to someone. A large British EMT sort of guy sat down next to me and proceeded to talk about things for some time. I listened to his stories for pretty much the whole train ride. It wasn’t terrible, he said pub funny…

We eventually arrived at Oxford where I finally got some cheese to go with my crackers at the grocery store in the station. After this point, Tim and I walked out of there with the intent of discovering whether or not couchsurfing.org had provided us a fun place to stay with some people who would be our friends. It turns out that short notice doesn’t get you much there. We got to a “coffee republic” that offered free wifi where I discovered that the people I’d asked to stay with here in town couldn’t put us up on such short notice (one day). I understood that, and Tim and I checked hostel reviews online and then ended up checking into Oxford Backpackers. Which, judging from the internet, was a very good hostel. I like it better than the one in Edinburgh because it’s smaller, has silly drawings on the walls and people are easier to get to know. The manager Dave checked us in and in general gave us the sense that he was a cool guy.

We placed our things in our room, purchased a lock to lock up the valuable items, and then hit the town. We walked around for awhile and discovered that Oxford isn’t terribly large. It has some really neat architecture and a lot of British bros wearing polo shirts or ties sitting in pubs, but in general it seems to be a nice place. Eventually we found a place to grab dinner and did that. Steak and ale pie is quite tasty. After dinner though I was slowly drifting off into the mists of “I need to go to bed” and so I did that. Earlier than usual, but I really didn’t mind the chance to catch up on sleep.

At midnight however, a powerful snorer snored with all his might, forcing me to walk to the front desk in my underwear to purchase earplugs. I guess I could have put on more clothes…but in this case I opted out. With my earplugs firmly in place I got enough sleep last night. A victory.

Today the plans include trying to meet up with some people I know in this town. One is a guy I’ve lived with named Zach McNay. He goes to school here and it’d be sweet to see him. The other person is my friend Jeff Keuss who is here giving a lecture. Hopefully I can catch him despite his busy schedule. It’d be great to catch up a bit.

That’s all for now. Hoping to find a church to sit in and grab some time with the Lord. Also a starbucks so we can use Tim’s free internet there. Go team, go.