Saturday, September 18, 2010

Rugby Match- Munster Vs Osperys

So you know how NFL games are huge in America? Go to a rugby match. It's a lot of fun and really interesting, and get this- the standing tickets right by the field are half the price of the bleacher seats. I literally watched the match from behind the try line  (try is rugby term for touch down). It was really cool. I didn't understand much of the game, so a friend from New Zealand helped me figure some of the rules out. Apparently it's big there too.

Here's what I got: 

The game starts with a kickoff, and the teams try to gain possession by lifting teammates up to catch the ball. The team then tries to score points by moving the ball to the endzone, if that is what it is called.

If a player has the ball and is tackled the goal is to keep the ball moving. Teammates cover the player to try to give him a chance to get the ball out of the mess of men and to a teammate, who then passes off. The kicker is that the ball can only be thrown backwards in a pass.

To move the ball forward, a player can kick it, and hopefully it will hit the ground on the field and bounce out of bounds, where it is then thrown back into play. If the ball goes out of bounds before it hits the ground, it is thrown in from where it was kicked, and it doesn't move forward.

Then there is what is called a scrum. The teams line up against one another, sorta like in football but a lot tighter. A player throws the ball in the center, and the teams push against each other to get it. I don't know exactly when a scrum happens, but I do know it is to determine who has possession.

When a try is made, the team moves for a conversion, which is like a field goal. The ball is kicked from directly behind where the try was made. So the kicker may have to make it from a strange angle. Similar to football, the try is worth 5 points and the conversion is worth 2. Apparently you can move for a conversion at any point in the game, but I haven't figured out much more than that.

All in all, it is a great experience. Rugby is easy to get into and as the Irish would put it, "Great crack!"

Enjoy a few pictures:

 -Thomond Park Stadium-
Home of Munster Rugby

-People on Stilts in Costumes Made of Munster Flags-
"Look Ashley, they're your height." 

-The Munster Spirit-
I love this outlook on life.

 "Look how big those guys are... My Goodness. Where can I get one??"

-In all red-
"I'll take him."

-Referee Calling a Tackle-
I think it is at this point a scrum would be played, but I am really not sure.

Like football, just a lot more friendly

 -I *heart* Lorren-
Like my Munster shirt? Gotta show some pride.

Again- Thanks to Lorren Root for the pictures. ^_^

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Cliffs of Moher Day Trip

The first trip outside the Limerick city limits took me to the Cliffs of Moher and everywhere in between. It was a gorgeous journey across the Irish countryside and through quaint little villages. All the students in the AIFS program packed into a Barratt Guided Tour Bus along with a few other curious travelers from around the world. The guys sitting behind me were from Spain.

Throughout the tour I absolutely fell in love with Ireland. The people are friendly, and the landscape seems untouched. I was reminded of vacations up north in Wisconsin by the little effect people appear to have on the land. Nothing was outlandish or overdone. People live as they need to and nothing more. Even in the most populated areas, cattle and sheep outnumber humans.

We stopped in many locations for pictures, in Doolin for lunch at Gus O'Conner's Pub in Fisher Street (there are two villages contained in Doolin; Fisher Street is one of them), and finally we headed to the Cliffs of Moher. It was beautiful. Look at the pictures and see for yourself. Each one has a caption explaining what is in the picture and a bit of information I learned.

 -Leamenagh Castle-
This was are first stop on the tour. It once was an O'Brien stronghold. The O'Brien's was a dominate clan in the County Clare (where our entire trip took place).  It is now on private property and surrounded by a electrical fence. See the cows?

-Burren National Park-
"Leave only your footprints, take only your memories"

-Limestone Pavement-
Naturally occurring limestone formations that are particular to Burren National Park. They are formed by glaciers during the iceages.

-Out Through the Entrance to Caherconnell Stone-
Caherconnell is a ring fort built and occupied between 900 and 1000AD by the Davoren family. It is still owned by Davoren family ancestors. This ring fort, named for its circular shape, is one of the oldest and the best preserved ring forts in Burren and in Ireland as a whole. 

-Inside Caherconnell-
Here I am standing on a wall that separtated the ring fort into two sections, perhaps one for inhabitants and one for livestock. In times of distress or war, the livestock would be brought into the fort for safe keeping since the number of cattle owned signified wealth. 

-Crumbled Wall of Caherconnell-
Over time the wall of the fort has collapsed and a beautiful elderberry bush has grown next to the heap of rock. The bush is proof that the collapse of the wall occurred quite a while ago.

-Ancient Irish Wall-
Walls like this traced through the Clare county landscape in fences, houses, ruins, and tombs. Stone walls were used because they allowed the wind to pass through the gaps between the rocks.

- Pounlabrone: "Hollow of the Millstone"-
Remains of some 30 bodies were found in this tomb. Most of them were cremated.

-Limestone Pavement in the Ballyvaughan Valley-
The landscape here is known as a karst landscape. It looks like the surface of the moon to me.

Not much was said about blackhead, but it looks over the beautiful Galway Bay. Perhaps it was named for the black rock that coated the shore in this area.  You can see one of the three Aron Islands in the distance.

-Fanor Church-
This is the ruins of the ancient Fanor Church. Burial ceremonies are still held in the cemetery for  locals. There's a more recent headstone in the lower right hand corner.

-Ballyreen Shoreline-
This was the tour guides favorite spot. We could climb out to the edge. It scared Elaine to pieces. Elaine acts as mommy for the AIFS students while we are here. Hi Elaine!

-The Cliffs of Moher-
These cliffs are absolutely breath taking and some 300 meters high. It was a hike up for sure.
 I bought my hat in Doolin from a Sweater Shop.

-Cliffs of Moher-
Looking south down the coastline and toward the Atlantic.

-Cliffs of Moher-
Beautiful even without me.

-Cliffs of Moher-
Looking out toward the North. The public attraction area ended approx. 500 meters from the location where this picture was taken on private property. I did not venture beyond the safety point but peolpe often do.  I found this pic online and included it for it's beauty.

-Cliffs of Moher-
This picture was taken by a peer at the safety point. You can tell the image above is of the same rock formation at the bottom of the cliff. 

-Friends at the Cliffs of Moher-
These are other AIFS students. A couple of them are housemates of mine*.
From left: Andy*, Me, Morgan*,  Charlie, Kri, and Lorren

Here's a list of everything we saw and went through:
Leamenagh Castle, Burren National Park, Limestone Pavement, Carren Church, Caherconnell Stone Fort, Poulnabrone, Ballyvaughan Valley, Gleninagh Castle, Galway Bay, Blackhead, Aran Islands, Fanor and Fanor beach, Balleyreen, Ballinnalacken Castle, Doolin, Cliffs of Moher, Ennistimon, Inagh

Pictures borrowed from Lorren Roots and Charlie Johnsons and some online source I cannot seem to find.
Thanks guys!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Until now

I arrived in Shannon, Ireland on August 30, 2010 at 7:00 am. It was a 15hr journey. Jet lagged, but excited to be here as one of the 27 American Institute for Foreign Studies (AIFS) students, I moved into Plassey Village at the University of Limerick in Limerick, Ireland.

We've been through Orientation and our first week of classes. I have chosen to take 5 modules.

Irish Music and Song- I'm going to learn to play the baron!
Irish Folklore- Literature on Fairies and Leprechauns
Analytical Chemistry 3- Crystallography
Process Technology 3- Chemical Reaction Engineering
Polymer Sciences