Sunday, August 31, 2008

Night Out

Today, a couple of us headed down to a church in a nearby hotel called Calvary Church.  It was very tiny, but a lot of fun.  The Pastor was an American too.  Afterward, we headed home and had French Onion soup for lunch.  Now we're just hanging out until 4:45, when we're headed out onto the town.

We'll be eating at a nice Italian Restaurant in town and then go to see a show similar to Riverdance.  It should be a lot of fun, and I'm really looking forward to the food (sometimes it seems that all I do is talk about food on this blog ;))

Our homework load is definitely picking up now.  I actually have work to be doing, go figure.  I actually feel like I'm in college now.  Sort of.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Today was a very peaceful, relaxing day.  My site visit group came over for tea in the afternoon, and we discussed the outline for some of our papers on the different places we've visited so far.  It was fun to just hang out over cups of tea and talk about the history of this amazing place.

Right now, we're all cooking our dinner.  Actually some of my roommates are cooking and I'm the designated DJ for tonight.  We're making stir fry with a fruit salad and curry cheese fries (apparently a very Irish dish... go figure).  It smells delicious in here.  My professor and his wife, the Cosgroves, are coming over for dinner tonight.  We even bought three liters of Coke for the special occasion!

Tonight, all the girls are sleeping over in our apartment!  We're going to watch Penelope and Pride & Prejudice, make facial masks out of oatmeal and bananas or some crazy concoction like that, make chocolate chip cookies, and just hang out.  Tomorrow, I'm making pancakes with Melissa for everyone.  It should be a blast!  But we do have to get up early in order to go to the Aran Islands tomorrow, our first outing since coming here to Galway.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Popcorn and Pancakes

Today, we've just been relaxing at the apartment.  Yesterday, I got to go downtown Galway shopping in the tiny Irish stores.  It was a lot of fun to wander through the pedestrian-only part of town.  My friend Kate Meredith was extremely excited to find a Polish store there that sold her favorite Polish juice.  She spent the summer in Poland on a mission trip, so she was nearly sprinted through the mall when she saw the sign for the store.

This morning, I made pancakes for my apartment, but they turned out more like crepes with the Irish pancake mix.  Then, this afternoon, I made my box of Macaroni & Cheese, and we all shared in the cheesiness and American goodness of food from home along with a liter of Coca-Cola.  Right now, we're all just hanging out watching movies and eating popcorn.  On Thursday night we're going to have a sleepover with all 20 girls in the FISP program in my apartment.  That should be a blast!  And tonight we're grilling fish fresh off the boat.  I'm not really a big fan of fish, but if I'm ever going to try it, Galway is the place.  Goodbye for now!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Slowing Down

We moved into our apartments (ours is called Gratton House 7) on Saturday.  I have five roommates, but the apartment is HUGE!  I even have my own room.  There are two floors, two bathrooms, a living room, three bedrooms, and a tiny kitchen.  This is probably going to be the nicest place I'll stay during college!  My window looks out over the Atlantic Ocean, and we did our homework yesterday on the beach.  My roommate and I (Melissa) even found three snails on the beach, Gratton House 7's new pets!  Their names are Big Daddy Craic (pronounced "crack"), Craic Junior, and William Butler Yeats.  Craic is an Irish word for good fun or laughter, just in case you were wondering.

We cook our dinner in groups, and our apartment is with an apartment of boys downstairs.  Last night, one of my roommates, Katie, made this awesome pasta sauce with noodles, veggies, and bacon.  Today we're all busy cooking a beef soup with potatoes, carrots, onions, and all sorts of other stuff.  We definitely don't go hungry around here.

These next couple days are going to be class days.  Tomorrow Dr. Cosgrove starts to lecture again on Foundations of Christian Thought.  I'm reading Beowulf for that right now, drinking a cup of tea.  It's been nice to be able to settle down and unpack for a while, even though we'll only be here for two weeks.  I was a bit sick of living out of a suitcase and constantly moving around the country.  Tonight, we're going to take a study break with a movie and some popcorn!

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Picture Explanation (Because they're in random order)
1.  This is one of the Skellig islands, but it is a bird sanctuary.  It's this huge rock jutting out of the sea, literally swarming with bird.
2.  This man was the captain of our boat that took us out into the Atlantic to Skellig Michael (the island with the monastic site)
3.  This is where we picnicked on Thursday afternoon.  It was gorgeous!
4.  This is me and Kate Meredith (one of my roommates in Upland)
5.  Gallarus, the ancient church/oratory we visited on Thursday
6. The Gap of Dunlow.  We hiked between these two mountains following the river.  It looked like a scene out of Lord of the Rings
7.  Some of the FISP students enjoying the view during their hike.  They are looking down at #6
8&9.  The boats that took us out to where we started the hike through the Gap of Dunlow.

The Skelligs

Yesterday (Friday) was probably my favorite day so far, but first I have to tell you about Gallarus which we visited on Thursday.  That day started off with an insane game of Rugby on Inch Beach.  I have several bruises on my shins and knees from that, even though we played in sand.  We continued driving along the coast, and our last stop of the day was Gallarus, this tiny rock church built over a 1000 years ago.  At first I found the hollowed out pile of rocks to be pretty boring.  After all, we had just been driving along the dramatic Atlantic Coast with huge cliffs dropping off into the sea.  But then our leader, Ruth, reminded us that without this tiny, ancient church paving the way for Christianity in Europe, we probably wouldn't be Christians today.  If that pile of rocks hadn't been built to glorify God, we would still be pagans, worshipping the Celtic gods and goddesses.  The history of that moment hit me hard, and I loved just hearing my group sing the Doxology and Come Thou Fount in that tiny room of stone.

The next day, we headed out to two islands called the Skelligs on a fishing boat piloted by to Irishmen.  The Skelligs are two rocks sticking out of the sea, one a bird sanctuary covered with thousands of birds and the other an ancient monastic site perched high up on a cliff.  We climbed over 600 ancient, stone stairs built by the monks to come to their living place.  It was one of the most beautiful, wild places in Ireland that I have seen.  After wandering around the monastic site, we headed back down the steep cliffs to our boat.  On the way back, we were followed by a dolphin!  Our whole group just laughed and smiled as it jumped out of the water along our boat.  It was such an awesome site and a fun day.  I even got a video of the dolphin.

Today, we leave our hotel in Kellarney and head to apartments in Gallaway for two weeks.  I'm not sure when I will get internet access again, so this could be the last update for a while.  I'll try to upload pictures to the blog as well, but that takes a very long time with this software and my slow internet.  Anyway, hope you all are having an awesome time and getting ready to go back to school.  We're off again here in Ireland!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lord of the Rings

Today, we went on a beautiful boat ride up a river and through the lakes of Kellarney followed by a seven mile hike through a mountain gorge.  It was just like something out of the Lord of the Rings, especially the boat trip up the river.  The hike was amazing, with beautiful misty mountains and sheep wandering through the rocks and flowers.  There were waterfalls everywhere too, feeding the river.  It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.  Today, I got to eat Chinese food for dinner too, followed by chocolate cake for my roommate's birthday.  We then wandered around the town, stole Brayton's scarf, and got ice cream.  Tomorrow, we will head up to Dingle to go the beach and maybe learn how to play Rugby from our awesome bus driver Ryan.

I'm falling more and more in love with Ireland the more time I spend here.  The culture is amazing, with an incredible depth in history and identity.  And the countryside is even more spectacular.  I can't wait for tomorrow.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Kissing the Blarney Stone

Today, we ventured out into the rain to see Blarney Castle.  It was pretty impressive with winding stone stairs and everything out of solid rock.  Legend has it that if you kiss the Blarney Stone, you'll get the gift of gab, so we all did that, hanging out over a rock a couple hundred feet in the air.  I was glad to have the man there holding me up!  The castle itself has fantastic gardens with beautiful rocks, waterfalls, and gigantic ancient trees.  Even though it rained the whole time, my raincoat worked wonders, even keeping my camera dry in my pocket.

We ate lunch beneath the bus (yes under the bus)  It was actually quite roomy in the cargo hold, so since it was pouring and we couldn't eat onboard, we all squished under the bus with our sandwiches.  That was actually a lot of fun!

Tonight, we ate at a pub, and I loved the food.  I ate toasted ham sandwiches with cheese and onions.  Pubs are definitely my favorite place to eat.  It's very relaxed with slow service, but it gives you the time to just chill and relax with the people you are eating with.  I'll probably upload some pictures tomorrow.  But goodnight to all of you for now.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


Well, I'm still up from my last post running on 2 hours of sleep on the bus on the way to O'Hare and about an hour of sleep on the plane.  Which makes about 30 hours straight we've been up.... let's just say that things have been getting interesting around here.  It's almost time to go to bed again so that our internal clocks will switch over to Ireland time.

Our flight over was smooth, even though we took off from Newark about an hour and a half late.  We only lost one bag on the flight between 33 people, so that was pretty good.  After landing, we loaded our luggage onto the bus, met our bus driver, Brian.  Then, we went to go see the Muckross House, a beautiful old house with a giant garden.  The gardens were absolutely gorgeous, one of the most beautiful and calming places I have ever seen.  The house itself reminded me of the chateau from Cinderella.

Afterward, we checked into our hotel the McSweeney Arms Hotel (yes, it does have the best name ever!)  Finally, I went out with a group of six to dinner in a pub where I had traditional Irish stew.  A bit bland but still very good and filling.  Right now I'm just so over-tired, I really need to go to be now.  Well good night!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

"Remember you are over the Edge of the Wild now, and in for all sorts of fun wherever you go.”
-Gandalf (The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien)

Well, its 6:30 here, and we are getting ready to leave very soon!  I'll update when I can in Ireland, but we won't always have an internet connection.  Here we go!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Packing... again

For the past couple hours everyone in FISP has been just hanging out and packing to get ready to leave.  We're off at 7:30 tomorrow, with a four hour ride back to Chicago and O'Hare.  Our flight is at 2:30.  We'll be traveling on the east coast of Ireland for the first three weeks, so you won't be able to contact me, except for when I have an Internet connection, which will be limited.  But after the third week, we will settle down at the YMCA in Greystones.  You can write me there at

Jessica Larson
YWCA Conference Centre
Coolnagreina, Trafalgar Rd.
Greystones, CO. Wicklow, Irelan

Apparently international mail takes about five days, so not too bad of a gap there.  We'll land in Ireland at about 7:00 in the morning and head off on a tour right away.  We're supposed to stay awake all day so that we can make the time adjustment.  We'll see how that goes...

Personally, I am sooooooo excited to leave.  After hearing Dr. Maloney speak all week about Ireland, the culture, the politics, and the sites we'll be seeing, I'm dying to just get on the plane and go.  In TWELVE hours we'll be leaving!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Hanging Out

Right now, we are all in the lobby/hang out room of the Swallow-Robin dorm, eating popcorn, listening to Irish music, and watching the Olympics.  Today was my last day of class with Dr. Cosgrove, but our test is still due tomorrow.  I'm done with that and should be done with homework until I get to Ireland!  That's definitely a relieving feeling.

Tonight, we were invited over to the president's house for cookies, cake, and ice cream.  It was a lot of fun to just hang out with Mrs. Habecker (the pres.'s wife), play with their Portuguese Water dog called Taylor, and listen to everyone play various instruments, including the piano, the guitar, and even African Drums.  There was a lot of laughter, prayer, and good community.  Every older student talks about the deep sense of community here at Taylor, and this FISP (Freshman Irish Studies Program) is forming a wonderful, caring community even after four days.  I can't wait to see where God is taking this group!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Homework... ugh.

Our first test is tomorrow for Foundations of Christian Thought.  It's actually a take-home test, so the work isn't that hard, just time consuming.  Other than that, I have one other writing assignment and some reading due.

Today's afternoon FCT class was pretty cool because we all shared our testimonies with each other.  The group has been slowly forming relationships and seeing personalities and quirks come to light in each other, and today added a whole new dimension to the group-dynamic.  So far most conversations have been casual get-to-know-you stuff, but today, people were able to share their personal stories about their lives and their faith.  I loved seeing their honesty with where they were in the journey as well as the past, and I can't wait to see where this next semester will bring us both as a community and as individuals.

Monday, August 11, 2008


My first day in Upland went surprisingly well.  I woke up very confused as to where I was when I woke up in a strange room and then proceeded to spend half the morning trying not to sleep through the morning lecture, but after lunch I was able to stay awake through my first college class, Foundations of Christian Thought.  It was so weird to have an extremely intelligent professor talking about psychology, worldviews, the existence fact and morality, and other deep, intellectual topics and then tie all of them into the character of God and the Trinity.  Definitely different from public school, but I loved it!  The very first class I'm taking starts right off with why we should integrate both faith and learning, something I was never able to find at North.

Later that night, one of my roommates and I walked down to Taylor Lake.  It was absolutely gorgeous as the sun set.  There was a blue heron on the lake, and I got to sit on the dock and do my homework and journal as the sun set over the lake/pond.  I think Taylor Lake will be one of my favorite places on campus when I return for the second semester.  I loved just getting away to a peaceful spot to think about the day.

Here are some pictures of my dorm.  It's very bare because we'll only be living here for a week, but it's home for now.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Well, I'm here in my room at Taylor.  We hauled all of our bags up to our rooms earlier today, wandered around the campus, and introduced ourselves about 3 thousand times.  I definitely am going to have issues remembering all these names and faces.  I have two roommates for at least the rest of the week at Taylor named Lauren and Kate.

It's kind of funny to watch ourselves being so polite and restrained.  You can tell that everyone is tired and a bit nervous, and there are often awkward moments of silence in conversations.  But people have slowly relaxed throughout the evening with the help of a little bit of humor.  Tomorrow, we have breakfast, and a lecture about what we'll be studying starts at 9:00.  Then, my first class starts after that... ugh.  I'm definitely not looking forward to the start of school.  With my summer being so short, I fell like I just finished all that stress of books due and long papers to write.  Anyway, that's all I have to say for now.  Good night!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

All Packed

After about two hours and a minor suitcase disaster, my two (yes two) bags are packed for Ireland.  I'll be leaving tomorrow for Taylor, about a four hour drive, and my parents will return home without me on Monday.  Unfortunately, I was unable to fit Nikki into my bag, so she will not be able to join me in Ireland.

The last couple of days in Michigan were a blast, even though they got off to a rocky start.  Mary and Lauren came up to visit my grandparents with me, and Lauren got sick on our first night there!  We spent Wednesday around the house shooting the BB gun, dressing up in the dress up clothes I used to play with as a little kid with my cousins, and watching movies.  That night, Mary and I went for a swim in Lake Michigan right as a storm was blowing in.  It was pretty incredible to see the lightning (no we did not swim during the lightning) the waves, and the rain pelting down on us.  Definitely a memorable night.

The next day, we spent the entire time on the boat skiing, tubing, and wakeboarding.  Lauren apparently is a skiing prodigy.  I have never in my life seen someone get up on skis on their first try, but she did.  Then she was even able to get up on the wakeboard.  Both Mary and Lauren went tubing as well, and then paid for it the next morning with extremely sore muscles.  All in all, it was an awesome way to end the summer.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Here We Go

"The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses its turning." 
- Tuck Everlasting (Natalie Babbit)

Well, here is the promised blog for Ireland.  Just a warning before we start: I'm terrible at blogging and actually updating, but I'm going to try really hard to let you guys know what I'm doing in Ireland and uploading pictures for those of you who don't have a Facebook.

This week, I've just been getting together all the last minute things that I need to pack, and today was the last shopping trip for Ireland (hopefully).  It feels so surreal that I can fit three months of my life into two duffel bags that are under 50 lbs.  But I've also noticed in my packing how much extra junk we think that we need.  

So here's my schedule for this next week.  

Tomorrow: I'll be heading up to Michigan to visit my grandparents and go boating
Saturday: I'll be packing
Sunday: I'll drive up to Taylor with my parents!  

Here we go!