Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ireland Flashback - Campile Pipers

The band leader is Ron's cousin, Paddy Shannon.

This video was taken on July 13th at the Carrigbyrne Field Day in County Wexford, Ireland.

video

Sunday, July 27, 2008

90 Degrees In Norway!

When you visit Norway, you don't expect to use your bathing suit. But, yesterday I was so glad I brought it.

We visited Bergen the last few days and stayed with our host's niece, Christal. Bergen is a fantastic city and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

When we returned yesterday we could think of nothing but jumping into the fjord! We enjoyed a swim in a beautiful lake until 7pm. Since it stays light until 12:30am and the sun rises at 3:30am, swimming in the evening is no problem!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

What Did You Do Today?

After a homemade breakfast of eggs, salami, fresh bread, homemade jam and Norwegian coffee, we took a ferry through the fjord and met up with another relative of mine (Kirsten).

We trekked for about two and a half hours up a steep mountain (fjell) and took in amazingly scenic views from every angle, fed some wild horses, pet a few sheep on the mountainside and enjoyed the 80 degree day.

Upon returning to the car, we went back to Kirsten's house for a fresh dinner (midday meal) of salmon, potato salad, green salad, fruit salad, coffee and almond cookies. We viewed the town of Bergen and many surrounding mountains from her 10th floor lovely flat.

We then made our way to her daughter's house that evening and enjoyed the warm evening on the patio with family eating lefsa (a delicious Norwegian dessert) and ice cream.

As the evening cooled down, we made our way back to the ferry through the fjord just in time to see the sun lowering. Time to go to bed and do it again tomorrow!

Life is good.

I have to go!!

I arrived in Ireland asking to use the restroom or bathroom and got strange stares.

I learned to ask for the toilet or loo.

I arrived in Norway and asked for the toilet or the loo and got strange stares.

I learned to ask for the water closet.

It is hard to keep it straight when you have to go!

When in doubt, I find that miming is effective =).

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

In Norway, Everyone Looks Like Me!

I’m still not completely used to this idea of strong ethnic heritage and pride. It is strange to be in such a homogenous place and have everyone be very proud of that. I suppose when “your” people have been living in one place for more than a thousand years, the traditions and ways of life become a part of identity.

It was very strange to walk up and down the train from Oslo to Bergen and feel like the vast majority of riders looked like members of my extended family. But, I guess when the capital city used to be named Kristiania (the original spelling of my maiden name was Kristiansen), this is to be expected!

This trip has also made me very curious to explore my Danish heritage. My mother’s family is Norwegian, Danish and Swedish; my father’s family is 100% Danish.

So, basically, I’m a Viking.

-Trina

Getting Caught Up!

So, here's all the writing we've been promising you! We're still not at a place where pictures are easily uploaded (I tried one and it took 15 minutes!), but I figured we might as well get you updated on the writing. We have pictures selected to go with each entry, so we'll eventually go back and add them and let you know. But, for now, happy reading!

PS - Everything after "Welcome to Bergen" through "Quotables" was written while we were in Ireland. Anything that says "today" or "here" refers to Ireland (where we were when we wrote it), not Norway (where we are now)!

Quotables

In response to hearing that I live in Seattle, “Have you met Dr. McDreamy?”

From a younger cousin who hadn’t heard many non-Irish accents, “Say something. Weird. You sound like the voice on my computer!”

“How can you eat dinner without potatoes?”

From an 8 year old cousin in response to learning that I do not attend Mass and did not know the Hail Mary, “Are you a Christian? Have you heard of the Bible? Have you heard of Jesus?”

Did You Know?

-Ireland was neutral in WW2?
-The famous three leaf clover was used by St. Patrick to explain the concept of the Trinity to the Irish?
-A small shot glass and a large water glass made of Waterford crystal are the same price because it is the workmanship, not the material that makes them expensive?
-Saving Private Ryan beach scene was filmed on Curracloe beach here in Ireland?

Now you do.

-Trina

Potatoes

Prior to the Potato Famine, a poor farmer was living on a diet of almost exclusively potatoes. Everything else was sold at the local market to make ends meet. An adult male consumed 14 lbs of potatoes a day, an adult female consumed 11.2 lbs and a child under 11 consumed 4.9lbs. No wonder that the blight (fungal potato disease) caused over a million to die and over a million to emigrate (out of a population of 8 million).

The Sound of Music

At a recent dinner party thrown in our honor, we enjoyed spontaneous solos sung by a 14-year-old cousin (Niamh), an adult recording artist and several other family members. Group singing followed. The kid’s table sang the national anthem, “Cockles and Mussels” and many others. Even the youngest came running in from the field to join the singing. Singing is a part of life here and I love it!

My Church History

Quite honestly, I’ve never given much thought to my relationship with Catholicism. As anyone who has studied church history knows, Christianity and Catholicism were one and the same for the first 1500 years of its existence. The depth of history we’ve experience in Ireland (most historical sites are 800 years or older) has caused me to think about the roots of my own faith.

I’ve never really thought about historical Catholicism as my faith. But, being here, I am enjoying embracing my church history. When I see these beautiful works of art that were built as acts of worship, or I read inscriptions carved into stone 700 years ago expressing the same wonder that I feel…it’s just overwhelming.

The baggage of history or the specifics of my beliefs today aside, it is wonderful to feel identity with something so rich.

-Trina

Ethnic Catholicism

I think Catholicism is as much ethnicity as it is religion here in Ireland. Regardless of your religious beliefs, Catholicism has informed everything from your first name to the timing of radio broadcasts (all radio stations pause several times a day for the Angelus bells).

So if you’re Irish, you’re Catholic, much like I am Danish. You participate in a handpicked variety of rituals specific to you (or your family) because they are spiritually meaningful to you or heritage meaningful to you. I eat rice pudding every Christmas and dance around a small Christmas tree with my entire extended family singing a Danish song that most of my family doesn’t know the words to…but they would all tell you that it is one of the most meaningful and special parts of the whole Christmas season. Traditions are funny that way.

I think that’s why everyone I’ve met here claims Catholicism and has a collection of beliefs and rituals that they hold sacred while scoffing at the rest. As Michael (our host) said early on, “Everyone here starts out with Catholicism. Growing up is figuring out what you are going to do with that.”

-Trina

Why they are leaving...

Well, a few items come to mind. One of my relatives who seems fairly dedicated but notably nonplussed about the changes said “affluence.” This tends to be fairly true worldwide. When a society’s affluence makes it self sufficient, there tends to be a less devout populace.

Some would say education. Certainly it can be shown demographically the more educated you are, the less likely you are to be a fundamentalist. The religiosity piece is a bit tricky, though, since you have the question of self-selection. You also have to wonder about the nature of the education—at plenty of times in history education served to further the religious cause, not hinder it. It’s hard to isolate education ‘per se’ and its effect.

I’d say the Roman Catholic Church has done very little to adapt to post-modern culture. The Catholic narrative is attractive in some ways because it is a meta-narrative—they tell the story of all stories, and this contextualizes all other stories. But that will be difficult for a post-modern, who wants to give equal credence to different backgrounds, stories, insights, etc.

Oddly enough, I know people in the states who are attracted to the sort of pre-modern aspects of Catholicism. These people rejected modernity and the enlightenment, but they are attracted to the high church sacramentalism. My guess it that in our search for the sacred, arguments and charisms are falling short—we want history, a rich intellectual tradition, silence, a global view, symbolism, community…

Both the enlightenment and its rejection are chagrined by authoritative epistemology. Okay, I’ll get less technical. “Because God says so” isn’t terribly persuasive to a substantial number of people in the last several hundred years. So I can see why there would be a drift from the church over a few hundred years, but why the acceleration?

Historical moments have played a role here too. Michael Dillon (my former priest cousin) thinks one of the key moments was when Pope Paul VI called for a review of the rule about birth control. His (Michael’s) view was that it was headed in the right direction (change). In fact the commission that had been set up had drawn up the plans for the changes. But then a powerful and conservative faction of the church lobbied for it to remain restricted, and they won. But in the end, according to Michael, this is much of why they have lost. The pope intervened and the decision was made.

So perhaps that is something. When we as a culture start to really accept something as intuitively obvious (perhaps that priests should be able to marry, that women are capable leaders, that birth control isn’t just okay but it is often the responsible thing to do), we just won’t let go of it (unless we are willing to be a ‘fringe’ person). And people have changed faster than the church. I think that might be exactly it.

-Ron

More religion

So I’ve been trying to understand this nondevoted Catholic devotion. I don’t mean to be unfair—I’m certain there are many very devoted people in this country, and I know that I have met a number of them. People who take pilgrimages, people who are living their lives trying to be pleasing to God, people who have been living under strict monastic rule for 65 years. I even saw a nun who is part of an order that has someone adoring the Eucharist round the clock. Yet there seems to be this growingly pervasive sense that the Church isn’t to be taken seriously. And yet that doesn’t make you any less Catholic.

Weird side note: a close relative of mine was raised Catholic and married a Protestant. They got married way too young, under bad circumstances, and were in no way ready to make that decision (they would agree with that now, and it was evident to most of the people around them at the time). The biggest beef of her relatives? Many were upset about his lack of Catholicity. In fact, it wasn’t the really devoted ones (a nun played the organ at the wedding). It was the ‘nominal’ ones. And this was treated as if it were worse than his not being a Christian of any sort.

I want to know what drives this paradoxical behavior. Why bother with the church, I wonder, if you don’t buy it? Your kids don’t need it—because they get it at school, and because you don’t actually believe it yourself.

I have some theories developing here. This is good, since I plan to do some writing on worldwide religious practice after we return. First, I wonder, is why the sudden lack of devotion? It wasn’t that long ago that Ireland was one of the monastic centers of the world, covered in monasteries and sending out servants to the world. But even since Sister Claire joined her order, there has been a significant decline (about 70% in hers). And this is despite the fact that Vatican II made it much easier to be a nun, monk or a priest.

-Ron

Sister Claire

A couple days ago, we had the privilege of meeting Sister Claire. She’s a cousin of my grandfather, and one of the dearest people I have ever met. She is a Cistercian nun, which is one of the strictest orders. For quite a number of decades, she could only see family and friends through a fairly opaque screen, and for close family she could touch them through a sort of fence. Her first foray outside the convent ground was about 40 years after she entered, because she broke her hip, I believe.

Sister Claire is absolutely beautiful. She’ll be 91 in a few days, and she glows with an unearthly joy. She is just starting to get a bit confused, and so we had to cover several subjects a few times, but that is to be expected. She had many interesting stories to tell, and although she may not be too worldly wise, there was something unmistakably wise about her. I truly felt blessed by her, and I don’t really care to use that word very often.

Some studies have shown that monastic people are the happiest in the world. The monastic orders that spend the most time meditating are in particular. Even though their circumstances are often traumatically difficult, they are not only supported in community, but through prayer and meditation, they actually change the structure of their brains. It turns out that people have a happiness set point and, outside of psychosis or chemical imbalances, after great excitement or great trauma, we return to it. Meditation or meditative prayer so far seems to be the only known way to actually affect the happiness set point.

It definitely worked for Sister Claire.

-Ron

Hiccups

I’ve had the worst hiccups of my life the last few days. They’ve been horrible, and they keep coming back. First, I decided that this particular ancient icon healed me in the national museum, but then it didn’t. Soon after, I was beginning to despair.

Michael Dillon, my genius of a second cousin once removed, suggested I drink from the wrong side of a glass. I’ve tried this before and only made a mess. I thought it was an absolute joke. It has worked now, four times (the hiccups go away for a couple hours at a time) and three of those times it worked as soon as I tried it.

Michael is a former priest, who used an old homeopathic remedy to heal me of my sickness (with scientific regularity). He’s a nicely integrated man—religion, homeopathy, science--a real renaissance man in fact (or a witch doctor).

-Ron

Religious Paradoxes

The dimensions of the Roman Catholic faith here are incredibly interesting to me. First is a paradox. Here we are, in a nation where as many people would say they are Catholic as would Americans say they believe in God. It’s everywhere. And yet, the level of devotion to practice—at least certain dimensions—attending mass, confession, doing penance, submission to the authority of the pope, abstention from sex outside marriage, birth control, etc.—is extremely low. Taking these things seriously is even derided at some level (granted my studies are a bit anecdotal at this point).

So you have this nation where everyone says they are Catholic, but the church and the state aren’t separated, and yet the level of devotion seems to be less than you would find in the states. Church and state are blended, but they joke about the religiosity of US foreign policy (as well they should!).

They think it is absurd that in the US we would invoke the name of God for political purposes, or we would ground our political positions in religious conviction, and yet their children say the Hail Mary and are trained to properly take the Eucharist in public school. It seems so contradictory.

Although, fair to say, I suppose if you look at the US, we too embody a contradiction-- we would (and should) balk at the notion of a blended church/state and yet a large percentage of our society would live a more puritan piety than in Ireland. Of course that contradiction makes sense to me (which show just how culturally situated I am!).

It has left me thinking…

-Ron

Separation of Church & State

Did you know that 90% of Irish kids attend public Catholic school?

It seems that nearly everyone in the country is Catholic – that is, they are all christened at birth, go through confirmation and attend Catholic school. And yet, that has almost nothing to do with their level of religiosity. Catholicism has shaped most every piece of their culture. More on this later…

Travel Status


7/18/08

Periodically, I want to record how traveling is working out for me.

We are living with three pairs of pants (that zip off to shorts), three pairs of underwear, three pairs of socks, three short sleeved shirts and three long sleeved shirts. It’s working well, with the small exception that wearing the same shirt every three days is getting old…and it’s just beginning. For some reason, the repetition of pants or underwear doesn’t bother me, but shirts do. Weird.

Jet lag is definitely real and has been both helped and hurt by the massive amounts of caffeinated tea we’ve consumed.

I absolutely love my watch which has three alarms and has come in handy 4000 times already.

I am more dependent on the Internet than I realized. I feel really disconnected and a little upset when I can’t communicate.

I am eating far too much cheese, which is mitigated only by the large amounts of brown bread (highly fibrous) that go with it.

I feel like I’m in a vortex. It doesn’t feel like vacation particularly, it doesn’t feel like home or work, it doesn’t feel like a trip, it feels like a whole new category. I have no idea what day it is.

I spent a few days completely dehydrated because instead of drinking water every few hours, I was drinking caffeinated tea. That could have contributed to my vortex-like feeling =).

I am aware of my ignorance and difference. There is much I do not know that “everybody knows” here. It mostly feels interesting. It occasionally feels a little hard.

My emotions are heightened. So many new experiences, new people, new foods, new schedules cause everything to feel a bit stronger.

All in all, it is an absolute blast and I am loving it!

Former Employers

There is something poignantly satisfying about confronting past employment when on a journey such as mine.

In Boston, I ate at a Bruegger’s Bagels (that takes me back to high school).



But even more satisfying, was passing one of these…



And not caring!
-Ron

.

Dealing With Death

We attended a Patron this evening. A Patron is an annual service in which relatives gather to remember and pray for their deceased loved ones. I admire the way that death is handled here. Memory cards with a picture of the deceased and a treasured verse are passed out at funerals and kept on display. It’s encouraged to remember, celebrate and grieve the loss of loved ones. I think that’s good.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Welcome to Bergen


We took a 7 hour train trip from Oslo to Bergen today. It was absolutely gorgeous. The area in Bergen where we are staying is known as the fjordlands. I found this photo online that will give you just a glimpse of what we're experiencing!


PS Internet access may continue to be a bit spotty for a few more days. We'll do our best and keep writing on our laptop!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Off to Norway!

We leave tomorrow (7/21) for Oslo. Our flight leaves Dublin in the afternoon and we'll stay the night in Oslo. We'll take a train on the morning of 7/22 from Oslo to Bergen where we will meet up with some of my relatives. Should be fun!

Rock of Cashel

The Rock of Cashel is an ancient site, believed to be the place where St. Patrick baptized the King of Ireland back in the 400s (AD). It has five separate buildings all built into this massive rock. It is absolutely impressive.

And, the views are wonderful.


Waterford Crystal Factory

Waterford Crystal is made in a harbor town nearby. We toured the factory and it was really amazing to watch them blow the glass, cut and engrave.


.

Friday, July 18, 2008

First Pint of Guinness

Tonight I had my first pint of Guinness in an Irish pub and I LOVED it. I was pretty skeptical ahead of time, but it was very tasty. Cheers!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

What is the key ingredient in mortar? (in the 12th century)

You'll never guess...

Ox blood. It's a great coagulant and thus, quite sticky and good for building. Given the volume of castles I've viewed from the 12th century in the past two weeks, it certainly works!

How would you pronounce...

Coemhe?
Niah?
Roisin?
Aine?
Aislinn?
Ciara?

Michael's nieces all have beautiful, terribly difficult to pronounce Gaelic names.

Answer: Cuu-eeva, Neeve, Roe-sheen, Anya, Ashlynn, Kira

PS - We have been writing up a storm on our laptop, but have been without internet access for quite a period of time. When we get to the city (approx July 21) we will post a whole bloat of writing and photos.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Quotable

After telling a Catholic 6 year old that I was a Protestant, she responded, "oh, you're Church of Ireland" (Anglican). I explained that not all Protestants are Anglican; some Protestant churches have singing, clapping hands, some even have dancing.

She looked straight at me and said, "sounds like a cartoon to me."

No comment =)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Tea 6 times today.

We have had a wonderfully full day, meeting many relatives and being treated like local celebrities.

It seems the primary way of showing affection involves serving tea and biscuits. I feel very loved!

PS - When I speak of tea, I mean what we in the States would call Breakfast Tea (not English here!) or Awake Tea. Drinking morning tea at 9:30pm has been an adjustment!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Guess what this is?


Fits & Starts


Our internet access is a bit sporadic...so we are writing, but the posting may come in fits & starts. This will be the story until we leave for Norway on July 21. Thanks for reading!

Ireland is Beautiful!


Can you believe this is actually real? I feel like I'm in Never-Neverland!

Cathedrals & Abbeys

We went to the Black Abbey, a monastery founded by the Dominicans in 1225. It was quite striking, especially in its more modern stained glass windows. The Abbey was founded by William Marshall, who also built the first castle ruin we visited in Ferns (he was the son in law of Strongbow, the Norman invader).



Then, we hit the Cathedral in town, St Mary’s, for more ecclesiastical enjoyment. The only real drawback of this towering spiritual monument was that it is also carpeted, and the wet climate in old drafty buildings doesn’t quite work with it—it was moldy smelling.



Do also note the odd architecture on the front of these houses—most of the dwellings are fairly charming; I just thought these stood out a bit.



St. Canice's Cathedral


Of course, the middle ages are about more than castles—there are Cathedrals. We first went to the lovely St. Canince’s Cathedral, which actually belongs to the Church of Ireland (the Irish version of the Anglican Church—Episcopalian really). Although by certain architectural clues (the Celtic Cross on the edge of the roof, etc.) you could tell it was at one time Catholic, it isn’t in anymore. The church had been horribly damaged by Cromwell and his men. So far, at our historical tours, although there have been many oppressors along the way, Cromwell seems to be the most loathed.




In fact, the baptistery had even been desecrated by having horses drink from it. After the reinstating of the Monarchy and the subsequent beheadings, it was eventually rebuilt to its former glory. The wooden ceiling is of great interest, as of course is the stained glass, the many fascinating tombstones, and the model of the city in the 1600’s.
-Ron

Kilkenny Castle





Today we went into the town of Kilkenny with two of our relatives. Eileen, the aforementioned Michael’s sister, and Bridie (a common name short for Bridget), his mother (the wife of my grandfather’s cousin). Kilkenny was a charming town, really, with a nice little central area and great food to boot. But the attraction was much more medieval. We started with the Kilkenny Castle, built by a very powerful aristocratic family.


It is a substantial landmark in this area of Ireland. Parts of it have been quite well restored, and it is surrounded by exquisite gardens. The inside is ornate and luxurious, and there were rooms for every possible need you can imagine. Are you a guest, waiting to meet your host? Here is a room for you. Do you need a large luxurious place to meet? Here is another. How about a place to retire to if you are the host and you are done meeting your guest. Surely this room will do. A library? Done! What about staircases for the servants; they need not use the giant Jamaican mahogany one for the family and guests. Let us place one here for the servants. (As a side notes, the servants were expected to whistle while they climbed the stairs with the food, to assure the family that their food wasn’t being eaten).



-Ron


Heritage


What a strange and wonderful experience it has been to explore my heritage. I'm not talking about the celtic part per se (although that has been wonderful too). What I'm referencing is more of a family observation.
The grave stone you see to the left is that of a great grand uncle and aunt, or something to that effect. William's parents would have been my great great grandparents, and it is thought that he is buried here (along with possibly his parents, and their parents). The records aren't perfectly clear, but one way or another, they should be buried in this graveyard (and in all likelihood in the Dillon plot). The graveyard itself is quite medieval (note how worn down some of the stones are), and it it just down the road from Newbaun, where the Dillon's live (and many others are buried and attended church).

This has all been quite overwhelming. Although a student of history, I've not often felt quite so connected to it. Like these people are my people. They are my grandparents, plus a few greats--they would love me and I them, were they to be alive. The lineage is fairly easily traceable into the 1700's and perhaps beyond, an era of founding fathers, in my mind. And yet, they slept in the same house I'm sleeping in, they walked the same roads (albeit unpaved) and saw the same landscape (much of it remains quite similar). Their lives happened here, and I'm having a chance to see through their eyes, and hear their thoughts (when I read their letters).

This has me thinking about both chance, and providence. On the one hand, what are the odds, that the people could have met in the exact way that they did, loved (or gotten stuck with) who they did, survived when they did (as many did not) and passed on their heritage and genes? It feels so lottery like, so unbelievable that my own existence and that of my family would be left to utter chance.

And yet then it points to the hand of God. Perhaps meaning amid chance, the miracle of existence, and a survived family lineage are nothing short of a miracle. Whatever the case, this is mysterious and awe-inspiring stuff, and I'm certain that I've only begun to ascertain its effect on me. Fortunately, I intend to to some writing on it in the future.

The picture below is the Parish my great-grandfather would have been a part of (currently being reroofed)--it was built when he was six. The parish pre-exists the building, of course, and the family has been in this area for hundreds of years, involved for just as many.




Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Ireland is a lot like Oregon

Except we don't have castles, cathedrals or 9 thousand years of history.

This update will be a bit short, as we should have more time to write this evening or tomorrow. First, though, it should be noted that Ireland is incredibly green (and is wet, even in the summer). The foliage and feel, the smells and sights--it's very northwest. Mix that in with staying with Dillons and it feels a lot like home (which is a gentle way to enter a year long journey).

Our primary host is my cousin (actually, my grandfather's cousin's son) Michael Dillon. He's quite the concierge, cook, driver, historian and hotelier. We've been treated to wonderful meals, the insider's version of many local stops, a wonderful comfortable home, and much learning (which we nerds do love).

After our long day with no sleep (nearly 30 hours) we slept between thirteen and fourteen hours, which brought us back a bit more into alignment. Still, we are fighting a little jet lag, but we are getting on quite fine nonetheless. Yesterday, after our glorious evening of sleep, we rose, had a wonderful breakfast (Michael's diet is quite healthy, which we appreciate), and headed out.

We saw the local area for a bit--the Church my great grandfather grew up in, his brother's grave, and some other local hotspots. Then we went on to the Irish Historical Park--where we were treated to the basics in Irish History from 7000BC to the Norman Invasion (which made it's way into Ireland in the 1100's AD). The park was wonderful--our tour guide was quite informative, and the Park really brought the more primitive periods to life. We saw how the Irish cooked, where they lived, how they protected themselves and their livestock--etc.
Afterward, we went to WexfordCity, which is the head city of the local county (county Wexford). A beautiful town of about 20,000 people, its roots are Viking (those marauding Vikings did actually contribute occasionally). It's a coastal town, with a small port, and a comparably large boardwalk. We spent quite a bit of time, touring the town, the twin cathedrals, eating at a wonderful restaurant, exploring ruins (a Church) or just looking at the old City Wall.















Then we headed to the beach--also much like Oregon. Chilly, a bit wet, but quite beautiful. The waves were maybe a bit smaller, but that could have been a function of the tide. I ended up going for about a 40 minute run, and enjoying it quite a lot.
After we returned home and ate a chicken, vegetable and cous cous dinner, we stayed up late exploring some family history. Michael knows the extended family tree quite well, and he has dozens of old letters from family members. Many of these were written by my Mother's Aunt Mary (Sister Margaret Ann) and her sister Anne (also a sister). I never met Anne (she died in 76 of breast cancer) and so it was wonderful to peer into her mind a bit.

But Mary's letters were particularly interesting to me, as she only passed away a few years ago (a few miles from my home) and I knew her quite well. Reading her concerns as she was in her early twenties and later (including her worries about my grandfather when he was drafted into the Korean War) was very touching. She also mentions my grandparents in a later letter, and their two children (that's before Bill and Joan were born). I stopped and checked the date--1961, my mother was 1 year old. It's very strange to read my Aunt Mary's words as she references my mother as a baby. Very strange and very wonderful.

Well now, I better get on... I've realized that if I lived here for even a month or two, I would easily pick up the accent. Maybe it's in my blood. Or maybe I'm just suggestible. Either way, I don't mind it a bit.

Oh, one more thing--perhaps a bit incestuous. It turns out I have Dunn lineage in my Irish blood. Apparently Dunn is Celtic, although I've long thought it was English. Many Irish are in England. This Dunn blood is directly in my Mom's lineage--and my paternal Grandmother (Grandma Kaye) is a Dunn. So my parents are probably like 5th cousins! Now that is weird. Given that there is Swedish on both sides of the family as well, it seems like I should have three eyes or something...

Okay, enough of that. Love to you all... (sorry for any spelling erros, I'm out of time to check carefully)Ron (and Trina).

Monday, July 07, 2008

Welcome to Ireland!


We arrived in Ireland at 5:25am and are in the midst of our first day here. We've already met up with our kindly host, Ron's "cousin" Michael Dillon and toured a castle built in 1224 (Fern Castle). Right now our biggest project is staying awake until bedtime. As near as we can figure we've been up for at least 22 hours and need to stay up for at least 7 more. We are on limited internet for the moment, so this is short.

Cheerio!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Aer Lingus

We fly out this afternoon on Aer Lingus to Dublin. I especially enjoyed this warning from online check-in:

"No kilt pins, cricket bats, or crossbows allowed on board the aircraft."


We have time.

If you're ever planning a trip around the world, consider breaking up long flights with some sight-seeing layovers. When your trip timeframe is a full year, a couple days here and there are no big deal. It is so strange to try and wrap our minds around the fact that we have time.

By accident of cheap rates, we have ended up spending 2 days in Boston with old friends from George Fox. (We flew to Boston on July 4 and will fly to Dublin this evening (July 6)).

I have to say, these days have felt like a lifesaver. Weeks of sorting, packing, moving, organizing and saying goodbye left us both exhausted. Having a couple days away from all the hubbub to rest, enjoy some friends and do some last minute emailing/phone calling will leave us much more ready to begin our international adventure.

Plus, Boston is a destination in its own right. After our few days here, we are reminded why we'd like most to end up here for grad school.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

First Stop - Boston on the 4th!


We arrived in Boston at 7pm on the 4th of July. After a quick trip to our host's (Matt & Jenny Watson) house, we raced to the Charles River to watch the infamous Boston Pops fireworks show. As we wandered around looking for a spot to watch the show, we ended up standing onshore directly in front of the barge that launched all the fireworks! What an experience. It was truly the most spectacular fireworks show I have ever witnessed.
We leave for Dublin tomorrow (7/6) afternoon!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Leaving Tomorrow Morning!


Our bags are packed, we're ready to go...

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Chicago Title


After nearly three years, I've left Chicago Title.

At times I felt like I was the personification of this company. I lived, breathed, and moved it. Probably that was a kind of sickness, but whatever the case, it was reality.

As a rainmaker I did a lot for the company--and as a commissioned salesperson, the company did a lot for me (commission+frugality= round the world trip). Yesterday my boss, Julie McNeal, had some incredibly kind things to say to me. Her words were elegant and moving. All my blood, sweat and tears were worth it! I certainly have felt appreciated by her, her boss Diane, and many others in my operation. I will miss it.

I left my blackberry and keys with her and felt stripped. It was strange. I've tried to check my blackberry about 70 times since yesterday at noon.

By the way, if you do buy or sell a home, insist that the title insurance be through Chicago Title (and let them know I sent you). Chicago is among the strongest financially in the industry (in terms of reserves--and that matters for insurance!), at the cheaper end in terms of costs, and you will get amazing service!

See, I can't quite quit yet. Yesterday, as I was driving to Seattle, I made up a song along the way (well, I improvised it--it was terrible from a musical standpoint). It was called, "I don't have clients anymore." Yes, it was truly satisfying to tell top producing loan officers that I'm no longer concerned with their needs and wants! I can't say the song was the kindest I've ever sung.

All that said, I will miss my friends at Chicago Title, the identity that comes through advocating for an organization I believe in, the quality of life that comes with a talented, dedicated and empathetic boss--and actually making a good living. I did enjoy clients, making the sale, teaching Strengths classes, and all the wining and dining. I do wonder if at some point in my life, I'll find my way back into the title world.

But I'm on to bigger and better adventures for now. Seeing the world, learning the law, serving the poor, sleeping on white sand beaches--I'm SO ready for it!

Ron

Social Security

My aunt has severe Krohn's disease. Autoimmune fun runs in our family, and she has the worst of it. She's practically been chained to the bathroom for something like 7 years. I think of when I get sick with the pukes, and how after an hour or two I start to wish God would smite me.

I cannot imagine the suffering she has endured--on top of that, she was a newlywed several years back, and her husband died suddenly of a heart attack. It was just awful. It seems like Rhonda's pain is a real candidate for making the problem of gratuitous evil case.

Whatever the case, she has been trying to get disability for several years. And, unfortunately, they have treated her like dirt. They've humiliated her, and said no for years. She's had to miss key medicine along the way, basically bankrupt herself, and rely on a lot of support from some family. All along she's been extremely sick.

Apparently some lawyers got involved. Apparently the people who kept saying no were so far in the wrong that all standard procedure from here out is being bypassed. No hearings, no further investigation--five years of back pay due now.

It's about time.

Hooray and Hallelujah!

The toughest ones are out of the way


As I mentioned--I've said goodbye to my sister, and yesterday I said goodbye to my parents. I also saw my aunt, who has been very sick, and gave her a kiss goodbye. I'm pretty worried about her health. Said goodbye to my boss, who has become quite a friend, and all my friends from work.

I drove out of town yesterday while I was stuck in North Portland traffic I realized something. I'm leaving Oregon for the first time in my life! I'll admit, it will feel strange the next time I see this sign...

Now I'm in Seattle with my in-laws. That will be a tough one too, although of course naturally more difficult for Trina. Then we are off. No more endings, only beginnings!