Monday, February 16, 2009

Tour de Aran Islands

Hello from the library at the National University of Ireland at Galway!

I hate libraries. At Penn State I never go to them, in fact, the only times I've gone to libraries were on mandatory class-assigned trips or scavenger hunts, or maybe to stop Annie from drooling on herself during one of her two-night stays. I've never seen the stacks and I don't intend to before I graduate. But here in Ireland, I NEED THE LIBRARY. Gort na Coiribe (my apartment complex) has been without internet for three weeks now, and even when we did have it, it was 1997 AOL dial-up slow. Then about a week into not having internet at Gort, whatever powers the wireless internet in my computer decided to quit, rendering me lost, hurt, confused, out of touch, and unable to perform basic google searches like "how to store celery" or "galway post office hours" and the like. Since then I've been using other peoples' computers, various PC suites around campus, and the nearby McDonalds for internet access. It's actually gotten to the point where I have included "internet use" as part of my daily schedule, like I have to set aside hours of time to go to college/McDonalds and just zone out on Facebook. I don't know how much longer my mom (or Kevin) will last without seeing me on Skype.

Internet gripes aside, I spent Valentine's Day in true isolation on the Aran Islands, which are situated in the Galway Bay about 30-40 minutes from the coast. There are three islands; Inis Mor (Big Island), Inis Meain (Middle Island), and Inis Oirr (East Island), but we spent the whole day biking around Inis Mor. Inhabitants of the island speak Irish as their first language as well as English (for tourists like me) and are very kind from what I experienced. The main attraction is Dun Aonghasa (Dun Aengus in English), a prehistoric fort on the edge of a 100m high cliff, which my friends and I had fun falling off of and climbing up all day. Here are some pictures!

Breathtaking, I know. Note a) Connor's sick wheelie, b) the true fear behind Connor's smile near the cliff, and c) how Emerson that grass photo is! The link to see more pictures (I promise I'll get them all uploaded by April at this rate) is: [] There are great shots of Mike with his hand in his pants and various other romantic scenes from the day. Nothing of Sam (the girl one - I'll explain the tale of two Sams later) being seasick though, that would be mean.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


This is almost a joke considering the fact that I have been living in Ireland for over a month now, but I am finally starting my long-anticipated blog. I figure that I'll want to remember all the adventures I go on here and although my mind is a trap when it comes to phone numbers, birthdays, and the occasional PIN number, I regrettably forget details of the best times of my life on occasion. Plus if I start drinking at the same rate as my Irish comrades, I won't remember anything. So as a precautionary measure and for your (a total of 7 people, I'm sure) enjoyment, here is MURDERHOLE: an account of my life and times on the Emerald Isle. Mile fáilte! (A thousand welcomes!)

I chose "murderhole" as the title for this blog while sitting in a particularly fascinating lecture module that my friends and I call "Castles," which is short for AR 332: The Development of the Castle in Medieval Europe. My boy Kieran O'Conor is the lecturer and he was talking to us about tower houses, a late form of castle that is more prevalent in the Irish landscape than any other variation of castle.

Here are pictures of Sarah and I at Dunguaire Castle in County Clare, a 16th century tower house in excellent condition.

Sarah is showing off the strength of the yett, or defensive metal grate.

Tower houses are usually rectangular in shape and tend to be 3 or 4 stories high and were built by Irish lords especially in the 16th century. Defensive features included gun loops, arrow loops, a bawn (courtyard), machicolations, assommoirs, and my favorite, murderholes. Oftentimes, if a tower house was under attack and the main gate was breached, intruders could be sealed off within the ground floor of the castle and attacked from the floor above via murderholes with guns, arrows, heavy objects, and boiling water. Genius! I wrote "MURDERHOLE" in bold in my notes so I wouldn't forget such a fun new term, and now it's the title of this blog. That's the story. The cool thing about this castles class is that I am actually learning more from it than from most of my other classes, even though I intended the opposite.

So...I'm going to have to do a lot of backtracking in order to really do my experience justice, but bear with me, I promise the stories will be entertaining. Think of it like LOST - there will be flashbacks and flash-forwards and some stories in the present tense as well. I fucking love it here and if any of you are ever blessed with the opportunity to visit, do it. This island is full of warm, welcoming people and breathtaking landscapes that everyone should experience at least once in a lifetime. Rains a lot though...bring a good raincoat!