Friday, July 29, 2011


I guess the time has come to close this blog. Our adventures in Ireland have come to a pause. We feel in our hearts that the experiences, the people, and the culture will be a part of us forever. We hope to go back and look forward to that day meanwhile we are slowly adjusting to life as we knew it. Right now I feel a bit like the African porters who carried their masters' belongings for a series of days until they wouldn't get up one day. When asked why they wouldn't continue the journey they responded that they were waiting for their souls to catch up. -Bruce Chatwin

I am waiting for my soul to catch up and more of our current reality to sink in which I know will happen all too soon. Honestly, I don't know if I am ready for it. I feel like we have all changed in small ways. How do we go about fitting into the same mold that we left? Do we break that mold and form a new one? Will we soon minimize our experience to move on with life here? If so, a part of me will grieve the loss of all that we learned and the experience of Northern Ireland in us. I want to somehow capture and be able to live in those memories while here in Molalla, Oregon and so I am dragging my feet to engage in life as we knew it. I don't exactly know how to move forward.

I will miss fish-n-chip shops, digestive cookies, new friends, neighbors, walking to school with the kids, the peat fire, the history, the culture, the castles, the green hedges, the new places and faces, the Irish brogue, curry dishes, different wines, the parking on the sidewalks, churches, cathedrals, mums and tots groups, the Co-op down the street, double decker bus rides downtown, and so much more.

Don't get me wrong. It feels good to be home and we have loved every minute that we have spent with family and friends, catching up on a year gone by. It is such a blessing to have the home and furnishings that we do, a year away has awakened a gratitude for what we have and the relationships we have missed.

This year was an experience that will not be forgotten by this little family of Q's. Maybe I should leave the blog open, you know, just in case life brings another time for us to adventure into the "Emerald Isle"...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Big Move

After our good-byes, packing, and cleaning for a couple of weeks we were set to leave Belfast on the 16th of July. I wish I would have taken a picture of our eight 50 pound bags and three car seats all piled into Simon's car but I was a little overwhelmed and forgot. Simon and Deborah graciously offered to drive our luggage down to the Dublin airport. They came over on that Saturday the 16th and we loaded down the car. Simon and Deborah were to meet us the next morning at the airport with all our luggage. After seeing our luggage drive off we called a cab and grabbed our carry-ons and headed to the Belfast bus station. We took a two hour bus ride from Belfast to the Dublin airport where we grabbed a shuttle bus to the Travelodge Hotel. After a good dinner we tried our best to get some sleep before our big day. It was a little noisy in the hotel and we were all a bit anxious and excited about the next day so we didn't get much sleep.
We took another cab from the hotel to the airport the morning of the 17th. We had just arrived at the airport when we spotted Simon and Deborah drive by with all our luggage. The timing was perfect. We unloaded the luggage and said another very hard good-bye. I am so hoping that they will make a trip out to Oregon in the near future!
The check-in process took us about three hours. We sat in customs for about an hour as they sorted through our bags to find the one package of shamrock seeds that was given to us. So crazy! No seeds are allowed from the U.K. to the U.S. even if they are labeled as internationally approved. Thankfully, they found them in the third bag so we could catch our flight on time.
The first leg of our journey took us from Dublin to Chicago and was an eight-and-a-half hour flight. The time went pretty fast and the kids did great. No one slept though. During the flight Gabe asked a flight attendant why we couldn't see the cockpit and the flight attendant explained since 9/11 no one is allowed to go in but after the plane landed we were more than welcome to look. So, of course Gabe was right up there asking questions, the moment he could. The pilots were great and answered the kids' questions. We were even given chocolate cookies left over from first class to munch on.
After a very long four hour layover in Chicago we boarded our last flight to Portland. Thankfully, the kids slept for the last two hours of the flight. Cam and I tried to doze. As we walked out of the terminal we were met with a great surprise as my parents, Cam's parent's, and my sister's family all stood waiting with a welcome home sign. We were greeted with many hugs and kisses. It felt good to be home.

As we drove to our house from the airport it was a very surreal experience. I wish I could put into words the emotions I was feeling as my brain was trying to grasp the fact that we were indeed home and Belfast was 6,000 miles away.

We were so blessed as we entered our home and saw the cupboards and fridge stocked with food. Everything was clean and ready for our arrival. I can't thank my parents, Cam's parents, Will and Joyce, Heather, Sandi, and all the others that put so much time and energy into making our homecoming a blessing and one that I will never forget. One of the greatest gifts was a hard bound book sitting on our coffee table that contained all the blog posts from this blog. I fought back tears as I thumbed through the pages and read all the entries and the notes friends and family had written in it to welcome us home. Thanks to Len and his hard work and others who helped make the book possible, the memories written in this blog are captured.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Our Good-Byes

Our last days were filled with many good-byes, hugs, tears, BBQ's, and fun. In the last few months we really made some good friends and it was awfully hard to say good-bye. One of the hardest good-byes for the kids were to say to our neighbors.
Christopher (the boy in the football kit) was one of Ian's closest friends and was at our house almost every day. We will miss him and his family. Isabella and Alfie were the neighbors on the other side of our wall and we absolutely adored them.
The Morgan's who lived on the other side of us were the best! Ashling, became my "Ireland sister" and was a great listener and friend. We had fun with the kids and had many play dates over lots of coffee. I will miss their family immensely. They were always there to lend a helping hand and Ashling happened to be a hairdresser as well. So once a month Ashling would come to our house to cut Cam's hair and occasionally mine. It was such a huge blessing.
The girls got along well and would often talk with each other through a gap in the fence almost every day. I will miss seeing their little eyes peeking through the fence and giggling.

These are friends from Knockbreda Primary School. We made friends with some of the families through the school that the kids went to. We had a great BBQ on the last week we were there and lots of fun.
Another family we got to know also made a huge move the week before we did. They headed to Australia to start new jobs. Avery and Luca were in the same class and became friends.
Christian and Elise became fast friends as Libby, their mummy brought us to a Friday playgroup for the year. I will miss Libby and our times at the playgroup. It was great to have a friend who was also making a big move the same time we were. It was great moral support.

Dierdre was another friend whom we loved to spend time with. Dierdre worked with Cam at St. Louise's and our kids absolutely loved her. We will always remember our fun Wii games, canoing in the back garden, BBQs, having Thanksgiving dinner with her, and the yummy meals.
Christopher and Ian on the last day before the cab came to pick us up to take us to the bus station. Ian and Chris would often be seen together playing rugby, football, running races, getting balls out of trees, etc. Gabe and Avery would often join in also.
That was a hard day! Tears all around.

I don't know what I would have done without Julie! She was a godsend! Whenever I had a question or needed something she was there to lend a helping hand. We were so blessed to have Julie's neighborly help and guidance as we navigated a new culture. Thank you Julie for giving so much of your time and friendship to us. You always went above and beyond to help.
Lauren also helped us out with the babysitting or "child minding". It was so great to have her so close. We will miss you, Patrick, Julie, Lauren, and Chris.

The OrangeFest

During the end of June and through July 12th you will find parades marching through neighborhoods in Belfast. This is one parade we happen to witness while at a friend's house. It is a yearly Protestant celebration that originated in the 18th century. It is to celebrate the victory of the Protestant king William of Orange over the Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
Unfortunately, this has caused much tension throughout the years as parades march through flash points, Catholic neighborhoods. This year the riots were worse then they have been in a couple of years. The tensions run deep and it sadden us to see the conflict so close at hand.
On the night of the 11th the Protestant (Loyalist and Unionist) groups set bonfires throughout the city. They start collecting their burning materials at the start of June and slowly build up these monstrous towers. Some of the towers are topped with Irish flags or pictures of political leaders.

On the 11th we spent the evening with our friends at a BBQ. Then we went to Deborah's apartment which happened to be close to a bonfire and got to experience it first hand. The fire got started around 11:30pm and quickly consumed the pallets. My kids were shocked by the heat of the fire even though we were a safe distance away.
This bonfire stack had an Irish flag on top of it and my kiddos couldn't understand why anyone would want to burn the flag and were very sad to see it burn. It was hard to explain to them what was happening. Gabe said, "...But we've come to love Ireland why would people want to burn it?"

It was a huge cultural experience for us and gave us a tiny glimmer of understanding to some of the "troubles" on this island we've come to love.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Edinburgh, Scotland

The day after school let out we took a trip to Edinburgh, Scotland. I guess I should stop here to mention a little about Cam's experience in teaching here in Belfast. In his words, " I came here for a different experience and that's what I got." He experienced many challenges with the structure of the education system at St. Louise's, the girl's attitudes about learning, and the curriculum. There were good experiences however in the midst of his trials as he developed relationships with the staff and teachers and learned much about the culture in Belfast. All in all he was glad to have this experience and was thankful for the opportunity to teach in a different environment but is looking forward to going back to Canby High.

The Fulbright Teachers Program had a end of the year debriefing weekend in Edinburgh and so we took the opportunity to do a little sight seeing. We took a ferry from Larne to Troon, Scotland and then drove the hour to Edinburgh. While Cam was in his meetings with Fulbright the kids and I explored the city.
We went to the Princes park beneath the Edinburgh Castle and explored the beauty on the first day. Then the kids and I walked to the National Museum of Scotland where we spent the rest of the day. We had a great time exploring in the museum and the museum had great activities for the kids to do to keep them well entertained.
This is the view from the Princes park beneath the Edinburgh Castle. In the evenings, when Cam was done we got to do more sight seeing. We walked the Royal Mile, toured the Scottish Parliament building, heard the Queen speaking from the Holyrood Palace where she resides when she is in town, and toured the Edinburgh Castle.
This is the front of Edinburgh Castle. A truly amazing castle, the best I have ever seen. We spent hours here.
A view from atop the castle overlooking the city of Edinburgh.
The Holyrood Palace.
We explored the Royal Botanic Gardens.

The Royal Botanic Gardens have one of the biggest glass houses exhibitions in the world. Amazing exotic plants and ponds.
Our friends from England, Kevin and Alison meet us in Edinburgh on Monday evening after Cam had finished his conference so we would have a chance to see them once more before we headed home. There is an old volcanic mound, called Arthur's Seat that overlooks Edinburgh that we climbed. Everyone made it, even Elise. The view was spectacular and sharing it with Kevin and Alison made it a perfect day.
From atop Arthur's Seat.
A stay in Edinburgh wouldn't be complete without our first taste of haggis. Haggis is the liver, heart, and lungs of a sheep boiled in a sheep's stomach. If you don't let your mind know what your body is eating it isn't too bad. It tasted a bit like meatloaf. We managed to finish it.

We took the ferry back to Belfast that Tuesday night and started the huge task of saying our final good-byes, packing, and finishing up our adventures in Northern Ireland.

Last Days of School

It's been a whirlwind this past month and just so much to process in a short amount of time. I didn't want to forget the last month of our stay in Ireland so I am writing now to catch up on time passed.
During the last week of school they had a "leaving assembly" where they recognize the Primary 7 students who are leaving primary school and entering secondary school. During this assembly the principal also recognized Ian, Gabe, and Avery and told them how much they loved having them a part of Knockbreda Primary school this year and presented each of them with a dictionary so that they could remember how to spell words the "proper" way. My kids were thrilled with the gift and came home after school and read their dictionaries.
The last day of school was difficult. Avery especially made a close girl friends and it was hard for her to say good-bye to her friends and teachers.
I couldn't have asked for better teachers suited for my kids. Mrs. Grant and Gabe hit it off beautifully. Gabe shed a few tears when trying to say good-bye. Mrs. Grant will be missed by the Quinlan family.
Roy, a.k.a. "The Lollipop Man", was our faithful crossing guard through the year. He always had a smile and a friendly word. The kids loved him. We will miss Roy.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Start To Our Good-byes

Last night we had our final get together with other Fulbright alumni and Megan our fellow Fulbright exchange teacher from Chicago. We had a BBQ at our house and had a great time.
It's hard to comprehend that we are saying our good-byes now. Especially since we finally feel like we have made some real connections. There were a few tears in the end but we hope and pray that we will meet again along life's journey.