Monday, September 27, 2010

Our Trip to London

This past weekend we made a whirlwind of a trip to London. Cam was invited with the rest of the Fulbright teachers to a reception at the US Embassy. We couldn't turn down an opportunity to see London or the Embassy so we made the journey which started at 8pm on Thursday night. We took a short flight from Belfest to the Stansted airport and then got on a train that took us into the heart of London. From the train we took a cab. This was the first cab ride for Iva and the kids. Quite the experience, to be sitting backwards was the highlight for the kids. We made it to the wrong hotel by midnight and by 1 am we were finally tucked into the right beds at the right hotel. We were exhausted.

The next day, Friday, we took another cab to Buckingham Palace. We got there right in time to see a clean up from a bomb threat and for the changing of the guards. It was our lucky day. We took a stroll through St. James' Park, which turned out to be one of the kids' favorite places. There were so many different types of tame wildlife that the kids enjoyed running after the squirrels, ducks, pelicans, swans, and pigeons. I mean you can't get better than that. Gabe really wanted us to take a picture of a squirrel as he saw that all the other tourist were taking them so it must be something worth capturing on film to which Cam promptly replied, "Gabe it's a squirrel." Of course just then an Australian stepped up to take a picture of one. The Australian laughed and said that we don't have these where we come from so they are worth a picture. We all giggled at the thought of what some of us hold as rare others regard as common. It's something that is a present reminder to us every day living in another part of the world.

That evening we went to our reception at the US Embassy. Again there was a miscommunication between the Fulbright advisor and the Embassy so we all arrived 30 minutes early. So, my kids got their first experience in a pub. It was very crowded but we found a corner and huddled over our "chips" until the time came for us to go back to the Embassy. It was great to talk to other American teachers who are experiencing the same trials and joys. For most of us this was the first time to debrief.

On Saturday, we went on the Original Bus Tour through the city. This was my favorite part of the weekend. We saw the London Eye which is a giant Ferris Wheel that overlooks all of the city. We saw Big Ben, Tower Bridge (which Ian built a model of last year so that was exciting for him to actually ride across it), St. Paul's cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Marble arches, war memorial to the animals, Tower of London, London's Dungeons, and much more. It was a great way to see the city.

I still feel much more at home in the country. The city life is such a stretch for this country bumpkin!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

An Update On Our Life Here...

Hellos and Goodbyes. We spent a incredible week with Cam's parents. The kids were so excited to share the little of Ireland that we have come to know including our exciting walks to school. The weather constantly keeps you guessing about what attire would be best. One afternoon we left with light jackets on and came home drenched head to toe! It was such a huge blessing for me to share these moments with my in-laws. Cam and I were hugely encouraged by his parents to keep on through the wonders of exploring a new culture even though at times we feel so tired and homesick. So, when last Friday came to say good-bye it was one of the roughest good-byes! It is hard to let someone go who brings such encouragment and security but I know God is growing us in huge ways through our letting gos.

Cam is adjusting to his new job and finding some of the quirks in the school system here normal now. He wasn't so sure about it at first and was frustrated by the lack of structure. The kids love their school and teachers. Avery joined Rainbow girls which is like girl scouts at our local church here and is loving it. Ian is in a soccer club and plays once a week. Elise and I have checked out a few "mums and tots" groups. Elise loves to get out and enjoys "new" toys. They have toast and tea at the mom's groups and sing songs which are new to us but we are learning. I have met a few other moms and we have gone to a church close by and continue to meet new people whom we have found very friendly. We are headed to London this weekend for a reception at the US Embassy for the exchange teachers. I can't wait to post our adventures there.

Nendrum Monastery

This may be what Nendrum Monastery looked like in the 5th century. It was a Christian monastery and it is located on Mahee Island in Strangford Lough, County Down, Northern Ireland. The monastery came to an end at some time between 974 and 1178, but its church served a parish until the site was abandoned in the 15th century. Cam's parents stayed closed to this site when they were visiting with us and so one morning Elise and I went exploring the remains of this mysterious monastery. St. Patrick is said to have visited this site and met Machaoi and baptised him. After which Machaoi started the church and the school. There is a story told that some time later Machaoi went to cut wood and fell asleep while a bird sang him three songs, fifty years for each song. When he woke up he was not aged in any way and returned to the monastery to find only the descendants of the monks he had known. be careful not to fall asleep under a birds song. :-)

This is one of the remains of the famous bell towers. The monastery used bell towers to govern their day and for protection from invasions. They were very important in the lives of the monks.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dunluce Castle

In it's glory days the Dunluce Castle used to be a magnificent sight. It has a tumultuous history with lots of different lords fighting to gain ownership of this land and estate. It was built right on the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea. In 1639, while the second Earl and his Countess were here, part of the castle including the kitchens fell into the sea; seven cooks went with the kitchens. We had fun exploring all the nooks and crannies.

While we were visiting there happened to be an archery demonstration. They also shot a musket riffle. The kids loved watching.

Carrick-a-Rede Suspension Bridge

Yes, we walked across that! It wouldn't have been that bad except for the gusts of winds that came across and made you feel like you could lose your footing at any minute.

This bridge was originally used for the salmon fishermen who would cross to this little rocky island to catch good fish. Now, it is a tourist attraction for the brave at heart.

Almost to the other side! Whew!

We were rewarded with an amazing view and a rainbow once we reached the island. Gabe was sure there was a pot of gold under the ocean right in that spot.

The Giant's Causeway

This is one of Northern Ireland's most famous land marks. There are thousands of basalt stone columns that were left by volcanic eruptions. The stones are all in hexagon shapes. There are rocks throughout the area named Camel, Wishing chair, Harp, and Organ. It was fun to try and find the shapes. We hiked quit a bit and climbed lots of stairs. While we were at the bottom of the Causeway it poured down rain but by the time we reached the top the wind had almost thoroughly dried us out.

Trip up to the North Coast

This past weekend we made a trip north with Cam's parents and Uncle and Aunt. There is nothing like seeing familiar faces when you have been in a strange country for over a month. The kids were besides themselves with excitement to see Papa, Nanny, Uncle Paul, and Aunt Kathy. Elise ran around in circles screaming with excitement for the first five minutes after seeing them for the first time. We thoroughly were spoiled and enjoyed every minute of this weekend with them. We headed up the coast from Belfast and took every scenic route possible, I think. This road that you see is not suitable for coaches (buses) or anything bigger than a 7 seater van! It was incredibly narrow, it looked like a one lane road when in Irish reality its a 2-way street.

We stopped at a town around Cushendall and had lunch. At the intersection of this little village was a goat tied to a statue of a goat. A memorial to those animals who didn't make it through the hoof and mouth outbreak. The kids loved petting him although when Ian fed his apple to the goat and Elise was certain the goat shouldn't eat people food she nearly got head butted out of Ireland!

The scenic view along the coast. Pictures can't do it justic.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Suffering Produces Perseverance, Right?

Ok, it wouldn't be real if I didn't express the joys along with the frustrations. The weather has been a little unpredictable this week. On Monday, we were not prepared for the gusty winds that carried the rain sideways straight through every piece of clothing we had on. By the time our 15 minute walk was over to school, we all had puddles in our shoes and our hair plastered to our faces. The umbrellas were really useless. So, the next day we bought a few items so that we could face the next battle with a little more success. Of course, the next day was bright and sunny and no need for anything but a light jacket. Today, was a different story, with rain and light breezes. Now, all mothers know it's quit a feat just to get four kids up and ready for school without many hitches but to add rain gear on top of it all certainly adds 10 more minutes to our preparations and a little more tension. Elise was excited to be in her little bubble and was by far the driest and warmest today. The rest of us still have to adjust. I now know why knee high socks are so fashionable here, out of necessity. By the time I reached the "hill" we walk up both of my ankle socks were in balls at the end of my "wellies". Avery's umbrella refused to cooperate and finally she just held it inside out walking underneath what little shelter it provided. Her hair was in tangles by the time we got to school and tangles it will stay. Our "trousers" and jackets were soaked. So, back to the store for more "proper" rain gear. I hope by December we will develop a little perseverance through all the weather until then I keep repeating Romans 5:3-5 to myself.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Something to smile about!

We passed this sign along a village road and had to go back so we could take a picture. It made us smile!

Just in case you couldn't figure out that it isn't a good idea to drive off the dock!


This past weekend Cam's Uncle Paul and Aunt Kathy came to visit Ireland and a little bit of us. :-) On Saturday, we took a ferry from Strangford, near where they were staying at a B&B, to Portaferry. It's a small town with an aquarium in which we ran out of time to visit but hope to go back to. The kids were quite taken with the ferry ride and can't wait to go back.

As you can see it was very, very wet and windy that day so it limited our sight seeing.

A ruin outside the aquarium. We hope to be back to do some more exploring.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Titanic Dry Dock and Pump House

This past weekend we got to see the birthplace of the Titanic.
The Titanic was brought to the Thompson Graving Dock and Pump House to check the part of the ship that is usually under water. This is consider the Titanic's footprint. At the time of its construction The Thompson Dock was the biggest Dry Dock in the world. The Dock was left dry and then would be flooded and the gate opened when the next ship would be hauled in and then the gate replaced and the dock would pump water in until the ship rested on the keel blocks down the center of the dock floor. You can't truly grasp how big a feat this was until actually standing next to it. It was a massive undertaking. me from an old naval term to ‘grave’ or clean a ship’s bottom by burning off attached debris anthn retarring. A graving dock is also the only dock within a shipyard that has stepped ss

The kids standing next to the dry dock.

One of the keel blocks.

The Thompson Dock is essentially Titanic’s footprint.. ‘Graving’ docks to check the part of a ship that is usually under water. The name Graving Dock is an old one and originates back in the mists of time. It is thought it might have come from an old naval term to ‘grave’ or clean a ship’s bottom by burning off attached debris and then retarring. A graving dock is also the only dock within a shipyard that has stepped sides (called Arches or Alter Courses).