Adios y Gracias, SEK!

Ana and I have done most of the blogging this trip, so our students said they wanted to contribute. After the community service presentations yesterday afternoon, they presented our hosts with the wonderful video below. Be sure to stay tuned until the very end!

Last Day in Ireland

What a beautiful island. One thing is more gorgeous and picturesque than the last. This morning we visited Powerscourt waterfall. See for yourself:

What a photogenic group. Look up from your screen, Amelia!

Sofia and Ellen re-enact the “I’m the King of the world!” scene from Titanic. Rose! Jack!

We also saw some mountain goats grazing on the side. I won’t tell you which the girls were more obsessed with, the waterfall or the goats. I’ll only say that they didn’t have a waterfall soundalike contest. They did do this, though:

Why yes, we are Americans. Why do you ask?

If that wasn’t enough. Declan drove us close enough to get a look at the Great Sugar Loaf Mountain. Though only 501 metres (1,644 ft) high, the Great Sugar Loaf’s isolation from other hills and volcanic appearance makes it stand out in the landscape:

 

 

Busy Friday

Remember last week when I said we were hiking to a waterfall? Well, I was wrong. But we really are today. We leave shortly. Pictures later. When we get back, all the students are sharing their projects on their community service projects on Monday. Then some farewell activities, including a video that the girls made of their experiences which I’ll share tonight.

Ancient History

Today we took a bus trip to Newgrange. It was breathtaking.

On the bus with SEK.

Sofia, Tiara, and Cherise on the Bridge over the River Boyne.

Katie and Amelia. It’s clearly not as warm as it looks!

Tiara, Sofia, and Nicole with SEK students.

Ellen and Tiara huddle for warmth. Newgrange in the background.

Nicole, Tiara, Cherise. Innocent or up to something?

From Newgrange looking toward the River Boyne. Note how green Ireland is even in the winter. Our guide said that this valley is one of the lushest on the island. He called it “50 shades of green.” Keep scrolling for an even better joke by John.

Great shot of Newgrange. The stone roof weighs an estimated 200,000 tons. Despite there being no cement, it has not allowed a drop of water (in Ireland!) inside in over 5,000 years.

The entrance to Newgrange. Archeologists discovered the remains of five bodies inside when they excavated. The inner sanctum is designed in a cross pattern, which brings up a host of questions.

A great look at the roof box that lets in approximately 17 minutes of light straight across the horizon at dawn during  the winter solstice between December18th-23rd. There is annual lottery to be one of the 25 or so people present in the inner sanctum on those days Even if you win, it has to be a sunny day. Good luck! Below is the entrance stone with ancient etchings. On the left is a rare “tri-spiral.” The only other known one in Ireland is inside. No pictures were allowed. Again, no one really knows the significance of the designs, but that has not stopped archeologists from speculating.  In typical Irish fashion, our guide said it was the most photographed stone since Mick Jagger.

The outside of Newgrange. None of the rock came from within 25 kilometers of the site, including the white quartz that lines the roof box in the previous picture. In the time before the wheel–or even the horse–in Ireland, that means it had to be carried a great distance through what was then a dense forest. All for 17 minutes!

Going to Jail and Dancing: Two of our Irish Favorites!

This morning we took a field trip to Wicklow Gaol, which dates back to 1702 (we also saw an iron door that dated back to 1843. Whoa). This was the last stop before those who committed “crimes” (stealing bread, not paying debts, celebrating Catholic Mass in public) we’re either killed or shipped off to the newfound penal colony of New South Wales or Australia. The museum was well done, complete with dungeon and the hold of a ship. The Jail is said to be haunted, and the girls mostly spent their time hiding in cells and jumping out to scare each other. Our driver, Declan, had coffee and a scone in the cafe, and he said that he could hear screaming all over the museum. Ghosts, or happy Porter’s students? You decide.

I hate to tell you, but one of our students got into some serious trouble. Don’t worry. She’s scheduled to be released before our flight on Saturday.

We also had a professional photographer come to campus today. Ana took this great shot on the front steps of SEK while Owen was attempting to wrangle them into position.

The day ended with more Irish dancing. I’m told this dance is called the Kaylee. Fun, and a bit chaotic. The teacher kept praising the Porter’s girls and sending the boys out of the room. Typical.

Snowy, windy weather aside, we’re looking forward to an outing to Newgrange tomorrow, a prehistoric monument in County Meath. It’s over 5,200 years old, predating Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids. It features prominently in Irish mythology and folklore. I’ll know more tomorrow at this time. Stay tuned!

Full Day at School

Between our field trips and the fact that the SEK students had been speaking Spanish over their three-week break, the teachers here really wanted to have some classroom time. As a result of that and the rare snow, we were a bit cooped up in school, as the video below will attest:

We did have a treat today, though, as the Spanish Ambassador to Ireland paid us a visit to make sure everything was ship shape.

Spanish, Irish, and SEK flags greet the Ambassador. As always, Irish Sea in the background.

Spanish Ambassador, SEK Upper School students, SEK faculty, and Porter’s.

A group of students were asked to give the Ambassador a tour and discuss his role. Note that Michelle and Cherise were included. The girls have been great ambassadors in their own right! Ana and I are very proud.

Community Service Pictures and Reflections

First things first: Happy Birthday Sofia! Doesn’t she look thrilled and not at all embarrassed?

Some reflections from the day.

I was on the Dublin SPCA trip today with Ellen and Kayleen. They do amazing work. They’re a no-kill facility that brings in over 3,500 animals per year: cats, dogs, horses, goats, rabbits, even a potbellied pig that outgrew its apartment. The entire operation cost 10 million euros per year, of which the government provides a mere 10,000. They make up the rest with private donations, fundraisers, and three money-making enterprises on site–a vet clinic, a pet hotel for vacationers, and a doggy day care.

Check out the old goat. Oh, and there’s a white animal in the picture, too!

Do you get HBO with that? Thank you! I’ll be here all week.

 

Ana was on the Bray Lakers trip with Cherise and Michelle, a community-based sports, social, and recreation club for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. In the morning the girls helped the residents make clay picture frames for Valentine’s Day. In the afternoon they worked in the kitchen cooking a vegetarian Shepard’s pie, also known as Sheperdess Pie, as well as a gluten free seed bread (better than it sounds…Ana has a copy of the recipe if anyone is interested)!

We’ll try to follow up with pictures of the other trips as the week unfolds.

Community Service Monday

Early in our stay, one of the SEK faculty told Ana and I that to teach here you need to learn to “go with the flow.” When an opportunity to be out in the community rather than in the classroom comes up, they take it. Plans can change at the drop off the hat. Being from the US, the northeast, and Porter’s, it’s taken us a while to get used to it.

Today, we’ll see that philosophy in action. We’re going to six different organizations to volunteer and learn more about what they do. Here are the organization and the Porter’s students that are going:

  • Dublin SPCA (Kayleen, Ellen)
  • The Bray Lakers, a center for special needs adults (Cherise, Michelle)
  • RNLI, the Irish Coast Guard (Tiara, Katie)
  • Imaginosity, Dublin’s Children Museum (Olivia)
  • Youth Cafe (Amelia, Sofia)
  • Bray Recycling Center and Five Loaves Charity Shop (Nicole)

Pictures and reflections tonight.

A Day With Irish Families

Looks like the Porter’s students got some fresh air on a nice, clear day today. We got updates from a few:

Kayleen and her “brother and sister” had a tea party. Awww!

Olivia walked through a garden.

Olivia

Cherise

Amelia walked to a monastery.

Ellen admitted that the hike through 50 mile-per-hour winds was worth this breathtaking view!

Back to school! Monday we perform community service in six different organizations in Greystones. Updates tomorrow.