Skip to content

Grave of my great-great grandfather's gravesite in the village of Cloonfush
Grave of my great-great grandfather's gravesite in the village of Cloonfush

One of the main reasons behind my decision to study in Ireland was my family background. Although I never had any contact with my Irish relatives prior to this trip, they have made my semester so much better. As I have mentioned in previous blog entries, my cousin Joe has taken me on trips exploring much of Ireland. A few weekends back I got the surreal experience of visiting the village of my ancestors.

My program of 34 Americans here at DCU was scheduled for a bus trip exploring the West of Ireland. It was a great time where we got to experience everything from the eclectic Galway City to the barren but beautiful Achill Island. At the end of the excursion, Joe met me to explore a bit more of Connemara and go on our way to Tuam, Co. Galway, about 40 minutes outside of the city.

Tuam is a small village that only recently has been connected easily to Galway City and henceforth Dublin with the advent of EU money funding new roads in Ireland. As we were about to enter the town, Joe made a quick left onto a long, narrow road. There was not much to this area except a few old houses, some new houses, a lot of land, and a couple sheds. As Joe’s brother Maurice told me later that night, even though the family home was no longer standing, this village known as Cloonfush is “where is all began.”

At the very end of the road, there was an old cemetery. We searched the graves until we found the grave of my great-great-grandfather of Cloonfush in the picture shown. Being in the footsteps of my ancestors and seeing this cemetery was unreal and an experience I will never forget.

We then carried on to Tuam, where I was shuttled around to a few houses to meet cousins, aunts, etc. Pictures were taken, stories were told, family trees were drawn and analyzed, and of course there was plenty of tea. That night I then had the pleasure of enjoying a couple pints with my distant cousins at a local pub. I spent the night at my grandmother’s first cousin’s house. Although we had to leave early the next morning, I was so fortunate to get such a grand welcome into Cloonfush, Tuam, and the whole west of Ireland. “Where it all began.”

Peace Gates of Seoul Olympic Park

안녕하세요 (hello)! Week 9 was the hardest week here so far because of midterms. But before the midterm week started, that Friday before massive hours of studying, I decided to take a personal fun day and explore parts of Seoul I really wanted to. Seoul Olympic Park was the first place on my list.

That Friday morning, I woke up at 8 am to go on a run at the Olympic Park. I arrived there rather early and it was a beautiful day. The entrance to the park was called the Peace Gate and had the Olympic rings on it. I stopped a group of Korean women to take my photo and then happily started my run inside. The statues were foreign and the views were green and gorgeous. My favorite statue was of these Greek half-faces that were angled towards each other. I saw a wedding, elderly Korean hikers, and a giant skin care festival. However, the coolest part was the fact that I was running through an actual Olympic Park where the worlds best athletes once competed. I am just so used to watching the Olympics on TV that  never in a million years would I have imagined going on a long run through the park in Seoul, South Korea. I took a total of three hours to peacefully run and explore the park as a whole. I even stopped at the museum to read about some of the events that took place at this specific park.

FullSizeRender (2)
Half-Face Olympic Park statues

After the park I decided to try a random stop on the metro called Garak Market. Garak market is a giant market where farmers go to sell fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, and other organic good. It was outside near two giant warehouses and was made of many long rows in which old Korean farmers sold their veggies. I don’t think many foreigners go to that market because people were staring at me more so than usual. I had a great cucumber and tried dried persimmons. After this, I went to Seoul Grand Park with Mike, John, Jesper, and our new friend Georgia. We went to a Korean Zoo. At the zoo we got to see animals that were from North Korea and my favorite animals were the red pandas. After the zoo we went back to Anam and got Korean BBQ with the rest of our friends.

Midterms here in Seoul were a challenge and took place outside of the normal class times. I had a midterm from 7-9pm on a Friday, putting a damper on my class-less Friday. My sister’s birthday was on Monday of midterm week and we caught up on life over Kakao talk. Kakao Talk is the Korean What’s App and that is how most of the Koreans communicate with each other.  After the 4 midterms I took, we did the typical things and went out in Anam for Soju and food. I tried a new flavor of Makgeolli, it was chestnut. That Saturday we spent all day in Korean Malls. Lotte is a huge company here in Korea. The name is on Lotte Hotel World, Lotte World Adventure, Lotte supermarket, and we were at Lotte Mall. We got to see a Korean fashion show and take photos with models. We got the impression that we were allowed in the show because we were foreigners and photographers took photos of us. Later, we accidentally ended up at a mall that sold the clothes of the designers of the fashion show and I ended up buying a big tan trench coat, which are really popular here.

Yesterday, Alissa and I went to Noryangjin Fish Market again and we both tried live squid. This was the point we realized that we have become one with the Koreans. Essentially, as stated in a previous blog, we went down into the fish market and chose a red snapper that was cooked on a grill, sashimi, and 4 live octopi. These octopi were sashimied for us at a restaurant and were still moving, even though they were in pieces, when we ate them. You would pick up the Octopi with your chopsticks and the tentaces would suction on to the chopsticks and squirm as you dipped them into the oil and salt mixture. Alissa and I both actually liked the taste of it even though it looked gross. We also had the pleasure of sitting next to a middle-aged Korean couple that taught us how to eat the food at our table and shared their Makgeolli with us. After our lovely meal, we got a tandem bike and went Han River biking. It was a perfect day. Stay tuned next week as I start my travels into Thailand and Hong Kong! 안녕(goodbye)!

FullSizeRender (3)
Live octopi we ate


A bit of the match

“I wish I did less on my trip overseas.” I have heard plenty of people regret not doing enough on a trip, not seeing or experiencing enough, but never someone regretting having too many experiences. My friends and I have taken this to heart, and here is why: this past weekend we wandered around downtown Dublin, visited Dublin Castle, spent a day on a farm milking cows, herding sheep, baking soda bread, and learning new sports, attended a Gaelic football match, visited the Wicklow Mountains and a nearby ancient monastery south of Dublin, and spent the rest of our Sunday exploring Kilkenny Castle and the Smithwick’s Brewery in County Kilkenny. Needless to say, I got 13 hours of sleep Sunday night. The weekend with friends was unforgettable and I am sure I will touch on many of the experiences in future blog posts. The Gaelic football match, however, was particularly special. In a jam-packed weekend, this event stood out because it was there where I met one of my distant Irish relatives for the first time. My parents made me aware of a network of Irish relatives we had on my dad’s side that I knew little about. My Aunt Kathleen helped get me in touch with Joe McDonagh first through email and eventually through phone. To put it simply, Joe’s great-grandfather is my great-great-grandfather. If I remember correctly, he informed me 9 of 11 children in our family left Galway in the late 1800s due to poverty for America. I am a descendant on my father’s mother’s side of one that left, while he is a descendant of one that stayed. He offered me information about our family and Irish ancestors that I had never heard before. My friend from DCU who tagged along even remarked after our night out that he spotted a family resemblance! Earlier in the night, my friend Luke and I got back from our farm trip, washed the bog mud off, and headed for western Europe’s fourth largest stadium, Croke Park, in the north of Dublin. Joe and I agreed to meet for a Gaelic football match. Luke and I got to our seats, but not without a ridiculously long and frustrating time getting into the stadium, with it’s multitude of entrances and a ticket office blocks away from the stadium! What? The first noticeable difference in sporting events here in Ireland is that you cannot drink in the stadium, only in the concourse. We were very surprised by this rule coming from a huge drinking culture at American sporting events, and being in a country notoriously known for alcohol consumption. The second difference was obviously the sport being played. The Gaelic Games consist of hurling, which is basically an ancient, more primitive version of lacrosse, and Gaelic football, which is like a super-awesome handball+soccer+football extravaganza. With no pads. And almost as much fighting as hockey. These guys are amateurs (another big difference, as pro sports is not really a thing in such a small country), so they do it for the love of the game. You score one point for kicking through football-style uprights, and three points for getting it underneath them, much like soccer. This means consistent one-point scoring, but when a three-pointer is scored, everybody goes nuts (for Dublin of course). It was like a perfect formula for a spectator sport. We missed the hurling match, but Joe met us at our seats and took in the second half of Gaelic football with us. It was almost a surreal experience meeting a blood relative in a foreign country. He was a great guy, a family man with two kids. In typical Dublin fashion, we met one of his friends at a pub after the match. It was actually a really fun time, as two 21-year-old Americans shared stories with two 50-year-old Irishmen. We left with a promise to talk soon about coordinating a meeting with the rest of the relatives in Galway. Gaelic football was awesome, but meeting Joe was even better. My immediate family is passionate for good sports, and it’s great to know my distant relatives are no different.