Friday, August 31, 2007

Composed August 30, 2007--Posted August 31, 2007


I stayed up late last night...’til around 2:00 A.M.  The guy who I’m stayin’ with (Tim) accepted two more couch-surfers, and they came around midnight.  So we spent a couple of hours talkin’ with is from Canada, the other from Germany...they are searchin’ for a place to live in Glasgow...

Well, anyway, as the story goes, I slept ‘til 11:30 A.M.!!!  I love it!  Seeing as how I didn’t have any breakfast food, I cooked some pasta and ate a couple of slices of bread.  And then had some dark chocolate.  That’s my type of breakfast!

Well, the day was young, so I needed to do something.  Before I came into Scotland, I had a huge desire to ride a horse through the hills.   I mean, who wouldn’t want to do that, right?!  Well, seeing as how I was in the city...and horse-less...I went for the next best method.

I looked for a bike.  But I was still going to ride in the hills!

Tim has several bikes laying around, but most are in need of some special attention.  One of the bikes in his bedroom is missing a rear tire (and frankly, I haven’t mastered the unicycle yet...that comes later in life).  I found another bicycle in his closet (I’m not joking), but the rear tire was flat. luck there, either.

So I walk down stairs and I find about eight more bikes.  The first one has a flat tire, the second one...”Hey, the second one doesn’t look too bad!”  The tires have air, the brakes are connected, and it has a seat!  But I did notice that the seat moved up and down.  So I went upstairs, grabbed some wrenches...only to hear the sound of a man trying to get into the door.  He yells something in a thick Scottish voice, and I still don’t have a clue what he said.  But I walk out of Tim’s apartment, and what I see is quite comical...I left the bike in the hallway, and the man has wedged the bike between the door and the stairs.  He can’t get to his apartment!

So I walk down there, ask him if the bike I found is Tim’s, and he says’s Charlie’s.  Hmm...Charlie.  I don’t know a Charlie.  But I can buy it if I want to, because Charlie wants to sell it.  It turns out that Charlie is Tim’s neighbor.  But I have a see, I don’t want to buy a bike.  Well, kindly, the man walks upstairs to see if Charlie is in the apartment...and I found out that he isn’t.  Hmm...Charlie’s bike.

Well, I walk upstairs and look at Tim’s bikes again.  Not a chance.  They need too much work.  So I load up some maps, my camera, and a couple of wrenches, and I head back down to Charlie’s bike.  I am banking on the fact that Charlie is a kind man.  After all, what are neighbors for, right?!  Worst-case scenario, I have to buy it off of him...but let’s hope not.

Well, I head down the road, and I meet up with a bike path, and I just start heading west.  In my mind, if I go far enough, I will eventually hit some hills.  After all, Scotland is hills!  That’s my game plan, anyway.

Well, I bike and bike and bike, and all I see is more city.  Some suburbs.  Some ship docks.  Some possible ghettos.  But no hills.  But I keep on going.  Eventually, I stop and ask someone where I can bike in the hills.


“Yeah, today...”

“What time is it?”


“And you want to bike in the hills today?”

“Yup!  So do you know where I can get to the hills?!”

He points me back in the opposite direction, says that I will have to get off a bike path, go through the city, blah blah blah.  But he also mentions going the other way.

“How long would it take to get there?”

“It’s 13 miles...”

“Ok, sounds great!”

I don’t think he really know that I am serious.

“Listen, where are you staying?”

“Close to the City Center in Glasgow...”

“And you want to be back before tonight?”

“ I better get going!”  Little known fact...I have noticed in Ireland and Scotland that people are incredibly friendly.  Sometimes you have to pull yourself away from them, or they might talk to you for hours!

At just that time, another biker comes by from the opposite direction...the man I had asked stops him.

“Hey, can you help us out?”

“I want to bike in the do I do that?!”

"The hulls?!”  (He had one of the most amazing Scottish accents ever!)  But his surprised response was less than encouraging.  “Aye, you are far away, lad.  I guess you cood go back dat way...” pointing in the direction I am going...

 “Sounds great!  How far?”

“Just go until this bike path stops....then just head for the hills...but you are going to be carrying your bike...”  And with that, he was off.

Hmm...carrying my bike?  What does that mean?  Oh, well, I needed to get goin’...

I thanked the guy that I had originally asked, then startin’ bikin’ down the path again.  It should be noted here that I was pedaling directly against the wind from the west.  I seemingly pick the most windy day out of the few that I have been in Scotland.  Go figure.  Well, a few miles later, I could see hills.  Sweet.  So I got off the path, then tried to head for them...but I couldn’t get to them.

I went up one hill, only to find an expressway blocking me.  I went another way but couldn’t find it, either.  So I asked an old couple on the street, and they pointed me on my way.

A mile or two later, and I have passed under the expressway, and I am heading up this hill...and there are sheep everywhere!  So I give a couple of “BAA!!!”’s to ‘em, take some pics, then keep goin’.  As I ride higher and higher, the scenery is absolutely breath-taking.  At one point, I even said, “I don’t deserve this...”

But the rocky road was becoming...well, steep.  As in very steep.  So I had to get off of the bike and start walking.  I stopped numerous times to take pictures, and at one point, I had a huge burst of energy, and I pulled a William Wallace...I just started running up the green hills until the very top!  It was awesome!  But it was windy!!!  The winds were probably around 35 mph at this point.  I took some more pictures, tried to get close to a few rams, then kept on going...

And going.  And going.  I eventually came to this beautiful lake up on top of the hills!  It looked like a scene from Oregon!  Pine trees in the background, dark blue water, and wind like crazy!

And I was startin’ to get calves would feel the pain every once in awhile, but as soon as the terrain became even remotely flat again, I would get excited and hop on the bike again!  I did this for a few hours!

The rocky road turned to a rock path, then to a path only worn down only by sheep and the occasional brave heart.  I loved it.  At times, it was hard to see where the path was going!  But I kept on one point, the terrain was becoming pretty steep, so I ditched the bike and just started running up the hills.

From one hill, I could see another higher hill, so, of course, I couldn’t have that, so I ran down the hill (it was very cliff-like, yet at the same time, I was stepping on a combination of grass and moss...the hills were so wet and soft!).  But I acted like a ram and just jumped and ran down the hills.  Beautiful.  At this point, the wind was pushing me when I reached the crest of the hill.  As soon as I was on top, I would be moved by the wind!  It was great!  Except for the fact that it was now overcast and cold...probably in the high 50's.

I climbed up the other higher hill, and I found an interesting stone on top.  It sort of looked like a tombstone, but it did not have the properties of one.  At the bottom, it read, “RS, BSM, 3666.”  I was not sure if that was the elevation of the hill or what, but I took a picture for good measure.

My mouth was dry.  And my body was spent!  But I had to go back down the hills I just started running and jumping!  I ran back, found the bike, and started going back...and let me tell you...

The only reason for going up a mountain on a mountain bike is so that you can come back down!  It’s that simple.  At one point, I am sure I reached at least 35 mph, and the rocks were very loose...and the rocks provided for some ramp-effects, too...I hit one pretty hard and that through me quite a bit, so I added some quick brakes...but I couldn’t brake too quick, because I was going so fast! was a pretty crazy couple of seconds there!  There was a good possibility of that not turnin’ out so hot!  But I was able to get it under control, no worries.  I will say, though, I thought I was toast.  It made me a new man!

It took me 2-3 hours to get up the mountain, and only 15 minutes to get down.  It was awesome!!!!

I wearily biked back to the bike path, then started headin’ back home to Glasgow.  I was so tired, that I actually had to get off at one point and walk the bike for several feet.

I had left my wallet behind, so I had no money for food or water...both of which I was yearning for!  I finally made it back to Glasgow (well before dark!), drank a couple of glasses of water, threw two slices of bread in my mouth, then cooked some pasta, and took a hot bath!  What a great feeling!

All that to say I think I am going to build my castle on top of one of the hills in Scotland.  It was a great day!

[NOTE:  You can see all of my pictures under the “My Stories” link...just scroll to the bottom of the page once you get there!]

2007-08-31 17:02:00 GMT

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Composed August 27, 2007--Posted August 29, 2007


I don’t know what it is about me, but I always get afraid when somethin’ good happens.  Maybe it’s because of the past that I’ve been through, I’m not sure.  But because yesterday was so good, I was just nervous about today goin’ to be rough!

I started out the day at 10:00 A.M.  Pretty early if you ask me.  But I needed to get several things taken care of!  Not the least of which was packing...I have been in this house for the past three or four days (it all runs together), and I had sort of taken over the room I was in.  So after a quick shower, grabbin’ my clothes from the dryer (I was able to wash clothes!)

Ooohhh...quick story about that.  So a couple of days ago I decided to try out the washing machine.  It’s a bit different than back home (a front-loader), but it wasn’t too bad.  I added detergent, threw my clothes in there, and then pushed some buttons.  The clothes starting spinning, although the water never really filled up inside like back in the States.  But I think it was supposed to be like that...haha...who knows, I may have dirty clothes again.  But anyway, after that, I open up the door and transfer my clothes from the washer to the dryer, and they are soaked!  As in dripping-wet soaked!  I don’t think the spin cycle really did anything.  Well, who cares, as that is what a dryer is for.  So I push some other buttons, and the dryer turns on.  About 45 minutes later, it turns off.  I open up the door to get my clothes, and...

They are soaked.  As in dripping-wet soaked.  As in they just spun around in circles for fun.  That’s it.  No drying.  Well, I figured that if they were that wet, then it may take another cycle to completely dry them.  So another 45 minutes.  And then I open up the door.  And this time...

They are soaked!!!  As in dripping-wet soaked!  The only difference is that they are just a little bit more dizzy.  Nothing else has changed!  So I do what any guy in his right mind would do...I push some more buttons and go for Round 3.  But it’s I would have to wait until the next day...

Somewhere through the day, I open up the dryer door, and much to my surprise...

My clothes are soaked!!!  As in dripping-wet soaked!  Still!!!  Well, by this time, I’m figurin’ I’m goin’ to have to set them out in the sun to dry or at least take them to the neighbor’s house, because we’ve got a big problem here.  But, of course, before that, I figured I would ask one of the guys in the turns out he is the only guy left in the house by now...the others have left.  “Hey, how do you use your dryer?  My clothes are still wet, and I can’t figure it out.”

“Oh, I don’t know, man.  I never use that thing.”

Great.  Just what I was lookin’ for.  But he goes back to the room and inspects the unit.  And by this time, it’s not even turning in.  “Just kick it a couple of times,” he says.  Umm, about that.  And then he asks if I have drained the water.

“Excuse me?”

“Have you drained the water out?”  And with that, he bends down to the bottom of the dryer, pulls out this big container that holds water.  It is not completely full, but that sure explained the light that had come on earlier (it had a picture of a water bucket!).  Well, he puts the container back in, then tries the dryer.  Nothing.  So he says he doesn’t know and leaves.

But I need dry clothes!  So I hit the dryer a few times, and wouldn’t ya know it, it starts right up.  I let 45 minutes go by, and then I open up the door, and...

My clothes are only damp!  Far from soaked!  I reach down to the bottom, pull out the container, and water is at the top!  So I dump the water in the toilet, put the container back in, start another cycle, and 45 minutes later, my clothes are DRY!!!  Wow.  It was seriously a two-day fiasco to get one load of dry clothes.

Who knew that a dryer actually took the water out and kept it?!  Whatever happened to the days of, oh, you know, sending it out into the wind as vapor?!  Silly Irish.

Well, anyway, I pack up, and head into town for the Post Office.  I need to get rid of several things...I just packed too much.  The backpack is very heavy, and I can get by with having a lot less.  So I send home my running shoes, some clothes, my old duffle bag, and some weird cast that my doctor had made for me.  It ended up costing me way more than I had anticipated, but I just needed the items gone.  (That whole process was a fiasco, too, as the Post Office doesn’t supply boxes...go figure).  So I had to go to a couple of shoe stores, then to an ATM because they only accept cash, blah, blah, blah.  And I had to use this little tape dispenser to close these boxes, so my guess is that my shoes are probably lyin’ in the middle of an airplane over the Atlantic Ocean.  Oh, well...

From there I head to the bus station.  I’m off to Blarney today.  As a good American citizen, I cannot come to Ireland and not go kiss the Blarney Stone.  And it turns out I’m only about 10 miles away.  So I buy a return-trip bus ticket, then head to Blarney.

It’s a 25-minute trip, and we come into town.  It’s a nice little town...very touristy...imagine that.  What part of Ireland isn’t touristy?!  And I start headin’ for the castle...

It costs 8 Euro to get in.  I’m not thrilled about it, but I’m not goin’ to miss an opportunity like this, so I pay the bill.  The walk towards the castle is a bit exciting...I didn’t know what I was there to see (that’s the beauty of not having seen the stone or the castle even in pictures before), so I was just waitin’ for the best!  And in the distance, you can see the top of the castle.  And I’m not goin’ to’s a pretty sweet castle!  The town has probably spent millions on the landscaping all throughout, so there are trees blockin’ the view for the longest time.  But as you approach the castle, its majesty becomes bigger and bigger!

I took several pictures, then went inside the castle.  I don’t remember when the castle was built, but it’s been around for a veeeery long time.  And it’s in great condition!  Of course, much of it is missing, but it’s still neat to walk through!  Several of the floors are long gone, so you can actually look up two or three floors at a time, but with a good imagination, you can picture what it used to look like.  There are bedrooms, a kitchen, a place for throwin’ tar on people if they broke in, a huge banquet room, and several smaller side-rooms.  Most of the plaques throughout the castle are purely speculation (dare I say blarney?!), but again, it’s neat to imagine what it would have been like in its prime.

You can walk into all of the rooms, go to the windows (which are very tiny) and pretty much do whatever you want to.  But the Blarney Stone is on top.  So I started that way.  And to get to the top, you have to take these VERY tight spiraled steps.  I mean very tight.  And I have a huge backpack on my back and a small backpack on my front!  There were a couple of times where I had to squeeze into some rooms!

There is a rope provided to assist with climbing the stairs (they are steep, too!).  Let me just put it this way...this tourist attraction would never fly in America because of all of the dangers and lawsuits that could happen.  In all seriousness, you would only be able to take a picture from the outside.  But here I am walking on the very steps that were used by kings and knights!  It’s quite fun!

I eventually make it to the top, and I still don’t have a clue what the Blarney Stone is.  This entire time I had thought that it was...well, a stone in some town.  I had talked with people back in the States, and they had mentioned how the locals had peed on it during the night, so that when tourists kiss it, well, yeah....And the guys that I had just stayed with had mentioned the same thing...that they themselves had decimated the stone.  So I picture this stone in the middle of a town square that the locals pee on in the middle of the night.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.  I get in line to kiss the stone (why not?!), and as I get closer, I see the people laying down, then shimmying back and kissing the wall.  Hmm...very interesting.  There is a man there to hold you from falling back (off of the castle wall?) and another man taking pictures.




A person every few seconds.  They are seriously herding us through like cattle.  I can only imagine what the pictures would cost, so I have the guy behind me take a picture with my camera.

As I get up there, I am told to lay on a mat, lean back, grab two poles to hold myself, tilt my head back, and kiss the Blarney Stone.  I do.  In all, it took maybe six seconds.  “Well, that was that!”

I’m not goin’ to lie, it was very anti-climactic, but, hey, I have kissed the Blarney Stone.  I guess Discovery Channel named it one of the 99 Things To Do Before You Die.  My list has a checkmark now.  Sweet action.

From there, I go to the beautiful gardens they have (an amazing trip through nature), and then I get back on the bus, but not before talking to a guy at the bus stop.  He more than encourages me on my trip, wishes me the best, gives me his business card in case I ever need anything, and tells me to hit up Eastern Europe (most come over to the west!).  He also says that Australia is a must-see, no excuses offered.  We talk for about 20 minutes.  I walked away feeling like I had made one of the best decisions of my life in goin’ on this trip!

I take the bus back to Cork, buy a ticket for Limerick, then get back on the bus.  I have a flight to catch tomorrow...I meet a fellow traveler from Canada, and we sit next to each other on the bus.  We talk for a good couple of hours...she is on her last leg...she has been travelin’ for 2 ½ months...11 countries, and she is within days of goin’ home.  She couldn’t pass up Ireland, though, so she came over...a night in Galway, maybe one more in England, then off to school in Canada.  We shared where we’ve been, what we like, what we don’t like, the pluses and minuses of travelin’ alone (she’s been soloin’ the entire time!), and just talk.  She was tired from travelin’, and I imagine after three months, I’ll be there, too.  But she didn’t have any regrets.  But now she was happy to go home to see her brother and pregnant sister!  I had a great time with her...

Well, the bus rolls into town in Limerick.  And I’ve seen much of Ireland by this point...but Limerick just struck me as different.  The town was dirty (all the other cities were clean as a whistle), the entrance to town was met with garbage and run-down houses...needless to say, I wasn’t gettin’ a good vibe from the city.  I didn’t have a clue where I was stayin’ that night, so I was bankin’ on the worse!

I hop off the bus, then immediately start askin’ for a couch.  It’s about 6:00 P.M.  I head to one neighborhood, ask if it’s good, am told not at all, so I go the opposite direction!  Several people tell me I don’t want to stay in a certain part of the city.

I head into the city center...much of the city has already died down.  It’s not like Cork or shuts down pretty early here.  But I still ask people...bus stations would have locals.  “Nope, sorry.”  “I live 45 miles away...”  “Nope, I don’t know of anyone.”

I meet a few who would house me, but they are out of town.  One is from Paris.  He says he will give me his contact info for when I’m there, though.  I pull out a notebook I had been given, and he freaks out.  On the front is a verse from the Bible...

“Oh, no, man, you’re not one of those religious people, are you?!  YOU ARE!!!”

And with that, he hands the notebook back to me with nothing written in it!  Whoa, buddy.  I assure him that I’m not some freak, and it takes a bit of convincing, but I think his other friends assure him, as well.

“Well, as long as you don’t be talking God stuff to me, man.  No God talk, ok?”  I would sure like to know this guy’s story.

I leave there, walk up and down several streets, ask more people, meet a couple different people a couple of different times that don’t speak English, and then keep goin’.

I eventually come to a pub, see two guys, pass by it, then have second I turn around, walk down the alley, and ask ‘em...

“You guys wouldn’t have a couch I could stay on for the night, would you?”

“No, sorry, we have to move out tonight...well, wait...”

He whips out his cell phone, calls his landlord, asks for a day extension, then gives me the good news.  “You have a couch (actually a bed!) tonight!”

They are two Polish guys...they are being kicked out of the house because of the students coming in.  They had rented cheap student housing during the summer, but the University starts up soon, so they have to move out.  And they don’t have a clue where they are going.  So I think it was a welcome relief to them, as well!

We take a 15-minute bus ride, walk a bit, then arrive at the house.  It’s nice...houses six people during the school year.  And I am given a full-fledged room and bed!!!  This worked out a lot better than anticipated!!!

We have a great time together...we talk over drinks, we watch a bit of Prison Break, then we head to their friend’s house so that I can use the internet.  I am supposed to call a guy in Scotland.  He had promised me a couch, but I needed to give him further details...and I haven’t been with the internet or phone for awhile!

We walk 15-20 minutes, then they tell me to walk in first!  I walk in, yell “Maja!” (the girl’s name), and out comes this beautiful Polish girl!  Ha!  Not what I had expected there, either!

She gives me her laptop, I get the guy’s number and call.  No answer.  Bummer.  I leave a message, then I start talkin’ with my newly-found Polish friends.

The phone rings.  “It’s your guy!” Marcel says.  I answer.  It’s Tim from Scotland!  He says he’s more than happy to host me...even for a few days!  He says there is a key to his house outside the door, tells me where it is, and says he’ll be home late!  Make myself comfortable!

Haha...these people are crazy!  But he had a SWEET English accent, so it’s all good.

I write down directions, then hang up!  I have my next few nights another country!  This is more than good...this is how it all should work out!  I’m stoked!

So from there, I start learnin’ Polish words and phrases...they tell me that I am surprisingly good.  That’s always fun to hear!  I make a few mistakes, say some funny things, I guess, but that’s learning a language for ya!

After a while, the cigarettes come out.  Then the reefer comes out.  Too bad, too!  I know it’s legal, but it just seems like everyone does it!  It’s frustrating!  So I watch my two Polish guys and their friend (though not Maja!) light up.

Then we walk home.  I take a quick picture with the Polish guys, then I’m off to bed.  I have a new country to go find in six hours!

(Note:  The Polish are everywhere!  I guess out of the 4.5 people in Ireland, that 500,000 of them are Polish!  Marcel was tellin’ me that he makes 9 Euro/hour at his job.  If he were to take the exact same job back in his country, he would make 1.5 Euro/hour.  I see why they move out of their country!  So far in my two weeks, one entire week has been taken care of by the Polish!  Thanks, Poland!)

2007-08-29 12:42:29 GMT

Composed August 26, 2007--Posted August 29, 2007


Ah, what a good couple of days!!!  After I wrote that last blog [referring to August 24, 2007], I felt like I had such a burden lifted off of me!  I don’t know what it was that I needed, but I just feel free!  It’s kinda nice.  And let me just offer a little suggestion for you…I want you to call up a friend right now and ask them how they are doing.  When they say, “Fine, and you?”…repeat the question and wait for the real answer.  It turns out that many of us are desperately lonely for just a close friend (I received numerous e-mails!).  I think I hit a nerve in my last blog.  But it’s a nerve that needs to be hit.  So before I go futher, just one question…

Have you called yet?

Um, I am more than serious, by the way!  My blog will still be here after the phone call (the the very necessary talk over supper that takes place as a result of the call).

Call, then read on. You’ll thank me later!  (P.S. I hope you get a phone call!)

Ok, so I ended up going to bed early last night…around 1:00 A.M.  I was shootin’ for a good eight hours of sleep before wakin’ up for church in the morning.  I always get excited about goin’ to a different church…and crazy scared, too.  I’m so excited to experience a different culture’s way of doing church, but I am so deeply afraid that it will be boring (been to one of those here already!).

So I lie there in bed.  And don’t sleep.  You know, over the years, I have noticed that I very much dislike when I go to sleep….but don’t go to sleep.  Not exactly my cup o’ tea.  Well, a good hour or two into it, I think I’m under.  I think, because I’m not sure.  I’m awakened by loud noises.

People laughing…people talking.  People in the house.  It sounds like 15 people (give or take a lad, of course).  “You’ve got to be kidding me…”  It turns out my housemates have returned from their gig, and I think they brought the pub with ‘em.  It is impossible to sleep.

The door opens.  I pull the quick “eye closed” routine so that they won’t bother me.  I really don’t feel like going out there at all.  Hanging out with drunk people tonight just isn’t high on my priority list.  The door closes.  I wonder who it was.

More noises.  More laughing.  More drinking, I’m sure.  And another door opening…I don’t think I shut my eyes quick enough this time, but the person was obviously surprised and quickly closes the door.

“It’s goin’ to be a loooong night.”  I might be able to get a few hours of sleep in, but who wants to go to church on a few hours of sleep?!

The alarm goes off at 9:00 A.M.  I am banking on church starting at either 10:00 or 11:00 (very common so I’ve seen).  But I’m tired.  So I pull the “I’ll just sleep for a lil’ while longer” routine.  Very dangerous, and countless times in my life it has NOT worked out, but I was feelin’ a bit risky this mornin’.  And wouldn’t ya know it…for once it finally worked out!  Sort of.  I end up waking up at 10:15…I’m bankin’ on an 11:00 service.

I take a shower, get ready, throw on a nice shirt and some khaki shorts, then head out the door.  Yesterday I had asked where a Protestant church is, and some kids had pointed at a steeple several blocks away.  (Just as a side note, walking to a visible structure in Cork, Ireland, is virtually impossible…Problem #1--The city is on several hills, so the structure ends up disappearing, then reappearing, but not where you thought it used to be.  Why?  Problem #2—The original road crew didn’t believe in squares.  They were, um, more artistic???  The roads are anything but straight!  Hilly terrain + Crooked Roads= Lost Andy.  I’ve been lost on at least three trips back to the houses where I’ve been stayin’.  No joke!  It takes me a good 40 minutes to do what should be a 5-minute walk.  Absolutely frustrating and incredibly hilarious all at the same time!  But, hey, I get to sight-see the city, right?!  You just wait for the next opportunity to see what you are trying to walk towards, readjust your bearings, then try again).  Well, today was more of the same.  I would put the steeple in front of me, walk down a road…only to find out that the steeple was now to my left.  Or to my right.  And one time, it was behind me…true story.  I finally made it to the right “block” (insert the word trapezoid here) where the church was, only to find out that I couldn’t find out how to get into the church!  Houses were built all around the church, and I couldn’t get in!  I walk all around, then finally find the gate…and…

The gate was chained shut.

Hmm…I guess I won’t be goin’ to church here today!  But on the way around the trapezoid, I had seen a sign for a group of Christians meeting across the road.  So I walked over there.  And I was greeted at the door by two jolly Irish!  I walked in, there were about 15 of us there, and I sat down…behind an American!  Turns out he was from South Carolina…over here lookin’ for a job.  We talked a bit, then the service officially started.  We just started singin’!  And we ended up singing song after song after song!  Everyone else knew them (I knew a few), but I found myself searchin’ through the songbook every time the guitarist started up again!  I had a great time, though!  It was very lively singing…two guitars and a keyboard!  And people kept on comin’ in…black, white, Irish, non-Irish, young (we had probably 12-15 young kids!), and old (a 99-year old guy!).  Again, it was one of the most diverse groups I have ever seen…all joinin’ together to sing to one God!  Amazing!

At one point, one of the women gave a beautiful story about two band-aids (ask me for’s looooong!), and it was just enjoyable to hear from a fellow sister (and not just the same guy on stage!).  Some others recommended songs, so we sang them.  Somehow or another the guitarist had seemingly memorized EVERY song in the book...a good few hundred of them.  It turns out that if you want a song, you ask for it, and he plays it.  Without looking.  It was crazy.  Anyway, then we had communion, and ended up runnin’ out of Jesus’ own blood (insert Kool-Aid here!).  The meeting was runnin’ on about an hour now with long prayers and the lady talkin’, so I figured the meeting was ‘bout over…

Then a guy got up to preach!  Yikes!  I couldn’t believe it.  I thought I was goin’ to be leavin’ shortly, and we haven’t even had the sermon yet!  And he talked for about an hour himself…mainly some obvious points, I thought, but he did mention a couple of things that I would take with me.  But, yes, I found myself wandering in thought through the sermon…I was not used to a two-hour service!  And I was getting a little antsy!

Well, the meeting ended, and we hung around for tea and coffee!  I acted five years old and loaded up on some of those little biscuits (cookies!).  haha…I was hungry!  It was now 1:15 P.M. by now!  So I grabbed a couple with my tea...then went back and nearly cleaned up the house.  No sense in them goin’ to waste, right?!  My thoughts exactly.

I talked with several of the people after the meeting, and I met one guy named Andrew.  We hit it off from the get-go…it was great!  I asked what I should do while in Cork, and he recommended goin’ to Blarney (of course!), as well as goin’ over to Cobh, a town nearby.  And then the next thing I know, he is inviting me to a movie that night at another church, and, of course, I accept!

And then he asked me what I was doin’ that afternoon!  The next thing I know I’m getting’ into the car with his mom, dad, a friend, and himself!  We drove out to their house (which I might say is one of the most beautiful I have seen!).  They had a large yard (which is unheard of in the city!  Although I guess we had sort of left the down-town area...), a nice lil’ pond made by Andrew just a month ago, and just a beautiful interior!  (My guess is that this house would cost well over half a million dollars back in the States...).  No lie.

Andrew and I worked on his pond for awhile while Mom worked on lunch.  We fed the fish, tried to cure some other fish, and just talked the entire time.  Then we went over to an old cemetery down the road...and do I mean old.  I walked into the walls of a church from the 11th century!!!  To think that men and women used to worship God on the same ground where I was standing 1000 years ago is just hard to comprehend...words don’t fit!  I mean, my country is only 231 years old!!!  Our oldest structures are from the 1700’s!    We found some graves from the 1600’s, 1700’s, 1800’s, and 1900’s.  Kind of crazy.  The walls of the church were still up!  Nice builder!

From there we went back to his house, ate some wonderful food (chicken and mixed vegetables on rice!), followed by tea (no surprise!), and strawberry/rhubarb pie coated with custard (heaven on earth!).  Needless to say, happiness had found me!

We had some great talks about the United States, Ireland, and immigration.  It turns out that Ireland has only recently been open to outsiders within the past 5-10 years.  And it has taken off since then!  When you walk down the city streets and ask someone if they are from the area, the most likely answer is no!  You will meet just about every country under the sun here, and several have decided to call Ireland their home.  The Polish are predominant with people and shops everywhere!  It’s kind of sad in a most people, I came over searching for the true Irish...the hidden gems of times gone by...and it turns out that they are hard to find!  You see new buildings going up everywhere, you hear languages from every country, and it’s very easy to miss the heart of Ireland.  It’s still out there, but you have to search for it.  And like Andrew’s mom said, it’s just a little disheartening to watch.  Not that it’s bad, but there is something about taking pride in heritage.  Not too much pride, but a healthy pride.  I agree.

Well, from there, Andrew and I took his car to Cobh...we decided on Cobh over Blarney.  After all, the world’s largest cruise ship was supposed to have come into town today!  We needed to celebrate!

After a nice drive through city and country, we came to Cobh...the town on the bay.  A few things to know about Cobh that I didn’t...

Cobh is the last place that the Titanic docked before its fateful voyage.  That’s fun!

Cobh is the place where the Lusitania was torpedoed off the coast.  How ‘bout that!

And Cobh just received the world’s largest cruise ship in the world.  There was a town festival and the whole bit.  BBQ, a bounce-house, and lots and lots of stuff being sold on the side of the streets.  It was fun!  It kind of took me back to 1912 (just act like I lived it, makes for a better story!) would be like watchin’ the Titanic docking.  A big party goin’ on, people boarding, people taking pictures, being all impressed by the sheer size.  Not knowin’ that most of them would be dead in a few days...crazy stuff.

Andrew and I took a tour through the Heritage Center...learnin’ all about the Titanic, the Lusitania, the potato famine, and immigration.  Ireland has quite a history!  At one time it had over 8 million people, down to just over half that now...but the Irish went EVERYWHERE!!!  It turns out that the best export of Ireland is...the Irish!  They are now all over the world!

I tried a local “Gatorade” (it’s called Lucozade...pretty popular, but it’s more or less Gatorade made from carbonated water...yuck!), grabbed a Snickers bar for good measure, and we headed back to Cork.  Andrew’s car has been actin’ up, and so as any good friend would do, I asked him what he had named her.  He hadn’t.  How can you tell your car to behave when you can’t talk to her?!  I explained that to him, and after a quick rundown of names, Delilah was chosen.

And was Delilah ever actin’ up.  She didn’t like to climb hills, it turns out.  And, friends, Ireland=hills.  We had cars and buses behind us honkin’ at us.  Delilah just liked to take her time, takin’ in the sights I guess.  But after some sweet talkin’ (and some pullin’ off of the road), she finally put her act together and got us back to Cork.

We went to the other church, watched “Amazing Grace,” (a lot of thoughts about that movie...I would recommend watching it if you haven’ was my first time), and enjoyed a good fellowship with about 30 people.  Again from all over the world.  France.  England.  United States.  You name it.

And I have been full all day!  Andrew’s mom is definitely worth another visit!  I enjoyed a nice (though short!) friendship with a local, and I spent zero Euro.  Not bad for a day’s work!

Actually, in terms of couch-surfing and traveling the world, this may have just been the perfect day...

2007-08-29 12:37:32 GMT

Composed August 27, 2007--Posted August 29, 2007


Ok, first things first…I promised I would post a list of lessons learned…so without further ado, here they are…and if they are blunt, um…well, just know that they are true!  It’s just some rather keen observations!

1.  Abraham Lincoln is not Springfield.  Homer Simpson is.  (I have not heard Abe’s name uttered once, no lie.  Homer?  I can’t even begin to tell you).

2.  I smoke 16 packs of second-hand smoke a day.  Some on the street, some outside pubs, much inside homes, and I have even got a ill’ bit of the second-hand reefer.  Turns out it is legal here. 

3.  Accents are what make the world go round.

4.  I don’t understand why I like cute girls.

5.  Cute girls are everywhere.

6.  Many like to show off their boobs and the two inches above their Baby Maker.  Ask me about the Ford vs. Lamborghini illustration sometime…

7.  Even mannequins are hotter in Ireland.  I wish I didn’t have to say this, but it’s true.

8.  I very much dislike carrying two bags totaling 50 pounds.  I yearn for the days where I can leave my bags at someone’s house!

9.  Ireland is expensive.  No, I’m serious.  Extra Value Meals=$8.00.  Not cool.  How about a Pizza Hut Lunch Bufet?!  8.99 Euros!  (Over $12.00!).

10.  Drinking is oxygen to the Irish.

11.  The Irish are friendly!

12.  Dating is not an option here.  Sex is.

13.  I see boobs I don’t ask to see.  In a window above the City Center of Dublin.  In a local newspaper of a 15-year-old boy sittin’ next to me.  In the truck of a construction worker.  On the bedroom door of a couchsurfing host.  Turns out fully naked ladies aren’t limited to XXX shops around here…they can be in newspapers and regular magazines, too.  Just learned today they’re on Page 3.  Oh, hey, look, two boobs on the television.  No joke.  And a butt, even.  Even as I am typing.  What are the odds of that?!

14.  It’s always nice to hear from people back home.

15.  When you don’t eat all the time, meals actually mean something!

16.  When you don’t sleep all the time, sleep actually means something!

17.  Travelin’ can make you lose hope in anything good in the world.

18.  Travelin’ can make you regain hope for the world.

19.  Friends are all that matter.

20.  And finally, friends are all that matter.

2007-08-29 12:30:46 GMT

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Entry for August 28, 2007

I saw Hope today.

So I'm currently in Shannon Airport...Shannon, Ireland.  I'm on my way to Scotland in about an hour.  Well, I go through the security, walk into the gift shop, and I am instantly surrounded by about 200 United States Marines...all in their desert camo.

It turns out that they are heading home today...from Iraq.  They've been travelin' home for about five days actually!  And all of a sudden, they realize they are within a few hours of arriving in North Carolina.  They can taste it!

I don't know what it was, but I just had to talk to them.  I walked around and talked to several soldiers...askin' 'em where they are from, how long they've been deployed (six months), what it was like, what they miss most, etc.

Some answers about what they miss most...

(I told them that family couldn't be the answer, because we all knew that one was obvious).

One guy said grass.  Six months in the desert makes you yearn for anything green.  Ireland was a wonderful welcome to them, they said.  They saw green again.  One guy said he wanted to just run his hand through grass.  I gave him full permission to lay in it and do a "grass angel."  I think he is going to take me up on it.

Getting laid.  As blunt as it is, I guess six months with other guys just tends to make you yearn for the

The camp.  What they used to hate, they now yearned for.  They just wanted to be back at home base.  One guy said "Give me two months, and I'll hate it again!" but for now, he wanted home.

We talked a bit about soccer, baseball, my trip around the world (they all loved it!), and just small talk.  These were some of the most excited and chattiest guys I've ever seen...young men and a couple of women.

And the funny thing is I don't think they knew how giddy they were!  It was just overflowin'!

They were just excited to get home!

One of the most powerful moments for me during the entire talk was a guy sittin' a few feet across from me.  He was kind of reserved, but he would talk now and again.  He had the calm and cool face about him.  Maybe a bit more mature than the rest of these guys (buyin' alcohol and talkin' about what tattoos they would get when they got home).  But he would smirk at my jokes, so I knew he was listening.  But he just seemed to be thinkin' about somethin' else.

About 10-15 minutes into our conversation, I just naturally happened to glance over at him.  He was leanin' forward, left arm on his knee, fingers extended to his chin.  And I saw the ring.

I was still talkin' with the other guys, but a load of bricks just hit me!  I have never one to be all excited about emotions and whatnot, but I went from seeing a soldier to seeing a husband.  Full camo.  Comin' home from Iraq.  To his wife.

I don't know, even writin' this it's still powerful.  These are just young men and women.  From Indiana, Illinois, North states.  Our states.

And though I didn't ask it, I knew it.  Some of them aren't goin' home.

I can't even imagine the thoughts in their heads..."Well, I made it."  "Well, I didn't die..."  I don't know...I'm sure there is a lot more than beer and girls on their minds!  They don't know when they are being called back...they don't know how long they will be home.  I can't even imagine.  But for now, they are goin' home.

Shannon Airport is sending home our men and women to Iraq.

Take good care of them, America.

I told all of them Illinois appreciated what they are doing.  They were a bit surprised, I think, but they were very appreciative.  Their faces showed that what they were doing all of a sudden had "outside" worth.  A little boy.  Travelin' across Europe.  I appreciate them.  And frankly, I don't know that they've heard a thanks in quite awhile.  At least outside of their unit.

I was more than happy to give one.

2007-08-28 08:45:26 GMT

Monday, August 27, 2007

Entry for August 27, 2007

This won't be long, but I just want to update you all!

I'm flyin' into Scotland in less than 12 hours...I'm still in Ireland right now.  And I'm currently with four Polish people!  They are speakin' like crazy in their own language, and I'm just listenin'!  (I already had my lessons a bit ago...haha...they laughed at me!  But they actually said I was really good.  I just needed to sprinkle more "broken glass" here and there...the Polish add all sorts of crazy slurred sounds throughout...very hard to pick up).  I asked how to say hello, how are you, and will you be my wife.  Great info to have!

It's been a crazy few days, and when I get longer internet access (I'm on the cute Polish girl's laptop right now), I'll post all the's really been a GREAT few days.  Things have been incredibly fun and smooth!

I'm in Limerick, Ireland, right now...movin' all over the island!  I'll be stayin' with a couple of Polish guys tonight.  They were supposed to move out tonight, but I convinced them to push it off an extra night.  It's great!  And I've got a couch lined up for the next few days in Glasgow, Scotland...a guy told me where he hides his keys without even meeting me!  So the house is mine for 10 hours before he gets home!  I love it!'s goin' really well right now!  I'll try to get some pics up soon of the castles, the people, etc.

And, YES, I did kiss the Blarney Stone today!!!

And just for the record, I am going to build myself a castle wherever I end up living.

Yup, she's still cute.  And she speaks another language.  Dag nab it, I love it.

2007-08-27 22:58:11 GMT

Friday, August 24, 2007

Entry for August 24, 2007


Here’s an update on me!  And some thoughts…hopefully I will get some pics up soon about the places I’ve been and the people I’ve met, but the internet is a bit hit-and-miss where I am at…so for now…

I’m chillin’ low-key in Cork, Ireland…the southern part of the island.  I took a bus down here a few days ago.  I’m stayin’ with a few lads who really don’t mind me comin’ and goin’…haha…almost to the point of I wish they noticed me more!  One of the guys is real cool…it turns out he’s actually from Ohio!  He came over here to study.  The other guys just really don’t pay much attention to me!

They asked me to go out with ‘em last night, but I was so tired…so I opted to stay in.  It turns out I slept a good 11-12 hours AGAIN.  It’s crazy.  I woke up late in the morning, and the guys were all still asleep, so I just headed into town.  I needed to buy a converter for my camera batteries and laptop…the UK has a funky three-prong set-up that doesn’t match ours.

I came back and crawled through a window I had opened as I didn’t have a set of keys from them!  Easy enough.

The weather is absolutely beautiful here, and I obviously couldn’t stay inside, so I asked how to get to the beach!  Oddly enough, several people weren’t familiar with the beach or didn’t seem to go their themselves!  I think it’s one of those things where you don’t take advantage of what you have when you live close to it…case and point…over one million people have come to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum since it has opened.  Me?  Not so much.  It was actually on my list of things to do before I left, but it didn’t happen in time.

So the beach.  An hour drive by bus, and we’re there.  And let me tell ya…beaches are God’s gift to His children.  I don’t know what it is about ‘em, but I could honestly walk up and down the beach every single day and still be happy.

I found a couple of cliffs (see the pictures!), and the beach itself was rather nice.  There were mostly families with their children…not a whole lot of people in the teens or 20’s.

But it was a nice day of walkin’ around (with no shirt on, nonetheless!).  I couldn’t help but smile.  You know, it’s crazy…I’m on Day 12 right now, and I’ve already had a TON of time to just sit and think about life.  It’s been nice to reflect on it, but it’s also been quite frustrating.  I’ll share what I’ve been thinkin’…and some life’s lessons gleaned from it all.

Today on the beach I was thinkin’ about how I seem to have life backwards!  I have done so much!!!  Sometimes I wonder if it’s not to a fault.  Let me explain…much of the time walkin’ up and down the beach I was just thinking that this is what married couples do!  This is what honey-mooners do!  Honestly, I had the perfect set-up for a great honeymoon!  Green hills on the side, a vast ocean in front, small bars and restaurants littered throughout, and gorgeous weather to boot.  “This is what wives and husbands should be doing.”  Or at least boyfriends and girlfriends!

I don’t know.  As much as I liked the beach, I felt a little out of place!  And when I walked by the GORGEOUS ocean-front homes, I kept thinking how nice it would be to have a place like that.  You wake up every morning and just look at the ocean.  A nice wife, a cup of coffee (I don’t even drink coffee!), and what more could you need, right?  I can’t imagine how much money a place like this would cost, but every time I think about something like this, my mind instantly starts thinking about places like Mexico.  People without houses.  People without food.  And water.

Where’s the balance?

But it wasn’t just at the beach.  I head to the city.  People everywhere.  And Cork is a bit different than Dublin…there are way fewer people around.  But we still have thousands walking around each day.  Sometimes I just sit and people-watch.  As my dad and I have talked about before, “everyone has a story.”  This girl is walking with this guy.  This guy is walking to work.  This wife is frustrated with her kids.  This man is on top of the world!  Her mom just died.  She just had a baby!  She hopes her make-up will cover-up.  He hopes his new kicks will get him places.  So I have all of this time to think, to observe, and I have learned quite a bit already!

And I’m not goin’ to lie…I have found myself so frustrated with…MYSELF!!!  No joke.  In the past two weeks, I have probably looked at myself in the mirror more often than in a long time.  Of course, everyone does it at home when they are getting ready, but I have seriously become anal when it comes to looking at myself.  And actually, it’s not in the mirrors (they aren’t around).  But what I’ve noticed is that I have developed a habit of looking at myself in the stores…in just about every single glass window that I walk by on the street!  And that is A LOT!

But here’s the not-so-fun part!  Somewhere along the line, I have come to not like what I see!  Now I say that somewhat half-heartedly…somewhat serious.  I know I have gifts, but at the same time, I yearn for what I do not have.  Herein lies the battle.  (And let me say right now that I know so many people will be reading this and will undoubtedly offer their encouragement or wisdom or kind words to build me back up…but that is NOT what I am looking for.  I just don’t know how not to be honest, and when I said I would write, I didn’t promise just those stinkin’ stories that made me famous…I would write what I feel and think, too!).

So in the past few days, I have just noticed an unhealthy habit.  I am trying to measure up to something.  I don’t know if it’s because I have found myself in the deep end of a very materialistic culture (Ireland might even put the United States to shame…), or if it’s because I feel like I don’t measure up.  Let me see if I can’t make this more clear with a couple of stories…

When you walk down the streets of Cork or Dublin, you meet people doing various tricks on the streets.  Some are drawing, some are singing, some are standing still, some are playing instruments…they are all doing it for money.  And frankly, some are doing quite well.  And in the creative and business side of me, I started thinking what I would do on the street to make money…

And I came up empty.  The closest thing I found was doin’ Etch-a-Sketch art…and I even found myself in a Dublin toy store shoppin’ for one (over $20!).  But my mind startin’ thinkin’…

“If I were Adam, I would be able to play a guitar and sing, and I could easily make money!”

“If I could draw better, I could just sit out here and draw people or buildings!”

“If I were that guy from the Pizza Machine, I could do magic tricks and impress people, and people would stop by, be amazed, and leave some cash!”

And really, it’s not the cash that I want/need.  It was the desire to have something.  People have said I am a gifted speaker.  Great.  So what?  People have said I am good with kids.  Great.  So what?!  And I’m not bitter about these gifts…I don’t know…it’s just that they don’t…hmm…I’m not sure.  Just some thoughts I’ve been wrestlin’ with!

And that’s not all!  Then there’s the clothes.  I was never “gifted” at bein’ the fashion leader back home.  A t-shirt and jeans was good enough for me.  So maybe I didn’t splurge for $100 jeans or $80 shirts.  I didn’t need two letters on me to make me feel beautiful.  And I sure didn’t need no stitched moose.  But I look at myself in those windows, and I wonder what would make me look better!  An Adidas jersey?  Some better shoes?

So why these feelings all of a sudden?  Why do I feel like I don’t measure up?

Sadly, I think I know why.  Agghhh!  Haha…I’m not wantin’ to go here…but it’s been a long time coming!  Haha…stupid blog.

I look at people when they walk down the street, and I yearn with the depths of my being to be loved.  That’s it.  And I have countless people back home that do love me.  I understand that.  I think.  I’ve got an entire community that would take me back in a heartbeat.  I’ve got a Mom and Dad that worry about my every move.  A brother and sis who (sometimes) claim me.  A tight family that wants to know what’s goin’ on in my life.  People who e-mail me to see how I am doing.  So what am I missing?!!!

I look at my website, and it’s the exact opposite story of what is going on in my depths.  I need a wife!!!  I need someone to tell me they care about me, they love me, they forgive me, they KNOW me!  I think that is what I am missing…someone that knows me.  Deeply.  I haven’t been able to hold a close guy friend for various reasons, and so I have been bitter or sad about that, and the only other thing I know will fill this void is a life partner.  I guess I’m finally ready for her.  Now granted, I know it’s not all peaches and cream…I do.  I’ve heard countless stories from my friends, I’ve seen my parents, so I know it’s not a bed of roses.

Yet at the same time, it seems like it’s all I crave!  I want to walk through downtown hand-in-hand with a lady I can call my own!  I want to take in the beach, the island, the sun with someone that I will see again tomorrow!  It’s a great beach alone…but c’mon now!  I want someone to know these inner struggles that I have…and still be OK with me!

I want to grow old and gray with someone!

A couple of nights ago the stoners and I watched a movie called HEAT.  More or less, this group of guys goes around stealing money and killing people.  Not the best for morals.  But the movie also focused upon the love lives of the guys, too.  The girls were essentially put through every worst relationship possible…divorces, no time with the kids, no time for the wife, etc.  But that’s beside the point.  Ok, anyway, I resonated with the bad guy.  For years, he’s been stealin’.  “It’s all I know to do,” he says.  But halfway through the movie, he meets the beautiful girl, blah, blah, blah.  And all of a sudden, that is “all he wants to do.”  His bad-guy game is thrown off because of the chick…typical story-line.  But that night, I was understanding his every thought!  He’s traveled the world, he’s done it all, but he just wants to spend time with a girl…

“I’ve done it all, I’ve seen it all, but I ain’t had a feeling like that…”  It’s the country song written about me!  Except for the “feeling like that” part!  Essentially, I’ve seen the world…or am at least workin’ on it.  And I’ve got these stories that people want in books.  I’ve got a great family back home.  What more do I need?!

And yet I still feel like I’m missin’ somethin’!

Ok, enough of that.  On the four-hour drive up to Chicago for my flight, my dad told me the same thing that I think I am realizing.  “You’re just lookin’ for your life partner.”  Yup, yup, I am.

An e-mail from one of my students repeated the same words two days later.  After reading my blogs and seeing my desire for someone close, he said the same thing.  Yes, sirree.

But therein lies the problem (I’ll tell ya in a sec).  Which takes me all the way back to the top…it’s all one big vicious circle.  Allow me to go on…

You know, I’ve come across a good bit of poor people on my travels.  Maybe they started out like me…but couldn’t make it.  Maybe they thought Ireland was the place for wealth…only to find it’s a rough fight to the top.  Either way, there are poor people on the street.  I get asked for money nearly every time I sit or stand in the city centers.  I was invited to a homeless shelter by a guy named Greg…the poor are all around…I talked to some of them…normal talk…but then the question always comes, “Do you have any money?”

These guys want to spend what they don’t have.  It’s a frustrating life, I’m sure.  But as I am on a tight budget, I somewhat understand!  When I walk by the hundreds of caf├ęs and restaurants, I want to eat what I don’t have.  It’s a frustrating feeling for sure.  (Mom, I am eating for the record…just not fancy restaurants every night…thought you should know!).

But that’s that problem I’ve eluded to…I want to like what I don’t have!  I want to be infatuated with someone…but I don’t even have a girl to think about!

I told my dad the same thing I wrote back to that student of mine…”How do you wake up one day and say, ‘Ok, today I’ll find my wife,’ or ‘Ok, today I am going to go on a date.’”  It just doesn’t happen like that.  A guy in Montana is tellin’ me that it will happen when I least expect it.  Right.

When you’re hungry, you’re always expecting food…

So I don’t know what the future brings.  I may find someone this year, I may not.  But I will go on.  I don’t know how not to.  Last week Ruble and I talked about how I used to pray for my wife when I was younger.  It’s somewhat crazy, really.  10 years ago I would be prayin’ that she would be godly, would say no to temptation, would persevere…it’s probably been about 8-10 years since I’ve done that.

I guess that can change tonight, huh.  She may be in Ireland, or Scotland, or Portugal, or London, or Chatham, or Loami, or France.  She may be within two miles of me.  She may be across the ocean that I looked out upon today.

She may be praying right now.  She may be giving herself away.  I just don’t know!  And I may meet her this week.  Or in five years.  I may already know her!  Grr!!!  Anyway…

Well, no story tonight.  But that’s me.  My guess is that there are others who feel the same way, day in, day out.  So maybe my words can be your thoughts.  I just don’t know how I used to be so confident.  I never really used to struggle with self-issues or worry about this stuff!  Maybe 25 years of singledom is catchin’ up with me!

Hmm…a couple more things, then I’m done!  I feel like there is so much to share, and I’m not sure if it all ties together, but it’s a blog, so I can do that, right?!  Ok, when I was staying in the house of the six girls in Dublin, I shared my website with them, and why other people (my friends) wouldn’t come with me on my trip…jobs, school, money, debt, boyfriend, girlfriend, marriages, etc.  The whole bit.  Well, we talked about marriage a bit, and then I made a comment that freaked them out.  “Yeah, in America, my friends get married between 20-25.”  And the girls gasped!!!  I’m not jokin’…the only thing I can compare it to is the gasp that came out of 100 people when I announced my two months’ resignation at church.  It was that high quality.  So I did find a small dose of encouragement from them…except for this one little exception.  Marriage is later, yes.  But sex is now.  So for them it’s kind of like a reward before marriage.  You just sleep around with whoever…and get married to one later.  Forgive me, God, for the words what I am about to type, but, yes, I can imagine that I wouldn’t feel as dejected as I am if I was having sex every week.  Don’t take that the wrong way.  I’m just saying that you never really feel the acid in your stomach between meals if you nibble on snacks throughout the day.  That’s all.

So with that said, that little dose of encouragement I had is now gone!

Ok, one more story about the things mentioned above, then I’ll share some lessons learned…then I’m done!

So yesterday I was walkin’ down the street, and I saw one of the strongest men I have ever seen in my life!  He had a huge upper body!  He could have crushed me with just one arm!  And to make matters all the more worse, he had the absolutely beautiful work-out babe walkin’ with him.  And, of course, it was no surprise.  Because the strong guys always get the hot girls, right?

That’s been another frustration for me!  It seems like the girls I like…don’t seem to like “my type,” whatever that means!  I don’t even know what my type is!  But whereas I used to think I would be blessed with a gorgeous wife (can you sense the lack of hope creepin’ in here?!  Haha…I do laugh a bit…I’m not at the end of my wits yet.  Yet.  Frustrated?  Yes.  Hopeless?  Sure thing!  But you can’t hear my inflections in my words…so just know that I haven’t completely lost it!), I now question even that thought.  It’s been a pattern, and patterns are, well, patterns.  Movies have been written about it, sitcoms love it…it’s the whole “normal Joe” getting’ the cheerleader/prom queen/town babe.  And it’s a battle that is all too real!  For me, I feel normal.  I weigh a buck 50 when wet.  I don’t have street gifts.  I’ve got nothin’ special.  I blend into a crowd.  So I don’t know.  I’m just average, I guess.

Now for the other side of the equation…the problem side.  I don’t know why I like cute girls.  I don’t.  I can’t explain it scientifically, religiously, or any other way.  I just know that I do.  Sometimes I feel like the scum of the earth for not likin’ certain girls that I know have amazing hearts.  But it’s a force I can’t seem to battle.  So my hope has always been for an attractive girl for as long as I can remember.  But even that is fallin’ apart!  I’m losin’ my edge!  I feel like a normal guy is goin’ to get a normal girl.  I don’t know what that means, really, but it doesn’t always sit well with me!  What is a normal girl?  I wish I knew.  My only fear is that it is not what I am looking for.  <sigh>  I don’t even know my own thoughts.

Wow, so this trip has brought a lot out of me so far!  I don’t know what I’m lookin’ for or what lies ahead, but it’s good to share them, I guess.  I really am not seeking sympathy or anything.  I’m not sure…I may have even shared some stuff that some girls may take offense at?  I don’t know.  I’m just being honest.  If you resonate with what I said, I’m sorry!  Haha…it’s a rough place to be!  And if you have any wisdom to speak to me, I’m all ears.  This living thing is a bit precarious sometimes!

2007-08-25 00:28:01 GMT

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Entry for August 22, 2007

Wow. Where to begin.

So I’m sure I’m a’goin’ to forget much of what has happened, but I’ll share some highlights! And some lowlights, as well!

Well, Saturday turned out to be just a lil’ different than planned. We got a call from Sinead in the morning saying that she couldn’t meet up with us anymore as her 7-year-old was sick. So Ruble and I just decided to head into town. We walked around a bit…didn’t do a whole lot. But that was all right…I’m not goin’ to lie, though, I was up for stayin’ in the city…but Rubes wasn’t feelin’ it. So for our last night together, he bought some tacos, and we headed home.

We had a great Mexican meal…and spent a few hours talkin’ with Anna and Lena. Turned out to be a great night…a lot of fun…

Well, we go to bed around 12:30 or 1:00, I think…anyway, we’re supposed to wake up at 7:00. Next thing I know Ruble jumps to the far end of the bed. Actually kind of funny! But he’s freakin’ out! It’s 7:30! We’ve got to go! And we haven’t even packed yet!

We pack quickly, I laugh at him the whole time, and we head for the train. A 25-minute ride into town, then we head for the buses…the bus left 30 minutes ago, and the next one doesn’t come for another 45. Rubes is freakin’ out. He’s got a plane to catch!

We end up findin' a bus…about six times as much money, too…so I give Rubes what’s left of my Euros…and our "airport goodbye" turns into a mainstreet Abbey Road goodbye. And like that, he’s gone, and I’m back on my own in Dublin! As quick as it was, though, it was absolutely delightful to have a friend for awhile!

The one nice thing about Ruble leavin' early?! I can go to church! I walk around downtown Dublin askin' where I can find a Protestant church, and I'm pointed to a Presbyterian church down the way. Services don't start until 11:00, so I just kill an hour and a half on the street people-watchin'. When Rubes and I first left the house today, the town was pretty dead. The train had a few people, but the streets weren't very packed. Sunday morning, I thought. Well, it turned out I was wrong. This was the first time that I had been to town before noon, and I guess it just takes people awhile to forget their Guiness night. In an hour or so, thousands of people are out again...tourin', takin' pictures, shoppin'...actually, it looks just like any other day in Dublin. I thought that was pretty interesting.

Well, 10:45 rolls around, and I head for the church, huge backpack and all. I'm greeted at the front door by a delightful old man...seemingly surprised that I was there for the service!!! I think he thought I wanted to take pictures...lookin' like a tourist and all.

The service was...well...boring. The songs were very "high"...meaning old and archaic...they resonated right with the architecture of the church. There was a guest speaker that morning, and frankly, he had a delightful talk about workin' with the down and out in Dublin...the homeless, the poor, etc. A very purposeful and dynamic talker...there is just need everywhere..."the poor will always be with you..." I think I've heard that somewhere before...and Dublin is no different. The nice part about the church?! As diverse as you can imagine! People from Africa, other parts of Europe, Ireland, and, of course, America! We probably had around 40-50 people that morning, and I would guess at least 10 countries represented! And the Africans brought their kids!!!

Another nice thing? The nice old couple in front of me who offered me their couch when I am in the southern part of the island! They actually offered me a bed, and you better believe I'll take 'em up on it! Oh, and we had tea and coffee afterwards...that was neat-o, too...

Well, after church, I went shoppin’ in Dublin…I had brought over a duffle bag and small backpack with me, and frankly, it just wasn’t cuttin' it. It just hurts too much. So I head over to a sports shop and buy an actual backpacker's bag...66 litres. I have to drop 49 Euro for it, but I think it's goin' to pay off in the long run...I head over to a park and switch all of my items from my duffle bag to my new backpack. It's a move that I wasn't overly thrilled about, but it needed to happen.

And now I have a decision to make...I have no idea where I am sleeping tonight. And what is more, there is a big game goin' on in Dublin. People are linin' the streets with sports apparel for sale...there are two futbol games at the stadium Rubes and I were at a couple of days ago...and I want to go soooo bad! That is one of my goals while over go to a local game...I hear they are crazy!

The tickets are 40 Euro...and I am more than happy to chalk that up as a much-needed expense. But here is the other part of me talkin'..."There is so much more of the island to see..." game in Dublin or the countryside...

I am torn.

40 Euro. Futbol. Sittin' in the end of the field with the crazies...comparable only to the bleachers in Wrigley Field...cheaper tickets, wilder fans. But with all the love and respect to my Cubbies, I think these fans would put even my bleacher bums to shame.

Turns out I headed for the bus station. I bought a ticket to the west coast. Supposed to be beautiful cliffs and even more beautiful people. An ocean and some more memories...not a bad cup o' tea, if you will.

I slept much of the ride through the countryside, but Ireland is simply beautiful. Green's been the worst summer for the locals...just about every day it rains....28 days in June alone I hear. But it sure makes for some luscious mountains and hills. Very easy on the eyes...

Well, a few hours later I find myself in Galway. I have yet to meet a local Irish who doesn't recommend the city. What could go wrong, right?!

I roll into town, head for the park, and hit my first priority...a couch for the night. I ask numerous people, and of course, most are not up for the adventure. I might kill them, I suppose. And I understand that. An hour goes by. Maybe another....I don't really remember...

But then I find a taker. I ask someone outside of a pub (who in Galway is not outside of a pub?! Well, ok, only those who are INSIDE the pub...), and he excitedly points me in the direction of one of his friends. And, sure enough, he says I can sleep on his couch. It turns out that he himself was already in the pub, and so I stick with him...and his many friends. Drunk friends, I might add.

It's about 9 o'clock at night by now...I sit there and watch these lads and lasses drink and drink and drink. Authentic Irish music is bein' played live, and they are more than happy to sing at the top of their lungs!!! It's really a different feel than back home...almost surreal, really....they are so passionate about their Irish heritage! Guinness helps, too, of course, but even then...

I sit and talk with several of his friends. One is incredibly excited to have me, another takes me under his wing...just sits and talks. He has a broken back from a motorcycle accident, blah blah blah. A couple of girls are there, and it's small talk. Kinda fun...but I don't think the night is a'goin' to end anytime soon...and I would be up for sleep sometime, ya know?

Then we move on. To Pub #2. More drinking. More smoking (everyone smokes on the island), but no music. And that is simply unacceptable for these lads. They need music.

So we move on. To Pub #3. Or should I say Nightclub #1. Ok, let me just back up a bit. I'm 25 years old...I feel like I've seen quite a bit of the world. 8 countries, 48 states...I don't really feel like I've missed a whole lot in life, ya know? Was I ever wrong. It turns out that there is a lot that I haven't seen...ok, let me back up even more...two hours earlier I had watched two guys kiss...they were playin' chicken...first one to flinch loses and has to drink or somethin'...they didn't flinch. Then some girls played it. I didn't really have words for it...more appalled than anything, I think. I really couldn't believe what I was seein'...

"Sodom, is that you???"

Well, the nightclub was...well, a nightclub. I walk in, it's pretty dead. It's midnight. I guess it doesn't start happenin' until one o'clock. And sure enough, the people came in mass droves. Girls wearin' just about as little as you can imagine. Guys out for the kill. And lots and lots of alcohol. Loud music, dark lights...bumpin', grindin', sex with clothes on, makin' out, the whole bit...I just sat and watched.

I talked to an absolutely beautiful girl for a while...Karen from Northern Ireland...she and her friends had driven down three hours just for this...they only get to come every once in awhile, but they love it. She looked so don't know. I almost feel like a's so incredibly hard to enjoy somethin' like that when all you can think about is how empty they must feel...

Except for one thing. I don't think anyone felt empty.

For what seems the first time in my life, I actually watched people absolutely enjoy what they were doing. Usually, I see people get drunk, get high, laugh, blah blah blah...but when you sit them down and talk with them later on, they don't like what they are doing. They just don't know what else to put in its place...

But here, I don't know. It really is hard to describe adequately. These people were loving what they were doing. No remorse. No regrets. No pain. Nothin', really. "Everyone did as he saw fit." And to think it was Sunday night!!! The lads I were with had to work at half past six...and it's half past one already! Crazy drunk, they are, too...

Um, about that couch...oh, well, as long as I can just stay with them...

Karen of the guys I was with ruins it all with a comment, and I just sit and watch again...two guys I'm with are overly drunk...they end up swimmin' on the floor, then repeatedly hit on this girl who slaps them away. They come back for more, the bouncers step in, and just like that, we're outside.

I just want a couch. Which brings me to ask myself at that point..."Just how far would I go for a couch?" I had no idea they would be like this...but this is ridiculous. Too bad it's 2:00 in the morning, or I would be askin' others. But they are all drunk.

We head to the local "eat and lose some of your drunk feeling" restaurant...SuperMac's. The place is packed. People just keep comin'...from this pub, from that one, from this nightclub, from that one. My "friends" get into an icecream fight...then we're out of the restaurant. And I'm seemingly forgotten. Seriously, by this time, it's hopeless. Half of the friends jump in one cab and are gone, then the crazy drunk guy falls into another, and I'm out there in the rain. No couch. No one.

They were too drunk even to remember a guy who had been with them for the past five hours.

It's raining by this time. Stupid Ireland.

I ask people as they come into SuperMac's for a place to stay. Nothin'. One guy asks if a car would be fine, and that sounds delightful. Then he has girl problems, and that falls couch. No car.

I walk back into SuperMac's and ask people there. I see Karen walk in...she has found a guy. It's almost heart-breaking. I didn't want to do anything with her, ya know...she is gorgeous, but I wasn't wantin' to have sex...although I will admit that it is always a temptation...even with my Christian background and upbringing, findin' myself in a place with all of this "skin show," it is rough.

But by this time, I was sick of it all. It was almost too much. Girls gettin' drunk and laid all over. It was even demoralizing. I wouldn't even want to know the past (or current!) lives of these people. Really, I think I might cry. Or lose hope. Grace even seems to have been banned from the city. I don't know...I can't put it all in words. It's just the worst of the worst in my eyes...but in theirs, they think it's the greatest thing on earth. How to mesh with that? How does grace meet sin? How does morals meet debauchery?

It was never more apparent than when talking to a young lad who was there...he said, "Isn't this place great?! You can do whatever you want!"

Yes, yes, you can.

How have these people been raised?! I feel for them so much (my heart wants them to experience a much richer life!), but even I began to wonder how you feel guilty if you've never been told what to feel guilty of! How do you know that you sin if you do not know the law? It's so weird...even I was am writing this, I feel like I am going back and forth from normal conversation to church conversation...sin, law, debauchery...would these Irish even have a place for those words?! I have been raised with them, but I don't know...I don't think they would even know how to use them. hmm...

They love what they are doing. I hate it. I think that they can have a richer life. They wonder what's richer than Guinness and girls.

Where do these two meet?

Well, I was kicked out of SuperMac's at 4:00. Restaurant closes.

I walk around, ask a few more people for a couch, then realize my good fortune has run out. So I walk around the city. I refuse to sleep on the street. Not safe. I head out to the pier...I just walk. The town is very quiet now. Under 10 people are out.

I just have to keep moving.

I come up to a bus stop, and there are a few people.


A beautiful girl in a skin-tight dress. She comes up and hugs me. Closely.

She is drunk. A guy comes over to seemingly whish her away to a cab...I think he is her boyfriend. Maybe just for the night, though. The way he acted, though...he may have been her brother.

Another hug. A longer one.

It is so weird. I didn't want any of it. I had even avoided it for seven hours! But in my more honest moments, it feels good to have a cute girl hug you! The drunk part of course nullifies anything behind it, but there is a part of me that understands a little bit more. It's the "live for the moment" idea...if it feels good, do it.

And if I didn't have God, I would do it. In a heartbeat, I think. In Galway. Every night. Hmm...kind of weird words to say, but without God, why not do it, right? Just to be moral? Bah. I'm so thankful to have found hope at such an early age. Truly.

Well, I end up staying awake all night. I am cold. I am wet. I am tired. All I want to do is get out of town. Seriously. I have this horrible taste in my mouth, and it's not from not brushin' my teeth (I did that in the park about 5:00 o'clock). Galway is Vegas. Galway is Sodom. Galway is Ireland??? And I hate it!

Bus station is closed. When it opens at 7:00, I buy a bus ticket back to Dublin...a great part of me wants to visit somewhere else on the island, but my heart is in Dublin. So I head back there. Scotland needs to happen soon, I think!

I arrive in Dublin...I need a couch. It's crazy. I started out with the best possible circumstances. A 1300 Euro/month place. Keys and password given to me. Six nights. Wonderful girl. Good food. Hot shower. A comfortable bed!

And now I have nothing. Cold. Wet. Tired. And not sure where I am staying that night, either.

But I need a couch. And bad. I cannot go another night like this. I am quickly losing hope. I'm only eight days into my trip, but this is by far the lowest I've been so far. Thoughts of going home come up...really, I do not want to, but I just needed something simpler! And I can't lie...those thoughts arose.

I don't want to do it, but I make a sign. I buy posterboard and a marker. Dublin is expensive. Five dollars for a permanent marker, two for posterboard. But I need a couch.

I make a simple sign on the sidewalk. "ATTENTION LOCALS and Fellow Couch Surfers...COUCH NEEDED!"

Easy enough. I went to the busiest part of town, and...

I couldn't do it! I was too embarrassed to even use my sign! At that point, I really felt like a homeless person! A real-life street bum! I had nothing! And I couldn't bring myself to sit there with a sign. So I didn't even use it...but I did keep it (I had paid 5 Euro for it!).

I only have one other option...couches are in peoples' houses. I must find houses. So I walk to a neighborhood. I ask several people along the street, and they are obviously not keen on the idea. They say they don't have a couch (lie), that their couch is already being used (maybe not a lie), or some other excuse.

I meet a girl along the street, and we end up walking for about 20 minutes. It was just nice to have someone to hang with for awhile! I help her find a college, and we just enjoy each other's company! But after we find the college, I tell her I must go find a couch!

So I walk up and down this neighborhood...I'm told to stay away from one part of's "dodgy" as they call it. Shady, if you will.

I ask people along the street. Mostly older's old Ireland, obviously. Kind ol' people spendin' their last days together...a tight community, I later find out. I ask a guy about 30 years old, and he gives me the run-down of the area. Not many students, mostly older folk, so I probably won't have much luck. He would put me up if he could, but his girl wouldn't be up for it, he knew. I understood.

Well, I walk down a bit, hear someone cough out of a window, so I knock on the door. No answer. Hmm...must be because I have this HUGE backpack on me. Understandable.

I walk across the street.

Knock. Knock.

I hear movement. The door makes noise.

And I am prepared to meet some 87-year-old to present myself.

The door opens.

My only thought is..."WHOA!"

"Hi...I have an interesting question for wouldn't happen to have a couch I could sleep on for the night, would you?"

The girl is about 25 years old...blonde...gorgeous! Not at all what I was expectin'! She smiles...laughs...I smile...then she asks if I am joking. When I tell her no, she runs back to the back room, leaving me at the door!

I hear other girls, then she come back...

"Come on in!"

Wow, that was way too easy. I am so relieved.

I walk into a living room of six girls. All I couldn't have picked a better house in all of Dublin!

I sit down, and all of a sudden, I am in the hotseat! They are all eager to hear about who I am, this whole couch-surfing thing...and they ask me over and over again if I am telling the truth! They can't believe it. "Well, why did you pick this house?" "You're the first one!" Second, I guess, but I had forgotten about the failed first attempt. Plus there had been no answer!

The girls are a fun crew...some workin', some in college. All excited to have me. They would no longer have a boring night, they said!

They offer me tea (everyone always does!), and then they tell me they are cooking an authentic Irish meal! They still can't get over the fact that I picked them! "How did you know?" haha...I didn't! And then they joke about the bacon being cooked...of course, as soon as they cook bacon, an American knocks on the door! No surprise!

I enjoy an absolutely delightful Irish meal of radishes, potatoes, and bacon. Thick bacon. But it was more than just easy on the tummy...the meal represented a home! It was so nice to just sit and enjoy people again...and to know that I had a couch!

After a couple of hours, I went over to a friend's house with a couple of the girls...we watched two episodes of "Prison Break," talked for a bit...then came back home.

And then we spent at least an hour talkin' 'bout God. It came up after I told them that I worked with kids at a church...I had told them earlier, but now I had three very eager girls askin' me about God. It was late at night...but they were hungry for truth. They asked me point-blank questions...and I boldly responded with answers...sometimes to my surprise! Not the answers, but the boldness. It is difficult to stand up against people sometimes.

"Well, you can't tell me that good people aren't goin' to heaven..."

Then I would strategically tell a story (this time about my grandpa), then work Scripture in there. And I was honest the entire time. I told them I would love for all people to go to heaven, for everything to be ok, for kids always to be born healthy (one of the girls is a nurse who works with births everyday, and she had a hard time believing in a good God when she sees moms with stillborns). I shared with them my saga of I questioned God, doubted God, hated I used to think that obedience equaled blessing. How good things equaled God, how bad things equaled Satan. But then I went back to Scripture...that's never a promise.

The topic would change abruptly...maybe to the silly show on TV, but inevitably, it came back to God. They thought long and hard on the fact that I was in their house...that I could have knocked one house before or one hour after...I myself don't dwell too much on that, but for whatever it is worth, I was there with them. In God's plan? Sure. Would the other houses have been, too? I think so, too.

"What about other religions?"

"What about death?"

I honestly can't even remember the last time I had had a talk like this. Even working in youth ministry, this talk was more real, more necessary. Well, don't take that the wrong way...I'm just sayin' I work in a church...I'm supposed to teach Sunday School, I'm supposed to teach the Bible. I, of course, take advantage of other opportunities outside of the church building...

But here, in Ireland...three girls with a hunger to know something deeper. And at one point, I think I confirmed to myself what I have been strugglin' with for some time...I was talkin' boldly, and I wasn't afraid to butt heads with them. One of the girls made a comment, and I said...

"Well, that is how much I believe it. I can't not talk about it. Even if it causes problems for me, I must still stick with it, because I believe it to be true."

And I think I convinced myself that night. 2006 was rough. Life is rough. And then again, it's not, ya know. But I had had my doubts about God, about religion, in general. If you have asked it, I have probably thought it. But even through all of the pain, the guilt, the questions...I still come back to what I believed years ago.

And I told the girls that. I couldn't answer every question, but I reminded them that their "religion" (whatever that may have been...even the "absence" of one) couldn't either. Everyone has faith...whether it is in the big-bang or in the spoken word, whether in evolution or in creation, whether in life after death or worm food, we have faith in what we believe. And I said that they can't seek to know every answer...

"It's not what I don't understand in Scripture that scares me. It is what I do understand."

If there is a God, they would have to ask, "Then what?" But they must first ask that question. "Then what?" And just take it one step at a time from there.

I had a delightful sleep on the couch...a full 11 hours. (And it actually folded out into a bed!). I found nearly 5 Euro, four lighters, and a corkscrew for them, so they should have me over more often!

After a bowl of Rice Krispies, I left there, then bought a ticket for the south part of Ireland. I was headin' to Cork!

And here I am now. And, yes, another story. I asked people on the 4 1/2 hour bus ride if they had a couch. And one girl took me up on the offer...until it came to crunch-time. We arrived in Cork, I walked with her for a bit, and then she said she better not. But if I couldn't find a couch, then stop by and she would give me one...she gave me her address. Well, I spent an hour and a half askin' on the street! No takers...haha...three guys couldn't believe I told them about, I saw them about 20 minutes later, and one of the guys said that he had a website for me, was Or something to that effect. I laughed. And understood yet again!

Well, it was nearin' half past eleven, so I started to head to that girl's apartment...but I figured I would ask on my way there. And outside of a pub (I didn't learn my lesson), I asked yet again. And I had a taker. She and her husband would put me up for the night.

After a couple of drinks with them (I still haven't bought one since I've been here!), we headed to her house. She had a couple of friends comin' over, and when we arrived, they pulled out the weed. Wow. For the next hour, I watched five people light up couple of blunts.

Within the first 10 minutes of bein' inside, one of the guys had made a joke about that I shall never repeat, and then he said that born-again Christians are <bleep> everywhere...he even met a bouncer that was one! He couldn't believe it. There is a time for everything under heaven...a time to talk (as in the night before), and a time to shut up (here in this moment).

Oh, couch-surfing. But all that to say, they are great hosts! Cork is a beautiful city...I'm gettin' ready to go explore it! It's a much slower pace here...not as many people. Kind of crazy without all of the noise, but I am enjoying it so far. I went and shopped with the husband this mornin', the wife made me breakfast, and we'll see what the rest of the day brings!

That was ridiculously long. I don't know when I'll get the internet again, so until then!

2007-08-22 12:58:44 GMT