Ten seconds later . . .

A sink faucet in Ennis similar to the shower in Cloughjordan.

At the Park Inn Hotel in Shannon, there was a sign in the bathroom that said, “Saving water. Turn off the sink”.  The reduction of water use was most prominent in the Cloughjordan Eco-Village. The Eco-Village focused on living sustainably for the people that lived there as well as for their visitors.  When I went to wash my hands in the bathroom, I had to push the faucet multiple times because the water would run very briefly. I didn’t think anything of this because I have encountered many faucets like that.  

Later in the night, my roommate went to shower.  Ten seconds after I heard her turn the shower on it turned off.  Then, it went on again. And ten seconds later turned off. She yelled out to me, “What is going on? The water keeps shutting off!”  I laughed and told her that I didn’t know. She continued to finish her shower that turned off every ten seconds by constantly turning it on.  When she got out we realized that the shower did this to conserve water. This not only saves water but makes the visitors of the Eco Village more aware of their water use.  Throughout the rest of my trip, I’ve noticed that other parts of Ireland are also conserving their water use. Many public bathrooms have signs that express concerns about water use and are clear examples of a hope for change.  

Dez also informed us that there is a plastic water bottle ban that will be going into action as soon as possible.  This ban will be for all of Ireland and it will include other plastic products as well such as plastic utensils and other containers.  He told us that Ireland will take this ban on and the rest of Europe will follow their lead.

Peat. Not Pete for peat’s sake!

“We wanted to find a place that represents the landscape and is a place of inspiration and resource,” is what Dearbhaill, the owner of Cnoc Suain, said to us when we arrived.  Cnoc Suain is a restored village that shines a light on its advancement in sustainable living. The lady that used to live in one of the cottages had a garden and used the peat from the land for fires. Dearbhaill and her husband, Charlie, used recycled wood and geothermal heating to restore the cottage. Dearbhaill informed us that she, “Wanted to let the cottage be as natural as possible and have natural plants grow around it.” Later on, Charlie led us to another cottage where we learned about the landscape and how it has interacted with the village people throughout the years.  He told us that an Atlantic blanket bogland, which is a land of peat that overlies prehistoric landscape, is all due to a type of moss called Sphagnum. This moss grows slowly, but it doesn’t die down because of the water that it holds and makes acidic.

Logs of peat separated into piles.

The village is near a lot of water, so the cottage floor is very damp. Today, they still use the peat from the land to heat the hearth    (fireplace).  This is the one unsustainable factor that I found during this site visit. Even though they’re saving money by using their own peat, they are also harming the environment by doing this.  Peat is a carbon sink that absorbs carbon and gives it off when burned. Our Ceide Fields tour guide, Anthony, told us that, “It’s worth more to leave peat alone on its surface than to dig it up and burn it.”  But, on the other hand, the cottage has to be heated somehow. So, if they don’t use the peat, they will still be harming the environment no matter what they use. They would most likely buy wood from somewhere which could be shipped from a location that is far away. Transportation is a huge factor when it comes to being sustainable.


Brown Bread and Ham Overload

A majority of the meals that I have had in Ireland have incorporated pieces of meat.  Sausage for breakfast, ham for lunch, and many options for dinner. I’ve noticed that ham is one of the most popular meats and is considered “bacon” on menus.  When we were at Madden’s in Westport, the caesar salad said that there was also parmesan cheese and bacon included. So, when my caesar salad came out and there were pieces of ham in it I was curious.  I asked the waiter if there was supposed to be bacon in the salad and he said, “that is the bacon” while pointing to the pieces of ham. A majority of the items on our menus have options of ham and when the menu doesn’t include ham, it’s still incorporated into dishes.  While in Inis Oirr, I ordered a chicken caesar salad wrap. The menu didn’t say anything about ham in the wrap. I took my first bite and immediately tasted ham. I took another look at my wrap and there were pieces of chicken and ham in my wrap. I had a delicious plate of stuffed turkey and ham in Inis Oirr that reminded me of Thanksgiving dinner.  The only time that I have ham at home is for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and a few other holidays. I have never seen or eaten so much ham until I came here.

Turkey Club Salad with Brown Bread on the side.

The same goes for bread and in particular, Brown Bread.  I didn’t know what brown bread was until we left Cloughjordan.  I have had aleast one piece of brown bread ever since we left Cloughjordan.  It can be served at every meal. It goes great with a cup of tea in the morning or before bed and wonderfully with a cup of soup at lunch.  When we stopped at the Rock Shop for a quick bite to eat, I was served soup and an open-faced ham sandwich. I wasn’t surprised when I bit into the ham sandwich and discovered that the bread was brown bread.  Just when I thought I couldn’t have brown bread with anything else, I had lunch in Ennis. I ordered a salad and it was served with brown bread on the side. I have enjoyed all of the food that I have had while being here, but when I get home I think I’ll need a ham and bread detox!

Why is there a light switch on this outlet?

“Adapter”.  It was written on my pre-departure packet and I remembered Professor Speakman telling us about it before we left.  My dad came into my room with a big bag, dumped it, and spread a bunch of plugs and cords on my bed. I looked at him in awe as he tried to click one piece into another.  I never thought about the difference in the little things like charging personal devices in other countries.

We arrived to Cloughjordan and quickly settled into the hostel.  I connected the adapter that my dad showed me to my charger and plugged it into the wall.  Nothing. My phone didn’t charge. “It must be the outlet”, I thought to myself. So, I plugged my phone into the outlet on the other side of the room.  Nothing. Why wasn’t this working? My dad showed me exactly how to connect the adapter. What was I doing wrong? Maybe my dad gave me an adapter that didn’t work.  So, I tried the two back-up adapters that he gave me. Nothing. It had to be the hostel outlets. I made my way downstairs to find someone to talk to. I encountered Pa, the owner of the hostel, in the kitchen and explained what had happened and he laughed.  He said, “Follow me.” He led me to the lobby area, knelt down, and pointed to the nearest outlet. “You plugged it in?”, he asked. “Yes, and nothing happened”. He nodded his head and replied, “you have to switch this on”, as he pressed a button that looked like a light switch.  He explained that by switching the outlet off when it’s not in use, it saves energy. I figured that this wasn’t going to happen for the rest of the trip because we were in the Eco Village in Cloughjordan. There wouldn’t be a stress on saving energy everywhere else. But, to my surprise, there was.  Most of the outlets have had these switches and I’m still getting used to turning them on. On our 9th day, in Inis Mor, I plugged my phone in and it didn’t charge. I was about to try another outlet until I remembered about the switch.

An outlet in Inis Oírr. The “on” and “off” switch are at the top.

As Americans, we aren’t conscious about saving energy while charging our devices.  People just leave their chargers plugged in even when their devices aren’t plugged in.  This is a huge waste of energy. During this trip, I have become a lot more aware of turning the outlets on and off and unplugging my adapter when I’m not using it.  

This is Kathy

My friend, Erin, and I went to the Centra at Cloughjordan  to buy food for the next morning.  Once I gathered all of my items, I had to wait for Erin since I was paying for her purchases as well. Two minutes went by and I peered my head around the aisle to see where she was.  She was talking to one of the workers behind the deli counter. When almost five minutes went by I looked around the corner again to see what was taking her so long.  She was still talking to the worker. So I made my way over to see what they were talking about. “This is Kathy,” Erin said to me. Kathy proceeded to say hi and welcome me to Ireland. She was so friendly and curious about our abroad trip. We ended up talking to Kathy for about ten more minutes and then took a picture of her and her coworkers.

Workers from Cloughjordan’s local Centra. From left to right: Kathy, The Manager, Marie.

That night, there was a bit of music on at Grace’s, one of the local pubs.  Later into the night, I made my way into the room where the music was happening. Our teacher, Dr. O’Connell, summed up this kind of Irish music very well when she said, “They don’t play music for entertainment, they play it for pure joy.”  The atmosphere of that small room was indescribable. Not only was the music wonderful but everyone participated in it. I looked around and everyone was contributing to the music in some way or another. Whether it was singing, playing the guitar, or clapping their hands, everyone was enjoying the music.  After one of the breaks in the music, a man sitting next to me was asked to play a song. The guitarist passed his guitar to him and the man started to play and sing. As he reached the chorus, everyone in the room joined in and started to sing. Then, he passed the guitar to the girl behind him and she sang a song. After that, an older man that looked like he was 85 years old came over from the bar because he was beckoned to sing.  And again, once he reached the chorus everyone joined him.

The pub slowed down and we were ready to leave.  As we made our way to the door, Kathy from the Centra walked in.  Erin and I were so happy to see her as was she. The entire room greeted her and told us that she had a beautiful voice.  The audience started to chant, “Kathy, Kathy, Kathy.” So, she sang “Song for the Mira.” Slowly, one by one, all of the musicians chimed in with their instruments.  It was one of the coolest things to experience. Kathy walked into the bar and two minutes later was singing with the musicians. That is a memory about Cloughjordan that I will never forget.

Dear Caroline . . .

The following is a work of fiction based on recent events and experiences in Ireland. 

Dear Caroline,

I hope that everything is going well in New Jersey.  I just had to write to you today because my day reminded me of our childhood.  I miss having you in Ireland, but I love when you visit.

Mom and dad came over for lunch as usual.  Mom brought her brown bread and dad requested my homemade vegetable soup.  After they left I had to help Patrick on the farm. He was shearing the sheep and I was going to move the peat from the far side of the field back to the barn.  There was quite a lot of peat for me to bring over.

Patrick using a sleán to bring the bog above the trench.

So, I figured I would drive the truck over and make the process easier.  Johnny took the new truck to school because hurling practice was going to run late.  This left me with “Old Bessy”. Yes, we still have Old Bessy. Patrick said that she had a full tank of gas and would be fine for me to use.  I filled the bed of the truck with all of the peat so that I would only have to take one trip. I made my way back to the barn and came across, “Rick’s hill” we used to race up when we had to get dad for dinner.  We’ve had a lot of rain these past few weeks, so the roads have turned into mud. Today, it was sunny and I didn’t think about the rain. As I was driving up the hill, I heard a clunk and Bessy gave out. I didn’t even try to press the gas pedal because I remembered the time when you and dad got stuck in the woods for a few hours.  When I stepped out of the truck I couldn’t even see the tires.

Logs of Peat that have been dried from the sunlight.

I pulled out my phone to call Patrick, but of course, there was no service.  I didn’t want to make things worse, so I started to walk back to the house. I haven’t walked from the far end of the field in a long time.  It was a lot longer than I remember. As I was passing the pond, I got a rush of memories from when you and I used to play tag with our cousins.  Remember we used to hold pretend weddings there too? It was as if I was walking down memory lane. I reached the end of the pond and heard rustling in the woods.  I stopped and my heart started to race. I thought to myself, “Is it a fox? a badger?” I was bracing myself for the worst. All of a sudden I saw it come out from behind a tree and I yelped.  It was just a hare! It ran away quickly and I laughed to myself. I used to be fearless in these woods with you!

Today made me miss you so much.  I hope you enjoyed reading this and made you laugh.  I can’t wait to see you so soon!

All of my love,

Your Twin

About Caroline Assumma

While I was going through the process of applying to colleges I always stopped myself when the application asked what I planned on majoring in.  For the first few applications, I put down, “Undecided”. I had never thought about what I wanted to major in until I applied to my top two schools.  When I was deciding between Roger Williams and a smaller school near my town, I had my mom come over to the computer. I asked her, “Shouldn’t I start to think about what I want to major in?”.  She replied, “It wouldn’t hurt. Why don’t you start to look at the majors that stand out to you and look up the jobs that are related to them?” So I did just that. I always knew that I wanted to work for the Professional Golf Association.  But, I didn’t know what I wanted to do specifically. So, when I came across communications and media I was immediately interested. I remembered having a previous conversation with my family friend about her college major and how it led her to her job.  She works for ESPN and she double majored in communications and marketing. She told me that she never knew what she wanted to do, but she knew that communications is a broad major. She told me, “You can do a lot with having communications as your major.  There are many aspects to it and it makes you a people person.” So, I went with my gut feeling and clicked on communications and media. I went into freshman year with an open mind and ended up falling in love with my introduction to communications and digital communications classes. 

Places: Waccabuc, New York.  Lavallette, New Jersey.  Bristol, Rhode Island.

Schools: South Salem Nursery School, Lewisboro Elementary School, John Jay Middle School, John Jay High School, Roger Williams University.

Jobs: Babysitter, Golf Shop Attendant, Golf Shop Retail Assistant, Bakery Counter Attendant, Beach Badge Sales Associate.

Favorites: Chicken Parmesan, The Giants, Golf, Surfing, Miracle on 49th Street, 10 Things I Hate About You.

These nouns give a lot of information about where I have been, what I have accomplished and give a sense of some of my favorite things.  What gets left out of these nouns are the details of the places and things and how they specifically relate to my life. The places don’t tell my experiences and the people that I’ve met along the way.  The jobs don’t describe what I accomplished and learned while working. You can get a good sense of who I am from these nouns, but they’re vague. Having a conversation with someone new definitely revolves around nouns.  Using nouns while talking encourage talking because there is so much to talk and ask about when someone talks about nouns. For example, if someone brings up a place that I have never been to I usually ask about what that place means to them.  This will lead to a lot of describing words so that I can imagine this place. I’ll gain a lot of insight into that new place and learn a lot. Meanwhile, if I know the place I will start to ask about their experience at that place and tell them about my own experience.  Either way, bringing up a place or job or favorite thing in an interaction with a new person will spark a conversation.

Family is the underlying theme because my Family has a huge impact on my everyday life and have led me to where I am today.  My dad is one out of five children, my mom is one out of seven children, and I am the fourth out of five children. My parents met at a country club down the road from where my mother grew up.  Soon after they got married, my dad became the General Manager of Waccabuc Country Club. So, my parents moved to a small town called Waccabuc in New York. We live on the grounds of the Country Club right next to the first fairway of the golf course.  My father is the most hardworking and selfless man I have ever met. My siblings and I are so lucky to have such a hardworking father because he provided so much for us. We have been able to work at the Country Club and learn a lot about the industry. I was born with a congenital heart defect, so I wasn’t able to play competitive sports while growing up.  That is why my father introduced me to the game of golf at a young age. Golf has taught me so many lessons, challenged me, and given me the competitiveness that I’ve always wanted. And my family has been through it all with me. My siblings have all practiced and played with me, my mom has drawn good luck charms on my golf balls, and my father has brought me to countless tournaments.  They all love and support me no matter what. The love of the game of golf has led me to become interested in working for the Professional Golf Association one day. My family members have all helped me become who I am and I’m forever grateful for them.