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Rugby Central

13 May

I hadn’t realised how huge the Rugby scene was in Limerick even after I witnessed the epic “40 phases of play” the Munster team pulled off in the Heinekin Cup opener of 2011 (which I wrote about here).  But after I started working and rowing there, if I had been in any doubt about the connection Limerick has to Rugby, it was erased the other day when I drove through a roundabout on the southern side of town and saw signs for three different clubs all in the same place!

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The Big Smoke

30 Nov

Some people here call Dublin “The Big Smoke”.  It sounds kind of cool, but I have a feeling that it’s like calling San Francisco “Frisco” – people who actually live in SF sort of cringe when they hear it.  In any case, I had to go to Dublin today.

I’m more than a little freaked out that I haven’t posted on the blog for so long, but November has been pretty crazy with Tara’s birthday, massive load at work, Thanksgiving, my MBA classes, rowing, etc. etc. etc.  In the midst of all this, I had to pass a standardised test called the GMAT exam to get “accepted” into the MBA programme that I’ve been enrolled in for the past three months.  Apparently Dublin is the only place in Ireland where you can take the GMAT exam so I had to go to a testing centre in “The Big Smoke”.

Since our friend Zoe is visiting us from Canada, I brought her along to see the sights.  I found the testing center and parked the car and then Zoe and I looked for a nearby place to rendezvous after the exam when…lo and behold….we stumbled upon the National Leprechaun Museum.

The Leprechauns must be camouflaged on the green carpet

The Leprechauns must be camouflaged on the green carpet

Who knew they even had one…I wish I had had the time to go in and see if they had a pot of gold there, but I was too interested in taking my test.  Which turned out to be worthwhile since I got my results and scored a 740 which is 10 points higher than the average Harvard MBA student gets…and puts me solidly in the 97th percentile…boo ya!  Looks like the old noggin still has a few tricks left in it.

Repatriation

3 Nov

A lot of powerful feelings flooded over me as I cleared U.S. immigration two Fridays ago.  I had been out of the country for over a year so I took advantage of my business trip to Mexico to spend the weekend with Mary in New York.

good times, but not very square…

We were both relieved that there wasn’t any trouble with Mary’s green card, but I was feeling very homesick to be in the U.S. without a plan to get home to S.F.   Nonetheless, New York was just as I remembered it.

You just can’t compare the vibrant buzz of the people and the traffic and the spectacular urban vistas in New York with anywhere else in the world.

it’s all about the buildings..

But the last time we were in the city, there were two more buildings on the skyline, and their absence was a tangible weight on top of all the other emotions that our brief stop in the states was stirring.

So the first thing we did on Saturday morning was to head downtown to pay our respects at the World Trade Center Memorial.

As large as the hole in the ground is here, there is no way to measure the holes in all the lives touched by this tragedy

Any words I can put to the experience would be inadequate, but it was cold out, and emotional, and right next to the site was an Irish bar called O’Hara’s from which we could hear a hot beverage crying out our names.  So we stopped in to warm up and chill out.

Every inch of the back-bar at O’Hara’s is covered with the badges of Police and Firefighters from all over the U.S.  As a central hub of the World Trade center rescue, recovery and cleanup, O’Hara’s has served the servers, and these are the tributes to all the men and women who put their lives on the line in service to others.

badges of honor

There is a bar in Kinvara, County Galway that has similarly covered it’s back-bar with the badges of Police and Firefighters from all over the U.S.   In Ireland, these badges honor the contribution the Irish people have made to U.S. emergency services and at O’Hara’s it is the Irish people who honor the emergency workers right back.

Then an elderly man and his wife sat down next to us and ordered with Irish accents.  So we began talking, and it turned out that this couple immigrated to New York in the 50’s during one of the many hard times in Ireland that sent the Irish across the world willing to work.  This fellow came from rural Longford to this enormous city to work as a welder on the tallest buildings in the world – what a mindblowing shock that must have been.

Today was the first time this weary man had come down to the site since his handiwork had been so senselessly wiped out.  Talk about mindblowing.

It occurred to me that the Irish were a big part of both the beginning and the end of the World Trade Center story.

But even without the Twin Towers, New York is still very much alive, and after honoring the dead, we headed to Greenwich Village to celebrate the living.

the “North Beach” of New York

Our friend Mike had told us they were having a block party.  They had blocked off the street, fired up a barbeque grilling burgers and hotdogs, tapped a couple kegs of local microbrews, and were rocking out to a band of enthusiastic local musicians in front of the Tavern on Jane.  Being there at that moment made me even more homesick because the vibe was so similar to the comfortable community coolness of our old North Beach neighborhood in San Francisco.

And just like North Beach, Greenwich Village is full of surprising little nooks and cranny’s that lie just out of sight of the casual passer-by.  In this case, the highlight was a small private garden shared by a bunch of the nieghbors that we could duck into for a quiet break from the crowding mayhem of a New York street party.

garden party in the village

It was a whirlwind one-day visit to the big Apple, but we managed to experience so many different sides of the city that it felt like a whole week.  On Sunday morning, before I headed off to Mexico and Mary headed back to Ireland, we got to experience one last thing that we couldn’t get on the Emerald Isle: a proper brunch at a sidewalk cafe.

homefries in the homeland

Passing Ports

28 Oct

I had the opportunity last week to use my brand new Irish passport.  My job required me to go to Mexico and we managed to tack on a few extra legs to the trip to make the journey as productive as possible. 

But as much as I love traveling to different countries and experiencing different cultures, business trips are not nearly as fun as vacation trips.  Here’s what I saw on this trip:

Sunrise at Shannon Airport, Ireland

Steamy afternoon at the Mexico City airport

Crisp fall day at the Salt Lake City Airport

Manhattan Skyline from JFK Airport

Fog delays in London’s Heathrow Airport

I visited three other airports on the trip, but for one reason or another didn’t manage to get pictures of them.  So much for taking in all the sights!

But seriously, I did get out of the airports for a few minutes and I did have some wonderful times as well as getting business done and I’ll post more about that later, but when I got back it *felt* like all I did was bounce from airport to airport and I was very happy to hug my girls again.

Midlife Business Adventure

22 Sep

In case you were used to seeing posts show up here more frequently than they have lately, I have to tell you that my time has been under more demand as a result of my enrolment in the Corporate M.B.A programme at University of Limerick’s Kemmy Business School.

Like the decision we made when we moved to Ireland, the M.B.A.  idea had bubbled around in the atmosphere for a long long time and yet the actual process of deciding on it and committing to it was an impulsive and last minute decision which precluded second-guessing.

Here I am, back at school, almost twenty years after the last time I carried my own textbooks on a college campus so my posts might not come as frequently.  I’ve got a few in the works that will appear here at some point when I have a chance to finish them up.

En-chanted Evening

14 Sep

On the recommendation of a trusted friend, I left work the other day at 5:20pm and headed out East of Limerick to a Benedictine Monastary called Glenstal Abbey.

Every evening at 6:00pm the monks say Vespers – which is evening prayers – in Latin.  Technically, they don’t actually “say” the prayers, rather, they chant them…gregorian style.  Completely amazing to hear, it is a meditative and calming experience.

Just to approach the chapel is an experience…walking through the ambiance of this old Castle-like fortress-like monastary.  But once inside, the altar itself is spare and minimalist: just a simple table with an incense burner on a stand in front of it.

High above the altar is a equal sided cross suspended with thin wires in the air like a floating addition sign.  The smoke from the incense rises underneath it quickly expanding like a dancing genie….if ever there was a representation of the “Holy Spirit” this would be it.

The smoke dances into the air as the deep intonations of the latin chant fill the room and the mystery of spirituality surrounds you, transporting you to a timeless place of reflection.

You can buy the albums of the monks doing this…or you can show up twice a day and get the full experience just for the price of passing by.  I highly recommend it.

Put me on your t-shirt

19 Jul

It’s a joke on the postcards and t-shirts in the tourist shop: “Irish Traffic Jam” and the cartoon sheep or cows or you name the livestock are all blocking the cars.

..but no joke, the only traffic on my commute today was this:

When I came around the bend and saw them coming at me, I immediately pulled in – and because I know that the engine can spook the sheep, I shut mine down and waited as the farmer driving the red car approached with his arm out the window slapping the side of his door to keep the sheep moving along.

I don’t mind all the traffic because this is where I end up:

It is something of a miracle to me that I can spend the day on the phone to a dozen countries working in a race with daylight to get as much of the project done in my day – and at the end of it, I slow down to let the sheep go by and I get to look out over Galway Bay and think about how different this is to our life in the States….and smile.

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