Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Two Girls, One Crepe

So lets just say my natural luck confronted the innate luck that is in the very bedrock that is Ireland. This titanic clash of fate resulted in the creation of one of the most interesting trips to date. Despite meticulous planning and the good fortune of having a great friend staying in Northern Ireland, my trip would be fraught with twists and turns that would make me appreciate the results of making simple plans.

I arrived in Dublin and made the 2 hour journey by bus turn in into a 4 hour trip as I missed the main bus to Belfast and had to catch the "express" which was anything but. I managed to finally get to my old friend Madeline's house. In fact while I had gotten off at the right stop, I had no clue as to where I was. So when I asked the bus driver to take me to Ballybean , he only stared at me in blank confusion and said, "you are in Ballybean". Much to my chagrin I simply sauntered off and found Madi's apartment.

Madi works for the YAV (Young Adult Volunteer) program in Belfast. Madi and her peers toil with a salary well under the poverty line as volunteers for church's in Belfast working with old and young alike to improve the lives of Northern Ireland one christian at a time. I was fortunate enough to spend the weekend with Madi, her roommate Amy, Lynnea, Nate, and Finn. A great group who despite my fatigue and crazy life showed me a great time in downtown Belfast.

This picture simply illustrates the joy of Madeline Burgess. So instead of going around and seeing the historical sites of Belfast (of which there are ample and of which Madi and I share a passion for as we are both History majors) Madi and Amy decided to take me shopping. My time as a younger boy with an older sister and mother who like to just "look around" were immediatly coming back to haunt me. So of course we entered a store that sold bath and skin products that looked more like they should be eaten rather than slathered. The store dabbled so much in illusion that Madi looked down to the sample display and asked "Do you think this is real ice"? I really look forward to the world where fake ice costs less than real ice. Maybe in the sahara?

Fortunately enough for me Madi and I didn't do our usual cat & dog routine and enjoyed the short time we had in Belfast with a few pints, loud music, and a couple of Harvey Wallbangers.
Amy and Madi are two long lost roommates that have just waiting for fate to bring them together.
So I have to leave it with this. Despite my Camera breaking, missing the big Aussie VS Ireland rugby match, missing my flight and paying more dough than I hope to ever spend in 4 days, I did get to have a beautiful glass of Guinness in Ireland. It does taste sweeter when you are in the land of luck.

Thanks to Madi, Amy, Lynnea, Nate, and Finn for a great time in Belfast. Don't burn down the house when you get here.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Happy Haggis

Last Weekend? I decided to throw caution to the wind and head up to Austria to go snowboarding. Have a driven by myself outside of Italy before? No. Have I got a remote idea of where I am headed? Barely. Suffice to say this was an adventure. Fortunately for me, the most serious incident to occur is that my radio died en route. No biggie.

Mary Kay (my geriatric 95 VW Jetta for all those unaffiliated with my "whip") made it up the mountain pass with the ease of gazelle. Slight exaggeration, but she did just fine. I managed to stay at a comfy hotel nestled in the valley of Zillertal complete with Sauna and German TV. I only had one full day of snowboarding but that one day was more than enough to satisfy my appetite. Hintertux ski resort is a beautiful area tucked away in the far end of the Zillertal Valley. I was a bit disconcerted when I got to the resort and there was absolutely no snow anywhere. But there were enough Austrian, German, and Italians in ski gear to convince me that snow was somewhere. It actually takes 3 nearly vertical gondolas to get up to the ski area. Once at the top you literally feel like you are on top of the world. No houses, barely any kind of civilization in the form of a few T-lifts that take you to even more remote parts of the mountain. The boarding was a bit crunchy but decent enough for my purposes. I met a few crazy Europeans and enjoyed the mountain for most of the day. After coming down the mountain I roamed about the Zillertal valley and made my own pub crawl despite the town being close to dead.

I came back to Vicenza for a short week yet intense week of work. Tuesday was our proficiency jump that allows our unit to have jump pay while we are down range. I was also put on one of two aircraft that had Italian jumpmasters which gave all the jumpers on our bird the Italian Parachutist Badge. It was my my 7th jump and by far the best I had. I was on the first chalk which meant I would be the first order of jumpers to exit. With the Dolomite mountains in the background we exited at 1,000 feet AGL and I was on the ground before I knew it. The only hairy part was that the drop zone was littered with large Hay bales, impact craters full or rocks, and a large berm to smack against. I was lucky enough to land smack in the middle of a bunch of hale bales with my chute landed almost on top of me. I did my first actual PLF and watched the rest of my guys exit without any incidents. 500 ROCK paratroopers got out that day and not one injury! Good day for the 173rd.

Alright so I was a total dunce and forgot to bring my Camera as I traveled to Scotland this past Friday. My buddy Jesse Jensen and I bought cheap tickets on Ryan Air and decided last minute to headed to the land of Freedom, Haggis, and Single Malt.

We only had 48 hours in the country as our flight back was earllyyyyy Sunday morning. We made the best of it staying mostly in Glasgow. Lets just say that the Scots are the friendliest bunch in all of Europe. Even the bums on the street where nice enough to wish us a good time while they haggled us for money. We walked the streets of Glasgow, caught an up-to-date english speaking movie Men Who Stare at Goats Which was absurd and hysterical and in english which was awesome. I managed to grab a personalized Celtics FC jersey, a big Scottish Flag and most importantly, I ate Haggis. I can leave this world with one more thing crossed of the list.

Next on the list. Madeline Burgess and Irelend next weekend :)