Fading Fast

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IMG_0086When I first felt myself disappearing it was just in my memories. Not in that way that you forget something that happened, remember vague pieces of it but not the event itself. No, it wasn’t that I was losing the memories as a whole, just my place in them. I first realized it when my brother gave my niece his old red wagon. He pulled it down from his attic, the paint was missing completely on the left side and one of the wheels was always dragging, but she was thrilled none the less.

I thought about the Christmas that Matthew had gotten the wagon. I had been six, he had been eight.  I could remember my parents on the couch, mom in a floral print bathrobe, dad in his yogi bear pajama pants and I could picture my brother’s face when my dad wheeled the wagon in.  I could even remember what they  had for breakfast (French toast), but  I couldn’t remember anything I had done,  I didn’t remember getting up too early to catch Santa, or unwrapping my own presents, or eating the French toast. It was as if I was looking at a picture of family, but without me in it, or even watching someone else’s home movies.

I waved it off as a weird, one-time occurrence, just a lapse in memory manifesting itself oddly. But it continued to happen.  My eighth birthday party at the pool turned into a bunch of friends swimming on a Saturday, without me.  I could remember whole conversations without the bits that I had said.  I thought of interactions and events that I had experienced as though they had happened to other people and I had merely heard about them later.

About a month after I lost that first Christmas I started disappearing in other ways, worse ways.  I would be driving home and forget my address, I would have no idea where I lived, I knew where I was and where I was coming from. I could get to the grocery store and the movie theatre, but it was suddenly as if I had not home, no permanent place.  I learned that if I could come up with one thing, and solidly form it in my mind, I could, well, bring myself back.

I did this first when I lost my house. I couldn’t remember anything about it,  I didn’t know remember if it was an apartment, or a home, a condo, a trailer. I remembered getting in my car that morning to go to work but when I tried to picture the door I had come out of there was nothing there. So I tried to remember what was in my house, anything at all, and all I could remember, just barely, was a couch. A terrible couch, one that someone had given me my freshman year in college.  It was orange, and lumpy, if you sat in the middle a spring jabbed you. It didn’t fold out anymore and on the left armrest was a red wine stain, one caused by a carelessly left glass and my cat. As soon as I remembered that stain the world came back into focus.  I had back the missing pieces of myself and I remembered where my apartment was and got home. I tried to tell myself that it was just forgetfulness, that I was busy and needed to sleep more, that maybe I needed to take a vacation.  For awhile I managed to believe this (despite the fact that I misplaced my favorite type of ice cream and didn’t remember attending my high school graduation). But one day, I was standing in line to buy a cup of coffee and I glanced down towards my hand and noticed that it was gone. My left hand had completely vanished, I tried to flex my fingers but I couldn’t feel it.  I reached with my other hand towards the end of my arm where my left hand should have been and there was nothing there. I was growing increasingly panicked and started looking around the coffee shop to see if anyone else noticed that I was suddenly missing a hand, but nobody else seemed to see. I could feel my chest getting tight and my throat seemed to be getting smaller.  I thought about leaving,  running out the door and finding a doctor, or a priest, or my dad. But then it was my turn at the counter, the person behind me gave an irritated cough so I stepped up and tried to modulate my voice to a normal level, all the while thinking about how I was going to get my wallet out.

“Excuse me, could you help me.” I said moving my arm forward to show the person at the register my missing appendage, but my hand was back. As quickly as it had disappeared it had returned to the place it belonged. The barista seemed surprised by the initial urgency in my voice but  I chuckled awkwardly and ordered my coffee.  It was then that I realized then that I could bring myself back when I grounded myself in something material, and specific. My couch was the first time that had really worked, and I realized later that I had pictured the crumpled five dollar bill in my wallet, missing the upper right corner right before my hand had reappeared. Sometimes though, it took a long time for me to find myself again, once I was on  the train to my brother’s when I didn’t know what stop to get off at, it took my two hours to picture the newsstand that stood out front of the station and by then I had missed it.

So I realized that I had to come up with a better way. I tried carrying things around in my pocket, but that didn’t do anything at all. About two weeks ago I found myself in a bathroom without my right foot.  I was slumped against the wall and not only was I missing my foot, I couldn’t remember my birthday or even what day of the month it was. These episodes made me feel so drifty. I was struggling to breathe and I stuck my hand in my pocket, inside there was a black marker. I pulled it out and moving away from the gray tiled wall of the bathroom stall I wrote in tiny, slanted letters I am, I am, I am. And somehow, that was enough, my foot was back and I was feeling able to go out into the restaurant because I had remembered who I was meeting. Since then, I’ve started carrying that marker around with me everywhere. I affirm my existence on the bottoms of tables, inside of kitchen cabinets, on my hands, and pages of books. I put down whatever I can remember: my name, my address, the name of my best friend in high school, but if I can’t come up with anything else I go back to that phrase I first scrawled on the bathroom wall.

But it isn’t helping in the long term, in fact sometimes it doesn’t help at all. I’m starting to lose things, I can’t find any pictures of me with my brother, just pictures of him standing alone, pictures I think I used to be in. I feel disconnected from everything all the time, an observer instead of a participant. I stopped going to work three days ago because I don’t know what I do, and I haven’t been able to bring back my right ring finger since it vanished yesterday. Soon I fear that there won’t be any pieces of me big enough to pull back what’s missing.  It’s not that I’m disappearing really, more that I’m just fading away, and it’s getting harder and harder to come back. I am, i am, i.

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How my parents repeatedly insist on taking the road less traveled by (and how it has made all the difference).

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Yesterday was my parents’ 24th wedding anniversary (and also my mom’s 25th birthday, crazy how that works out huh?).

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Despite what anyone else says about their parents, my parents are  the best. I couldn’t have picked a better set of parents for myself (so it’s a good thing I didn’t have to).

My parents are awesome for a lot of reasons.   Throughout my growing up my parents have done things that don’t exactly line up with what the world says is normal.  In honor of their anniversary  here are some of my favorite ways that my parents have insisted on taking that road less traveled. 

Stepping away from the comfortable

My dad has been a pastor for twenty-three years.  Five years ago my parents (and my siblings and I) and a group of congregants planted a church. We left the church my dad had been pastoring at for 18 years.  The church that had it’s own building with chairs that stayed set-up and were full of people every week, where you only had to teach Sunday School every couple of months because you were on a rotation and the worship teams alternated. We moved to a school gymnasium, where a trailer pulled up every week containing the things our church required, and the numbers dwindled (as did my dad’s paycheck). Last month the church closed its doors. Some people might even say that my parents made the wrong choice, they would be wrong. We (my siblings and I) learned how to serve, that every chair we set up was important, ever tray we put on the tables, every lollipop we handed out to the sunday school kids.  More than that though, my parents also provided us with a tight-knit church family that hasn’t gone away.  For five years the church blessed people and changed people, myself included.

The incredible growing family (and growing, and growing…)

I have six younger siblings, which is kind of a lot. In fact seven kids is roughly 3.5 times the estimated average number of children born per woman in the U.S. this year. When people hear this they tend to think my parents are Catholic, Mormon, or crazy (I know they’re not the first two, I’m still on the fence about the last one).  To add to the crazy, my two youngest siblings were adopted from Ethiopia, which was kind of a crazy thing all on its own.  Being in a family of nine means several things:

We’re really, unbelievably loud.

We don’t all fit in one car.

We don’t go on family vacations very often.

I haven’t had my own room since I was two and a half.

But none of that really matters.  I’m so glad my parents decided not to stop after the average 2.6 children. My siblings can be infuriating, irritating, and loud. But they are some of my favorite people in the world, they’re all so different and weird and I would do anything for them.  And I think I’ve learned that people matter more than things, due in part to all those siblings.

You have brains in your head.  You have feet in your shoes.  You can steer yourself any direction you choose…

I am a Creative Writing major. This is not exactly a practical career choice. But my parents never told me that I have to be an accountant (that many numbers make me physically sick), or a doctor (although my handwriting is messy enough), or a nutritionist (I enjoy chocolate far too much). They allowed me to decide what I wanted to do without guilt. They have always encouraged me to do what I was good at, and what I enjoyed doing (while also encouraging me to keep my technical writing job that makes actual money for the time being).  I have watched other people’s parents try to tell them what they should be doing with their lives (it doesn’t usually work). My folks have never done that and I’m very, very grateful.

Happy anniversary mom and dad, I appreciate your senses of humor, godliness, encouragement, kindness, goofiness, musicality, and all of the time you spend with us.

Love you the most.

A Collection

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Some people collect stamps, some  postcards, others  recipes. As fond as I am of language, it should come as no surprise that I am a collector of words. Sometimes, when I’m stressed I just start making lists of my favorite words, writing out all the ones I particularly like, because of their meaning; the way they sound; or how they’re spelled (for instance perspicacious, curmudgeonly, and effervescent make the list). While I’ve been in Ireland I’ve been “collecting” some of the words or phrases that I’ve heard here that I liked or found unusual or strange. So, as I’m getting ready to leave tomorrow I give you my collection from the past four weeks (plus my running commentary because I always have something to say about anything).

Squiffy 

This is one of my new favorite words, period. It was used by  a cute little tour guide in St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  While I have since learned that it can mean slightly intoxicated, when I first heard it she was using it to mean:

Awkward, wrong, lopsided, ruffled or strangely different.

Only it’s a way cooler sounding word than any of those used above.

Lads

When we were all together and someone would address us as a group they would refer to us as “lads.” This occurred despite the fact that we were all girls.

Grand, Super, Lovely, Cheers

This isn’t one phrase I just wanted to group them together  because I think they’re all superior to the synonyms I typically use. I  find grand, super, and lovely to be way more interesting adjectives than “great” and cheers to be a better way to say “goodbye.”

As the fella’ says…

We had a bus driver in Dublin who kept saying this, we weren’t even on his bus for very long and he said it three or four times. I’m still wondering who this fellow is and why he had so much to say…

Anti-clockwise

I prefer this to counter-clockwise, it makes it seem evil or negative. Like clockwise is the lovable hero and anti-clockwise is the villain trying to force people to go the other direction!

What’s the craic, lads?

Craic generally means fun or even news or entertainment.  I think I’d like to replace my use of “what’s up” or “how’s it going” with this (of course if I have to explain what I’m asking this will considerably lengthen many conversations intended to be brief).

I will ya

I never heard this used, but someone told me that if you hear an Irish person say this they are actually being sarcastic. It’s sort of the equivalent of  “yeah right.” I am all about snarky so I really wanted to hear someone use this.

You’re a star

One of my friends was told this after doing a really simple favor for someone. I just like how easy it was to get a rather glowing compliment.

Thanks a million

Another example of especially effusive responses to everyday occurrences, being a fan of hyperbole I appreciate these.

Tomorrow I’m flying out, and while I’m glad to go home I’m sorry to leave. Thanks a million,  Ireland. It’s been grand.  I’ll be back.

Dublin – Part 2

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Thursday morning we woke up early again (this was a theme of the Dublin trip I didn’t love so much) so that we could go to the Book of Kells, the exhibit is at Trinity College so we didn’t have very far to go.

IMG_1235The Book of Kells is a manuscript dated around 800 AD that contains the four Gospels written in Latin, it’s famous for the beautiful illustrations. Before we got to the book, we walked through an exhibition that talked about ancient bookmaking, I loved it. Everything was so carefully done: the binding, the handwriting, and the illustrating. It was such an art form. I loved walking through and reading all about it,  when I came to the actual book  I was suitably impressed. It’s  in such amazing condition; the drawings are still so incredibly clear and vibrant.

After the Book of Kells is the Old Library, I was unprepared for the level of awesomeness that resided there.

IMG_1248 IMG_1322There were so many books in this one area, the look of awe on my face is genuine.

I just feel like when that many books are in one place they make a room larger than it is; all those far away lands and the potential for adventure. The added element of the preservation of particularly old books makes it all the more impressive to me. I would have been happy to live in the Old Library for awhile.

Afterwards I went with a group to the Kilmainham Gaol. The Gaol has historical significance, partly because it’s really old (so if the choir members at Christ Church really had been 300 years old they too would’ve been historically significant by this measure). It’s also the place where some of the members of the 1916 Easter Uprising were executed. It was eerie to stand in the place where the firing squad had killed those men.

IMG_1310 IMG_1307What’s interesting is that when the uprising first occurred the public opinion was against it, but when the men were killed and the people started reading about the execution in the paper, public opinion was swayed.  If the government had just given the men a regular trial and left them in prison for life, the public would likely have continued  viewing the rioters as crazy troublemakers.

One of the men, Joseph Plunkett, was engaged to be married to Grace.  The night before his execution he was allowed to marry her. They were given ten final minutes together before he was killed. Grace was later held in the same prison for a little while.

On a completely different and way less depressing note: over the course of two days I rode the bus several times, each with a different driver. One driver in particular was our absolute favorite because he sang. He was actually pretty good, he sang about the 1916 uprising, Molly Malone, and one song of inappropriate nursery rhymes. After our singing driver all others paled in comparison.

Also, while we were in a Starbucks someone asked me and one of the other gals where we were from and then told us we had really cool accents. We were kind of excited by this compliment.

Some Dublin pictures:

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Dublin doors, they’re kind of  a big deal.

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Molly Malone, “the tart with the cart”

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At Trinity.

Friday we left Dublin and took the bus to Enniskerry to go to Powerscourt Estate.

It was beautiful there.
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We spent awhile walking around and taking pictures.

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But the best part of Powerscourt didn’t involve the scenery. While we were walking around a group of three Irish women asked my friend and I to take a picture of them, then they took a picture of the two of us. We walked a little further and  they asked us to do it again, we did this several more times. At one point one of the ladies jokingly told us we should follow them around all day because they had champagne and strawberries. After that we went in separate directions for awhile.

Just as we were headed back to meet the other two in our group we heard someone yelling “Girls, girls!” from across a pond. It was our new picture friends. We ran over and chatted with them for about fifteen minutes and they were so much fun. One of the first things they said was: “We were saving you champagne but we figured you weren’t coming so we finished the bottle, but we do have some strawberries and chocolate covered nuts to give you.” The giving of fruit and chocolate meant that I was instantly endeared to them.

We then had one of my favorite confused about New Mexico conversations ever. It went something like this:

One of our new friends: So where are you girls from?

Me: I’m from New Mexico.

Them (staring blankly): Like connected to…old…Mexico?

Me: Well, um, it’s down in that general direction…

Them: that’s by Florida! Right?

Me: Oh no, it’s over by Arizona, Colorado, and…

Them: But that’s desert! You’re so fair!

Me: I wear a lot of sunscreen. *laughing not because it’s funny, just because it’s true*

Them: You look more Irish than anything else!

I feel like the fact that an Irish person told me this must mean that I basically am Irish.

Right before we left they offered to take our picture one more time, in front of a fountain. They thought the best way to do this was with us looking like we had been drinking the bottle of champagne (even though, you’ll remember, the champagne was in fact, gone when we got there).

IMG_1541All in all an amazing time in Dublin.

Dublin – Part 1

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Wednesday morning I left University College Cork at 7 (too early, waaaaaaay too early) to trek to the bus stop so that we could catch the air coach to Dublin.

IMG_0960It was a lovely morning to be walking, although I feel it might have been a better morning to be sleeping.

We got to Dublin and checked in to Trinity College and got our tickets for the hop-on/hop-off tour bus.  Trinity was a big, beautiful campus and I wish I could’ve spent more time exploring it.

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IMG_1222Staying at Trinity was awesome because we were right in the middle of everything, the only complaint we had was that there was no free wifi. This grievance proves that I am exceptionally spoiled.

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The building I stayed in at Trinity.  I feel that the old stone  and climbing ivy was somewhat contradicted by the electronic key card lock.

Dublin was incredible, but I actually found it a little overwhelming. I don’t think I’m a big city girl (it also doesn’t help that I haven’t got a sense of direction to save my life so I’m terrified of getting lost). But it was absolutely amazing to visit and I’m so grateful I got to spend a few days there.

The first place we visited was Christ Church Cathedral

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Apparently the choir was a part of the premiere of Handel’s Messiah (not the current members, that would make them all 300 years old [originally I left out this parenthetical statement, but I thought “my dad’s going to say something about how old everyone in that choir would be.” so I added it preemptively]) . Also, this cathedral had a crypt. The crypt  smelled funny and had a coffee shop in it, but other than that it was interesting. Also, they had on display a  cat and mouse who had gotten trapped in an organ pipe and become mummified, early predecessors to Tom and Jerry I suppose.

After that we went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

IMG_1046This one had a tour, my favorite thing (there is absolutely zero sarcasm in this statement). Jonathan Swift (author of Gulliver’s Travels) is buried there and so is his servant. The servant being buried there was a big deal that Swift had to work for. The plaque was supposed to refer to the man as Swift’s friend, but they just couldn’t do it so it says he was Swift’s servant.

IMG_1086This cathedral also had a statue of St. Patrick (kind of).

IMG_1109(This is a terrible picture, I was standing at a weird angle.)

The tour guide told us that this statue is actually made up of pieces from several different statues, and that it probably isn’t a very good likeness of St. Patrick at all because he wasn’t old enough to have such an impressive beard and he wouldn’t have been wearing these bishop robes. So it was more of a frankenstein statue of some random guy.

After these two churches our class was dismissed and so I went with some friends on a tour of the Guinness Storehouse.

IMG_1178My dad will be happy to know that I really, really, really don’t like Guinness, at all.  This was also the busiest most “touristy” thing I’ve done so far.

After Guinness we finished the day with dinner and I really, really, really did like that, the restaurant we ate at was totally darling. It was called Queen of Tarts. I wanted to live there but they kicked us out at 7 when they closed.

IMG_1210Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Dublin trip in which we  I am briefly stunned by a large quantity of books, go to jail, and make some new friends (those are three unrelated events, I don’t want to make this story sound more interesting than it actually is). 

Desperately seeking shepherd’s pie (Day trip #2 – Killarney)

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Wednesday we had our second day trip, this one to Killarney.

I’ll be real honest, my only knowledge of Killarney came from this:

So really, I had no preconceived notions.

I am enthralled by the landscape here, so much green and so many flowers. It’s  vastly different from what I’m used to.  The first place we stopped overlooking Killarney was similarly beautiful.  It was so breathtaking, I was just in awe of a God who creates like that.

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The pictures I took don’t even begin to convey how gorgeous it was at the spot overlooking the water.

From there we drove to Torc Waterfall, also beautiful.

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And one with me in it to prove that I was there and not just pulling these off the internet.

After that we went to Muckross house and took a tour.

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Muckross house was built in the 1800s by the Herbert family, it’s preserved and they run tours through most of the house. What’s special about this house in particular is that in 1861 Queen Victoria and her entourage came and spent two days here. You may think you have to spend a lot of time preparing for a visit from your in-laws but the Herberts received six years notice from the queen that she was coming, and they started getting ready right away. They bought new carpets, they had rooms redone for the queen, they even had a special sideboard built, which took three years. So, if I’m going to visit anyone I’m going to take my lesson from the queen and give them a minimum of four years notice so they can start sprucing things up (I’ll also leave them  with a rather large portrait of myself to remember me by).

After the house tour we went to get lunch.  One of my friends has been determined to eat shepherd’s pie somewhere.  I am always determined to eat and when what I’m eating involves mashed potatoes and meat I am doubly determined. So, we were quite pleased to discover that the cafe did in fact have shepherd’s pie.
IMG_0727Look, there it is “Traditional Shepherd’s Pie.”

The only problem with our meal choice was that it’s been unusually hot here, basically since I arrived. I thought this wouldn’t be an issue because it still isn’t getting anywhere close to the temperatures back home, but it’s humid. I don’t handle humid very well, I wilt.  Also there aren’t air conditioners anywhere (including on our bus which made for a sticky ride home). So we sat with our shepherd’s pie in the warm restaurant, and as tasty as it was I wished that I was eating a large block of ice instead. We remedied this by finding ice cream as soon as we had finished eating. (Everywhere sells ice cream here, and I have seen so many adults walking around with ice cream cones. This is truly my happy place.)

We spent the remainder of the day walking through the gardens and down to the water.  It was lovely everywhere we went and I was certainly not disappointed with Killarney (despite the lack of Bing Crosby present).

Now, some pictures!

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Day trip # 1- Blarney, Cobh, and Kinsale

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Thursday, we went on our first of several day trips. This one took us to Blarney, Cobh, and Kinsale.
We had a bus driver named John who, I am convinced, knew everything (or at least everything related to the Irish countryside we were driving through).  My very favorite thing that occurred on the bus was when John imitated (mocked) Irish accents from other regions, and did a remarkable job.

We started the morning at Blarney Castle,

IMG_0268A nearly six hundred year old castle. Unlike Barryscourt, this castle is a ruin. We climbed the old stone steps, which were perilous and there were so, so many of them, to get to the main draw of the castle, the Blarney Stone. Visitors climb to the top of the castle, and upon kissing the Blarney Stone are supposed to be granted the gift of gab – eloquence.

Kissing the Blarney Stone requires laying on the ground, reaching up behind you to grab two bars and lowering yourself backwards until you can kiss the stone.  There are iron bars underneath you to keep you from plummeting to your death and  there is a person who’s sole job is to hold on to your waist and keep you from falling backwards. As I was kissing the Blarney Stone I was trying my hardest to avoid 1. Letting the germaphobe part of me think about how many other people  had done this and 2. Leaning so far back that I would be able to actually see the ground and recognize how high up I was.

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Me kissing the Blarney Stone. I did not have to pay 10 euro for the picture taken by the Blarney Stone photographer because I had friends with me who could take this picture for free.

The rest of the castle and the grounds all around where beautiful.

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IMG_0318 I don’t quite understand the appeal of these poison gardens. I’ve seen them a couple of different places, they feature plants such as rhubarb, marijuana, and tea (because it contains caffeine and lack thereof can result in withdrawal, which as everyone knows is right up their with the effects of some of the other plants, for instance…death).

From Blarney we went on to Cobh. Cobh was the final port of call for the Titanic before it set off. We didn’t spend much time there, but the harbor was lovely.

IMG_0350And we did visit a church

IMG_0357St. Colman’s Cathedral. Our driver pointed out that this was the last significant building that the people on the Titanic saw, which was kind of a haunting thought.

We also stopped to eat lunch, here:

IMG_0394We sat outside and enjoyed the breeze and the view of the water.

Next, we moved on to Kinsale. I loved Kinsale. Before we actually headed into the town we went to Charles Fort, which was once an English fort.

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IMG_0437Then we spent a couple of hours in Kinsale walking through the town and going into the shops.

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I actually took this and the next one on Saturday when a few of us went back to Kinsale. (We went back for an arts festival that wasn’t really starting yet, so we just spent the afternoon exploring Kinsale further.)

IMG_0515 IMG_0447I got this enormous piece of cake, and I am not ashamed to admit (well, I am a little bit ashamed) that I ate this entire thing, including the clotted cream.

It was a marvelous day, I saw a lot of a really beautiful place and I can’t wait for our next day trip on Wednesday!  (Also, buses put me to sleep like nothing else.)

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