Ireland, I am in you.

The thing about going from Macon, Georgia to Waterford, Ireland is that even when everything goes perfectly, it just takes a while. I left home at 4:00 p.m. Eastern time yesterday (Monday) and got to Waterford at 4:00 p.m. Irish time today (Tuesday). That’s about 20 hours door to door if my math is right. Groome shuttle to the Atlanta airport, Delta flight from Atlanta to Dublin, bus from Dublin airport to Heuston train station, train from Dublin to Waterford, taxi to Waterford Institute of Technology. Planes, trains, and  automobiles, check check check.

So it’s been a long odyssey but it all went very smoothly with minimal stress. Now I am in my room at WIT having made it to within 20 minutes of my “first night in Europe” assigned bedtime. (The rule is: NO NAPS.) I’m going to sleep very well tonight.

Just a few pictures from my journey. You will notice that I’m not actually in any of them, because “transatlantic flight” and “photo ready” are mutually exclusive.

Lucky shot on my way to my gate last night.

My ride to Dublin: Boeing 767-400.

Crossing Dublin on a gorgeous day.

Countryside scenery from the train.

Hello again, WIT!

Dorm Sweet Dorm

More and better blog content when students arrive Friday, if not sooner.

Ireland 2019: Packing time!

I’ll be traveling to Ireland tomorrow night to kick off this year’s European Council study abroad program there–students arrive June 14–so today is packing day! This year is my third on the program so I almost have the packing down to a routine, but of course every year is a little different. Signficant example: last summer was unusually warm (highs in the low 80s Fahrenheit) whereas temperatures this coming week are much more typically Irish (highs in the 60s). It looks like my program director persona “Dr. Laura Trenchcoat” will be at large in the Republic once again. I’m also taking along a few more books than usual since I have to write some syllabi this summer. No worries about coming in under the limit (50 pounds) but this year may not see a personal record for packing light. Here’s what I’ve got:

Suitcase and carry-on. Suitcase is 26″ x 19″ x 8″ and weighs about 6 lbs. empty. Backpack is . . . the size of a backpack?

Cross-body bag for daily carry once I get there.

Pants, long-sleeve shirts, and sweaters. I may have a little problem with stripes.

T-shirts, my WIT Vikings pullover, and the pencil skirt and leggings I plan to wear on the plane.

Exercise clothes and my travel yoga mat, which successfully passed the “But will I use it?” test last year.


Important odds and ends: washcloths (never provided in Europe), plug adapters (can’t have too many), mini tripod (handy), luggage scale and corkscrew (ways to make myself indispensable)

Carry-on toiletries–trying to keep it minimal but I’ll probably stick a mascara and lip gloss in there in the morning.

Electronics–this time it’s my phone that isn’t pictured because I was using it to take the pictures!

All you REALLY need is your passport and credit card. And BuJo. And €13 in change. And Duke.

Copies of my passport and credit cards ride in the suitcase to make replacement easier if anything gets lost.

Everything in except toiletries and my trench coat. As always, socks, underwear, and PJs are not pictured.

The research questions embedded in this year’s packing are:

  • I’m adding a Bluetooth speaker this year because I wish I had one every year. Will it pass the “But will I use it?” test?
  • I am not taking my “real” camera because I suspect it’s starting to die. Can I take 5 weeks’ worth of attractive and interesting pictures with an iPhone 6S? Here’s hoping.
  • Have I brought enough warm clothes? Probably.
  • And will I regret taking only sneakers? Proximate cause to buy shoes in Ireland, so no.

Shuttle to the airport at 5:00 tomorrow afternoon. Flight at 9:45, arriving in Dublin at 10:35 Tuesday morning. I’m excited!

Knights Impact 2019: San Juan, Puerto Rico

We had a super busy and successful day in San Juan yesterday. After two stops in tropical-looking ports surrounded by rural environments, it was surprising to pull into a major city! We were off the ship at 8:00 a.m. and used Uber to get over to Casa de Niños Manuel Fernández Juncos. Casa de Niños is a home for boys ages 8 to 18 who have had to leave their homes due to abuse or neglect. Apparently some of their family situations are so precarious that their parents are not allowed to know where they have been placed. It’s always sad when a child can’t be with his family but the 30 boys at Casa de Niños receive excellent care including counseling and a transition program when they turn 18. The facility is spacious, tranquil, and immaculate, and it was even a little more immaculate when we got finished with it. Lidia, who coordinates donations, met us at the front door with a to-do list and the students got right to work washing vans, repairing a cracked wall, raking leaves, and cleaning windows.

These students continue to impress me with their willingness to dive right in and contribute, even in unfamiliar surroundings and for the benefit of people they don’t know. We also had a chance to talk to some of the employees and learn a little more about how Casa de Niños operates, and everyone asked excellent questions.

After our morning of work we toured old San Juan and the two forts/castles that stand on the coast about a mile apart. San Cristobal is on the northern side of the peninsula and El Morro faces west. I took a group of 4 students and we started at San Cristobal, then walked up along the coast to El Morro and down through the town with a stop for empanadas back to the port. It was a lot of walking after our strenuous morning but we enjoyed it. As we were leaving El Morro we encountered Chris with the other 8 students. They had run into the governor of Puerto Rico and gotten a picture with him! We did not get so lucky but we did get a picture with an iguana.

San Cristobal from below–we had stopped at a sidewalk stand for smoothies and fruit salad.

Both forts fly the U.S. flag, the Puerto Rican flag, and the Spanish military flag.

The cylindrical structure on the right is called a garita; garitas are symbols of San Juan.

In front of El Morro is a huge lawn where people fly kites.

Our group inside El Morro

They met the governor!

We met an iguana!

We were all happy to get back on the ship at 3:30 and relax before dinner. It was a big day! Sailing in and out of San Juan is beautiful because you sail right past the 2 forts and the city skyline.

Bye, San Juan!

Now we are en route to Grand Turk, our last stop. Today will be an adventure day: one group is going ziplining and horseback riding and another group (including me) is going snorkeling. Stay tuned!

Knights Impact 2019: Sailing Away

Let’s cut to the chase: all the students were on time, we made good time on the drive down, everyone was good-humored about being wedged into a van, all the luggage actually fit in the van, the ship is delightful, the food is excellent, and I’m pretty sure everyone has already learned at least one thing. All in all an outstanding departure day!

We–12 students, 2 leaders–left Macon at 5:30 a.m. after Chris executed some heroic luggage Tetris to get everyone’s bags into the back of one van so that we were able to all ride together. These students and their family members are champions: most of them had had practically no sleep but managed to show up on campus by 4:45 to make sure we got away on time.

So awake-looking! So cheerful! Most of them slept through most of the ride down.

We took this photo to make sure we could reproduce the arrangement on the way back.

The drive was long (6+ hours) but not difficult. Check-in at Port Canaveral was hectic but only in the way that getting 5,000 people and their bags out of cars and onto a ship inevitably is. Our students showed good problem-solving and communication skills from the beginning: one spent an hour or so of the drive on the phone between her bank, her boyfriend, and her mother to locate a deposit that had mysteriously vanished from her account. She was unflappable, though she did say afterward that she’s probably going to change banks.

Once we got on the ship (around 1:30), things moved very fast: into our cabins, upstairs for lunch, over to a quick program meeting, and then off to muster drill. Muster drill is the cruise ship equivalent of an airline safety presentation, but everyone has to show up to their muster stations and they literally take attendance, so it doesn’t go nearly as fast. Most of us caught a quick nap between muster drill and dinner and showed up to dinner looking much more perky than we had been before. For the first time in my short life as a cruiser I slept through our actual departure from the port! (I have an excuse: I’d been up since 3:00.)

Our neighbors at Port Canaveral were a Disney ship and another Carnival ship (Elation).

Everyone on deck for the sail away party!

Waving to people on other boats is more fun than it should be.

Program meeting: downloading the Carnival Hub app and adding ourselves to a group chat, going over the rest of the day’s schedule, handing out some homework.

We are doing a door decorating contest and students are already hard at work.

Group dinner in the restaurant was great fun as everyone tried new food and got to know each other better. I think we’ve got an excellent team here and I can’t wait to see what happens over the coming week. Tomorrow is a sea day (my favorite!) so we’ll be doing some team-building and reflection activities as well as having a little time to recuperate between our travel day and our first service-learning day in the Dominican Republic on Monday.

Not bad. Not bad at all.

Knights Impact 2019: Packing!

Tomorrow morning at 5:00 a.m., my colleague Chris Tsavatewa and I will set out with 12 students en route to Port Canaveral to board Carnival Breeze for a week of service learning activities in the Eastern Caribbean. Our GroupMe has been buzzing all day with packing talk. As a packing aficionado I couldn’t wait to weigh in (hmm, pun intended?) on the topic. Other than 2 sea days (one at the beginning and one at the end) we will spend our days in port doing volunteer work at organizations like the Humane Society and Salvation Army, so we don’t have to be too dressed up, but we also need some nice clothes for “elegant night” dinners and maybe the odd bit of swimwear. Here’s what I came up with and what I did with it:

My suitcase: low-cost-carrier carry-on size. It has lived a good hard life since I bought it in Paris in 2015 for practically no money.

T-shirts ahoy! Not pictured: one pair of jeans, which I’ll wear on the drive down tomorrow.

This is the largest number of swim pieces I have ever owned. I highly recommend a rashguard top (long-sleeve swim top as pictured on the left) if you burn easily or are at all concerned about sun exposure.

2 dresses, 1 pair of linen pants, 1 pair of linen shorts. The linen is already wrinkled but I dont’t think the dogs at Humane Society will mind.

Everything in the suitcase including toiletries, flip-flops, pajamas, and a sweater. Now for carry-on items:

Electronics and chargers (add to this my Olympus E-PM1 camera, which isn’t in the picture because I used it to take the picture)

Wallet, passport, headphones, keys, spare lipgloss, Milou folder (you should distrust people who call him Snowy) with travel docs and program information in it, another folder with some homework, and a Royal Caribbean lanyard which Chris assures me is okay to take on a Carnival cruise.

I have to throw a few things into the suitcase in the morning but overall I’m ready. Watch for more posts this week as I visit 2 new territories, one new country, and return to the Dominican Republic for the first time since 2017. I am excited but I think the students are at least twice as excited as I am!

P.S. Wouldn’t have forgotten these but I almost forgot to give them a shout-out: Sea-Bands! Maybe it’s “just” the placebo effect but seriously: THEY WORK.