Alli Conrad Final Project

Posted on February 1st, 2014 by

Spirit of Ireland Essay

America is littered with fast food restaurants, discount super stores, and shopping malls.  Everywhere you turn you can see buildings and roadways under construction.  As Americans, we are obsessed with the newest technology and the cheapest deals.  This often comes with sacrificing expensive goods and products that are well worth it, as well as history, with cheap products and food and buildings that have no significance or memories.  In Ireland, their history, food, and goods are not replaced with the newest, most cost effective alternatives, therefore making everything here rich and beautiful.

The first thing that struck me about Ireland was the buildings and architecture.  A majority of the houses and cottages are made out of stone, preserving the traditional style of housing and using readily available resources.  No two houses look identical.  They all have bold, colored doors such as red or yellow and many have antique looking colored gates leading into the driveway.  The stores in Ireland, in both the small country towns and the big cities, are very old historical buildings.  No two stores look the same, and they all are very colorful and decorative with ornate signs and decorations, obviously extra effort put in by the storeowners and workers.  All of these stores, also, are individual stores that you enter from outside.  So far in Ireland I have only seen one shopping mall.  I have also not seen any road construction or construction of any kind, besides in one area where the storm hit.

Many of the stores we went to when visiting the cities were clothing stores.  None of these clothing stores were chain stores or had mass-produced clothing.  All of the clothing in these stores was either homemade or locally made specifically for that store.  A very common clothing item found in Ireland is the wool sweaters.  Being known for sheep, Ireland sells thick, warm wool sweaters.  I purchased one for myself and my mom, not worrying about the price because I know they were not thrown together quickly and cheaply, and would be well worth it.  What caught my eye more than the wool sweaters however, was some of the amazing dresses and shirts in these clothing stores.  The fabric some of these pieces of clothing were made out of was softer than anything I have ever felt, and had some of the most amazing structures and patterns to the piece.  One dress in particular caught my eye in a certain shop, and I kept going back to it every 2 minutes just to feel it.  It was difficult to tell myself I couldn’t buy it because I was not in Ireland to shop and I had already spent a lot of money so far on the trip.  Walking around in the city, I felt so underdressed because the clothing Europeans wear is so incredibly beautiful.  While shopping in one of these clothing stores, I thought to myself that I wished I could come to Ireland and check an empty suitcase at the airport, so I can buy things in Ireland and fill the empty suitcase with my purchases and send it back home.

In addition to the historical store buildings and houses, around almost every turn in Ireland there is a beautiful historical church or tower, some dating back to the 1500s.  Some of these include the Newtown Castle at the Burren College of Art, Yeat’s tower, and the abbey in Ennis, Ireland.  Although many of these churches and towers have lost their roofs or part of their structure and would be very easy to knock down to make room for more houses or businesses, these structures are kept, preserved, and renovated to preserve the history and beauty of Ireland.

Another thing very different from America and giving Ireland a good reputation is the food, especially the desserts.  The cities of Ireland are filled with pubs and restaurants, no two restaurants being the same, or a chain.  Only a few of these are fast food restaurants, the rest being locally owned with homemade food.  Any restaurant you enter will give you heaping portions, often accompanied by “chips”, or French fries, as Ireland is known for potatoes.  They are also very popular for their toasted ham and cheese sandwiches and Irish stew made with lamb.  The best meal I had was mac and cheese with chicken.  I have never once been disappointed by a meal in Ireland—proof that they are serious about their food.

Even better than the main courses, however, are the desserts.  The chocolate in Ireland is richer, and much tastier, making the chocolate cake, the chocolate ice cream, and the chocolate cookies ten times better than any I have ever had.  The ice cream is also creamier and richer, giving it a gelato or custard type texture.  Pairing a warm chocolate cake with a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream was my favorite thing to get for dessert.  Even when I was not hungry after a meal, I still wanted dessert, and was willing to pay more than I am used to for dessert because it is that good.

When cooking at the cottage, we often used butter, which is much creamier than the butter in America.  Simple things such as the cookies, the potato chips, and even the fruit were just tastier and richer than the food we are used to.  My roommates and I often found ourselves eating even when we weren’t hungry, just because the food is so good.

Unrelated to clothing, but also amazing, was a toy store some of us went into.  This store was filled top to bottom with amazing toys and learning tools for children.  Almost nothing in the store was made out of cheap plastic.  The majority of the toys were made out of wood, and were painted to show color and details.

Everything in Ireland is made and preserved to be historical, tasteful, and beautiful.  Although I miss and love America, I wish I could go home and be able to purchase some of the amazing things I came across in Ireland.


Personal Narrative Essay

Living in America, the world’s most free and prosperous country, almost everything is readily available and in abundance.  At home I enjoy endless amounts of food, television, wireless Internet (wifi), and heat among other things.  Because I have never had to go without these things for more than a few hours at a time, I take advantage of them and do not realize how lucky I am to have them all the time.

After class one day during our first week in Ballyvaughan, I hiked up the hill behind the college.  From the bottom of the hill until about halfway up the hill there was a walking trail.  Eventually, though, the trail stopped even though there was still a great amount of hill left to climb.  Although I am not usually a nature-outdoorsy person, I challenged myself to finish climbing to the top because I most likely would never get the chance to again.  Once I got to the top, I automatically pulled my phone out to check for messages since it had been about half an hour since I last checked it before remembering I did not have wifi and I did not have data because I was in a different country.  After taking pictures of the breathtaking view and thinking once again that I couldn’t believe I was actually in Ireland, I tried once again to use my phone and post these pictures to my various social media before I realized I would have to go back to the college or to Logue’s pub in order to do that.

After hiking back down the hill, I walked the long, cold walk back to my cottage in the rain, which started as soon as I reached the bottom of the hill.  I knew once I got back to my cottage, however, there was little chance of me warming up, unless I stood in the warm shower for the 5 minutes we were allotted.  Because of the energy costs in Ireland, we were only allowed to have the heaters set on timers, meaning they were not on all the time.  Since it was only around 40 degrees the whole month, the inside of the cottage was not much warmer than the outside of the cottage.  Being someone that is cold all the time and is used to the heat in her house and dorm room being 70 degrees or warmer, the cottages were a huge shock to me.  For more than half the trip I was very bitter about the fact that we were guests to their country and their college and they wouldn’t even allow us to control the heat.

Whenever we had downtime in our cottage I was constantly looking for something to do.  I read a few books, but eventually wanted television or movies to entertain me.  Although we had a television in our cottage, it did not work, and would have only had a few channels if it did work.  My only other choice was Netflix, which worked occasionally, but rarely since our wifi was very spotty and there were six people connected to it at once.

Almost everyday in Ireland I realized how much I take advantage of so many things in America.  I always have either wifi or data on my phone and can constantly be in contact with everyone.  I take advantage of the fact that I have a car and can drive anywhere I want no matter the weather conditions, instead of having to walk everywhere whether its sunny or raining or snowing.  I also take advantage of the fact that if I am outside where it’s cold or rainy, I will be able to go home and enjoy a warm shower for however long I want, and that when I get out of the shower my house will be warm and dry.  I can then sit on the couch and watch as much television or Netflix as I want, because those things are always accessible to me.  Many people, though, including myself, do not realize the accessibility of these things and just how lucky they are until they are taken away for a great period of time.

Although all of those things are great, I realized they are not the only things I take advantage of when I’m home.  Because I’ve lived in the same place my whole life, I assume I have seen everything around me and am not impressed by my surroundings anymore.  Just like the people in Ireland are probably used to their surroundings and probably do not find it as breathtaking as I do anymore, I would probably find Iowa less interesting than they would, because it is unfamiliar to them.  I never take spontaneous walks because I assume they will not be worth my time and I am too busy taking advantage of my wifi and my television.  There could be really beautiful places in Iowa that I have never seen before because I assume I have seen it all and there is nothing new for me to see.  When I get home I challenge myself to visit new places and take walks and look for the beauty in a place I have lived in my whole life.

Another thing I take advantage of is the diverse food options we have available in the states.  Because we have so many chain restaurants, I always find myself dining there instead of at unique, local restaurants that could be really good.  Being in Ireland for a month where there are no chain restaurants, I was forced to eat at new, different restaurants that I had never heard of before, and ended up eating some of the best food in the past month that I have ever had.  One night in Galway we ate at a pizza place called Venice that made the best pizza I had ever had in my life.  I would have never found that place if it had been in the states, because I would have chosen Dominos or Pizza Hut instead.  I also challenge myself when I get home to be more willing to try different food options, and to eat more dessert.

Because I have never had to go without these things for more than a few hours at a time, I take advantage of them and do not realize how lucky I am to have them all the time.  I also take advantage, though, of things around me and should be open to more new experiences.


Natural Landscape Photography

IMGP0048 IMGP0059 IMGP0099 IMGP0112 IMGP0255 IMGP0303 IMGP0321 IMG_3129



Urban Landscape Photography

IMG_2995 IMG_3096 IMGP0210 IMGP0320 IMGP0364 IMGP0430 IMGP0467 IMGP0469


Comments are closed.