Wa-Hi graduate and Whitman College women's basketball guard Anna Forge went on the USA Athletes International (USAAI) Irish Roots Tour playing basketball across Ireland from May 31 to Thursday. Forge kept a journal of her experiences in a blog. Selected portions of that blog follow, and the full blog can be found at http://irishrootsbasketball.tumblr.com/ . Future entries will complete her adventure.
Our arrival into Dublin was uneventful, for the most part. Usually you expect to hear horror stories about international travel, but our team luckily escaped any and all shenanigans.
It all began at 4 a.m. for me on May 31, a Tuesday morning in Seattle. Three of my teammates for USAAI would also be flying out of Seattle to get to Newark, N.J., where we would meet the rest of our team. Kelsey McKinnis, Jocelyn Riordan, Lindsay Layland (all University of Puget Sound players) and myself sat together on the flight from Seattle to Newark. We slept most of the way, and there were no small children on our flight. Score.
We arrived in Newark approximately four hours before our flight to Dublin. After getting a bite for lunch, we walked around the airport checking out the shops and talking anxiously about getting to Ireland. Our excitement was obvious; most passersby who saw us talking so animatedly gave us a smile and a nod, as if to say they knew we were about to embark on an experience of a lifetime.
Dublin, Day 1
Set for the day's agenda was a quick check-in to the hotel, shower, then a bus ride to downtown Dublin, food and drink (for those wishing to do so), followed by a "Hop-on Hop-off" city bus tour, back to the hotel, dinner, then bed.
Our shower woke most of us up, and for the most part we were refreshed enough to be able to muster some excitement for the bus tour; we all decided that the motto for the trip would be, "You only live once!" and that we could take none of the things planned for us for granted.
Before getting on the bus tour, we walked around the pedestrian-only side streets of downtown Dublin for about an hour and had some lunch.
I convinced some of the team to have a Guinness with me, and we found Dublin's Smallest Pub, a well-known tourist attraction within the city, in which to do so!
Down some red velvet spiral stairs, we found ourselves in a well-lit, traditionally decorated pub that was, in fact, the smallest bar I'd ever been in.
They had a food menu, as well, so we bought some Guinness and sandwiches or soup and had a great time chatting up the bartender about the Irish culture and language. We learned the following things:
1. How are yeh's? is an everyday Irish greeting. Acceptable responses include grand, deadly buzz (really great), great, fine thanks, or shite.
2. The drinking age is 18, but most start much earlier in their teens.
3. Many Irish don't actually like Guinness, but prefer lighter beers. Most bars in Ireland have Budweiser on tap - even the non-touristy ones.
4. Almost everyone smokes cigarettes. Everywhere. All the time. The bartender didn't know why.
Dublin, Day 2
Day 2 began in a rush. Janice, my roommate, had smartly brought an alarm clock for us to use, but we had un-smartly set the clock itself for the wrong time before we went to bed - obviously being up for 30-plus hours is unhealthy for a reason - and in turn our alarm for waking up did not happen at the right time. The clock said 7:20 a.m. We were to have eaten breakfast and ready by 8:25. I was just about to get up and take a shower when the phone rang. It was (program coordinator) Q.
"Hey, are you guys coming, or what?"
"Q, it's only 7:20! Are you crazy?"
"No, uh, actually... it's 8:20. You guys got about a minute to get down here."
"Oh. Well. We'll be down in a minute, then."
Chaos ensued. I roughly woke Janice, rushed an explanation out of my mouth that I'm sure made no sense at all while simultaneously trying to get dressed and brush my teeth. In the end we made it, but we almost missed the bus with the team all because we were too delirious to do the correct math for the time change. Super embarrassing...
We stayed mostly in groups of three to five, some of us doing the bus tour again while others stayed on foot. Kelsey, Jocelyn, Lindsay, Ashley and I hopped back on the bus and picked out a few stops we missed the day before, during our nap. We went to the Dublin Castle, Dublin City Hall, Christ Church Cathedral and Kilmainham Jail...
It was game day! We were to take on the Oblate Doubling Dynamos, a club team made up various-aged women. It was a physical game. In the beginning we struggled, as we'd never been on the court with each other before...
Apparently the Irish love the NBA and watch it as often as possible, and it shows. Travel calls on their side were sparse, yet our feet seemed to be a little too happy.
In the end we gutted out a win, 70-63. The Dynamos had made us some post-game sandwiches, so we hung around with them for about 20 minutes after the game, eating and chatting with each other. Cole slaw, ham and cheese on wheat or ham and butter on white. They also made us "biscuits" (cookies) and brought us some soda. How nice of them!
So far the experience has been amazing. Our days are full, but we're savoring every experience and doing our best to document all of it with photos.
Cork, Day 3
Now that I'm all caught up with the events that have unfolded - finding time and energy to sit down and write has been a struggle - I can give a present-tense account recap of today's fun. Think: Irish whiskey, beautiful weather, a good night's sleep, and a win under our belt. We are feelin' good today!
After a two-and-a-half-hour drive through the countryside, we arrive in Cork. We check into the hotel after Q makes only minor driving errors. He's become the team joke because of his lack of navigation skills and inability to stay on the left side of the road. Poor guy! He takes it well, though. Anyway - hotel, done; let's go to the Jameson distillery! Let's take a tour and get a free drink! Sounds like a blast, right? It was.
Cork, Day 4
First of all, last night was a blur of awesome. We decided since we hadn't been out to an Irish pub yet that it was about time to experience that aspect of this amazing country. Out we went! We took a cab to the city center and walked around for a few minutes before ducking into a pub that was blasting AC/DC - obvious choice.
After we got a few rounds of drinks and were less worried about socializing with the jovial Irish people all around us, we met a group of fellows who were intent on going to a dance club. Shockingly, we ended up going with them and spent the rest of the night dancing our little patooties off. The music was amazing, the people were so fun and friendly, and we all were so excited to be out with one another that there was nothing that could bring us down. What a blast...
Limerick, Day 5
I did not even know that flying boats existed before we came to this museum! First of all, I think they should use them still today, because they look way more comfortable than current airplanes.
Flying boats were surpassed in efficiency once the Second World War started, as the Germans pioneered extremely fast and powerful aircrafts that inspired many passenger planes today. Extremely large and luxurious, a trans-Atlantic flight on a flying boat would cost approximately $400,000. Ridiculous. We learned a lot of cool fun facts about flying boats at the museum, located in Floynes, a small town outside of Limerick. The museum is located on the actual site of takeoff and landing of the flying boats right on the River Shannon, Ireland's largest river.
Floynes, and the airport, is also the town in which Irish coffee was invented! In addition, we happened to be in the town during its annual Irish Coffee Festival. How lucky are we?! We even got a tutorial from a professional; David is one of the contestants for the "Best Irish Coffee in Ireland" contest, and he taught us all the tricks of the trade. A traditional Irish coffee contains Powers Irish whiskey, a teaspoon of brown sugar, freshly brewed coffee topped with heavy whipping cream. Having an Irish coffee was the perfect way to end our museum tour; plus, it was free!...
We have a game tomorrow! Against the University of Limerick! I can't wait!
Limerick, Day 6
Today we went to Bunratty Castle, a fully restored and furnished castle about 15 minutes outside of Limerick. Blarney Castle was really cool, too, but this one was furnished with a lot of its original pieces and the rooms were still intact, plus the village surrounding it has been restored. From a super touristy standpoint, I really enjoyed having the castle's historical context represented. But that's just the nerd in me...
After a healthy "toastie" (toasted sandwich), we donned our uniforms and struck out for UL. We only took two wrong turns this time, so we got to the gym a little early!
We played a much tighter game against UL than we did against the Dynamos. We'd gotten all the first-game jitters out of the way and started vibing on each others' strengths, which was really great! Kelsey drained a bunch of 3s, Lindsay and I cleaned up the boards, Brittany attacked the rim like a champ; I'm pretty sure everyone scored.
We found out some good-to-know facts about Irish refereeing, as well. For example, "over-the-back" fouls don't exist. For that to be called a foul, the fouler must be completely on the foulee's back, feet off the ground. This was a new feeling for most of us. Very lenient, Irish refs...
To celebrate our win, the team went out dancing after dinner at a club called Icon. Despite the fact that it was a Monday night, there were plenty of people tearing it up on the dance floor. A few of us - myself included - went home around 2 a.m. while others shut the place down. All-in-all, it was the perfect ending to a perfect day in Limerick.
Tomorrow we're headed back to Dublin for our last two nights in Ireland. With back-to-back games and lots of plans for site-seeing, it'll be a jam-packed last 72 hours. I can't wait!