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Immersed in Culture

By Sally Keckeisen, Dublin

One of the first things study abroad students did when they got to DCU was go to Causey Farm in County Meath. We didn’t really know what to expect when we got there, but once we were there we were immersed in cultural activities. My friends and I laughed the entire day and learned so much about Irish culture.

 Amanda and I with our brown soda bread pre-bake.


When we first arrived at Causey farm, we were all told to wash our hands. Once we did this, we grabbed an apron and learned how to make brown soda bread. Brown soda bread is super common in Ireland and is really simple to make (ingredients listed below). The woman that led us around was named Debbie and she was a wonderful hostess.

Ingredients:

1 heaping cup of white flour

½ cup of brown/wheat flower

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda (make sure there are no chunks in it)

1 egg

¾ cup buttermilk

After we made our bread, the Causey Farm staff took our bread and while it was cooking we continued with our tour.

Next stop: hurley lessons. To be honest, I’d never even heard of hurley before I came to Ireland. The basic equipment of hurley includes a helmet, a small (but heavy) white ball, and a hurley stick. You look pretty b.a. when you have all of it on – and you feel ready to take on the world, but it’s harder than it looks. Our instructor took taught us how to pass long and short, and how to pick up the hurley ball. As someone who plays hurley often, he must have gotten a kick out of all of the foreigners trying to do what he’d been doing from adolescence.

     
 I told you all the equipment made
you look b.a., because quite frankly,
I'm not a very intimidating
looking person lately

 

The helmets made us veryyyyyy attractive

By the time hurley was over, all of us were pretty cold. My favorite part of the day came next. We learned the basics of the Irish jig. What was so fun about this part of the day was that no one and I mean no one, knew what he or she were doing. So we got to laugh and stumble and learn the fundamentals of Irish dance together.

After the Irish dancing portion, we took a hayride down to a bog. I thought a bog was just a wetland that had semi-dried up. Really, just a heap of mud – but I was so wrong. Apparently, bogs are really important. They are decomposed plant matter, basically a big compost station that has been there for thousands of years. Back in the day, families would cut the bog, dry it, and burn it instead of wood. That is what would keep their families warm. Also, bogs are generally about 4 degrees celsius – so families would also use them as a refrigerator. Debbie told us that lots and lots of bog butter have been found over the years. She then asked if anyone would like to take off their shoes and go in… it was really cold so no one wanted to… but of course us Americans thought “hey, why not?” and it ended up being really fun. When she asked, all I could think about is my cousin Mallory and something she said to me right before I left. She said, “Sally, while you’re over there, if there’s ever a question of whether or not to do it, do it. You’re not going to get this opportunity again.” I’m really glad I took her advice.

     
 My boots were bogs and I just
played in the bog... well... barefoot
 Erin, Bri and I playing in the bog

Later in the day we saw cute sheep and learned how to play an Irish drum – I think that part would have been a little more enjoyable had our hands not been so cold, but nonetheless, it was a learning experience.
 The baby sheep were so, so cute.

Our day ended with our group eating the brown soda bread we had made earlier that day and drinking tea. Our day started with food and laughter, and ended just the same.

 Amanda and I with our brown soda bread post-bake


Sally Keckeisen is the Spring 2015 MOJO Blogger in Dublin, Ireland.  She is currently a sophomore at the University of Northwestern - St. Paul.

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