The Gifts of Mindfulness, Perspective and Science

Three weeks ago, I spent a weekend alone in Portugal. Following, I visited Amsterdam (S/O to my good friend for his extra ticket) and hiked Croagh Patrick on the Northwest coast of Ireland. All the while, I also always found time to enjoy Cork. As I wrote about in my last post, each place was completely different, yet there are undoubtedly common threads connecting each. Specifically, during the past few weeks, I have been considering three recurring themes: mindfulness, perspective and science.

Portugal was supposed to be a trip oriented around hiking the Algarve Coast and enjoying their famous beaches. Because it was a solo trip, I also intended for it to be an opportunity to grow in my social skills. Though it was incredible to spend time outside in 85 degree weather, and socializing with strangers became significantly easier, the highlights of the trip ended up being far more complicated than originally intended.

I ended the weekend fascinated by the ways the cliffs had evolved, disturbed by the coast’s dark history in the slave trade and contemplative about the best way to travel (literally through different counties, and figuratively through life).

In case geology is of any interest to you, the horizontal lines arose from the the the minerals in the water interacting with the limestone as the current dragged.
Ugh, I just love staring at the indents and caves created from the crashing sea! An amazing 15 mile hike, I’d say!
Who knew that Lagos was one of the first slave trading ports in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade? Henry the Great from the age of conquest sits in the middle of Lagos. His presence and the way he is still honored in this city added a dark, ominous shadow.
The stunning water transforms when you realize it was through this same body that people were dragged unwillingly to live an enslaved life, separated from their loved ones.

One of the most poignant moments in Portugal happened as I socialized with a New Zealander (named Eliot) who had hitchhiked Afghanistan-Iran-Georgia-across Northern continental Europe-down Western Europe to Portugal. Not only did he avoid public transportation, but he also only stayed in a hostel for two nights during his year of travels. His stories were incredible, and his social skills were impeccable. What fascinated me the most though was the idea of him drifting from country to country without a set plan of when he would arrive to the next destination, how long he would stay or what he would during his time there. Moreover, the fact that it was all dependent on human connection and relationships was even more enticing. When I asked him what was next and he replied: “I have no idea. New Zealand has nothing for me, so I’m just waiting for something to fall into place”. Never had I met a 28 year old more content with not having a long-term plan!

This conversation triggered a broader philosophical dialogue in my head. One that considers the rhythms of connecting with people, new cities and environments. How could I connect more deeply with each? What knowledge do I need to gain? What personal and/or societal norms limit the depth of my connections?

Mindfulness, perspective and science consumed my mind as I tackled these questions. I’ve come to understand that it is through mindfulness that we are able to understand our innermost emotions – what distracts us day to day. Mindfulness reveals the ways that we limit ourselves because of societal norms. It reveals the emotional pains that preoccupy our mind. Perspective allows us to dissect these emotions by pushing us to consider them more broadly. It gives an individual moment context marked by history and its connection with the modern world. It further reiterates the ways we are interconnected with countries near and far. And then there is science. A discipline that has incited fear in me for over a decade is ironically what consumes my mind the most nowadays. Evolution, hydrology, ecology, geography, geology, astronomy, the anatomy of the body, the psychology of the brain – science provides tangible knowledge about the connections we make in a way that allows us to understand them better.

Stop to smell the flowers!
From a taxidermy art exhibit in Amsterdam- disturbing, yet it makes you think doesn’t it?
Just consider it…
Coragh Patrick – the mountain some consider to be the Irish Pilgrimage. On St. Patrick’s day, people climb this barefoot or on their hands and knees. All I’m saying is…. the climb was challenging in hiking boots….
My attempt to capture the steepness of the worst part of the climb! Now imagine doing that barefoot or on your hands and knees…..
Between the views and the simple church, I swear the top was capable of making an atheist consider religion.
Saint Patrick’s bed where offerings are made at the top of the hike… also where I made my first offering to a Saint 🙂

Spending days considering connection is a funny thing. My whole life has been oriented around getting better and moving up in society. Though I have never had a long term plan per se, due to social pressures, I have certainly drafted ideas about what I would like my life to become in the future. I am certainly not ready to scratch those ideas, yet these moments of connection truly do push me to consider what living a more horizontal life oriented around connection would look like long-term. How will it shape my life on an upward-onward college campus? How will it fit and/or transform my career aspirations?

I still have 7 more months abroad. I am satisfied realizing the ways the best side of me from home reveals itself here, overseas. I am enlivened when I gain new insights here, and am excited thinking about the ways my expanded mind will continue to evolve as I travel more and once I return home.

Some Banksy anti-consumerism artwork seems fitting right about now!
As well as some very politically charged Banksy work!

Not mentioned in this post up until now: the scabies infestation I brought back to Cork from a hostel, as well as the many memorable days wandering Cork City and nights lounging in a pub with live music. Fear not though, pictures are below, as well as more pictures from my travels!

S/O to my roommates who did not complain once about having to wash everything they own or about having to sit in scabies ointment for 12 hours!

From Jazz Fest weekend in Cork! Goooood vibessssss!

Just in case you would like to experience more Jazz Fest!

Will 100% miss these Sunday nights!

A secret cave with a rope attached…. cooooooooooooooooolllllll.


Aloe lines the beaches of Portugal! Sad part is that even the aloe is having a difficult time surviving right now because of Portugal’s extreme drought.
The berries that are used to produce Lagos’ infamous 65% proof vodka., Fire Water!
Once again, just consider it!
Disturbing, yet utterly intriguing… am I right?
If you’re anything like me, there is nothing quite as compelling as a politically charged Banksy!
Are you compelled yet?
When you stumble upon a houseboat filled with cats that’s actually a cat sanctuary…. ok Amsterdam!
Joe and Brooke weren’t nearly as amused by the ~innovative~ shoe store I dragged them into… but seriously… if only you could see how incredible these 600 euro shoes were!
Ugh, Ireland!!!!!!
Sunset in Donegal… Ireland is truly a beaut!

It’s a Charming Life!

University College of Cork

I arrived in Cork last week, and am very happy! In the midst of settling in, I have been moved by how charming this small city truly is. The history and  new lifestyle could not be more exciting to me; here are my four highlights:

  1. Small shops and markets line the streets here. Plus, all of the food is fresh and nutritious. This lifestyle would surely be luxurious in the US, but is completely normal here. Not to mention, street performers sit on every corner… and they’re actually good! Needless to say, I think I’ll stay!
  2. The police (called The Garda) are unarmed here! The Irish people have their fun shaming the American police system. Learning this kicked off my mission to better understand race relations with a more global perspective.
  3. Pubs are fun and also very charming (as I’m sure you can imagine). A couple fun facts: One pint of the local brew equates to a loaf of bread! Also apparently it’s slightly appalling to locals when women drink pints. Due to this norm, when the Obamas visited, they handed Barrack a pint, but Michelle a glass. Do I conform to gender norms orrrrrrr……
  4. Learning about Ireland’s history has been key to truly valuing my new home. The massive cathedrals in town are not only beautiful, but give insight to the religious feuds that have shaped Irish history and their modern day politics. The frequent rain and grey skies have also become significantly less annoying now that I understand the same rain and cool weather shaped the agriculture practices that led to the potato famine. I’ll spare you history lectures; however, I am simply captivated by the ways that history  is braided into everyday life here!

Pics are below with captions. Stay tuned; I plan to travel around Ireland to learn more about its history and politics over the next couple weeks. Cheers!

Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral: The Protestant Cathedral in the city. Spark note version of my Irish History class: the Protestants were responsible for the oppression of the the Irish Catholic during the 17th and 18th century. Today there are very few Protestants left in Ireland… most fled when the British left and they couldn’t find worthy spouses!

The River Lee: this river runs through Cork and is surrounded by small shops and markets. I’ve been advised NOT to swim in the river, but it is very tempting! FUN FACT: the river runs UNDERNEATH the city!