Sunday, June 13, 2010

Day 16: Last Day in Northern Ireland

We began our last day in Northern Ireland when we left at 9:45am. It didn’t seem like it would be too busy of a day, but you never know. Luckily, I was able to pack almost all my stuff last night. For some reason, it seems like I have less stuff leaving than I had coming here.

The first stop of the day was at the Saint Patrick’s Centre to meet with Margaret Richie who is a Member of Parliament (MP) for the SDLP. Margaret told us a little bit about what the SDLP stands for, which includes the reconciliation efforts that the Saint Patrick Centre is interested in. She is a very nice woman and had some really interesting things to say. I really enjoyed meeting Margaret and hearing her perspective.

(Viking Ship ready for us in the water)

After our meeting with Margaret Richie, we headed to Strangford Loch to set sea in the Viking ship. We had to row the Viking ship, which was kind of difficult, but I enjoyed it. Not everyone could row because they didn’t know how and this wasn’t the easiest place to learn. I was pretty good because I’ve rowed boats before at my cabin in northern Wisconsin, so it wasn’t a problem for me. We didn’t stay out too long, but when we got back, we had a bit of a problem because it was high tide and the shore that we had used to get to the boat was now covered in water. Even the pier was surrounded in water. We got to the pier and all got off and then the men that owned the ship gave us piggyback rides to what was left of the shore. It was hilarious, especially when even Tim got a piggyback ride. Then half of the group left to go cliff jumping. I chose not to go because it was extra money, meant I wouldn’t eat lunch, it was raining, and it would involve jumping into the freezing sea. Instead, the group that stayed back went and had a barbeque in a nearby shack. It was quite interesting because it was pretty rundown and there wasn’t much space, plus it was raining, but we made it work.

(Tim and me at the farewell gathering)

Following our Viking ship excursion and barbeque, we headed back to the Saint Patrick Centre for the others to return. When they returned, we had a farewell gathering. Several of the people we had seen throughout the two weeks were there. We were each given certificates and were given a chance to say a few words about the experience. It was great that we started at the Centre with a barbeque and ended at the Centre. Then we headed home and had our last dinner in Northern Ireland, which was Fish and Chips. Then we finished packing and now it’s about time for bed because we have to leave the cottages at 7:45am tomorrow for Belfast International.

Goodnight for the last time from Northern Ireland!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Day 15: Castle Ward, Inch of Abbey, and Belfast

We didn’t have to leave our cottages until 10:45am today, so we got the chance to sleep in. Personally, this was great because I needed to catch up on some sleep. We had a little bit more relaxed day in general. By relaxed, I mean that we still went several places, but we weren’t as rushed and it didn’t seem like we were on the go as much.

Our first stop for the day was Castle Ward. This is a castle that was owned by the Ward family. The unique thing about this castle is that the front and back of the exterior and interior have different themes. The front of the house is more traditional while the back of the house was more modern for the time. This was because Mr. Ward wanted a traditional home while Mrs. Ward was into the modern theme. It’s quite interesting to see the differing themes. While at the castle, we had a guided tour and we were able to learn about each of the rooms. It was really nice to see each of the rooms setup as if we were in the house during that time period. We also got to go outside and see the view of the sea and the grounds of the castle.

(Front and Back of Castle Ward)

After our stop at Castle Ward, we stopped at the Inch of Abbey. This was the site of an old church. There was actually a guide dressed as a monk that was able to tell a little history about the church and show us different portions. It was difficult to differentiate the different parts of the church because it has fallen apart so much. The view at Inch of Abbey was gorgeous because it looked on at the sea, so I can only imagine how it would look had the church been intact.

(Inch of Abbey)

Then we headed to the Saint Patrick Centre for a bite to eat and then we left for Belfast. We took a quick tour of the city again, but this time it was mainly to see the murals that are around the city. Most of the murals are in regards to the troubles and therefore relate to politics and religion. Other murals are about social issues. It was very interesting to see how Belfast is divided in an effort to keep Catholics and Protestants separate which was to try to discourage outbreaks of fighting. While in Belfast we also spent a little time shopping, but we didn’t have much time, so I didn’t get much of anything.

(Murals in Belfast)

Our last stop for the night was at a pub in Downpatrick called Denvir’s. We went there to have dinner and watch the USA vs. England World Cup game. Before we had left the Saint Patrick Centre after lunch, we had each drawn two teams for a tournament amongst ourselves. Ironically, I drew England and Honduras. Technically, I was supposed to be cheering for England, but how could I? It was a lot of fun at the pub because most of the Irish were cheering for the US because they don’t like England. Our group was pretty spirited throughout the whole thing because we sang the national anthem quite loud at the beginning and chanted “USA… USA… USA…” from time to time. The other people in the pub really thought we were funny. Most of us didn’t stay the whole time because we wanted to get home and start packing a bit, so here I sit. I suppose now that this blog is written I will go start packing. By the way, I will have internet for our last day because we got passwords for the internet again!


Friday, June 11, 2010

Day 14: Final Day at Downe Hospital and Bracken

Today was my last day at Downe Hospital and this time I was placed in the Maternity ward. I was placed with the receptionist named Sandra. The Downe Hospital only has midwives on staff, so they only handle births that will not present complications. If there is any doubt with a pregnancy, then the expecting mom is sent to Lagan Valley or the Ulster Hospital to deliver. The Maternity ward of the hospital is quite unique from other parts of the hospital because it does not use the waiting list like other areas. Also, I found it interesting that the expecting moms are given their medical notes and they are supposed to keep them with them at all times in case something were to happen. They also are responsible for bringing them to the hospital.

(Finally a picture of the Downe Hospital)

When I arrived, Sandra informed me that unfortunately, Fridays tend to be slow and there were only four patients scheduled all day. Soon after she said this, two patients called to cancel their appointments. While Sandra felt bad that I wouldn’t get to see much, she still was able to show me how to do a lot of different tasks, and I really enjoyed my time there. Sandra taught me how to schedule appointments, which is different from other parts of the hospital. We had to send a letter and a bunch of educational materials out to patients, so we also did that. Additionally, she walked me through each of the tasks she would do each day had there been more patients being seen. I was also given a tour of the birthing suits by one of the midwives and even sat in on one of the appointments where a patient needed blood work done because of a low iron count.

After leaving the hospital, I headed home for a bit and then we were picked up to head to the Saint Patrick Centre to hear one of the bands that the Ulster-Scots is sending to Milwaukee Irish Fest. The band was called Bracken and was mostly made of members in their teens. They had only been practicing for a month, but they were great. One of the girls in the group is only 15 and she is the World Champion for Irish Dancing. Let me tell you, she can dance! I’m really looking forward to seeing Bracken at Milwaukee Irish Fest this year!

(Bracken playing us a private concert)

Shortly after hearing the band’s private concert, we headed to a pub in Downpatrick and had a pint. We mainly just hung out with Tim and talked for a while. It was nice to just chat and not be on the go somewhere. We got back a little while ago, so I’ve been writing my blog and by now, I’m exhausted. The internet passwords we have expire tomorrow, so this might be my last blog post before returning to the US if we can’t get new passwords. We’ll see what happens though.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Day 13: Stormont Castle and Dublin

The day began at 9am when the bus picked us up to head to Stormont Castle. We were headed there for a 10:30am meeting with the Deputy First Minister and First Minister. When we arrived at Stormont Castle, we were a few minutes early, so we got a tour of part of the castle. Then, the Deputy First Minister and First Minister arrived and we sat at the executive table with them and spoke a little bit about the history of Northern Ireland and then we each spoke about our placements.

(Entrance to Stormont Castle)

After our meeting with the Deputy First Minister and First Minister, we headed to Dublin. We were supposed to meet with the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland when we arrived. We got to the U.S. Embassy and found out that the ambassador was busy and wouldn’t be able to speak with us. Instead, we spoke with one of the political officers named Bryan. Bryan spoke a little bit about what the officers do, how to become one, and how U.S. Embassies function around the world. Even though we were looking forward to meeting the U.S. Ambassador, it was still nice to meet with Bryan because what he said was very interesting.

After our visit to the U.S. Embassy, we got to do a little shopping in Dublin. First, since we hadn’t eaten lunch, we stopped at a place called Porterhouse and had burgers, chips (French fries), and a pint. The burgers were huge and they were delicious. Then we went and hit the streets for a short shopping excursion. I didn’t get much, but I got a few things for myself and a few gifts for others. It’s really expensive in Dublin, and there were definitely things that I would have liked to buy, but I couldn’t justify spending so much money.

On the way home from Dublin, our bus driver drove through the Mourne Mountains. The views were great and I took a few pictures even though I was behind the window in the bus. It’s funny because once you’re in the mountains, they don’t seem like they’d be that difficult to climb. We were also pretty surprised to see the number of people that have houses in the mountains. I don’t blame them though because the view is gorgeous.

(View of the Mourne Mountains from the bus)

Our day ended with a talk with one of the members of the Sin Feinn party. We met Eamon who told us a little bit about the history of the Sin Feinn party. This party believes in uniting the Republic of Ireland with Northern Ireland. It was interesting to hear his perspective. Eamon also told us his story about how he had been in jail for 9 years. He told us about the terrible conditions in the jail. At times he told a few more details than we wanted to hear, but it was still interesting. Well, that concludes of busy day at Stormont Castle and in Dublin.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Day 12: Dublin

We begin our day a little early by leaving at 8am to head to Dublin. Most of us slept on the way there to make up for lost sleep from getting up early. When we arrived, we met a man named Finton. Finton is from Dublin, but teaches Gaelic in the US in Minnesota. Annie and Ryan had actually taken a few of his Gaelic classes. Finton gave us a short tour of the city and then we went to the visitor’s station. Upon arriving there, we got tickets for one of the “Hop on, hop off Dublin Tour Buses.”

(Saint Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin)

The first place we hopped off was at the National Cathedral and Collegiate Church of Saint Patrick. This claims to be the burial location for Saint Patrick, but we know that, that is not true and it’s really in Downpatrick. While there, we took a look around at the different stained glass windows and statues. We also visited the gift shop and I got a small gift for someone. I didn’t have any Euros with me yet, but they actually took US Dollars. Then one of the volunteer tour guides approached us and asked if we’d like a tour of the parts that are closed off to the public and only available for small groups. We said that we would love to, so we toured where some of the knights and choir sat. When the tour guide asked us why we were there, we explained and he even acknowledged that Downpatrick was the location of the real burial of Saint Patrick.

(Inside the Kilmanham jail, showing how a prisoner could be watched at all times)

After the cathedral, we hopped back on the bus and headed to see the Kilmanham Jail. We went on a tour of the jail and learned a little bit about the politics that resulted in several of the imprisonments and death sentences. We also learned that the last prisoner to be released from the jail went on to be the President of the Republic of Ireland. It was very interesting to see the old cells and how the jail had been built to make it feel like the prisoners were being watched at all times.

Following our tour of the jail, we hopped back on the bus and finished our bus tour of Dublin. We had a few spare minutes before our 4pm meeting, so we stopped and did a quick tour of Trinity College. Finton had graduated from there, so he was able to share a few things about each of the buildings. Then it was about 4pm and we headed to the Irish Parliament House to meet with the Minister of Social Development. We spoke with the Minister for a little while and then were given a tour of the Parliament House and were able to see the two chambers.

(One of the buildings at Trinity College)

After our tour of the Irish Parliament House, we headed back to the bus, but first we stopped to get a quick bite to eat. We drove back to Dundrum and changed into different clothes since we had been in our khakis and polos and then we headed to laughter therapy. We met a retired psychologist named Stan, and he gave us Indian food and spoke a little about the therapy that he provides. Then we played a few instruments and then did our laughter therapy, which basically consisted of lying on the floor and just laughing. It sounds kind of bizarre, and it was a little, but it was mainly for relaxation. Well, that’s all for today, until next time!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Day 11: Downe Hospital and Band Practice

Today I had to arrive at the hospital a little early because I was going to a meeting with some of the administrators. When I got to the hospital at 8:45am, I met Valerie, who is the Secretarial Manager. We then took a taxi to Lagan Valley Hospital, which is about a 45-minute taxi ride. Upon arrival, we met up with Karen, who is the person I met the first day. We also met up with a few other managers from the Lagan Valley hospital, and I got to meet Norma, who is the person who runs both Downe and Lagan Valley Hospitals.

The meeting was basically a time to meet with the boss, Norma and go over any issues that are occurring at the hospital. There didn’t seem to be many issues at all. Honestly, I spent most of the time just listening and thinking to myself that this could have been done over the phone. I think it would have been a better use of time and it would have saved money. Maybe there is a reason that it is held in person, but it seemed quite far to drive. It was nice to be included though, because it was a good way to break up my day.

Afterwards, we headed back to the hospital and I went to sit with the Ward Clerk in Ward 2 named Kris. When I arrived, Kris had just gone on his lunch break, so I did the same. After lunch, we ran a few errands throughout the hospital. We returned to the desk to find the nurses all meeting, so Kris showed me the other office and had me prepare admission packets. I did that for about an hour and then headed back to the desk. There I admitted and discharged a few patients, which also didn’t take long. Other than that, I didn’t do much. Kris was asking me a lot of questions about the U.S. Otherwise, he told me to go on the internet, so I went on and we talked about the oil spill and a few other things. Because there wasn’t much to do in the ward, I headed home around 4pm, but had to wait for the 5pm bus. While waiting, I headed to Subway and got their sub of the day, which was a meatball sub.

We arrived home and relaxed for about an hour and then we went to see a band through the Ulster-Scots. It was a flute band and there were drums too. It was pretty cool to hear and see them practice. We even got to hear a few songs that we recognized. Tomorrow will be a busy day because we’re headed to Dublin, so it’s time for bed.

(One of the drums the band plays)


P.S. Happy 21st Birthday Katy! (For those who don’t know, she’s my best friend!)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Day 10: Downe Hospital

The final countdown has begun for days I will be at Downe Hospital. After today, we will only be going to our placements for two more days because we will be headed to Belfast and Dublin two of the other days. This week at the hospital will be a little different because each day I will be in a different location. Today, I was stationed in Ward 3. Wards are where the patient rooms are. There are three main medical wards, and there are also wards for cardiac patients and day surgery patients. Each ward was set up to be divided into women, men, and elderly patients, but that is no longer the case. Ward 3 was supposed to be for women, so all the bay rooms (which are rooms with 4 beds in them) are only for women, but the individual rooms are for women or men.

When I got there, I met Alison who was the Ward Clerk for the ward and was the person I would be working with for the day. Immediately when I arrived Alison warned me that the ward may be a bit different today. On Friday morning, the hospital had found out that fifteen beds in one of the wards were going to be closed off. This was only days after hearing that twenty-five beds would be closed off in the mental health division. I should also mention that one of the wards in the hospital never actually opened and is just a bunch of empty rooms. Alison then told me that they had just found out this morning that they were going to close the entirety of Ward 3. This means that all those staff members are either going to be transferred or out of a job. She then went on to explain that Ward 3 was the only ward that consistently met or exceeded the standards for safety set by the government. The other wards didn’t meet these standards as consistently because of internal coding errors. I asked why they would close the best functioning ward and was told that it was simply because of numbers. Ward 3 is the smallest ward and it has a total of fifteen beds. Since fifteen was the magic number, it made sense to close an entire ward rather than portions of other wards. There will be negative implications for these cuts because this will likely cause the waiting list period to grow past the nine weeks where it currently stands.

Although there was bad news in Ward 3, I was still learned a few things when in the ward. The Ward Clerk is the person who works at the desk that is by the patient rooms. He/She is responsible for preparing charts for the doctors and making sure everything is there, such as enough papers to take notes on. I also got to learn how to admit and discharge patient’s from the hospital. This was very interesting because there are a lot of codes that go into discharging. Patients admitted under certain codes must be discharged in a certain number of hours. If they fail to be discharged in that time period, there need to be other codes explaining the delayed discharge. If the codes don’t correspond, then the ward manager will get a phone call and need to explain what happened. It seemed like a pretty strict system.

The rest of the day was pretty quite. I spent most of the day just sitting at the ward desk. Alison said that usually the ward is busy, but she guessed that it wasn’t busy because of the bad news. They were already admitting patients to other wards instead of Ward 3. Also, Alison usually does a lot of work in advance, such as preparing admission packets, printing stickers, etc. She didn’t need to do this anymore because she should have enough until the ward closes at the end of June. Since I spent a lot of time sitting, I decided to watch the nurses and doctors. I found out that a doctor only goes to school here for 5 years. They start at the age of 18 and are a doctor by the age of 23. Nurses only go to school from 18 to 21. I must have gone to the wrong country for college!

Because of the lack of activity, I got to go home a bit early and catch the 5:00pm bus with Kaitie and Megan. Then I just relaxed and wrote this blog. We don’t have any plans tonight with Tim, so I’m guessing it will be a pretty relaxed night. I’m hoping to go to bed a little earlier because I was quite tired when I woke up, even though I got a little more sleep.

Well, until later, farewell!