31 July 2008

The Meeting Place

by Chris

When we moved in our second house in 2001, we were worried that living in a zero lot line neighborhood with no backyard only 12 feet from the neighbors might become a problem.

Boy were we right!

The only thing between us and our neighbors was 12 feet of grass.

So we tore it up ! Wooohoooo ! Lets connect our houses !

Turns out ,as many of you know, all our neighbors were super cool and turned out to be our closest friends.
So one weekend we got some beer and some raw materials and built a patio connecting our house to Jesse & Kristina's next door.

We enlisted the help of our other neighbors & friends...like Barry (shoveling above) and Brett, who apparently was taking a break...in both of the pictures above.

After we dug the hole, we filled it with gravel and compacted it.

Then we planned out the flagstones like a big puzzle, turns out Jesse is good at puzzles.

Then we packed it all down with sand...Jesse couldn't wait to get his hands on a hose, he loves making mud.

Then some landscaping beds and lighting went in...

and BAM! we had a place to hang out. Which we did pretty much every night for the next 5 years...okay not every night, but ALOT of nights

It quickly became "the" patio to hang out in the neighborhood...mainly because it was the only one.

We had many a sunny afternoon out on the patio...puttering around caring for the plants...watching Jesse make mud...drinking beer

and many more nights...wooohoooo party!

We even got re-married on that patio !

Seems like ages ago, doesnt it? Ann & Fred moved to Atlanta and have two kids, Jesse & Kristina moved to Frisco and have a new daughter, Brett & Monica moved to Arizona and then SoCal and now are in Frisco too, also with a new baby...Brayden future extreme mountain climber. Megan & Ken were the last to leave just recently moving to another house in Tampa...now the old gang is all gone :(

but the patio remains.......

I hope the new people at our old house enjoy the patio as much as we did..

and leave the lights on for the neighbors...

29 July 2008

Next up ? Finland !

by Chris
Just when I get settled back in....BAM ! I'm off again !

This time though, Kelly & I get to go together...whew.

This Friday starts training camp for Team Ireland as we prepare to depart on Monday for our long awaited trip to the European Lacrosse Championships in Finland.

This will be our first trip together to Scandanavia and the extreme Northern reaches of Europe.
(Kelly went to Norway when she was 10)

I'm flying into Helsinki and Kelly is flying into Tampere a few days later...we'll meet up at the tournament which is being held in Lahti.

While I'm busy coaching, Kelly will have the opportunity to take some side trips with Patrice. Michael K. apparently has put together a dossier of side trip options for our ladies including Estonia, Stockholm and St Petersburg.

Keep an eye out for blog posts from...who knows !

22 July 2008

Goodbye China ! Hello Ireland !

by Chris
Wow ! I can't say enough good things about my month in China. I got to do a lot of lacrosse stuff, made lifelong friends and had a complete blast.

And instead of flying home, I took a zip line into the abyss !

Ok, I actually flew home via London. I've been home for almost a week, and have been sick as a dog.... one of the few drawbacks sometimes to traveling. I've had plenty of time to look through my pictures and laugh again at the fun times I had, and the people I sadly left behind...

Like Tom, Office Linebacker

and my cubicle mate BL

Although all hope was not lost, I brought some of China back with me. BD and I flew to London together, then after he spent a few days there at a tournament, he hopped over to Dublin for a few days. We got to do some stuff around town and of course......work.

BD checking in with Tom in Beijing via video conferencing....very hi-tech

Also got to show BD the facilities where I coach at UCD

We met up with Team Ireland midfielder Leonard ( whom some of you in NY will remember from our March trip)

Len, BD and I had lunch in the Wicklow mountains at Johnnie Fox's and talked lacrosse, big suprise. We drove the narrow, winding mountain roads to Glendalough, to see the ancient monastic settlement and the enjoy the scenery.

and, of course, throw the ball around.

Glendalough, as always, absolutely beautiful.

Playing lacrosse near the lake attracted the attention of kids of course, so we showed them how to play and let them try it out....great fun.

A spectacular afternoon. It was great having BD in Dublin, especially after his hospitality in Beijing.

So whats next ? Well....after another week of downtime here in Dublin, Kelly & I are off to Finland for two weeks for the European Lacrosse Championships....whew.

One last parting shot from China.... This is what it looks like when you strap yourself to a wire and throw yourself off the Great Wall of China. Flaco was the only one of us who had the sense to actually film it.

14 July 2008

Moldova and over and over

Hope nobody minds me going on and on about my trip to Moldova, it was just a jam-packed experience that I apparently have a lot to say about.
Well, that and I have over 500 pictures.

Here are the greatest bunch of folks you'd ever want to meet. Each one brought something special to the party. It was an honor and a privilege getting to know them all. Wanna meet them?
Let's start with Liz and Mercy, shall we? These two earthy angels volunteer the whole of every summer acting as coordinators for Outreach Moldova volunteers. They made each one of us feel welcome and comfortable. They gave us newbies a chance to get acclimated, gently guiding and suggesting; instead of telling us how to interact with the girls, they led by example. They're also no bull-shit, you-get-what-you-see straight talking ladies. Oh - and they're funny as hell.

I think they are both about the coolest, warmest, nicest and most down to earth people I have ever met and any minute in their company was a treat. Hell - I'd go back to Moldova just to hang out with them.

Me and some of my bunk-mates:
Maria, Eunice, Superstar Sharon, Martha's twin Mary
Mary's twin Martha, myself, Theresa

Q: How many Irish volunteers does it take to blow up a kiddie pool?

A: Uh, yeeeaah, that's gonna take One Moldovan fella with an airpump.
Nice try though folks.
Maria, the always smiling Donna and Elena.

At a restaurant, on one of our two afternoons off.
Maria, and the Dublin blond bombshells: Linda and Ailish (call her Eyelash she won't mind ;-)
Maria was one of our interpreters. We had about 5 to 7 at any given time, mostly high school girls with sweet personalities and great English. They made the experience a lot easier with their mad language skillz - plus we all shared a lot of laughs.

A couple of group shots above and below.

Anne (beautiful singing voice) Liz (Moldova's Dolly Parton) and Mary (or as I like to call her - Trouble)

Suzanne, Mary, Martha, Theresa, Sharon, Me, Peter (Moldova's Kenny Rogers)
Our first afternoon off, at the lake, knocking back a few jars.

Olga, Tina (holy crap is she funny!), Suzanne (yeah, she's kinda funny too, I guess) and Victoria.
Those of keen eye may notice Suzanne's is sporting a hot super glam look. Not sure by whom - but she got her makeup done that day.
So did Peter.
And here he is paying it forward and doing someone's nails. Gotta love a guy who ain't afraid of a little makeup.
Chilling out in the afternoon: Mariana, Irina, Luda and Mary.

Maria and Maria.
Volunteer Maria is a wonder, I swear that woman never sits still. During any of the daily downtime we volunteers had, while the rest of us were eating, smoking, napping, watching movies, reading or chatting she was busy baking scones and apple tarts for us or knitting up sweaters for the babies - thus she became my knitting guru....
That's right y'all, I knitted a sweater while I was there!! A tiny little sweater, but a sweater none-the-less. With lots of help and instruction, Maria and Eunice inducted me into the knitting mafia.
Vera and Eunice, the sweetest person on the planet and the third member of the holy knitting triad.
Theresa - one of my new favorite people, as cool as they come and cuter than a goddamn button. I adore you Paulie!!

Martha's twin Mary, Sharon, Theresa
Mary's twin Martha and Suzie.

Oh boy! I love this group. Let's start with the twins - the dynamic duo from County Clare. These two were the bunk mothers - always looking after us, feeding us, cleaning up, keeping peace and just generally being good mommies to anyone needing one.
Sharon - only twenty years old and this was her second trip to Moldova, with a third planned this September! But don't think she's some boring goody-two-shoes, this girl is hysterically funny, that is when she talks slow enough for anyone to understand her.
And Suzie - our patron saint. Suzie is the reason we all were there, the reason many of the girls have a good life, or even a life at all. Suzie started the charity, Outreach Moldova, and is living there full time to oversee it. Although officially the orphanage is a state owned and run operation, as far as I am concerned anything good happening there is a direct result of this woman's actions. She blows me away. And she's my friggin age! Talk about getting a complex from not having achieved anything in my life!

I could go on and on and post a ton more pictures but I'll bring it to a close here, great trip, great new friends, great experience. Our group of volunteers are planning a reunion in September and I can't wait to see them all again.

Peace out.

p.s. Have I mentioned how much I love Liz & Mercy?

13 July 2008

Great Wall Ball

by Chris

Talk about a great road trip ! On Sunday a group of us hired a van for a trip to the Great Wall at Simatai, about 120km from Beijing.
Brian, Will, Halliday, Chai, Tom, Jess & myself walking up to the wall from the parking lot. Hey this isnt so bad, nice paved road. That didn't last long.
Did I mention that at Simatai its basically all up hill ? The stairs are uneven, but it was a beautiful day for a hike/climb.

The part of the Wall we were going to hike has 14 towers and 49 gazillion steps

This is the least visited area of the Wall in the Beijing area. Its the furthest from Beijing and not as tourist friendly....although the locals are extremely friendly.

above, Brian explains lacrosse to one of the many curious passersby. Thats right, we all brought our lacrosse sticks...more on that later.
The scenery is breathtaking...mainly because you were climbing stairs the whole time.
Several times the boys stopped to play ball with the locals. We even climbed up on a guard tower and had a catch...until Flaco lost the ball over the side...and it bounced into Mongolia.
above, Chai & Tom soaking it all in.

below, Flaco wondering if he can climb down and get the ball.

below, we told Flaco that since he had lost the ball, he had to go in this cave and come out with either a Panda or a Dragon....he found neither
There are people all over the Wall trying to sell you water, beer or "I climbed the Great Wall" stuff...but they are all very friendly. below Brian sits and talks with some new friends.
We all took tons of pictures. make sure you click on one or two to see them full size...beautiful

Do you see the horse shaped cloud in the picture above ?

This guy is gonna be suprised when he wakes up.
We stopped for lunch at a restaraunt a 5 minute walk from the wall. We were the only ones there.
Flaco, Chris, Halliday, Chai, Tom, Brian & Jess
The food was AMAZING, look at this stuff !

Eggs, dumplings, Kung pao, beef, eggplant and cold beer

Tom armwrestled everyone at the Great Wall (at least 3) including our waitress who beat him handily.
She was very fond of Tom after that and insisted on helping him digest by rubbing his belly.

Brian & Jess didn't even notice.

After a long day hiking, you can take the cable car down...not on this day We had other plans anyway...the ZIPLINE ! Wooohoooooo !
From the Wall, across the river to the bottom of the valley..about 30 seconds of fun.
As part of your zip line ride you also get a boat ride to the parking lot.

Upon returning to Beijing, we met up with friends at a Chinese Muslim restaraunt for more food, beer and good times. What a truly great day.
Only one week left in China, this has been one hell of a trip.
Thank you China...here's a hug for ya