As soon as we got through the insanely long line at customs, the brothers were waiting for us. We walked out of the arrivals gate to a large group of friends holding a sign... "Safegaurd Your Heart" International Convention of Jehovah's Witnesses
. Ahh, smiling and soon-to-be familiar faces! We had never met any of them of course, but that's the most amazing thing about this organization: we are all brothers and sisters! So after a couple of minutes of introductions, a brother swiftly organized our taxi cab for the 30 minute ride to our hotel. The man that drove us over had been shuttling witnesses back and forth to the hotel for the past few days. He was very nice, and I sat in the front seat so I could talk to him on the trip over. He had the thickest Irish accent I've ever heard, so I only got about half of what he said :) but the half I got was very encouraging! He looked at me with a smile and said, "I'm going to this convention of yours on Sunday. I've never really talked to you people before but I've been driving hundreds of you from the airport and back, and everyone is so happy! They're from all over the world and you're all so upbeat and positive! I've never met a group of people like you. I think I need to find out what this is all about." Being raised Catholic, he went on to say how disgusted he is by the hypocrisy he sees in his church. So we are really looking forward to seeing him at the program on Sunday! He is especially excited about the drama, so I was quick to tell him it's my favorite part too. We were in Ireland for all of ten minutes and already had a great experience to share! It really goes to show what an excellent witness is given by our conventions.
Feeling encouraged and slightly more awake (sunshine works wonders on the mind), we pulled into the hotel
. This place is way swankier (is that a word?) than anything we've ever stayed in before. I had absolutely no idea what to expect because this is our first international convention, but I guess I thought it wouldn't be much different from the usual. Wrong! There were brothers and sisters EVERYWHERE. We had to wait a couple of hours for our room to be clean (it was 9AM afterall) and in the meantime we had plenty of company. Upon checking in the friends handed us a beautiful antique-looking preaching bag (like what you'd see from the old days of street witnessing in the Proclaimer's book) filled with goodies. Postcards, special pamphlets about Ireland printed by the branch, and lots of discount coupons for the local attractions. I knew that I was going to visit the Guinness Storehouse, but I wasn't sure if it was something I should really talk about. All those fears were put to rest when the very first thing I saw in the welcome packet was a discount entry ticket! So when our rooms were cleaned up and ready, we threw on a change of clothes and grabbed a taxi for the City Center. Who need's a nap? There's fresh Guinness to be had!!! Twenty minutes later we got dropped off at St.Jame's Gate Brewery (where the black gold is made) and I swear I was smiling so hard it hurt. The smile got only bigger when my parents handed the discount vouchers to a man at the information desk. The vouchers clearly said we were to pay 10E (instead of the 16,50E) but he told us they gave us free admission. So we didn't pay a dime to get in
! Not sure how that all worked out but I'll take free entry/pint any day of the week. Of course, not much had changed from our last visit, but it was a blast to walk through. We met plenty of brothers and sisters along the way (I still smile at the thought of all those convention badges walking through a brewery) and shared a couple of pints with some of them. One brother named Ray sat with us in a special area where you take a mini class on how to pour a "perfect pint". He came from California and is learning Spanish to serve in a foregin field. He was great fun, and we ended up sharing another pint at the top floor of the Storehouse. They have a killer view of the city up there, and the beer was delicious to the last drop. I haven't mentioned it yet but the weather has been fantastic. The magical internet told me it would rain every day of our stay, and I was terrified we'd have miserable weather. But so far so good! Only a few minutes of rain here and there, the rest of the time bright sunshine and warm breezes.
After the Storehouse we walked...and walked and walked. We saw all the usual highlights (Dublin Castle, Christchurch Cathedral, the Spire, etc.) and were turning into zombies by the end of the afternoon. No sleep, plenty of beer and a five mile hike make for a long day, in case you were wondering. After only two hours of walking, Mom looked at us and said, "This city is HUGE!" Brittany and I couldn't help but think, if she thinks this place is big I sure hope she makes it in Paris
. Dublin is great for walking and you can do it in a day. Paris is waaaaaay bigger. Her legs'll probably fall off there, but that's allright; we'll pick'em back up on the next trip.
We finished our "see it all in a day" tour at Trinity College. The college itself is beautiful and well worth a visit, but the most interesting thing there is the Book of Kells; a very early edition of the gospels written in extremely beautiful script. There is a really interesting exhibit which explains how the book was made and why it is so significant. After you see the book itself you walk up into the "Long Room", which is essentially an extremely old and beautiful library. It contains books from the 8th century and onward. It's completely understandable that you can't just pick up and look at one of these cenutries-old books, but isn't it a shame? A wealth of knowledge and intrigue is sitting on a shelf, covered in dust, and I can't even have a peek. My inner Indiana Jones told me to grab a book and run, but the convention badge on my shirt made me think better of it :)
After the library we grabbed a taxi back to the hotel and had every intention of resting for an hour before heading down for dinner. In the end, Brittany was the only one that could pry herself from bed for a meal (who knew
! haha) and the rest of us slept through it while she ate without us. She was far from alone though and sat with a very nice couple from an Arabic group. They had a wonderful experience to share about an Arabic man they had met on the flight to Ireland. Apparently he was so grateful for the witness they gave him that he took them and another witness couple on the flight out to dinner during a layover! I can only imagine what an impression it makes when someone sees an american trying hard to learn a language as difficult and complex as Arabic, simply to talk to them about the Bible. So many incredible experiences, and on only the first day!
My camera can't plug into this computer, but hopefully I'll get some pictures up really soon.
It was a very long trip, but we've made it safe and sound. We scored some very nice seats on our non-stop flight from Orlando to Dublin, in the exit row with plenty of room and even private screens for each of us loaded with games and movies. But as comfortable as it all was, we didn't get a wink of sleep. I thought for sure I'd have no problem sleeping through a red-eye, but I guess I'm used to having the window seat with something to lean on. Sitting in the very middle of the plane and trying to sleep sitting up just didn't fly (haha pun intended). So when we arrived in Dublin at 7:30AM, our eyes were glazed over and we wanted nothing more than a warm bed. Fortunately, the feeling didn't last long.