. But hey, this is Ireland...we should have seen that one coming :)
We met our two guides and started to make our way to the LUAS tram stop near the hotel, which would take us all the way into the city. Our main tour guide was a very nice German sister named Christine. She learned English to serve where the need was greater in Germany, but there was (and is) an even greater need in Ireland so she made the move nearly twenty years ago. She was a lot of fun, and I wish I could've had the chance to go preaching with her. I bet she has some great stories. Her assistant tour guide was a young man in his early twenties named Andrew. He was from a town just a few hours outside of Dublin. They were both a lot of fun, and made the trip so enjoyable.
Mom had picked up a brown paper bag of snacks at the hotel, and she munched on them as we walked to the tram. Of course, it was still raining pretty hard and the paper bag started to fall apart from the water. She got tired of holding it together and asked me to throw it away as we walked up to the tram. So I did, and we hopped on. Not two minutes later, I hear her let out a big "Ahhhhhhh!", you know, the one that means something really bad happened. I got a sinking feeling, and she tells me that my uber-nice camera is in the brown paper bag, IN THE TRASH
! Are you kidding??? I fought pretty hard to not get mad (it's just a camera) but I felt especially stupid because it was me that threw the bag away. We told Christine and Andrew right away, and they made some frantic phone calls to the other tour guides, hoping that they hadn't already left for the city. They finally got through to one that said he would try to find it. We now know my Mom can NOT be trusted with a camera!
I begrudgingly got off the tram in Dublin, determined to still have a good time. It wasn't hard to forget about the camera because we were having so much fun. The walking tour was called the Theocratic Trail because it traced the history of Jehovah's Witnesses in Ireland. A lot of what we saw we had already seen on our first day, but now we could actually learn a little about it. For instance, we got to see a building that played the Photodrama of Creation way back when, and we passed through a block that had been built in the exact dimensions of Noah's Ark. The buildings were as tall, long, and wide as the ark. How many people know that as they walk by? Very cool stuff. I couldn't stop laughing when I came across a bike rack with no actual bikes chained to it, only a wheel. Apparently the thief decided he didn't need the wheel, so he took everything but (there's a picture)! We finished the tour at the Chester Beatty Museum to see papyrus parchments with Biblical texts on them
. Some of them are thought to be only the first or second copies of the original, which proves that the Bibles we have today are truly what the writer's intended. There was a lot to see here, but there were so many groups and tours that we were only able to stay inside for a painfully short 10 minutes. It was no where near enough time! Christine encouraged us to come back and see the rest, but we wouldn't be able to do that until all the tour groups had gone through, which was hours later. Oh well. The tour finished, and we got to chatting with our guides. Christine joked that, having never given a tour before the convention, she had practiced in a large field, pretending that rocks or trees were the buildings and artwork she was to tell us about. They had put so much work into guiding only two tours! We really appreciate all the hard work so many brothers and sisters put into making this trip possible. Brittany and I gave the postcards we made (with out contact info) to everyone and Andrew joked that before the convention, you are so afraid of running out that there is an interview and application process before you give out the crads you brought. After the convention, you have so many left over that you give them to pretty much everyone you see. He was right about that!
With several hours on our hands, we decided we needed some food before we set back out into the city
. Google suggested a traditional pub called The Stag's Head, and we walked over to it. It was very appropriately named; there was a giant (real) stag's head hanging from the wall as you walk in. The pub was very old and very beautiful. We had one of our best Irish meals there. I had the Irish Stew and everyone else got Fish, with generous portions of Guinness, of course. We rolled out of the pub totally stuffed, so we walked some nearby shops. It had stopped raining by now, and we even stumbled onto a Leonidas (some special friends back home may have some boxes headed their way :) We keep hearing that you experience four seasons in one day in Ireland, and it's absolutely true so far. It seems to rain early, then get very sunny and very hot, and then get cloudy and cool again in the evening. It's actually kind of nice once you know what to expect. Dad and I were still trying to get back to the Hotel for a round of golf, but stopped at one last souvenir shop before getting on the tram home. I think Brittany used some jedi-mind tricks on me, because I had an arm full of Guinness stuff and even tried on several shirts, but bought nothing. She's a tricky one...
The tram was long and slow, and we totally missed our tee time at the club. But it all worked out anyway because they had closed the course. Apparently people don't like golfing in one inch deep lakes :) With golf out the window and only a couple of hours before the evening entertainment, we watched some TV and changed clothes
. Then came the absolute best part of the trip so far. We really had no idea what to expect tonight, but we never thought it could be this good. We were seated in a very large room with three or four hundred other brothers and sisters. There was a big stage with lots of instruments, and some projection screens to the side. After an opening prayer, we got to see several different sisters perform traditional Irish dances. It was so much fun to watch, and they made it look so easy I was even tempted to raise my hand when they asked for volunteers (don't worry, I came to my senses and let better coordinated brothers give it a go). After lots of dancing and an on-stage interview with a CO from Africa, we had a short intermission. Local brothers handed out brown paper bags full of popcorn, candies, and juice. Snacks in hand, we watched a 30 or 45 minute movie all about the history of Witnesses in Ireland. So many that went throught it's darkest days (the Troubles) are still alive, and it was very special to hear their stories and experiences. They truly had to put complete trust in Jehovah, and the results are clear. After the movie, 7 or 8 musicians took the stage and played lots of old Irish songs. I couldn't believe the talent in that room. It was so exciting! I thought it would be over in an hour or so, but they played again and again. Before we knew it, it was after 11PM! At the very end, we all stood and sang song number 134 together. You just couldn't sing loud enough. Everyone was so happy, and it would've been hard to find a dry eye
. Of course, I could hardly see at the time, I was crying so much. When the song ended we got to talk to the local brothers and exchange cards and little gifts. I think it's really nice that the local brothers got to enjoy all of this with us; it made everything so special, and I am sure that they will be talking about it just as long as we will! Everyone finally made their way down to the hotel pub for a pint (it helps you sleep you know...) and we even got to buy one or two for some of the musicians. You should have seen one of the sisters on the accordian; it was amazing. I wish I had her arms! haha. But seriously, how many sisters can play the accordian??? We ran into Andrew and he laughingly told us that the music we heard was exceptionally good, because usually Irish music is full of very bad lyrics. He warned me to not rush out and buy any old Irish CD, because it would probably be very
different from what I was expecting. Noted!
This is such an overwhelming experience, and tomorrow is already our last full day in Ireland. Oh yeah, I almost forgot: brothers scoured the trash bins at the tram stop and found my camera! It was the cherry on top of an already wonderful day.
Excluding the convention itself, today has been the most incredible, encouraging, and just plain fun day of the trip so far. That is especially surprising considering how it started. We had only two things scheduled: a morning walking tour around Dublin and then something referred to as Evening Entertainment (we weren't totally sure what that meant). We were supposed to be down stairs for the walking tour pretty early in the morning, and when Brittany and I turned the corner out of the hotel we saw my Mom in tears. Her brand-spanking-new camera was GONE. She had searched everywhere for it but it had totally disappeared. If it had to happen, it was the best time considering that she only had a couple of days worth of pictures on it. Of course, that didn't reallys comfort her much. Fortunately I brought two cameras, so my bright idea was to run upstairs and get her mine. So I give her my very nice waterproof, crushproof, dragonproof camera, and off we go. On the one day we're scheduled to walk, it's pouring down rain