Day 8: Last Day in Ireland -- Tuesday, May 30, 2017
The last official day was great! We started off at the Guinness Distillery. The Irish love their Guinness! It was cool seeing how it all came together and how they began to branch out to different countries. It doesn't seem to be too popular in America. But we heard that was because the Irish send us all of their left overs. They drink so much of it that they dont have enough to go around! Makes sense I guess.
After leaving there we were able to explore Dublin again. This time it actually rained! I guess you can't have the full Ireland experience unless you get through a rainy day. Luckily it only rained for about an hour! This entire trip we were blessed with extremely nice weather! Only time we saw rain was at night when we were already in the hotel and once during one of our games.
After leaving the city we ate dinner before the game. To my surprise they had Old Bay chicken on the menu! If you know me, you know Maryland is my pride and joy. To see Old Bay on the menu in Ireland was a perfect end to my trip! Who would have thought they'd have Old Bay out there when they don't even have it in some of the states! No, I didn't get the Old Bay chicken. I know, all this talk about it and I didn't even get it! But I was craving my second favorite food bbq chicken.
Dinner was great and after the waiter asked to take a picture of us. We felt kind of famous out there. The people were so nice too which made the experience even better! Then it was time for our rematch against the National team. Before I tell you how it ended I should first say we played like a different team after we got to know each other. People were amazed when we told them we had only met each other a week ago. You would never be able to tell by the way we were on and off the court. I think that was the toughest thing going into this trip. Not know how the other girls would be. Not talking about on the court, but off. Hoping our personalities would mesh well so we could succeed and have fun on the court.
Needless to say, we won! We lost by 6 the first time and won by 8! We played hard and definitely showed them that USA is nothing to play with! Well you can play with us but you probably wont win!
Heading home tomorrow!
Day 7: Trip Through Dublin -- Monday, May 29, 2017
Traveled to our last hotel of the trip today. After dropping off our bag we went back out to hot the city of Dublin. It was our free day. So the last time we were here we were told to pick out things to do in the city that wasn't on the agenda but we were interested in. We chose to walk around the entire city. Were given bus passes and sent on our way. We all went out as a group instead of splitting up. We all were interested in getting the full experience of the city. We got food and continued to walk. One of my teammates even bought a pair of shoes. Which are wayyy cheaper here than they are in America. We walked for about 4 hrs before meeting up with our tour guide again for dinner. I've had so much meat and potatoes out here lately. It taste way better here because the cows are grass fed and not corn fed. America does have grass fed cows but you don't know which you're eating when you're eating it. Here every cow is grass fed. Makes me not want to eat beef when i get home. It freaks me out eating corn fed cows with steroids.
After dinner we headed down to the jacuzzi. Much needed before our last game tomorrow! We met a few Irish people that seemed to have a lot if information about American politics. Lol, of course right? They told us a lot about their culture. Most of the people that work in the city live on the country side as well. And as soon as the weekend comes they head home. Dublin's population doubled in the last 8 years. 1 million to 2 million, in Dublin alone. After the famine in the 1800s more than half Irelands population migrated. They still have yet to reach the numbers they had before the famine, but it is slowly rising again with the work available in Dublin. It's always interesting hearing from the locals. It's surprising how much they know about America and their history. Almost every local I spoke to has information on us. My teammates and I knew a little about Ireland before coming. But not nearly as much as they knew about us.
Tomorrow is our last game and rematch against the Irish National Pre Olympic team in the National Arena! Sad it's coming to an end.
Day 6: USAAI Makes it Three in a Row, Continue Touring Ireland -- Sunday, May 28, 2017
Got another early start this morning! Started with exploring the Bunratty Castle. It was really cool to walk around what used to be a village in the early 1900s. They had original artifacts from the exact town that was there. Upon walking in we were greeted by billy goats that hopped up onto the fence unexpectedly. Kind of scared me a little bit at first because of the shock. But they were actually really cute! Continued to walk though old black smith homes, farm houses, single family homes, and more. We walked into what used to be a school. Boys were schooled on one side of the building and girls on the other. There was a teacher there that told us a little bit about the history. He told us what true love was in Ireland. Back in the day when arranged marriages happened often there was a girl named Alice. Ever since Alice was young people were telling her to marry the older gentleman with a large farm up the street from her home, Lew. Alice refused to, claiming she would find someone she truly wanted to be with. Well, her mother became deathly ill. Guess what her mother's dying wish was... for Alice to marry Lew. You can't turn down your mothers dying wish. Alice was hysterical. She had no interest in this man that was more than double her age. Alice being 24 and Lew being 47. Her friends told her to run away and they will visit her wherever she goes. Alice didn't have the time to leave before it was time for her to move into Lew's farm. Well Lew only lived for 3 years, dying at 50. Alice had a very long life after his passing. She began renting the farm land out to 3 different tenants because the land was that big. She lived until 46 years old. On her dying bed she was asked if she was ready. Her response was "Yes, as long as I get to see my darling Lewy again after waiting all these years."
This goes to show you that you don't know who you'll truly fall in love with. You don't know how long it will take you to fall in love with someone. You just know the feeling you get when you do love someone. But that feeling is everlasting.
After leaving we headed straight to our game. We were gifted yet again! After the win we taught some of the girls from their younger club team some fundamentals of basketball. Their faces lit up when we said we would be happy to show them some techniques that we learned at their age. It was a lot of fun and felt good making those kids that happy by doing something we all love to do! We received bracelets and they hosted a small gathering in our honor after that! The party might not have been as much fun if we didn't win. They were great sports the entire time. After the game we headed back to the hotel to relax before dinner. We ate at a traditional Irish pub. Bacon and cabbage was great!.. I heard. I got a burger. But!! That was the first American food I've eaten since being here. It was great food. We enjoyed a night of team bonding! Great people I can really see myself being friends with for a while! So sad we only have 3 more days together in beautiful Ireland!
Day 5: USAAI Rolls in Game 3 -- Saturday, May 27, 2017
We woke up at 7 am to head to our next hotel in Limerick Ireland. On the way we stopped at the flying boat museum. Was upset at first having to get up that early at anytime during the summer for anything other than food, the beach, or to work out is always difficult to get through. But to my surprise it was one of my favorite activities yet. America played a huge part in the journey of the flying boats. Pan American Airlines was the first commercial airline to fly people from New York to Ireland and back. It was very expensive so only people like John F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, and other famous American were able to afford the flight. The flight took 15-24 hours. Which seems like a long time compared to my 6 hour flight i took to get to Ireland the other day. But then, that was pretty quick! We learned a lot there other than just the airplanes. I learned the Irish were the ones who designed and produced the Confederate uniforms of the American Civil War. But my favorite thing I learned was how to make Irish Coffee. It's an art. We were standing in the same room it was first invented in. It was first given to those who got off of the Pan American flight from New York to Ireland.
After leaving the museum we continued our drive to Limerick to our hotel. The team and I lounged by the pool until it was time to leave for the game. We left for our game at 3:30 and arrived a little early to watch the Irish Male Celtics play. It amazes how many Celtic teams are out here in Ireland. Because we played the women's Celtic team right after. We ended up winning the game 104-45. Yea.. we kind of crushed and ran a track meet. Now that it's our 3rd game we know each other so well. We did so well people were coming up to us asking how long we've been playing together. Not knowing we met less than a week ago.
After the huge win we all came back to the hotel, showered, and met for dinner. Mac and cheese is my favorite and Ireland makes some great mac and cheese! Truffle mac with goat cheese! Never heard of it with goat cheese before but I never want it any other way! When we left dinner the team gathered for a late night movie. Great way to end the day! Another gametomorrow! Three games in a row reminds me of AAU years and I'm loving it!
Day 4: Game Two in Cork -- Friday, May 26, 2017
Today was very eventful. Started the morning at the Blarney Castle in Cork. Even though I'm slightly a germaphobe, I managed to kiss the Blarney Stone of eloquence. It is believed that after kissing the stone one will never be at a loss for words. It sounds really gross but the stone was quit..moist. I had to wipe my mouth right after. Luckily we were the first group of people to come to the castle that day because we were there when they were opening the doors. Hopefully that moistness was from the morning dew? Or it could be from the people who have kissed the legendary stone for over hundreds of years. But I'd like to think it was from the morning dew. After leaving the castle, we proceeded to walk the grounds. There was an amazing poisonous garden. To my surprise, they had Marijuana showcased in the poison garden. They also had plants that were used to heal people in the past that they later found had long term affects. It was interesting walking through that garden. We continued walking the, what seemed to be, 100 acres of land. Waterfalls, dungeons, caves, horse graveyards, jungle walks, and much more. It seemed endless! At the end of our walk we stopped and got soft serve ice cream. Tasted almost like whipped cream it was so soft! Nothing like the soft serve in America.
After leaving Blarney's Castle we visited the Jameson Distillery. I've never been too big on drinking. This distillery taught me a lot about the creation of whiskey. The time that goes into making whiskey is insane. We were given complementary things. Then we had dinner and headed to our game! We played great this time because we knew each other a little better! On and off the court we've started to mesh and learn about each other. It shows by the way we played today because we won 94-73!! It was a great team win! After the win we received rain :( but it's the first time we've seen rain here so far! So I'll take it! And the rain is already gone. I guess it's not always rainy in Ireland! All in all it was a great day!
Day 3: Traveling Through Ireland -- Thursday, May 25, 2017
Today was full of travel. Woke up bright and early to head to the Cliffs of Moher! It was a beautiful day. We have temperatures of over 65 all week, which is way different from the 60s in America. We stayed at the Cliffs for about 3.5 hours. A lot of risky picture taking. Standing on the edge of the cliffs for the perfect pictures of a perfect view. The pictures don't even capture the full beauty of the cliffs.
The Cliffs of Moher appear in a lot of movies and tv shows. Appearing in Maroon 5 music videos, Princess Diaries and more! The gift shops were built into the cliffs which was pretty cool! After leaving there we headed to the Blarney Resort hotel. I ordered a "fish cake" with the hope of it being similar to crab cakes. It wasn't the exact same but the breading on the fish cakes was better than crab cakes. I was born and raised in Maryland so it's hard to say something is better than crab cakes and old bay, but it come pretty close! Experiencing their food is probably the most interesting thing. They eat a lot of potatoes and drink a lot of beer so the Irish don't have too many specialties. Yet, all their food is very good! I also ordered a burger for my main course. When I asked for ketchup the waiter looked at me strange. I didn't think anyone didn't use ketchup on their burger. Plus if he looked at me strange as a waiter, people must not ask for it too often.
Day 3 was full of travel but it was yet another great day in Ireland! Game in Cork tomorrow!
Day 2: Opening Game of the Trip -- Wednesday, May 24, 2017
What a great day 2! Started the day at 9:00 a.m. for breakfast then headed to the city of Dublin. There we visited Duke University's sister school Trinity College Dublin. Beautiful campus that looks nothing similar to any college I've been to in the United States. Stone walk ways, large monuments, tons of history, and Starbucks.
We then traveled to the inner city where we hoped on a bus to tour the city. The tour guide we had was awesome! The greatest Irish accent and dry humor I've heard yet! We stopped at the American Ambassador's luxurious home and the President of Ireland's home! The Ambassador's house almost looked bigger than the President's. The President's home looked very very similar to the White House; but smaller (in picture). Along the way we stopped and ate Italian. Yes, we chose to eat Italian in Ireland. It was very very good. All of their ingredients were grown within minutes of the restaurant! After all of that we headed back to the hotel to get changed for the big night.
Played our first international game this evening at 7:00 p.m. (3:00 p.m. in America). We lost unfortunately, but only by six to a team that practices together six days a week. We all met each other yesterday, and some that had delayed flights because of weather, I met this morning! It's amazing that a group of girls that have never met or played together before can mesh so well to lose to an Ireland "pre" Olympic team by six points. Before tip off we shook hands and were given gifts from our opponents. After the game they also treated us to sandwiches, along with Irish deserts and beverages. While we were chatting and eating with the Ireland team we found out that one of the girls is from...Boston!! Her mom was born and raised in Ireland and she has duel citizenship. It was such a coincidence! Even though we lost I'm so proud of my team and the way we played together. Next game is Friday in Cork, Ireland. Waking up bright and early to head to our next hotel tomorrow!
Day 1: Arriving in Ireland -- Tuesday, May 23, 2017
What a change of scenery. Driving on the opposite side of the road seems like it will never feel normal. Everything here is so small! From the homes, to the shops and restaurants, to the USAAI team I am traveling with. We are a strong group of 8 girls! We spent the morning sharing stories about the schools we come from. Some big and some small schools. Some come from large rosters while some played with only 6 or 7 girls! We all can relate in some way, with one common interest.
Ireland seems to greet their foreigners with open arms. The waiter from the breakfast place we ate at in the heart of Dublin asked if we wanted to stand behind the bar for a "true Irish photo"! While we were there we all ordered our eggs with cheese. I had no clue that was a strange thing to people until the waiter came back with hot eggs and a cold slice of cheese on top. We experienced a real foreigner moment and I'm sure there are many more to come.
After leaving breakfast we checked into the hotel and went straight to work out. We were warned that if we nap we'll be sleeping for hours and then up all night. Seeing as though we have our first game tomorrow, that wouldn't be such a good idea. Working out kept us awake long enough to enjoy a big team dinner! After the gym, we had the entire pool, hot tub, and sauna to ourselves!
It's only the first day here in Dublin Ireland and I'm already feeling the luck of the Irish!
Spears Representing Newbury, USAAI in Irish Roots Tour
BROOKLINE, Mass. - Nighthawks rising senior Destiny Spears is headed for Ireland as a member of United States of America Athletes International Basketball Team in 2017, in conjunction with the Irish Roots Tour and The Irish Basketball Partnership.
As a member of the 10-women roster, Spears will have the opportunity to compete against Ireland's best female basketball players; an opportunity only available to a select group including the USA Olympic Basketball Team
"I'm ecstatic to have the opportunity to represent Newbury College in Ireland," said Spears. "I've never been out of the country before, so there's no better way to experience another country than playing the sport you love."
The 10-day trip begins on May 22 with a direct flight into Dublin, Ireland. Following a day to recover from the near-3,000 mile flight, Spears will have an opportunity for a day of practice with her teammates, as well as a moment to gather her initial thoughts of Ireland.
Day three will be the first game action for Team USAAI and will conclude with a trip to the Irish capital of Dublin to visit the city's most famous sights, including Trinity College, founded by Queen Elisabeth I in 1592.
May 26 and 27 brings back-to-back games for the USAAI roster, one game in the city of Cork, followed by the May 27 game in Limerick.
After a May 28 trip to the town of Clifden to visit the Gardens of Kylemore, Spears will return to Dublin for two more days of back-to-back games while visiting more of Dublin's most famous landmarks.
"I have been preparing for this trip since the first day I was asked to join the team in Ireland," said Spears. "I've packed plenty of Newbury gear in preparation."
Along with the five-game schedule, members of the USAAI will have free time to visit any significant areas of Dublin, Cork, or Limerick in their spare time.
"What an opportunity for Destiny, our basketball program, and Newbury College," said Women's Basketball Head Coach Marc Taney. "Opportunities, like playing overseas with USAAI, will just increase the leadership opportunities for our players and make our program stronger. I am looking forward to following Destiny and her experiences throughout her trip."
As part of her trip, Spears will be posting a blog of her daily experiences in Ireland with the updates of all events being posted within this story.