Our time in Ireland is almost over.  Tomorrow, we fly to Nice, France, before heading over to Genoa and spending 9 weeks traveling in Italy.  After that, we’ll spend 6 weeks seeing some places in Europe we haven’t made it to yet, then spend 11 weeks in Spain.

We have mixed emotions about leaving Ireland.  Our plan has been to see as much of the world as we can, and we look forward to seeing new sights and meeting new people, so moving on is the right thing to do.  But we’ve made some great friends here, and leaving them won’t be easy.  For Amy it’s particularly difficult, since she’s had the chance to work with some incredibly talented professionals at Cope, and they’ve become good friends to both of us.  Now, she’s taking a break from work.

It is mostly the people we’ll miss, but Ireland is a beautiful place, and Cork will always be a special place for us.  The scenery in the countryside here is a lot like home in Oregon.  Well, the greenery is; we don’t have that many stone walls in Oregon.  I’m not sure yet whether seeing the green fields in Oregon will constantly remind me of Ireland, or whether I won’t miss Ireland as much because I won’t be yearning for the lost beauty.

Cork City felt familiar soon after we moved here, and over the last few days I realized how much this place has become home.  A few days ago I saw a house and knew it was freshly painted; I wouldn’t have known that when I first arrived.  It’s only by being in a place for months or years that a person gets to really know it and can recognize small changes.

There are differences between Amy’s Irish experience and mine.  Because she’s in daily contact with co-workers and parents of clients, she’s gotten to know the Irish people better (and is surprised when I haven’t heard a particular Irish phrase or word).  But because I do the shopping and have more time to wander about, I know Cork as a place better.

Moving to Ireland was harder than we expected, harder to get a license, harder to find a place to live, harder to get involved in the community and meet people.  But we wanted to be challenged, and to experience a new way of living, and we’ve had that.  Despite the difficulties, we have no regrets.

How have we changed?  We discovered we love rugby, lamb, and tea with milk.  We realized we Americans really are louder than anyone else.  We learned a little about how much we assume things are a certain way, when they’re really just a certain way in a certain place.  We learned that people outside America are just like us, only different.  We learned that moving to Europe makes some people think we’re cool, and others think we’re crazy.  We confirmed we love to see new places and meet new people, but we hate actually traveling.  It’s the waits in airports and plane trips we dislike the most, so much of our travel for the next few weeks will be on foot.

So, it’s goodbye to Cork, to Ireland, and hardest of all, to our wonderful friends.  We haven’t even left and we miss you already.

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