Hello all. I’m in an internet cafe in Limerick right now. Below, you’ll find three blog entries that I’ve written in the past week. Thanks for continuing to stop by, I’m sorry for the lack of posts recently. I’m writing as often as possible and will do my best to post when I have time and internet available. cheers
monday the 24th, 2007 – dromineer bay, county tipperary
Welcome to face2face fundraising – UIF Telefund part deuce. Really, the similarities between the job I just signed on to and my job of four years in Iowa City are quite amazing. Instead of making warm calls to alumni of The University of Iowa, I’ll be making cold introductions with members of the Irish public – face2face on the streets.
“Hi. My name is Matthew Kyhnn, I’m working with face2face fundraising on behalf of Barnardos. How are you doing today …”
Bernardos is Ireland’s largest children’s charity. Each year, Bernardos works with over 12,000 children, youths, and families in Ireland. Today, one out of ten children in Ireland are living in poverty. These talking points – and many others – were presented in today’s training. Really, without my experience at The UIF, I’d be scared shitless as to what tomorrow will bring.
I trained today with five other people – a guy from Australia, a guy from Dublin, a girl from a town near Dublin, Brian, and Lucas – my new friend from the Czech Republic. Lucas and I were assigned to (drum roll) Limerick. There are five or six roaming teams currently scattered throughout Ireland. We didn’t know where we would be assigned until midway through training. Before our trainer came in with our town assignments, we were talking about Limerick. “The stabbing capital of Ireland,” among other great descriptions was used when discussing the wonderful little city. Only two hours into my trip to Limerick with Lucas did we find out we’d actually be staying 50 km outside of Limerick in Dromineer.
I’m writing this from my new home for two weeks, a holiday home in Dromineer at the Waterside Cottages. I’ve yet to see if there is actually water outside of my cottage, it was dark and raining when I arrived. My roommates? Lucas, Lyndon (from Australia), Ashleen (from some town in the North), and Phil (from Dublin), Team Leader. The holiday home is quite nice. I don’t have my own room, but I’m only sharing with one other person – far better than the average of 8 or 10 in the hostels of the past three weeks. One major downside however is I have no internet access. A part of me wishes I was in a hostel, not sure what tomorrow would entail, or where I would end up tomorrow evening. I enjoyed the unknown. Alas, while I enjoyed this, my Wells Fargo checking account was beginning to have mixed emotions. A paycheck will be grand. Tomorrow, I’ll take to the streets of Nenagh, Ireland.
Day one is completed. A long day one is completed. To be true, it was much more difficult than I expected. In my mind, I continue to draw parallels between this job and Telefund. I guess not surprisingly, the most difficult aspect of the job was actually getting people to stop and talk to me, to hear me out.
Picture: Me, standing on a city sidewalk. I’m wearing jeans and a green jacket which has “Barnardos” clearly written on it. I’m sporting a three ring binder, a Barnados/face2face fundraising name tag, and of course a big smile. I’m basically screaming, “Stop and talk to me, I’d like to sign you up for a monthly donation to one of Ireland’s best known charities.”
Let us just say people aren’t dying to stop and chat. If I relate this to Telefund, instead of the occasional caller ID that says, “University of Iowa,” I picture a phone that doesn’t ring, it rather says, “A student is calling from the University of Iowa, they’d like to ask you for a gift, preferably on the credit card, please pick up.” You can only imagine how many contacts we’d get on a given night.
So, actually getting people to stop and chat ended up being the most challenging aspect of the job. Once they stop, it wasn’t tough for me to present my case for support. While Ireland’s economy has been rapidly improving in the last ten or fifteen years, the gap between the rich and poor is only widening. One out of ten children in this country – nearly 150,000 of them – are currently living in poverty. I’m not asking people for two or three hundred euros. Our goal is to sign people up for at least three euro a week – twelve euros a month. To put this in perspective, I got a cup of coffee on (one of our few) breaks today … €2.30.
The job clearly isn’t for everyone. My friend Lucas threw in the towel and is currently driving back to Dublin. Really, he was presented a good opportunity. He wasn’t originally going to take this face2face job as he hoped to work in a sporting goods store that he had worked at in years past. He comes to Ireland for about three or four months – from now until January – each year. After this, he goes home to the Czech Republic to film/photograph extreme skiing. He basically comes here to work his tail off for four months so he can film for the winter. Anyway, a job in the ski department of this sporting goods store opened up, so he took it. Nice guy. I got his contact info. If I find myself in the Czech Republic, he said I can crash at his place. Apparently, you can get lift tickets for only €8 a day. Not a bad deal.
I’m infinitely more comfortable with the situation – the job, the roommates, the accommodation – than I was yesterday evening. The work will be difficult, but I can tell I’ll enjoy it. It is right up my alley. I love being able to work knowing that I’m positively making a difference in the lives of others. Could I do what I did today for a year straight? Most likely not. But, for now, it presents a perfect opportunity for me – a good wage, free accommodation, and a chance to see more of Ireland.
Sunday night, 11:10pm
“When walking, think right. When driving, think left.” This was the line Brian and I quoted as we traveled Ireland for three weeks. You’d be surprised, simply being a pedestrian in this country requires a fair amount of thought – especially after a few pints. It feels natural to first look left, and then right when crossing a road. However, this would put you in the hospital before to long in Ireland. Even today, I still have to think when crossing a street. Tonight, I got my first experience behind the wheel of a car in Ireland.
At long last, the weekend came. This past week was grueling. My feelings on the job change daily – in truth, they change hourly. I enjoy the job, however the days are extremely long. We’re on the road by 8:30 and on the streets by 10. For two and a half hours straight, I have a big smile on my face and am constantly attempting to get people to stop and talk. You do everything possible to make someone smile, to stop what they’re doing, and give you five or ten minutes of their time. The vast majority of the time, people walk on by. At 12:30, I have a thirty minute break. Come one, I have two and a half more hours of the previously described activity. At half three I have another thirty minute break. I’m then scheduled to be off by six – however, the earliest we’ve got off the streets is 7:00. I’m home by 9 or 10, and proceed to eat, sleep, and do it all over again the next day.
Needless to say, the weekend was well received. I finally had the chance on Saturday morning to see Dromineer in the daylight. It really is a beautiful little village right on the shores of a big lake, Lough Derg. I went on a five or six mile run on the Lough Derg trail, a path that takes you along country roads, farm fields, and the shores of Lough Derg. The run was remarkable. I ran two or three miles out and then turned around to head home. As I was running back, it began to rain. It was a warm, steady, and beautiful rain. I felt incredible when I was finished. It allowed me some alone time and a chance to reflect on the week.
Yesterday evening, I went with the roommates to Galway for a roaming party. Three or four other roaming teams from throughout the country met up at a pub. It was Telefund all over again. Strangely, I was on the outside of the group looking in. A new-hire at Telefund, going on a Telefund bar crawl (before those were outlawed).
I missed Iowa City on Friday night. We had just finished working in Limerick and stopped in a pub to have a pint before heading home. As we were sitting at the bar, I noticed a PGA golf game. I was surprised to see this, as you rarely find video games in the pubs in Ireland. Drinking and going to the pubs seems to be much more of a social experience, a chance to connect with friends. As I saw this machine I couldn’t help but think of Silverstrike Bowling. My roommate Lyndon was in the states for a couple weeks a month or so ago and spent a lot of time in the Midwest – Minnesota, Wisconsin (As an aside, he has nothing but amazing things to say about the Midwest – his favorite part of the states, by far. It is fascinating to hear him rave about his time there). I asked him if he was familiar with the game, he wasn’t. Either way, I was presented with an opportunity to explain the game and the drinking/socializing that comes with playing. I immediately wanted to be in Iowa City, at Joe’s, playing Silverstrike, and washing down a pickled egg with a pint of PBR.
My spirits have stayed pretty high so far. I’ve done okay being away from friends, from family. I guess I’m not surprised. I was, though, feeling a little down on Thursday evening when we got home. I was tired, questioning the job, and well, feeling blue. I told the roommates I was going to take out the trash. I was under the impression the trash bins were near the entrance to our complex. As I reached the street, I had yet to find the trash bins. I decided I would leave the trash behind and walk down to check out the lake (at this point, I wasn’t entirely sure a lake even existed. I found (what would later be known as) Lough Derg. It was a lovely evening – nearly full moon, stars in the sky, and the view of the lake was fantastically peaceful. As I was heading home, I noticed in the distance the familiar, lighted, Guinness sign that decorates the outside of so many Irish pubs.
I decided it’d be wrong not to have a pint at, “The Whiskey Still.” I entered the pub, sat at the bar, and ordered a pint of Guinness. I introduced myself to two middle aged women (who I later found out were twins) who were directly to my left. They were from Newcastle, England, and were in Dromineer for this weekend’s “Dromineer Literary Festival.” My one pint led to these ladies insisting on buying me two more. Most importantly, we enjoyed an hour long conversation. We talked about my work, their experience with nonprofits, my decisions to travel for a year, American’s outlook on traveling in general, and their love of Dromineer bay. It was great to again meet and connect with fellow travelers – it was exactly what I needed. I left the pub so happy, so touched by meeting two brilliant, kind-hearted sisters, that I was nearly in tears. Why? I’m not really quite sure.
But, friends, it is time for me to retire. Half eight will surely come way to quickly tomorrow morning. Oh, but, my experience behind the wheel in Ireland. Amazing. It was much easier for me to adapt to being on the left side of the road than I anticipated. Driving on the right side of the car … somewhat confusing, especially since I was shifting the five speed with my left hand. Roundabouts are as commonplace in Ireland as four-way stops are in the states – and, they’re brillant. Traffic doesn’t have to stop. Lastly, remember my describing the country roads in Ireland (if not, this is an excuse for you to read my earlier posts), tonight I was navigating them in the dark. Navigating them like a pro, of course.