Messenger of the People

Before coming to Dublin, I had only done a minimal amount of research on Michael Healy-Rae. I knew he was an independent representative from County Kerry and I found a lot of pictures of his late father, Jackie Healy-Rae. My second day at work I learned that he was the only member of the Dáil to vote “no” on the same sex referendum in Ireland that was passed two weeks before my arrival and he is a pro-life activist. While he does not go around preaching these values and arguing with people who have different beliefs, my time canvassing with him and Timothy O, Chief of Staff if you will, down in County Kerry proved to be one of the more difficult things I have done. My patience and anger management was tested unlike any other trial I had yet to meet and I learned a lot from the experience.

It is easy to forget that Michael is one of the most conservative TD’s in Ireland and that we hold very different views simply because he is outstandingly charismatic. In this way it has been extremely easy and pleasant to work with him. His office mostly deals with local constituent issues, as I mentioned in my first blog entry, and therefore I have not had much of a chance to see him rally behind national issues. However, while canvassing in Kerry I was able to see how conservative the county is and heard more people’s opinions on national issues, particularly the referendum.

55% of Kerry residents voted yes for the same sex referendum and 45% voted no. Michael has always prided himself in being an honest TD and refuses to be swayed by popular beliefs. Back on my second day of work when we were discussing the referendum, he told me that it was not that he cared if someone is gay, he voted no because he was not in favor of formalizing that union to include marriage. Although this is not my opinion, I was at least relieved to hear he is somewhat open-minded and acknowledges that it is okay for people to be gay, something that a lot of people still do not accept.

While we were canvassing, his “no” vote was referenced more often than I expected, usually with praise, by many of the residents in County Kerry. I knew Kerry was conservative so this did not surprise me. What made me reflect on the responsibility of a TD or Senator or any representative was when he explained that he was the only TD to vote no because the others were afraid to vote against the popular support of the referendum in their respective counties; he was the only TD to not only vote no but to also go against the consensus of his county (“it would have been against my personal beliefs”).

I understand not supporting something that you simply do not believe in and I commend people, especially politicians, who stand up against companies, policies, wars, that they fundamentally think are wrong. On the other hand, if the majority of the constituency who chose you to fix your nation believes that same sex marriage should be legalized, is it not your duty to vote yes? Granted, the final voting margin was slim and the yes’s only barely surpassed the no’s in the grand scheme of things but the majority of his constituents were in favor either way you slice it.

On our last night canvassing in Kerry before coming back to Dublin Michael asked if I knew what “TD” actually stood for. I embarrassingly admitted that I actually did not. “Teachta Dála” he responded “it means ‘Messenger of the people'”.

The Machine

Michael Healy-Rae’s phone never stops ringing. It is quite literally a part of him; if he is not calling someone then someone is calling him. More often than not, these calls are from people in his constituency, Kerry County, asking him for help. Here, a TD working in the Dáil in Dublin, Ireland, being called about matters four hours away; pot holes that need filling, fences that need building, hedges that need trimming, works 20-hours days. These problems keep him from sleeping and often cause him to skip meals. He is quite literally a machine. I do not want to discredit the needs of the Kerry people, they also call asking for medical and legal help and sometimes seek business advice. As Michael explained to me on my first day of work, “imagine what it would be like if 100,000 people had your personal cell phone number in their phones. That is my life”.

He is arguably one of the most outgoing and charismatic people I have ever met in my life and I would bet that most of the people he has met in his lifetime would agree with me. However, there are those few fellows who I come across around Ireland and, after I explain why a Montanan wound up in Ireland, they say that what Michael is doing is down right corrupt. “Favors for votes!” they say. “That’s all he does”.

I won’t go through extensive detail about the Healy-Rae family except to say that he belongs to a bloodline of prominent and charismatic politicians, his late father being the most outstanding of them all. It is known that he and his brothers get jobs done, which is why everyone in Kerry calls them day and night. When I heard people regarding him as a “corrupt politician” I was personally offended. I did not understand how someone could accuse a man who is genuinely and sincerely devoted to helping people corrupt.

In the United States, we elect officials to help us. We want them to fix all of our problems and whoever promises to carry out this impossible task is who we vote for. The difference is that, in America, if I wanted to expand my driveway and did not know the proper form to fill out to do so, my governor, representative, senator, whomever, wouldn’t care one bit about my insignificant parking problem, that is assuming I could even contact this person directly to begin with. In this way, Irish politics astound me. Although I have observed Michael the most, I think it is generally fair to say that most TDs are genuinely concerned with the well-being of their constituents and so personally involved in all of their lives that dealing with seemingly insignificant matters is extremely important to them. I truly admire this and think we lack this in America. Can we classify this as “vote-buying” when this is what the people of his constituency elected Michael Healy-Rae to do? Isn’t his job to help them? Either way it is very refreshing to watch a politician find a tangible solution to a problem.

Closing a Chapter?

As I prepare for my final exams here in my second semester in Braunschweig, my days are being split up in chapters. Today I finished summarizing 2 chapters of Computer Networks, or the Lecturer saying “Today we’re starting the new chapter on recursion”. Really my whole life as a student has been divided into chapters.

I have currently 15 days left in Germany, specifically Braunschweig(BS). Then this chapter of my life is closed. But I have to ask myself- When I close a chapter during studying, is it because I’m done with that material? Can I then forget that chapter and move on?

I certainly have been approaching this transition back home this way.

The goal and purpose of studying, of learning how the world works, is to apply that knowledge in my life later, and ultimately be prepared for whatever may lie ahead. This “chapter” of my life in BS has certainly contained a significant amount of content. As I look at the “Chapter Review” there are so many things that I will immediately be “tested” on upon returning stateside.

A few things:

  1. I’ve learned how to study. (Ich habe gelernt, wie ich lernen soll)
    German university classes have almost no homework, which means that students have to be committed to studying and preparing for exams. No, you don’t have to go to lecture, No alot of time you don’t even have to do the homework. You just have to pass the exam.
  2. I’ve learned “I am not my resumé”
    Before I came to Braunschweig, I had multiple jobs and was crazy busy. When people asked about hobbies, I would say “well, I don’t really have any”– I defined myself by what I did.
    Upon coming to BS, my jobs were gone; I had no one to answer to, and no one to be responsible for; I was really lost in the first few days. In the interest of this very public blog, I’ll just write that I now know that no matter what circumstances lay ahead, I will still be me; Greg;
  3. I’ve learned the importance of online privacy
    Germans are crazy about “Datenschutz”… Large companies like google knowing everything about you. My attitude when I first came was simply: If you don’t want people online to know about you, don’t put it up!
    I can’t say I’ve completely gone away from this opinion, but I have definitely had a few moments where I think… How does google know about this event coming up in my life; I haven’t sent any emails about it; haven’t done web searches;  haven’t put it in my calendar;  Huh?
  4. Lastly… I’ve learned that a more global perspective is possible
    One of my German friends said: “We’re not allowed to fight wars anymore here in Europe, so we play Football! (Soccer)” I have really appreciated that my outlook on the world has changed. That watching the news (from good sources) is normal, and that a more open mind is possible.

So as I “Close” this chapter in my life, I can’t wait to experience the events for which this chapter has prepared me for. The people I’ve met here; the things that I’ve done here. This may be the end of a chapter, but it is certainly not the end of a book. The climax of the plot is yet to come.



Java & XML Files Enhancing the Profession of Physical Therapy

July 13th, 2015

My Beyond the Classroom Experience has been a perfect opportunity to combine my Human Biology major with my Computer Science minor. Currently I am working on building a mobile Android application that will calculate the fitness levels of people in wheelchairs. To date, the majority of the work has been independent since it is difficult to coordinate schedules in the summer in Missoula. At the end of May, I designed the flow chart of the app with a fellow student, Stefan Riemens, who is also working on the project. The flowchart was to the specifications of our client, Professor James Laskin from the Physical Therapy department at UM. We then met with Professor Laskin at the beginning of June to get his approval on the initial design.

Our meeting lasted several hours, but we all came to an agreement on the first generation prototype layout and basic functions. Over the past month and a half, I have been building the app in a software developing environment called Android Studio. Typically, as with most technological projects, it has not gone completely smoothly. I have encountered a major hardware failure which forced me to invest in a new laptop. After a year of struggling, I finally have the appropriate equipment to program without crashes and system issues. It showed me how many compromises I had been making to get around my computer’s problems. Wow was getting a new laptop a fantastic decision! There are not words to describe it….

Currently, the app is almost completed with respect to layout and user interface. I have not yet begun data collection, data storage, or test functionality implementation. There are so many screens/panels throughout the app that I am working on a flowchart to keep track of everything. Stefan and I need to meet with Professor Laskin again soon to check in and make sure that it is moving in a direction that is pleasing to him. The opportunity to apply my programming knowledge to help people in the profession of Physical Therapy is quite rewarding. No longer am I doing scripted homework assignments with precisely detailed specifications, but I have to motivate myself to take my own creative liberty to complete the task. I finally am experiencing bridging the gap between the computer science world and clients/everyday users. I wish more people were interested in combining the fields of computer science with other fields. The opportunities are extremely rewarding, and despite the hard work and time commitment, programming and data knowledge is invaluable.

Lisa H. Morgan

A Different Form of Patriotism

In the United States, the country only unites through the world of sports once every few years for various different competitions. In the world of team sports, the most popular are the Men’s basketball team that plays in the olympics, and the Men’s soccer team as they compete in the olympics and the World Cup. However, as many people know, the national intensity displayed in these sports is nowhere near the intensity shown at the domestic level.

Copa America logo

When Copa America came to Chile, I had absolutely no idea what it would entail. I had never followed soccer much, but the idea of all South American countries competing for the title of best soccer team seemed like it was going to be fun. When the tickets became available, I quickly purchased three, Colombia vs. Brazil, the Semifinal, and the Final.

Going to these soccer matches opened my eyes. First, at Colombia vs. Brazil, the national pride on display was breathtaking. 40,000 fans packed in a stadium, mostly Colombian, cheered like madmen for 90 minutes. The energy and emotion was unlike anything I had ever seen. When Colombia scored the first and only goal of the game, I found myself screaming and hugging all the “parceros” from Colombia (lucky, I decided to sport my Colombia shirt in anticipation). With a brawl between the players at the final whistle, I was convinced that the national pride I had seen would never be replicated at a US sporting event. After the game, there remained no doubt in my mind it was the most fun I had experienced at a sporting event.

Next up was the Semifinal. Chile, after a strong showing in the group stage, had advanced to the semifinal to face a Peru squad. Chile, seeking it’s first world cup title ever, came out hungry. Being in a stadium full of Colombians was quite the experience, but it was nothing like what I felt in Estadio Nacional watching Chileans cheer on their team in their own country. As Chile was tied 1-1 with little time remaining, Eduardo Vargas unleashed the most amazing soccer goal I have ever seen in person. A rocket from far outside the box, the Chilean cold-bloodedly sank the goal to give Chile the eventual 2-1 victory. With Chile in it’s first Final since the 1980’s the entire country of “weones” was buzzing with anticipation.

Unfortunately, my iPhone had been pick-pocketed a week before while I was at a celebration for a Chilean group stage match. Because of this I had to sell my ticket to the Final, which ultimately netted me a fairly large amount due to the fact that Chile was playing. In the Final, Chile was the heavy underdog against Argentina, widely regarded as the best team in the America’s. Chile went on to win a dramatic championship through Penalty Shoot Out. As Chile won, a country cried tears of joy. Friends at the stadium told me they saw elderly men sitting in their chairs weeping in joy. The Chileans I watched the game with yelled and celebrated for about an hour, and the whole country began to flock to the streets in celebration.

Immediately going to the Chilean version of the White House to celebrate with the president, I knew this was going to be no normal celebration. As people took to the streets and partied until the early hours of the morning, I knew this was a once in a lifetime experience. That day, I was able to watch a country unite and celebrate through sports in a way that I had never seen in my life, and probably never will again. Immediately going to the Chilean version of the White House to celebrate with the president.

Gracias y vamos La Roja!!

Chile's president Michelle Bachelet and Chile's national soccer team celebrates at the La Moneda presidential palace after Chile defeated Argentina to win the Copa America 2015 final soccer match in Santiago, Chile, July 4, 2015.  REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido