Girls having fun at paint balling

I never thought I would spend one of the best weekends I've had in Ireland knee-deep in bog mud, fully outfitted in camouflage and war paint, with a machine gun clutched to my chest. But then, this country has been full of surprises.

The gun bucked in my hands and howled, and I darted aside too late; I'd been shot. Heedless of the thorny weeds sprouting around a massive tree stump, I scrambled behind it, tearing my hands to pieces in the process, and paused to take inventory.

It didn't look good. I needed more ammunition, I'd done something unfortunate to my knee a while back – and my favorite socks, the footies with the tiny red cherries, were now the color of tar.

Such are the casualties of laser tag in a Galway bog.

The battle got progressively more vicious over the course of the next three hours. In fact, it concluded with my being laser-shot to death in a burrow in tall grass, with the zipliners above us directing the enemy team to my lair (I call treason. I emerged muddy and vengeful).
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I guess I'm just not cut out for enemy combat. But it was marvelous anyway.

I suppose I should elaborate that, about a week ago, my study-abroad program took its students to the renowned Killary Adventure Weekend camp. I have to say that, while I know we have similar programs in the States, I sincerely doubt that we have its equal. I've never had so much fun in my life – this in spite of the slight sadism of our counselors (I was flipped into a freezing Irish fjord for losing a kayak race. They made it up to me that evening, though, with a huge plate of lamb stew, for which I could not have been more damply grateful).

I also ziplined; tackled a ropes course; hiked up a waterfall; and leaped screaming from a cliff side dock into the Atlantic, in frigid October winds, no less. It felt as though I had been newly baptized as a Viking when I surfaced, panting and shivering in my wetsuit. Afterwards, I stood under a hot shower for what felt like an age of the earth. My feet were pale and numb from being immersed for so long and when the sensation came back into them they itched insanely: a mild case of frostbite? I'm convinced.

I have no idea what inspired my own willingness to try everything, heedless of the rain and cold. I've never performed such incredible feats in the States in my life. This country must have some sort of contagious, raw, rebellious strength. After all, fifteen hundred years ago, whole villages would construct round towers and escape into them with all their worldly possessions, to thwart pillagers and defy seaside raids; small tuaths competed endlessly for the high kingship at Tara, before British colonization. Perhaps the same spirit of wild, reckless courage moved me this weekend.

Or perhaps my defiant bravery was born of a taste for the melodramatic, a gift from the jagged hills and the storm-heavy sky (Galway is nothing if not atmospheric. In hindsight, it is the only logical setting for laser tag).

I could not recommend the experience more highly – although I should note that, tragically, those favorite footie socks of mine are irrevocably destroyed. They've faded to a blotchy charcoal and smell like mildewed turf, no matter what I spray them with. They will bear the scars of combat forever.