Freckles. A sweet bunch of genuine, Catholic boys with freckles. Molly Bugaile smiles when she takes a trip down memory lane to the spring of 2008. A Duquesne University grad, she was one of two student teachers at St. Michael's College Junior School in the heart of Dublin.
Now a substitute teacher in the Peters Township School District, Bugaile taught an all-boys second form, equivalent to an American second-grade classroom, math and literature. Her classroom of 30, passionate for rugby, was required to attend Mass once a week, along with swimming and choir.
"A lot of the boys played rugby after school," she said. "They often played against our rival school, Blackrock."
The least bit ostentatious, it was typical for her students to have nannies or to whisk away for a weekend to the beach in Barcelona or skiing in Vienna, Bugaile said.
"Many of the boys' parents were physical therapists, chiropractors or doctors," she said. "There were a lot of corporations based in Dublin. There were a lot of opportunities for jobs. Dublin was very diverse."
In Ireland, it is mandatory to learn Gaelic in school until senior year, she said, even though it's no longer regularly used and its presence mainly lies on road signs, in addition to English.
Another strong interest? U.S. politics.
"The Irish were so into our politics," Bugaile said. "During lunch it would be brought up, and our stories were all over their newspapers."
She lived with a host family, who had welcomed Duquesne students before, and had the opportunity to travel every weekend. Bugaile visited Austria and Germany, but it was Ireland that stole her heart.
For one, the pubs were such a different scene, she said.
"Any night of the week, there was live local music. Everyone would gather together and sit around and talk. It was comparable to our Starbucks."
In Dublin beer is an art, she said. A trained person stood at the tap and made a shamrock in the foam of every mug, according to Bugaile, who particularly had an affinity for Peter's Pub.
"The pubs are casual," she said. "Brick and wood floors. And, the shopping is trendy and chic."
It wasn't unusual for the streets to close off, become "crazy crowded" and markets to open up, selling tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and fruits, she said. Local artists would line the streets, including violinists and harpists, and people would pop in and out of the boutiques off the rows of brick and cobblestone. Wool was a big item, it was expensive, but made well and everyone loved it, she said.
"Also, tea was a popular item of purchase, much like coffee here. The Irish loved their tea. Barry's was the best. I brought home a ton of it."
Bugaile also enjoyed the Irish stews, particularly the Guiness stew, which she said was a universal favorite. And, their cheeses, which she vividly explained were made with pecans and cranberries.
She said Ireland's train system, DART, is fabulous and very well mapped. People traveled along the coast from South Dublin to Malahide, which was a common go-to place, with a stunning park and a castle, according to Bugaile.
While in Dublin teaching, she recognized major differences between the Irish and American school systems.
"They had one 10-year-old computer for the entire classroom," she said. "They had none of the resources we have. There wasn't much interaction in the class, and not much opportunity for parents to get involved and volunteer."
"There was no special education, and simply no physical or occupational therapy. We had a possibly autistic student, who had never been diagnosed."
Bugaile hopes to return to Ireland during the summer months. It was just warming up and the sun was peaking through the clouds when she departed in the month of March.
She left just shy of St. Patrick's Day (perhaps a responsible action taken by Duquesne, she laughed) and started teaching in Pittsburgh on St. Patrick's Day in 2008.
"The holiday is a weekend-long event," she said. "It's well-advertised. There's so much to do."
Bugaile continues to wear her Trinity knot and Claddagh rings with pride, and vividly recalls memories of kissing the Blarney Stone.
"It was nothing like I imagined."