Two Month Anniversary: Trip to Belfast

Last Friday was the two-month anniversary (and halfway point) of my time in Ireland.  Anyway, there was a provider-sponsored trip to Northern Ireland.  Cassidy and I both went.  That was my first time in a hostel.  It was interesting.  I can’t believe I actually ate a hard-boiled egg with breakfast.  The hostel was in Belfast, but on Saturday we went to Derry-Londonderry and walked the city walls, then crossed the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge (that place had amazing views.  We could see Scotland — look carefully past the islands in pictures 2 and 3.  The bridge was really high up and on the way over it was swaying badly and it was terrifying.  Cassidy had the guts to take a picture from the bridge down, so jealous).  Then we visited the Giant’s Causeway (there was so much foam it looked more like whipped cream.  The waves were gigantic and magnificent, and I’m so disappointed that I didn’t get any of the big ones in my pictures), and finally stopped for a quick look at the dark hedges (one of us was small enough to squeeze into a hollow tree.  She fit perfectly.  It looked like fun).  My camera batteries died at the Giant’s Causeway, but luckily my phone still had some battery power left, so I used that for a last couple of pictures.  The weather that day was excellent — clear skies, good temperature.  Only one dark cloud that day.  Sunday we went to the Titanic Museum in Belfast (where it was built) and wrote on the “peace wall” before coming back to Dublin.

So since we’re halfway through, here’s another list:

Favorite spreadable condiment — Nutella

Question: where’ve you been all my life? Answer: in the cabinet above the stove and to the left, on the lower shelf, with the peanut butter and the graham crackers and the salt and cinnamon sugar.

Favorite place visited — Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge

Giant’s Causeway was really cool, too, but talking to other people is nice.

Favorite pastime when not traveling — reading online novels

Confession time: I’m a binge reader.  There are worse things, I suppose; the worst thing is that I end up staying up until like three in the morning when I have class the next day.  But–but–but–must…find out…what happens next–  Don’t be like me, kids, sleep properly.

Favorite dessert — rice pudding

Okay, so it’s the only dessert I really eat here, so what?  It’s still good.

Most missed food — anything my parents make

Dumplings, meat pie, taco casserole, huo guo, grilled meat, oyster beef, pasta salad, soda bread, glass noodle soup, scones, pizzagian (okay, I don’t know how to spell that), knot cookies, pot roast, plus all those dishes that either don’t have names or whose names I don’t know…

Seems like this time is mostly about food, huh.  How many days of Lent are left?

 

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In which we go to a gaol, I accomplish a daunting task, and we brave a mob of leprechauns

DON’T PANIC.

Kilmainham Gaol has been closed for many years, and is now a museum.  This week being reading week, and most classes being canceled, Cassidy and I (partners in crime) went to go see it.  The tour took us through the gaol (pronounced the same as “jail”) and we learned about some of the more famous Irish revolutionaries and political prisoners.  I don’t have many pictures.  Why?  It seemed disrespectful to take pictures of the old section, with its low, dark doors, its crumbling stonework, and the corridor windows (only recently glassed) that helped the air circulate and made it freezing in winter, where many, many people had suffered (and probably died).  The newer section was far easier to photograph.  It was far less creepy and solemn.  And also a lot lighter.  And was used as a filming location for some movies (don’t know why that makes it better but it does).  Still, I could only stand to be in a jail cell (door open) for maybe half a minute (a.k.a. thirty seconds) before I had to get out.  It was brightly lit, clean, and empty, but still.

The Madonna and Child is by Grace Gifford Plunkett, one of the political prisoners during the Irish Civil War, arrested for something she put in her cartoons.  Or something like that.  She painted it on the back wall of her cell and they kept it.

 

Tuesday we went down to the city center and walked around, exploring the area around the River Liffy, mostly South Side.

 

 

Wednesday, we stayed in, and I worked on finishing writing up my practicals for Motor Control and Learning.  That was part one of the Daunting Task: the easy part.  The hard part (part two) was on Thursday: printing them out and handing them in.

 

It was a Process.

 

Thursday night we went to the Leprechaun Museum.  There were no leprechauns there, but we did hear some bloody stories of Irish folklore.  That is, they had blood in them: an old king, cursed to live in the woods like a bird, stabbed through the heart; a guy (accidentally) ripped out of his skin by his friend because he won’t leave a feast that also happens to be a death trap (he gets a new skin from a sheep instead); and so on.  It was interesting, but rather short.

 

Yesterday was Saint Patrick’s day; we went into the city for the parade.  The bus was so crowded it could not have fit any more people and the bus roots were all changed for the parade.  In the city, there were so many people: people wearing leprechaun hats, people wearing leprechaun hats with beards, people wearing headbands with twirly antennae with shamrocks at the ends, people wearing green shamrock printed suits, people with Irish stickers or face paint on their faces, people wearing Irish flags, people wearing green-and-white scarves, people with Irish-flag-colored air horns, and more.  We both both got our faces painted, and Cassidy bought an Irish flag and wore it like a scarf.  In O’Connell Street, the mob was huge, people had climbed as high as they could up onto statues and window ledges and stood around the barricades in crowds more than five people thick in some places.  Children sat on top of trash cans and wooden constructions and temporary fences and adults’ shoulders.  Some people had brought stools, stepladders, or even full-sized ladders.  Being a short person, and somewhat late to the crowd, I had to watch the first half of the parade on other people’s phones as they recorded it or stand on tiptoe to sneak glimpses through the crowd.  But then it started to rain and people started to leave, and eventually Cassidy and I both found ourselves near the front, although in different places.  I had my camera but did not take any pictures because I wanted to concentrate on the parade and was afraid of missing something while fidgeting with my camera.  So all I have for you is words; if you want to see pictures go visit Cassidy’s blog.

There were at least five different bands, all playing different tunes.  In between bands, there were floats, each with its own entourage.  The Giant tailor (I think he was a tailor) had people before him holding up his piece of cloth and one guy wrapped in a tape measure playing some musical instrument dancing on his table.  The fishman (Neptune??) had different sea creatures dancing before and behind him.  There was a giant fish, turtle, whale, and shark.  People in feathery costumes with spears shaped like swan heads danced in front of a giant swan with a flautist playing from a cutout in its back.  Utensil people followed behind the float of a huge dining table at which sat three “people”, which came behind the cook’s float.  There were a lot of different floats  At the end of the parade came the bicycles.  There were so many different kinds of bicycles (and riders): old-fashioned bicycles, modern bicycles, trick bicycles, adult’s bicycles, children’s bicycles, bicycles with baskets in front, bicycles with seats in the back (sometimes filled by a kid), bicycles with wagon-like boxy parts in front of the handlebars (or even full-out seats) sometimes with passengers, one of those bicycles with the enormous front wheel and the tiny back wheel, red bicycles, green bicycles, even a very strange one ridden upright and sideways between two handlebars.

I’m probably forgetting a lot of things, or remembering things wrongly, or just plain not understanding some of it.  But at any rate I thought it was a fine parade.

Here We Go A-Wandering Upon the Fields of Green…

…or not so green. Kilkenny (County Kilkenny) was not so green, but it was a city, so that’s to be expected.  Last weekend my program sponsored a trip there.  It seemed like a nice little city, smaller than Dublin.  The riverwalk thing was nice and green but it was raining when we went down it.  Saw Kilkenny castle, which was interesting, especially the portrait gallery and the medieval foundations part.  That was the same trip we went to the Emo Court House.

The Emo Court House (County Laois) was green.  Our huge bus had to squeeze through this really narrow gate and then we rode through a forest and up to this long drive to the House.  Apparently it’s a big thing to see deer there or something but we didn’t see any.  In front of the House was an avenue with big trees on either side (sequoias I think our Leader said) and wide lawns.  It was pretty there but I didn’t take any pictures because I was a stupid idiot and forgot my camera.  Also my phone was dead or dying.  So no pictures of Emo Court House or Kilkenny.  Oh, well.

Howth (County Dublin) was green.  Cassidy and I went there yesterday (after a small adventure with the bus stops) and climbed the cliffs.  It was really cold on the strip of rocky beach near where we got off the bus but it got warmer as we walked up the long road to the paths on the cliffs.  Then we went up.  And down.  And got a little muddy, where the trail was seriously wet.  And then up again.  Until we got to the highest point.  Then we sat on the rocks for a while.  There were horses grazing in the field behind us.  I wish I brought something to draw on.  It was quiet and peaceful.

We left just before the rain started.  Lucky.

One Month

One month ago I boarded a plane.  Well, one month and one hour.  Here’s a list:

 

Favorite activity — Fencing

Fun fact: don’t let the sword fool you, it’s a LOT of legwork.  And since I’ve been pretty lazy about running lately, my muscles have gone to mush and I’m so sore. But it’s just so much fun.

Favorite meal — Stuffed peppers

Thanks, Cassidy

Most annoying thing — Coin operated laundry facilities

When you have to do laundry but you don’t have enough coins but the ATM gave you fifties which are embarassing to split but then you have coins but the washing machine swallows them and you can’t get them back so you have to go to the office a half hour before closing on a Friday aka at closing on a Friday for help and then feel awkward about causing trouble for the nice person who was just leaving but helps you out anyway but then you used up all your coins…

Favorite store — Chapters

BOOKS.

Favorite trip (so far) — Dublin Zoo

aWOOOOoooo….

Most visited place — Tesco

When they say food doesn’t last here, they weren’t kidding.  Makes you realize how much stuff they put in food in America to preserve it.  Maybe we’ll all turn into mutants…

Most surprising thing — I have free time

I don’t know if it’s because I’m a science major at home or because I’m taking random classes here or whatever but I have free time.  What is this?  I AM in college right now, right?  Hey, no, I’m not complaining, it means I have time to get out and do stuff – yes, Mom, I do intend to see Ireland, no, I won’t sit inside all day every day, I promise…

Random piece of information — During breaks between classes I read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Good thing I packed my towel.

 

That’s all for now.

Well, here we are: Ireland…Ireland?

So, on what feels like not too much more than a whim, I decided to study abroad in Ireland.  My friend was going.  Ireland sounded interesting.  I should probably study abroad at some point.  Okay, Let’s go! …or something like that.  Very well thought out, I know.

Okay, so it was a little more involved than that, but sometimes I feel like I should be way more bowled over about this than I am.  I am in Ireland.  I will be here for months with school and exams and traveling around and everything.  Let’s just go with it.  At least I don’t have culture shock (so far).

So we’ve been here for about a month.  It went something like this:

My friend Cassidy and I took the same flight.  Our seats weren’t next to each other, but Cassidy had the good luck to switch seats with someone and got the whole row to herself, so we sat together after all.  We landed in Dublin at 7:45am and one of the first signs I saw said Happy New Year — in Chinese.  Wasn’t expecting that, but it made me happy (especially since I would be missing Chinese New Year at home this year).  As did the way all the signs were written in both English and Irish.  I like languages.  So we met the Dublin City University students with a bunch of fellow study abroad students and got on the bus.  Went to DCU, dropped off the people staying on campus, and went to Shanowen Square, where the rest of us were staying.  Interesting place; the door opens into a hallway with four bedrooms, a living room kitchen, and a closet off of it.  Everyone gets their own lockable bedroom and bathroom, what luxury!  Cassidy and I had the good luck to be assigned the same apartment, with two other girls: Bethany and Cara.  Nice people, but they have their own friends, so we don’t really hang out together.  We are all from the same program though, CISabroad, so we will go on the program-led trips together.  It already took us on a walking tour of the city center.  We ate at a place called The Hairy Lemon — good food there.

Trying to organize my class schedule was a little stressful, but I got there in the end.  The final line-up is: Motor Control and Learning, Chinese 4, The Universe, and Intro to Anglo-Irish Lit: The novel and short story.  I also sit in on Cassidy’s Crime and the Media lectures, just for fun.

I get the feeling they don’t see nerds in a positive light here; I wonder why?

I signed up for the Harry Potter Society, the Disney Society, and Fencing Club.  Will probably have to drop Disney for Fencing, oh well.

Cassidy and I end up cooking a lot since (homebody alert) neither of us is really the going-out type.  We only set off the smoke alarm once so far.

So far, we haven’t really done too much in the way of traveling (homebody in action: I’d rather sit home and play cards or read or write something stupid; must fight the urge).  The university library is my favorite place so far.  We have gone to the Botanic Gardens (must go again when the flowers come out), the city center again (found the bookstore Chapters, I love it), and the Dublin City Zoo.  Yesterday was Zoo day.  It seems like a pretty good place, as far as zoos go.  The primates got the most room, but then, most of the animals were primates.  Most of the visitors, too.  They had my two favorite animals: wolves and tigers.  The tiger was asleep, but the wolves were awake and rowdy.  I’m not entirely sure whether they were playing or disputing something, but after it ended they all seemed to go off amicably enough.  I didn’t get a good picture of wolves or tiger, sadly.  I need to remember how to use my camera.  I did catch a lioness yawning, and a giraffe drinking from a puddle.

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…And that’s where we are up until today.