Tuesday, August 30, 2011

dip your wick.

This past weekend, Gabby, Abbey, Karie, and I travelled to Dublin. Yes, you read that right. We went there solely for the weekend. This is the adventure within.

We boarded a bus at 10am from Cork to Dublin. I had thought that riding through rural Ireland would be interesting and beautiful. Unfortunately, I discovered that it's a lot like driving through Iowa: once you've been on the bus for an hour, the scenery looks exactly the same. I was fighting nausea for most of the 4-hour drive. Our driver was incredibly brake-happy. Ugh.

Once we arrived in Dublin, we went straight to our hostel to check in. The hostel manager was a curmudgeonly man named Seamus and he was awesome, hilarious, and incredibly helpful. Much like many Irish people we've met, he had the propensity to keep talking to us even though we had acquired the information we had asked him for. As in, we found out that his stomach was not that big from overeating, but from his enlarged kidneys.

We went over to O'Shea's for dinner and had a great dinner before heading out to Grafton Street, one of Dublin's shopping districts. Grafton Street had a lot of shops that were selling similar things to what we could find in Cork. The only exception to this was Carrolls, a chain of Irish shops that sell touristy Irish items. Carrolls is like Starbucks: there is another one literally around the corner and they sell the same things.

Needless to say, I bought a bunch of touristy Irish items.

Friday night we returned to our hostel room on the third floor. I've lived on the ground floor for the past three years so this was a killer. (Just living up to the lazy American stereotype.) We slept in a mixed gender room, so of course most of the other people in our room were middle-aged men. Some of you know about my odd love of middle-aged men, but not when they accidentally grope my friend's leg during the night. It definitely did not help improve our views of hostels.

Up early for adventures! Our first stop was the Kilmainham Gaol (Jail). The gaol was seriously my favourite part of the trip. It hosted a variety of Irish revolutionaries as well as petty thieves. The tour was incredible as we were able to see nearly the whole gaol. History lesson: After the Easter Rebellion in 1916 when Ireland was fighting for its freedom from England, a female prisoner inscribed a passage from Padraig Pearce's Proclamation of Freedom: "Beware the Risen People who have Harried and Held, Ye that have Bullied and Bribed." Super. Cool. My mom and I have watched Ghost Hunters for years, and before that any ghost show we could get our hands on. (One of our favourites was Celebrity Paranormal Project.) I didn't get the chance to ask if the gaol was haunted, but I'm really hoping it is and is on an upcoming episode of Ghost Hunters International!

After Kilmainham Gaol, we walked over to the Guinness Storehouse. As my Aunt Barbara reminds me often, my family is distantly related to the Guinness family. The more Irish spelling of my last name is literally McGuinness (as I learned from Tammy and Christine). As it probably happened at Ellis Island, the McGuinness clan would give their last name and whoever was writing it down wrote the last name as they heard it. It would explain the million different spellings of "Maginnis". On top of that, we're from Northern Ireland counties Down and Antrim. Go figure.

Anyway! Guinness Storehouse! Not nearly as awesome as I would have hoped. It was a self-guided tour and there was too much to read. As interesting as it was at some points, I just didn't care that much about how to make beer and that I have heard the process before. We were herded through the storehouse with all the other tourists all the way up to the best part: The Gravity Bar. It has a fantastic view of Dublin from all sides and you can enjoy your free pint of Guinness while you do. We didn't, as we wanted to eat as well, so we headed back down to a different level for lunch and a beer. Gabby and I raced at the end to see who could finish our beer the fastest. I won. Thank you, Irish/German heritage.

We hiked over to the Chester Beatty Library after the storehouse. The library isn't much of a library, but a collection of artefacts and objects that Beatty gathered in his lifetime. They managed to procure a lot of items and include them in two exhibits: one on his Asian travels (including Japan, China, and the Middle East) and the other of ancient religious texts. Very cool. There was an additional exhibit for Henri Matisse in another room and I liked it minus the fact I can't read a scratch of French, so I didn't quite understand where he was getting the inspiration from in certain pieces of literary work. Oh well.

Once we were finished with the library, we wandered over to Temple Bar and saw The Temple Bar. It was packed inside, so we didn't stay long. Instead, we went in search of food and found a crepes shop. I didn't get any crepes, but the hot chocolate was more than worth it. We sat and talked for a while and supposedly annoyed people sitting at another table with my swearing. Tammy later said they were probably surprised to hear an American accent swearing so loudly and proudly since the Irish swear pretty regularly and with such ease. See, Mom? It's part of my heritage!

Best yet: after dinner, we wound up at a microbrewery called The Porterhouse. It was mildly crowded, but with three stories and a live band, we couldn't argue. It was the least crowded place we had come across near/in Temple Bar. We managed to find seats on a bench where we could see the band. At first, I was talking to Gabby, Abbey, and Karie, but I eventually found myself conversing with a middle-aged couple: Steve and Angela. They were a riot! After awkwardly leaning across the table and talking to Steve, I moved over to their table and sat with them. We talked about all the places I wanted to visit in Europe, theatre, and jokes. I stayed there for a good chunk of time before Steve befriended the Germans at a table next to us. Long story short, by the end of the night, our entire group (us, Steve & Angela, and the Germans) had taken over the corner we were in and Angela and I successfully finished a bottle of Proseco that Steve had bought for us. Needless to say, I was happy and a little tipsy on the walk back home.

But that all changed when we got to the hostel.

We hiked up the five flights of stairs to our room to find a nearly naked guy sleeping in Karie's bed. We knew we'd have different people in the room, but you'd think that someone would assume that a made bed would mean someone was already sleeping there. Apparently not to this guy. (You're handed a set of sheets at arrival. He had no excuse.) We hiked back down to the front desk to discover that they overbooked our room. Great. So the desk host disappears to our room for a bit only to tell us that one of us had to change rooms. Yes. You read that right. One of us. Excuse me, but I made the reservation for four people in one room. Clearly, we should not have moved. However, since I'm apparently a martyr when I'm tipsy/drunk, I volunteered to move. While tired and frustrated, I packed up my stuff to move down the five flights, to the back house, then up two flights to my new room. As Gabby and I went over there, we thought that perhaps it was an all female dorm and one of the guys couldn't move. I went to sleep, listening to Garfunkel & Oates, hoping I was right.

Lies. All of it. It was another mixed room. I was even angrier when I woke to discover that. I nearly missed breakfast, but was still so angry that I didn't feel like eating. I would have also complained had the front desk clerk been Seamus, but I did not want the poor people behind the desk to hear my fury. We left on our next adventure.

In the morning, we went over to Trinity College to get a school tour and see The Book of Kells. I really enjoyed the school tour because our tour guide Marcus was really funny and Trinity has such an interesting history. Yet, the big reason we went, The Book of Kells, was actually a bit of a disappointment. It was incredibly crowded with rude people. I looked at The Book of Kells for maybe two minutes before getting too annoyed with everything and exiting to the Long Room, the longest room in Ireland. It was cool and less crowded, but I was still grumpy. In the gift shop, I could hardly move. It was a terrible layout and with all the morons who were in there, I wanted to die. Instead, I exited the gift shop with no souvenirs of the experience. No pictures, no nothing. Ah, well. I guess that's what happens when you go to the #1 Tourist Location in Dublin.

My friends were nice enough to let me drag them to Forbidden Planet, a nerdtastic store I saw from the taxi on Saturday. I was so excited to geek out for just a little bit. Comic book stores are my new haven.

Once I made my purchases, it was off to St. Patrick's Cathedral. Though I'm not a religious person, I liked the cathedral. The architecture was super gorgeous and I'm always interested in stained glass windows. Unfortunately, my feet were killing me at this point so I spent most of the time sitting down. It was still nice to be somewhere that was relatively quiet and not incredibly touristy.

We had lunch and booked it back to our hostel in the rain. Dublin was ultra rainy, even more so than Cork. It was atrocious weather the whole weekend, especially on the walk back. But all in all, we made it to our bus with time to spare. Better yet, we discovered our bus was an express after a certain point and we got back to home sweet Cork a half hour early. It was a great weekend in Dublin and I can't wait for more adventures like that.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

this better not be about the colour green.

Here, I will attempt to elaborate on the differences between American and Irish nouns.

- The people here are incredibly helpful. We've been advised by several of our Irish friends to ask nearly anyone on the street where something is. We actually had a woman stop and help us when we pulled out our map. I know I've never had that happen to me in a US city, but maybe I haven't been to the right US city. Whatever.
- Unlike the US, personal hygiene is not nearly as stressed. What I mean by this: we've walked past/met several people who need to be introduced to deodorant and/or a shower. This is by far not a problem that affects all Irish people. I just have never encountered this in the States.
- People will literally come up to you at pubs and talk to you. They don't care what you're doing or anything. They are just that friendly, especially since we're American. Most of them want to make sure we're having a nice time here in Cork and often want to direct us to the right pubs, etc.
- The Irish people are chatty. (And not in a bad way, either!) They also talk very quickly, sometimes in an incredibly thick Cork accent. Oy vey.
- Not everyone is going to pickpocket you. This misconception is brought about to you by those who go into incredibly touristy areas and act super American. Tammy, Christine, and Mags were telling us that they can pinpoint the Americans by how paranoid we are. Good to know.
- "Crimes of opportunity" is the key phrase of how to get robbed in Ireland. So, much like in America, don't be a dumbass and leave your bag sitting unattended. JFC.

- I am living at a place that is older than the United States.
- Pubs are calm, sociable places where people sit around and chat. None of this dancing and grinding thing. **NOTE: American "grinding" in Ireland means that you want to have sex with that person. An Irish "grind" is a 1:1 study session.
- Everywhere there are signs with both English and Irish (aka Gaelige) as Irish is the first official language of the Republic of Ireland.
- The streets do not follow any sort of system. Do not attempt to make sense of it. Just accept it and move on.
- It's a "cinema" not a "movie theatre".
- There are bars and pubs. There really is no difference.
- Their windows are innovative. Our windows are simple.
- They build up, not out.

- It's a mobile, not a cell phone.
- They drive on the wrong side of the street.
- Exit signs are green with a running stick figure.
- Euro coins are in 1 cent, 2 cent, 5 cent, 10 cent, 20 cent, 50 cent, €1, and €2. Euro papers are in €5, €10, €20, and €50. **NOTE: This increment system makes sense. They are also called "quid".
- I wear a size 5/38 shoe here. I have no idea what this means, but it fits my foot.
- "Craic" apparently means fun, news, good, etc. Pronounced like the snortable powder.
- No tipping unless it's fantastic. Like, fantastic.
- Jammie Dodgers are cookies.
- Every gender is called a lad whether you like it or not.
- Jeremy Kyle is a British show, not an Irish one. It is like Maury, but less like a cockfight.
- Beer is flavourful in Ireland.
-  Bathrooms/restrooms are toilets/W.C. (water closet).
- There are woods in Ireland.
- Ryanair does have cheap flights. However, they never go where you want them to go.
- And, most importantly, American pants = Irish trousers. Irish pants = American underwear. So, if you say in American, "My pants are soaked right now", shocked Irish looks will immediately follow.

Monday, August 22, 2011

i should never have told you about my scone addiction.

OH MY GOD YOU GUYS. I'm in Ireland! And it's almost been a week since I left home! How crazy is that?! I'm so very sorry I've neglected you guys for a little while. I was struggling to get over jetlag for the past few days so my sleep schedule was all kinds of screwy. I would go to bed at 5pm, wake up at 10pm, go back to sleep at 2am, wake up again at 7am. Awful. But I'm finally on a normal sleep schedule and all good. Let's recap all the things that have happened-- and then some!

After my morning shopping excursion, Gabby and I headed out to do even more shopping as she also needed groceries and I realized that I forgot to grab, oh, I don't know, healthy things. There are so many yummy things here in Ireland that we don't have in the States. I'm excited that I get to try them all while I'm over here.

We also got cell phones. This little chunk of plastic is going to drive me insane. And before you judge me, I just got my iPhone in May. It's still really new to me. Now that it is basically a highly functioning iPod Touch, I'm really bummed. The mobile phone place thought they could hook me up with an Irish number on my American iPhone, but damn Apple in making this impossible. Those bastards.

Thursday I ended up napping again, once again thanks to jetlag. Woke up a few hours later, stayed up until 3, then went back to sleep. Wonderful.

Orientation Day! Gabby and I headed over to the Boole with about 150 other Americans to be talked at all day. It honestly wasn't that bad. They had our Early Start professors speak to us about our classes and where they would be meeting as well as professors from other departments advertising for some of the classes they offer. In the second half of the day, they had more presenters for other parts of the school, such as the Student Union and the Chaplaincy. (For the record, I definitely attempted to nap through the latter.)

On top of learning a ton of new information and taking a tour of campus, Gabby and I made friends! We met a girl named Abbey from University of Montana and Megan from SUNY New Paltz. We ended up going to lunch with them. Megan contracted mono before coming over here, so she spends a lot of her time sleeping. But Abbey has hung out with us a little bit, like going to lunch with us today. Both of them are in our Irish Folklore class. We met another girl named Sara who is in the History class. She's really interesting and I hope to see her more! I also awkwardly introduced myself to a girl named Kaitlin who was by herself and asked if she wanted to join us for lunch. She declined, but definitely said another time. On the tour of the school, I befriended Tyson who is just a delight. Very entertaining to say the least. :D

After Orientation at 8pm, there was a night out with some Irish students that I ended up sleeping through. (Once again: jetlag.) Urf.

The UCC students planned a social Q&A for us as well as a tour of the city. At first, Gabby and I didn't know if we wanted to go. In the end, we're so glad we did. On the tour, we stopped at a whole bunch of stores that we would have eventually found, yet now we know exactly where they are. We also hung out with Kaitlin (yes, same Kaitlin as Friday!) and Tyson, as well as two UCC students, Carmel and Tammy. Oddly enough, I found myself with questions that I didn't know I had. Over the course of our unintended 6 hour tour, I asked Tammy tons of questions about Cork and Irish culture, such like "Are the Irish more offended or amused when we attempt an Irish accent?" She said they're wholly amused. I'm honestly not surprised because I know I'm always entertained when Non-US friends attempt an American accent. Hilarious! Tammy and I hit it off really well so I hope to see her more throughout the semester. She and Christine, another UCC student, took Gabby and I to the Wilton Shopping Mall for a blowdryer and bed sheets. :D

After our awesome forever tour, Gabby and I went home where we waited for Bri to arrive. She did and we helped her in and fed her dinner. We sat in the kitchen chatting, waiting for Brig to arrive to let Bri into her room. When it had been a decent amount of time, we left Bri's stuff in my room and went over to a pub that is actually 5 doors down from our place called The Franciscan Well. It's a microbrewery and has delicious beer. That night we all tried the Blarney Blonde, a crisp pale ale. Super good. Once we got back to 7 North Mall, Brig called us and told us that she was on her way to let Bri in. Mind you, it's around 11pm at this point. Another reason Brig is amazing. Her phone was acting up and instead of putting it off until tomorrow, she rushed over and even stayed a little to chat with us and answer some questions we had.

Saturday was the first day I made it through without a nap. What a champ.

Bri needed supplies, so we happily went with her. Once again, I needed things like toilet paper and laundry detergent while the others needed straight up groceries. While we were shopping, I bought a brown coat and a pair of black boots. I will definitely take pictures if anyone's interested.

When we got back from shopping, Tyson came over and we watched Mean Girls because we realized our mutual affection for that movie. Once the movie finished, we sat and chatted a while until 6.30 when we went to dinner with Bri and Gabby. We found a place that sold awesome pizza. Super exciting.

We walked Tyson home and attempted to find a different pub. After getting lost and tired, we ended up back at The Franciscan Well. Bri and Gabby tried the White Gypsy while I went with the Shandon Stout. Creamy with a hint of cocoa and coffee. Crazy! Nice work, Franciscan.

First day of class! It's gonna be fun. We have two field trips: one to Bunratty Castle, and one to Inisheer. There are a ton of girls in our class, but I hope it'll be okay. I'm meeting a whole bunch of them slowly and they're not that bad. I've met Katherine, Mollie, Packy, Georgia, and Avery. Ain't I just the social butterfly?

Margaret, our professor, is great. I wanted to give her a hug after class. Maybe tomorrow. Also, class is only Monday-Thursday from 9:30am-12:30pm and I get 6 semester hours sent back to Iowa. Look at me go.

We needed to get our ID cards at 2:45pm, so I waited around sitting and chatting with Gabby, Mollie, and Abbey. Love them. Once we retrieved our ID cards, we departed. Gabby and I went home to sit and relax for a while. We went out to dinner with Bri and Kaitlin, who are in the same Early Start class. How exciting! We went to a place called Skoozi!. Italian, but has tasty burgers. We returned to 7 North Mall to watch TV and sit. +10 points for comfort.

Now, I'm yawning and ready for bed. Gotta be up at 8am and I'm exhausted. Talk to you all later! More about Irish things and differences, etc. when I'm more awake. Promise.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

ke$ha is my time-travel music: the sequel // yes, i've officially slept.

This post is actually two entries. The first is literally saved from the plane and the second is right now.

As I write this, it is currently 12:30am. Well, in Chicago. Really, it's 6:30am in Ireland. And oh look, they just turned on some of the cabin lights.

Still on the plane. I hate international flights. I've only done one round-trip before and it was terrible. Today, I started off sitting next to a woman who was not only reading the Sky Mall magazine backwards, but she was randomly giggling at things in it. I was so confused. I moved seats to a row of four by myself. I was so excited, until two girls from the row behind me moved up to sit next to me. They didn't have tray tables or TVs. Turns out they're both from Cork and one even goes to UCC! What a coincidence! They were good seatmates, though. That's one benefit.

I just can't sleep on a plane. Seriously. Super uncomfortable.

Both Monday and Tuesday were awful days to do anything. Monday, we put my cat Luther down and I was just a mess all day. I didn't want to do anything, but alas, I had to pack. Tuesday presented its own uniqueness.

Mmm. They just handed me breakfast.

Anyway. Tuesday. Has anyone ever tried getting enough medication for 4 months? Bitch and a half. Insurance can suck it. The pharmacist had to call in an emergency to them to get them to give me birth control and a 30 day supply of anti-depressants. I still had to pay full price for 60 additional days. Whatever. Better paying $75 with all the craziness with insurance than $217 without insurance.

I would love the Aer Lingus people so much if someone came by with coffee because yes, I drink coffee now. Coffee is cool.

But really. I'm still a wreck from Monday. It was so hard putting Luther down. He was in the saddest shape and the vet kept reminding us that it's the quality of life. Even if we kept him alive, he would have been miserable. We also discovered he broke his ankle. He wouldn't have been able to take anti-inflammatory meds because his failing kidneys wouldn't have been able to process it. He also wasn't himself anymore. He would randomly lash out, because he was so frustrated all the time.

They sedated him before the final injection and I just held him in my arms. I felt the moment that he went limp from the sedation. It was horrifying to put him down on the table, to see my cat limp and lying on a table.

And I'm crying now, sitting on this plane with all these strange people. But he was my pretty kitty. 14 good long years of being my friend. He's not in pain anymore. No longer anxious and his soul is still unharmed. He'll be a good thing to someone else, whatever body he chooses to occupy next.

I picked out a beautiful urn for him. I'm sad I won't be there when the urn is delivered or the ashes are ready, but I'm hoping my parents take care of the ashes while I'm gone. (wink wink, nudge nudge)

Anyway, now that I've succeeded in making myself look like a freak on the plane and completely changing the topic of this blog from Ireland to my dead cat, I would just like to tell you all that Aer Lingus is an amazing airline. Very nice people and good service.

Ugh. I'm torn now. The girls next to me said I should take the AirBus to Cork because it's cheaper. Honestly, I would still rather take the train. Different pace and different view. And I could possibly sleep.


I've finally slept a total of 12 hours after being awake for 24 hours. Let me tell you about the adventures after the plane.

First off, once we all got off the plane, we were herded into lines to get our passports stamped. Lucky for me, I got mine stamped for my entire time in Ireland which means I don't have to apply at Immigration or open an Irish bank account! Woo! Yay for cheaper things!

I met up with Gabby and Brian who are also in my program from Iowa. Together, we headed outside to the bus that was taking us to the train station. I got on the first bus, but Gabby and Brian were stopped from boarding the bus since it was full. I had to ride the bus all by myself! Eep! It was ok considering the station was the last stop. Once we all arrived at the train station, we printed our tickets, then boarded the 11am train to Cork.

What a long train ride! 3.5 hours on a train. Brian and Gabby napped for a bit, but not very long. I didn't sleep at all. At a certain point, the conductor came by and nearly made Brian pay a 500 Euro fine because of a simple misunderstanding. He instead let Brian just pay the difference for his ticket. It was really kind of the conductor to do that. Part of the reason he let Brian off is because Brian didn't have his complete address in Cork. None of us did.

Eventually, we made it to Cork. Gabby and I took a cab to Seven North Mall where we both would be staying. We met Brig, the manager of the complex. She showed us around and oh my god I love this place. It's beautiful. I'll make a video of 7 North Mall when I get a chance and I'll post it. It'll have commentary and everything, so I don't want to give anything away. :D

After getting our stuff in, Brig insisted on Gabby and I finding food. We went to a bistro and had a good meal, then walked around a bit, traveling over to the campus as well. University College Cork's campus is beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. Believe it or not, I was sold on Iowa from the beautiful campus. Now, I'm so glad I'm not going back after this semester because it totally pales in comparison.

We both came home and crashed. I slept for 5 hours, woke up and called my parents, then went back to sleep. I slept for a total of 12 hours and woke up at 7am. I got dressed and headed to find food. Not only did I get breakfast, but I did some grocery shopping. Now I have food at my place! Yay!

Today I'm probably gonna go with Gabby to Immigration and find pay-as-you-go phones. Erp.