Monday, November 21, 2011

death, disease, & destruction: edinburgh.

In case you haven't figured it out by now,
1. I went to Edinburgh this weekend.
2. All of my favourite parts of history center around three themes: death, disease, & destruction.

Let's start with getting to Edinburgh. Unfortunately, Lynda and I did not decide on the same flight, so she flew at the asscrack of dawn and I waited until twilight to fly. She had the whole day to herself while I struggled with the extortionists Ryanair. For those who have not flown in Europe, Ryanair is the worst airline in existence. They say they have the cheapest fares in Europe. That part they actually have right. It usually costs around 30 Euros to fly somewhere on Ryanair. How cheap! However, their fees are around 40 Euros, then they charge you if you check in late (40 Euros), if you need your ticket reprinted (40 Euros), if you need to check a bag (40 Euros)... You get the picture. They're the worst. So, having checked in late on the way to Edinburgh, I had to pay an additional 40 Euros to get on my flight. Ok, kind of pissed. Whatever. I'm going to Edinburgh! How exciting! My flight landed at 11:30pm and I got to the hostel around 12:15am. Food, then sleep. Good night!

The next morning, Lynda and I took our time getting up and getting ready for the day. The only thing on our list was Edinburgh Castle. We headed up there around noon and toured around the Castle. It is the best castle I've been in. It's still used and people still live there. Every day, they fire the One O'Clock Gun, a callback to when sailors would be setting out to sea. It would tell them it was one o'clock and they would set their watches to it. They still fire it today and you can hear it in many different parts of Edinburgh. Luckily, they shot the gun while we were at the castle and boy, was it loud. The rest of the Castle was beautiful. Inside are the Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny (only returned to Scotland in 1996 as a gesture to hopefully gain votes for the Conservative Party-- who still lost to Tony Blair).

We left the castle and went shopping! Lots of shops selling the same things at different prices. I bought a lot of stuff, including 4 different mugs. I'm kind of ridiculous. We finished shopping and went back to the hostel to eat dinner and watch some Firefly. Pretty chill day. Sunday we continued shopping, both of us purchasing kilts from a man named John who was hilarious. Lots and lots of shopping.

Sunday was our creepy day. We were scheduled for two tours: The City of the Dead's Underground Tour and Sandemans' Ghost Tour. When I signed us up for the City of the Dead tour at 1:30pm, I thought nothing bad would happen. After standing at the wrong tour for a few minutes, we managed to find the tour we were supposed to go on. Our tour guide Dave, who looked vaguely like Spike from 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer', took us to the underground vaults of Edinburgh. They originally built the vaults as potential storage for the shops and things around Edinburgh. They kept expanding them, but people stopped using them for storage. Eventually, during a population upsurge, people began living in the dark, dank vaults. The vaults are pitch black; you can't see your hand in front of your face. There is no daylight, no ventilation, no toilets. It was a miserable existence down there. In the medium vaults, they slept around 25 men down there. When the Edinburgh fire broke out, people thought they would be safe in the vaults. Turns out, the little ventilation down there actually brought the smoke in. People died of smoke inhalation-- if they were lucky. Those who didn't die from inhalation died from the heat; the structure of the vaults essentially turned the space into a large oven. They were literally baked, with the temperature reaching around 800°.

The experience was intense, particularly when Dave brought us to the next room. It used to be a tavern where criminals and dodgy individuals went. People died down there. Someone was gutted. It is said that a Level 4 Poltergeist lives down there. People will go down into the vaults and come out with scratches on them. They'll feel nauseous, but if they move to the side, it'll be gone. There are cold spots. Many people pass out when they are in that room, but once they get out of the vaults, they're fine as they were going in. It's just not a good room to be in. I'm not a firm believer in poltergeists and demons, but I definitely believe in ghosts and spirits remaining on the earth. Naturally, I was super interested. Lynda, however, was freaking out beside me. We held onto each other because she was shaking like a leaf. While we were in that vault, one man in our group felt nauseous. He stepped to the side and was fine. He was the only one with a problem at first. I felt a little light-headed, so I took a step out, believing I might just be in a cold spot. Then the light-headedness wasn't going away. I raised my hand like Dave said if we felt like we were going to pass out, so I did. I really felt like I was going to pass out. He grabbed onto me, keeping me upright, then gave the rest of the group these instructions: "I'm going to take her out, everyone stay here." Dave hauled me out of the vaults, Lynda and another man following behind. I fought to keep consciousness, spacing out occasionally but never losing consciousness. I did lose feeling to my legs, forcing Dave to haul me a little higher and a little faster. It was so dark and I was losing the fight. Had I not seen the glow of daylight in the cracks of a door, I may have lost consciousness completely.

But as soon as we were outside, I was fine. The only oddness was that my ears needed to pop. Lynda and I stayed outside whereas the man and Dave returned to the group waiting around a single candle in the vault. As the group exited the building and saw me sitting on the ground, they gave me looks saying they thought I was an actor for the tour. Yet, the guy who was feeling nauseous (we think also the guy who helped me out of the vaults) knew. He knew I wasn't faking it. He gave me a nod of acknowledgement and went along his way. Lynda and I went with Dave back to the gift shop, talking about what could possibly be happening down there. I'm a skeptic, but I do believe ghosts exist; they just need to be shown in the proper environment. Dave told us his theory that he thinks it has to do with the pressure and atmosphere down in the vaults. Given that my ears still felt like they needed to pop, it made sense. I like busting stuff like that because I don't think poltergeists are that bad or even exist. (Mediums and psychics said it existed. Uh huh.)

After bidding Dave ado, we went back to the hostel to deposit our things, take a nap, and relax. After the traumatic experience in the vaults, my body needed a break. Watched a few episodes of 'Archer' and slept. When we woke up, we went for dinner at The Elephant House Cafe.

Now, The Elephant House Cafe held something in our hearts that only Harry Potter fans will appreciate. Why? It's the cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone'. From the windows, she could see two buildings that are thought to have inspired her: George Heriot's School and Edinburgh Castle. The cafe also has phenomenal food and drink, including a cocoa-Bailey's concoction called Fleur's Fantasy. We had dinner there and it was the best lasagna I've ever had. (Sorry, Mom.) In the bathroom, people have written notes to J.K. Rowling, thanking her for the series. Don't know if she's ever seen the writing, but she's so loved in Edinburgh.

Our second tour of the day, Sandemans Ghost Tour, was not nearly as traumatic as the earlier tour. Our tour guide Mark took us around New Town, showing us a supposedly haunted bridge as well as sights of witch burnings. He told us about the Earl of Drumlanrig, locked up in the Queensbury House attic because he was insane, breaking free and consuming the 12 year old servant boy who was instructed to look after him. It was gruesome, only escalated when we asked Mark how old the Earl was: 10. A 10 year old attacking and eating a 12 year old boy. Crazy. All of this told to us in a graveyard at 10pm. Perfect. We were also told about people being buried alive as well as a man who thought he was a vampire. This man killed his friend, ate his brain, drained his blood, and continued to believe he was a vampire and belonged with this girl they were fighting over. Turns out, the girl was fictional and the guy eventually killed himself over her. When did this happen? 2004. Crazy people never stop in Edinburgh, apparently. The tour ended with complimentary drinks in The Bank Bar.

We got up on Monday, checked out of our hostel, and went on a 3.5 hour tour of Edinburgh. A little backwards in planning, I know. Whatever. It was cool to see all this cool stuff regardless. We had seen some of it just trolling around Edinburgh, some on the Ghost Tour, some on the City of the Dead tour. Still fun. Went to Greyfriars Graveyard, Princes Street Gardens, Grassmarket Square, St Giles Cathedral, and more! At many of these locations, our tour guide James would elaborate on other information about Edinburgh and other parts of history. We definitely enjoyed the tour and James was a fantastic Edinburgh tour guide, considering he's from Portugal.

A tad more shopping was to be had, so we hit up a couple more shops. Considering we couldn't fit much else in our bags, we called it a day and got our stuff to head to the airport. Unfortunately, we got a later bus to the airport than expected and this caused a cataclysmic series of events.

We got to the desk to check in, remembering how upset the flight attendants were when we showed up for our London flight without going there first. Whatever. Well, the desk attendant decided to give us grief about being 3 minutes late for our boarding time. Bitch, the plane has not left yet. Then, Lynda's ticket was printed double-sided, so she needed to reprint her return ticket. However, this is Ryanair, so it would have cost her 40 Pounds to get her ticket reprinted, essentially making her miss the flight anyway. At this point, I went on to the flight, feeling like an awful friend for leaving her behind. I sprint to the gate, my dormant asthma coming back in full force. I get to the gate, get my ticket scanned, and start down the ramp. Since you're not done scrolling, you know this is not where the story ends. The guy stopped me, saying that I needed to check one of my bags because I exceeded the one bag limit. I had gotten on the Dublin-> Edinburgh flight with two bags, but oh no. That's not what the Edinburgh people do. They are strict about the policies. I was livid at this point, profanity littering my language like a group of insolent high schoolers. So I have to pay 40 Pounds to check my backpack. I give them my credit card, but when she rings the desk, she couldn't make a credit card payment because someone was canceling their flight. (Lynda, presumably.) So she asks for cash. I don't have cash, I tell her, because I was trying to get rid of my pounds before getting back to Ireland. I'm then instructed to go to a different gate to get cash. Seriously?! I'm standing at the gate, just let me on with my backpack. What kind of deal is this? I had apparently talked back enough and been upset enough that the attendant at the gate nearly told the plane to leave without me. Oh god. Waterworks started as my natural defense. I was scared I was going to miss the flight because they were making me get cash. She let me get the cash and get back, but when someone else asked me how I was, I responded with upset and angry. They all knew I didn't give a shit. I wanted them to know how unfair their policies were. I have never been on an airline that honestly does not care about their passengers. Ryanair doesn't look at their passengers as people; they're just cash cows, waiting to be milked.

Needless to say, I safely landed in Dublin, boarded the bus to the train, and got on my train. I'm still on the train, still an hour away from Cork. For those who are wondering, Lynda managed to get a flight home, paying 243 Pounds for a last-minute flight on Aer Lingus from Edinburgh->Cork. It sucks, but she stated in her Facebook status that Ryanair will feel her dad's wrath. I fucking hope so.

On a lighter note, I'm headed back to Cork and Mark's meeting me at the train station, maybe with pizza. Either way, I am ready to just sit with him and watch an episode of 'Psych' or 'Dexter'. I just want to get my mind off all the Ryanair ridiculousness and remember how awesome Edinburgh was. My next trip isn't until December 9th, but it's the biggest. It's a week-long trip through Eastern Europe: Budapest, Prague, Auschwitz-Birkenau, and Munich. I'm going with Gabby, which will be awesome. We're both super excited because it's such a different trip than what many of our friends have done while in Europe. We've got our first fun planning session on Friday when we'll be picking all the fun things we want to do in all these different places. I'll definitely be blogging throughout the time I'm gone because that is just too long to have to remember everything that happens. We're traveling primarily by plane/train, so that will be great blogging time.

Other than that, Lynda and I are also hosting a Thanksgiving Dinner with some of our Irish friends! We are making a whole bunch of traditional American Thanksgiving dishes and invited many of our friends over. I'm super excited, mostly because it'll be my first Thanksgiving with only friends. Most of my Thanksgivings were spent with family, and though I love them dearly, it wasn't always my scene. Now, I'm responsible for the cooking bit and it's with friends. It's gonna be fun.

I also have a bunch of essays I need to start on and get done before my giant trip with Gabby. It'll be interesting because I haven't been going to one of my classes. (As Rick Perry would say, "Oops!") The other two shouldn't be so difficult, but I'm still not looking forward to them. Ah, well.

Everything else has been going really well. Been spending a lot of time with Mark, Gabby & Kathryn, and Kaitlin. Still love the WARPS kids. Definitely going to invest in some of the games I've been playing so I have them back in the States in my own apartment.

I know this is more of an Los Angeles blog thing, but I've also been applying to jobs back home and contacting various people about things. I haven't heard back from many of them, but those who I have heard back from have been incredibly helpful. I've got one exciting contact and I'm waiting to hear back from them. Hopefully it'll result in some sort of assistantship or job or something. We'll see! If you want to read more about my adventures regarding Los Angeles, check out my other blog it's spanish for "angels". Yay for shameless plugs!

Well, I will keep you all updated on Thanksgiving and other adventures in Cork. Until then, have a great day/night!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

brrrrrlin.


I went to Berlin this past weekend and it was cold. Everywhere I went I felt like I had a constant brain freeze. However, despite the cold Berlin turned out to one of my best trips yet. It was a 5 day, 4 night trip to one of the best countries on Earth-- by myself.

Thursday night I had made the unfortunate decision to stay up all night to catch my 6am train to Dublin for my noon flight. Mark said that I was welcome to sit with him at his place and he would accompany me to the train station in the morning. Needless to say, this was the worst decision making we had ever had, together and separately. I managed to make my train, but I was so tired. I got to the airport, feeling like death, to board my plane to Berlin. I knew my exhaustion had hit an all-time high when I don't remember take-off because I was already passed out. Exciting, right?

I landed in Berlin and I was required to take the S-Bahn and the U-Bahn (the train system in Berlin) to get to my hostel. Let me tell you that the travel was worth it. My hostel was wonderful. The staff was so friendly, the beds were comfy, and my 8 bed mixed dorm did not smell like sweaty balls. I'm pretty certain that this was heaven. I ended up staying in for the night, reading. It was too late for me to go anywhere by myself and besides, I was still exhausted. I needed all my energy for the weekend ahead of me.

Inside the Berliner Dom
Saturday morning I decided to check out a list of museums my friend Sarah had recommended me. She had studied in Berlin previously and therefore compiled a list of must-sees in the city. My first stop was the Berliner Dom, a beautiful cathedral on Museum Island. It hosts some beautiful views of the city from its gallery after you've climbed the 267 steps to the top. On the way up, I checked out the cathedral's service area and there was a church service going on. Now, I'm not a religious person, but I do have a soft spot for organ music. The acoustics in the Berliner Dom were beautiful. I managed to get a short video of it, but it's not nearly as impressive as actually being there.

After the Berliner Dom, I went over to the Deutsches Historisches Museum (German History Museum). It had soooo much interesting stuff in there. I can't even go into detail about it. The Museum essentially outlined all of German history from something like the 8th Century to the early 1990s. It's an incredibly collection of artifacts and information. Long story short, I took too many pictures and looked at too many things.

Holocaust Memorial
I wandered for a little bit before coming upon the Brandenburg Tor, the historic landmark gracing the back of German Euro cents. Down the street was the Holocaust Memorial and the Homosexuality Monument. The Holocaust Memorial was a block of sidewalk that upon reaching it, it's just some low-raised black stone boxes, but as you walk past it further, you discover that some of them are at least 15 feet tall. It goes deep into the ground and only raises a little bit above level, a strong metaphor of how the Holocaust affected Germans and Berliners alike. The Homosexuality Monument was dedicated to those who fought for their right to love who they wanted during and after WWII. It was a beautiful monument. There was only a small window to look in and inside the monument was a short film of two men kissing gently. It definitely shows the progressiveness of German society to have something like this not only in the public sphere, but have signs directing to it in a very busy area. (It's literally across the street from the Holocaust Memorial.)

Me at the Berlin Wall
A bit further down the street was Potsdamer Platz where sections of the Berlin Wall still remained. There was a plaque on the ground showing the years the wall was up and which side you would have been on where you were currently standing. Even the ground was tinted differently as to where the wall was. On the Platz itself was an Austrian Christmas festival with food houses and a giant snow-tubing slide. It was quiant with a fun atmosphere. Sadly, I only got to grab something to eat before it got dark and I had to head back to the hostel for the night.

The next day, I woke up early to head over to Alexanderplatz to meet a tour for Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. Unfortunately, the tour guides never showed up, so being my pro-active self, I went by myself. They gave instructions to go by yourself on the brochure. It was only an hour train ride to Oranienburg up north and a short walk from the train station, so why not?

Washroom in Bunk 38
I have a particular fascination with concentration camps. I saw the bunks where the prisoners slept, the potato peeling room, and the infirmary. At Sachsenhausen, they created 'work shops' where they kept prisoners with specific skills that would benefit the Nazis. For example, there was a forgery work shop where 24 prisoners were kept to forge British money to invalidate and ruin the British system. Some say that this forgery was beyond perfect craftsmanship. It's unbelievable to imagine all the things the Nazis used their prisoners for besides punching bags. They experimented on the prisoners; many of the doctors in the infirmary practiced their techniques and tried new theories on the prisoners. What the Nazis did was unforgivable, but there's something that's troublingly admirable about their efficiency, organization, and ideas.

Sachsenhausen Memorial inside the crematorium walls
Two parts that disturbed me the most at Sachsenhausen were two aspects I never saw on my first concentration camp visit to Dachau: the mortuary and the crematorium. When I stepped inside the mortuary, I felt as though I was in an episode of "Ghost Hunters", but a place that was definitely haunted. My heart rate increased significantly and the air felt heavy. For just a minute, I was down there by myself. Never again. The second, the crematorium, held the biggest physical reaction I had. At Sachsenhausen, in order to preserve the foundations of the crematorium, the memorial society built a protective, temperature controlled white building around it. This means, you cannot see the crematorium foundations unless you go inside and around the memorial monument. Instantly upon seeing the crematorium, I felt like I was going to sob. Heart-wrenching, chest-collapsing sobs. The intense feeling subsided to being a dull, terrified ache as I read the information for the crematorium and what they did to the prisoners here. It was difficult, but I managed to read all of it and take a few pictures. Like Dachau, I left with a serious weight in my heart that lifted once I got to the train. It hurts to visit concentration camp. If you ever have a chance to go to one, do it. It really grounds you and makes you truly think about where we've come from.

After Sachsenhausen, I made it back to the city with a little time to be able to get over to the Neues National Galerie for some modern art. Sadly, the permanent exhibit was closed, so I instead walked over to the Topographie des Terrors, a free museum dedicated to the Nazi occupation of Berlin. I didn't stay long since my brain had had enough of the Nazis for the day (not to mention I was starving). Checkpoint Charlie wasn't too far away, so I went over there to take a look at what Sarah deemed an overrated tourist spot. It was, but that was okay. The history behind it is really interesting, so make sure you look it up. I grabbed some disappointing gnocchi for dinner and went back to the hostel for the night.

From the TV Tower
I slept in Monday and awoke to next to zero plans. Of course, I took the U-Bahn down to Alexanderplatz to figure out what I wanted to do from there. Day one I had seen the TV Tower and it wasn't until day two that I realized you could take a tour of it. Naturally, I seized the opportunity and paid the 11 Euros to get a 360 degree view of Berlin. It was gorgeous up there! You could see all around (obviously) and there were some amazing views. I wasn't up there long, but it was still super cool.

My second planned destination of the day was a comic book shop I had seen an advertisement for at an U-Bahn station. It had some German comic books that I had read before and loved, so naturally, I bought them and added them to my souvenirs' bags from earlier that day.

From the East Side Gallery
I didn't want to be carrying my bags around all day and I was a little tired, so I went back to the hostel and rested for a little bit before trekking out to the East Side Gallery, a long strip of the Berlin wall that was painted in remembrance of the separated nation. There were so many wonderful paintings and I took a lot of pictures of them. Many of them spoke of peace and unity, some of them reflected the moments that happened during the fall of the Wall, and some didn't make any sense to me. There were a few that I wished I could have talked to the artist to understand where they were coming from in the painting and what they wanted to have represented. I guess I'll never know, though.

That night, I ate a free dinner made at my hostel and met a few American students who were studying in England. We hung out for the night and I gave them information for their next few days in Berlin. It was nice to have some people to talk to after three days of near-solitude.

At the train station
and incredibly disgruntled.
Traveling home was a nightmare. I got to the airport with plenty of time to spare, only to discover that my flight had been delayed due to "unknown circumstances". Great. An hour later, we took off and I was forced to listen to a small Polish child in front of me squealing about everything. I wanted to reach over the seat and squish his head like a grapefruit. Then, due to my delayed flight, I missed my 7pm train back to Cork by five minutes. I was devastated, tired, and hungry. The next train wasn't until 9pm, so I sat and waited. Once I boarded the train and got comfortable, a woman and her rambunctious child sit down at my table. You have to be kidding me, at this point. I was so fed up an hour into the three hour journey, that I took my belongings and moved cars. It was necessary. I got back to Cork only to discover that it was raining. Thankfully, Mark was there to walk me home otherwise I think I would have broke down sobbing. The whole traveling ordeal, from leaving my hostel to getting to Cork took 12 hours. I wanted to die. It was a terrible end to a great weekend.

This weekend I'm hanging out in Cork and spending some time with Mark. Currently, I'm doing loads #3 & #4 of laundry that desperately needed to be done. Oh boy.

In the works:

  • planning a trip to Edinburgh with Lynda
  • planning our week-long excursion to Eastern Europe with Gabby
School's been going okay. I'm not looking forward to writing essays, but it'll all be over soon. Thank god.

Well, kmagz over and out.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

thank you for your cooperation. you may now resume blogging.

I apologize profusely, my dear readers. Apparently October was much busier than anticipated and every time I sat down with the specific plan to blog, I would get distracted by Tumblr, my new internet obsession. It's possibly the worst thing to happen to my productivity in a long time. I post little things on there, most of them inappropriate, so I will not be leaving the link here.

So! October! The places and people I saw!

London
London was amazing! Lynda and I had a grand ol' time in the Queen's city. We flew into the city in the evening, taking the train from the airport, then the tube from the train, finally walking acrosst the street to our hostel. The hostel was very strange. Firstly, the rooms had triple-bunk beds. While it's not the first time I've seen or slept on a triple-bunk bed, I hadn't intended to do it ever again. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Lynda got the bottom bunk and I got the middle. All three nights we were there the person on the upper-most bunk was a mover in their sleep. Shoot me now, please. Secondly, the hostel had creepy/racist, cartoonish pictures painted EVERYWHERE. The only cute one was a kiwi bird farting. Yeah, that's about the level of the paintings. Thirdly, they blasted music in the bathroom every morning. I just wanted to brush my teeth in silence. Apparently, that would be too much to ask for.

As I've just said that London was fantastic and then promptly complained about the hostel, I should probably talk about how amazing London actually was. On Friday, Lynda and I went into the city and walked around Westmister, looking at the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. We toured Westmister Abbey, which was gorgeous. Many famous people were buried there and/or have plaques dedicated to them, like Shakespeare and the Bronte sisters.

After Westminster, we waited in the Westminster Underground station for our Harry Potter walking tour! It was so cool! We walked around London as our tour guide showed us a bunch of places where the Harry Potter films were shot. Some of them were recognizable by specific landmarks, but with the magic of moviemaking, there was a lot that was either changed or added to make the location look different in the movie. As it turns out in a two block radius, they filmed several scenes for different movies. Nice work, location managers! We got to see where they filmed the Knight Bus scenes as well as the Leaky Cauldron (it moved!) and Knockturn Alley. Finally, our tour landed us at the infamous Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross Station. The trolley going into the wall isn't actually on the platform as something like that does not exist in the real world. Instead, it's outside where you don't have to buy a ticket to get on the platform for a picture. Naturally, Lynda and I took lots of pictures of the platform. (Why wouldn't we?)

After the tour, we went shopping for Harry Potter stuff. I purchased Luna Lovegood's wand and it just sits perfectly in my hand. I must truly be a Ravenclaw. We were so exhausted (well, Lynda was anyway) that we went back to the hostel, had dinner, and slept. There was an early start for the next day for the Doctor Who Experience!

The Doctor Who Experience was so fucking cool. It started off in a small lobby with some of the costumes and props from the show. There were signs posted everywhere that when we entered the experience that no photography was allowed. Bummer. The Experience was super cool! You and everyone else in the group was part of a mission while the Doctor was trapped in the Pandorica again. We got to fly the TARDIS, get commanded by Daleks, and walk through a hall of Weeping Angels. So cool! Once the Experience was over, it turns out there was so much more that I wasn't expecting! And we could take pictures! Lynda and I went nuts, taking pictures of EVERYTHING. We got one of the green screen pictures of us hanging off the TARDIS. So awesome! Of course we ended in the gift shop and frankly, we didn't mind. As Lynda's a new Doctor Who fan, she capitalized on the merchandise. I only got a couple t-shirts and buttons.

After the Experience, we headed out to Picadilly Circus and found the Forbidden Planet in London! For those who don't know, Forbidden Planet is a small chain of stores in the UK that sell nerd things. All sorts of nerd things. I didn't get very much there, but of course, Lynda went nuts and bought the whole store. After Forbidden Planet, we walked down Charing Cross where all the bookstores are. We made it to Leicester Square, but not without the feeling our arms were going to fall off. So, we went in search of a duffel bag of sorts to put our things in. There was no way all of this was going to fit in our backpacks and we were going to have to check a bag anyway.

For some reason, the first place I thought we should go into for a bag was M&M's World. And yes, it is exactly what it seems like: a three-story store entirely devoted to the candy that melts in your mouth, not in your hand. Once again, for some reason when asked if we needed help, I asked if they had a large duffel bag. Sure enough, the girl comes out from the back with an M&M's duffel bag. We purchased it and went off to a corner to redistribute and consolidate. It was weird, but we were so tired we didn't care. We left M&M's World, but not without Lynda realizing she lost her wallet. I sat outside listening to some homeless man calling people hyenas and jackyls while Lynda had an excursion finding her wallet in M&M's World. Luckily, she had left it at the counter and not on the floor where we thought. Yay!

We ventured back up to the hostel to drop off our things and came back into the city centre to catch a ride on the London Eye! It was nighttime and I couldn't imagine a better time to go. The city was lit up and it was gorgeous. I wish we could have gone again, but it was kind of expensive and the Eye was closing as we were getting off. Still amazing.

Sunday was our day to leave, but not without more adventures. We took a tour of The Globe, where Shakespeare's company performed. Despite not being a fan of Shakespeare, I would definitely reconsider my position if I could see a show in there. I bet it's a completely different atmosphere than in an indoor theatre. So cool. We went to a small museum about The Clink Prison which was creepy as all get out. We saw Buckingham Palace. I took a tour of the Royal Mews (where they keep the carriages and horses).

In the end, London was exhausting, but so worth it. I definitely plan to return again in the future. (Fun fact: I originally wanted to study abroad in London! Thankfully, I didn't because the pound (£) is brutal.)

Parental Visit
My parents came to visit! They literally landed in London the day after I left, but they came into Cork that following weekend to spend time with me! The first evening was spent touring them around Cork, including showing them 7 North Mall (where I live). They got to meet a couple of my friends and roommates. We had dinner and hung out.

Saturday was Blarney Castle! Though I had already been there, my parents wanted to go and I was not going to pass up an opportunity to go to the Rock Close again. We explored the Castle as well as the grounds and Rock Close. Still so gorgeous even on a not-so-nice day. We went back to Cork and did a little shopping as well as dinner and chilling. Sunday we toured UCC, ate at Lennox's, and grabbed a pint in the evening with Lynda. It was a brief weekend and it was nice to see them just for a couple of days.

Gaelcon
In case you missed it, I'm a member of UCC's WARPS (Wargaming And Role-Playing Society). We go to conventions. This weekend was one of those conventions. If you know me, you know I love conventions so naturally, this was awesome.

I left Cork with James and Lynda on the bus to Dublin. We got there early, so we trolled around Dublin for a little bit before heading to the hotel where we were staying with all the other WARPS kids. We ended up staying up late drinking, playing Ascension, and talking. In that first night, I made new friends: Killian, Ronan, Mark, and became better friends with Stephanie. They are all super amazing and very funny individuals.

The next day was the first day of the convention! It flooded in Dublin, so the con had to be moved, as well as canceling events on Friday. I didn't mind because the rest of the con was still amazing. My first RPG (role-play game) was at 2pm, called 'Doing It For Themselves', based in the Discworld universe. I made friends with Dave who was sitting next to me at the table as our characters became friends. How cool is that? My next game was at 6pm, called 'Beneath the Ice', based in the World of Darkness universe. Once again, awesome game and my character ended up achieving her overall goal and not dying! Yay!

Once that game ended, Mark and I were immediately wisked away to Ray's game in the Fog o' War Universe. It was set on a submarine and the group of 16 was split into two groups, Command and Engineering, and placed in two different rooms. I chose Engineering which was definitely fun. Our group was mostly WARPS kids, but that didn't matter. Engineering nearly declared mutiny and almost fired a missile into the bay. We're classy like that. It was so much fun that we all, both Command and Engineering, couldn't stop talking about it afterward. (Later, we discovered that Ray's game won the 'Best Scenario' award. He definitely deserved it!)

We went to the pub for a little bit, but Fog o' War was exhausting and Mark needed food. We headed into town, grabbed a sandwich for Mark, and went back to the hotel only to stay up late again. Whatever. I went back to the room only to discover a drunk Hugh. Lynda and I were giggling like mad at him. He was just being ridiculous. Oh, Hugh.

Sunday morning was another game-filled day! Played in Ronan's 'Shadowrun' scenario which was awesome becaus I got to essentially be the character that's just called in to kill everyone. Those are my favourites. Sadly, I was so tired for the first part of the game that I just wanted to sleep. It was nothing against Ronan but if I could have played the game from my dreams, I totally would have. After Shadowrun, James, Dave, and I went into the city for lunch and to find me a piece of luggage. Both missions were successful and I got to spend time with James and Dave, so I was pretty happy. That evening, I played in a game called 'Rain', based in the Call of Cthulu universe, in which I straight up yelled in character at the scientist in our game. Let's just say I got way too into my role. Several tables turned and just looked at us when I did and my GM Sandra applauded me. Oh boy. So fun! Afterward, I went over to the pub for the charity auction where I won against a mysterious bidder who I discovered later was Dave. (The room was split in the middle by a wall in the pub. We couldn't see each other at all and it wasn't until Noirin told me that I knew it was him!)

I luckily got more sleep on Monday and was awake for the morning. Unfortunately, I didn't sign up for an RPG in the morning. I talked with Ronan briefly and since their RPG hadn't started yet, I signed up. I had no idea what it was about and jumped in with zero prior knowledge. It was from the Legend of the 5 Rings universe, a system set in feudal Japanese society with some mythos. It was interesting because it was so polite and gracious while being creepy. The whole time I had no idea what was going on, but I still had fun.

At these types of cons, they award players who impress the GM in one way or another. Each RPG has a winner amongst all of the tables. A single RPG scenario may have up to 4 tables (20 players). I'm only telling you this because I won 3 of my 6 RPGs and almost won a 4th! I won 'Rain', 'Fog o' War' for the Engineers, and 'Legend of the 5 Rings'. (I almost won 'Shadowrun', but Mark won that one. I'm still happy I essentially came in second!) I understood why I won 'Rain'. Yelling at the scientist definitely won me brownie points. 'Legend of the 5 Rings' made no sense to me at first, but I impressed Stephanie so much by not knowing a thing about it that morning but trying my hardest to be polite and work in the scenario as my character. I still have no idea why I won 'Fog o' War' for the Engineers. I didn't get to talk to Ray about it. Maybe sometime I'll get to ask him. But to be a winner in the game with the 'Best Scenario' feels pretty awesome.

We took the bus back home, but not without some hiccups. I thought I lost my wallet, but it turns out it was in the bag I didn't get to thoroughly check. We lost Mark because he fell asleep while walking to the bus. It was an adventure. Nonetheless, we got back to Cork safely. The next day, I slept until 1pm.

Boy!
I've been seeing someone! A boy! His name is Mark (not the Mark mentioned above) and yes, he's Irish. This fulfills half of Mikey and David's prediction of my trip to Ireland. (The half they got wrong was that his name is not Seamus and he doesn't want me to stay and marry him.) He's currently working on his thesis for his Masters in astrophysics. In other words, he's way smarter than me. I'm okay with it. I'll live. I spend nearly every evening at his house, just hanging out. It started off innocently watching British comedies, but now it's nearly a full relationship. We're staying away from labels because we're hoping it'll make my leave a bit easier. (It probably won't, but we're staying hopeful.) He's pretty much the best.

School
I love my Irish class. I love my Mabinogi class. I love my Sexuality & Society class. I dropped my Lit & Culture class. I loathe my Family Policy class. I'm so checked out of school. After spending 17 years in school, I'm so done.

But good news, my friends! I am 100% graduating this semester! I have 126 credits at the University of Iowa and will be completing two degrees, Theatre Arts and Gender, Women's, & Sexuality Studies, in 3.5 years. What a champ.

Real Life
I'm currently looking for a job in Los Angeles and a place to live. It's proving to be a challenge as I don't want to apply too early, but I definitely need to start brainstorming places to apply as well as working on a personal statement and fix my resume. It'll be great though. I can't wait to get back to LA and see all my friends. (And sadly, I really miss the beach and the sunshine.)

Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed this update since I was a lazy ass when it came to writing it. Figured I should also write a blog before I go to Berlin for the weekend! Every day in Irish, my brain immediately goes into German, so I hope that helps me in Germany. I'm going by myself for 5 days and staying in a relatively nice hostel. I'm pretty stoked. I will definitely blog from there. I promise it won't be a month off.