Thursday, August 28, 2008

YOU GUYS, YOU GUYS I'M ALIVE.

Hahahahaha oh man am I so not a writer or even blogger at heart. WELL! While I'm sure this is a totally unsatisfactory conclusion to what has already been a rather unsatisfactory summary of my adventures abroad, whatever readership I may still have will just have to take it like I'm giving up and LIKE IT, dammit!

My year in Ireland was probably the best possible thing for me to do with my junior year. While transferring out of BU would've released me from the burden of dealing with one last year of BU-llshit, it wouldn't have improved me in quite the way that I think I've been improved in Ireland. This past year has made me more comfortable with my identity as one of the world's Adults. Part of this was certainly being able to drink legally, something that I think is under-emphasized in this country as truly a thing of maturation. It's not the actual act of drinking as all the restrictions put on an under-age person to ensure they can't get access to alcohol. When I got carded at a restaurant upon my return to the states I felt like they should've just handed me a booster seat. It's another ridiculous manifestation of America's fetish for adolescence. Go figure. But also, just living in my own room, having a schedule, making my own food, running my own life...it's really made me grow up. And being my own role model. I'm not quite sure what it was, but something about the people I met and made friends with helped me grow into my own person. I found myself dressing and speaking and doing things for myself, not for what others would think of me. And I've decided to banish awkwardness from my life. I've learned that situations are only as awkward as you make them, and I've learned that being comfortable with yourself makes everything and everyone around more comfortable, too.

Despite my above criticism of America, my time abroad has given me a whole new appreciation for my country. I believe I talked about that on this blog earlier, but it's being brought home to me once more during the Democratic National Convention going on right now in Denver. Say what you will about the whole thing being a staged wanking off of the media and the politicians, but dammit, some of it makes me tear up and I will not be ashamed for that. I know, underneath, that it's all a load of crap, but there is some kernel of truth to all this talk of the American dream. This really is a country where I feel anything is possible, and since I have big ideas, I can't imagine making my permanent home anywhere else. (And if Obama and Biden can't pull this one off I will be sobbing for weeks over re-runs of The West Wing, eating Ben & Jerry's AmeriCone Dream while wearing red, white and blue pajamas.) And I'd just like to point out, not that anyone who'd be reading this wouldn't've already realized this, but I hate that those who are willing to make changes in our country are forced to constantly re-affirm their patriotism, while those who are willing to ignore our problems and facilitate stagnation are automatically considered patriots. Progressives are patriotic; what's a greater declaration of the love of something than wanting it to be as close to perfect as possible?

So, to sum up, I loved Ireland and I plan to go back and visit many more times, and I hope to keep in touch with all of the amazing people I befriended there. But, at least so far, there's no where I've been that I'd rather live in than the good ol' U.S.A.

(Oh yeah, and Menorca was fun too, I guess.)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Fallen by the Wayside

I bet my few readers thought I'd forgotten this blog entirely. Well, I haven't! I've just been avoiding it, because up until spring break there wasn't a lot of new stuff going on. Schoolwork, hanging out, working out, feeding myself, sleeping, etc. Nothing very good.

And then spring break came, and March 10th through 21st was full of stuffstuffstuffstuffstuff to do! And then my mom was here for the weekend, and then I had a paper to write (which was a horribly painful process), and then my friend Steve who's been in London this semester with BU came to visit this weekend, and I just couldn't be bothered to update.

And even now that I am updating, I can't bring myself to try an in-depth summary of what's been going on. It's just too much, and I've finally come to the realization that I have no patience for long-term blogging. BUT for those who're interested, I guess I'll give a few details.

Monday of break I took a flight to Madrid to stay with my friend Hugo, also from BU, for two nights. I discovered that I speak far less Spanish than I'd hoped (which is to say pretty much none at all), and that sangria is really, really dangerously easy to drink. Also, Madrid is gorgeous. Hugo's not too fond of the Spanish people, though. He says they're very intolerant, to the point of asking if voting for Obama bothers you because he's black. Also, there is a lot, and I mean A LOT of pork products around...which Hugo says is to keep away the Jews and Muslims. Oh dear. But they have the best hot chocolate going, so there's that going for them at least. Also, there was a Modigliani exhibit going on which was very good.

I spent most of that Wednesday in transit to get to Turin and then Alba, Italy, to stay with Noah for 3 nights. That was an incredibly, delightfully laid-back stay. I wandered around the entire town in about an hour. The food was excellent and plentiful, the wine was amazing, and the beer was absolutely terrible. But overall it was a great stay and made me realize that I shouldn't be so focused on visiting large urban centers everywhere I go. Just because there's a lot of people there and they're easy to get to doesn't mean that more rural areas aren't worth a visit in their own right. I'll have to work on that, but it's a difficult mindset to get out of.

Saturday I flew back to Dublin for St. Patrick's Day weekend, because the chance to spend it in Ireland was one I didn't want to pass up. Turns out, however, that St. Patrick's Day is much more of an Irish-American holiday than it is an Irish one. But I did go to the parade with my friend Dan (an Irishman), where we tried to get a decent view at about four different places along the route before giving up and watching the rest of it on TV at the Porterhouse with some excellent pints of their own brews. (The quality of the Porterhouse is an unfortunately belated experience, and I hope to get there at least a few more times before I leave.) The rest of the day was spent at various house parties on campus, and was fun, if not altogether that different from any other drinking occasion in Ireland.

Monday I hit the airport again to visit Steve in London, and man oh man oh man oh man do I LOVE London! I'd never been to England before, despite a life-long desire to go, and man, do I want to go back! I walked for about eight hours straight on Tuesday, much to the dismay of my joints, but I saw loads of awesome things. I didn't go inside many places though, because while London isn't much more expensive to live in the Dublin (even with the extraordinarily strong British Pound Sterling), their sightseeing costs are out of control. £14 to tour the Tower of London! Also, the Tube is pretty pricey, but I bought a day pass and definitely got my money's worth from it. Steve took me to see this play called "Into the Hoods", loosely based around the Sondheim musical, and it was AMAZING. Honestly, one of the best artistic experiences I've had in a long time. The dancing was unbelievable and I laughed so much it hurt. If anyone reading this ever has a chance to see it, TAKE IT. Aside from that, Steve and I met up with a couple other BU kids in London, Danny and Liane, to have dinner on Brick Lane. The gimmick of Brick Lane is that it's a couple blocks of Indian restaurants where you're accosted by various people, offering discounts and free drinks to get you to come to their place. Steve is ideal in this situation as he is a balls-out fearless bargainer, so we got 20% off the bill and a round of free drinks with our meal, which was deeeeelicious. Danny and I split a bunch of vegetarian stuff; he says I inspired him to pick up vegetarianism again, which is so cool! And I also went to a bunch of museums: the Natural History, Victoria & Albert, and Science Museums, and the National Gallery. The dinosaurs at the Natural History museum were a lot of fun, and the National Gallery is full of just amazing works, many of which I'd read about and was very excited to see in person.

UM let's see, and then my mom was here and that was excellent. We went to the National Gallery, which would probably have impressed me more had I not just been to the one in London days before, and the History & Archaeology museum which was very good and had a lot of excellent bog bodies, several of which I've studied in class. We had some good pints, and stayed for most of the time in the Trinity Capital Hotel, who we decided must had hired some fabulous gay designer to do the place (we loved it). We went to Oliver St. John Gogarty's (a supremely stereotypical Paddy-Irish pub in the middle of tourist-central Temple Bar) for dinner on Monday and had really tasty mussels and some fun chats with a couple from Edinburgh and another from Yorkshire.

(This is the part where I run out of stamina.)

Uh yeah so this week I wrote a paper and played a lot of online solitaire, went to a house party for a bit, and then Steve came and we went to the Guinness Storehouse, which was very interesting and educational and, at the end, tasty, and then later to the Dragon, which was this cool gay pub with lovely cocktails. We also watched But I'm A Cheerleader, a film I recommend to anyone with a sense of humor, and which Steve had never seen before. Daylight savings time kicked in last night, so we got home so late it was early and slept until 2.

The weather is improving and spring is here, thank goodness, but it's also become if anything more schizophrenic. It was gorgeous 20 minutes ago and now it's pouring rain. Good thing I don't need to go outside. Instead, I will sit here and work on my next paper, due Wednesday. April probably won't see much blogging, either, as I have loads and loads of work due, in addition to an interstudy trip to Killarney in a couple weeks. At the end of the month, after classes have finished, Danny is coming to visit and we're going to Galway and the Aran Islands. Maybe you'll hear from me sometime after that. Or maybe sooner. Or maybe not. Who knows?!

Oh, also, for anyone reading this who doesn't know and might be interested, I got into BU's field school in Menorca, so I'll be there from mid-May to early July. Six summer weeks in the Mediterranean? Yes, please! Especially after all this Irish weather nonsense.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Eating Environmentally

So when I first got to Ireland, I was dismayed at the lack of widely available all-natural organic etc. etc. foods, so much so that I thought it would be pretty much impossible for me to ever make a permanent home here. As you may have noticed, I'm kind of big on environmental issues, and I'm in the very long process of altering my lifestyle to make it as sustainable and environmentally-friendly as is reasonably possible. How could I maintain that in a country without Whole Foods?

But as I've lived here longer, I've become more and more aware of the many alternatives to shopping at Tesco that are available. I've concluded that my real problem lies in UCD's location: the suburbs. Okay, I exaggerate, but still, on the scatter graph that is Dublin city, UCD is a bit of an outlier. On Saturday I cycled into town to go to the Asia Market and get some tofu (which turned out to be organic) on the cheap. While I was there, I also picked up some granola for breakfast from a small shop nearby selling grains and legumes and teas and such in bulk, and a salad from Blazing Salads Food Company (har har), which also stocked various organic, veg(etari)an-friendly stuff (I'm going back for the peanut butter soon). This was within a block or two, maybe a 10-minute walk away from the Temple Bar Food Market. Were I to attend Trinity, I would hardly have to leave the house to accumulate my idealized food stuffs, and I'd be much less restricted by schedules, both of my own and of the markets'.

Moving away from city centre, however, things get more dispersed. I experimented with a new market on Sunday, in Ranelagh, a bit closer than the one in Temple Bar but far, far smaller. Denis Healy was there, too, though, so I got all my produce, and there was a really good baker stand where I got the best wholegrain sandwich bread of my life, and an Italian man selling pasta and sauces that were really, really good (I sampled the pesto, which pretty much lived up to his claim of "best in the world") but too expensive for me to justify when I already have a load of pasta in the pantry that I don't use sauce much on anyway. At any rate, there's that one in Ranelagh, another small one on Wednesdays in the even-closer Stillorgan (though the ride there has more hills), which is across from an expensive but well-stocked Health Store (fake ham lunchmeat!), and a fresh produce shop in Donnybrook that's pretty close but doesn't seem to indicate organic-ness or local-ness on its goods. Oh, and Donnybrook Fair, but they're a gourmet shop and therefore charge gourmet prices. Even Tesco, when it comes down to it, carries several organic products:some produce and dairy, a small meat and fish section, and Bunalun. Bunalun is an organic food company that makes things like pasta and orange juice and rice cakes and honey and other kind of basics, and which I'm starting to see more places - like Centra now that they've revamped and expanded their little shop in Merville.

So there are, in fact, a number of options when it comes to eating consciously in Dublin, particularly if you live in the city. They're just not shoved in your face with a zillion different labels and certifications, probably because its still more of a niche industry here. It is a bit annoying how often organic gets grouped in with the gluten-free items (I like my gluten!), and you do have to pay a bit more in the stores, but the farmers market prices can actually be cheaper that conventionally grown produce at, say, Tesco. And theirs is fresher and tastier anyway, so it's totally worth it.

All that said, I would like to assert that I still prefer living in the states, for a variety of other reasons, including awareness. The fact that this stuff is available in Dublin doesn't mean that people are flocking to it, and the Irish attitude to other environmental concerns is severely lacking. Littering is not really seen as a problem, a fact not helped by the dirth of rubbish bins in the city. And where there aren't trash cans, there also aren't bike racks. I used to wonder why everyone had a cable lock when U-locks are safer...then I realized that its because you have to be able to fasten your bike to any tall poll available, because bike racks are rare and usually full where present. Combined with horrible driver awareness of cyclists and occasionally disappearing bike lanes, it's a pretty effective way of discouraging people from using bikes to get around. I think a bit more public activism is in order, but maybe that's just my Americanness talking.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Busy bee!

Well, I guess you can say I've settled back into the swing of things. A lot has been going on, though nothing particularly momentous. Tommy and his brother are running an Open Mic at the Bernard Shaw pub on Tuesday nights, so I've been to that a few times, and there's another open mic on campus on Wednesdays. It's all making me think that maybe I should get something together to play...especially since the on-campus one gives you a free pint for performing. We'll see.

Gosh, what's been happening all this month?! Well, on the 5th it was Pancake Tuesday, so I used a kilo of flour in making American pancakes (assisted by Zoë and Mel) with various fillings. I think I ate about a dozen pancakes in a few hours. Good thing I started at the gym the next day: that's right, I'm now a member of Crunch Fitness. I've actually been going regularly, too, so hopefully progress is being made there. On the 7th, Kíla performed at the student bar and were AWESOME. The middle of the crowd was just a bunch of sweaty shirtless guys throwing themselves at each other. It was great. Also great was the showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Sugar Club the next night. There was much dressing up and gender ambiguity, as one would expect from such a show. I hope they have another one before I leave, because only Mel was able to make it to this one, and I think having a big crowd with me would make it that much better.

This past Saturday I got to see Tommy & Lynchy's new place. They've moved into the house where Tommy's older brother is, which is excellent because it's only a 20 minute walk from my house. A bunch of people were over, and we played video games for 7 hours on the Wii (including a load of classic Mario for NES that Tommy had downloaded onto the Wii...I love how technology loops). And Monday, Tommy, Lynchy, and I went to Siobhan's house in Malahide, which is a pretty little harbor-side suburb north of Dublin, and watched Independence Day. It was the first time I'd actually watched it all the way through, and all I can say is what a ridiculous movie. We also had some excellent pasta bolognese that Siobhan made us.

Life overall is going quite well. The new roommates are quite nice, if somewhat unexciting (at least around me). I've been cooking a lot of tasty things; I made the BEST MEAL EVER yesterday: mashed celeraic, or celery root, with lentilles de Puy. Trust me: it was amazing. And now, in celebration of Valentine's Day, I'm going to go have some tasty chocolate, and maybe watch a slasher flick or something...or go to Tommy's gig! Maybe you'll find out, if I ever manage to update this thing again.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Girl Is Back In Town

Well, I've been back in Dublin for a week, but it almost feels like I never left. I have yet to decide whether this is a good or a bad thing. I'll go with "mostly okay" for now.

I've seen a bunch of people over the week. Paul's birthday on Monday was cool; his other party (his? I'm not sure whose) on Thursday was a bit weaker, eventually devolving into a sort of alcohol-fueled mating dance. Wednesday, I saw Lust, Caution with Aisling, Mel, and Conor, which was beautifully shot, well done, very explicit, and quite the downer. Yesterday I hung out for a while in the Forum bar but opted not to go into town afterwards.

I went rock climbing on Tuesday and Thursday, which felt awesome. I've also been cycling as much as possible, though with the wind as powerful as it is I don't go as much as I'd like for fear of being blown into traffic. Today I cycled to the Temple Bar Food Market again, which was, as ever, excellent. (By the way, I found the website for the stand where I buy my produce: Denis Healy's Organic Delights.) I picked up, among other things, some parsnips, leeks, and beets, which I'm excited to experiment with; I picked them up as part of my gradual quest to switch to eating seasonal foods. I also grabbed some shallots, as they are apparently the best ever.

Classes are going pretty well. I'm still trying to iron out a final schedule, but that should be done by mid-week at the latest. I'm still disappointed that "The Study of Human and Animal Bone" was full; without it, and having dropped the absolutely abysmally boring "Bronze Age Societies" (seriously, worst lecturer I've ever seen), it looks like I won't be taking any third-year courses. Oh well. I'll be attending my first "Woodland Archaeology" class on Monday, so hopefully that will go well. There's also "Interpreting Archaeology", the professor of which looks awesome, and "Early Medieval Archaeology", which has a tad more class participation that I like but at least is an interesting topic. For folklore I've got "The Narrative Art" with a very strongly accented teacher and "Calendar Custom" with the same woman I had teaching my folklore class last semester. And for my elective, "Myth in Greek Art & Architecture", which seems at least for now to be as awesome as it sounds. So all that's left is to officially switch around a couple classes and figure out how the hell I register for tutorials.

I'm sure there's more to say, but I can't think of it right now because I am hungry (as I alway seem to be at the end of my blog posts). Right, off to go steam some beet greens.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Winter Break

So my dad picked me up from Newark, and we drove to Philly and picked my mom up from the hospital, and my dad got both his girls back in the house on the same day. Hurrah! The holidays were subsequently pretty low-key, though I made Christmas dinner, which was awesome. I went to the Onas reunion briefly, to a Rufus Wainwright concert in Atlantic City with Emma, and to the CTY New Year's Reunion, all of which were awesome. I hung out with some cool people, saw some cool movies*, made some cool food (e.g. bagels!), read some cool books, and generally had a cool, relaxing time. Honestly, I wasn't really pumped about coming back to Dublin.

But back I am, since Saturday, and still a bit jet-lagged. My stuff is back in place, I have food once more, three new roommates are here...and I've barely left the house. I had a lousy night of warped circadian rhythms last night that led to me missing the first day of classes, but c'est la vie. I've already made sure my alarm is properly set and turned on for tomorrow, so it won't happen again. Tonight there's some birthday happening, to which I will bring Tastykake cupcakes for the birthday boy(s?), though sadly without candles. Hopefully I've solved my phone problems (it has a habit of not working for a period, or restarting, or just cutting me off) so people will be able to contact me with more opportunities to leave the house. So YEAH. Stuff. Time for dinner.



*No matter what anyone tries to say, I Am Legend is a ZOMBIE MOVIE. ZOM. BIE. Goddamn.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Compression; Relaxation

After spending all of Monday and Tuesday studying away, I got up bright and early Wednesday morning to cycle to Blackrock campus south of UCD for my third final. It wasn't too bad a ride, except that it was uphill a lot of the way in the beginning, and my pant leg got stuck in the chain at one point. The exam was similar: unpleasant to do at the time but ultimately successful. I then took the unexpectedly long cycle to the other exam center at RDS, to the north of UCD. I got there about an hour and a half ahead of my test and met up with a few other people from the class. They made me feel a bit better about it by appearing to be at least as unprepared as I felt, though ultimately I'd say they turned out better results. I just couldn't find enough to write about for the essays. Oh well. Cycling back home was pretty miserable, too, because I was so tired. I hadn't slept well the night before; I kept waking up from dreams involving cheese. At one point, I'd woken up at 4:41 thinking I'd overslept, calmed down, went back to sleep, was sleeping pretty soundly, and woke up again (still dreaming of cheese) to find it was 4:45. What the heck?! Whatever, at least I managed to unwind a little when I got home by watching Pulp Fiction for the first time. What a good movie!

I was feeling pretty good about Thursday's exam. I got ready in plenty of time to grab my notes and catch the free UCD shuttle to Blackrock campus. I arrived at around 12:30 for my 1:00 exam, strolled to the exam hall...where there was a test going on. I wondered why no one was around waiting, and pondered the likelihood of there being two exams scheduled back-to-back in the same hall. Eventually, I discovered at the reception desk that my exam was in fact scheduled for 3:00, and I am just a nincompoop who can't convert 24-hour time into 12-hour time properly. So I went Christmas shopping at the nearby shopping complex for an hour and then returned to continue studying. Another test well-taken. And when I got home (after walking a while and picking up something for dinner), I checked the time for my final the next day (which it turns out I'd also gotten wrong).

By Friday I was pretty freaking excited to be nearing the end of my ordeal. Little did I know what the day would bring. I spent the morning reviewing and taking care of last-minute business, since it was my last day in the country until I got back for the spring semester. I tried to drop off my registration sheet with the JYA office, picked up a last nosh at Centra, and was off to grab the 2:40 UCD shuttle to Blackrock (again). I was at the stop ten minutes ahead of time and waited with a few other girls. 2:40 rolled around, then 2:45, then 2:50...finally, just before 3:00, we caught sight of a bus pulling into the parking lot. The group of us breathed a small sigh of relief. The driver unloaded his passengers, but as we approached gave us a look that clearly said, "What the hell do you want?" He told us he wasn't due to head off until 3:20. We inhaled our sigh again. We explained the situation, but the driver remained unmoved. We called four different cab companies, all of which were booked up. We got to the stop for the public bus just as the bus we wanted pulled away. We decided just to wait for the shuttle. I tried not to cry. All I could think about was that the exam I was currently missing made up 100% of the grade for that class (Minoan Bronze Age of Crete - one of my favorites of the semester). After maybe 15 minutes and some conversation between a couple of the shuttle bus drivers, the first one took pity on us and agreed to leave early. We arrived at our exams half an hour late. The good news is that I spent my remaining hour and a half writing steadily, so I think I did pretty well...but I could've done better if I'd had those extra 30 minutes.

And then I was free! Well, except packing. But that was accomplished handily, especially when accompanied by Lynchy arriving earlier than anyone else and chatting with me while I freaked out over things like what shoes to bring home. I ended up having a pretty chill night of drinking in my apartment, rather than going out and ravishing the city, but mostly because the people we were waiting for before leaving showed up just as the last bus was leaving campus, and I wasn't about to take a taxi into town. Luckily, we found a place to order in cheap beer.

I took a nap for a couple hours before being rudely awoken by one of my guests so I could be sure to catch the AirCoach in time to get my flight. I made it with all of my belongings to the airport and experienced hell on Earth waiting to check in my bag while so dehydrated I thought I might pass out. Luckily, I arrived at my gate in plenty of time (plus an additional half-hour delay) and was able to nap a bit more and thus regain my ability to function. The flight was uneventful, as I slept through much of it, as well. The middle-aged Irish woman seated beside me had clearly never been on a plane before, as she didn't know how to adjust her seat when the flight attendant asked her to put it up before takeoff. (That particular flight attendant, appropriately enough another Tommy, was quite a ham, but went about his antics in a way that to me suggested a need to relieve his own stress as much as entertain his passengers.) The food was edible, the movie (No Reservations) watchable, the length barely doable, but I made it to the ground okay and recovered my suitcase with minimal hassle. I met my dad at the gate, which was GREAT...

...and the rest is a story for another day.