Thursday, November 11, 2010


There wasn't much exciting going on the week after we returned from Galway. I spent a lot of time studying and trying to get caught up with all my classes. I did get my sinuses project finished for Animal Physiology, and it's not even due until Dec. 2nd!

My roommate Jessica and I had signed up to do a Scavenger Hunt through the ESN (the international student society) on Friday, Oct. 29th. The weather was horrible for it! We met several people from different places, including Canada, France, and Italy. Our team name was the Red Devils, and a couple of the people in our group showed up with devil horns and tails. We got a list of places and things to locate within the campus and in the city center. We raced around, catching sight of the other teams, and darted from place to place, stopping at a pub to get a pint of Guinness, which to my delight was on our list of things to do! We documented our journey with pictures (look on my facebook page) and ended up coming in 4th place out of around 13 teams. The others must have been running or something! The last thing we had to get on our list was a picture with the Gardi (police officer). We looked and looked and finally saw a Garda car parked along the street with its lights flashing. We raced up to it just as the two officers were getting in. We had been drenched for a while by this point, and we explained that we were doing a scavenger hunt and the last thing we needed was a picture with them. The driver looked at the passenger and after a minute they agreed. We all kneeled down by the window they'd rolled down and we got our last task finished! If you recall, the umbrella I'd brought from home was badly battered, but since it was all I had and I refused to buy another one, I used it this whole time anyway. It looked so pitiful by the end of the day. And I was soaked anyway, so it didn't really make a difference whether I had it or not. 

That Sunday, Halloween, Jessica and I went into town on the bus to go to church. I decided to go to St. Mary's Catholic Church located very near the Spire. It was easy enough to find, and what a beautiful cathdral it was! I got there just as it was starting because the bus that we would have normally taken into the city from campus was discontinued due to "antisocial (aka drinking) behavior," so we ended up having to take a different bus that dropped us off near Trinity College. I stayed for the 11am mass, and since I underestimated how long it would last (I told Jess it would probably last an hour) I stayed for the beginning of the noon mass, which was sung in Latin. I'd never heard a Latin mass before, so this was very exciting for me. The men in the choir were amazing. It reminded me of the movie Home Alone when Kevin is in the church on Christmas Eve with the old man (who Buzz says turns dead bodies into salt) as they were listening to his granddaughter sing. I really really liked it, and wish I could have stayed for the whole thing but I left at the homily because Jess and I were going to meet some other girls for lunch at the Korean market that we all loved. So I walked to Penneys where we were to meet, and I did the unthinkable. I broke down and bought a new umbrella. Never thought I would, but mine was getting too battered. I threw it in the rubbish bin outside Penneys :) Now I have a mini sparkly black one. I don't use it when there's wind. It's not worth ruining it, and with wind you're going to end up wet with or without an umbrella. That's one thing I've gotten used to here.

Betheny ended up getting all gussied up as a cowgirl for Halloween (too bad my boots are still  at Purdue). Jessica even did her hair in french braids. Halloween for me was spent inside watching Friends with Jessica as we ate dinner together, a tradition I will probably miss the most from being here. 

Monday, Nov. 1st I signed up for classes. After a bit of trouble regarding age verification for Wine Appreciation, and an Animal Science prerequisite issue, I got enrolled for my last semester as an undergraduate!! So exciting! But since it's the last time I'll get to take "fun" classes, I definitely took advantage of it, as can be gathered from my schedule: Ruminant Nutrition and Physiology : ), Biochem 565 and 490 : /, Flower Arranging : ), Wine Appreciate : ), International Economic Development : /, and Medical Terminology : ). 7 classes, but only 16 credits. I tried to convince George to take bowling with me, but I'm not sure how thrilled he was about that lol. 

Nancy and I left for London early Friday morning. I'm telling you, I've got the whole get-up-at-2:30-catch-the-Air-Coach-get-through-Visa-check/stamp-go-through-security-wait-at-the-boarding-gate-board-plane-takeoff-land-customs-find-transportation-from-airport-to-city-center-thing down. It's really an art. But one thing that was quite different this time, and for good reason I suppose, was when we had just arrived at London Gatwick Airport, there were security guys with HUGE guns. I mean, these things were monsters. But that's fine with me, if that's what it takes to keep us safe. 

We had to take the train from the airport to London King's Cross St. Pancras Station. (In my mind, King's Cross = Harry Potter :)) We got there, found our hostel, dropped off our luggage in their storage room, and went back to the station to go to Cambridge (where Nancy studied last summer), since we didn't want to start the really touristy stuff in London until Betheny got there the next morning. So we took another train to Cambridge (but before we boarded, I insisted we make a stop at Platform 9 3/4 so I could get my picture taken with the trolley as I tried to get through to the hidden platform :)). The weather was pretty nasty. It was overcast, spitting rain, and windy and cold. Nancy showed me around Pembroke, where she actually studied. That's one thing I learned about Cambridge. There are many colleges that make it up. And not just schools (like the College of Ag or Science at Purdue), but actual distinct Colleges. We walked around and she showed me where she'd lived. Then we looked at King's College, and a couple of the others. We ate lunch at Nando's, where we both got a chicken wrap (hot) with a side. I got their famous creamy mash, and boy was it good! We left there and did some more sightseeing. I got to see some punters along the River Cam (oh, I figured out why they called it Cambridge...Cam...bridge). We noticed that everyone in and around London was wearing a red poppy on their lapel. It was in remembrance of those who fought and sacrificed in the wars. It's observed the entire month of November. There were red telephone booths everywhere! We stopped at a little street market and did some shopping and browsing. Cambridge topped the world university rankings in September! What a neat experience to have been there. I really enjoyed it, even if the weather wasn't choice. 

That night, Nancy and I decided to go on a pub crawl that was advertised at the hostel. It cost 12 pounds, and we got free entrance and 4 free drinks, along with drink specials at all the pubs and clubs. It was pretty fun. Neither of us had been on a pub crawl before, but it's basically what you'd expect. Drink and mosey from bar to bar with a humongous group of people. We met some guys from the states...of course, wouldn't that be our luck...but yeah, it was quite a fun night :)

The next morning Betheny got there, and we all went out to breakfast at a little diner near the hostel. We decided to go on the free city tour which was arranged by the same group that organized the pub crawl. We started at Wellington Arch in Westminster (not actually London City), and made our way to Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Horse Guards Parade (where the 2010 sand volleyball Olympic games will take place), Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and the Houses of Parliament. There is something about London that is really enchanting...not sure if that's the right word. But I would really like to venture back there someday in the future. We stopped for a cup of tea at a little restaurant to warm ourselves up after that cold tour, and then we went to Covent Garden (where the pub crawl had taken place the night before) and looked around the various vendors' stands. We even got to hear some live music! It was a really neat atmosphere. And they'd already decorated for Christmas, so that made it even more magical. We ate dinner at the White Lion, where I had the Shepherd's Pie (made with lamb) and Rhubarb and Raspberry Crumble with Custard for dessert. Oh, and a pint of cider :)

Sunday morning we ventured south to where the Australia House (aka Gringotts Wizarding Bank in Harry Potter), Church of St. Clements ("Oranges and Lemons..."), and St. Paul's Cathdral were. Then we took the underground back up to Camden Market, where there were loads and loads of street vendors and things to do and see. There was a mass of people, but I managed to spot a really cute dress hanging on one of the stands. I went over to look at it, and the girls convinced me to try it on. I did, and I loved it, but I didn't want to pay 20 pounds for it. It was just a simple strapless short dress in a flower print with a brown belt (sold separately for 10 pounds) cinched around the waste. I tried to talk the guy down, but in the end I didn't want to pay 25 for them both. So I did what I find so hard to do (and therefore usually don't): walk away. I reassured myself that I could make a dress just like it for much less...or go to my favorite bargain shop back home: Goodwill :) It didn't bother me too much, and he lost a sale. We walked around looking for a little while, and when we decided we were frozen and hungry, we found this Mexican food stand and had lunch. It was really good, other than the fact that we couldn't find any indoor seating and had to take it to a park bench. But at least we were in the sun. After we'd finished we went back to the underground station and took it back south to London Bridge station. From there, we were able to walk along the River Thames and see all of the famous bridges...Tower Bridge (another Harry Potter filming location), London Bridge (is falling down...), and Millennium Bridge (once again, Harry Potter), as well as Shakespeare's Globe Theater. It was getting dark, so we decided to go into the Tate Modern Art Museum since it was free and we were cold. We walked around looking at things for an hour or so, and by then it had gotten dark outside. So we looked for a place to eat. I must say, London at night by the river, in the presence of Harry Potter bridges :) is quite an experience. We passed by Sir Francis Drake's Golden Hinde and the remains of the Winchester Palace on the way to dinner. We actually found a spot that served the EXACT same dishes as the White Lion had the night before. But since Betheny and I hadn't tried true Fish 'n Chips yet, we decided to split a large, with pints of cider for the both of us. It was good, but I mean not like extraordinarily better than any other fish 'n chips I've had. Then again, I was getting a sore throat from not wearing enough layers that day, so I was sort of out of it. That night when we got back to King's Cross, we got Betheny a picture on Platform 9 3/4 as well :)

We got up and left the hostel by 5am the next morning so we could catch our train back to the airport. 

Oh, and I'm not sure which day this was, but I did get a care package from Miss Jill Rodenhuis (in whose wedding I'm going to be a bridesmaid :)). It was the perfect care package for me: a Jake's Roadhouse tshirt, a Den tshirt, a Harry's glass, and lots of Milk Duds! It came with a little not saying "A little something to remind you of 'home.'" I was so ecstatic when I went to pick it up at the office. Getting mail makes you feel like you're not so far from the people you love. 

Also, just the other day I got a letter from Kim and Brittany Forler, our neighbors on 950 North in Chrisney. They sent me a card saying "Just a note to let you know...I'm thinking of you." They even sent 4 photos of 950 North since they've enjoyed looking at my pictures on facebook. One of them is just the gravel road, another is of Howie (their beagle), our goats, and Jasper, our newest Great Pyrenese in front of the barn. I really appreciated that. It was just what I needed. Here I've been taking all these pictures of far-away places, but I don't actually have any real tangible ones of home. So once again, thank you Kim and Brittany : ) If I've not been homesick yet, that's a good start lol ; )

I got a letter from Aunt Mary, Marie and Will for Halloween/my birthday. It said "Across the miles...thoughts of you bring smiles. Happy Halloween." That was so nice as well. I've really enjoyed sending postcards to people back home, and it's even more nice when I get a letters back! :)
Also, I got a letter from Kathy and Stacey Lee. I sent them a postcard a while back, and it was great to hear their stories of when they were in Ireland. Galway was their favorite place (as it was one of mine), and I'm pretty sure we even went to the same farmer's market while we were there lol. It's fun to compare how different people think of certain places, and I can't wait to see their photos and show them mine! 

While I'm on the subject of birthday cards, I should mention that I got one from Mom, Dad, Cody, and Luke, as well as one from Grammy and Poppy. 

I just want to say thank you to everyone who has made this experience for me even easier. Thank you for taking the time to think about me. I'm sure thinking of you all. 

It's off to Paris tomorrow evening! I'm hoping nothing bad happens. The Eiffel Tower's been evacuated twice and there's still considered to be a high threat of terrorism. Plus, the air traffic controllers have been on strike, so flights have been delayed and cancelled. But hey, I figure what's going to happen is going to happen no matter where I am or how careful I am (I'm not saying I'm not careful)...but it's just the next part of my study abroad experience! 

Until then..."keep your stick on the ice." =)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Blarney Castle, the Wicklow Mountains, Brussels and Bruges, Rome, and Galway! (sorry for this HUGE delay)

Weekend of Sept. 25/26: Blarney Castle and the Wicklow Day Tour

Saturday morning, Vanessa, Betheny and I caught the bus to go to Cork (it's over 4 hours, I'd recommend flying), where we transferred buses to go to Blarney, which is only a short distance away. Cork reminded me a lot of Dublin, inasmuch as it had the canal running through the center with the typical walk bridges across. The aim of this whole trip was to get to kiss the Blarney Stone, which is rumored to give the gift of eloquence. We walked to the castle from the little town of Blarney, which is about the cutest place ever. The castle is simply gorgeous! We had to make our way to the very top to kiss the stone, and there were 100 steps of narrow, steep, winding spiral stairs. There was a rope along the axis of the staircase to hold onto so you wouldn't fall, and the only light (besides the occasional lamps they had on the walls) came from skinny rectangular windows. There were several rooms off the staircase, but eventually we got to the top. The view was amazing! We could see the gardens and Blarney House, which is only open in the spring unfortunately. It was all so gorgeous, and I felt like I was in a fairy tale. We saw a bride getting pictures taken with the wedding party at the base of the castle! How neat would that be!? At the top of the castle, there was a line around the parapet in which people were eager to kiss the stone. You had to lay down on your back, and while the employee was holding your waist/legs, you leaned backwards (holding onto two iron bars) and reached your head out to give it a smooch. We also explored the Rock Close, which is a mystical place on the site of an ancient druidic settlement. There a trail leads you under groves of gnarled oak and yew trees to the Dolmen, Wishing Steps, Witch's Kitchen and other features. A board walk took us through the water garden past two waterfalls. It was all so pleasant and pretty.

Sunday, Betheny and I took a bus tour of Wicklow along the east coast of Ireland. We met some people who went to Trinity College in Dublin and got to hear their stories and how they liked Dublin. We left Dublin at 9am and our first stop was Wicklow's Glencree Valley on the way to our coffee stop at Glencree Peace and Reconciliation Center. I don't like coffee, so I had their hot chocolate. There have been several international meetings and prestigious people who have met there in the main building at the Center. We got to view spectacular scenery as we passed through famous film locations at the Sally Gap and Lough Tay high in the Wicklow Mountains. Some of the films (I wrote them down  so I wouldn't forget) included P.S. I Love You, Braveheart, Excalibur, Saving Private Ryan, Leap Year, Camelot, and Harry Potter! I really liked the tour because everything was explained as we drove around (by Terry, our tourgide, who also sang and played us some great Irish music on the bus), so we learned a lot more than we would have just exploring on our own, such as Ireland's "smallest village," and the "driest village." It's hard to imagine a place here without a pub where you can get a pint of Guinness. We learned that Glendalough (Glen-da-lock) is one of the most important sites of monastic ruins in Ireland. There was a cemetery, and nearly every stone had the Celtic Cross on it, which is a combination of two symbols, the cross and a circle. The cross represents a unity of Christianity and Paganism and was introduced by St. Patrick. The two lakes were really pretty, and the scenery along the walk to the lower and upper lakes was very peaceful. Close to here was where they'd built a castle for one of the Harry Potter films, but evidently they tore it down as soon as the filming was finished (according to Terry). One of our last stops was to the Meeting of the Waters in the Vale of Avoca, a pretty little spot made famous by Irish poet Thomas Moore. We stopped for lunch at a traditional Irish pub in the Avoca village, which is actually the location of the famous British tv series, Ballykissangel. From there, we headed back to Dublin and ended the day. It was well worth the cost of 22 euro.

October 1-4: Belgium

We (Vanessa, Betheny, Heather, Nancy, Jessica, and I) arrived at Brussels Charlerois South Airport Friday morning. We caught a taxi into the city along with another couple because it cost the same as the bus shuttle and we avoided waiting in a long line. We got into the city and were pretty surprised when we couldn't figure out exactly where to go, and no one seemed to speak any English! But we eventually got our bearings and found the place where we were supposed to check into our hostel. We started to explore the city, and quickly found that all the things we were told to try- chocolate, waffles, fries (or frites), and beer- were all they were made out to be! YUM! Betheny and I spotted a gentleman in a Purdue hat in one of the chocolate shops, and soon discovered he was Dr. Karl Brandt, who had been in academic administration as associate dean and director of academic programs for Purdue's School of Agriculture for 18 years. He returned to the Department of Biochemistry full time as a faculty member (before moving into admin, his interest was in biochemical research). He and his wife had been on a 16-day European vacation trip (cruising the Rhine and Moselle Rivers from Basel to Amsterdam, followed by 2.5 days in Brussels and Bruges). What a vacation! Upon returning to Indiana, he gave a talk to the Biochemistry Club and mentioned what a small world it is, to have seen us in Brussels, of all places in the world. What are the chances?! 

Our hostel was in a prime location- right next to the Grand Place! It was probably the most beautiful architecture and most magnificent buildings I've seen in any city ever. The style was very Gothic, but there were also styles from other time periods. I liked how in Brussels, they'd leave old stone castles and ruins as they were, and simply build their city around them. It gave a very historical sense to the area, and allowed your imagination to run wild with questions of what had happened there, and in whose footsteps were you walking. Such a neat feeling. 

There were several neat little shops, including a miniatures store that was basically a little girl's dream (or my 22-year old dream lol). It was filled with exquisite doll houses and every little tiny thing you could imagine a doll would ever need. I could have spent all day in there just looking at all the stuff. The little old lady who worked in there made it practically perfect. There were also a lot of shops with doilies and crocheted items, like tissue box covers, wall hangings, table runners, napkins, and parasols. They were all so gorgeous, but I know Grammy could do any of that. Sometimes I really wish certain people were with me to experience these things. But I take pictures so I can share with them what I experienced and how much more meaningful it would have been had they been there. I'm so grateful I had the sewing teacher I did. I hope my mom wants to teach my daughter(s) how to sew. It's a great way to connect with your grandmother, and such a relaxing enjoyable hobby. 

We stopped at a little square where there were numerous venders all selling their merchandise. I couldn't help but use my bargaining skills and make a few purchases...I'll leave out those details for sake of keeping some surprise in certain people's Christmas presents. It was really a neat place with lots to look at: jewelry, perfumes, hats, gloves, paintings and artwork, etc. Jessica even got a hair wrap! It only took like ten minutes. I was impressed. 

After we'd explored pretty much all Brussels had to offer, we decided that we'd take a train to Bruges on Sunday, since so many people had recommended going. It wasn't a disappointment! The train ride there let me see what I really wanted to see: the countryside. The cows were mostly Belgian Blues I think. The pictures I took of them aren't the best because the train was moving so fast, but their double-muscling definitely outdid our common American beef. I was impressed, if you couldn't tell! Bruges was such a small town, which right there had me from the start. We could walk across the whole town in like half an hour. There were a couple beautiful churches and parks. And there were horse-drawn carriages, swans, and cobblestone streets EVERYWHERE! I think there were more horses than cars. The main square was absolutely adorable. The architecture was very unique, and the buildings were so colorful! It reminded me of something from Alice and Wonderland, and also the Wizard of Oz. The latter, because there was this walkway through the center of the square through some gardens, and it wound its way through hills of green grass like the road to Emerald City. 

Oh, and how could I forget?! There were dogs everywhere! I took so many pictures of people's dogs. Everyone had their dog out and about, and there didn't seem to be any trend to a certain breed or size.
One of the highlights of our day in Bruges was the canal tour. We got to see the town from the boat, and got a little history lesson along the way. One of the hotels we passed was featured in the film "In Bruges," which is supposed to be a gangster/hitman-type film starring Colin Farrell. Seems kind of ironic when considering the calm, quaint nature of the town (from my point of view at least).

Belgium was a really neat first place to travel out of Ireland. A great place to call the third country I've ever been! :)

October 14-17: Rome and the Vatican

Betheny and I departed Dublin airport bright and early Thursday morning. Yes, I skipped class to leave, but that is the only time I've done this here, and the ticket was cheaper. I obviously wasn't too worried about it. I can go to class anytime, but how many times will I have the chance to go to Italy?! I mean, c'mon. One thing I was so surprised to see, and wish I'd taken a picture of, was the Alps (I assume that's what they were) on our flight there. I can't even describe how magnificent they were! They reached up through the clouds, and I could see the snow caps on the peaks. My camera was up in my bag in the overhead storage, and I didn't want to make everyone move so I could get it, but looking back I really wish I would have been selfish enough to do so. I couldn't stop thinking of how neat it would be for George to be able to see this. I have always loved the mountains, and Switzerland is one of the places I really wanted to go when I came over here, but coming into the winter is prime tourist (snow sports) season, so the tickets there are quite a bit more than I'm willing to spend. They stretched as far as I could see and, while everyone else was typically sleeping on the flight, I couldn't help just taking it all in. It was the neatest thing I've ever seen from the air. 
When we finally landed, I was very proud of our navigation skills. We're pretty much professionals at navigating airports by now, but when we get to a new country, with a different language, it helps to have a good map. If I've got one of those, I'm good to go. We took the bus from the airport to the city center. That's one disadvantage of flying cheap with Ryanair. The airports they use are almost always a good distance from the main city, so you have to spend some on transportation to the city. There was so much graffiti on all the buildings, as I quickly realized on the bus ride in. It really turned me off. I guess I'd just thought, you know, Rome...old...beautiful....pristine...perfect. But I was sadly disappointed in that respect. 
We found our hostel from the Metro station. Its location was a little ghetto, but once we got settled in it proved to be a nice home base. Rome is a huge city, and my feet have never hurt so much in my life. I'm not exaggerating at all. Literally everything from my knees down was in constant pain after that first day. We did so much walking. Our first stop was the Colosseum, then we attempted to go to the Borghese Museums, but found out that there were no available openings until that following Wednesday. I knew we had to book in advance, but had no idea how far in advance. So, if you're planning to go to Rome and want to go to the Borghese Museums, make sure you check on making reservations!! We looked up beforehand and purchased a Roma Pass once we got into the city. It cost 25 euro for students, and you get the admission to two sites free (the first two you visit), and then good discounts on all subsequent sites you visit in a 3-day period. Also, as part of the Pass, you get free unlimited public transportation, which is a great relief after having spent all day on your feet (even if it is just the metro, where you have to stand up anyway). At least you get to your destination in a fraction of the time. So, instead of the Borghese, one of the guys who worked at the hostel told us to go to the Capitoline Museum, which turns out to be the OLDEST museum in the world! I'm not really a museum person, but I thought it was pretty interesting. 

The hostel we stayed at had free pasta nights during the week, so that was one less meal we ended up having to pay for (yay!). 

Friday we mapped out our route and pretty much saw the entire city. There are so many cathedrals and churches that are gorgeous on the inside, but the outsides give no hint of it. It's kind of neat, because I was always so curious to go into the simplest of buildings just to see if there was a "treasure" on the inside. It kept everything interesting. Some of the big places we saw include the Quirinale (where the president of Italy lives), the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and the Spanish Steps, among others of course. I've still got my map with our route drawn out so if I ever go back I'll at least have that to help me remember what I've seen. We both threw a coin into the Trevi Fountain over our shoulder, and it's supposed to mean that you'll come back to Rome one day, so we'll see. We ate lunch at an Italian restaurant, and I had a true Italian pizza and wine. It was simply amazing. I already knew I loved Italian food, but this is nothing like the food from Olive Garden or Fazoli's I've had. It is sooooo good. Besides pizza, I tried gelato (lots of it), cannoli, cannelloni, and gnocchi. The cannelloni was by far my favorite! I just can't say enough about Italian food. Mmmmm.
There were several spots on our journey that had wonderful views of the city. Nancy and Heather flew in on Friday, and we met up with them that night to plan our Saturday at Vatican City. I was soo excited to actually get to see where the Pope lives, even though I wouldn't get to actually see him. I still felt very priveleged to get to visit the tiniest of countries. It was quite an experience. We had to go through security at St. Peter's Square. St. Peter's Basilica is the most magnificent cathedral ever. Even though I'm not the most religious Catholic out there, this was a very memorable and meaningful experience for me. I wish Grandma could have been there, but I got her a rosary from the gift shop at the cupola of the cathedral. That's another story. We decided to pay the 5 euro and climb the over 500 steps to the top of it! It was quite the workout, but the view from that height of the sunrise coming up over Rome was priceless. Once again, a breathtaking moment. Other places we saw were the Papal Tombs and the Vatican Museums (where I "illegally" took five pictures of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo). There were a lot of sculptures, paintings, murals, and tapestries. It was very impressive, and I took an excessive number of photos. That's why I've been so bad about keeping up on my blog. Uploading those takes a LONG time when you have over 500 and can only load 15 to facebook at a time (thanks to the ridiculously slow internet here). So bear with me. I'm going to try and update this weekly from here on out.

I unfortunately didn't see the Alps on the flight home, but I guess that's just reason to go there one day! :)

October 22nd: My 22nd Birthday!

I was surprised by my roommates, Jessica and Vanessa, with candles and a birthday card and Butler's Chocolates! What a nice gift! And then Betheny came over and brought all the fixings to make a delicious cake. I have the best friends! It was so nice of them and a really great birthday. That night us 4, along with Heather, Nancy, and Rachel (a girl in my animal physiology class from Kansas State) all went to Porterhouse Brewery in Dublin. The special was two for one daiquiris! My FAVORITE! We had a delicious meal and plenty of drinks. I had such a great time! :)

October 23/24: Galway

This is Steve Earle singing "Galway Girl." If you've not heard it, you should really listen to it. It's my favorite Irish song :)

Betheny, Rachel, and I took the train from Dublin to Galway Saturday morning bright and early. It was about a 3 hour ride. When we got there, we found a map in the tourist office and proceeded to our hostel. Galway is a very small town, which as I've said before, I really like. There's something about small towns that's much more inviting than the massive expanse and huge buildings of a city. As we were looking for the hostel we found this really cute little restaurant right by the bay. We thought we might come back for dinner. The hostel was located right in the middle of a lot of shops and pubs, so we had plenty to do. We dropped off our stuff and went to find the farmer's market that Heather, Nancy, and Jessica had recommended for the cinnamon donuts. We found it alright, and they were right; those were the best donuts I've ever had! There were a lot of fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and salads, along with stands selling falafel and other foods. In addition to the normal things expected at a farmers market, there were local artists selling their paintings, jewelry, leather goods and warm wool clothing. We perused through several times to make sure we saw everything. Rachel got a little silver ring and a falafel, and Betheny got some leather keychains. I brought my lunch with me, and after the donuts I was pretty satisfied.

We walked around the whole town that day, and saw  Lynch's Castle, the town hall theater, court house, Cathedral, a river walk, the Spanish Arch, museum, park, and St. Nicholas Cathedral, which is actually where Christopher Columbus stopped to pray before he set sail to the new world. That night we ate at a restaurant promoted by the hostel. We got vouchers for a free drink with meal purchase, and this ended up being cheaper than the cute restaurant we discovered upon our arrival. Rachel and I split a burger and salad, and Betheny got pasta. We were actually both craving a hamburger all day, from the point we got to the train station in Dublin, where there was a fast food place (even though it was 6:30 am!). The burger we had really hit the spot! And I had a pint of Guinness as my free drink, of course :)

Sunday we went on a tour of the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren. We ate the breakfast that was provided at the hostel (toast and jam, coffee, juice) and then checked out. We departed at 10am from the bus station across from the tourist office, and left with a full bus. One of the places we saw was the Aillwee Caves, where we had a 35-minute guided tour in a cave basically in the middle of a mountain. This was probably my second-favorite stop of the day, second only to the cliffs of course. (The last cave I remember being in was in Flatrock when we were little. I've wanted to go to the Mammoth Caves but haven't gotten to yet.) There was a waterfall in this one, and I can't describe the feeling of being in complete darkness in the cave. There were places where they found bear bones from where the bears had hibernated during the winter months. It was really neat! Continuing on our journey, we saw the Burren Paradise, a remarkable bare limestone area with its many combinations of unusual factors such as its unique geology, flora and fauna. Other places include Lisdoonvarna (renowned for the Matchmaking Festival that takes place every September), Doolin, Blackhead, and the Cliffs of Moher. I felt very rushed at the cliffs, as we were only given an hour before we had to be back on the bus. We made the most of our time, and raced up to the top to get as many pictures as we could. There was a small castle on the cliffs called O'Brien's Tower, which I paid 2 euro to go to the top, where I shimmied up and stood on a square platform and had an amazing 360-degree view of the coast of Connemara to the north across Galway Bay and the Clare coastline to Loop Head and beyond in the south to the Kerry Mountains. I took a video if anyone is interested (once again, see facebook). I looked out across the Atlantic Ocean and thought to myself, home is just across there! It was sort of a bittersweet moment for me. It was quite literally the closest I'll be to home until December! I felt so small next to the ocean and the cliffs. It's just indescribable beauty. I read a sign in the tower that said the Cliffs of Moher was an official finalist in the 7 new wonders of nature, and for good reason! The Cliffs of Moher is Ireland's most visited natural attraction with a magical vista that captures the hearts of up to one million visitors each year. The Cliffs rise to 700 ft at the highest point and range for 5 miles over the Atlantic Ocean on the western seaboard of Co. Clare. I must say the weather was definitely in our favor, and the tour guide said it was one of the best days he's seen the entire time he's been giving tours, like 6 years or so. The visibility was amazing, as we were able to see across the Galway Bay that morning to the town from Blackhead and other places along the coast.  We saw cows, sheep, geese, alpacas, and donkeys in the rocky landscape as we drove along. It was such beautiful scenery. There were places where the cows were grazing that had more rocks than grass. They seemed very out of place, but I guess it works. I really liked how some of the rocks and boulders were covered in this green moss. It was a nice change from the normal flat pastures I've seen in the countryside of Ireland and elsewhere. The area immediately north of O'Brien's Tower below Aill Na Searrach (Cliff of the Foals) has become a world famous surf spot with the famous Aileen's wave drawing world class surfers. In certain conditions the wave can reach 60 ft and has been compared to giant waves such as "Jaws" in Maui, Hawaii. Aileen's wave has been featured in the movies Sea Fever and Wave Riders. 
We finished the tour by stopping at Dunguaire Castle, which was absolutely stunning in the light of the setting sun. We could see its reflection off the water and there were some swans and ducks floating around. It was a nice end to our adventurous day. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Week 2 Happenings

Tues, Sept. 14.

I walked into my 9am intro engineering class titled "Creativity in Design" and discover that the vast majority of students in the lecture theater are males. Freshmen, and I mean like 17- and 18-year-olds. A little too young for me, so don't any of you get your hopes up. Anyway, I discover that almost everyone has their class supplies, which include an oversized sketch pad, drawing pencils, and a square (ruler/straight edge). And since I'm not actually in the engineering program and didn't go to the engineering orientation, I was unaware of this, but I was informed that all these things could be purchased at the Richview Print Shop west of campus. I looked on my map I had tucked away in my planner and see that there are no buildings with such a label, but that there are 5 or 6 buildings with the name "Richview." I ask the guy sitting next to me where the place mentioned was located, and he said he wasn't sure. Ok, so I have to figure this out on my own...what's new.

Anyway, after class was let out, I went to the agriculture building for my Animal Repro lecture. I'm not sure why, but we have three one-hour lectures for this particular class on Tuesdays. They are one and two hours apart, which makes no sense to me whatsoever. I understand that they don't want to cram them all into a three hour time slot, but going back to the same room and seeing the same professor three times a day gets a little long and tiring anyway.

Between classes, I decided to venture off and find this Richview Print Shop on my own. The weather is, of course, horrible as usual. It's not only raining, but the wind is gusting enough that you have to lean to keep from falling over. So, I head west down the road and try to follow the map. When I think I'm close, I stop and ask a couple men in suits who look like they know their way around, and they point me in the direction of the architecture building. So...I head that way, only to find that the building is surrounded by a tall fence and brush. I head back east on the south side of the building and finally find a gate entrance. (I swear, nothing is ever easy here. That concept must not have crossed the ocean yet.) I go inside where it says 'reception' and there is a police guard who asks me what i need. I tell him my situation and where the professor told the class to buy the materials, but he has never heard of such a place, but he tells me that Donnybrook is like a 15-20 minute walk north when you turn right onto the main road. He said they'd probably have what I need. So...I head back west from there and come to a complex of small office buildings. I'm thinking surely someone must know. This is getting ridiculous. When I get to the main road and make a few circles to see what's around, I decide that this shop must be somewhere around these offices. I decided to walk into a small restaurant and ask a couple ladies who'd just come out. They didn't know, but told me to ask the cashier inside. She didn't know, just so happens that there was an architecture student behind me waiting to buy lunch who overheard me asking directions for a shop where I could buy supplies for my creativity in design class. He told me that it was just east of where we were. So he gives me directions to go straight east from the restaurant and then take a left where the road forks. I thank him and walk out...turn left where it forks...and suddenly I hear someone from behind me calling out. I turn around, and the same guy is waving at me and points to the right. Evidently I can't follow directions...? Anyway, I meet up with him and he says he'll take me there. I tell him I have no idea where I'm going and thank him for helping me, and he says, "well that would be awful mean of me to not say anything when I know you're lost." So we walk a ways and he points out the shop. FINALLY! But he said that they're probably closed for lunch, which I discover they are. Of course. I ask him if they take visa, and he says no, only cash. Of course...(I know I'm using 'so' a lot...sorry) so I walk back to campus and stop at the atm to get some cash so I can go back and buy the stuff I need between my next classes. After my last repro lecture of the day, I head back to the print shop. By now, the wind is getting really bad and it's starting to pour. My $1 Walmart umbrella is no match for these conditions. I point it into the oncoming wind, but it crumples against the force, and that's the end of any bit of patience I had left in me. I give up on the umbrella and basically run inside, soaked and thinking how I'm supposed to get a sketch pad home in this weather with only a purse. I show the man who runs the place what my list says, and he helps me get it together. I pay him and ask if he's got any sort of plastic bag I could use to put my things in so they don't get ruined. He gives me a small garbage bag and I walk out the door. As I do, I notice that the hours are until 4pm, and it's just now 4. So I'm thinking to myself, if I had come all that way in this weather to only end up at a locked door, I'd have been hysterical. This just was not my day.

I got back and told Jessica my story, and we made chicken penne, which was absolutely delicious after such an ordeal. Then I took a shower, got in some dry clothes, and watched Two and a Half Men.

Wed, Sept. 15

I get to my Animal Physiology class, and it's the same professor who teaches my repro class. What is this, grade school? ...I sit through two more hours of him lecturing and then go to my farm business management class for two hours. I go home to grab a sandwich, and then it's back to campus for a 4 hour creativity in design lecture. As class begins, an Irish girl named Ruth asks if she can sit next to me and introduces herself. She's a freshman in engineering, and the only person with whom I've made contact in this room, so I welcomed this new acquaintance. She seems really nice, even though I sometimes have a hard time understanding her because she speaks so softly and quick, and has the Irish accent I'm not quite accustomed to yet.

The professor has us do all sorts of activities on our sketch pads...some of them interesting and others rather lame. But I will not complain one bit about this class because for once in my life (well, the past 7 years) I get to draw in class...for class! This is without a doubt going to be my favorite class here. I already know. Plus, we'll be doing group projects that involve sketching and making 3d objects and designs. It's supposed to be a class that teaches you how to develop your creative drawing and modeling skills to be able to portray your ideas (as an engineer would need to, and also people from many different majors who take this class as an elective...aka me). Ruth and I walk to the student lounge when we are given a half hour break by the prof. She told me about places I should go see in Ireland while I'm here, and I told her about how my brother is going to school for professional flight technology. She and I get to talking about our families, and her father flies small planes (Cessnas) for fun. She's got three sisters, and thinks she wants to be an electrical engineer. After class was finished, we walked back to Belgrove, since we discovered we both live there. Hopefully we continue to talk, even though it may be hard to find one another in class, and we aren't in the same group, but we are facebook friends now.

That night, Jess and I went to a 21st birthday party for a girl she met who is from Washington state. They had a small cake, and everyone brought their own drinks. We didn't plan on going out to the city that night with them, so we stayed a couple hours and then walked back. We met people from the states as well as Australia. Someone thought I was Australian...not sure how that happened. All I did was introduce myself, and she was like, "oh, you're Australian!" ...hmmm. Nope, I'm from Indiana I said. Never gotten that one before.

Thurs, Sept. 16

Aka...FRIDAY for me!
I went to Physiology lecture at 9, and then my Food Quality and Safety Assurance lecture that is scheduled to begin at 11 was delayed by the professor one hour. So Jess and I had planned to meet up at the main restaurant. We went to the library beforehand to check out some books, and then waited at the restaurant for Nancy to arrive for breakfast. She'd gone out the night before along with Heather and the rest of the 21st birthday crew. They'd not gotten back until late, and we could tell. Nancy and Jess got lunch (I had the orange I brought from home) and by then it was time for me to go to FQSA lecture. It seems to me that this class will be kind of interesting, as we are supposed to talk about not only the obvious, like food safety legislation and quality assurance systems, but also food facility/layout and process hall design. This might come in handy when mom and dad want to build their goat processing facility.

Jess and I had planned to go to the IT center that afternoon to set up the wireless printing capability on our laptops. We get there and the guy gets hers done, but when I tell him mine's got Windows 7 as the processor, he says that it probably won't work on mine. They don't know why, but he tried to do it anyway. Well, it was a failure, as could be expected from my luck here so far. (I just now thought of this...luck...and I'm in Ireland. I'd have thought it might have had some magical effect. Well...don't believe it.) He told me to come back next week because they might be able to do it then. Ok, we go back to the library for a minute to get a book that Jess needed but someone had checked out earlier that morning on the short-term loan. Then we head over to Centra because she needed to get some groceries. We meet Betheny along the way and she walked over with us to pick up a few things. She tells us she made some no-bake cookies (because Glenomena doesn't have ovens, but microwaves instead). Mmm! Jess had never heard of them but we assured her that they are delicious. We got done with Centra, and Betheny went to her dorm while we waited with the bags of groceries outside so we don't have to carry them there and back. She came back shortly with a bag of her cookies and we walked back to Belgrove. When we got in, Jess and I tried the cookies, and yes, they were amazing. "We have to make these!" sayed Jess.

Heather had told me the day before that she and Nancy found and booked tickets to Rome for 80 euro, and Betheny and I decided we wanted to go as well. That evening, Betheny and I booked tickets to Rome for like 72 euro round-trip (Vanessa later got a ticket to go with us too). Score! This will be a wonderful mid-October trip! Italy is a place I seriously looked into going to study abroad, but they didn't have the semester-long programs if I remember correctly. So 4 days will just have to do. :)

That night we all went to the student bar for some event that was going on...I forget the name of it, but we paid 3 euro and got a wristband and our arms stamped, and all the drinks were 3 euro. I had Bulmers, and eventually everyone got out on the dance floor and was dancing away to the techno...not really a big fan, but I got out there anyways. It was kind of fun to just let loose and laugh together. Just us girls.

Fri, Sept. 17

The plan for the day was, since most of us didn't have class, to go register at the Garda. I looked up the times on the Trinity College website (since they're supposed to be more organized than UCD) and they said the hours for students were until 4pm. So we all loaded up in the bus and headed into the city center. The girls wanted to stop and get some lunch at this little cafe called Carluccio's, where they have wonderful hot chocolate I hear. So of course I had to get a cup. The man asked if I wanted hot milk in it, and I said yes...of course. It was probably...almost...the most amazing hot chocolate I've ever had. It was super rich and thick, and you have to stir it (they provide these little disposable wooden spoons) to mix it all up. It was quite nice. Then we walked to St. Stephen's Green to eat and drink in the company of some beautiful scenery. From there, we walked north to the River Liffey, along which is the location of the Garda. We go inside and the man tells us to come back on Monday at 9am because all of the tickets have been handed out. We would have to queue for a ticket, and wait our turn. That didn't make me particularly ecstatic, but we made the most of the rest of our! We went to several places, and as you well know, my umbrella was going to need a replacement, so I was trying to decide between the 10 euro one and and a more economical 4 euro one. I decided they both looked alike, so I went with the cheaper of the two (man, do I miss Walmart sometimes). Jess and I also picked up a frying pan, and I got a bowl and a few groceries.

We got back to the apartment and gave the it a well-needed vacuuming. Then I tried out the google phone thing first with George, and then dad. He was so surprised to hear me! He didn't know it was me until I said so. It was like 5pm and he was just getting ready to leave work, and I could hear him tell one of the truckers that he was talking to his daughter in Ireland. :) He misses me.

Then, since Jess couldn't get her google phone to work, I let her use my computer so she could talk with her mom. She tried and it worked. I was so happy when I heard her mom's voice answer the phone from the living room! Jess and I both looked at each other and had the biggest smiles as we waved our hands in the air in victory. :) Some things do work out here. What's more, Betheny stayed the night and made a delicious chocolate cake!

Sat, Sept. 18

Basically sat around all day. The weather was nasty, and no one had any plans, so I got some stuff done for school...and was on facebook a lot. Ha. Gotta love lazy rainy days.

Sun, Sept. 19

Betheny, Heather and I went to Howth on the east coast. We caught the bus into the city center, then switched to the 31 bus which would take us as far east as Ireland goes. (And as we got off the bus and were walking to the second stop, I realized I had set down my umbrella, yeah, the one I'd just bought, on the bus seat and forgot to pick it up as I left). Basically. There was supposed to be a lighthouse and castle, but the castle ended up being farther north than we thought, so that will be a trip for another day. The bus took us to the tourist center, and we got some FREE postcards (big smiles) and a map of the island. We then walked through a small farmers' market and the three of us split a hog roast sub. It was 5 euro and had applesauce and stuffing among loads of other delicious toppings. We got to sample a red velvet cupcake. The frosting was delicious, but the cake was pretty bland and kind of dry. Then we walked around and took tons of pictures. It was raining, and I was trying to stay dry, whether that be under Betheny's umbrella or under my hood. We came back and were waiting for forever on the 31 bus to come by. Literally, we were there probably 45 minutes. 3 of them should have come by then. So we eventually decided to go to the other side of the street and catch the bus going back to the city, and save the trip for another day. It was a bummer. I wasn't ready to leave at all, and was really hoping that the bus would come just as we decided to walk away. We got to the other side of the road and almost to the stop when I spotted the 31 coming around the bend. I looked at Heather and Betheny and we were all like "run!" So we raced across the road and down the our stop just as the bus was coming to a stop. Thank goodness! This was going to be a good day after all!

We rode that bus as far as it would take us and got off at a small ice cream shop. Heather asked the driver where the lighthouse was, since we thought that it would drop us off there. He pointed us down the road and said it was like a ten or fifteen minute walk. That was fine with us. We discovered that there were wild blackberries growing along the edge of the road! Yum! So that was a nice little afternoon snack. The countryside was so pretty. We saw a couple horses, and there were rock walls everywhere. We also saw a sign posted that said 10 m.p.h. M.P.H! Not k.p.h. What in the world?! They're supposed to be on the metric system, but maybe it's different in the country...

We finally caught sight of the light house, and of course had to take pictures with it. We then walked up and around to the cliffs, and oh my gosh. It was the most beautiful views I've ever seen! There was a hole that went under a cliff side where the water was rushing through, and then there was also a skinny little waterfall on the side of a cliff! All I can say is, go to my facebook page and look at the pictures and videos. Words cannot describe. The sea and the cliffs and the world felt so huge, and I felt so small. It makes me think of a line from Lee Ann Womack's song "I hope you dance": I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean. It was gorgeous, even if it was overcast and rainy. I will definitely be going back.

Mon, Sept. 20

Today, Jess and I went to the city to register at the Garda. To make a long story short, we got there at 7:30, and they wouldn't let students queue until 9. We got our tickets a little after nine, and they told us that there would be a three hour wait, so we walked around the city until around ten o'clock. When we got back, we sat down and read and studied for our classes until we were sick of that. Then around 12:30 they finally got to our numbers. I was 168 and Jess was 169. I showed the immigration officer all my paperwork and paid the 150 euro (what a ripoff, the card expires the end of the year), and then we had to wait probably another half hour for the batch of cards to be printed. Then I heard over the intercom, "American national please, Megan Schnur." Only they didn't pronounce my name right, but I was ready to get out of there. I signed my card and picked up my passport and we were out of there. About time! That process was way longer than it should have been, and it definitely could have been done more efficiently. It just felt like a big waste of time...and money.

Then Jess and I wanted  to go pick up some stuff to make Betheny's no-bake cookies, and we also picked up some stuff to make egg salad and tuna salad. As we were waiting for the 46a to go back in to campus, we were informed by an old Irish lady that our bus doesn't stop there anymore as of yesterday. She knew because she lives just down the road by some hotel, she was telling us. But luckily, there was another couple who was kind enough to let us follow them to another stop on the bypass that would take us back.

For supper, Jessica and I were going to make sausage and rice with the sausage links I got earlier. We put mushrooms and onion and sweet and sour sauce with it in a frying pan, topped the white rice with it, and dug in. But as soon as I said, "I hope this is good," Jessica had taken a bite and was making a face of disgust. I felt so bad. I knew they were bad boiled, better cooked in the oven, and evidently awful in the frying pan. It's just the amount of fat in them that makes the texture horrible, and gives it a terrible flavor. So I felt bad and told her. But she was fine with it and made some scrambled eggs for her rice instead. I forced the sausage down. It wasn't too bad with more sauce on it. But that's the last time I get those pork sausages. I'll stick with beef or chicken over here.

So if today wasn't a test of my patience, I don't know what is.

Until next time! (fyi, I hope to update this more frequently so they're not as long) :)

Monday, September 13, 2010

First Day of Class

Well, I left off with this blog on Wednesday I believe...

Thursday night we went out to the student bar on campus and got to experience some traditional Irish dancing. It was such a fun time. I got to dance with an Irish guy...although he didn't know how to dance any better than I did. Haha. But the music is so happy and energetic that you can't help but smile as you listen and watch the band play. It is such a cultural eye-opener to be at a bar in a different country and compare the dancing, music, and atmosphere to what you're used to at a bar in your native country. I personally prefer the Cactus or Jakes, but I am here to have an open mind and learn to embrace other cultures and traditions, so I'm all for new experiences. This was also the night I had my first pint of Guinness, but sadly it wasn't even in the Guinness glass. If I had to describe it, it is a much heavier and stronger beer than I am used to in the U.S., but I am not opposed to drinking it again. Bulmers is much more up my alley. It's a cider that comes in different flavors such as berry and pear, but so far I've only had the original. After we left the student bar (by the way, there are TWO student bars located ON CAMPUS...the drinking age here is 18, so you only have to show your student I.D. to get in...a few more ways in which Ireland differs from America) we caught the bus and went downtown to a few of the pubs. They had live music as well and were generally very crowded with people of all ages. We ended the night by taking a taxi back to campus. Oh, and something I must mention...don't wear heels on cobblestone streets. I didn't, but there were several who did. It's hard enough walking in tennis shoes, I can't imagine how it would be in heels...or better yet, intoxicated. Something to keep in mind when you venture to Dublin.

Friday we took the campus tour and went to the international office because some of us needed to register for different modules and get letters to take with us when we register with the Garda. We then went to the International Student Cafe and had some sandwiches and tea and got to visit with one another and students who had traveled from all across the world to study here. Later that night, Vanessa wanted to go out to the student bar because she hadn't been yet, so Betheny and I went with her. We got to meet two other students she knew from Germany, Tom and Becca. They told us about the travels they'd done around Ireland before arriving here this week. It sounded really interesting and made me all the more excited for our trip to Cork here in a couple weeks.

Saturday I got to skype with my parents and saw my dad for the first time since the airport on Monday. Vanessa, Betheny, and I, along with Tom, Becca, and Ullo (from Italy) rode the bus into town to (attempt to) do a self-guided 90-minute tour around Dublin. We got off at St. Stephen's Green and attempted to follow the red dots on the map, but one of the things that really frustrates me about this city is that the roads are not clearly labeled. Some of them have signs on the corners of buildings, but most of them appear to be nameless, except of course on the maps, which proves to be no help at all when you're a tourist trying to navigate. So we ended up along the main shopping strip, walked down the Temple Bar area, got to go into a Guinness store (where I found this awesome clock for only 19.99...I will go back and buy it when I figure out how much it's going to cost me to ship it home), stopped at the post office to buy some more stamps for postcards, went shopping at Dunnes for some pots for the apartment so we can cook (we got a set of 3 stainless ones for 15 euro...not a bad deal), stopped at McDonald's to get some ice cream, bought a 30-day rambler bus pass, and came back to campus. We dropped our stuff off at our apartments and then caught the bus to Tesco so we could do some major grocery shopping. And when I say major, I mean we brought our carry-on rolling luggage and backpacks with us. Shopping for groceries is no fun when you have to haul it all home with you on the bus. Not that I didn't before, but I feel priveleged to have a car in America after this experience. While walking back to the bus stop from Tesco, the zipper on my backpack came open somehow and out fell my yogurt, which busted open on the sidewalk...I guess it just wasn't meant to be. It was a relief when we got all of our stuff put away in the fridge and could just sit down. I'm hoping I won't have to make many trips of that extent to the grocery store, but then I remember how much I like food. Later that evening I got a skype call first from Cody, and then from Jill and Derick! That pretty much made my day. It's so nice to be able to talk to and see people from home. Thank goodness for technology.

Yesterday was a well-deserved day of relaxation. I cleaned and organized my desk (which could use it again already), and stayed inside pretty much all day, except when Vanessa and I walked to the Centra to pick up some drain cleaner (Mr. Muscle, as it was called) for the shower, which was starting to flood when we'd use it. Last night we made penne pasta with fruity curry and pesto. I'd never had either of those sauces, but they were pretty darn delicious. I'll definitely be using those when I go back to Purdue.

This morning I had my first and only class of the day, Farm Business Management. I took my netbook with me to take notes on, but no one else seemed to be using laptops, so I reverted to simply writing my notes in my spiral notebook and made a mental note to not bring my laptop next time. The good thing news was that we found out from our professor that we wouldn't be having the Monday session of lecture until later in the semester...which for me means I get to have extended weekends since I already don't have classes on Fridays!

After class I discovered there is a post office on the main floor of the main restaurant, and so I dropped off my postcards that I wrote yesterday. Then I went upstairs to meet up with Jessica because we were going to get our student travel cards, but the stand wasn't set up in the student center anymore. We were told that it was located in the library, so we decided to wait until later to do that. Nancy was also at the restaurant, and Heather met up with us as well. Jessica and Nancy got breakfast and it looked delicious for the 5.50 euro they paid.

Jess and I came back to our apartment and relaxed for a little while. I looked up the hours for students to register at the Garda, and we decided to go into town on Friday to do that. They say it takes 3 or 4 hours to complete this process, so that should be interesting. Sounds like it will be similar to the hoops I had to jump through to simply be able to move into my room on Tuesday. Just what I want to hear.

I've been looking around for places online to be able to watch American tv shows, but no matter where I search, it won't let me watch them because I am located outside of the United States. I had no idea this would be a problem, but then again I have no reason to know this because I've never been out of the states. I suppose I take for granted the fact that at home (well, more like at Purdue where we get cable) I can just turn on the television and there are a multitude of channels from which I can choose. Instant gratification. But I am able to watch episodes of The King of Queens on youtube, so that should keep me entertained for a while anyway.

Jess, Vanessa, and I did our laundry this afternoon. The machines here cost 3 euro to wash and 1.50 euro to dry! It's outrageous! I'm used to putting quarters into a machine, not spending around $6 per wash! I guess this semester will be a test of how conservative I can be with my clothes...wonderful. I'm going to go broke doing laundry.

Vanessa went to a sporting event this evening, and Jess and I stayed home and made a stir fry for supper. We went and got onions, mushrooms, noodles, and chicken from the Centra store at Merville (a residence hall on campus), and I already had some carrots in the fridge. It turned out really well considering we used a pot because we didn't have a skillet, and we didn't have any salt or pepper. But for the time and effort we put into it, it was a very fulfilling meal. It's nice to be able to cook our meals. Makes this feel more like a home.

Tonight is what they call Black Monday, where evidently all the students go out to the bars and it's pretty much a drunk festival. My bedroom window doesn't seal completely, and I'm on the first floor, so I can hear everything loud and clear. They are ridiculously noisy outside and I am getting really annoyed. If this is any indication of how my evenings are going to be spent, I'm probably going to go crazy. Times like these make me appreciate West Lafayette and good old American law enforcement. I'm sorry, but I enjoy my peace and quiet sometimes...

Good night, everyone!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Day 2: The Dublin Shopping Tour

I woke up this morning at 8:45 and ate some of my fabulous Fruit and Fibre cereal i purchased yesterday at the Tesco in town. Things here are definitely not as sugary as they are back in the states, but I really do like it. The tour started at 10, so Jessica, my apartment mate from California, and I walked up to the engineering building where we were to meet. Our guide was a UCD student named Dierdre, and she was very nice and helpful. We first introduced ourselves to everyone in our group, and then went to one of the small shops on campus to make change since the bus requires exact change for the fare. It was 1.60 euro one-way. We walked to the Tesco just north of campus, and from there we took the bus up to the main shopping center area on Grafton Street. It was a double decker bus, one of those that reminds me of something from Harry Potter. Dierdre showed us the bus stop where we would need to catch the number 10 bus to come back to campus. We walked down the main city center and entered a sort of shopping mall, where she showed us a couple department-type stores called Dunnes and Argos where we could purchase bed linens, towels, pots, pans, utensils and whatever else we needed. It was comparable to a JCPenney's in America, and the prices were very reasonable. I didn't buy anything there. She then said a few final words and set us free to catch the bus and come back to the campus whenever we were finished shopping and looking.

Like I said, my roommate, Jessica, is from California. She's studying sociology and attends UCSD. My other roommate, Vanessa, is from Germany and is studying business. She didn't go on the tour with us today because she had an orientation program to attend for her particular school. Other people I met on the tour were Heather from California. She goes to UCBerkeley and studies philosophy. This is her last semester. What a way to finish! She's been here since August 26th by herself just exploring and doing all kinds of things. She lives off campus in a house, but none of her roommates have arrived yet, so it's been a lonely time for her. She said that it's not much fun traveling alone, which I can definitely understand. So I look forward to traveling with her. I discovered on the tour that she has a great sense of direction and has a passion for exploring and discovering new things, a lot like I do. Nancy is another girl I met from California. She studies psychology and lives at Blackrock. I'm getting to know a lot of Californians it seems. Francesca is from Florence, Italy, and has some of the longest hair I've ever seen. Mine used to be that long, but it has been a while. Evelyn is from New York state, and she's also studying business and lives in Roebuck. She is supposed to be moving into Roebuck Castle in a couple weeks. So for now she's living in the dorms right next to it until they finish.

We went to St. Stephen's Green, which is a park in Dublin. It was absolutely beautiful. The birds there are like the squirrels at Purdue, domesticated and everywhere you turn. I had a couple gulls fly literally inches from my face as I was walking along the pond. Nothing scares them. There are so many plants and flowers that grow in Ireland. It really is amazing how cool the weather seems, yet there are palm trees growing in the suburbs. I will be anxious to get out into the rural parts and see how everything compares to both the city of Dublin and rural America, as far as plants, flowers, crops, and agriculture in general.

Most of us girls needed to get a phone to be able to use while in Dublin, so we all went to the Meteor store. The three main cellular providers in Ireland, and perhaps all of Europe, are Meteor, Vodafone, and O2. Heather said that the majority of people have Meteor, so that's the one we went with since we would get unlimited free calls and texts to other Meteor customers for 30 days. I bought a 20 euro top off for mine as well, since I know Betheny has Vodafone. Once my 30 days are up, I can still call and text people on Meteor but it will draw from my 20 euro. So if I watch my minutes, I might be able to go two or more months on that 20, otherwise I just buy more minutes. But I must say, it does feel nice to be able to text again and have a phone, even if it isn't touch screen and doesn't have a full keyboard. I'm sure mom and dad will appreciate seeing that I'm not sending over 3000 texts a least not for the next 3.5 months. But I do still use my Samsung for taking pictures and the alarm.

From there we decided to get a little something to eat, so we went to the Citi Bar and Club, which Heather had discovered had really good food and good prices. We sat outside at a couple tables since it seemed to be a nice day, but before we ordered our food it started to rain. We thought we'd go inside rather than risk it turning into a downpour on us while we were trying to eat. So we went inside and pushed a couple tall tables together. I ordered the Traditional Irish Steak and Guinness Pie tapa, which came with salad, fries, and bread for only 3.20 euro. I'd never had Guinness, but I could really taste it in the pie, and I must say it was really good. It has a different taste from the beer in America, and I am really excited to actually drink a pint sometime soon. (Maybe if a certain Derick I know had tried this beer first, he might think differently about drinking beer (lol)). The waitress left us some small chocolate squares as we left, called "New Orleans Chocolat Extra Noir" with 72% cacao. It tasted like dark chocolate and was a nice sort of pick-me-up.

We walked all around Dublin. Heather was essentially our tour guide since she'd spent a few days in the city. We stopped at a local hotel where she'd spent a night, and she said hi to the girl at the front desk with whom she'd made friends. The hotels there are very small from what I could tell in the lobby, and Heather said the room was small, but it was comfortable. That's one thing that I've found over here. The people are all really nice and curious to get to know more about you, and are very welcoming. Some of the Irish students seem to have their groups they prefer to hang out with, but you'll have that no matter where you go. From there, we continued walking and came to the post office, where I bought a book of stamps so I can send home some post cards. Along with the normal stamp that goes in the corner, there is also a "Priority Aerphost" stamp that must be on it in order to go internationally, and I've heard from an Irish student that she sent a postcard to California and it got there in a couple days. So whenever I get around to sending these out, the recipients ought to get them pretty soon and not be reading too terribly old of news. I also picked up several post cards, which were 3 for a euro. The stamps were 10 for 8.20 euro. I'll have to convert this sometime to dollars just out of curiosity and see how it compares to US stamps. Speaking of which, going shopping at the grocery yesterday was different because they sell bananas in euros per kilo, so I was trying to do some mental math and see what it would be in dollars per pound, but I just gave up and got apples and oranges instead.

We ended up walking along the River Liffey and I got to take lots of pictures of the bridges, boats, buildings, statues, a memorial, and some Guinness trucks. We ended by walking through Trinity College, which is a beautiful campus right in downtown Dublin. They are our rivals, so if I have anything bad to say I can say it about them, or at least that's what i was told. The buildings are gorgeous, and the campus is really small. They don't provide accommodation for students as I learned, and the college was built on reclaimed land from the estuary of the River Liffey. From there, it was a short walk back to the bus stop. We were waiting on the number 10, and just across the street there was a House of Names: Know Your Coat of Arms. I made a mental note that it would be an interesting place to stop in sometime and see if there was anything on any of my family.

We took the bus back and arrived at campus around 4pm. Our exchange student orientation began at 4:30, and then there was a barbeque for 5 euro at the main restaurant on campus. It was a lot of food, but there was no drink included. They were an extra 1.50 euro, so I passed after spending so much already earlier in town. I didn't eat my baked potato, so I brought it home and stuck it in the fridge for later.

It's been a long day, and I am once again exhausted. I'm looking forward to "sleeping in" again tomorrow, since the Non-EU Exchange Students Orientation doesn't begin until 10 am. Good night!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Flying Over and the First Day

Saying goodbye to my family wasn't as hard as I'd imagined it being as I passed through to security. Our US Airways flight left the new Indy airport at 10:20am yesterday morning. Betheny and I had connecting flights at Philadelphia and Boston, and I can say they were pretty smooth and easy.  When we landed at Boston Logan International, we were able to see the many boats from the air in the harbor. There were beautiful sleek sailboats, speedboats, and even larger ones that looked like cruise ships. Boston really is a beautiful city from what small part I saw of it, and the ocean was so much bigger than I imagined it looking! We changed terminals and sat at gate E5 for a good three hours watching our big Aer Lingus jet sitting at the end of the loading ramp and listening to CNN on the television. There were so many people who would walk by talking on their cell phones with accents. That was one of the first times that it started to hit me that this was all really happening. 

They called for our rows to start boarding, and I noticed there were a few nuns in champagne-colored attire and black habits. I continued looking around at everyone in line and still seated waiting, wondering who they were and what their reasons were for leaving the country. On the plane, there were three young Irish girls, the youngest being probably 2 and the oldest maybe 6. They had the most adorable little accents when they talked to and yelled at each other, and their mother was giving them carrots and cucumbers as snacks. They were watching Phineas and Ferb on the television screens that were on the backs of the seats, which was another first for me. I'd never been on a plane with those before, but George texted me and said they were for letting us know the speed, time, distance, and flight map during the flight. He was right, except there was a lot more than that. There were movies of all types, games, and music. I took several pictures out the window as we left Boston in case it might be the last time I saw land. As we gained altitude, the sun made the clouds look gorgeous. We eventually got up to almost 40,000 feet, and on the climb up it was like the ground was made of clouds, and I was left to wonder what lay below. It was a very strange feeling to watch that little airplane on the screen in front of me leave the land I knew as home and see it heading on a path across a big blue patch into a place I knew nothing about. Other firsts for me included being served a meal, choice of beef casserole or chicken and rice. I stuck with the chicken, and was surprised at how much they actually served. It wasn't half bad. I also got to experience the airplane bathroom later in the flight. It was different, that's all I've got to say. 

As we were coming in to land at Dublin (around 5 am their time) I noticed the cars driving on the opposite side of the roads and highways. I could see the rain streaking across my window and the lights from the city and the runway were green, blue, red, white, purple, and yellow, making it look like Christmas. We landed and got everything situated and were ready to go through customs, where they asked for my passport and letter of acceptance to UCD. I got my picture taken and chatted with the woman, who had a daughter who was a freshman attending UCD as well. We went to collect our baggage, I exchanged enough money to get a bus ticket, and we were on our way to the college. The drive through Dublin at 5:30 am was incredible. The sun was just starting to rise, and what a way to be introduced to the city. It was absolutely amazing seeing the light of dawn reflect off the buildings and the river as we crossed the bridge to the south. The streets were surprisingly narrow, but that didn't seem to slow down the regulars and taxis who sped right along without a worry. When it came time to get off at UCD, the driver got our luggage out of the underneath compartment and we were on our own! We didn't know which way to go, so we followed a couple other guys who were going as well. That trip from the main entrance to my residence hall, Belgrove, was a very miserable and hot, tiring trip. I eventually got checked into my room after a few headaches, and met my two roommates. Jessica is from California and studying sociology, and Vanessa is from Germany studying business management. I think we will get along well. 

Betheny and I have already made plans to go to Cork (RyanAir had tickets for 14 euro a piece!) September 25 to see the Blarney Castle and kiss the stone. We are both pretty excited about the deal we got on that one, and plan on going down to Blackrock, Dalkey, and Killiney Beach this Saturday. They are supposed to be good sight seeing spots, and we need to keep busy so we don't get to thinking about home too much. I'm just excited to get to GO places and take pictures of everything. 

Well, I feel like I haven't slept in days and this is probably getting progressively worse as the night goes on, so I will end this for now and update it as I can!