Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"It's not always rainbows and butterflies it's compromise that moves us along."

Hello my avid readers! (because I know SO many people read this haha) Hope you're all doing well. It has been a fast week that's for sure. I feel like I just updated this!

The rest of last week was really nice. We had our LAST agriculture lab! Praise the Lord (literally) Passing that final is going to be interesting...The rest of the week was filled with class. Thursdays I go from 9am to 5pm straight which always makes for a very long day. I went out with my roommates Kevin, Liam and Allison to grab drinks on Thursday night and it was a really fun night. We got to talking about the major differences between America and Ireland and it really made me laugh. For instance, the differences in government, as in, they pretty much have none currently. Elections are in just a few weeks. I actually just wrote a paper for my journalism class about the political parties and the candidates who are running. It was really neat to research how their system works and compare and contrast the two. It was a lot of work, but I learned a lot in the end.

Friday morning I went to class and then hopped on a bus to go visit my friends Rachel, Sarah and Shana in Derry-Northern Ireland. It was a very long bus ride. My class got out late so I missed my first bus by about 5 minutes, which just pushed everything back. I took the bus from Limerick to Galway and then from Galway to Derry and got there at about 9 p.m. I slept for a lot of the bus ride which was really nice. I also met two hilariously drunk older Irish men who were on their way to the "Rubberbandits" concert. Now for those of you unfamiliar with this extremely awkward and strange group of men, refer to this link to see what all the hype is about over here. They are also playing at RAG WEEK (more to come on that later) here at UL next week. Should be interesting! Back to the bus ride to friend Rachel met me at the bus station and we walked back to her campus which was about 15 minutes away. She is at the University of Ulster. We dropped my stuff off and then met up with our other Etown friends Sarah and Shana at a club down the street. It was great to see them and the city of Derry is a great spot.

Saturday morning Rachel and I went to Belfast! What a neat place it was. We walked around pretty much all day just exploring the town and going in and out of random places haha. We went to the Ulster Museum (which had free entry, so that was a win) and it was HUGE. 4 floors that all held so much history about the culture and "troubles" between Northern Ireland and the Republic. I'm really glad I got to learn more about it because I've always been interested in the conflict of religion that exists here. Here are some pictures from the trip!

Saturday night we went to this great bar called "Bound for Boston." It had an amazing view of the whole city of Derry. I met a few of the Etown girls's friends who were super nice. Funny story. I met a guy named Damian who is from Derry. Keeleigh is in love with a guy named Damian from the band Celtic Thunder who is also from Derry! I thought this was hilarious so I had to take a picture with him, just for her. Here are a few also of my friends and I "on the town" as well.

Sunday morning I woke up and set off to find a church service to go too. Now since Norther Ireland is mainly Protestant, I was really looking forward to going to the Presbyterian Church which was only about a 10 minute walk from my friend's college. I set off on my journey but when I arrived it was closed! I guess the church had been shut down a few months ago because it was gated and abandoned. Thanks, Google. Maybe I should switch to Bing like Morgan haha. Anyways, I found an absolutely beautiful Catholic Cathedral only a short ways away so I ventured there instead.

Afterwards, Sarah and Rachel took me on a tour of the Walled City in Derry. It was awesome. We stopped at a great little cafe for breakfast and then did some shopping too. I don't know what my obsession with shoes is, but I LOVE them. I found the cutest pair of gray heels that were only 3 pounds! But, me being the saver that I am (although it doesn't feel like I am here because everything is outrageously expensive) I thought about how much I didn't need shoe collection is a little too extensive as it is. Plus, I don't need more weight to add to my suitcase when I come home. But, I did get a really cute skirt and top for only 2 pounds! Crazyness. This was a 3 level store and is kind of like a Target type place, but better. I think I'll wear my new outfit on Easter when my lovely family comes to see me! Can't wait :-)

The rest of the day was spent walking the walls and it was beautiful. Here are some photos from the excursion.

Sunday night we ordered in Chinese and watched "No String Attached." It was a fun girls night after a long weekend of exploring and venturing out. I woke up early Monday morning (6am!) to catch the bus back and make it to my afternoon class, Geoscience. I slept for a large majority of the bus ride back which was really nice. I made it back with 10 minutes to spare thanks to the massive amounts of traffic and construction in Limerick City. What should have been a 7 minute bus ride from the city back to UL was almost 30! But alas, I made it back. After class I came back and did some laundry. I was much better at it this time! I got to Skype with my mom which was wonderful of course.

Tuesday I had my Folklore tutorial and then lecture. Story time, but not a happy one let me tell you. My friend Vanessa and I have our tutorial from 11am to noon and then from 1pm to 3pm we have our lecture. We decided to go grab lunch in the Business School which has a great little cafe. I wans't too hungry so I just got some tomato and red pepper soup--which was delicious--but being the clumsy person I am, I spilled the soup from the ladle onto my left hand while I was pouring it. Now usually, this wouldn't be too big of a deal. I've spilled hot water from tea on myself many a time. But this soup was literally BOILING hot and let me tell you, it hurt. I've never, ever (this includes the recovery from getting all 4 of my wisdom teeth out) been in this much pain in my life. I went to the health services to get some burn cream, but the nice lady at reception (who did feel pretty bad for me) told me that I had to make an appointment to see a doctor and there weren't any available until Thursday. Considering I didn't have much time before my class started (and you know me, I don't skip class unless I am dead or dying) I bought a water bottle from the same cafe and held it to my hand for the duration of the class. I somehow made it through the class and ran to SPARE (kind of like a WARA type thing) to get some cream. It helped a little bit and a few hours later my hand felt a little better. I am lucky to have such great friends here because they definitely helped me out a lot. It's feeling much better now. I really can't believe how painful it was, I'm kind of still in shock!

After a nice shower and some laying down, I ventured out with some friends to a "Black Out" party a ways off campus. My friend Morgan basically has all of the "in's" since she plays frisbee--she's actually very good from what I hear, maybe one of these says I'll go watch! It was a really fun time. Everyone wore black and there were Christmas lights (hello, win!) and I got to DJ for the last hour and a half too. Everyone loved my music and kept coming up to me and giving me hugs. I even got two text messages today asking me to come do it again haha.

All I had today was my macroeconomics tutorial, so I slept in a little bit this morning and then finalized some travels plans. I also checked out the UL Choral Society here. It was fun, but nothing compared to singing at Hill with my friends. My life basically revolved around chorus and singing in high school, and I think that since I had SUCH an amazing experience that anything will be extremely mediocre in comparison. Which is why I never joined at Etown either, but I think I'll change that next year. The practice was a nice time, just very different that what I'm used too. Mom told me to give it another go, so that I shall do. Music is amazing so I'll take whatever I can get.

Well, I am heading off to Cheltenham, England with Rachel this weekend to go visit our friend Vanessa! It should be amazing. We are going to go to the Cathedral where Harry Potter was filmed. Jealous? Yeah, thought so.

Until next time lads. Cheers!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"All I need is the air I breathe and place to rest my head."

I know, I know. It's Wednesday, not Tuesday. I'm sorry! It's hard to believe I have been here for almost a month already. A lot has happened in that time and it's strange to think that my journey is already a quarter of the way over.

So I believe I left off with Tuesday last time? My friend's Vanessa and Morgan live with an Irish student named John who is in a band called "The Craic" literally translated in Irish it means "The Fun." They were playing at a pub just off campus called The Hurlers. They basically do covers of popular artists and they were actually really talented! It was packed and no one wanted to leave at the end of the night, so the band was pleased. I feel like a groupie now, especially since we got invited back last night AND I got a song dedicated to me! But more on that as the post goes on.

Wednesday I had my agriculture class and lab which was, once again, very exciting (coughsarcasmcough). I am really surprised that I am getting credit at college back home for cutting and examining plants and soil. But hey, I'm not complaining. I could do without the three hour lab each week, but such is life. My Irish roommate Allison is in the class with me and she was really surprised to learn that I was a communications/business major and still had to take science and math classes. They don't really understand the concept of liberal arts schools here. You pretty much just take the courses that fit within your field of study. Wouldn't that be nice? Ahhhh if only. Alas, the plants and fertilizing will continue for another week. I also had my macroeconomics tutorial that afternoon which was really helpful. Since there are over 500 people in my economics lecture, the tutorial is a small group of about 20 or 30 students where you can ask questions and you go through practice problems. It'll be really beneficial when exams roll around in 11 weeks...11 weeks?! wow, that's beyond scary.

My Thursday class schedule is probably my least favorite day of the week. I go from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (or 17:00 as they call it...I am finally getting used to military time). But I did have my journalism class which was fantastic. A lot of fun! I am looking into writing a travel column for the newspaper here which is really exciting! I hope it works out. Thursday night my roommates Kevin and Allison had some friends over and I met a bunch of Irish students. It was the first time we really had a party (or "event" as they call it here) in our apartment and it was a lot of fun. My favorite part about my apartment is the balcony that looks out over campus. It's so pretty and on a nice night it's so prefect for relaxing. That night was a big night for all of the Irish students because there is a nightclub in town called the Lodge (refer to previous posts for pictures) that is closing down. It's no wonder why considering they charge a SEVEN EURO cover charge!?!?! But anyway, everyone headed there because I guess it's pretty sentimental and important to them and they're all really sad it's closing. Understandable I suppose, even though I'd only been inside once.

Friday I had two classes from 10 a.m. to noon and then we all got ready to head to Galway for the weekend! It was a really fun time and I officially feel like a true "study abroad" student now that I've stayed in a hostel and gone on an ALL day bus tour. There were 14 of us all traveling together, which was mistake number one of the trip and it will NEVER happen again. WAY too many people to try and organize a whole weekend. We took the express bus at 4:15 which we JUST made because one of the crossing guards heard we wanted to get on the bus so we literally ran a half mile behind him through rush hour traffic to make our bus. I'm pretty sure I saw my life flash before my eyes when a bus was heading right towards us. Yeah, just narrowly missed death by a few inches. When we finally got to the stop and caught the bus, there were EXACTLY 14 seats left...strange how things work out. The bus ride was gorgeous and about an hour and a half long. We checked into our hostel at about 19:00 (is it weird I only use military time now? haha) and that was a project in itself. We stayed at Sleepzone Galway, which really was not bad at all. Could have been better, but I was expecting a lot worse. It was clean and tidy and that's really all I cared about. But when we went to pay, it was a bit of a fiasco with all of us traveling together. But hey, it's all a "learning experience", right? That's what my friend Vanessa and I say after anything doesn't go our way :-) There were five of us to a room here at the hostel.

We headed out to get dinner in the beautiful city and of course we all split up to find different places to eat. We met back for drinks and some live music later that night at a really popular bar in town called "The Kings Head." My friend Matt who studied abroad at NUIGalway said that this was "the place to go" and he was right. It was a great time and the band was a lot of fun.

Saturday morning everyone split off and went to do their own thing. Vanessa and I decided to do a tour of Connemara & Cong, and it was incredible. We saw so many sites and I can guarantee you that NONE of you have ever seen more sheep than I now have :-) Party foul of the day was when I went to turn my camera on at the first stop and it decided NOT to turn on. I was so bummed. So all of the photos you are about to see are courtesy of Miss Vanessa Anne Dion! Let the tour begin.

First stop, Ross Errily Abbey. This 14th Century Franciscan fiary of Ross Errily is described as the most extensive and best preserved of all the Franciscan friaries in Ireland.

The second stop was at Glebe Stone Circle & Ballymagibbon Cairn which dates back to the Neolithic Period (aka, we saw A LOT of sheep)

Stop number three was in Cong Village, home to Cong Abbey which was beautiful! The abbey was home to the Quiet Man movie and Ashford Castle, Ireland's Premier Castle Hotel.

Next we stopped at Lough Nafooey, which had an incredible view of the mountain, lake and valley scenery. It's also home to Ireland's own Water Horse, the Capall Uisce.

*Note-I have WAY too many pictures to post here. It would take hours. Most of you are Facebook friends with me so go look at them! :-)

After that we went to a small village located beside Killary Harbour called Leenane. It's Ireland's only fjord and the famous Irish movie "The Field" was filmed here. It is a 16km long inlet and is home to pods of dolphins and mussel farms, which is what this picture is all about!

After that was the incredible Kylemore Abbey which was definitely my favorite stop. It was built in the late 19th century and is the Monastic home of the Benedictine Order of Nuns in Ireland. On site was the Abbey, a Neo-Gothic Church, Mausoleum and the Victorian Walled Gardens.

Our last stop was the Inagh Valley and the Quiet Man Bridge. It started to rain by this time so it was nice that our tour was almost over! Saturday night we headed back into town and listened to some amazing traditional music and relaxed. Galway is such a cute city, I really enjoyed it a lot. Here are a few pictures of what it looks like. I'd also just like to point out that they have an extremely weird obsession with statues here. Everywhere I've been in Ireland has some kind of random/strange statue somewhere in town.

Sunday morning we got up and explored a little. I went and saw the amazing Galway Cathedral. It was a beautiful morning so my pictures came out really nice!

Like I said, I have an obsession with churches. I just think they're amazing. It's probably from when I went to the Washington National Cathedral in D.C. Most amazing place EVER. But I digress. Afterwards I went to St. Nicholas Church right in town for a great service. Another beautiful piece of architecture.

We took the bus back Sunday afternoon, stopped in town to grab a few things and then came back and made a nice dinner complete with chick flick movie night. All in all a very successful and enlightening weekend.

I think I'm finally starting to get into a routine here. It's been 4 weeks, and I now feel comfortable with transportation, finding a bite to eat and knowing how to get everywhere. I'm picking up on that great Irish humor as well ;-) Monday I had two classes and caught up on some homework and reading. Nothing hugely special but I feel the need to stay on top of things here. Oh, and how could I forget that Monday was Valentines Day? I got an amazing package from my wonderful family which basically made my day extremely special. My grandma also sent me a really cute card which made me smile! (thanks, Grandmom!) We went for drinks at stables and watched what was the most hilarious "date auction" I think I've ever seen in my life. Irish Boys + American Girls = wayyyy too funny. But that's another story, and I'm getting tired.

Yesterday was a ton of fun. I had my folklore lecture and tutorial which was great. We talked about superstitions and it was really interesting to get everyones viewpoints and hear about what different cultures believe. Tuesday night we all went to Hurlers again to hear my friend John's band play. Not as huge a crowd as the previous week but still had some "great craic." Before he left to play his gig, I told him that he HAD to play "Breakeven" by the Script (one of my favorite bands) because I missed it the previous week. About 10 minutes after I walked in, I heard John say "this one is for Huntley and all the other Americans." They played it and we were all so excited. I took a video of course. I must warn you before watching, please ignore: a) the creepy old guy who had WAY too much to drink and wouldn't get out of the video and b)my horrific camera skills towards the middle/end haha

So now you are all updated. I'm heading to Derry (Northern Ireland) and Belfast this weekend to visit my friends Rachel and Shana who go to Etown and are studying there for the semester. Hope you all have a great rest of the week!

Miss you all!