Sunday, April 24, 2011

"The road to success is always under construction."

So almost three weeks later, but here is a little update for you all. I’m not even going to attempt to explain everything because that would just take way too long, and let’s be honest, none of you care that much anyway! But, it has been a while and a lot has happened, so the updating shall now commence…

I finished off the first week of April with a lot of class and homework. As I said last time, Tuesday the 5th was my friend Sara’s “fake Irish birthday.” A lot of us have birthdays during the Easter holiday and exam week, so we are celebrating before all of that craziness begins. Sara had a bunch of friends over to her house for a small get together with the intention of heading into town to finish the night. I left while the night was still young because I had a paper due early the next morning that I hadn’t finished yet…whoops! From what I understand though, it was a rather eventful night, so it’s probably a good thing I headed out when I did. And yes mom, my paper was done and handed in on time :-)

I woke up early Wednesday morning to finish proofreading my journalism paper and then headed to the library to begin my folklore paper about Irish superstitions and death customs. I had my economics tutorial in the afternoon where I just sat there and still pondered about how on earth I’m going to pass this final. But where there’s a will, there’s a way, I suppose. Morgan, Vanessa, Heather and I had all good intentions of planning our European adventure (which will begin on the 25th of May) but time got away from us and all of our paper and projects won out in the end. So needless to say, that little planning extravaganza had to wait a few more days. We spent the night writing and research for our many papers. Believe me, I would have much rather been planning our trip.

Thursday my journalism class continued to work on producing the magazine that my class is working on. I’m writing about study abroad students who transfer to UL full-time instead of returning home to the US. And I must say, that sounds pretty good right about now! I feel so much less stressed and worn-out here in Ireland than I do back in the states. Granted I’m not working three jobs on top of taking a full course load, so that may have a little something to do with it. It has been so nice to actually be able to breathe this semester, that’s for sure. Going back in the fall will be a huge reality check, but I have to get back to real life sometime or other, right?
Thursday night I went to Stables with my friends Angela and Sara because we were all about halfway done our Irish Folklore paper and had had enough of staring at a computer screen for the afternoon. It was a much needed break and provided some wonderful entertainment in the form of an extremely drunk Irish student who had just landed his first real job after he graduates in May. He fancied the beautiful Angela, of course, but knew that the only way to get to her was through Sara and I, so he bought us all a drink. Funny the way that always seems to work over here...We ended our night by taking picture with my favorite statue, Mr. Brown Thomas.

Friday morning I had my economics lecture and then I spent the day in the library with Angela. Well let me tell you, going to the library with friends is NEVER a good idea. You get far less accomplished than you hope too, that’s for sure. We continued to work on our never ending essay about fairies, banshees and leprechauns. But, the exciting part of the weekend began when my friend Rachel(the one studying in Derry who I visited early in the semester) came to visit! She made the long trip (5.5 hours from Derry to Galway, and then 80 minutes from Galway to Limerick) to come and see me for the weekend. I went into town to pick her up from her bus at about 7 p.m. and then we headed back to campus to get ready for our night. We went to the sports bar with Angela, Sara and Christina to play “table quick” aka: trivia night. It was basically the exact same thing we did in Kerry the previous weekend. The questions were much harder this time, but we still had a really nice time. Staying at UL for the weekend was so strange! It was the first time I had done so since January, and I am really glad I did. Spending some time in Limerick City was exactly what I needed for our low key, relaxing weekend.

Saturday morning Rachel, Sara, Angela and I headed into Limerick to explore. It's kind of sad that we've all been here for over 3 months, yet I had never been to the castle right in town or the rugby centre, called Thomond Park. I guess that's what I get for being such a traveling freak. We went to the Milk Market in the centre of town, checked out King John’s Castle where we watched the weirdest, most entertaining video possible, walked along the Shannon River, did some shopping at the mall and walked all around the city. I really liked actually being the tour guide for once. I think Rachel really enjoyed the day too! People never think too fondly of Limerick City but I think it’s great. It’s the perfect location to go to school and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

We picked up a pizza for dinner and headed back to campus to relax and put our feet up before we hit the town for a night out. We had bought an all day bus pass (which is absolutely the way to go...why am I just figuring this out now?!) so we took the last bus from UL to city centre. Once we got into town we started at one of my favourite spots, Smyths, and then tried to go to a dance/nightclub called Angel Lane. Normally the cover charge for these places is about five or six euro, which isn’t too outrageous, but I guess on the weekends they double the price! (which, I wouldn’t know because I’m never here, obviously). There was no way we were going to pay 12 euro just to go inside for the last hour or two, so we headed back to Smyths for a while and then headed back. I couldn't believe that they charged double on the weekends. All of the Irish students go home on the weekends, so who would have thought you’d pay double to go to an empty club? I’ll never understand. Lesson learned I suppose. We still had a really nice time, regardless.

Sunday morning Rachel headed back to Derry, so Angela and I went into town to drop her at the bus station and then we headed to church. This mass was entirely in Gaelic and it was so neat to just sit and listen. Of course we didn’t understand anything they were saying, but it was a completely new and different experience and I would definitely go back to a church service in a foreign language again. I feel so cultured and I love that feeling because it’s all so interesting and eye opening. After the shortest service known to man was over (maybe 25 minutes) we grabbed some breakfast and waited for the bus back to campus. I loved being dressed up on a Sunday morning. It reminded me of my younger days when my whole family would get dressed up and go to church and Sunday school. I really miss those days actually. I can’t believe how fast time is going and how old we all are now. Sometimes I wish I could go back to being a kid. So carefree, so nonchalant about everything. But anyways, I digress, as usual. When we got back on campus we headed to the library for the afternoon to finish our papers, and it was such a relief when it was all over and done with. Now, usually I can crank research papers out like it’s my job and make them sound halfway decent (hooray for being a writing major) but for some reason I just really struggled with this one. I think part of it is the fact that their library system is SO completely different than what I’m used too and I don’t fully understand how it works. No one really does, actually. I'm just glad that I’m finally finished with research papers for the semester. It's such a huge relief.

Monday morning began week 12 of classes, which meant that it was the last full week of lectures and tutorials. Thank goodness for that! I had economics and geoscience, and afterwards went to do some grocery shopping with Vanessa. Morgan, Heather and Sharon went to London for the weekend, so Vanessa and I were on our own for dinner for once. We walked to the little market about 20 minutes away because it was absolutely beautiful out. I mean, sunshine, 70 degrees and NOT humid. It was remarkable. After dinner (vegetable spring rolls...yum!) I took a walk because I was in major need of clearing my head time...just a million and one things going on in my head, as usual. Sara and Angela had told me about this really neat castle about 25 minutes away by the Shannon River, so I decided to take their advice and go take a stroll to find it. It was the best walk I've ever taken! I didn’t want to turn back after I found the remains of this beautiful castle, so I kept walking along the path, and about an hour later I finally came to the end. I hadn’t even realized how far I had walked because I was just enjoying the scenery and the weather so much. The sun was just setting as I made it back to my front door, and it was a wonderful evening of just walking and thinking. I am absolutely going on this walk by the Shannon River again before I leave. I’m sad I only just discovered it…

Tuesday marked our LAST Folklore lecture and tutorial, hallelujah! We were all so incredibly excited about that. Tuesday night Angela had her “fake” Irish birthday, which was a huge success. We started off hanging out in her apartment and made our way into town to Angel Lane (only 5 euro this time, thank goodness). Not as spectacular a venue as I was picturing, but it was an interesting place. I’d go back maybe one more time just to see how it is the second time around. Although getting stepped on with heels twice in one night is not the most pleasant thing, mind you. We came a big group of about 20 people in the beginning, but as the night went on, only about 6 of us left together. We grabbed a cab back and were all ready to crash by the time it closed at 2:30 a.m. It was an eventful but fun evening celebrating Angela's 20th birthday.

Wednesday morning, bright and early, I had my horticulture (agriculture) lab for the first time since week 5. This also means that my roommate Allison came back from her teaching practice, which I am so happy about. Our two hour lab consisted of planting more flowers for the garden at the green house and hearing from a spokesperson at the environmental protection centre who planted a tree outside of the student union/common area. It was of course pouring rain for about the first time in over two weeks. Not a fun morning to say the least. I had my last economics tutorial that afternoon where he proceeded to try and give us tips for the exam coming up. Hopefully some of these will be helpful when I begin organizing my notes and doing the practice assignment sheets.
Wednesday night the students in the Irish Music and Dance Class had their end of the semester show. Since literally everyone I knew was in this class, Morgan, Heather and I (my only two friends not in the class!) went to watch and support. Some dances were WAY better than others, but some were also really neat. One group played the Tin Whistle, another group sang and the rest danced.

After the recital, Morgan, Heather, Vanessa and I went back to finally plan our spring break trip. Vanessa made her delicious spinach quiche (YUM!) while we did our best to figure out train times and hostels for our journey. These websites DO NOT make it easy to navigate the information one needs to figure out times and prices. Saying that this trip is going to be the biggest adventure I’ve ever been on is an understatement. But more on that later…

Thursday was production day for my magazine journalism class. The editorial group was busy making last minute adjustments to each section and everyone else just did their best to proofread and help with the rest of the grunt work. It was an extremely long day and I was so happy when everyone decided to call it a day about 8 hours later. Thursday night all of the international students had a meeting about transferring credits, receiving transcripts back home, reverse culture shock and the changes we will endure when returning home. To get us to attend this extremely long and absolutely unnecessary meeting, they bribed us with a free barbecue in the courtyard. Needless to say pretty much everyone showed up. My journalism class also came walking through the courtyard (headed to Scholars) to get a pint in celebration of the completion of our magazine. There was a huge party that night off campus at one of the editors houses, but we were just way too tired to go so we called it a night and just relaxed. Probably a good decision on my part.

Friday morning was my last ever class at UL. It was exciting but sad at the same time. Friday afternoon meant the start of Easter Break for everyone, so by the time 3 pm hit the campus was already halfway cleared out. Morgan and I were the only two left of our friends, so we headed to Scholars for tea and some lovely conversation with my friend Anthony at around 2. Before we knew it it was 6:30 and we were ready for dinner. Morgan and I ordered 5 euro pizza and caught up on a few TV shows. We met our friends Brock and Anthony at Stables later on for the last international night at UL, which was a huge success.

Saturday absolutely flew by as I packed, cleaned and did my agriculture project which pretty much took me ALL day. My friend Laura came over and we made burgers and veggies for dinner and watched Boondock Saints, which is probably in my top ten favorite movies, ever. I skyped with my lovely sisters before I went to bed and then Sunday morning my parents arrived in Ireland! I met them in Dublin that afternoon, and the rest you will just have to wait and hear about next week. It was absolutely wonderful to see my amazing family and I was so sad to leave them to come back to UL tonight. But I'll be home in just three weeks, which I cannot believe.

So, this blog update takes me to April 17, which I must say is pretty darn good if I do say so myself. But right now I need to get some sleep because I leave at 7am for my European Adventure with my friends Morgan, Heather and Vanessa. 6 days, 4 countries, 1 backpack. Don't worry dad, I'll be fine! I will be back on May 1st and I'll update you all again next week. For now, I hope you enjoyed reading about the last two weeks, and Happy Easter to my friends and family who I didn't get to spend it with.

Love and miss you all!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

"Home is wherever I'm with you."

As promised, here is an update on the Ring of Kerry trip I took this past weekend. However, please understand that the ONLY reason I am doing this now is because I am in the middle of writing a paper for my journalism class and am at a major roadblock. Alas, the blogging shall begin in hopes that my creative juices will be flowing by the end of this post. One can only hope, right?

After my economics class on Friday I came back to pack for my weekend trip down to South Kerry. I met my friend Anthony for tea (only in Ireland do guys ask you to tea instead of for drinks haha) and then left at about 3pm to begin our trip down the coast. At first I was pretty skeptical about going on the trip with my friends because it was really expensive and I thought we could have done it for cheaper had we gone by ourselves. But it was completely worth it. I had no idea that this weekend would be so incredibly beautiful; I'm so glad I wound up going with this group!

We got to our hotel around 6pm after a few stops along the way. We checked into our room and it was gorgeous! It really is nice to treat yourself to a hotel instead of a hostel once in a while. I roomed with my friends Vanessa and Sharon from UL which worked out really well. It was nice because for one flat fee, everything for the weekend was included. Transportation, accommodation, meals, admission fees, entertainment, etc. We had dinner at 7, and it was so delicious. It was great not to have to cook for myself! And when I say "cook" I mean cereal, PB&J and soup haha. After dinner we heard from a local speaker who lives in South Kerry and is a farmer. It was interesting to hear about how different life is in Ireland compared to the U.S. We all took part in some Céilí Dancing after which was great craic. This was only my second time but it proved to be just as hilarious as the first time. I actually have learned a few steps so I'm excited to be able to show my friends back home!

We all hung out for a little while after and then headed off to bed. We woke up Saturday morning for breakfast at 8:30am (early, but definitely worth it) and headed to the Skellig Ring Tour. We saw the most beautiful scenery I've ever encountered down in South Kerry. We visited Valentia Island, completed a Hilltop Walk (and boy, do they mean it!), went to the Skellig Experience Centre, St. Finian's Bay as well as Ballinskelligs Beach & Castle. It was an awesome day :-)

After this jammed packed afternoon, Vanessa, Sharon and I headed into town to browse the stores and see some more sites. It was a great little town with a beautiful Church (O'Connell) and of course, about 8 or 9 pubs. Hey, I'm not complaining :-)

We back to the hotel at around 7pm for dinner, which was, once again, fantastic. It was really fun to meet some more girls from UL as well. After dinner we heard from another speaker about Gaelic Football. He was hilarious and brought his two younger sons (probably about 8 and 10) to demonstrate how to play. It's such a neat game! I can definitely see the appeal. A bunch of us headed out afterwards and grabbed a pint and played a Table Quiz (the equivalent to a trivia night). Our team didn't do so hot but it was really enjoyable. My dad would have been so disappointed though because I got a James Bond questions wrong! Sigh...sorry I let you down again dad. That's twice in two weeks, jeez!

We woke up Sunday morning for another early breakfast at 8:30am and then headed out do a walking tour of Cahersiveen and visited two ancient stone forts. We walked for ages but it was a beautiful morning so no one minded (except those that didn't come home until 4am...stinks for them). On the way we ran into a farmer who let us hold his baby lambs that were JUST born the night before. It was positively magical.

We continued on our way to the stone forts and Cahersiveen after holding these precious little guys. The stone forts were really well constructed and one of them was built over 25 million years ago!

We headed back to the Ring of Kerry Hotel to grab our bags and eat some lunch, and then we got on our way back to UL, making several stops along the way. We stopped in Waterville, Derrynane, Sneem, Ladies View, Molls Gap and Killarney. All of these places were gorgeous and even the weather held off so we could get some amazing photos!

After stopping in Killarney for a little bit of shopping at the local outlets, we arrived back at UL around 7pm. It was a really long weekend but it was filled with amazing sites and friends. And I got to hold a lamb...I can cross that off my bucket list now! I actually do have one of those too. I started it when I arrived here in January :-)

Monday was back to the usual grind of class and school work. Econ, geoscience, library. It was raining though so I was okay with spending most of the day inside. My friends and I had a delicious pot luck on Monday night, complete with my taco pie, homemade Shepard's pie (made my a local Irish lad), mac 'n cheese, sangria and strawberry shortcake. We need to do this more often! Except, I refuse to cook the night that EVERYONE in my apartment needs the kitchen! We never all make dinner at the same time, but the one night I actually put effort into eating something substantial, we all needed the kitchen. My kitchen is basically the size of a closet as well, so you can imagine how this worked out. But alas, the potluck was delectable and we all went home stuffed and completely satisfied.

Today I had my Irish Folklore class from 11am-3pm and then came back, cleaned my room, showered and started my paper. Which now brings this blog post full circle. However, I still have no desire to finish schoolwork. My motivation to be even remotely productive has completely slipped away while being here. Let's hope this habit doesn't carry over into the fall when I have my senior thesis project to complete!

Well, that is all for now. It's my friend Sara's birthday tonight so we're headed to Stables and then in town to celebrate. I love not having class until 3 on Wednesday!

For all of you that are music geeks like me, here is one of my favorite songs at the moment that my Irish friend introduced to me. He talked so highly of it so I gave it a listen and have been playing it nonstop ever since. Hope you all enjoy it. I think you'll see why I like it so much when you give it a listen :-)

Til next time lads,