Saturday, January 31, 2009

Adventures in Corcaigh County

On Friday morning, Kristina and I finally took care of our immigration cards. This was my third visit to the Garda station; the first two times, the place had been too full and the workers too inefficient to see me before the office closed. This time, though, I arrived a full half hour before the place even opened, and I was first in line. I had all my paperwork, and the only problem the lady had was that my insurance didn't indicate how long it would be effective for - it only said when it would take effect. She actually told me to come back when I had proof that it would cover me the duration of my stay, but had a change of heart after the next girl in line had the same issue. I don't quite understand it myself - why would insurance documents indicate an expiration? Isn't the whole idea of insurance that it's there until some nebulous future time at which you need it? At any rate, she did let me have my card, and I'm now legally a resident of Ireland until far beyond my departure at the end of May.

After we left the Garda station, Kristina and I bought bus tickets to Ballineen, where we planned to visit a castle called Ballycarigga (or something like that). The thing about the bus system in Ireland is that it's not marked; there are no announcements or displays on the bus that tell you where you are when the bus stops. So we accidentally overshot Ballineen by one stop and ended up being dropped off in a tiny town called Dunmanway. We had lunch, and briefly entertained the idea of walking back the way we came to Ballineen. However, it would have been an 11-kilometer hike, and neither of us knew how far that was in miles. So, afraid of missing all buses back to Cork, we opted to wait around in rainy Dunmanway until the next bus headed to Cork arrived. We saw two swans in a lake across the way, and wandered up a tiny paved road near the bus stop, until it turned out that it was someone's driveway and all that was at the end was someone's home. All in all, it wasn't too eventful; the bus driver grudgingly took us back to Cork without charging us again ("It's a round-trip ticket to Ballineen." "But this isn't Ballineen, this is Dunmanway! ...Oh, fine, get on.") and we walked back to my apartment, still in the rain.

Today, my new friend Susan and I went out to Cork City Center (a place I've now been often enough to know better than Norman). We went inside a department store, which was connected to a mall by, of all things, a tiny grocery store. We bought lunch at the tiny grocery store, then got some grocery shopping done at Tesco before heading back home. The weather, for once, was beautiful. Susan also came back down to my apartment later that evening (we live in the same building) to have some company during dinner. I like spending time with her. :) She's a very nice person.

I've been spending a lot of my free time watching episodes of House online. It's a very good show.

That's about all that's new around here. Write later!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Planning, comedians, and drizzly days

This week, so far, has been fairly quiet. Kristina and I have begun to reserve our flights around Europe, as well as book the hostels we want to stay in. In Paris, we're staying in the '3 Ducks Hostel,' which aside from having a very cute name, has good reviews and is quite close to the metro. :) We're working it out so that we are paying equivalent amounts for the trip without making it unduly complicated, which so far seems to be a good principle to work from.

Last night, the two of us went to Club Aras on the second floor of the Student Center on campus for a comedy night. It's a weekly event, and we had fun. There were six acts, five of whom were students of the school. The sixth one was a professional comedian from Dublin. I'd like to say that all of them were just fantastic, and that was *mostly* the case. Unfortunately, the fifth guy was quite preoccupied with the fact that he was dropping out of school the next day, was extremely bitter about it, and proceeded to take it out on us, by swearing at the students of UCC in general. He almost got himself into a fistfight with people in the club! I didn't see what happened - my cell phone rang during his 'performance' and I had to leave the room to try to hear the person on the other end - but I think the MC might have gestured him off stage before things got completely out of hand. O_O

The professional comedian, on the other hand, was pretty cool and funny, and I enjoyed his act the most, together with a nerdy guy whose routine involved an impression of Gollum from Lord of the Rings. :D Hilarious. Also, I had my first-ever drink - a Smirnoff Ice whose total alcohol content was only 4.5%. It actually tasted pretty good, and I barely felt the alcohol. It's a little odd to be legal here, and be able to buy such things in a public bar.

Kristina and I have plans to get our immigration cards early tomorrow morning (I've been in the Garda station twice already to try to do this, but they are so inefficient that the line barely moved either time. Hopefully, arriving before they open will do the trick. We're running out of time!). After we finally get that done, we're going on an adventure to Ballineen, 15 miles outside of Cork, to see a castle.

For today, we're just braving the constant light drizzle between classes. Our tutorial for Celtic Religion and Mythology was cancelled, so we're hanging around in the computer lab until 4:00, when our Irish Language class starts. Hope all is well with all of you!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

If I think my head hurts from reading too much philosophy, does it really?

That's what appears to be the main point of my Philosophy of Mind reading assignment, which I am taking a break from in order to update my blog. Each of these readings is impossibly dense, and only slightly improved by having a lecture on the same subject. I'm pretty sure I have to write a 1500-word essay for this class - which hopefully can be on a topic that doesn't break my brain to think about.

All in all, though, this semester shouldn't be too taxing. I believe my total assignment count, for all my classes put together, is 3 essays, a detailed project, and 4 exams. Really. I think I've had that much work crammed into a space of about three weeks. Granted, those weren't easy three weeks, but I still emerged victorious - and all I have to do here is pass.

I am also concerned about a particular requirement that I was an idiot enough to forget about for my application to the speech-language pathology program in Oklahoma City. There seem to be a few ways for me to complete the requirement, though, and I have been assured that I can still apply without having finished it, so long as it's done to their satisfaction by the time the program begins in August. I would REALLY like to hear back from the woman I e-mailed about it, though.

Ireland continues to be soaking wet - and a cold snap has come through as well. Brrr. Fortunately, though, it was neither wet nor cold when I walked the 30 minutes to church this morning. This week's choice was St. Francis, and though it is grand and beautiful, it doesn't seem particularly popular with the local population. It didn't even get to half-capacity. Which is probably the result of the fact that a very popular church, St. Augustine, is about 5 minutes away.

Kristina and I watched part of a movie called Idiocracy this afternoon. It's a comedy, but I honestly find it rather concerning and a little horrifying. It's about 2 average people who get "put on ice" for 500 years (accidentally), and wake up in 2505 to discover that the average IQ has plummeted to levels of near-retardation, so that they are easily the smartest people on earth with their average levels of intelligence. I don't know how it turns out, though, because the download rate almost stopped once all the Irish kids got back to school this afternoon.

Anyway, I should get back to my philosophy reading. Write later!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Gold mosaics and ugly dresses

I slept late this morning, and woke to more blue (ish) skies. Even though there were clouds, they didn't seem imminently threatening, and the ground, for once, was dry. I walked all the way to the bus station in City Center, this time without getting lost once. Now, I'm not sure how I ever got lost in the first place. It's a straight shot to the school, down Washington Street, across the big walking area, then down a busy street until you hit a bridge, hang a left and you're there. I guess I'm learning my way around. It seems much less complicated now than it used to.

It says something about Ireland that most of my major landmarks in Cork are churches. St. Mary's, St. Augustine, St. Francis, Church of the Holy Spirit, Honan Chapel, two big ones I've never been inside... then you've got the two Tesco's (Wal-Marts, essentially), St. Patrick's Quay (a great big shopping area), the police station, the bus station, and that one little indoor mall with the Quizno's and coffee shop upstairs... Sorry, now I'm rambling. Suffice it to say that I can generally find my way home, at the very least.

Anyway, after meeting Kristina today, we were stopped by an Amnesty International guy who wanted us to sign petitions relating to the breaking of the Geneva Convention in Gaza, which we did. We got cheap food at Burger King, using a couple of coupons (provided by Kristina's host mom, for which I am grateful.) Then we spent like 2 hours in TK Maxx (not a misspelling. The logo looks exactly like TJ Maxx's, except with a K) trying on ugly dresses for the fun of it, which was very entertaining. There was one that we dubbed the Rose Horror, which was nigh impossible to put on for some reason, and had the amazing ability to reduce any existing cleavage to nothing. The price had been reduced about 130 euros from its original... and I can see why no one has yet bought the thing. It was pretty awful. But very amusing. :D

Kristina showed me St. Francis Church, which is absolutely gorgeous. Like St. Mark's in Venice, it had a great deal of gold mosaic, but somehow also simple and restrained. It was breathtaking.

After we left, it started pouring down rain, and Kristina went one way to go back to her host family in Carrigaline, and I set out another to head back to Farranlea Hall. I was positively drenched by the time I got in. But now, all is well and dry, and I need to go make myself some dinner. Cheers!

Friday, January 23, 2009

A good day

The sun came out this morning. Even though it simultaneously rained while the sun shined, it was really nice to see a blue sky for once. The weather is slowly getting warmer, too. Every day, I need fewer layers of clothing to stay warm. The only constant issue is staying dry! I haven't been here a single day when it didn't rain at all.

I walked up to the school to meet Kristina. She had a rough morning. Immigration here requires either a letter from your home university saying that they assist you in paying for your tuition and housing, or an Irish bank statement proving that you have at least 1500 euros to your name. The financial aid office at Kristina's school is being very slow about sending a letter, so today she tried to set up an Irish bank account to which she can transfer some money. After much rigmarole, the bank finally told her it would take 10 days to do it - five to set up the account, and five to transfer the money! That's pretty ridiculously slow, and it wouldn't be a problem except for the fact that we only have until February 4 to present to immigration, and ten days from now puts her at February 2, a little close for comfort. Argh. A lot of things here seem to be unnecessarily complicated like that. Or maybe it's only that this is my first taste of really being on my own, where no adults handle the details, and it's up to us to make sure everything works the way it should.

We ate lunch and studied for a while in the library, trading phrases in Gaelic we need to remember, then walked down to the Garda (police) station so that I could take care of my immigration card - OU, thankfully, didn't waste any time in sending me the letter I needed. As it turned out, though, the immigration office has very limited opening hours - only four and a half hours a day, not continuous, and closed on the weekends. They are also quite slow, and even though I got in line at 3:15, I didn't make it to the front of the line before their closing at 4, and they shooed the last five of us in line away. Kristina left before then so she could go home and take a nap. I'll have to warn her of the strict hours they keep, and try again on Wednesday.

I really didn't have anything to do for the rest of the day, so I walked slowly back towards my apartment, taking pictures, drinking in the rare sunlight. There's a spot on one walkway, alongside the river, where to your left, there's a gray stone spire - a church - and to your right, there's a similar spire - probably another church. I took pictures of both. As I continued on, I for whatever reason felt compelled to cross the (busy) street to get to a third church that I'd seen before, but had never gone into. It turns out that it's called St. Augustine's. I almost didn't go inside, because a daily Mass was in progress, but decided to venture in anyway. For a daily service, the place was just about full. There were people, mostly older, throughout this huge place.

The most striking thing about St. Augustine's is the number of small devotional areas around the walls and pillars. In just a small area, I saw prayers, statues, and candles dedicated to Mary (Our Lady of Childbirth)... St. Jude (patron of lost causes)... St. Anthony (patron of lost items)... St. Anne (patron of special requests). Each prayer was framed, and both the prose and the script of the prayer were elegant, lovely to behold and read. The front of the church was simply decorated, but beautiful. High up, above the altar in red and gold, it read "Holy... Holy... Holy." Although I could have been considered a disruption, opening the side door in the middle of a mass, not a single person looked at me askance. The air of peace was almost tangible.

The priest I talked to during confession told me something I hope I never forget; he said, "When you are looking for peace, put God at the center of the effort. That guarantees its success. It guarantees it. I don't say that lightly, you know." There was no way he could have known how badly homesick I had been over the past few days, or how much I had been looking for a way to find peace. I feel like God has been looking for ways to assure me that everything will be all right... that it will all be okay. More people have talked to me about God today, have said they'd be praying for me, have assured me of His nearness, than have spoken to me on the subject in several months combined.

Today has been a good Friday. :)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Gaelic is fun!

As time goes on, my schedule gets more and more complicated. Two of my classes have weekly tutorials, which I feel compelled to attend, despite the fact that they don't seem to factor into my grade in any meaningful sense. I still have Fridays off - yay! - but I'm now attending classes a total of 13 hours a week. Pretty full schedule.

By far, my favorite class is Gaelic. (It's actually called Intro to Modern Irish, but most of my classes have the word "Irish" or "Celtic" in the title somewhere, so "Gaelic" is easier.) I'm learning all kinds of handy phrases. The main difficulty with Gaelic is that the pronunciation of a word or phrase frequently has nothing to do at all with the way it looks. A few samples:

Nil fhios agam, which means "I don't know," is pronounced "neel iss-agum."
Leabhur, which means "book," is pronounced like "flower" without the f.
Go raibh maith agat, which means "thank you," is pronounced "gurra maha gut."
And to say "please" in Irish, you have to say, mas e do thoil e, (mahsh-ay-do-holay) which literally means "If it be your will" or "If it pleases you."

In addition, there's no "yes" or "no" in Irish. They couldn't make even that simple, apparently. To affirm something, you have to repeat the verb in some form, so that you end up with exchanges like this:
"Are you going to dinner with us?" "That I will." or
"Is it raining outside?" "By God, it's raining."
In fact, the Irish language is full of references to God and Mary. To say hello, you say, Dia dhuit, which literally means, "God be with you." To which the proper response is Dia's Muire dhuit, meaning, "God and Mary be with you!" (That "dh" combination in dhuit is a throaty "h," similar to the throat-clearing sound you come across in German.)

Sorry if you're not finding the Gaelic lessons fascinating, I'm kind of starting to love it. It's totally unlike anything I've ever learned, which really irked me the first couple of classes, but I'm finding it pretty awesome now. The whole language has got this character and lilt to it that you know couldn't belong to anybody but those strange Irish. :)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cheap food does exist in Eireann

Because, until my trip in April, most of my expenses are in the eating department, a lot of my time outside the apartment lately has been checking the price tags on food around town. A full meal for five euros ($6.50 at the moment) is pretty reasonable, and anything less than that is something to jump on. And, as it turns out, there are such places around Cork - you just have to hunt for them. But they're not common, and I usually have to pay more than that for lunch or a snack or whatever. -.-

Anyway, not a lot has been going on the past few days. I went to a different church for Mass on Sunday than last week. It's just up the road and it's called the Church of the Holy Spirit - will definitely have to post pictures of that on facebook. It's absolutely gorgeous both inside and out.

My Irish language class finally started on Monday, and it's looking to be pretty interesting, if challenging. Gaelic isn't exactly a familiar language to anyone outside of the UK, and the pronunciations and spelling in particular will be difficult to master.

My plans tonight are to head to a pub-like place on UCC's campus to watch Obama's inauguration. Kristina's excited about this for the sake of it, but I'm more interested in just meeting other international students. There should be plenty of American students in the pub tonight, so I'm excited to meet them. :)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Rain, rain, everywhere

Last night, my roommate Danny invited me out to hang out with him, Sinead, and some of their theater buddies. We left around 7:30 to meet up with Sinead and Anthony, then went to the Granary (the theater) where a performance was just finishing up. We had to be quiet in the entrance room, obviously, because of the play, but Anthony and Danny managed to play card games on the floor without making too much noise. In a little while, a guy named Steven showed up, and we went to Tesco in order to buy the alcohol and mixers for the after-play theater party. Quite a number of us weren't even planning on drinking (Danny, Sinead, and I), but we were apparently anticipating a crowd, so we ended up having to haul all kinds of drinks from Tesco back to a girl named Emma's apartment. It rained on and off all evening, so we were pretty wet by the time we made it to our destination. We dropped the drinks off and went back to the Granary; by that time the play was over, but we didn't go back to the apartment... we went to a pub instead. The pub was very quaint and Irish-looking, but I was informed that it was the exception to the rule and that "most pubs didn't look like that." One of the guys spent most of the time fairly interrogating me about what I knew of Ireland and America and how big is Gulfport and what's the tallest mountain in the US and what do you know about such-and-such Irish sport... It was pretty exhausting. Everyone else was very eager to tell me what they knew and explain how things worked in Ireland, but for some reason that guy had it in his head to question me to death. *shrugs*

Anyway, by the time we left the pub, Danny, Sinead, Anthony, and I were tired enough to opt out of the party and head home. Sinead and Anthony stayed up with Danny for the night, but once we got back, I just crashed.

Today I met Kristina at the bus station in Cork City Center. Another way to phrase that: Today I got drenched and lost on my way to the bus station to meet Kristina. In fact, it rained almost nonstop between the time I left the house at 11:15 and 3pm when we finally gave up and headed back to the apartment. Of course, as soon as we got on the bus home, it stopped raining. ><

We have adjusted our trip so that it now does not include London, England or Dusseldorf, Germany. London wasn't worth the amount of money it would take to get from there to Paris and back via high-speed non-Eurail train, so we just cut it out of the trip and are planning on flying straight to Paris to begin and flying home from Brussels at the end of that first week.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Trip!!!

All right, so Kristina and I spent most of today mapping out our trip! Even though we went over it with train schedules, hostel locations, and plane fares, this still might end up being tweaked a bit. Our destinations! (drum-roll, please)

London, England
Paris, France
Bern, Switzerland
Zurich, Switzerland
Munich, Germany
Dusseldorf, Germany
Brussels, Belgium
--week interlude with Mom and David in Ireland--
Rome, Italy
Venice, Italy
Vienna, Austria
Prague, Czech Republic
Katowice, Poland

...and back home! The week before Mom and David get here is obviously going to be rather more frenetic than the two weeks following; we gave ourselves more time in each city for those two weeks. We'll probably end up having to cut up that first week so that we don't kill ourselves traveling.

(It was really funny - we spent forever trying to figure out if we could stay in, and find things to do in "Wien, Austria" - before stumbling upon the fact that Wien and Vienna are the same place!)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Lesson 1: The Irish are NOT Organized

I finally have all my classes mapped out on my schedule; for the curious, I'm taking:

Introduction to Modern Irish (this looks like it might be difficult, but fun)
Philosophy of Mind (a kind of blend between psychology and philosophy)
Human Sexuality (hooray! my last upper division psych credit to earn my minor!)
Aspects of Irish Folklore (taught by the world's cutest Irish-grandmother-type)
Celtic Religion and Mythology (my only class taught by an American man)

I've been to all of these classes... except for Introduction to Modern Irish. In an effort to accommodate everyone who wanted to take it, they had us settle on the rest of our schedule first, then turn in an application showing when we were available. It's my only class to meet 3 times a week - 3 very variable times a week. I have it early Monday morning, and a little bit later on Wednesday, and then way into the evening on Thursday.

I didn't find out when - or even IF - I would be taking it until today. Furthermore, I have a class which has - apparently optional - things called tutorials, which seem to be UCC's version of discussion sections. Anyway, we're not getting assigned to those until next Wednesday. So there's still an hour a week I'm going to be busy this semester that I don't know about yet.

It's enough to make me miss the US school system. At OU, before you set foot in a classroom, you know where you're supposed to be, when. Discussion sections and language classes included. What a concept! I don't know who's the exception - the Irish or the Americans. Does most of the world leave students hanging to figure out their full schedule until 3 or 4 weeks into the semester? I have the sinking suspicion that the majority of the world behaves more like the Irish than the US. I guess Irish students are just used to it by now, but honestly it drives me a little bit crazy. Especially given the fact that I'm in a totally foreign situation and it would make me feel better if I could nail down my schedule.

Sorry about the rant. I'm done now. -.-

Monday, January 12, 2009

Getting Settled In...

This past weekend was pretty quiet. Kristina and I spent a good part of Saturday just wandering around Cork. We had bagel sandwiches for lunch at a cute little restaurant, which were delicious. We also found a very beautiful cathedral, which might have been St. Finnbarr's, but I'm not sure of the name. There are actually several cathedrals around Cork, but this was the first one we had been inside. It was mostly wooden, with carvings of angels along the sides. There was a lot of stained glass, and some old-fashioned confessionals. At the back, there was a statue of Mary, Mary Magdalene, and St. John at the foot of Jesus' cross. It had been roped off and put rather high up, out of reach, but the feet of Jesus were dark, as if at one time, people kissed His feet the way we sometimes do at home with our crucifix. I really loved the whole church. I hope I can find it again one of these days.

Sunday was church at the small chapel on campus. It was nice; the problem was that the acoustics of the stone building produced nothing but echoes if anyone spoke quietly - and both lectors and both deacons had soft voices - even using the microphone. Kristina and I are planning on scouting out a different church every week for a while. There really are a ton of Catholic churches around. Anyway, it proceeded to rain for the rest of the day. I helped Kristina in the apartment's kitchen, and she made teriyaki chicken and fried rice for lunch. Unfortunately the chicken was extremely fatty - but the rice was really good!

Today I was on my own. I had 2 classes, each one 2 hours long. The first one, Philosophy of Mind, promises to be very interesting and spark a great deal of class debate. The second, Human Sexuality, is kind of awkward to sit through, given the subject matter, but it's still quite interesting, and it's the highest-level class I'm taking this semester.

Now I've been to all my classes at least once, except for my Irish Language class, which won't begin for another week. It's looking like a promising semester!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Some Tastes of Ireland

Yesterday began pretty quietly. Kristina's host family insisted that she skip school that day so that they could show her around, so I was left to my own devices. I got breakfast in the school cafeteria (toast and orange juice) and went to my classes. One was in the basement of the library, and the other attempted to cram a good 60 to 80 students in a classroom designed for more like 30 or 40 kids. (I don't know whose brilliant idea that one was, but they're trying to put us in a roomier facility in future.) Actually, the arrangement did have one benefit: The rooms in the West Wing, where we were, have no heating or air conditioning, but the enormous number of people in the room produced enough heat to make it comfortable.

After classes, I hung out in my room for a while until Kristina came over, bearing spaghetti from her host-mom and an invitation for dinner that night. This resulted in my first experience with the bus system in Cork, as Carrigaline is a pretty fair distance from Cork itself. I met the mother and father and their three school-age children. The father basically introduced himself to me by way of criticizing the poor response to Hurricane Katrina from the federal government, and of course pinning the blame on Bush. I was rather surprised by this outburst, as I was nearly an utter stranger to the man, and in the US, such comments in those circumstances would be considered quite rude. Kristina later explained to me that she had gotten similar treatment from them upon her arrival, and that I shouldn't take offense to it; it's just the way the Irish are.

At any rate, they fed me well. Dinner was lasagna, green beans, broccoli, and mashed potatoes. Afraid of offending the very direct lady of the house, I cleaned my plate as best I could, and after dinner, Kristina and I went upstairs so I could see her room. We talked about wolves and moose with the ten-year-old Eric, who firmly believed that wolves ate people and didn't understand a word of it when Kristina made casual reference to Darwinism. (Kristina is an ecology major and absolutely loves this stuff. She stops on the street all the time to examine leaves and ivy and stuff like that.) I was pleased when, later that night, I braved the bus system and the streets of Cork by myself, to find my way home without much hesitation or difficulty.

Today, I didn't have any classes. (With any luck, it'll stay that way. Three-day weekends for the win!) So Kristina and I grabbed lunch, came back to the apartment to start planning for our month off in April. We're going to spend a week split between Britain and France, come back for the week my parents are in town, then leave again to spend the next three weeks traveling around Europe. We definitely have Italy on the agenda, and are thinking about Munich in Germany, and some of the northern countries like Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.

Earlier this evening, we wandered around Cork City Centre for a while. We checked out a fish and meat market, as well as some clothing stores and a couple different chocolate shops. We ended up eating dinner at McDonald's - which, it turns out, is not universally cheap. For one quarter-pounder-with-cheese meal, it cost 6.60 euro ($9!!), so we split it. We left pretty soon after that.

Write later!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The First Few Days

Picking up where I left off: After posting the last entry, I followed the sound of voices into my apartment's kitchen and common room. It's always cold in there, because the heater is broken, but it has a couch, coffee table, and television set, and the kitchen is fully furnished - albeit with appliances I only have the vaguest idea how to use. Anyway, there were three girls and three guys in the room when I walked in. The three boys were Danny, Ronan, and David, and the three girls were Martha, Seanaid (spelling? It's pronounced Shih-nade), and Jenny. Of them, only Danny is actually my roommate; the rest were just visiting. Later, there were Molly and Connor, my two other roommates. For whatever reason, I always see Molly, Connor, and Ronan around the apartment, and Danny has not reappeared since that first night.

The group had clearly known each other for a long time, laughing and joking and telling stories and talking about every possible subject. They welcomed me enthusiastically, talking 90 miles a minute, and using all kinds of slang I'd never heard before. Once I made sure they didn't mind, I stopped them every few seconds to ask what something they said meant. Danny and Seanaid were the most outspoken, and Ronan was the nicest to me - frequently I would glance over when I had no idea what the others were talking about, and he'd say, "Don't worry, I don't know what they're talking about either!" They were effusive with their advice, telling me never to approve of the British out loud, not to take anyone's ribbing (or slagging, as they called it) too seriously, and not to expect compliments from any Irish. It was a lot of fun to hang out with them; they were unendingly friendly. Also, they took me with them to Tesco's (Irish version of Wal-Mart), and I got some extra supplies and some food.

The next day, my alarm didn't go off, because my phone still believed I was in Central Time and would therefore go off six hours later than I wanted it to. Molly woke me up, fortunately. I showered quickly, got dressed, and promptly got lost on UCC's campus trying to find the international student orientation. Because I had no idea what building it was in, I didn't know how to ask for help, though heaven knows people tried to help out. (Those helpful Irish.) Finally someone knew it to be in the student center, and I showed up 10 minutes late. We listened to some speakers, did our preliminary registration, and were released for a couple hours to get some lunch. I met back up with Kristina, and we went back to my apartment to charge her laptop (she doesn't have a converter). It's a pretty long walk from Farranlea Hall to UCC, though, so we barely made it back in time to buy a sandwich and go back to the orientation. We went back to Farranlea again, Kristina got her laptop, and took the bus home; I ate Spaghetti-O's at home and hung out with some of the others in my apartment.

Yesterday morning, I attempted to take a shower and took the world's quickest one, because the water was stubbornly freezing cold. It's like there's only one water heater for the whole place. >< Anyway, I went to the school and got my UCC ID card, then met Kristina as I was leaving the West Wing. I waited for her while her ID card was printed, and we grabbed lunch in the school cafeteria/restaurant. It was actually pretty tasty. Much better than the non-brand cafeteria food in any school I've ever been to. Then the two of us audited four classes, the second of which (Aspects of Irish Folklore) I'm definitely taking. Between classes, we went off campus and split a panini from a coffee shop down the street. I swear it was the best panini I've ever eaten. :)

Today we audited one class I want to take (Celtic Religion and Mythology), came back to the apartment, and started trying to plan our three-week travels. (We'll come back for the second week while Mom and David are here). We're planning on getting Eurail passes, staying in hostels, and hitting as many countries and sites that we're interested in as possible. Britain, France, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Italy, Switzerland... anything we can manage.

After we got off the computer, we left for the coffee shop to get paninis for dinner, and I walked with Kristina all the way to the bus station. Which took forever. It took me a full 45 minutes to walk back to Farranlea from the Eireann Bus Station!

And now I'm here. Post later!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Travel Days

I woke up early Saturday morning, got in the car with my mom and sister, and drove to New Orleans for the first leg of my trip. The New Orleans airport was quiet, and the flight left without delay. Unfortunately, we met some turbulence shortly after reaching cruising altitude (captain over intercom: "Breathe deep, folks. Breathe deep.") I'd been on too many flights to be afraid for the plane, but I was a bit concerned I might lose my breakfast in all the bumping and sharp, brief falls that the plane went through. Fortunately, though, the plane eventually resumed a straight path to Chicago, and we all arrived intact.

The Chicago airport is, in a word, complicated. I had to ask for help just to find the right terminal - and once I got there, I had to go through security again. I'd already bought my lunch in a different terminal, so they threw out my water bottle, even though it was unopened. Not long after sitting down at the correct gate - I say not long, it was probably around two and a half hours later - a girl named Kristina sat down near me, and we struck up a conversation. She was also headed to UCC (University College Cork, for the uninformed) and we hit it off right away. We talked until we boarded the plane, but were unable to sit together. This turned out to be just fine, though; I ended up sitting next to a girl named Ashley for the seven-and-a-half-hour flight. A year older than me, she was also studying abroad, but at Dublin Business College. We chatted and ate dinner and tried to sleep. This last endeavor was largely unsuccessful for all three of us, and so it was sleepily that we landed in Dublin this morning. Customs was a breeze, and Kristina, Ashley, and I hunted down our luggage in the crowded terminal. Afterwards, Ashley went with a couple of other DBC students, and Kristina and I were left to our own devices to figure out how on earth we'd get to Cork.

Dublin was clearly designed by a mad cartographer. It's a bit as if someone rolled up New York City with New Orleans, made sure no street followed a straight line, and then proceeded to name every section of street differently without actually labeling them. Moreover, the bus map we had on hand seemed to indicate bus stops as more of a suggestion than a fact. We finally asked a kind Dublin Bus driver how we could find our particular bus, and he was right on the money. It was cold and drizzling, and we had four pieces of luggage plus our backpacks to drag around, so you can imagine the relief when we finally climbed on our bus to Cork.

The view from the bus windows was lovely. It looked just like every picture of Ireland you've ever seen. Green and lush, by turns flat farmland and mountainous, it was beautiful. After a few stops and four hours, the bus finally dropped us off at Cork. Kristina needed to find a pay phone to contact her host family, and I needed a taxi cab to bring me to Farranlea Hall. After two pay phones and some walking, we finally both got what we needed and parted ways.

I checked in at my dormitory. My room is on the first floor and is easy to access. It's spacious, with a twin bed, desk, lamp, small closet, and extra shelving space. My bathroom is enormous as well. Everything seems to be in good condition; I just wish the heater worked more quickly. I've been here almost an hour, and it's still freezing cold in my room.

I should go find something to eat. Write later!