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!

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