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9 posts from July 2010

07/21/2010

And then there was 2 and a half hours until I go to the Airport.

I am writing this literally at last possible second, so I feel pretty good about recapping what I have learned this trip, in no particular order.

  • No one likes American guys. No one. We are boring in our own country and viewed as dead-weight for American Girls, which are the Golden Key to getting into any place or getting any discount. Thanks, American Female Friends
  • IRISH PEOPLE LOVE PRINGLES! SERIOUSLY! THEY'RE EVERYWHERE! ALL SORTS OF FLAVOURS! HAVE YOU EVER HAD PRAWN PRINGLES? They have! They love 'em! You get an American Girls with a tube of Pringles they just might hand you the key to the city.
  • When someone asks me where I'm from, I say Wisconsin. I'd say "America" or "The States" and they would be annoyed with me for assuming they couldn't figure that out.
  • Open Container laws on mass-transit systems cut down on drunk driving, but exponentially increase the chance of having a drunk homeless man fall asleep next to you.
  • Irish people know how to say their Th's in words like "Three" and "Theory", they just choose not to.
  • I look 17. People were incredulous when they would see I'm no longer a teenager.
  • I love Kebabs.
  • I love the Dog Track
  • Whenever you go t--Wait, back to the Dog Track.

Every session we have a "Farewell Dinner" at a nicer restaurant and usually have a very pleasant time. However, someone had the idea to have it at the Dog Track. So our pleasant time turned into a SUPER AWESOME TIME! What is better than eating salmon while watching the 12-1 dog place in second place? I'll tell you what, actually placing a bet on that instead of idly talking about it, like I did. The adrenaline, the chance, the surprisingly low amount of dead-beat heroin addicts, I love it!

  • Without fail, every time I told an Irish Person I was from Wisconsin they said, I quote: "THAT 70S SHOW!" This was a good 20 interactions that his happened. They LOVE That 70s Show, and most likely never met someone from Wisconsin. Which I why I got the following follow up questions:
    • "Living in a city must be a serious culture shock"
    • "I bet you're finally enjoying a farm summer!"
    • "You're from WiSCONsin?" - That was from Americans.

All in all, I've had an absolutely incredible experience that I can say with a great deal of certainty that I'll remember forever. The CIEE staff has been absolutely fantastic with Don and Martin being equal parts knowledgeable and personable. Dublin is now my second favorite city in the world and I look forward to coming back whenever possible. However, there is no place like home. It will be bittersweet in two hours when I have to get in that cab, but I feel confident knowing that I've done everything I could have dreamed of and more here.

Deuces, Ireland.

Hopefully next time we meet I can have a job.

....Alright, I gotta finish packing.

Northern Ireland: ...I'd feel too bad making jokes about this.

I was really excited to go to Northern Ireland since I heard about it. I never really knew what happened in Northern Ireland until I spent 40 class hours learning about it. It's super complicated and messy and the fact there is a ceasefire is amazing. 

Politics aside, Belfast was OK. It has a totally different feel than Dublin. High Rise buildings, all grey brick, it feel more like an American city than Ireland. (Well, technically it's not Ireland, but you know what I mean). The political murals were equal parts inspiring and terrifying and the fact that the Troubles were only ended 10 years ago is equal numbing.

One non-depressing, super awesome thing is WE SAW WHERE THE TITANIC WAS BUILT. Like, inside the buildings! So sweet! As they say in Belfast: "There was nothing wrong with it when it left here!".

Things then got somber again going to Derry/Londonderry and seeing the murals and memorials to The Battle of the Bogside and Bloody Sunday. The Bloody Sunday Museum was especially poignant with the the sister of one of the boys killed runs the Museum and gave a talk to our group. She was recently in the news because her and the other families of the Bloody Sunday victims were invited to a formal apology by the British Prime Minister for the actions of the British police on that day after findings that the protesters weren't a threat to anyone's safety.

I apologize if a lot of this is foreign or unfamiliar with anyone. I don't think I can do a summation of the history of the Northern Ireland Tensions justice. However, if you're interesting in History, Politics, or Current Events, it's worth a look. A really interesting case of sectarian hate and tensions between ethno-religious boundaries. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Troubles
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Bogside
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloody_Sunday_(1972)

On a happier note WE THEN WENT TO A CASTLE! IT WAS SWEET!
 The Carrickfergus castle in Carrickfergus, to be exact. It was a castle, and it was dope.

That brings us up to now, sort of!

Dublin Castle 'n' Stuff - 6/7-13/7

This week we had a lot of free time so I did more of the aforementioned bumming around and hanging out with friends from the session. A friend from freshmen year came in, we watched the World Cup, nothing Earth Shaking.

 Dublin Castle is a really cool spot. The inside is gorgeous. If you are a fan of old houses, walking around old houses, looking at classic architecture, looking at Victorian and Elizabethan furniture and decorations, go to Dublin Castle. They also sell post-cards with Family Crests on them. "A Cat When Stroked Is Gentle". Way to go Kane Clan.

With this break in the action, let me tell you about a rekindled love affair: Sugar and I.

In Europe, no one uses preservatives. In your candy bar and in your soda you just high quality ingredients and high quality sugar. On the downside, everything is way more empty calorie pack. On the upside, the majority of your beverage/snack food isn't made in lab. I am bringing home a treasure trove of goodies to show America the joys of sugar and hopefully it will catch on here. Or we can stick with the chemicals, I've been cool with them so far.

See you in Northern Ireland!

The Importance of Being Realistic - 5/7/10

When I was in High School I really wanted to be a creative writer. A novelist, a poet, something. I though my life would be cool and relevant and be filled with equal parts accolades and popularity. We went to the Irish Writers Museum and there seems to be a general trend: "Man, they were a great writer, but they hated themselves!" After listening to what looked like a Cobbler's tool for making shoes talk about the canon of the Irish Literary Set I could figure out if they were all morose because they were too crazy/brilliant or if they were just Irish.

Not to sound culturally insensitive, but the museum spanned the the 19th and early 20th centuries. That was not exactly the best time to be Irish. I now know more about James Joyce than I ever needed to. One thing I found funny was the fact that he always wrote about Ireland, but he felt oppressed there so he peaced out. I might try to start reading Ulysses again. However, it took me 20 minutes to think about reading it, so I can only imagine actually trying to read it will be about as fruitless. 

It rained this day. It literally was the nicest Irish summer in the history. It rained 4 times while I was there. All four times I had no umbrella, jacket, and was always walking somewhere. I looked like someone thew Oliver Twist in a lake.

USA USA USA USA USA USA

THE 4TH JULY! BBQ! SWIMMING POOLS! FIREWORKS! I DID NONE OF THESE THINGS!

I went to a Hurling Match on the 4th of July. What's Hurling? Field Hockey on steroids and a disregard for padding.

Tangent Time: Ireland has a huge volunteer sports organisation called the GAA, the Gaelic Atheltic Association where they play Irish games such a Gaelic Football, Rugby, and Hurling. They're all various variations of running and trying to kick things through uprights. They do have one common theme, beating the crap out of each other with minimum cushioning. In Hurling there is a 200 pound man barreling at you with a wooden club in his hand swinging all about your personal space. They were FORCED to wear Helmets this year. It's really wild.

The Hurling Tournament was good craic and I'm glad I got to go. Irish sports has a really cool dynamic American sports lack because since the Athletes are all from their respective Counties and are unpaid, the players are all members of the community who you see at the bank, the grocery store, etc. etc. It's a cool concept to cheer for your friends and neighbors as opposed to laundry, as Seinfeld says.

We then celebrated America's birthday by asking some Irish friends of our what the most American place to eat is. It was called Captain America's. It was the pretty much the Hard Rock Cafe with faux-Americana knick-knacks on the wall and American inspired specials.

I went home feeling full, groggy, and slightly underwhelmed. SOUNDS LIKE THE 4TH TO ME!

GOD BLESS AMERICA!!!!

Things I love About Dublin: Restaurants

July 2nd and 3rd I think I was sick or something, I didn't do much. So let's talk about food.

First session I ate out a lot. A lot. I spent way too much money on just OK food. But, I found some gems. In case you care/ever want to go, go here.

Boojums: See; the first post.
Cafe Azteca: Great Mexican food, great prices. The closest thing to Mexican food you can find on an Island in the North Atlantic.
Indian Ocean: Best Indian Food in the City. Put it on a magazine. Four courses for 15 euro! You CAN'T go wrong!
Rick's Burgers: It's open late and serves up the best of the worst food possible, greasy, grimy burgers and fries.
Ishkanders: You like Greek food? You like Ishkanders. The fact that you can watch the lamb cook from the street doesn't hurt either.
Leo Burdock's - Like Rick's Burgers, but with Fish and Chips.

The Milkshake Bar. The Milkshake Bar and I have a history.

The first day I saw this place I thought I was in a dream, I had to have been. No place so perfect can exist. An establishment with the sole purpose of serving Milkshakes. BUT IT'S SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT.

Well, to be fair, it's not. They really just serve Milkshakes, but they blend in full candy bars, biscuits (cookies), Nutella, Peanut Butter, Fruit, Skittles, Coffee, whatever! Not to be blasphemous, but I like them a lot. A LOT, a lot. If I was in 6th grade and the Milkshake Bar was in 8th grade, I would work up the nerve to ask it do dance. Even if their friends were there.

(Note from the Blogger: Due to a technical error, this should be the second post, as opposed to the third. Sorry for the inconsistent scrolling)

I'm sorry if you made tea on that previous post to make sure you had something to quench your thirst through reading. I realized how obnoxiously long it would be. Anyways, a new day a new post seems more manageable.

Wednesday, June 30th found us at St. Patrick's Cathedral. I had gone here once before thinking I was going to mass. This was a mistake. Anecdote!

My friend Shelley from the first session, and one of the nicest people I've had the pleasure of meeting, asked if I wanted to go to mass one night. I thought: "Sure! C'mon Andy, you're in Ireland and you're Catholic. You GOTTA go to mass! It's like being in France and not having wine." So I hop on board and start telling everyone the ins and outs of Catholic mass and giving witty zingers and self-deprecating jokes, just straight HAMMIN' it up. Anyways, we get to the Cathedral and we take our places in the pews and we witness a solid 40 minutes of this grandiose, epic, Prog-Rock kind of Vocal performance. It was like if Pink Floyd wrote church hymns. Everything was sung, the melody always changed, and the organ just kept pumping out the most depressing, hope-crushing bass notes ever. I left in a state of confusion and disbelief. Everything I knew about Catholicism was wrong! Was I that out of practice at going to Church? I had some serious "Father, I have a problem" concerns running through my head.

I learned on this day however, I had no idea what the hell was going on because it was an Anglican church. Crisis of Faith Averted!

St. Patrick's is a beautiful Cathedral on the outside and ever cooler on the inside. It's packed with marble statues and old Loyalist Irish World War 1 Flags and a bunch of stuff for Johnathon Swift. It seemed like the Church was having a garage sale of all the really sweet stuff they had.

An added bonus was a super dope park next to it! Before the aforementioned denomination switch up I hung out in it for a hour because I mixed up in the times (and, of course, denomination). The Park also houses the reason for the Church's namesake. Legend has it that the park once had a fountain in which St. Patrick once baptized people. That's probably better than a jungle gym.

1/7/10

There is an overwhelming chance that no one really cares about this, but this was the day I got to ride the Luas. The Luas is a train that cruises through the city at a moderate speed and rings a little bell that makes sure you don't get a basis for a claim against the City of Dublin Transit Authority. One thing I found weird about the Luas is how trusting everyone was. You don't need a ticket to get on, well, you do, but getting on is as easy as just opening the door and getting on. The Honor System is strong in Ireland, be I of looser morals or stronger nerves, I would have exploited this. However, I still get nervous taking Pennies from the Take/Leave a Penny, so I played this one pretty straight laced.

The Irish National Museum is in Collins Barracks, which is a former Military Barracks and it is ENORMOUS. The multitude of exhibits in the museum excluding, the sheer span of the courtyard makes your head spin. I felt like Lawrence of Arabia trying to get across.

The museum is free to the public and has some high quality exhibits. There was a fantastic installment about the 1916 Rebellion. However, after spending a month and 3,000 words talking about the Rebellion, I was a little drained. I made my way over to the Celtic Cross exhibit. I expected model sized crosses in glass containers with index cards giving a quick rundown of the specs.

Boy howdy was I wrong! MONOLITHIC RECREATIONS! EVERYWHERE! It was great being able to get to see all sides of the cross up close to get all of the details, along with the descriptions of what each cross has on it. Celtic Crosses have depictions and symbols on every inch of them and due to being around for hundreds of century, the fine details have worn off so I can never tell if something is supposed to be a lion or a water jug, or any of the other plethora of Biblical references a Celt can carve into some stone.

I remember it was warm that day so I treated myself to a Milkshake.
But more on that later. For now, let's go back in time, since I messed up how to use this.

I would like to take this opportunity to apologize for all of you who waited with bated breathe for my weekly blog updates. It is currently the last day of the session, and I am prepared to synthesize an entire month's experiences into one post. Get a cup of tea, get a Flake 99 cone, grab a Fanta with real orange juice in it, it's about to get real.

Let's start from the very beginning of the middle!

Blogger's Logger: June 29th
Dear Future Procrastinating Andy,
I sure can't wait till you put up these daily blog updates! Imagine it! Friends, family, and aspiring travelers such as yourself getting real time updates of Ireland! I wonder what July is going to be like!
Love, Present Andy

Sorry, bud. On the 29th we visited St. Michan's, which is one of the few parishes on the North Side of the river. The Church itself is pretty underwhelming compared to the massive Christchurch a mere few blocks away. However, the old adage holds up here. "Don't Judge A Church Until You Walk 5 Meters Below It's Foundations and Look at the Mummies."

I REPEAT IN A PARAGRAPH BREAK IT INCREASE CLARITY: THERE WERE MUMMIES! REAL LIFE, BRENDAN FRAISER-LESS MUMMIES!

The crypt under St. Michan's was found to have the perfect conditions to preserve corpses after one of the privately owned coffins broke and upon investigation a perfectly preserved human being was there as opposed to a regular old bag of bones.The mummies were as creepy and unsettling as one would expect, especially when your guide insists that touching a mummified Crusader's finger is good luck.

After touching a dead human being, I bet get some luck. Or hand-sanitizer. Preferably the former, but, in a pinch, I'll settle for the latter. Whatever I did the rest of that day is unimportant and mundane. I think I ate at Boojums, LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT BOOJUMS.

Boojums is a Burrito restaurant similar to the American chains Chipotle or Qdoba, but it's in Ireland. There's a place that serves humongous burritos. In Ireland. I'm in Ireland. I still can eat humongous burritos. It makes me misty eyed just thinking about it. I'll talk more about my favorite restaurants and such whenever I was lame and didn't do anything.

Till tomorrow!
- Andy

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