Monday, January 31, 2011

Fish and Flat Tires: Dublin and Bantry Bay

First of all, an apology: I'm sorry it's been so long since my last post. I don't want to be one of those people who says "Look at me being all modern and tech-savvy and in-the-loop!" and then doesn't follow through. Having said that, this won't be a long post. No pics, no links, just words. This is a no-frills blog post. Sorry; I'll try to fill in the details later. I'm throwing my pictures onto Picasa as we speak. If you want an invitation to view all 844 of them (how crazy!), just shoot me an email. This is especially useful for those who don't have a Facebook (ahem, Mom and Dad).

Moving on...

Last weekend my lovely API group went to Dublin for a day trip. Let me summarize the trip for you: woke up really early, took a long bus ride, saw the Book of Kells, ate, saw some churches, went to the Guinness storehouse, drank (about 5 sips - not a Guinness fan!), ate, got back on the bus, got two flat tires in the middle of Co. Laois ("Leesh"), went into a pub (the only thing open except for the fish n' chips place) and got some drinks, got back on the bus, arrived back here -- exhausted -- around 1:30 a.m. At that point I had been up for about 20 hours. Luckily, keeping me company through it all were some fun friends and a pint and a half of Bulmer's. The Book of Kells was not as impressive as I imagined it would be. And I couldn't take pictures (which makes sense, but I hadn't thought about that so I was bummed). To be honest, Dublin was a bit of a disappointment. But now that my SMC roommate Becca is in that area, I have a reason to go back and explore some more. We ran out of time and didn't get to visit a bunch of the sites I wanted to see. There are a few art galleries and museums I want to visit, and I'd love to go to the Writer's Museum. I did get to see Jonathan Swift's tomb, housed in a beautiful cathedral (one of two that we went to). I also learned that some places in Dublin make you pay to use the bathroom (20 cents!).

OK, I can't stand it. We need a picture in this post. Check out that stained glass. Not only was it beautiful in real life, but this picture is actually pretty accurate! And I've learned, recently, just how hard it is to capture churches on film. I just thought this window was especially lovely.

Now that I've added one I might as well add another. I love all of the light in the picture below. The curves of the cathedral's arches are great, too.

Oh, you're looking at St. Patrick's Cathedral, by the way. We also went to Christ Church Cathedral. Both were very impressive!

This past weekend, I did an overnight with three of my new friends to Bantry Bay in West Cork. Here's a quick run-down...

Lowlights (is that even technically a term?): the hotel in general, though it wasn't awful for the price we paid; the yummy fish n' chips I had on Saturday night (Sunday's fish n' chips didn't make the cut); the pit in my stomach when we heard music coming from the Bantry House, which was technically closed and therefore, we may have inadvertently been trespassing; the entire teenage population of Bantry & their arrival at the Cinemax; Karl, the donkey, not wanting to let me pet him.

Highlights (let's end on a good note!): seeing my ancestors' town on the way there (I can't wait to go explore!); swimming at the hotel; learning how to say Drinagh correctly ("Dree-nuh"); touching the Atlantic from this side of the pond; seeing "The Dilemma" (it's a good movie - go see it); the adorable Irish librarians we met when we stopped to ask for directions; and the absolutely INCREDIBLE view from the top of Seskin. I'll leave you with this picture...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Missing the Mike's

I knew it would happen: I miss St. Mike's. Badly. I frequent the College's site, but that's reasonable because I check my email all the time. But here's what it's come to...I watched our interactive virtual tour on YouTube all afternoon just so I could feel more at home. Don't judge.

Even though I've only been here three weeks, I'm already starting to appreciate things from home that contrast with the way things run around here. Some of the differences are cultural (especially one's attitude toward something) and should be embraced; some are due to location. I'm hoping that I'll come to love these differences and appreciate them in their own right. The "U-curve" of culture shock informs me that I will eventually find the happy medium (more on that later, perhaps).

The top three things (in no specific order) that I appreciate more about SMC - this list will grow, I'm sure:
1. Alliot - We don't know how good we have it with an unlimited meal plan! Not only can we eat as much as we want, it's also prepared for us. I hate cooking for one. It's tricky, especially in a foreign country (though their food isn't too different), on a limited budget, and as a picky eater.
2. Small campus (geographically) - I don't want to complain, but (I'm going to anyway...) my feet really hurt. I'm not used to walking to and around a big campus. Someone told me today that the distance between my apartment and the main gates of campus is 1.8 km (I looked it up and it's actually 1.4 km, which is .9 mi). So basically I walk at least 2 mi every day, sometimes twice a day.  I go into town a few times per week, too, and that's about 40 min from my apartment. I should have toned thighs by the time I get home, but my gosh, my poor feet. It would take me less time to walk from my res hall last semester to PK Cafe across the street if I took the long way around (via Campus Rd, which, by the way, I didn't know actually had that name).
3. Population - I miss running into friends on the way to class and smiling at people from across the quad (OK, I guess there's nothing stopping me from smiling, but no one is smiling at me!). I miss small classes. I don't know the people who I sit next to here, and I probably won't because I'm finding that students rarely talk in class. I love the size of SMC. I couldn't go to a university the size of UCC for four years. Of course, people naturally find their niches...but I'd rather find a lot of little niches on a small campus.

I'm also realizing very quickly that there is so much more to St. Mike's than I've experienced thus far. The email server doesn't have an "abroad" setting so I've been getting the school's mass emails this week. And it's amazing what I find myself interested in when I don't have the option of attending a certain event or trying out a new activity. That should tell me something -- I need to broaden my horizons! I do have a "senior year bucket list," and I think I need to add a few things to that. For example, our Wilderness Program - it would cost me $5 to go snowshoeing. Why haven't I done this? $5! Or the ski pass - $30 for a season pass to Smuggs. I don't ski or snowboard, but for $30 I might as well try! I spent the same amount of money on a fan for white noise. C'mon. Next year, I'll be hitting the slopes.

(I'm having a lot of fun with this link feature...check out the song that's stuck in my head. It's good, I promise.)

I skyped with my little sister (shout-out to you, Mo, since I know you read this!) and two friends today, one of whom is back at SMC having spent last semester here in Ireland. Her advice to me was to let things unfold (because they will) and to be present here. Those of you who know me well know that I find living in the moment awfully difficult. I mentally venture off into the past and the future most of the time. I find myself saying and thinking "I can't wait for Germany so I can be with family" or "I can't wait for summer." But I can wait, and I have to wait, and I need to wait.

There's this great passage that I referred to a lot last semester in witness talks and in my own personal reflection. It's from Sue Monk Kidd's book entitled When the Heart Waits, and it's about actively waiting. I'm having trouble finding the talk I wrote that includes the quote, but basically, Kidd encourages her readers to think of waiting for something not as nothing but as time and space to better one's self. Before I got here, I was waiting for this; now I'm waiting for travel experiences. And after they're over...? I'll always be waiting for something, that I can guarantee; I am a forward-thinker and there's no stopping my tendency to think about the future. But I think it's important for me to make the most of my waiting. Otherwise, I may miss out or regret not doing something.

My New Year's resolution was to not say "no," to embrace every opportunity that came my way. Well, as it usually goes for most people, that hasn't happened at all. I've been a little hermit sometimes because I'm a little overwhelmed all the time. As I adjust, I will -- I hope -- begin to make the most of my time here, in the now, and say "yes" to all good things that this lovely island has to offer.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Rebel Territory

Here's where I show you some of my campus and tell you everything I know (which is very little) about the buildings. Let me take you on a virtual tour of Rebel territory.

This is the main quad (but it's actually only three-sided). Sometimes I feel like I'm going to class in a castle...the branch of the building on the left in this picture is called the West Wing, and I have a few classes in there. This building also houses a campus store, the bathroom where I found 2 Euro, and, most importantly, the Ogham stones. Ogham is an ancient Celtic alphabet, and UCC has a collection of stones with Ogham inscriptions lining the corridor of this building. I'll try to post a picture of them at some point.
This is the entrance to Boole Library. I've only been inside twice, but it seems like a nice building. The library tour was really boring; I'm not going to lie. But it was photographed so maybe you'll see me on the UCC website. Upside to the library: Lots of space. It's pretty big. Downsides: It costs me money to print (I've been so spoiled). I'm not a big fan of the organization of the study area/book area -- the collections are in the center of each room and there are desks surrounding it. And the hours kinda bite -- they're closed on Sundays.

This is the O'Rahilly Building, or the ORB. It's completely symmetrical and, thus, very difficult to navigate. It has a billion different wings and many floors. I have Spoken Irish in here and the Dept. of English is housed here too.

 This is the Student Centre. It houses the New Bar (newer student pub; the Old Bar [how original] is in another building), a few cafes, the bookstore, a few campus stores, a multi-function hall, and a bunch of other things, I'm sure. I had my orientation in here. On the right-hand side of this picture, you can see the amphitheatre a little. Sound carries here, so be careful what you say!
This is the school seal with Honan Chapel in the background. The seal says "Where Finbarr Taught." Below is a picture of the chapel (sorry it's tilted; I edited it, but for some reason it's not straight on here.) It's really quaint and nice inside. I plan to go there for Mass each Sunday. The liturgy was great this past weekend. The cantor has a beautiful voice! They also say part of the Mass in either Latin or Irish (I don't know which since I don't speak either language -- yet!), and it's lovely. So many people want to get married in this chapel that they had to issue a rule that only UCC alum couples can be married here.
The crest/seal that can't be stepped on. Rumor has it that you'll get pregnant or impregnate someone if you do...definitely something I want to avoid while I'm here, though two of my friends have stepped on it. Another superstition floating around campus is that if you walk through the pathways in the quad (you can't really see them in my picture above, but basically it's just a cross that divides the quad into four, well, quadrants) you won't graduate. I won't be letting that happen either. So let me explain the seal: at the top we have the date UCC was founded: 1845. The yellow section is the crest of Cork, the blue section is the crest for Munster (the region), and I think the brown is the university's symbol of some sort. Something about knowledge and truth I'm sure, since there's a book and a torch.

This is the bridge you cross to get into city centre. Under it flows the River Lee. The edge of town is right outside of the gates of UCC. It takes about ten-fifteen minutes (on foot) to get to center of it all from here.
A view from a parking lot in UCC. It's definitely a city built on (or, more accurately, into) a hill. Check out the way the houses are built -- I really love the colors and the fact that they all structurally look very similar.

This is a very abbreviated version of campus...just the route I took from home to city centre. There are a lot of buildings spread all over Cork. In fact, a lot of people have said that UCC owns most of Cork. I have pictures of the city, too, so I'll try to post those soon too. It's dinnertime, though, and I'm off to make burgers with some of the girls in my program before a night out (Bulmer's -- Irish cider -- included, of course!).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Kiss Me, I'm Irish: Blarney & Cobh Excursion (and the Week in Review)

Sunday marked the end of my first week here -- that's hard to believe. Last week went by so slowly despite how busy it was. Picking classes has been an ordeal...I want to take courses that will count toward my major and minors, but there are so many modules (that's what they're called here) at UCC that sound interesting. Here's what's on tap for my semester (assuming all goes well at the International Education Office): Trad & Blues, a music class; From Pagans to Christians, a history course that is counting as Celtic Christianity; Aspects of Irish Folklore, an Irish Lit equivalent for visiting students; Intro to Shakespearean Drama, which is (hopefully) going to stand in for Shakespeare at St. Mike's (I can't imagine that not being approved); Intro to Irish History -- self-explanatory, I think; and Intro to Modern Irish, which is a language course on Gaelic (though that's not said's either Irish or Gaeilge [pronounced "gwail-guh," I think] to Irishmen and -women, and if you say Gaelic people know you're American). I had a few classes at the end of the week, but this week is when they really get underway. I'm looking forward to learning the Irish academic system...I've heard about how much it differs from American education. 

I've been exploring the town with my new API friends (who are all really great! I'm so lucky!). We've been to some pubs, shopped, tried some food places, taken pictures like tourists, all that jazz. On Saturday, we had our first official API excursion to Blarney and Cobh (pronounced "Cove," and it actually used to be called that, before it was Queenstown and then, later on, Cobh). Our first stop was the Blarney Castle, home, of course, of the Blarney Stone! Naturally, we were all tourist-y and kissed it. It wasn't as epic as I thought it would be, but it's still cool to say I've done it. After that, it really hit me that I'm in Ireland. The grounds of the castle were absolutely beautiful. Have a look at a few of the 300 pictures I took:


Those are all of Blarney. I think the top left one looks like a painting; I can't even explain how lovely it was. The view was incredible and we had great weather for the trip. These next few are from Cobh, the town that welcomed the Titanic as it made its final stop before setting sail. Check out not only the random palm tree-like fauna (I'm used to seeing plants like this in warm places, but they're everywhere here!), but also the rainbow. No leprechauns or pots of gold in sight, unfortunately. That'll have to be another adventure. The picture of the boat was just my attempt at being artsy. I liked that it said "Cork" on the side and I thought the blues were pretty.  To the right is a picture of my fellow API kids. We're a group of 12 (our RD is to the left of me): ten girls, two of whom are year students, and two guys. We all get along really well, and the size of the group is perfect. The house picture is something you'd typically see on a postcard; multi-colored neighbors are common here. Apparently, some locals thought it was something all people do...we told them that, no, we don't typically paint our houses whatever color we wish to paint it. I think it's a great idea. It brings so much life to an area.  


In Cobh, we visited St. Colman's Cathedral, walked down by the water, and explored the Cobh Heritage Centre, where we took "The Queenstown Story" tour. A significant portion of the trip was spent in the gift shop and eating pastries, activities far happier than looking at the names of those who went down with the Titanic and learning about the devastation of The Great Famine.

I've also taken pictures of campus (on Sunday so I didn't have to be a tourist) which I'll put up on a later post about the college. Things certainly are done differently here...and isn't the point of study abroad to experience new-ness? I'll try to take some time in the next few days to fill everyone in on what the campus culture is like.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Céad míle fáilte!

A hundred thousand welcomes to my blog (if you're just tuning in)! That's what this title's pronounced "kayd meela fawlcha." I'm finally grounded in Cork. It's cloudy and cold, but the buildings and people are full of life. I'll try to post pictures soon...I don't want to be all tourist-y, but I do want good pictures so I'll just have to suck it up.

Interesting/funny things about UCC/Cork (at least from my experience thus far):
  • Almost ALL of the guys at UCC wear sweatpants. The ones who don't wear trackpants (or worse -- track suits).
  • The walk sign (that no one here pays attention to -- they just go) is a little green man...and I've heard people call it that.
  • They do indeed drive on the 'wrong' side of the road.
  • Corkonians walk really fast. I was told that they take their time with things. Well, that may be their lifestyle, but it's not their walking speed.
  • Their slang is the greatest. Maybe later I'll do a whole post about the colloquialisms I've heard/learned.
I know there are more, but I'm so tired. (It's about ten here, by the way.) I'm still totally jet-lagged. Plus, I don't have internet in my room yet, and I'm writing from a very chilly and kinda noisy common room. Once I'm all connected to the wireless, I'll be able to think clearly and give a full report of my experience so far.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Well, I'm off! This is my last post from the U.S. After days of packing and re-packing, saying goodbyes to friends and family, and shopping for last-minute "essentials" (we'll see how essential stuff is), I'm finally headed to Ireland. My flight leaves Boston tonight, and I get to London tomorrow morning at 8 (which will feel like 3 a.m.). Then, after a brief layover and hour-long flight, I arrive in Cork around 11 in the morning (local time). I'll be sure to keep everyone posted once I'm there...though people always say they'll post a lot on travel blogs but end up forgetting -- I'll try!

For those of you who are staying in the States, keep me posted on the goings-on at home. Facebook, email, and Skype are great!

Bon voyage & safe travels to all of my friends leaving to study abroad in the next few weeks. I'll see you (well, some of you) in Europe!

Till then...cheers!