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The Blog Where I Try to Describe a Month’s Worth of Activities…

Time December 3rd, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

“Travel is at its most rewarding when it ceases to be about reaching your destination and becomes indistinguishable from living your life.”

Let me start off by apologizing for how long it has taken me to write this post. I went from having almost no homework throughout the year to having 6 essays due within 2 weeks. Not only that but I was sick for about a week and am still trying to shake it off.

So what have I been doing this past month?

I went to Dublin for a few days to show my old roommate from GW who is currently studying in Paris for the year, Casey, around. While in Dublin we went to a Bon Iver concert with a bunch of people from the Butler program, but not before yet again hitting up the Guinness Storehouse and enjoying Dublin. I finally saw the Book of Kells and the library at Trinity College. We even went on a pub crawl and got to go into the bar where they filmed Gerard Butler singing “Galway Girl” to Hilary Swank- a scene the Butler Galway Girls frequently watch while we’re here.

Bon Iver Concert at the O2 Theatre in Dublin. One of the best concerts I’ve been to and I had so much fun with Casey!

Bon Iver performance: [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QGzFFMmIOo&feature=youtu.be[/youtube]

Live music at the Gravity Bar at the Guinness Storehouse: [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vr1o0t9VaM&feature=youtu.be[/youtube]

The next weekend was our Belfast weekend. The Butler staff picked us up Thursday and we drove to Belfast and enjoyed a free dinner. The next day we visited the Giant’s Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede Bridge, a rope bridge that leads you to a small island on the Antrim coast of Northern Ireland. It was pretty rainy and cloudy that day so we weren’t able to see the coast of Scotland but it was breathtaking nonetheless.

Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge, even with my fear of heights I managed to not just walk across this but jump up and down and scare some of the people around me. The island was scarier to be on since people kept slipping and falling from the mud!

Rocks at the Giant’s Causeway…either formed by cooling of volcanic rock, or the broken remains of a bridge built by the giant Finn McCool who just wanted a friend.

Do you see the top of that cliff all the way over there on the other side of this second Giant’s Causeway inlet? Yes, well I climbed up the side of the mountain (ok there was a path) and walked all the way to the tip of that cliff. Yea, I know.

And this is where we climbed to. It basically felt like being on the edge of the world.

A view of the Giant’s Causeway: [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWyWaMtSaCs&feature=youtu.be[/youtube]

On Saturday we took a Black Taxi tour and learned about the Troubles. We visited Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods, learned about the history of the area, and signed our names on the Peace Wall. Asking our driver about his experiences during that time and hearing about how he and his brothers used to be routinely dragged out of their house for questioning by the police, and hearing how he had seen a friend of his killed in front of him is something that I will never forget.

Learning about the Peace Wall and when it will come down, which according to our guide probably won’t happen in the near future since the people want it there.

Later that afternoon we went to the Titanic Museum and learned all about how shipbuilding and other modern industries affected Belfast, as well as everything you could possibly want to know about Titanic (the ship and the movie).

Some of the Galway Girls in front of the Titanic Museum in the Belfast Harbour near the shipyards.

That night the Belfast Christmas Market opened and the Christmas lights turned on. Although we weren’t able to get tickets at such late notice to the  Lighting Ceremony, we did get to enjoy the Market.

Belfast Christmas Market: where kangaroo is a delicacy, obviously.

Beautiful Belfast.

As much fun as Belfast was, I was pretty sure that I got the flu while I was there because upon returning, even though it was our last week of class, I struggled to do anything besides sleep and take hefty amounts of Sudafed.

By the time I got around to feeling any amount of better I had so much work to do- and it was Thanksgiving! My apartment cleaned and cooked all day and borrowed tables from the nearby hotel in order to host Thanksgiving at our place. Everyone showed up with their favorite family dish (or if they couldn’t cook- some wine, store bought food, or plastic utensils). Even though a lot of us were feeling homesick after seeing all of our friends and family talk about the fun they were having at home, it was a successful night. We feasted and all said how thankful we were that our families supported us enough to let us have the best semester of our lives.

Happy Thanksgiving! Half of our food (yes there’s much more) laid out under our very creative sign.

Me and my fresh out of the oven apple pies! Not as good as at home and definitely not pumpkin but still delicious.

Everyone enjoying our delicious Thanksgiving feast.

After this I had a few hours of rest before I hopped on a bus to the Dublin airport and flew to Germany to visit my cousins and have a second round of Thanksgiving feasting. It was nice to see some family especially since Thanksgiving seemed to wipe my immune system and make me sick yet again, on top of the twinge of homesickness I was still feeling. Plus my cousins had brought over the coveted pumpkin (which we could find NOWHERE in Galway, and pumpkin pie is my all-time favorite food), along with other American delicacies to enjoy (and by delicacies I mean Velveeta, Chili mix, cornbread and pumpkin).

Since I returned from Germany it has been nonstop work. All of the essays are due around the same time and I leave for my last trip, a 6 day adventure to London, in just 3 days.

It’s been a hard week all around. Realizing that I have a dozen days left and half of those will actually be in Galway is hard to accept. It seems like yesterday that I arrived in Europe, excited and anxious for what the semester would bring. This semester has been so amazing and rewarding; it felt like it could never end. But the first of our group has left to return to America today, and I feel like there is so much I have yet to do or experience and that these 4 months were nowhere near enough time.  I’m so excited to see my family and friends in less than two weeks, and the fact that I have my 21st birthday, Christmas, New Years, and spring semester to look forward to is comforting. But I am not even close to being ready to say goodbye to my Galway home.

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“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”

Time November 2nd, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Embarrassing…only half this post went up and I’m not sure why. So here it is again, but different because of course…I didn’t save the original!

Last weekend I took my first international weekend trip since I’ve been to Ireland! I traveled quite a bit before arriving in Galway but it was my first trip to Hungary (the country where my dad’s side of the family immigrated from), and the first time where coming back to Ireland felt like coming home.

Unfortunately, a few nights before I left my wallet was stolen at a bar in Galway. In all honesty it was probably more my carelessness that enabled someone to take it than anything else since I’m the only one from my program to experience any kind of problems here.

Luckily my immigration card wasn’t in my wallet but I did lose some money, my NUIG student ID, and most unfortunately, my debit card. On a positive note, I have some amazing friends who helped me out and loaned me money while I cancelled my card and ran out of the cash I had at home. Since I opted not to open an Irish bank account and my bank is a smaller state bank, I had to wait for them to send my card to my home address in the US and have my mom forward me my card here, where it got stuck in customs for a few days because it needed some kind of special form to be filled out. Then there’s no post on Saturdays and Sundays and this past Monday was a bank holiday so again the post service wasn’t open. I finally received my card though, and all is well. But a little word of advice: maybe don’t bring your card with you when you go out and also have some kind of contingency plan with your bank so that there’s a faster way for you to regain access to your money!

Luckily, this little hiccup did not stop me from having an amazing time in Budapest! It was really one of the best trips of my life and I am already trying to find a way to return.

Alleyway in Budapest. St. Stephen’s Basilica is in the background covered by the smog/haze that seemed to coat the city.

View of the Danube River and the Hungarian Parliament building from the bridge leading to Margaret Island.

Hungarian lace and linen at the little market we ran into on the streets of Budapest.

Me standing on the Chain Bridge that leads over the Danube to the Budapest Castle, it was absolutely beautiful!

Stall at the market where the delicious Transylvanian Chimney Cakes were being roasted over a coal burning fire. These were so good and unique tasting that we went back the next day for more!

And of course we had fun at our hostel when they organized an open mic night and some of the guys sang part of a song…over and over again! [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jmcj1Ilqysc&feature=share[/youtube]

Since I didn’t have much money, I had a nice excuse to have a weekend exploring Galway, something I should have done long ago. I went to the fresh market Galway has on Saturdays downtown, and on Sunday walked to Salthill, a suburb right on the beach outside of Galway.

We got some delicious hot and fresh donuts from one of the stalls at the fresh market! Seriously it was so fresh and hot that it got squished from being in the bag for only a minute or so.

Fresh carrots and onions from one of the vegetable stands at the market.

One of downtown Galway’s main roads on an early Sunday afternoon.

Galway Bay, on the walk to Salthill

View of Salthill from the diving platform…where we saw several people swimming in the freezing cold water, some of them not even wearing wet suits!

The little explorations of Galway came at just the right time, though. After having so much fun in Budapest I was feeling the excitement of Ireland starting to wind down after being here for 2 months (especially since school was starting to get a little more serious with midterms and essays and presentations due and that was what I had to look forward to on my return from Hungary), I was just feeling a little tired of Galway. But exploring the city and the surrounding areas got me excited about Ireland again. Sometimes you just need to change up your routine a little to shake off any bad feelings.

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Simple Pleasures

Time November 22nd, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I’ve often found that my best days are the ones that are filled with simple pleasures, and today was no exception. I started my morning with a trip to the gym, got in a good chest workout, and then made myself a protein shake. It’s not a trip to the gym unless I take down at least a liter and a half of water, so by the time I was actually ready to start my day I was well hydrated and feeling good. This was simple pleasure number one.

On the way out of the gym I saw my friend Derek and his girlfriend Kaylee, who had just come back from looking at the deer in the Magdalene deer park. They invited me to join them for lunch in the Covered Market. I love the Covered Market. There is a cake store there where they make the cakes right in the window, and a butcher where they skin the animals right in the window as well. The whole place exudes a distinct sense of British freshness. I agreed, of course, and Derek’s roommate Spencer came with us as well. Thus, I got to spend some time with several of my best friends. This was simple pleasure number two.

We had only been walking for a little bit when Spencer decided that today was the day he was going to pull the trigger on a poster he had seen at Blackwell’s Art and Poster shop, a Mario Testino original photograph that featured a scantily clad woman staring lustily past the camera. God, she was beautiful. If I ever find that girl, I’m going to ask her to marry me. But the woman’s beauty had nothing to do with simple pleasure number three, which was my own decision to pull the trigger on a poster by Edmund Welf entitled “Sii Furbo.” The hand drawn poster features a red fox in the snow, and I love foxes, so it had captured my attention from the moment I laid eyes on it. I gave Spencer money to buy the poster for me and ran across the street to relieve myself of the liter and a half of water I had consumed in the gym, which was simple pleasure number four.

Our next stop was the Covered Market, and to my great pleasure we were able to find a table at Georgina’s. It was, of course, simple pleasure number five. Georgina’s is a restaurant for those in the know, meaning that many people are surprised when I tell them it exists; it is the only store on the second floor of the Covered Market, and is only accessible by a small, inconspicuous door that leads to a brightly painted set of stairs. Other than Pie Minister, Ben’s Cookies, The Cake Shop, the milkshake store, Brown’s Café, the barber shop, the watch store, Hot Chocology, and the weird little stand out front that sells Brazilian donuts, Georgina’s is my favorite place in the market. I got a coffee, and although it was terrible it was simple pleasure number six, because ever since I went to Italy I love coffee, and although I love it I try to drink it as sparingly as possible because of the negative health risks associated with caffeine.

I then put the finishing touches on a three thousand word essay about James Joyce’s Dubliners, which was simple pleasure number seven, because I never want to spend any more time than I have to writing essays. Finishing at a reasonable hour allowed me to join my friend Jack down at Mansfield College for a little game of poker, which was my eighth simple pleasure of the day, because through a combination of conservative play and luck I managed to end the evening up two pounds; this led to simple pleasure number nine, which was the fruit bag I bought from McDonald’s in exchange for one of my two pounds. I walked back to St. Catherine’s, up a pound and having spent a simple day enjoying the both the sights of Oxford and the company of my friends, and fell into clean sheets.

That, my friends, makes an even ten.

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