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Lots of Good Craic!

Time March 28th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: where has the time gone?! Last week I remembered that it was two weeks since I had gone to Dublin with the IFSA group. The morning before we boarded the bus to leave, I submitted my most recent blog post. Now another week has gone by and I’m about to submit this post. How have 3 weeks already passed? This Friday I’m heading on another IFSA weekend trip, which means that it will be a month since the Dublin trip. Oh, and it’s spring break and April begins on Friday. Is this some mean April Fools’ Joke? Do I really only have two months left in Belfast?

The saying “time flies when you’re having fun” could not be more accurate when describing my experience. I learned in orientation that craic means fun, so I guess you can say that I’ve been having a lot of craic. (now that’s fun to say out loud! It sounds like crack!)

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Big Rivers and Overdue Naps (Megapost part 1 featuring Rosario, St. Patrick’s Day, and More)

Time March 25th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hey all, and thanks for tuning in.  A lot happened this past week, so I’ve decided to split this week’s post into a MEGAPOST featuring two parts.  This is part one, and part two will be coming soon!

Sorry I wasn’t super punctual with this update.  As much as I’d like to blame my tardiness on either

  1. My last weekend trip to Rosario (And boy, was it a doozy!  More on this later)
  2. St. Patrick’s day (We’re apparently all Irish in Buenos Aires on the 17th)
  3. My first week of classes starting (Ahhhh they are so exciting and my professors are really cool and I made my first movie trailer!)
  4. Long chats in Spanish with my host family that get my head spinning in two languages (the language barrier is starting to crack.  Now, I just have a hard time thinking in Spanish; I’m still translating my thoughts instead of speaking them.)

The real reason why I haven’t had the time to blog is because I haven’t been giving myself enough time for me.

Note: this next section contains nothing cool, fun, or exciting about Argentina, and is instead filled with silly drivel about my life balance.  If that sounds boring, skip ahead to where I say, “Too much exposition aside,” :)

“Me time” is super important to my well-being.  A week in Argentina is often packed with as much sensory overload and adventure as a month in Walla Walla, and while I’m not one to miss a good ol’ whoopdedoo, I hit my wall at a certain point.  As my relatives may recall, wee Dylan would frequently sneak away from the family gatherings to go cuddle up alone with a book (or take a nap), and while I am energetic in groups, I can’t always sustain that kind of energy. I am an unabashed extrovert, yes, but a crucial component to my life is the ability to take some alone time to cogitate, reflect on past activities, and generally just chill out.  This not only helps tame my overwhelming exuberance, but it also helps me process the big questions I strive to answer by living my life; it helps me think critically How and Why of what I do as compared to just the What.

Apologies for yet another personal digression, but the point I’m trying to make is that, while I had several opportunities earlier this week to sit down and hash out a blog, I chose to do other things instead.  I journaled, read, listened to some cool new artists, and took naps (#sorrynotsorry for sleeping on the job).  But now, finally, I feel refreshed, nay, even excited, to tell y’all about my adventures of the past week and a bit.

But yeah, too much exposition aside (HEYO HERE’S THE FUN PART), this week was pretty durn fun.  It began with a trip to Rosario, which is a city about 4 (by bus, which is how the smart, if slightly less frugal members of my group did it) to 8 (by train, which is the way that I and my other thrifty friends endured the trip) hours away from Buenos Aires to the northwest.  It’s beautiful there; located right on the Rio Paraná, Rosario has a gorgeous waterfront, tasteful buildings, and beautiful (like, wowzers) people.  When we were there, one of the main streets was taken up by a group of artists of all ages, arranged in the colors of the rainbow, all painting for the benefit of the public.  It’s also the birthplace of Che Guevara, Lionel Messi, and Argentina’s flag (which is commemorated by a gargantuan momument).

My pals and I had a grand ole time exploring the city.  Check out this NEVER BEFORE POSTED GALLERY OF PICS for some accounts of what went down (it’s woefully small; I’m sorry.  Check out my Facebook for more).

We ate delicious ice cream, watched a roller derby, checked out the birth home of Che, and watched a spectacular sunset over the water, but before all of that we took a trip across the river to one of the many large islands that dot the waterscape.  The rivers down here are massive, they look more like oceans, and the Paraná was (and continues to be) a crucial trade route that spawned Rosario’s popularity as a city.  The beach and the sun were lovely, although the river water was dirty, murky, and probably (editor’s note: DEFINITELY) unsafe to swim in.  Naturally, I splashed around for quite a while (to the horrified looks of the locals), and consider myself lucky to have not acquired some miserable intestinal parasite.  And speaking of intestines, I had my first taste of them!  We went to an unbelievably tasty restaurant in Rosario (we ended up going both nights because it was soo good), where they cooked us Parrilla de Carbon, which is a massive platter of delicious grilled meats and veggies.  However, the meat you receive may vary.  In my case, I supped on steak, chicken, pork, and a bite of intestines, but the other table received bloody sausage, a mound of intestines, tongue, and some sort of gland.  #blessed.  That night, while attempting to enjoy some Rosarino nightlife, I managed to: knock over a drink onto a couple of cute girls, embarrass myself by apologizing in some godawful Spanish, rock out to some music early 2010s music (to the delight of the DJ), and then get myself pepper-sprayed by a power-tripping security guard outside of a nightclub by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Wooo.

But anyway, after Rosario, we returned to Buenos Aires just in time for St. Patrick’s day.  I slept for most of the day (nightlife in Rosario is rough; see above), and after I woke up I had to run some typical Monday errands; changing money, recharging my SIM card, doing my laundry, etc.  To be honest, I almost forgot it was the luckiest day in the world until my host dad reminded me.  He was adamant that I went to one street in Buenos Aires that has a very high concentration of pubs, so I called up some friends and we headed out for a green cerveza or two.  My host dad, of course, was spot on: this street was BUMPING.  There were masses of singing, dancing people, and everyone was spreading the cheer of the Irish.  Apparently, everyone has Irish blood here on St. Patrick’s day.  I learned some new words (“Fondo!” means “Chug!”, apparently), and had a guid auld time.  The two other guys who I was with both have a solid grasp of the language, so I got to speak Spanish all night, which is something I love to do, especially when going out with fellow Americans.  It’s so much easier to become comfortable in a language if you speak it constantly, and most of the time when I go out with other students we speak English because of the varying levels of comfort with Spanish within the group.  It was a real pleasure to feel comfortable enough with the language to blend in with the crowd of jigging Porteños.

Woof.  Thanks for reading this far; this concludes part one of the megapost, and stay tuned for part two (which features my first week of classes, parties with Mexicans, and the urban commuter lifestyle).  You are all wonderful people and thanks for taking the time to keep up with my adventures.

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An Irish St. Patrick’s Day

Time March 22nd, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Top O the mornin’ to ya!  Can you guess it??  I finally ventured out of the United Kingdom and entered Ireland for the very first time in my life!  I was so excited to see some leprechauns and a big pot of gold.  Unfortunately, that stuff doesn’t exist in real life (that I know about), but Guinness beer does, and boy was it good.  So why Dublin?  It was St. Patty’s Day of course!  I was the one of many tourists who visited Ireland that weekend to spend all my money in the pubs.  Besides celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, this was my trip to visit my friend Norah who is studying at Trinity College in Dublin!  What a double whammy.  Thankfully, I have a friend in Dublin because accommodation in Dublin was completely booked, including hostels.  If I didn’t book my flight as early as I did, I could have been looking at a £200 flight ticket one way.  On normal days, tickets could cost as low as £20.  Everyone worldwide knows to come to Ireland on March 17.

I arrived in Dublin on Thursday, March 15 around 8 pm after a long day of traveling.  Unfortunately, flying out of Cardiff has its challenges.  If you look on a map, Cardiff and Dublin are pretty close, so what’s the problem, you ask?  Cardiff is not a well known city (despite being a capitol city), and the only airlines flying out to Dublin was extremely expensive.  Finding my route to Dublin was a challenge, and I did a lot of homework to figure out how to do it.  I first looked at ferries from Wales to Ireland.  I would have to travel to Holyhead (northwest Wales), which would have been a 5 hour train ride, and it would have been more expensive taking the train than flying.  Flying was definitely the best option, but flying from where?  Bristol!  Bristol, England is only a 45-minute train ride from Cardiff, and I found tickets very cheap (it does help that I have a student railcard; the discounts are amazing!).  On my way to Bristol, I had a lovely chat with my mom on the phone before I headed off on my adventure.  Once I arrived at Bristol Temple Meads train station, I took a bus from the station to the airport, which is one of the smallest airports I’ve ever been to.  Of course I’m used to O’Hare.  I arrived with two hours to spare because I had no idea how long it was going to take me to get through security.  It was nice to keep my shoes on as I was walking through the metal detectors.  I flew out of Ryanair which is one of the cheap airlines to travel throughout Europe.  Sometimes, they sell plane tickets for £12 anywhere in Europe.  Too bad there isn’t a Ryanair in Cardiff, or any part of Wales.  It’s annoying traveling to England just to fly out of the UK for a decent price.

The flight to Dublin was just less than an hour.  I got a lovely new green (of course it’s green) stamp on my passport, and I was on my way.  There were green, white, and orange balloons everywhere, along with many decorations inside Dublin Airport.  I took a bus from the airport to the city centre at Trinity College/Grafton Street where I finally met up with Norah!!  I hadn’t seen her since the fall semester ended in December, so it was a very happy homecoming for the both of us.  My first night there was a relaxing one.  We watched Forrest Gump at her apartment while we ate dinner.  This Forrest Gump night was a long time coming.  We planned on having a Forrest Gump night in the fall at Iowa, but with different schedules, it was hard to coordinate a date.  Watching this movie in Dublin made the moment a whole lot sweeter.

Forrest Gump

“My name’s Forrest, Forrest Gump”

Friday was rainy.  It was very hard to see the city because it was either misty or pouring.  Sometimes it was raining with the sun out to show off some nice rainbows.  I hoped there was a pot of gold on the end of them.  Why I came to Ireland without an umbrella or a raincoat is beyond me.  I think I wanted the weather to be nice, and therefore I didn’t bring appropriate raingear.  So dumb.  Norah and I mostly ventured into the city centre where we saw a lot of St. Patty’s decorations.  We walked around the Bank of Ireland, Temple Bar, and touristy souvenir shops.  Eventually, we sought shelter at a pub called MacTurcaills, and that is where I had my very first Guinness!  I honestly didn’t know what to expect.  I have been saving up for this moment for a long time, and it actually wasn’t bad at all.  I don’t know what it tastes like in the States, but in Ireland, it is delicious.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it to the Guinness Storehouse (the Guinness factory) nor the Jameson Whiskey distillery because tickets were all booked.  It is a crazy touristy weekend after all.  After we finished our pints, we ventured back into the rain and went shopping.  Norah needed a green Dublin shirt for St. Patty’s and I was just looking for Christmas ornaments and souvenirs.  I ended up getting a shamrock ornament that says Ireland on it, along with a Guinness keychain, which can also be an ornament.

Lep

I found a leprechaun!

img_8454

Hanging out with Molly Malone

Bank of Ireland

Bank of Ireland

Temple Bar

Norah and I at Temple Bar

We went back home to escape the rain and dry out our clothes.  I was completely soaked.  My feet were totally wet, and there is nothing more uncomfortable than wet shoes and socks.  After we dried off and took quick naps, we went out again.  We picked up sandwiches along the way to pub called Porterhouse where we met up with Norah’s Trinity friends for a pint.  This was an interesting pub: they make all their own beer from all over the world.  You cannot find a Guinness there.  The only downside was that the place was completely packed.  We ended up finding a small table available in the beer garden along with all the smokers.  It wasn’t too horrible and the house beer was quite good.  We went back to Norah’s friends’ apartment where we all hung out until it was time for us to go to bed.  We needed our rest; the next day was Patty’s Day!

Ready for St Pattys

Getting ready to go out!

Here is my impression of St. Patty’s Day: crowded, loud, crazy, and green.  It’s basically what you would expect for an Irish holiday where you celebrate the national saint by drinking your heart out.  My day wasn’t that over-the-top extreme, but I had quite a good time.  After we woke up and got ready in our green, Norah, Norah’s roommate, and I headed to the parade on Dame Street.  It was a beautiful day, except during the parade.  The only part it rained that day was during the parade.  Go figure.  Unfortunately, I am 5’5’’ and couldn’t see the parade.  I found out later that there were more than 500,000 attendees.  From what I did hear and see, it was pretty good.  The music was great and I heard a lot of bagpipes, and some of the tall structures in the parade were interesting.  Because none of us could see the parade, we went to the Porterhouse again for a pint.  They were giving out free pints so that was awesome.  After the parade, we went back to MacTurcaills where the Trinity College International Society was throwing a party with free food.  I met some interesting people from all over the U.S., Mexico, Norway, Italy, Australia, etc.  I was slightly taken aback when the Australian guy asked me right off the bat if I lived in a red or blue state.  I thought that was slightly inappropriate for the very first topic of conversation.  We hung out at that pub for a few hours playing fun games and having nice conversation with different people.  We tried to go meet up with some other friends at a pub called Peadar Kearney’s on Dame Street.  Worst idea ever.  The pub was so packed, we couldn’t even make it to the bar.  I was hanging out with six other American study abroad students, and there was no way we were going to make it back there.  We literally couldn’t move forward, only back out the door.  They had live music, and our friends were all the way in the back.  Our group went out for pizza and burgers and came back to the apartment to watch…Mulan!  Yes, imagine 10 university students watching Mulan on St. Patty’s Day.  Yes, it was pretty ridiculous and a lot of fun.  The Mulan watching crew consisted of a mix of American and Irish students.  It was great when everyone was singing along to the songs, especially “I’ll Make a Man Out of You.”

parade

At the parade.  Like my view?

decorations

Decorations

at macturcaills

At MacTurcaills with a Guinness

waiting for pizza

Waiting for the pizza

Some of the Americans in our group had to go back to Limerick, so Norah and I were on our own for the rest of the night.  We went back to Peadar Kearney’s again hoping we could get in this time.  Our friends stayed there the entire day, but of course, it was still packed with people.  They actually had security blocking off sections of the pub because it was still so crowded.  We headed back to MacTurcaills for a while and were surprised to see many people still there from the party 7 hours earlier.  After some time there, we went back home.  Despite not seeing much of the parade, my Dublin St. Patty’s experience was a blast.  Dublin itself was a madhouse, and no matter what nationality you were, everyone was Irish that day.  My next journey: Mardi Gras in New Orleans (though that might be a few years down the road).

The day after St. Patty’s was gorgeous!  Blue skies, sun, and warmth.  This was the perfect day to do some sightseeing.  We walked around Dublin’s main park, St. Stephen’s Green.  The grass was very green and the flowers were an extraordinary color.  It had a cute footbridge and lovely fountains.  It was extremely lively, especially the day after St. Patty’s.  We walked out to Grafton Street where a lot of the main shopping is.  Flowers and buskers crowded the streets, but we were more interested in the gelatos we just got.  I had pistachio gelato which was absolutely amazing.  After gelatos, we went to Norah’s school, Trinity College.  It’s the highest ranked and oldest university in Ireland.  The buildings were absolutely beautiful, but campus was filled with tourists.  Trinity holds the Book of Kells, which I had the pleasure to see.  The Book of Kells is a Gospel book in Latin circa 800.  I don’t know much about it, but it was very cool.  This was a part of the old library which had many old texts out on display.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take pictures of either place, but the library was definitely my favorite part.  After visiting Trinity, we went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  I didn’t go in, but there were plants, flowers, and trees everywhere, including a massive fountain.  The rest of the day we just hung out, and at night we were finally able to get into Peadar Kearney’s.  There was a live musician singing Irish pub songs and people of all ages.  There was a large group of mid-twenties Swedes that took up most of the dance floor.  Personally, they were the best entertainment.  After a pint, we met up with some friends at Temple Bar.  I couldn’t find one Irish person in that place.  The drinks are outrageously expensive because tourists don’t know any better; it’s such a tourist pub, though it didn’t start out that way.  The live music was good, but a large group of French people started chanting and singing French tunes over the live guitarist and bassist.  I was extremely peeved by this, and we left the bar soon after.

park walkway

At St. Stephen’s Green

me by flowers

By some flowers

footbridge

The footbridge

flowers and palm trees

Seems slightly out of place, but beautiful nonetheless

gelatos

Gelato break!

trinity front

The front of Trinity College

Trinity Interior

The Trinity interior

trinity building

Trinity building

book of kells

The Book of Kells

flowers at st pats

Flowers at St. Patrick’s Cathedral

St Pats cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

fountain at pats

Fountain at St. Pat’s

flower pots at pats

Flowerpots

temple bar

At Temple Bar getting ready for some live music

I left Dublin at 8 am the following morning.  It was nice to spend three full days in the city experiencing Ireland; however, I need a trip back to Ireland soon.  How London is to England is how Dublin is to Ireland; they are cities within a country, but there is so much more to the country than that one city.  Once the weather starts getting nicer, I might make a trip to Cork by ferry since the ferry departs from Swansea (an hour west from Cardiff).

I hope you enjoyed your Patty’s Day just as much as I did.  As for St. Patty’s in Dublin, that’s one item scratched off my bucket list.

Irish phrase of the entry: “What’s the Craic?”  What’s happening?  How are you?  Craic is pronounced crack.

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Saint Patrick’s Day

Time April 4th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

For the past several weeks whenever I have talked with anyone from the States, I invariably get asked the following question: “So what was Saint Patrick’s Day like??!?” It makes me pause and reflect each time and every time.  Do I tell them what they want to hear? Do I make up a story about what it was like?  Or do I tell them the truth? I usually end up choosing a light blend of each, so that I don’t feel guilty about completely making it up, while also covering up a fair amount of the harrowing truths that I don’t feel completely comfortable delving into each time.

In a nutshell, Saint Patrick’s Day in Dublin is exactly what you would expect it to be, but when you’re actually there it may not be something you necessarily want.  The day started off quite quietly and innocently; the other Butler folk decided to hold a little shindig in their apartment above mine, with a little bit of Irish coffee and a few other beverages to get the day “started off on the right foot.”  Not being one to snuff a party so close to my door, I attended the 9 am party, in my pajamas and martini in hand a la Hawkeye Pierce from M*A*S*H.  I was applauded and congratulated for my classiness. Following drinks, I went with one of my flatmates to go watch the parade passing by near our flat.  I didn’t really want to go watch it, not being a parade person myself, but I had been harassed by Irish friends of mine to go see it just once, and I have to say it was worth it, though in a surprising fashion.

We were taken aback by the, well, bizarre approach the parade took in its choice of floats and costumes and whatnot.  Other first-time viewers I talked to in the subsequent weeks agreed to this.  It felt like I had stepped into some wormhole into another dimension where I was watching a parade that was a mix of a Fringe Festival and some ridiculous New Orleans celebration.  Giant three-headed dogs floats were a common motif; one was hellish black and another fabulous pink.  Creepy human-like puppets that just passed over the edge into the Uncanny Valley of uncomfortable.  Jackalope skulls playing jazz instruments.  The list goes on and on.  There were plenty of opportunities to scar and give children nightmares for a good while.  Apparently it was all designed to a story by Irish writer Roddy Doyle that he wrote for the parade, too, which is something I’ll have to read, because damn, what the hell was all that about.

Most of the day was rather low key as I waited to get a text to a party some friends were throwing. Around 9:30 or 10 at night, I got bored waiting for the party to start so I went off to go witness what havoc Dublin was visiting upon itself.  I got my wishes and a little bit more.  Visiting the Temple Bar, which is admittedly incredibly touristy normally and for this it was probably entirely so, I saw nothing but blocks upon blocks of drunk souls.  Imagine, if you will, Time’s Square on New Year’s Eve waiting for the ball to drop and the amount of people there.  Now imagine if they were all outrageously drunk.  That is a good starting point for what was before my eyes.  As I walked around for a couple of hours scouting things out, I must have witnessed at least a half-dozen separate ambulances drive up to places to bring out someone and take them to the hospital, and that’s just what I personally saw by chance.

Eventually I got the anticipated text, found the party where I actually didn’t know anybody except this random girl who invited but wouldn’t actually talk to me there, but found only good spirits, in both senses, and congenial manners.  Drinks were had, laughs made, introductions found, friendships bonded, and so forth into an enjoyable evening.  Or, rather, an enjoyable morning, since I didn’t get there until after midnight and the party dragged on until nearly 5, when the last few of us rolled out and back to our homes.

My Saint Patrick’s Day was not the typical foreigner-in-Dublin’s experience, and I’m glad for it.  I enjoy my drink as much as the next person, but what I saw horrified me and a number of other people I know, many of whom I would define as “excessive partiers.”  After a certain point the gluttony just becomes too great, and while interesting to take a step back and watch, and becomes less about celebrating anything, even partying, and just envelops itself in disheartening excess.  Instead of “going with the flow” and participating in something just for the sake of, I actually had a fantastic night and made a boatload of friends.  So, thanks Saint Patrick, for, whatever, I guess.

 

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