Monday, January 25, 2010

This week I experienced my first cold shower.

During orientation, they warned us about the water sitch. I like to think of it as 30 minutes of hot water in a big tank and everyone gets 5 minutes to shower with hot water (5 girls live in my house) and then 5 minutes for washing dishes/hands/faces/whatever. The hot water gets filled before we wake up and then at some point in the evening. (I later learned about the hot water "booster") Well, I chose the wrong time to shower after a lovely run with my housemate Dayna, and paid the price for it. The water was FREEZING and I've never showered faster.

Anyway, last week was mostly uneventful, but I signed up for a WHOLE bunch of societies including choir, nothing specific society, the bacon society, trad music society, food and drink, international students, writing society, and some others. Woo! I start choir tomorrow and I'm SUPER excited. It's been far too long since I've sung! Wednesday night I went to the International Student Society's party thang at The Skeff, a really awesome bar that's decorated with beautiful paintings and has lots of cozy nooks. My 2 gal pals and I got some Guinnesses, free and amazing potato wedges and then skipped out to Fibber Magees where they had a delightful 2 cocktail for 5 euro deal. We chatted with some nice Irish boys and headed over to Karma, a really confusingly laid out night club. We didn't stay long, but we were again amazed at HOW MUCH the Irish girls primp. Seriously, there were 30 girls in the bathroom gabbing and putting on make up and doing their herrr. Craziness!

The next night Dayna and I stayed in and baked cookies and ate EVERY SINGLE ONE. I had been craving some comfort food and it was just perfect. Totally hit the spot. Friday's evening was spent at the Quays listening to an awesome cover band called Chameleon. We all loved them and sort of just fawned over them the entire time we were there. They all had shaggy moppy curls and sounded like every single band they were covering. AND it wasn't deafeningly loud, which is always a plus. I hate leaving a club feeling like my ears are closed up. Then we discovered Charcoal Grill, a cheap joint for good burgers and kebabs. Saturday we woke up early to go to the market AND IT WAS SO COOL! There was a huge stall set up with olives and anchovies and different things like that, a crepe stand, curry stand, etc etc. My favorite part, next to the cheesemonger, was the donut man. I cannot truly explain how amazing this fresh pastry was. I touched it with my fingers and it immediately melted in a little. When I took a small bite, I really heard angels singing. It was doughy but a little undercooked, covered in cinnamon sugar and a little bit of magic. My mouth is currently watering and a tear comes to mind when I think about that amazing circle of goodness. I will absolutely be back there, and when that time comes, I'm getting 6 of them. That night we headed to Taaffes to get bus tickets for Connemara but left because it was way packed. We spent some time in Tig Coili listening to Irish music--I love that place!

Sunday was spent taking a bus tour of Connemara, an area of western Ireland known for it's intriguing landscapes of beautiful fields, mountains, Ireland's only fjord and lots of rocky fields and thatched roof cottages. It started off a little foggy, so we had trouble seeing but it eventually cleared. We stopped at Kylemore Abbey and toured the Victorian walled gardens which were still beautiful despite not being in bloom, the Abbey itself and the Neo-Gothic church and mausoleum. It was a lovely trip and we made a bunch of different stops to take pics and stretch our legs. Wooo!

Also, this Irish air is doing something crazy to my hair. It gets randomly wavy, much too windblown, and poofy. Also, the fact that my bangs are growing out and are currently to my chin does not help. Oh well!



Monday, January 18, 2010

My eggs are in the cupboard.

I finally caved in and bought real food. Milk, eggs (which they don't refrigerate and are currently living in my cupboard), soda bread, chicken, dried apricots, REFRIED BEANS! and a tiny and expensive bottle of Old El Paso salsa. I made 2 delicious chicken breasts by breading them with bread crumbs (obvs), some cheese and garlic. I also whipped up some boiled potatoes and carrots. YUMMO! I even planned ahead and made extra for tonight!

My host family experience was just grand. We arrived in Tuam, a little town outside of the city, and met our host dad, Michael. He was quiet, but I got him to chat a bit. When we arrived, our host mom, Pat, served us up some chicken nugs, chips (french fries) and beans. As long as it was hot and delicious and I didn't have to make it, it was just fine by me. We also had a delicious cheesecake and brack, a fruitcake sort of loaf. AND SO MUCH TEA. With milk and sugar..delicious. We just hung around chatting, and she told us about family parties that had "mighty craic." She was very gracious and sweet. Then we watched some telly and snacked on delicious mint chocolate sweets. The next morning we woke up to an empty house. She had work until noon and he had to go into the city (Galway) to take a test of some sort for his work. My roommate and I hung around and read, ate breakfast, and tried to get outside but found ourselves locked in. Oops! Pat later dropped us into town and we took pictures and visited the beautiful cathedral and then headed to a coffee shop that every other person in our group ended up coming to. I wrote some postcards while enjoying my lunch and then we headed home. Not before seeing a lovely rainbow, though!

We had a fabulous home cooked meal of beef stew and mashed potatoes and steamed veggies. AND she made a chocolate cake, though the chocolate tasted a little strange to me. I think they just make chocolate differently than back in the States..even the Twixes and Snickers taste different. Anyway, we watched more telly and I've discovered a new hilarious comedian, Michael McIntyre. Look him up! We chatted more about how she and her sisters will bring their own airplane sized bottles of Bacardi to parties with them to cut back on drink costs, it was hilarious! She was such a riot..what craic! Anyway, we had a full Irish breakfast the next morning, and all I could think of when she put the plate in front of me was Oh...my...god. Two sausages, 2 slices of Irish bacon (it's like canadian bacon), 2 black puddings, 2 white puddings, toast and an egg. The bacon was delish, the egg was fab (from their own chickens in the backyard) and the toast was good. The sausage was a little strange, but I ate it anyway. The puddings, on the other hand...Black pudding is essentially congealed pig's blood held together by fillers. It didn't taste bad, it was more of a texture issue. It was grainy and dry and I couldn't help but think about how I was Dracula. I ate a full white pudding and half of the black and just left the rest on the plate. But then my roommate and I took a walk down the lane and discovered an amazing old abandoned stone house covered in ivy. It was old and spooky and falling apart--so cool! We saw lots of other beautiful scenery, too. Sheep, horses, cows, dogs, rolling hills, farmlands, rivers, etc. It was really beautiful and a perfect thing to do after that massive breakfast. Even my clothes and hair smelled like sausage haha.



For lunch we had butter, ham and tomato sandwiches (slightly odd) and an AMAZING cake. It was just a yellow cake but instead of using vanilla extract she used almond and it was FANTASTIC. I highly recommend it.

And now I'm home! Off to class, Slán go fóill! video

Friday, January 15, 2010

Yesterday I saw a man catch a pigeon.

I was walking to class and saw a man down by the river surrounded by pigeons. One was flying around his head and another was on his arm. I watched him for a few seconds and then he caught the pigeon in his hands! I have no idea what he intended to do with it, but I immediately thought of a carrier pigeon. Then, on my walk HOME, I saw a HUUUUUGE swan fly over the water and tap the surface with its little flippery feet. It was grand and special.

So, after my first week of classes, I'm pretty excited! I have about 7 novels to read for one class alone (woof) and a couple others for another lit class. I'm slightly overwhelmed with the amount of books I have to read in 3 months, but it'll be grand. My Irish roommates use "grand" and "brilliant" to describe many things, and I've taken to saying it, too! Anyway, how am I supposed to read my Irish guide books and search other European destinations if I'm constantly reading gothic literature? We'll see how it goes.

I finally got fish n chips at a famous place called McDonagh's and it was delish! I split the huge platter with a friend, and half of it was the perfect amount. We walked around, befriended some ornery swans at the Spanish gate and just enjoyed ourselves. I'm excited to wander around the city by myself to get tea at different pubs and find the best place to buy an Aran sweater. I'm also looking forward to meeting more locals and branching off from the Arcadia group a bit more.

Wednesday night a few of us headed into town to listen to tradition Irish music at Tis Coili and Taaffes. There was great craic, and I loved the fiddles and bodhrán (cool Irish drum). Then last night we headed to the Quays bar and heard some good old American rock, where I enjoyed a Guinness that made me feel warm and cozy after a few short sips. We met an adorable American couple from D.C. who were celebrating their recent engagement. It made me smile to see such love and happiness, but slightly homesick. I also met an Irishman from America. It's very strange...he was born in NY but moved to Ireland, moved back to the States, back to Ireland, back and forth back and forth! He has an Irish accent, and I would definitely have said he was Irish, but he says he's an American. Strange.

Today I went into town with some friends to buy bus tickets for Killarney, a trip I'm sort of planning for the last weekend in January. I like to plan in advance and know exactly what is going on, so I thought it'd be a good idea to buy tickets beforehand. We got to the bus station and was told we can only buy tickets on the day we want to leave. SO we trudged out there for nothing in the rain, but it was a learning experience! Won't make that rookie mistake again. Then headed to Fox's Porterhouse for lunch and bought chocolates for my host family stay this weekend! YAY!!! I hope it won't be too awkward. And I hope they ask me if I have any dirty clothes to wash. My jeans are all kinds of stretched out now.

I've noticed Irish people are very into asking your political stance moments after meeting you. The library security-desk-man was very sweet and chatty, and after asking where we were from, asked us what we think of Pres. Obama and if he's doing a good job or not. Sorry, what's your name again? I also met with the priest to talk about singing at church (he was delighted that I wanted to and even suggested I give a recital!) and he too asked my political stances and what not. I've also noticed Irish girls dress up a LOT to go out. I mean, ridiculously high heels that only women of a certain profession wear, and tight TINY little dresses/skirts. And TONS of makeup. It's cRaZy to seem them shrug off the rain and drunkenly prance down the street in these outfits. They also dress up a lot for class! Heels, tights, skirts...I rarely see one in sneakers or jeans. Guys seem to be into wearing warm-up/track pants a lot.

Alright, off to pack for my homestay! I'll keep ya'll posted!

Teal Ruland, PB

(In my 20th cent lit class, we learned that some women would sign their names PB for "professional beauty." It meant that they were exceptionally pretty and would hand out business cards of their faces and sell postcards of their faces too. Very funny.)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ahh the joys of cooking

So at home I feel like I can whip up some really yummy dishes...chicken, potatoes, pasta, steak, whatever. However, I seem to have lost every bit of my command of the kitchen here. I made stir fry veggies and rice with a peanut satay sauce--awful! The rice was fine, but the veggies were smushy and the sauce (from a packet) was super icky. I threw that out and ate some cereal.
The next night was some other atrocity and I ended up eating cereal, but whatever. We had a great meal hosted by Arcadia at a snazzy restaurant last night, though. I started with a blue cheese, poached pear, walnut and olive salad, then had the braised silverside of beef with mashed potatoes and onion ring and finished with a chocolate and hazelnut tart with mango sorbet. My mouth is currently watering, and I'm sure yours is too. I've been on about 3 Dunnes runs, but still can't seem to find food suitable to make. Any suggestions for cheap BUT DELICIOUS eats are MOST welcome. I feel constantly hungry because I don't want to spend my money on normal things like chicken and instead opt for canned beans in tomato sauce on potatoes--Katie, this was not as good as you made it sound. But I can still make grilled cheeses, toast, eggs and porrige. Maybe I'll go crazy and buy some chicken to cook up. Maybe.

Classes started on Monday, but the Irish have a crazy way of scheduling. I didn't know what time some of them started! The students have to actually GO to the buildings and find the "timetables." The timetables have no sense or logic to them. For example, at Penn State I would have a class Mon, Wed, and Fri at 10 and then Tues and Thurs at 9. Not here! I have a class from 5-6 Tuesday night and the same class the next morning at 9am. No sense in it! But I've chosen some really interesting sounding classes...history of the medieval castle in Europe, 20th century Irish lit, history of the English language, a weird combo of American Southern lit and 19th century gothic lit, medieval drama and I hope to get into a literacy class that teaches you how to tutor children with reading and stuff. It's volunteering and getting credit, basically. I'm also going to join the funrun club (a running club, I believe, where you run 5K's and get points based on how much you improve each time). The societies fair is next week, so I'll sign up for choir and some others then.

I've gotten over my sickness mostely (yay!) and I'm excited to explore the city more. Today was really windy and rainy but I braved it anyway and headed to the city center to see the Spanish arch and poke around some shops, stopped into Fibber Magee's for tea and then went back to class. Woooo!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Friday, January 8, 2010

Galway

Wednesday morning we traveled to Galway, and I felt like I finally got a true taste of Ireland. We drove through the beautiful countryside and saw many sheep, especially hairy cows, and charming stone walls. We played all sorts of silly traveling games and stopped for lunch in a small town. My accommodations here in Galway are VERY nice. I live in a townhouse with 4 other girls (2 of whom are Irish, but we haven't met them yet) and my immediate roommate is American. It's really spacious and updated. The only thing that's a little less than wonderful is the heat. We're told that the Irish are OBSESSED with heating, and don't do a whole lot of it. The first night sleeping here was miserably cold, at least for me, and I quickly learned I'd need some more blankets for my bed!

Anyway, we took the 20 minute walk to campus and got a brief tour. It'll be hard adapting to such a small school--only 16,000 compared to PSU's 42,000. Just kidding! After we saw campus, a friend and I went to Dunnes, the local superstore (market, clothes and home-goods store) to get some basic food. Then I met up with a friend from the States who was in Ireland visiting her boyfriend, and they took me to the city center to buy some more necessities. It was SO nice to see friendly faces and hang out with them--they even bought me dinner! Later that evening, some kids from my program had a party before everyone headed to the pubs for the night. Unfortunately, I had developed a nasty cough and decided to stay in for the night rather than head into town. It was probably a good decision but I wish I had been feeling more up to socializing.

Yesterday we had more boring orientations all morning and then got lunch at the college bar, came home to do more grocery shopping and then made dinner. I was so overwhelmed and excited about my dinner options--tuna? pb and j? spaghetti? cereal?! I went with tuna on toast with some Irish cheese (so exciting and delicious) and then headed out to karaoke with some friends. It was so much fun! I sang "Summer Nights" with a new friend in the program and then rocked a solo with "Killing me Softly." It seemed to be a hit and I had a great time singing! I've made my Irish debut! Then we headed to the Quays pub in the city and stayed for a short while before some of us headed back. Unfortunately, I suppose I have bad luck with health stuff, because I had a wicked stomach ache during the night and woke up this morning with the flu. Charming, I know. I ended up skipping my meetings so I could sleep all day and skype a bit, which made me feel better. I feel better now, but definitely not close to 100%. I'm hoping to shake this off by tomorrow so I can take the historic tour of Galway!

I'll post some pics asap!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Dia duit!

Dia duit, pronounced dee ya gw-itch, means hello (literally, Got be with you) in Irish!

After my somewhat harrowing travel experience to Dublin, I finally made it! The flight over was nerve-wracking but otherwise just fine. The plane had to have its winds de-iced, which I've never experienced before. I was reminded of a large and terrifying robotic monster billowing smoke as two beady little eyes (the lights of the truck) stared at me through my small window over the wing. It was weird. Anyway, I touched down smoothly and got through customs without a hitch, picked up my bags (the first off!), took out a hella lot of euros and bought my bus ticket. It was really disconcerting to be driving on the wrong side of the road--also, seeing snow and ice. I thought it didn't snow here?!

I arrived at the hostel with my two huge suitcases, checked in and got to my room. Our room is actually quite nice--just me and one other girl. Apparently other rooms are 6 girls squeezed in with no room to walk between beds. However, my roommate was not there when I arrived around 8pm, Ireland time. I basically hung out in my room, unpacked and walked to McDonald's for my first true Irish dinner...not. I didn't want to go to a pub alone my first night, I was too scared. I plan to travel by myself some weekend because I want to and Katie and Dad recommend it, but I didn't want to eat by myself in some cheery pub when I could wallow in my misery scarfing down a happy meal. I did, however, make a few new friends who were looking for my hostel (not hostile) mate, so that was good! They invited me out with them but I opted to get some sleep after my long journey and skype with M&D and Caleb.

The next day was our official orientation day, and I was really excited to wake up early and shower, get ready and what not. We were supposed to be on the bus at 8:30, and naturally my alarm didn't go off and we woke up at 8:31. I threw on clothes I had laid out the night before (thank goodness) and ran to the bus. We had about four hours of meetings, and it was exciting! I caught up on meeting tons of people, had lunch at the hotel where we had our orientation and then got on a "hop on, hop off" bus. Two other girls and I hopped off at St. Patrick's Cathedral, which was beautiful and I was completely amazed by the handwritten version of Handel's Messiah. I drooled over it and took a bunch of pictures for about 10 minutes straight. Total nerd. Then we hopped back on and toured the Guinness Warehouse--SO COOL! It took a good chunk of time but it was awesome! I learned how to do a taste test (and got to taste test) and learned all about Guinness. THEN we got to exchange our tickets for a free Guinness at the Gravity Bar, which overlooks all of Dublin. Pretty sweet views! Then we hopped back on and went to the hostel and got mobile phones--not cell phones here. I got the cheapest Nokia I could find--everyone in the program has it haha. Then we got dinner at the pub next door--the 5euro special of a ham, cheese and onion 'toasty' and bowl of broccoli soup--YUM. THen I FINALLY got to shower--it felt so good to be clean, you have no idea. Then we went back to the pub and I got a Bulmer's cider and then we went to Temple Bar! It was so fun and packed with a ridiculous amount of people. There was live Irish music, too, which was super cool. Then we walked home and slept!

TODAY I had more meetings about really boring academic scheduling stuff, and I definitely found myself nodding off about 4 times. I felt really badly, but it's the jetlag! Then we had a shnazzy lunch and I had my first mystery meal--I ordered the fish cake. It resembled an oversize crab cake roughly the size of my face. It wasn't particularly flavorful but I ate most of it. I definitely tasted potatoes and onions and some sort of fish, though I have no idea how many different kinds were in there. Oh well! The chocolate fudge cake was delicious and fabulously presented. Then we had a funny Q&A session, came home, bought sheets and towels (2 fitted, 2 flat, 1 duvet and sham, 1 bath towel and 1 hand towel ALL for 31 euro! Shocking!), skyped a bit, got dinner and went to see the Seafarer at the National Theatre. It was great! I highly enjoyed it.

Well, off to Galway tomorrow for more overwhelming information and a tour of the city and campus! I hope to meet up with a friend from the States, too! Adios!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Haha Copenhagen

So I'm paying for internet from the Copenhagen airport. My flight from Washington was delayed 2 hours and I missed my connecting flight to Dublin. My new flight leaves at 4:50 this evening (my time). Bummer! Anyway, I thought it was really funny when I opened my blog and saw everything in DANISH or whatever language it is that they speak here.

So I was overly dramatic and teary yesterday, but at least I knew I was being ridiculous. I was sad to say goodbye to Caleb and Mom and Dad but I'm sure I'll be just fine on my own (pretending he's beside meeeeee--name that musical). Anyway, I suppose I'll sleep a bit..the flight was really cramped and we hit some bad turbulence, which made my tummy feel awful. But after I called the Dublin Arcadia peeps and freaked out a bit, I washed my face and told myself to snap out of it. This is just another part of the adventure! See you in Ireland :)