Sunday, September 26, 2010

Pub Crawls and Tapas Bars

As the title would hopefully suggest, this entry will catalogue my weekend of, oddly enough, a pub crawl and my first visit to a Spanish Tapas Bar. Most of you probably know of the beer Guinness, and its origins in Ireland, but few know that Arthur Guinness' famous recipe dates back to the eighteenth century! On September 23rd, 1759, the Guinness factory was opened in the middle of Dublin. Because of this, Dubliners started the "tradition" that September 23rd would officially be Arthur's Day, even though it was not even official at all. This "long standing tradition" began, last year, for the 250th anniversary of the opening of the factory. So this past Thursday was Arthur's Day and at 5:59 p.m. (17:59) there was a toast to the good man himself. That was when our pub crawl began. The crawl was made up of the members from the badminton, tennis, and squash teams (I had joined badminton and tennis, but more on that later). We partook in the toast at the Gingerman, a pub not too far from Trinity College. With a pint of Guinness in one hand (it is really not that bad) and new friends around me, it was a great way to start the crawl. From the Gingerman, we trekked on through the night with our stays ranging anywhere from a quick drink to, well, more than a quick drink. As the night wore on, everyone started to break off from the original thirty or so. At the end of the night, I found myself at Doyles, which is right by Trinity College, whereas Max was at Howl at the Moon, which is not right by Trinity at all. Both ready to head home, I made my way over to the nightclub with the help of many locals, because everyone wants to help a stumbling American, and we got a taxi back to Howth.

Friday night was Tapas night. Max and I drove into Dublin with Emily, Max's sister, to meet their cousins for dinner. We met them at Salamanca, which has apparently won the best tapas restaurant in Dublin multiple times. Going into it, I felt that it could have been a little bit awkward for me, but it really was not at all! Obviously the five of them got along great but I did not feel like an odd man out at all. But the food at this place was amazing. Tapas are a really good way to go when you're with a group: everyone gets two dishes, and you share everything. Being the American that I am, I got the chicken wings (which really compete with Sherwood's) and the beef and lamb stuffed peppers. In reality though, you kind of have bits of what everyone has. All in all, it really was a great night. Filled with great food and friends you really couldn't ask for more.

Summer officially comes an end today as classes start tomorrow morning. To tell you the truth, I'm actually really excited to start the semester. Sticking to my major track, I'm taking two history and two psychology courses. I thankfully lucked out with history because they are worth double the credits of most other modules. But I will quickly rattle off what I'm taking then I will have to go: Ireland and the Wider World, 1534-1641; Renaissance Florence, 1348-1527; Developmental Psychology; and a Cognitive Neuropsychological Approach to Drug Addiction. The last one sounds extremely intense, but I hope it will be a good time and I'll find out soon enough!!! Talk to you all later!


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Reformations? Orientations?

So last year I took a history class called Christianity and Culture from 1450-1600 and the course discussed the many European Reformations. I say Reformations (plural) because that was one of our professor's main points: it was an era of multiple Reformations working together and, sometimes, against each other. Now making a slightly off topic connection, I feel the same way about orientation...or should I say orientations? It's generally referred to as "orientation" and that does not make it seem so bad at all! But it is really so much worse: multiple orientations with multiple people usually over multiple days. For the past few days I have been painfully partaking in various seminars and lectures about being abroad, dealing with culture shock, and the differences between the English language and the English language. Anything and everything that we discussed was easy to pick up or just common sense. On the first day, we discussed the importance of safety which was like pulling teeth. The guy presenting had a slide show and everything, but in the end I already knew to look for emergency exits when I enter a building. Day two, today, consisted of lectures on cultural differences. While I understand them wanting us to not experience culture shock, experiencing culture shock is part of the whole experience of studying abroad! You've taken yourself out of your element for a reason! I would much rather have actually learned these things on my own, not be lectured on them. But, I talked to another international student who had been here for two years already and she said that they do not even skim the surface, so there is still a lot more for me to learn. Regardless, I finally finished my orientations today so that was a huge sigh of relief. Until next time, thanks for following everyone!


Monday, September 20, 2010

Cathedrals, Crypts and Coffee

Saturday was a day of wandering. I took the DART into town and got off at the Tara Street station, the first stop over the Liffey River. After strolling down the the riverside quays (pronounced keys), I turned left up on to St. Michael's Hill. At the top of the hill was the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, more commonly known as Christ Church Cathedral. After walking the perimeter of the Cathedral, which is an amazing site to see on its own, I made my way inside. With construction beginning in 1030, this is a true marvel of Gothic and...Victorian architecture? Obviously the church as it stands today is not was it was nearly a millennium ago, and the remains of a separate portion of the original church lie right next to the "modern" building. Under Queen Victoria (Ireland was still British in the 19th century), extensive renovations were brought to the Irish hall of worship. The church stands today as an amazing mix of medieval and more contemporary architecture. While the exterior of the Cathedral is amazing, everything inside the church gives the feeling of a museum from the shrines erected in each of the chapels to the tiling on the floor to the stunning stained glass windows.

After walking all around the church, I crossed every possible path at least twice, I suddenly got extremely hungry. Obviously I went to the crypt of the Cathedral. Part crypt and part coffee-shop, the basement of Christ Church provides that spooky feeling that everyone vies for while they're eating. Although it has been somewhat renovated and really not that creepy at all, every now and then, usually mid-bite, I would stop to think about where I was...surrounded by tombs. Finishing my lunch, I looked across the room and saw a section of the basement that while open to everyone was camera restricted. My first thought was that that clearly meant the good stuff and it was. This area was filled with books and artifacts dating back to the English Reformation including one of the original copies of the sixteenth-century Book of Common Prayer...go nerd. My visit to Christ Church Cathedral ended with a member of the clergy who convinced me to also go see St. Patrick's Cathedral. It's only a few blocks away and I really can not spend a semester in his land without seeing his Cathedral! But that will be for another day.

Well thats all for now! Thanks for reading guys and hope everyone's doing great!


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Socially Required Entry About the Weather

So it's raining right now, and it is probably the fourth time today that has rained, so welcome to Ireland. As much as I am not a fan of the rain back home, it does not really bother me while I'm over here. It is really part of what makes this such an amazing country, the rain does in fact make everything that lovely green that everyone thinks of when they think of Ireland. But the thing that I'm just starting to get used to is the random nature of the rain on the island. It will be nice and sunny at one moment and then that will quickly turn to rain. The window in Max's kitchen provides an amazing view of the Irish Sea. Every morning when I look out over the rest of Howth, and the water beyond that, I can see so many different types of weather forming, prepared to strike at any instant. If there is anything that I have learned in my first few days here it is how to dress for the elements. Keep in mind, when I say elements don't picture blazing heat or hurricanes passing over Dublin, because they really don't. The elements in Ireland are rain and sun.  But basically, anywhere you go you'll want to be wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. It's that simple! But as I sign off on this entry, in typical Irish fashion, the sun is just beginning to poke its way through the clouds over Howth.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Out and About

As the days go by I find myself exploring and loving more and more of Howth and Dublin. Yesterday I started to improve on my non-existent golf skills. Max and I drove to the driving range and I quickly realized that it is an extremely good time to completely obliterate a tiny little golf ball. We immediately rushed to the second story because that extra height will add so much to your distance (it's all about projectiles Ms. Browne), making us look far better than we actually were.  After adding 240 white specs to the green lawn ahead of us, we got lunch at the cafe right on the course. Later that day I headed into Dublin on the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit...kinda like BART, but for Dublin). I wandered around the Trinity campus taking in all of the amazing architecture while trying to not look like a crazy tourist. Pictures were taken, so I probably failed at that. But I did find out where my department offices were, so that was a plus.

To be perfectly honest, today wasn't too different! I did some more wandering of the Trinity campus, sans camera. That may have helped the whole not look like a tourist thing. Having wandered sufficiently, I took to Grafton Street which is just across from the main gates to Trinity. As a street that does not allow cars, Grafton is lined with little shops and cafes. Looking for a nice place for coffee and reading, I quickly found the famous Bewley's Cafe. Having served coffee since 1840, I new I could find a good drink here. As I was sitting down to a nice cup of coffee, I pulled out A Gambling Man: Charles II's Restoration Game. It's a great book, but he has not even gambled yet. Anyway, I could not manage to keep my focus as I was just completely mesmerized by the atmosphere of the European coffeehouse. We had studied them in one of my history classes but it was amazing to actually see everything as it was! Obviously things were not as they were in the seventeenth, eighteenth, or even nineteenth centuries, but it still remains to be a crucial social hub of Europe.

Just a Heads Up: This will be the first of many history references. It's my major and I'm in Europe, this blog can not go without them.

Well I must get going as it is currently very early on Thursday morning now. Hope all is going well with everyone and thanks for reading!!


Monday, September 13, 2010

Part I: The Telemachiad

On day four in Dublin, I  have finally come to the realization that I'm finally here in Ireland. Because I want to keep in touch with everyone while I'm abroad, I've decided to record my adventures in Dublin, and beyond, just as James Joyce did with Leopold Bloom in the 1920s in his world famous novel Ulysses. As "The Telemachiad" is the first chapter of Bloom's travels, so it will be mine as well. Obviously my circumstances are quite different than Bloom's, as the entire novel spans his one day passage, 16 June 1904, through the Irish city. But with that being said I do intend to see as much of Dublin, Ireland and Europe as he did while I'm abroad.

This semester long adventure began last Thursday night as the Aer Lingus flight 108 departed from John F. Kennedy airport. Overcome by the excitement, I did not (or could not) sleep on the plane, which made for a very interesting Friday. Landing just in time for breakfast, I was picked up from the Dublin airport by Max, a great friend of mine for the past three summers. For the next few months, I'll be living with him and his amazing family in Howth, a seaside town just northeast of Dublin. To avoid jet lag, I didn't go to sleep immediately, but I played golf instead, and quickly learned that I am no golfer at all. To further avoid jet lag, I didn't go to sleep at a normal hour, but we went out for the birthday of one of Max's good friends. Safe to say, I was easily roped into the time zone I'll be in for the next few months.

The following morning I drove into Dublin with Max to the site of the UCEAP (University of California Education Abroad Program) orientation. There I met the nine other UC students that will be at Trinity College, and the forty other UC students studying in Ireland this term. While at this meet up in Dublin we discussed campus safety, registering for classes, and went on the occasional field trip to famous Dublin sights, we were really there to meet other students from the Ireland program. The weekend was filled with awkward introductions and quite often you'd introduce yourself to the same person. You'd meet someone, learn all about them, not ask their name again at the end, and forget their name...and this was not just me. I talked to a bunch of my friends and they forgot a lot of names too. To fight this, we'd go through the whole group whenever we had a moment matching up names, faces and descriptions.

Towards the end of my second day in Ireland, while on one of the orientation tours, I made a pact with four of my friends that we would go on a "fright night" bus tour of the city and then follow that with our own ghost stories at a pub. Well we read the times wrong. Turns out 20.30 is 8:30 not and learn. So last night was our last night all together before we split off to our different campuses and we finally made it a Ghost Bus Tour through Dublin's horrific past. The tour guide was hilarious and overall, while a little corny, it was an amazing night. So all in all, what was a seemingly dry orientation, turned out to be a great weekend of meeting friends that will be all over Ireland.

I know I'm going to miss all you guys tremendously, but I think this is a great way to stay in touch. Thanks you guys so much for reading and not to worry, I am in great hands here in Howth!