Sunday, May 23, 2010

Forever Young and Restless

Graduation.
Amid the droning on and on of wrinkled deans and acclaimed academics wearing ridiculous hats, I sat in my cap and gown with two thousand of my closest friends and waited for it to be over. I was anxious, as I only had one bar of battery power left on my phone from incessantly texting my roommates whom were also scattered around me in the sea of black polyester. For once, I was thankful that cellphones really have pervaded into every aspect of our society. However, alphabetical destiny had situated me next to one individual who was less than amused with my disregard for ceremonial formalities. He repeatedly looked down on my furious fingers, shaking his head while releasing exaggerated, long breaths in my direction. I was internally amused, as he looked at me with condescending scrutiny which I ignored despite the way his red tassel shook under my nose like a scolding finger every time he turned his head.

Lucky for him, my texting marathon was interrupted by the sound of a train whistle chirping in the distance. I looked up, and for the first time paid full attention to my surroundings. I thought about how that sound had been such a comfort to me over the last four years. In my very first entry of this blog, (three years ago - wow) I wrote only two sentences, but they were about the trains. I don't know why they mesmerize me the way they do. I think it has something to do with the suggestion of an escape, of leaving where you are for something different, better. That noise in itself awakens my desire to see new places, and fills me with the curiosity and wanderlust of pursuing new surroundings. Nothing resonated with me more during those tedious three hours then hearing the train whistles announcing their passing through the nearby station.

It was then that I felt as though everything was coming full circle. And it finally felt like a chapter of my life was coming to an end.

I don't know where I'll go from here, but something tells me that train whistles may be in my future.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Up in the Air

I haven't written in 3 months. Since January a lot of milestones have passed and crashed over me like waves. I keep thinking about where I was a year ago, who I was with, what I was doing. I remain entrenched in the framework of the past: Anniversaries. Birthdays. 6 Nations. St. Patrick's Day. Recently there have been many days in which I reflect and recall exactly what I was wearing and how I was feeling 365 days ago. Even looking back on my entries from March 09, I feel as though someone is wringing out my insides I miss it so much. But I'm trying to look ahead instead of back.

Graduation is just over a month away, something I've yet to wrap my head around. I'm reminded of a similar point of transition 4 years ago, where friends and relatives all echoed the same concerns: "Where are you going to college? What are you majoring in?" For months and months we seniors endured this barrage from inquisitive and well-intentioned adults. After my first few times responding, I realized the more resolute and confident I sounded, the more I could just skirt around the real issue at hand. After all, what adult would want to hear the truth: I don't quite know where I want to be. I don't know what I want to do, but I'm more or less content in my uncertainty.

The alternative, smiling and answering decisively, is much less meddlesome.

So it is with chagrin that I find myself using similar tactics, a full 4 years later, when I'm asked about what my plans are after college. The difference now is that I'm 22, not 18, and so my sentiment of easygoing spontaneity that "everything will fall into place" is met with raised eyebrows. What once was tolerated by my family and society at large as being whimsical and endearing is now looked at with more scrutiny.




I'm trying to let go of my past and the part of me that aches for Dublin so that I can give the future my undivided attention. But I'm finding I cannot escape the urge to seek solace in another country, a new environment. This sense of longing and yearning to go away again pesters me like a petulant child.

I think I need to be traveling and I need to be alone in order to find this sense of purpose. I think I get too distracted and sentimental, and mundane in my pursuits when I'm here at Uni or at home.

Recently I've been musing about the balance between how much we are influenced by our surroundings and how much we assert our own beliefs into our interactions with others. Then there's the question as to the extent of which our beliefs are solely and independently ours, or whether we are all influenced and eroded into similar beings by what we are collectively exposed to. This discord makes me wonder if I've ever had an independent thought. Traveling has prompted all these questions within me, along with many others. The answers are important to me, to better know myself and understand the world around me.

Last year, abroad, my isolation and independence resulted in gaining an unprecedented amount of confidence and clarity. It was such a transformative time for me. Now and in the future, even when circumstances may tear away my comfort zone of familiar people, places, smells, belongings, and locations to something foreign and initially unwelcome, I like to think that I will still have a set of core beliefs that define me as a person. With those intact, I can go anywhere and do anything.

Even if I don't know where I want to be, I can be confident that the decisions I make will be deliberate, and in that way, I can relax, and know that I will end up in a good place.

"If you think about it, your favorite memories, the most important moments in your life...were you alone?"
- Up in the Air


Yes.



Monday, January 11, 2010

You sing, I'm killed.



I'm just not the same
As I was a year ago
And each minute since then.
[Snow Patrol]

Freud says that fragments of our dreams slip swiftly through a mental sieve upon waking. That's why most of us only remember bits and pieces of our dreams, if anything. This phenomenon is brought on by the arousing of our five senses as we gain consciousness and become attuned to our present surroundings. The dreams slip away.

I cannot help but draw parallels between Freud's abstraction and the way I remember my life in Dublin. Memories subside, and fade. With few exceptions, the recollection of textures, colors, noises, climate, and locations all lose their crispness as time endures.
But the feelings remain, and at least in this fact, I can find comfort.


Exactly one year ago today, I left for Ireland. And even if Freud is right about dreams, I still have the feelings.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009


Sean, Me, Aly, Jordan: December 31, 2008 <3


Winter wind is unforgiving. The last brutal gusts of 2009 take my breath away and make my eyes tear. The dichotomy of forced dry heat in my home and harsh winter wind outside chronically makes my body uncomfortable. I always get sick around this time. I wish I felt better to bring in the New Year.

As I juxtapose my current state with that of a portrait of myself a year ago, there are few physical differences. I haven't changed very much on the surface at all: a new scar on my thumb, and broken bones that have since mended. (Also currently I have a sore throat, stuffy nose, and swollen glands - all byproducts of how I have been flirting with a sinus infection for the past week).

Internally, this past year has given me more of a mental-makeover than I have ever experienced. I sound like a broken record when I reminisce about Ireland - and I do fall into the habit of ruminating over my past - but 2009 may have been the best year of my life.

Pictures > Words:
09 in slivers:
















I lament the ending of this year. It is another revelation that Dublin is in my past. I spent more than half of 2009 in Ireland and learned more about myself in those 3 seasons than I have since I started college. I will try, as always, to keep my nostalgic thoughts in check. A new year brings new beginnings: With graduation on the horizon, I have a new realization of the opportunities that lay ahead of me if I work toward them.

2010:
I want music to have a bigger role in my life.
I seek clarity, and the bravery to pursue what I discover.
I wish for health and safety, for others and myself.

Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

There will be light.

Day after day.

The sun set at 4:31 yesterday and that was the time when I got in my car to drive home for the night. After navigating around the groaning construction sight that had overtaken my street, I was on Route 18. The sky turned deep purple to black within the forty minute drive. As darkness settled all around me, bright lights reflected into me from cars, signs, stop lights and the winking lights on the tips of airplanes far away. All of these colors seemed amplified by the transparency of a mild sky. Noise and neon lights ricocheted between my windshield and myself.

I moved like a machine. My feet and hands through thoughtless movements led me home.

I let my mind wander aimlessly along the highway.

Driving is the cheapest, loneliest form of escapism that I have. It is just enough to clear my head. Sometimes I marvel in my recollection of a drive: I recall the mechanics of my body as I get in the car, close door, start engine, move... Then remarkably I often feel as though my next cognizant action is my hand slamming the car door shut as I arrive at my destination.

How did I get here?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

And you give yourself away.

Languid.
I have nothing to say anymore and it is frustrating. I read how observations and enthusiasm flowed out of me while I was in Ireland and I want to feel that way again.
There's no real excuse for my moaning, I just need to look at my current surrounds through a new lens. Somehow.

Elton.
I was emailed a few months ago by Concert Live to work for them again at Elton John's Red Piano Tour at The O2 in Dublin. The show was at the end of October and of course I couldn't go. When I emailed an apology to my boss, she said be sure to let her know when I'm back in Dublin. That sent my heart racing. The simple suggestion, words on a screen, that I'll go back.

The Hand Of God Part Deux/Douche.
Everyone is infuriated by Thierry Henry's blatant handball in the box during the second leg of Ireland vs. France in World Cup Qualifying. His hand parried the ball to his foot and allowed a tight cross to be finished by a header by Gallas (in aggregate induced overtime) which crushed Ireland's hope at the World Cup. I was watching a shitty feed of it at the time. Some pixely Italian sports channel was streaming into my laptop that afternoon. It crashed and I reloaded. It crashed again. It's mocking me as I scramble to find a new link. I reload. It's frustrating to not be a part of the excitement anymore: The atmosphere of a bar at night with good friends, ruckus supporters and flat screens everywhere. Now I am lucky to be able to stream any link of a live match into my computer, rarely in English. I've gotten it down to a bit of a science: listen to the live English commentary from bet365.com while muting a feed of that match that is often in another language.

In disbelief the world watched. Everyone in the planet knew it was a handball except the 4 people that mattered - the officials. I momentarily paused my English commentary and watched/listened to the feed. "Oh SCANDALO! SCANDALO!" And that for me more than anything else highlighted the absurdity of the rules presently. There needs to be either more officials watching the game, watching the goal line (this has already been presented) or I even skeptically suggest an introduction of replay technology at the fingertips of the officials for Challenges like in American football. It's heartbreaking for Ireland that they were literally cheated out of playing in the World Cup.

Now.
Thanksgiving. I haven't seen my sister since St. Patrick's Day in Dublin. I don't think I've been together with my family since Christmas. I'm looking forward to it.

I'm gaining back some reference of time and the way it has been measured in my past. The familiar tick-tock of student life at Rutgers makes my understanding of time consistent. Mid-terms. Halloween. Thanksgiving Break. Then classes end. Then my birthday. Then finals. Then Winter Break. Ad nauseam. The monotony is stifling.

Lastly.
I think everyone should watch this. It is intoxicating. One of my favorite songs of all time as well.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ouch Flashback

DAMN.


I don't think I did justice to my ankle injury back in July. These pictures are from between days 10-12 of my injury - look at all that nasty bruising. You don't even get a feel for how swollen it was from every angle from these shots. Ew. Yes, even after 10 days my foot looked like that. Did I mention that although I was treating the injury as a sprained ankle, after going for an X-Ray and subsequent MRI back in the states, it was revealed that I fractured my heel bone and bruised two metatarsal bones in my foot? How did I imbibe this unrealistic conclusion that I had sprained my ankle, and nothing worse? I'm not a doctor - I'm an idiot. In retrospect I am surprised at my tolerance for pain and my internalized denial. Perhaps I subconsciously didn't want to face reality - after all, I was all alone in Ireland with NO health insurance from May onward. I think a full realization of my injury would have triggered a freak out. For sure.

What bothers me now is that my foot still pains me. When I get up in the morning, when I wear flat shoes, when I sit for awhile then get up, when I go running - but more so after I finish. I'm still not cleared by the doctor to exercise but have started light running. In the grand timeline of my life it has only been 3 months, but I really am foolish and I hope that my neglect of seeking ANY treatment abroad (and walking on it after only 2 weeks) doesn't cause me chronic pain for the rest of my life. It would be an unbearable reminder of my immeasurable idiocy.


Now.

I am not feeling creatively open at the moment. I'm really only writing because I haven't in over a month. So mundane. Robotic, detached, perpetually lusting after memories of Dublin that I recall constantly as I go about through my daily routine. Memories and people. And places. And rain-slicked cobblestone streets. My most potent memories, largely, are not memories at all but feelings. Literally reactions from my insides brought upon by day dreaming. Or frozen moments that I envision in complete detail in my mind.
I feel so shallow here, not in terms of being materialistic or ignorant, but in that I have nothing inside of me. Vapid. I'm not challenged or invigorated by anything new, and some aspects of my life here that I used to enjoy are pretty empty for me now. I can't help the feeling of being trapped, and at a loss.
I know I can fight this if I put the energy into it. I will, perhaps I'm only tired.

If my foot would heal completely I would be much improved.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

This sucks.

About that grass...

I really dislike this recent oscillation of my mental state. One day I'm thrilled to be prowling around New Breezy, the next day I am muttering incendiary obscenities under my breath about how I hate this place. Not very fun.

Don't worry, my friends assure me: "The grass is always greener on the other side."

I smile at them and agree. Unfortunately they are all too correct: The grass is greener, in Ireland.

Womp womp.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

"Where and when does this 'real world' occur?"

Trying not to speak too soon.

I feel intellectually invigorated in an unprecedented way.
(Touch wood).

If my academic progress is an annual race then this year I feel I will PB. A bit ironic as well, since "Senioritis" is already settling in as I indulge in too many happy hours that lead to happier nights and proportionally horrible hangovers in the morning.

Despite this lapse, I have a new awareness, a new drive. I see more clearly not what I want to be doing, per se, but where I want to be. I feel like I have something tangible now to work towards, even though it still is undefined. Roughly tangible, at least - a simple sketch of where I hope to be in the portrait of my future. I am cautious to acknowledge this recent flexing of my academic muscles, in fear that doing so will make it fleeting. It does beg the question: Where is this coming from? I can only think of 2 main catalysts:

1.) Perhaps it's the guilty hangover from the jack-shit that I did in Ireland. (Speaking through academic standards and talking GPAs - in all other aspects - all others, I feel like Ireland was the best decision and greatest expereince of my life. In many ways since being home, I feel like my former self, but on steriods: more confident, more aware, more perceptive, more assertive, stronger, more sensitive...all brilliant things if they actually manifest themselves within me for the rest of my life. I think and hope they will). Correction then: Intellectual stimulation due to my academically-unfulfilled hangover but moreso due to the growth I attribute to being abroad, which far surpasses any grief I have over flimsy grades.
[Disclaimer: I am not actually on steroids.]

OR

2.) Perhaps it's seeing my GPA in a new light, a bit banged up in comparison to the squeaky-clean graduates whom will soon be my "competition" in this hard-hitting-recession-conscious "real world" I'm apparently being thrust into in 9 months. That diploma might as well be an eviction notice from the fun-house called "College" that has been my home since 2006. As if to say, "You've had your fun, now get out....Leave your keys and your tap for the keg for the next guys...Thanks...and your funnel too." I love college - what other paradise would promote both alcoholism and intellectualism in the same setting? It's a surreal bubble in the timeline of a life, and when it pops, we are thrust out into this "real world" that has been conducting itself around us while we live by different rules. I know the real world isn't how it used to be. It's harsher now than ever....Thus, since I see the storm clouds on the horizon, I am motivated to work harder and am driven toward the future in hopes to be as armed as possible against the beastly (He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named) R********.

Hm.

I think about why I am not more concerned with that lurking real world. After doing so, I become more satisfied with response #1, and in no way #2.


I am my own worst resume.

Here's why it's not #2. At the end of the day, I throw it all out the window. I am in competition with no one. This is probably the reason I have such an issue pumping up my resume. Looking over it myself, I wouldn't want to hire me. I sound like an arrogant douche, with a pompous sense of entitlement to match. However, I am told that everyone assembles their resume in this manner. That I have to, otherwise I'll be left in the dust, with no chance of getting a job. But what if I don't even want to play this game? Would you call me lazy?

Are we all really projecting ourselves to the extremity that we polish and present the ambitious and most obnoxious forms of ourselves? Is that who we are? May the most obnoxious-arrogant douche win? Win what? A bright future anndddd....a brand new car!??! (Exactly, actually).

This makes me ponder and draw the obvious conclusion given my framework. The bigger the "douche", the bigger the reward - ambition on overdrive will lead to success. What about excess? When is ambition too much, and why can't we as a society practice self-control over all the goodies being shoved in our faces? (We don't need them!) The "American Dream" is is NOT exemplified by the sumptuousness of the mansions on MTV Cribs. What's sick is that we are taught to want to live like these largely talentless and ill-informed (would stupid be too harsh?) celebrities, and they become the poster boys/whores of our popular culture. Consume, consume, consume.

I think that behind the "qualified" graduates that churn out of colleges annually like factory products (and clamor and fight each other to suck the corporate teet) are people whom aren't their resume, may not even feel a connection to the people represented on them. People that don't know what they want, but they are conditioned to know they want money. As much of it as possible. To buy things. To be happy. Flat screens swallowing entire rooms. I want the toys. I want the job. I want those toys.

I see these as distractions from the core and unforgiving truth: We exist in aimlessness, over-saturated with material things to pacify the chaos in our minds. Do we graduate with a more defined sense of self? Or do we graduate with a dull mind, conditioned like machinery to click and scroll and process information that we have no personal connection too?

Blah blah...Who cares? I have an iPod that can have all the music I could ever desire in my past, present, and future lives - that can show movies so I don't get bored on the train...Or when I'm walking. Or when I'm breathing. Or in those brief moments at night where I am in the twilight of sleep.

Ranting stops here. I don't understand this world I live in and I don't know what I want from it. For all my bitching, I have a 64 inch HD screen at home and I watch it all the time. The goodies are nice. I'm enraptured within this crazy world, the good and bad. But within me I feel strongly that something isn't right, and the world is moving too fast to stop and correct the path we're on.


"This isn't life, it's just stuff. And it's become more important to you than living."
- American Beauty


But like I said, #1. Definitely. #1.

Monday, August 31, 2009

I'm on a rollercoaster but I'm on my feet.

I'm alive.

For the first time since I set foot in the states I feel life in my veins. I'm relieved, euphoric even, in anticipation of all that lies ahead of me this year.

Time allowed me to pull myself out of Dublin and root myself fully back here. I've been home for almost a full month, and only yesterday did I really feel like I was wholly here. I feel like a weight has been lifted off of me. Somehow I've found peace, content in looking back at Dublin without that hollow feeling that I will always miss it and never be complete again. No more waxing nostalgic, melancholy nights of tears and beers.

I have fantastic friends and family. I'm so fortunate it's overwhelming.


I'm back.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Timing is a bitch (as usual)

Yelp!

I don't think I ever elaborated upon just how many jobs I applied for in Dublin. I stopped counting, but without a doubt, over 30. Meaning, either walking to bars or clubs and asking to speak with the manager and handing over my CV, or applying online through job-seeking websites, each time hoping to craft a cover letter that molded me into their ideal candidate. As I mentioned, I ended up doing some part time catering work and the one night at The O2 doing concert promotional work.

Yesterday I received an email from one of the managers at Yelp.com offering me a job as a Marketing Assistant that I had applied for in June. Working from home, I would explore Dublin and write creative reviews of the places I visited, posting them online on the website with pictures and information about why I liked or disliked the place. Yelp is hoping to launch a strong base in Dublin, having originated in Cali, and is hoping to find a few part time employees who would jump-start the reviews and generate an interest in the website. I wrote a few reviews for some of my favorite places in Dublin, and submitted my cover letter and CV to Yelp as requested. I never heard back and forgot about it until yesterday. This would have honestly been the ideal job for me: I love writing, and in Dublin I was constantly hoping to seek out new places to shop, eat, relax, etc. I would be getting paid to do what I would love to do anyway.

If I had this job a few months ago, it would have literally bought me a few more weeks in Dublin. In fact, I can say with confidence that I would be airborne right now on my way home, as my lease on my apartment terminated today.

What a tease.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Stateside

Home?

Since being home I am in awe of the way in which everything is different and yet everything is the same.

My flight stateside went relatively smoothly. After going out the night before my flight, getting drunk, and not sleeping at all, I was wrecked as I finally acquired my luggage from the bowels of the JFK airport. It had been over 30 hours since I slept, give or take a half hour or so on the plane. Delusional and exhausted, I turned on my good auld American mobile that I had brought to Ireland. After a minute it started to make all sorts of noises as I received a few delayed text messages from January on the day of my departure.

I felt disoriented. With my 2 suitcases, colossal carry on, and large purse, my luggage was piled up as tall as me. I aimlessly pushed my luggage cart towards the automatic glass doors, phone in hand, attempting to get in touch with my mom or brother. Exhausted and fumbling with my cellphone, I inadvertently charged full-steam ahead into an automatic door, knocking one of my suitcases to the ground, and knocking the door off of its track - immobilizing it. Feeling like Harry when he smashed into Platform 9 3/4, I felt the eyes of people around me stop to stare, including a male employee in a neon vest. Hoping I wouldn't be held accountable or worse delayed by any means, I forced a smile at him and said "Oops! That's not good!" hoping to come off as friendly, accident-prone and helpless.

"That's not good but it's damn good seeing you." he replied. Are you fucking kidding me dude? This was my first interaction with the American public after 7 months away. Welcome back Nicole! See what you've been missing!? I rolled my eyes. Without looking for my family at all, I hurriedly recovered my suitcase and bolted outside to the refuge of sweltering 85 degree heat and humidity. Reality was waiting for me: The smell and weight of the dirty air, the taxis exhaling exhaust, the gutters on the street belching smog, these sights and smells swirled around me creating an overwhelming and ghastly synergy of pollution. I felt like Pigpen from The Peanuts, as though a cloud of dirt was enveloping me. Toto, I don't think we're in Dublin anymore. Instantly sweating (holy shit it's hot on the East Coast), still exhausted, and perturbed at the douchebaggery of the average American male, I looked anxiously for my family in hopes of escaping this horrible setting to something better.


Ireland's Call

I escaped the dirt and smog of Queens and JFK to the best of my ability and made it to New Jersey (although acid rain still remains one of the Dirty Jerz's inescapable charms). What I couldn't escape was the initial disorientation and frustration that came with being "home."

Here comes the Ugly Truth again: I miss Ireland. I missed it before I even left.

When I first got home I felt like my body and soul were rejecting America and everything about it. I was tired, surly, and found to be quite obnoxious by my friends, as phrases such as "America sucks", "That's so American", and "It's not like that in Ireland" spewed out of me. I was struggling between letting go of Ireland, and getting sorted once again to American culture and my life here. I made it harder on myself and didn't attempt to sort my jet-lag for the first week or so. I was popping out of bed at half 7 or 8 everyday and my first thought would be What time is it in Dublin, and what would I be doing right now?

Additionally, I saw my bedroom with new eyes as I re-entered for the first time since January. Without even unpacking my luggage that I had lived out of for 7 months, I was shocked and repulsed to find I had SO many clothes, knick-knacks, overall way too much "stuff" that I didn't use, need, or care about. I spent my first few days home extracting belongings of mine that I now saw as useless. I think all the things I donated to charity accumulated to 6 or 7 bags worth. Being abroad made me realize you don't need all the useless shit that gets thrown in your face in America (BUY BUY BUY!). The way America transforms everything into a commodity doesn't make life easier or better - it only promotes greed and competitive conformity.

After a week of being disoriented, torn, and uncomfortable in my own home, I realized I had to surrender. The effort of everyday activities was straining and draining me when my mind was 3,000 miles away. I couldn't fight being home, I had to let go, I had to adapt (to an extent), and let life to go back to the way it was before I left. Living with my head and heart an ocean away is no way to live at all.

It has been almost 2 full weeks since my arrival stateside. Each day it gets easier and I feel more at home, but even this is bittersweet. It upsets me to go on with my life here as though I am unchanged, as though Dublin was a dream, now inconsequential to my life in the states. In reality, I think about Ireland everyday. I think about people, places, changes I see within myself, differences I notice all around me, interpretations of people and events, overall I just think in a new framework.


Freehold is not Dublin.

I need to realize I cannot compare my hometown to Dublin. If I do this, I will be depressed at some level for as long as I live here. Plus, I do enjoy being home. I enjoy driving. I enjoy and appreciate my friends and family. I find my job to be easier and I got a raise. I am anxious to get back to Rutgers, which never fails to entertain. Life is rolling along here. Call it melodramatic, hormonal, "emo", romantic -whatever- the truth is that I feel incomplete here and I don't know if that feeling will ever really go away.


"I like it in the city when two worlds collide"

I went to the city the day after I landed. I still felt immensely disoriented and tired but I hoped that going into the city would help distract me, or breathe some life into me. As Alyson and I emerged from Penn Station, I was taken aback and left breathless at the size and pace of New York. I once again felt in awe of the city and its modern majesty, a feeling which I thought had been lost, eroded over the years through many visits to Manhattan as a small child. I remember gripping my parent's hand, staring entranced at the overwhelming stature of skyscrapers. Fast forward 15 years or so to my recent excursions through Times Square in the dark hours of the early morning to rush Spring Awakening- the city had become somewhat familiar to me. Relief swept over me like a wave with the realization that the city still held an intense fascination for me.

We joined Jordan at his friend Cal's apartment in Midtown. It was a warm night and we hung out on the roof of his apartment building, incidentally only a few blocks away from the Empire State Building. It was gorgeous and dominating, looking almost close enough to touch. I felt at home and exhilarated. It made me hopeful that I could be happy here, as happy as I was abroad. The city is massive and fast, it swallows you up and I love it. I need the pace, the noise, the sprawling grids of city street, the adventure, the unexpected, the clashing cultures...I love it, and I can be happy here.


Now.

I will continue my assimilation back into my former American life. Hopefully I will eventually get up the nerve to change the time on my laptop from Dublin time to EST. I will continue to think about what I want to do after graduation, as Dublin has both provided clarity and complication to my future aspirations.

Friday, July 31, 2009

I'm shaken, then I'm still. When your eyes meet mine I lose simple skills, like to tell you, all I want is now.

The Ugly Truth.

Well here it is. The new Gerard Butler film comes out on August 5th in Ireland and makes me incredibly anxious. I'm leaving on the 5th and all over town - buses and bus stops, on street posters plastered everywhere - Katherine Heigl is beaming down at me as IN CINEMAS AUGUST 5th burns into my eyeballs in red and white block letters. I dread the arrival of that film as much as I dread the expiration date on the milk in my fridge: AUG 5. NO GODDAMMIT!! I can't escape it anymore, that miserable bitch called reality is well on her way to yank me out of my Irish oasis.

I'm thriving over here. I'm scared of going home and leaving the person I've become in Ireland. I don't want things to change. I account for the fact that I am romanticizing a bit now that it is all coming to a close. In fairness Dublin wasn't always a paradise, I had a span of days (ironically during the nicest stretch of weather I've seen here) where I was in a horrible funk, like treading in quicksand and I couldn't get out. But like all things, it passed, and life here elevated back to its normal level: ALWAYS AWESOME. (or LEGEN-wait for it-DARY!)

It's hard to find words to express my feelings about leaving. I'm thrilled at the prospect of seeing my family and friends, I'm super excited to go back to Rutgers and live with the G-UNIT ladies. I'm so lucky to have such a fantastic group of people to return home to, it makes leaving much easier. At the same time, I feel like I am literally being torn away from my home in having to leave. I'm scared that I won't ever be as happy as I was here, that I will only look back nostalgically and think "those were the days." In truth I fear this so much that I am in my mind already subconsciously engineering some framework where I can come back here after graduation. Who knows.

In my last few days, my mind and heart are overwhelmed in the effort of trying to tie up the loose ends of my life here as much as I can. I hope I can get some closure in this (probably futile) effort to soften the blow of leaving. If I sit still too long, or look out on the Liffey, or read in Merrion Sq Park, or sit outside a cafe on the Quays, or any dozen other things that I love doing here, I become overcome with the fact that I have to leave. I've been keeping active, distracted, going out, being exhausted at night, because in slowing things down and taking it in, a lump forms in my throat and I get upset and panicky at once.


Now.

I'm having a staring contest with my empty suitcases and I just blinked out a tear. Time to start packing.


On a less melodramatic note, there's been a swine flu outbreak in my uni and 7 foreign exchange students are being quarantined in the residences right next to me. I've been trying to figure out which one out of curiosity, and there is a building right near my own that has been blasting dance music for a few hours. I think it's that one. Definitely the most exclusive party on campus at the moment. Swine time!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Longest Week Of My Life...still going strong

Am I the first person to wear an ankle brace to a bar?

I've somehow managed to bruise my foot in new ways since I've started limping around on it and attempting to go about my business. It has been 8 days, and I only began awkwardly limping around on Monday. I feel like I've been bed-ridden for at least a month. As much as I want to prolong my time here in Dublin, I'd almost trade going home tomorrow with a healthy ankle then be forced to live another week like this past one: a prisoner in my apartment, watching the calendar like a time bomb as my precious final days expire and I remain unchanged. I have been trying my damnedest to re-hab my foot, (outside of the whole walking on it and going out thing). I sleep with my foot on top of a suitcase, I have ice packs, 2 different ankle braces, crutches would be ideal but they don't have any at my Uni Health Center (WTF!) Being that my health insurance expired in May when I was supposed to go home, I have been reluctant to go to the hospital. Also there really is no need, I don't need an X-Ray or anything, and all they would do is prod me then tell me to RICE it. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). Crutches though, would help. Or would have. I don't know. I've been walking on it so I don't need crutches but at the same time I know I am prolonging my recovery time because I've been walking around.

It is the oddest injury as well, my ankle has full mobility, but the bruising around it and all over my foot is so fierce that whenever I try and walk I feel pressure and pain. Plus I recently realized there is a dark bruise the size of my thumb on the bottom of my foot. Ouch. I can't win.

It's also clear that in my frustration I prematurely began walking on it. I would love to post pictures of the progression of "healing" of my ankle and foot (a.k.a. new bruises arbitrarily appearing everyday) but I neglected to mention that along with my ankle and dignity, my camera was also smashed to bits last week on that same night.

No more pictures for my last few weeks here. I'm not too bummed. I've taken plenty over the last 7 months, and I need a new camera anyway. No way I'm going to purchase one in euros over here though, just going to wait til I get home. Plus, having a camera around can become a bit of a burden. You end up fixating upon "capturing" the moment without actually living in it.


Craftiest Crackhead Award

This happened weeks ago and I forgot to write about it. By now you all know I am super paranoid when I'm out and about in town. Recall how my sister had her wallet stolen on Grafton St. while we were sitting eating lunch back in March by one tricky bitch (she was caught weeks later and the Garda called me, but my sister still lost all her stuff). Also recall the incident with that old creeper in Galway back in February, and my general derangement from too many episodes of 24.

So I was walking around "enjoying the sunshine" as my friend had advised me so wholeheartedly to do ( ;) ...Alyson). I was on Grafton St. in the middle of the day. Grafton was in full swing - sun, musicians, toursits galore, laughter, "Free hugs", ice cream, everyone strolling and enjoying the afternoon. I was wandering aimlessly as per usual and was planning to pick up some post cards then sit at a cafe and write and watch people. I tucked into a Newstand on the street and began browsing the postcards. Nothing new or exciting, all the postcards looked like they were from the 80s. I turned to leave. As I did so, I was startled by a woman that had suddenly appeared within close proximity to me, standing directly behind me. I smiled apologetically and began to turn to exit. As I did, this complete stranger shouted at me, pointing her finger only inches away from my face "WHY DO YOU CALL OTHER WOMEN SLUTS?!?!?" (I'm serious.)

I really am very well trained by now. Without any reaction or hesitation I tightened my grip around my purse and bolted out onto the busy street, weaving in and out of the gleeful shoppers. Despite the general buzz of voices and laughter I continued to hear this woman yelling after me. "WHY DO YOU CALL OTHER WOMEN SLUTS!? LOOK AT YOURSELF!" and other such nonsense. Unreal! However I would bet that this woman was impressed with how quickly I sped away from her. Pretty startling to be approached in such a manner and literally screamed at by a total stranger. People surrounding me must have thought I was some horrible homewrecker, as she was making quite a scene. Fair play to you, crazy crackhead - but you don't know who you're dealing with. If I weren't already unbelievably paranoid, you might have had me. I'm convicned of course that she was trying to steal from me, or cause a scene, distract me, maybe had some other crackhead accomplice watching, maybe she just wanted to fight me...I don't know, not trying to get inside the mind of a crazy woman anyway...my own is neurotic enough. Still, that wins the crazy award so far.


Now.

After some rain, the sky has cleared. It's gorgeous out. I'm sitting with my leg up icing it and robotically taking ibuprofen as I have been over the last few days. Recovery sucks, but it does make me appreciate everything more instead of just going through life in a desensitized, elated blur of pints, friends, music, and cafes. When I walk now, despite the limp, I feel more alive. When I took a bus into town for the first time in a week, I felt the excitement and pace of the city that I had become all too accustomed to. It was refreshing. I can only hope that this feeling persists and that I don't take my legs or anything for granted as I have in the past. Maybe this was a good thing in the long run. We'll have to wait and see.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Top 3

Welp, Tuesday was one of the most hazardous nights here in Dublin so far. Hazardous is the best word I could think of - maybe notorious as well. It makes the top 3, sandwiched between Shag-Tag Wednesday when Kelly was here in early May, and an unforgettable night on the second Sunday in February that started watching United vs. West Ham in town and ended in Meath 10 hours later.

"Hazardous" for different reasons:
Shag Tag night because it was the most drunk I had ever been in Dublin and I woke up sitting on a windowsill in the bathroom of the nunnery...Classy. All in all, things could have been much worse that night but it still sticks with me.

That afternoon-turned-night in February because it changed my life here for the next 5 months - for good? For good. It changed me but I didn't know it at the time. It's crazy to think about little things, coincidences, circumstances that align or collide - however you want to see it - and end up changing your life. It's currently filed away as "hazardous" in my mind but was once labeled under far better things like "captivating" and "hilarious" and "embarrassing" even. Perhaps I will re-label it again eventually. Who knows. That was the day I went out with CiarĂ¡n for the first time.

This most recent Tuesday makes this notorious list because I twisted my ankle on a curb circa 3 am and had to literally hobble to a cab. It hurt immediately and that's how I knew it was bad, as I was also severely intoxicated at this time. Having a ruckus night out at the Purty Kitchen (Durty Purty) with Andrew Mann (<-- Amazing.) and then later the Mezz (Mess), it was just a typical fantastic Tuesday...that happened to go incredibly wrong. Anyway, the pain in my foot sobered me right up. After getting out of the cab and hopping on one foot back to my apartment, I bumped into two Irish guys that were so kind and carried me into my apartment and bedroom. I spent the night falling in and out of sleep, at moments shuddering, feeling cold and literally shaking in pain like Harry Potter having one of his crazy dreams. (Had to throw in some HP love...sooo anticipating the film once I can walk again...Jizzpecto-patronum! - SEAN <3). I sobered up and my ankle began to swell and change a dark and mystic shade of purpley-blue...Brilliant contrast with my pale-as-hell skin and I do enjoy looking at it but my fascination ends in frustration after a minute or so as I hobble around my apartment and the world outside goes on without me.

I'm getting better, but the last few days have sucked. I rely so much on walking here. It's also one of my favorite things as I've mentioned before. I feel trapped but have also gained some clarity and appreciation about how I should spend my last 3 weeks here once I'm healed. I'm hoping to be back on my feet by Saturday, and my foot is much improved from what it was on Wednesday. I'll write when I'm back on my feet.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Why not to talk to strangers:

Jesus & U BFFaeaeae

So, on Bloomsday last month when I missed the last bus home and took it upon myself to walk home, I neglected to mention one thing. When I was strolling the streets in my own little world, a woman asked me for the time. We started talking and walking in the same direction....I'm clearly intoxicated, she asks for my number, and mentions something about religion that I don't remember, wasn't paying attention at all. Nothing could dampen my spirits so I gave this crazy my number and left her at the LUAS station.

Well, I have been getting periodic texts from this girl every few days and it has been fucking hilarious!!!! Normally I just delete them after laughing, but today's was too good:

" Belovd hope U'r havin a glorious day. Nomata d chalenges u may encounta, remember; U were raisd 2getha wit Christ.U'r a victor in Christ Jesus!God has calld U in2 a life of rest & glory. Discova & walk in His purpose 4 U as U feloship wit us 6:30 tonite. "

Imagine being woken up at 9 am by this text. I can make fun of this from so many different angles I don't know where to begin.

Got to run now though, Durty Purty Tuesdays await!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Nothing worth anything ever goes down easy.


Manchester.


This is long overdue, but if I don't write about it now, I never will. I went to Manchester two weeks ago. Short and lovely (as "lovely" as Ryanair can be) flight. Really beautiful flying out of Dublin in the early morning.


Buzzwords:


I always have a small notebook with me in my purse, wherever I go. I'm writing all the time. These are some of my reactions and observations to Manchester upon my arrival:

- gritty, badass, pollution, industry, red-brick, rugged,
- old-bald-cat-calling construction workers...imported from NYC??
- "Don't drink and drugs" (sign in the bathroom of a bar)
- scary homeless people ON THE MOVE (!)
- ghost town in the AM
- every other vehicle is a truck
- CO-ED bathrooms in Gay Village
- HOT gay men...goddammit
- unorthodox, alternative youth, hip, swanky - Canal St.
- Velvet, Queer - outdoor bars/cafes compliment the canal, within the backdrop of old industrial buildings,
- not as fun to get lost here as in Dublin...scary!
- hot music scene
- is everyone horny in this town?!
- extreme hair colors not the exception - bright, unorthodox hair on both sexes.

Modern industry began here and now it looks like an ancient dirty memory. Hard to believe that these same brick buildings - many with shattered windows, fields growing wildly around them - once exemplified the cutting edge of technology and began an industrial revolution that changed culture, social factors, politics, and economics forever- both within Britain and eventually globally.


Manchester: Old vs. New

Manchester is a killer town. I wish I could have stayed there for more than two days. What I enjoyed about Manc as a city is the interesting juxtaposition of two colliding worlds: the rugged exterior of buildings from the industrial revolution vs. the new side: swanky clubs and bars along the canal, a developed cultural scene with free entry into modern museums like the Urbis, the heavy population of students - all factors in transitioning Manc into a post-industrial city. This young, hip, swanky lifestyle has infiltrated into the rugged surroundings constructed a century before.

I was just struck by the distinct dichotomy that Manchester offered (old, rugged, industrial vs. posh, alternative, young, swanky).


Old Trafford <3

Obviously, I came to Manchester for one reason.


Theatre of Dreams.

Walking is to being abroad as driving is to being home. I love it, it clears my head, I need it. That's why I decided to navigate myself to Old Trafford on foot from the Deansgate Train station, over two miles away. I managed without a map, using my common sense (oh dear). Ok, it was mostly the street signs that helped, along with my nonchalance about getting lost if I were to take a wrong turn, but I would like to attribute some of it to the magnetic pull radiating from Old Trafford that only United fans can sense. Heh. Once I saw the stadium in the distance I was giddy with anticipation. Naturally, I ignored the sign demanding pedestrians take an alternate, longer route to the stadium and I instead walked along a (very) narrow median for the last quarter mile in the middle of a highway, cars and trucks streaming by on both sides, some of them beeping. Sue me. Then I was on Sir Matt Busby Way, and I had arrived. (!!!!!)

I had some time to kill before my tour (having been early for something for the first time in my life) so I wandered about. They were streaming MUTV (United TV) in the posh Red Cafe on the second floor of the stadium, where I sat and had a latte. It was during this downtime before the tour that everything came full circle. At the moment, MUTV was streaming highlights from a recent United/Chelsea match, and I knew from the goals that I had seen it before. Any United/Chelsea matchup is noteworthy, but in this condensed version of the match, I started to piece together the time and place. Goals by Vidic, Rooney, and Berbatov...Berbie's goal - a lightening volley off a corner kick - then I realized what match it was: the meeting from January 11, 2009. The day before I left for Dublin. It was the headline from that match from which I struck up conversation with my taxi man from the airport. I still remember the initial thrill of seeing Berbatov's ecstatic face on the FRONT PAGE of a newspaper as I jetted through the streets of Dublin before daybreak. It felt like I had travelled in time - I had just watched the match in my house, and once I arrived in Dublin the newspapers were already out. That is my earliest memory of Dublin. Weird, thought-provoking, refreshing to actually be sitting in Old Trafford 6 months later and watching that same match. I feel like so much has happened, and that I have changed so much since the last time I watched the match in my living room, with suitcases and clothing in disarray during my final hours in the states.

Bursting my nostalgic bubble, the bartender at the cafe asked if I wanted to get a drink with him later, which I politely declined. (This is foreshadowing of creepers to come). He gave me a souvenir of some posh United napkins from the restaurant...peculiar. I left shortly after, and went into the United Museum, waiting for the tour to start. Here, as I was browsing/salivating in the Ronaldo Room (cringe thinking about it now - I think he was technically still on the squad when I visited!) some creeper started taking a video of me. I was literally just standing there. Then his other creeper friend comes out of no where and tries to hug me. They are speaking a different language to each other and I try to smile while twisting out of his abrupt and awkward display of affection. Fucking creepers. Of course we end up on the same tour.

The tour itself was fantastic, and I felt like a kid in a toy store. Walking all through the stands, into the players' locker room, the players' tunnel before the pitch, sitting in the players' dugout - I even adjusted Fergie's seat although I'm sure hundred have before, and will continue to do so after me. We were even in the room where Becks first laid eyes on Posh...(not on TV) omg TRUE LOVE! It was class. The weather was bright and sunny - it was grand.

Back to the creepers - it turns out they live in Dublin, and were even on the same flight as me. One of them was pretty nice - too bad I had already told them my fake name. It was fun though. I had never had to actually respond to my fake name for a few hours, and they asked for my surname too! (Rachel Walker..."of course I have facebook!"). It was even more hilarious as they took videos throughout the tour - there's plenty of "Say Hi Rachel!" and "Rachel stalked us on the plane over here" I totally fucked up though and was talking to a Swiss guy during the tour and told him my name was Nicole....I realized as soon as I said it...so it was more like, "I'm Nicol-FUCK-Call me Rachel!" I told him the story and he was laughing and said "how do I know you just don't think I'm a weirdo and Nicole is your fake name?" Ahh international WB. (REEEN!!) He probably thought I was a fucking weirdo. But I am. Anyway, the creepers tracked Rachel down in the Megastore after the tour finished, and they cornered her for her number. Ugh...unfortunately Rachel doesn't have her own mobile...yet.


- is everyone horny in this town?

I took a bus from Old Trafford into Manchester City Centre. Got a bit lost, naturally, but eventually found my way. I ducked into a Cafe/Bar because I was shattered from traveling (I had to catch the 4 am aircoach to make my flight). I sat in this bar for two hours at least, had lunch, and was writing and people watching. The bartender that had been on shift this entire time came up to me and asked me if I needed anything else. I said I was fine, thanks...We started talking, he asked where I'm from, why I'm here, where I'm staying...general chit-chat. I told him how knackered I was from getting up so early and walking around and getting lost. (I honestly had a horrible headache). Danny the bartender had a pink streak in his hair. He told me he hadn't slept in 36 hours, that it was staff night out last night, that he was still drunk, and that he had a daughter. Well OK then!

We chatted some more but then I asked for the bill, paid, and went to the bathroom before walking around some more. I stared curiously at the portrait of Josh Hartnett on the door to my bathroom stall and wondered if that was good or bad for his career. I washed my hands and left the bathroom. Danny was standing in the small hallway between the bathroom entrances and the door back to the restaurant. I was a bit surprised but smiled and said, "See you around"... I attempted to walk past him and he put his hand out and cornered me, as I retreated into the wall. He was smiling as he got in my face and tried to kiss me and for the second time that day I had to twist out of a stranger's grasp...smiling all the while, for my own safety, to be honest. I don't even remember what I said besides "No Danny!" but he tugged at my bag playfully and asked me to go for a drink later. To appease him and get out of the situation as quickly as I could, I said "yes, I'd love to." He placed a piece of paper in my hand and as he moved his hand from blocking my path I bolted out the door as fast as I could , through the restaurant and into the sunshine. As soon as I verified he wasn't following me I relaxed. What the FUCK! I was a bit unsettled but no harm done. That situation was harmless, but it could have been much worse. I enjoy traveling alone but at the same time, I can't relax the way I would if I were in a group or had some sort of guide besides my spontaneous and oft ill-informed will, or heart...whatever it is that drives me to explore these places...I think it goes without saying that I didn't call him later.


CouchSurfing.

Is fucking amazing. Nick was the first person to tell me about it, before I even left the states. I forgot about it until a month or so ago. I will write more extensively about it later, but in brief it is a networking site in which people who enjoy traveling can be hosted by other people whom live in whatever city they want to visit. It has been in the news recently over here, as 3 American Couch-Surfers were denied entry into Ireland, and sent abruptly back to the states (Read more). The boys in that article are now being financed by some company - don't remember which- to come back to Ireland, and given 1000 euros in hopes to make amends (also great PR for whatever company it is). In the Dublin CS community, we are thinking of organizing a massive piss up when they arrive. That's the other amazing thing about it - nights out with people from all over the world...basically any day of the week! Anyway, in Manchester I couch-surfed for the first time and stayed with a girl named Amy, who was lovely, and had a view of Old Trafford from her balcony! (10 or so floors up, you could see the stadium in the distance.

I've only been involved with CS for a month or so, and so far it has proved to be an excellent experience. I was at first very cautious of the idea, it requires a huge amount of trust, on both ends. After doing it once though, I am a firm believer in it and I wish that more people had the mentality and kindness to partake in such a basic yet revolutionary idea. This is how it works, in brief: I had never met Amy before in my life. I used the website to get in touch with her. She gave me her address, I went to her apartment as a total stranger. My moment of doubt in the elevator (went something like "What the hell am I doing - I am alone and about to knock on a stranger's door and stay in their apartment...) evaporated as soon as she opened the door and welcomed me in. She was very interesting and easy to talk to. We got along really well, I learned a lot from her - she had studied abroad in the US, and was now a teacher. (Incidentally, she was home from work early because her school had just been "compromised" by the swine flu!) She gave me a map of Manchester and helped me structure out my time and what I should see the next day. It was amazing. I woke up the next day feeling accomplished and really grateful that I had taken this leap from the ordinary. When I awoke, Amy had already gone to work, and had left me a copy of the key to her apartment, in case I wanted to come and go as I please during the day. Amazing.


Homeward bound.

I booked my flight to the states. August 5th. Less than a month. Crazy to consider. I feel like I just got here. Actually as of today I have been here for a full 6 months, to the day. I feel that recently I have turned a corner and have started really immersing myself deeper and deeper into the culture and history, and it is all going to be ripped away. Very bittersweet, although I do have so much to be grateful for and look forward to when I land back in Dirty Jerzy. More talk of this later.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Storms.

There were some wicked thunderstorms here in Dublin last night in the early morning. I actually woke with a start and thought "Shit did I put my windows up?" ...As in, the windows on my car...which is sitting in New Jersey.

It was nice watching the thunder and lightening - really rare here. First big thunderstorm I've seen in over 6 months. The sky was a ominous and glowing red, it was gorgeous. But like all the weather in Ireland it moved very fast and maybe was most intense for a quarter hour.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Summertime, and the living IS easy.


Summer in Dublin.

The weather here has been gorgeous: warm, sunny, NEVER humid - ideal. Stark contrast to what I have been hearing from back in NJ...Apparently it has rained 20 of the last 25 days?? Wtf? Sorry about that guys...come to Dublin!

Still find it weird that it is socially accepted for guys to walk around the streets with their shirts off as soon as the temperature reaches over 65 F. Even on public transportation - No shirt? No problem! I find this a bit off but I guess you need to take in all the Vitamin D you can over here before the season changes back to "Overcast" which endures for months on end. I've seen girls tanning topless in public parks, Irish bros doing back flips into the River Liffey off the Docklands, and a bum pass out from the heat (or the drug addiction?) on Moore St....Loving summer here so far, but it is noticeably different from the city I touched down in back in January.

I used to revel in the quiet afternoons you could spend in Dublin during the week: Every weekend, in every month, the city heaves with loads of tourists, so I always enjoyed going into town on a more subdued afternoon in the middle of the week, just to enjoy the city in a more quiet state. You can sit in the same places where only a few days before masses of people were filtering in and out: smoking, drinking, eating, laughing, - noisy and distracting. However with the advent of summer, Dublin is crowded everyday - riddled with tourists constantly coming and going - a perpetual weekend, basically. (NOT complaining! Loads of fun). It makes me miss the quiet days.

I remember mornings in Dublin during the winter. They were bustling but sleepy - commuters on cruise control meandering their way to their jobs in a robotic and involuntary stride. I loved being in Dublin in the early mornings moving among this crowd. Not like I had a job to go to, (classes, yes) but waking up with the city is something I have always enjoyed - I think of NYC. It's even more enchanting in NYC because of all the neon lights. Have you ever been in Times Square at 5 in the morning? I highly advise it. The city that never sleeps actually does doze off for a bit, and as you take it all in, it feels like someone turned the city on mute. Neon lights are stories tall in the darkness but there are no sounds. Few people. It's amazing.

Summer changes this city, and gives Dublin somewhat of a face-lift: All the business are open, it's more crowded, more international, more diverse. I can't help but wonder if pieces of Dublin's personality, history, and identity are lost among the global brands, the Starbucks cups, the blaring tour buses. I wonder if commercializing "Ireland"and consolidating it to sound bites and stereotypes - does this result in losing a piece of what Dublin, and Ireland, really is? This goes for every city in an increasingly global world.

It is what it is, I guess. It's not a bad thing either. Being here has reaffirmed for me that "clashing" nationalities really only highlight similarities between people. I love the constant exposure to people from all over the world.

I worked with a catering company last weekend that was catering a Bat Mitzvah in Dublin. I was collaborating with the hosting family to organize and assemble all the decorations, and also got to interact with the Rabbi for a bit. Clearly working with a Jewish community in the middle of Dublin is unconventional, but it gave me perspective and was a reaffirmation that there are so many integral pieces to every cultural identity that it is overwhelming. Maybe the only way we can attempt to make sense of everything is by making broad and often inaccurate generalizations (i.e. everyone in Ireland is a drunk) and by exploiting the culture itself via fabricated symbols (i.e. selling Leprechaun mugs, jewelry, underwear, hats, shot glasses - anything you can print that little fairy man onto).

I don't know how I feel about it all. I cash in just like everyone else, I'm not above it.

Anyway.

Not much else to say, loving life really. Went to Manchester for a few days which was amazing and I will write about it later. I've essentially been on holiday for 6 months so I'm just trying to appreciate it all before reality yanks me back to New Jersey. I'm looking at flights and planning to come home during the first 10 days in August. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"Sweetheart, bitterheart, now I can't tell you apart."

Bloomsday.

Yesterday, June 16th, was Bloomsday - the day during which all the of events of James Joyce's greatest work Ulysses took place (June 16, 1904). I attempted to read Ulysses when I was a freshman in college but my head exploded within the first chapter. Now that I'm so much older and wiser, maybe I can get to chapter 2. I actually am going to try and read it this summer.

Dublin was alive and celebrating yesterday with various guided tours, jazz bands playing throughout town, but most importantly; adorable old people sporting their bowler caps and sharp suits, strolling around town or grabbing a pint together. I was in town all day and it was fun watching the Joycians reveling in the atmosphere and dancing about.

I met up with some people for the first time yesterday, and it was a really rewarding experience. We had initially only met up for a drink and a chat which snowballed into hours of discussion and then live music at Purty Kitchen. I was essentially drinking all afternoon and it ended up catching up with me as I hustled to make the last bus home. I was in a great mood, and loved the fact that even though I had taken a detour to my stop by grabbing one more pint at Gogarty's with some new people I met, I was still going to make the bus home. Humming to myself and slipping swiftly and skillfully through Dublin's dark streets to the bus stop I couldn't help but relish the fact that I knew these streets like the back of my hand. Basking in my own personal glory, I then saw the dominating building that was the GPO, right in front of me. What the fuck? It was entirely disorienting, and I turned around to realize that yes, the GPO did not move, I actually walked in the wrong direction for a solid 5 minutes. I crossed O'Connell Bridge without even REALIZING I should be going in the complete opposite direction to catch my bus near the main entrance of Trinity. Blame it on the alcohol? Yes, T-pain. However, blame it moreso on how distracted and gleeful I was from a great afternoon/night of drinking, live music, pleasant weather, and getting to know new people. In my giddy stupor, I considered my options as I did an about-face and headed toward home: I had missed the last bus, and probably would have regardless of if I had went to the right stop or not. The LUAS was still running, but doesn't have a track that leads too near to my school. The Nightlink begins running an hour or so after the normal hours of Dub bus, I could kill time in town, drink some more and then go home. I could meet up with the people I just left and keep partying with them.

I think that most of you know me well enough to assume with a high degree of certainty that whatever I decided to do probably involved going back and drinking more. That's what I would have picked for me to have done too.

I guess it's a testament to what a unique mood I was in that I instead opted to WALK home, or attempt to at least. Walking from city centre to UCD which is 6.6 kilometers away (OVER 4 MILES AWAY) during the middle of the night, by myself, is something I wouldn't even expect myself to do....out of pure laziness. Plus, I'm drunk, could I even find my way back? My mind was up for anything, for whatever reason. I had to try. If I got bored of the idea I could pop in a taxi, even though I hate paying their rates and talking to the cab drivers has even started to lose its novelty because the conversation about 85% of the time covers the following 2 topics only: (A) New Jersey OR (B) Politics.


Taxi Tangent

The topic of conversation when I am in a cab by myself can stem from the following topics:

(A)Where are you from? and (B) What are you doing here?

It is from my experience here that Taxis ALWAYS ask both of these questions. People are really friendly here and want to hear your story. From whichever answer they find more interesting dictates the entire course of conversation for the duration of the cab ride.

(A) I'm from the states, New Jersey, (B) I'm studying at UCD and I'm also here for the summer.

Predictable responses from taxi drivers that take more interest in:
(A) I'm from New Jersey.

A1 New Joisey!! Hahahaah! Isn't that near New York? I've been to New York.
A2 Wait, do you live near Tony?? Hahaah!!
A3 Why would you leave America? It's shite over here
A4 Want to hear my impression of Tony Soprano? ...Back off Motherfecka!
A5 Honestly what are you doing here? The weather is shite....just shite.

Predictable responses from cab drivers whom take more interest in:
(B) I'm a student at UCD.

B1 What are you studying?
B2 How excited is everyone about Obama? You're excited to have that bastard out of office - but are people too excited about Obama? Thinkin he's godlike?
B3 How about Hillary? (which quickly turns to...)
B4 Bill Clinton is amazing.
B5 Are you taking any Irish history?
B6 Bill Clinton is amazing.

Personally, I prefer (A), I never get sick of hearing the Irish butcher NY/NJ accents.

When not talking NJ or Politics, Taxi drivers have also given me some entertaining, even uncanny advice about dating Irish men that has served me thus far.


"Please don't stop the rain."

ANYWAY! End of the story from last night is that I actually did walk all the way home to UCD. It was longer than 4 miles because I drunkenly walked the route of the bus I always take into town from UCD - THE 10....holla. This required a bit of meandering when I probably could have taken some short cuts. Even when it started to rain, I just opened my purse and marveled at my preparedness that I always have an umbrella with me. (Summer essentials whenever going out in Dublin: umbrella, sunglasses, raincoat, scarf...Took me a few weeks to realize I needed to be ready for any sort of weather in the summer, but now I rock it, I must say). I was literally just walking on air...took me about an hour and 20 minutes to walk home but it was glorious, I will say. I might even do it again, although I think me actually wanting to do it last night was just...I don't know, a weird inclination I had. I wanted to see if I could find my way home.


Now.

I feel like myself again.

My first few weeks here since moving out from the nunnery were really challenging for a lot of different reasons that I'm not comfortable going into.

But I'm better now. Much better.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Summertime, and the living is easy?

CORRECTION: Summertime, and we're in a recession.

Ireland’s GDP has plunged down 9% in 2009 so far which is a DISASTER to put it lightly. However...


Work it.
I FINALLY found a job!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!




.....And it only took me 10 hours to quit that shit. I was walking around Dublin nostalgically retracing my steps back to where I stayed for my first 2 nights in Dubs off of Talbot street. When I saw in the window at a nearby hostel that they were seeking a receptionist, I took it as a sign (my first mistake).

I was “lucky” enough to unknowingly chat with the owner, who was the first person I saw upon entering the building. He interviewed me on the spot, firing questions at me rapidly (something I have gotten used, whether it be friends, people in bars, or potential bosses…there are often few if any pauses in Irish conversation). Anyway in an abrupt and shocking turn of events, I left the place in 5 minutes with a job! I started training the following day, and as my boss said upon my exit “Let’s see if you’re smart enough”. Well, that was encouraging.

I had my first day of training from 3-11. The girls that I work with were really nice, one was American as well, and within 20 minutes of my shift it was understood that they were all united under a mutual hatred and unending resentment of our boss, The Owner.

Without ever having given my CV (resume) or even my last name I worked there for another shift and got to see my egotistical egg-headed boss in his true form. He was unbearable, telling me that now that I’m "on the team", I can “say goodbye to any travel plans,” I’m “committed (to him) until the end of August”. (BTW – I won’t even be here that long, my lease ends on the 15th, but I had to lie initially to get the job). I witnessed him give one of the managers the silent treatment all day, and overall just act like a petulant child. He was for real too. It was hard to believe and I wished it was like The Office where I could just look at the camera like Jim does as if to say “Do you believe this shit?

The piss-ridden hostel had an everlasting aroma of EURO-B.O. But with the severity of this guy you would have thought he was running the Ritz. Newsflash dude: This place is a shithole. There was NO WAY I was going to deal with this during my last few months here, and plus, I was being paid BELOW minimum wage in Ireland to slave away at a thankless job that I thought could be so much more improved if The Owner took the time and effort to upgrade his booking system and make it more efficient. Get some software like Opera Fidelio that even I’ve heard of and upgrade your shit to something a bit more evolved than an excel sheet managed by ME which takes forever to actually complete. So much of the work was mindless, i.e. the literal writing out of scheduled check-ins booked on hostelworld or hostelbookers for the following day, answering phones all day long, looking at security cameras to verify the identity of people and buzz them into the actual hostel because the reception area was in a separate building.... I just felt like I would be unhappy at this job even if my boss was considerate.

Additionally, the times I would either be getting off work or having to come in in the morning would have required me to sometimes take a taxi into town (due to Dublin bus not running early/late enough). That would just be ridiculous. The only thing I enjoyed from my brief time there was the enthusiasm of the people traveling, giving advice on where to go out, and finding that I could actually give decent directions around Dublin.

So, after I decided I was going to quit, I remembered that they didn’t even know my last name and I started to imagine ways I could make a dramatic exit, like storming out in the middle of the shift after making a scene or something. I felt like I owed it to the other girls: They were entrenched in all the bullshit because they lived in the hostel (for free), making the job almost inescapable and giving The Owner a superb edge over them. (This is also why he could pay us lower wages as well).

I decided to stick it to the man by not showing up to my morning training shift (7-3). Although I had imagined in my mind much cooler ways of quitting, turns out I just snoozed through it. I would never just not show up to a shift if I was the only one, but since this was training for the morning work activities, I would be following the lead of another girl. That was that. They don’t even have my mobile number and were paying me under the table so I will never set foot in there again, and never have to explain myself. Woohoo!!! After doing this I felt immediately liberated. Call me an idiot for quitting when the job market is the way it is, but working there would have crushed my soul and I HAD to get out. This entire trip for me has been so fantastic I refused to have it all dampered by working at that place. I'm just taking it day by day for now.


The O2

Last week I also worked with a promotional group called Concert Live at The O2 concert venue in Dublin. The venue itself has recently been totally refurbished and is really top notch. I really enjoyed working there, and I wish it was for more than one night.

What the company does is record the concert as it is being performed, and then 10 minutes after the performance, CDs of the concert are available to take home with you. There was about a dozen of us, and the job was to approach people before the show, during the intermission, and at the end to try to get them to buy one of the “exclusive” CDs for 25 euro. Holy impulse buy!! Sounds like a rip off? It totally is. Surprisingly enough there was a really positive response and by the end of the night I was one of the top sellers which was really cool. I got to meet a lot of people and it was a fun atmosphere to work in. Unfortunately, Concet Live doesn't have an established presence here and only records a select few shows, no more of which are at The O2 this summer.

The show itself was War of the Worlds, which I didn’t know was a musical, I thought it was just about aliens invading and I knew that there was a film about it with Tom Cruise (partially filmed in my town…whuddup Howell). I figured the audience would be ComicCon-esque but I was surprised that it was actually pretty diverse, ranging from excited little kids to people who told me they had the vinyl record of the music. There was a lot going on on that stage, live orchestra, live performances of characters in costume, narration by some digital guy’s levitating head stage left, stuff falling from the ceiling, and interaction of the performers with a digital ensemble on a massive screen above the orchestra. Then of course also some alien tractor looking thing in the middle that smoked and fizzled throughout the concert….Overall, enough to make anyone epileptic have multiple seizures. From the 10 minutes or so that I watched in the corridor, it was pretty cool.

Brit-brit is actually coming to town next weekend and doing 2 shows at The O2. I WISH I could work that but then I realized that recording Brit’s concert live would be redundant since she lip synchs and can’t carry a tune to save her life. Still, I would totally buy a live CD of her IF it includes her explicit outbursts on stage. (“My pussy is hanging out!”)

The only downside of the night was that I saw a cute and geeky guy from a bar that I met the week before and left rudely and abruptly under the impression that I was out with my friends having my “going away…back to the states” party and that’s why I couldn’t go out with him later on in the week. Sorry Peter, I’m an asshole. I wanted to dissolve on the spot when we locked eyes but instead I opted to just do an about face and take off quickly but nonchalantly in the opposite direction. It was really a weird feeling recognizing someone and being recognized because I have become so accustomed to no one knowing me here, and so I am never anticipating being recognized or sought out. This served me wrong when I bumped into one of my high school teachers (Ms. Smith) in the Jameson factory 2 months ago when Kelly was visiting – THAT was insane!!!! How does that even happen?? She was calling my name and I just ignored it because everytime I hear my name in this town I assume first that no one is directing it at me. That’s sad isn’t it?


Things that pissed me off today:

American tourists. I know that I need to get over myself….but there was a gaggle of the most typical obnoxious American girls on the bus with me today. I don’t know what it was specifically that left me no choice but to categorize them as such, it could have been their never-ending loud conversation about how drunk they were getting over here, bragging about blacking out, complaining about how many PDAs there are here, (wtf? I think they just wanted to bitch) and critiquing the bus driver for tailgating (Dub buses are flat in the front and from the second level it does sometimes look like they are dangerously close to other vehicles or going to run people over that are biking/crossing the street). Their voices were so annoying and shrill and made me realize what I am NOT missing about home, and also why people abroad might resent Americans for being ignorant tools.


My Final Destination moment

I can’t believe I’m even writing this.

Maybe I am losing my mind. Two days ago, I was catching a bus back to UCD from O’Connell St. There was a young, well-dressed businessman waiting at the stop with me, and I kept noticing him looking at me out of the corner of my eye. For whatever reason, he made me feel really uncomfortable so I moved away from him. We were waiting for about 10 minutes for the bus, and I when it finally arrived, I had a weird and subtle feeling not to get on the bus. The business guy’s briefcase had 2 locks on it and looked like it was made of steel. He went and sat in the back and was fumbling with it. At this point, I thought he was going to blow up the bus. For a few seconds I wager whether I should get off the bus or not. I think to myself that I can’t get off the bus because after waiting out in the sun the groceries I bought that need to be refrigerated are already probably going bad. Then I realize that if this guy is going to blow up the bus, me and my groceries are going to be in flames anyway and the quality of my dairy products will be the least of my concerns. In my mind I felt so uncomfortable that I actually got off at the next stop. What the fuck is wrong with me?


Now.

I am enjoying my new place on UCD Belfield campus. I live in my apartment with 3 guys, 2 of whom I lived with in the nunnery so that is really nice. The weather has been class, and the good thing about Dublin is that it is never humid - unlike NJ, swamp-ass capital of the world. I am enjoying the fact that the sun doesn't set until about 10:15 pm...It really is magical. Being in town before the sun goes down at night is really nice. I have booked a trip to Manchester in about 10 days and I am going to Old Trafford...I'm SO excited!!!!!!.....maybe I will catch Ronaldo cleaning out his locker.... Will add more later, gotta run

Monday, May 18, 2009

I've been roaming around, always looking down at all I see...

Hello.

I haven't written in ages, and I miss it. Now that my life has settled down a bit from being a nerve-wrecking, perpetual roller-coaster, I can finally sit and reflect. Over the past few days I have felt more relaxed than I have in over a month. As I went into before in my earlier entry, I have been trying to manage a way to stay here all summer. As I noted in my most brief entry below, that opportunity has actually materialized. Only in the past few days since the end of exams has it actually begun to sink in. I feel like I am finding my footing again, and now I have the free time to realign myself mentally for my summer stay. I will go into detail about that, but first I need to recap the past month or so, which passed in a blur.

I've never been one to make plans. However, the level of uncertainty that I lived with for the entire month of April was so burdening and stressful, it honestly took a toll on me. I knew trying to stay here would make for a lot of extra work on my part, but I also knew that if I didn't, I would literally be driving myself crazy with the "what-ifs" that would parade in my head for the entire summer. All month long, I gazed up anxiously at my undecided fate and hoped that it would not all come crashing down on me. On one side, I go home to NJ. On the other, I move into a new apartment on main campus and stay here until mid/end of August. These two equally probable scenarios left me torn in two opposite directions, unable to prepare for the realization of either of the outcomes. I was at a total standstill. For a weeks I lived in indecision, not knowing if in a month I would be in Dublin or New Jersey. I felt like so much was hanging in the balance, and despite all my efforts, I couldn't seem to catch a break. Despite encouragement of my friends about how everything would work out in due time, I still felt like I had no control over my fate.

However, I failed to account for the sincerity and graciousness of my parents. I maintained constant contact with them via email throughout April and early May, and I think they saw how hard I was trying to make this happen. Even though I have yet to find a solid job, they have allowed me to finalize my stay here weeks ago. Additionally, thanks to the help of Reene I did manage to solidify a sublet for my house in the Brunz so that eliminated a huge burden.


"Revision" Week.

The fact that UCD gives an entire WEEK off to students BEFORE exams even begin doesn't surprise me in the least, but I try to still appreciate how awesome it is. Kelly came to visit me that week, and we got to see a lot of toursity things that I hadn't endeavored...Guinness & Jameson factories (we were whiskey testers...BAD idea), Kilmainham Jail (awesome/cold/creepy), watched people play cricket at Trinity, (wtf kind of a sport is that?) and took the DART to Bray in Co. Wicklow.

Then we did some things that weren't so new to me:

A ride on "the piss bus" --> some bus routes within Dublin are notorious for being shitholes. Sticky floors, old buses, dirty, littered, old drunks on the bus in mid-day, (although I shouldn't discriminate, I've seen that elsewhere) and most importantly prone to drunks pissing on the second floor at night time.

Going to bars --> We hit Messrs, The Living Room, Bruxelles, Whelan's, "Shiti" Bar, and Porterhouse....maybe some more but those are the ones I recall.

Get harassed by drunks --> OK, so, long story short, there is a creepy 30-something guy here in Dublin that I always encounter when Renee and I watch United matches in town. At first we would just chat about soccer but then he started being increasingly creepy each week. He bought Renee and I drinks many weeks ago. Then on St. Patrick's Day, my crew and I kick off the drinking at Murray's (it's on the top of O'Connell...perfect for the parade) and he slips me his phone number while NANCE is watching from afar...FML! The last time I had seen him, he was with his friend (who was our age?) and they bought Renee and I drinks all night and got us hella drunk then it started being super awkward and creepy. After this incident, we decide never to go back to Murray's (sad)....So back to the present, Kelly and I seek refuge in a different pub, on the same street as Murray's. Suddenly, a creepy guy blows in my ear LITERALLY 15 seconds after I was telling Kelly how relieved I was not to ever see him again...IRONY. I almost threw up and fell off my barstool when I saw it was him. He bought us a pitcher but Kelly was giving him some fierce looks so after only a few creepy comments he left us alone for the match and then we snuck out without him seeing.
In this same pub, we also encountered severely drunk people in Dublin at 4 pm, this isn't exactly a diamond in the rough but these douches happened to be Canadian hockey fans. Incoherent, getting in our faces, trying to kiss me on the cheek (W T F). For the second time in 30 minutes I almost fell off my seat in revulsion which is when I decided after the match is over that I'm not ever going back.

Whelan's --> This is the bar where they filmed scenes from P.S. I love you, (when they first see the guy playing guitar...I don't know his name in the movie or in reality but all that matters is it's DENNY from Grey's(!) Hot.

Rachel strikes again --> Kelly and Sarah and I went to Citi Bar (SHITI Bar) on a Wednesday after watching a United match at Bruxelles and we got really hammered, to put it mildly. It was 2 euro drinks and unknown to us, Wednesday is "Shag Tag" which is pretty stupid and I don't even feel like explaining it. Needless to say, it was a total sausage fest and I won't be frequenting Citi Bar on a Wednesday ever again. I actually got a text the next day from some rando number reading "Hi Rachel!! are you today in Citypub?" This reveals two things: One, I give out this name as a reflex, since I was hella drunk and don't remember consciously using my fake name, and two, I drunkenly give foreigners my phone number.


Final Exams.

Well, in typical Irish fashion, UCD final exams are a total shitshow. Exams are taken in an illusive place called the "RDS" which is at least 20 minutes away from the school itself. Then, you enter a massive lobby area and search alphabetical lists of all the students to find your name which denotes your assigned seat. This number ranges from 1 to OVER 1,600!!! What the FUCK. You literally are taking exams with over 1,600 other students. It is really unsettling, especially if you are a first timer. I was late to my first exam even though I allotted ample time to get there. Apparently I didn't account enough for Dublin AM traffic into the city or the fact that the "RDS" where we were to take exams was no-where near the actual RDS itself, which is a concert venue. So, at my first exam, after literally sprinting into the building, finding my name and seat, (I was very lucky that my number was in the 100s) I sat frazzled for the first 10 minutes as I tried to take in my surroundings...This was such a mess. The building itself made me think of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and I was waiting to hear the deafening rip of a chainsaw to come up from behind me while I was taking my exam. Not to mention they have proctors stalking up and down the aisles ALL EXAM LONG. I have never had to take an exam where there was someoone looking over my shoulder at least every 10 minutes. It was really annoying. The professors are no where in sight so if you have a question it's tough shit for you. Additionally I was stressed because I hadn't purchased a single academic book since I arrived here, and for 3 of my 5 classes, the final exam was 100% of the final grade. HILARIOUS!! WTF Dublin!!! Get your shit together UCD! (and Nicole). Hopefully I was able to pull it together for the big finish, but I won't know for a few more weeks because (SHOCK) it takes UCD until mid-June to get grades back.

After talking to my friends, I was comforted by the fact that they too thought the setup was backward and had different reactions to it. The list that I compiled mentally is as follows:
The RDS is remniscent of:
- a warehouse
- a stable
- a refugee camp
- American Idol try outs

I think it actually was an old mega-stable because the building is fucking huge, lofty lights and ceilings, built like a stable...and I wouldn't be surprised if there was horse shit in the corner from decades past.

Now.

People are leaving. Everyone, actually. Except for me. People are continuing to leave until Wednesday, when everyone will officially be gone. I haven't even started to process this. I have a bit of starting over to do here in Dublin. I am really excited and hopeful for a great summer, but it is going to suck leaving some of these people, especially when I think about how far away some of them are, and how we will never be in a living situation like this ever again. It actually sucks a lot. The past week has been just staying up, drinking, hanging out, lots of singing and dancing, some tears, just trying to soak in whatever time we have left in this old nunnery. I am just lucky enough that it is only a partial goodbye and that I get to stay here, even though things are changing.