Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I've found a city love

I suck at updating this, but I will make up for it/punish you by writing long entries.


Obama! (FINALLY)

Inauguration in brief: University sponsored party, with free booze. I was buzzin on Obama and Bud when I got interviewed for the school newspaper with two of my friends. Still don't know what got printed, but they took my picture too.

It was 5 pm over here, so after Inauguration, we went back to Blackrock, ate, pre-gamed, stopped briefly at an "American Party" in Rathmines (after getting lost as FUCK for a good half hour) then Renee and I took a taxi to Citi Bar. In our drunkenness, we thought it would be a good idea if I tried using my accent so the guy wouldn't rip us off. He didn't but we didn't get a discount either.

Anyway, it should be called Shitty Bar, because by the time Renee and I got there, everyone was SLOPPY. It was crowded, everyone was dancing and spilling/stomping/feeling-up everyone else. The Tuesday drink special was no joke, clearly: 2 euro drinks all night(!) However, this is AFTER a 10 euro cover, although still economical if you have 5 or more drinks. I was out in my Obama shirt, (REPRESENT!) having a grand 'ol time saying farewell to the GOP. It was a good night, and we met up with a slew of Badasses (Blackrock folk). Good fun by all, except waking up for my 3 pm class the next day.


Queue are you people!?

These people LOVE standing in line. I'm all about stopping to "smell the roses" per se, but the patience these people have for queuing is unlike anything I have ever seen. On campus, for example, there was a queue of 11 people just to use an ATM. There is another ATM within sight about 90 seconds away, vacant. I'm sure if I knew about it then all of these kids did. Still, none of them budged, and then another kid gets on line. A DOZEN people in line for one ATM. Lunacy.

Fast forward to a few days ago, as I was in line at Tesco, the grocery store. The neurotic American in me was getting pissed off at the lazy cashier who wasn't scanning the items at the speed of light. As if that's not enough, an ancient woman approached her from behind and asked for directions to somewhere. The lazy cashier turns around smiling and gave detailed directions to this grandma. Then I watched in astonishment as a solid 3 minutes went by as the cashier attempted to gesticulate and convey exactly wherever this place is, finding it quaint that this wrinkly woman clearly had NO IDEA what she was talking about. I fought the urge to interject and alert the old bat that she was clearly already on Senile Boulevard and if she just kept going straight she would find herself at a crossroads with Eternal Rest soon enough.

Eventually, I got to purchase my items. But I will never get those 5 minutes back...hmph.

It doesn't stop there. A few days ago I was relaxing and reading at the honestly gorgeous Blackrock Starbucks, complete with a balcony and excellent view across the Bay (to what I think is Howth...must investigate.) I watched someone try and "Austin Powers" their way out of a tight spot in the car park below. Inches forward, inches back, I started to get nervous for the poor bloke as the seconds passed, by now there were about 4 cars behind the guy. No one beeped. After a long minute or so Austin navigated his car safely onto the street. I then tried to imagine the identical situation taking place in New Jersey. In NJ, this person would have been yanked from their car and run over rather than given the time to get out of the situation.

I contrast this scenario with one from last year that Seb and I experienced on our way home from class on Cook during rush hour traffic. We were on George Street, and since it was 5:15, everyone and their mother was in a hurry to get home. Anyway, after maybe 10 seconds of green light with the car 2 cars in front of us not moving, we obviously gave the NJ-approved "Is everything OK up there?" signal by laying on the horn. Cars behind us followed in suit, as now it has been about 25 seconds without moving at a GREEN LIGHT...Blasphemy. So, as the car in front of us maneuvers past the poor guy with his emergency lights on, we being to realize what is happening.

The engine has stalled in the guy's car, and as he comes into view, we watch him get out of the car, absolutely frantic, and attempt to push the car from his driver's side door, while attempting to steer as well. The next part took place over a few brief seconds. I started to smile watching this guy try to MacGyver his way out of this sticky situation, and the car was moving too now, which also looked comical...but where the fuck was he going? The answer became clear as he, using his own momentum by pushing the car, managed to steer his own vehicle directly into the side of another parked car. We watched, in shock, as this poor frantic individual literally pushed his stalled car into a parked car. Then we passed him and couldn't help but burst into laughter. Then we debated if we were assholes for leaving/laughing. Then we forgot about it 5 minutes later.

I don't know. I guess that situation would never happen here in Ireland. If anything, maybe someone would have helped the guy, if he really was so freakin WIRED that he tried to push his own car out of the way to clear the road for other anxious commuters.

Don't get me wrong, Dublin is busy. It's a city. It's crowded, loud, people rush, there's heavy traffic (people do beep their horns), there's poverty & homelessness, etc. Yet, despite this evidence I am convinced that people are more relaxed. They are more low-maintenance, despite the influx of modern franchises like Starbucks and popular fast food places like McDonald's & Burger King that would appear perhaps as symptoms or precursors to a work-obsessed American lifestyle on the horizon.

Still, I wonder if people enjoy life more here. I have been contemplating this a lot as I observe and learn about this town.


I love those Red Devils

Yesterday might have been the best day here so far. I have been itching to go to a pub to watch soccer, and yesterday I got my first opportunity to watch United play. It was by no means a big match-up. United is in good form, leading the Premiership at the moment, and in addition to West Brom's general ability to suck, their skipper was injured. Also, it was Tuesday so I wasn't quite sure what to expect in terms of the atmosphere of the bar.

I had looked up this said bar at a BRILLIANT site that I found after I had Googled my way into delirium with endless inquiries involving the same 5 key words: Manchester. United. Pubs. Dublin. Craic. I finally struck gold. http://www.sports-in-bars.ie

Anyway, thanks to this site I was off to Murray's Bar and Renee came with me. We made it right before KO and got the very last table in the place, luckily the bar was plastered with TVs so we weren't at a disadvantage and could see clearly. Before the United game dominated every screen, other matches were wrapping up, and cheers were erupting from different sections of the vast pub at random intervals as Sprus beat Stoke City and Bayer Munich finished their match.

When United came on, everyone cheered, and I was thrilled. I cannot even explain how much I enjoyed it, because it doesn't make much sense. All it was was a crowded, large pub, packed with United fans, and beer. To me though, it was divine. I had spent the past 5 years of my EPL-loving existence glued to my TV screen at random and often inconvenient times to watch live matches. In my senior year of high school, I left school early twice to watch key United match-ups in the Champions League, once faking ill, second with a bullshit letter from my dad (John FTW!). In my Rooney jersey, I would sit alone (unless my dad happened to be home) and certainly sober, with my gasps and cheers reverberating off the walls and high ceilings of my living room, echoing back to me, mocking my isolation from the crazy football fanatics across the pond. Now, I was here. I was high-fiving and meeting total strangers, talking stats and swapping stories (my friend and I stuck out like sore thumbs being female at a football pub). After our first pitcher of beer, I felt like I was being inducted into some sort of new family. One that I liked very much so far. United demolished the Baggies 5-0, glorious. We talked to these guys for a long time afterward and then realized that the bar was practically barren now. I didn't want to leave, and I was in excellent spirits as Renee and I bounced home.


Busy.

Constant excitement and activities (drinking, socializing, getting lost, drinking, food shopping) have monopolized my days here thus far, and despite the structure of classes I feel like I have yet to settle into a routine of sorts. I feel like there's so much to do, so much I need to plan for and see while I'm here. I sleep at odd intervals, til 2 pm sometimes, something I don't even do back at Rutgers.

I'm constantly going, going, going somewhere, (but remember, not in the neurotic American hustle bustle 'let's beat the traffic' kind of way). Just excitement. The thrill of being somewhere else that is at once very different and very much the same from where you came from.

I have so much to look forward to, in the long run and immediate future This weekend we have a Rutgers rendezvous in Galway from Friday til Sunday. Sunday is going to be a long day/shitshow, between getting back from Galway, the United match at 5:30 and the Superbowl LIVE at 1 am. I could potentially be drunk for over 10 hours. If I make it to the half-time show I'll be pleased. (Everyone LOVES Bruce here...they seriously play him out at the bars and people love it and expect it). I have no choice but to bring my A game out that night, especially considering I don't have Monday classes.


Thus far, I really love everything. Initially, despite the thrill and appreciation for a new setting, I felt disoriented, uncomfortable. I felt like a victim, unable to fend for myself, not knowing where anything was. This severely frustrated me as I pride myself on being able to function independently and transition seamlessly into any scenario I undertake. I didn't account for any other possibility. Turns out this frustration evaporated as I went walking around by myself in the city, really only to get lost so I have to find my way back. I continue to gain confidence in knowing where I am going. With all that on the back burner, I can expend all my energy on enjoying this wonderful city and all the adventures that lie literally around every corner.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Welcome to Dublin

Well, I have been in Dublin for 2 days already, although I just moved into my residence earlier today. Prior to that, I was staying at a hostel just north of the River Liffey. It had a great location, and I was a few minutes away from some of Dublin's greatest sights. It was a good introduction as I found my way around a bit, got a cell phone, and defeated my jet-lag. The following documents my time up until now.


Travel.

I'm pretty sure my eardrum ruptured on the plane. I think I am prone to ear-realated ills for whatever reason. Nance gets some nasty vertigo, (caused by an imbalance of internal fluids in one's ear which causes a sickening feeling of nausea and disorientation...like seasickness on steroids) and this also wouldn't be the first time my eardrum has "popped".

I was falling in and out of sleep on the plane for maybe an hour and thirty minutes, with my massive Skull-Candy headphones on, (they cut out ALL sound...glorious) leaning against the plane. I could feel how clogged my ears were when I finally took my headphones off.

As we started to descend, I frantically chewed gum hoping the pressure would release naturally. Instead, it built. I felt nauseous as though I were going to vom on the cheery old Irish guy who sat next to me. "Welcome to Dublin" he said as he noticed I was fixated on looking out the window onto the city below. I forced a smile out, but now I was sweating. The pain mounted, and I became fidgety, but there was no way out of this, even if there was I wouldn't care. I needed to get off this freakin plane. (There were 3 adorable, blonde, little, British boys sitting in front of me that spent the entirey of the flight jumping on the seats, playing peekaboo with me, or quoting "Goldmember" that they watched on the screen in front of them...Initially, I found them very entertaining and cute. They had tiny voices with British accents, and I fought the urge to ask them to act out 'Charlie Bit Me' for my own personal enjoyment. I thought their antics would die down. They didn't. Although I do give them credit for their stamina....)

Back to my personal hell. The plane is descending, and these kids still won't STFU. Now, I hate them. They were short enough to constantly move around, and seemed to enjoy the general awe of being in the air. I on the other hand could only imagine how I was acquiring Deep Vein Thrombosis with every passing minute. I felt like a calf doomed to be veal - unable to move, with people constantly trying to shove food down my throat. Seriously, how often do the flight attendents offer food? pretzels and a drink? another drink? dinner? more to drink? a light breakfast?

Well, we landed, I survived, (minus my ear drum which was damaged at best and ruptured at worse) and was completely exhausted. Yet despite my fatigue I was thrilled. I couldn't wait to sleep so I could wake up and explore.

Going through immigration was simple enough. The 'Charlie-Bit-Me' Family even let me cut them in line. That was nice of them, I thought...but why? Because I tolerated their children's incessant bullshit in silence? Whatever.

After the immigration guy told me he needed to take my picture, I got my answer. HOLY SHIT who the fuck was that HAGGARD looking woman staring back at me? Did the plane make me age 15 years? I looked like Amy Winehouse on a crack binge. If I ever see that picture of me again, I will get my hands on it and post it because it is that unbelievable. It makes my RU Fit Card look like a glamour shot. (The few of you who have seen THAT gem know the level of hideous I am talking about).

I was too tired to be embarrassed. Additionally, literally no one knew who I was in this city. I spent half a second concerned that if I met anyone famous in the next few hours I would be too embarrassed to approach them. This passing thought, however brief, was the indication to the small fragment of my still-functioning mind that I had become delusional.

I was thrilled that my cab driver was kind enough to carry all my luggage, since I packed everything but the kitchen sink. Literally I can't walk ten feet with my luggage, and surprisingly haven't needed to. (In retrospect, he probably took pity on my physical state, assuming the plane must have run me over a few times to make me look so...dreadful).

In my sleep deprived yet euphoric state, I made the mistake of chatting socc-FOOTBALL with my cab driver. I commented on United's huge victory against Chelsea as I glanced at the picture of Berbatov on the cover of his newspaper. He said he didn't take me for a football fan and then spouted off a slew of excellent swear-words. He was a Liverpool fan. I assume I'll be meeting a lof of Liverpool fans simply because of the proximity, I can very easily make a day-trip to L-Pool from here via ferry. Anyway, I couldn't understand this guy with his thick accent. I was exhausted and half-deaf at the moment, I couldn't hear anything in my left ear when I spoke.

I checked into my hostel at 7:30 am Dublin time, completely spent. I passed out cold for 5 hours. I ate breakfast when I woke up. This little hostel is situated directly below a main train line. I feel like James McAvoy in "Wanted". Every 8 minutes or so a train whooshes by so close that even after being here for half a day part of me feels it wil surge right through my window.

I wandered the streets, it was a pleasant day out. A bit of sun, no wind, Temperate.


City.

Dublin, it appears to me, is full of endearing paradoxes. Perhaps I have this perspective because I'm still such a stranger to it. The city itself is sprawling, yet totally walkable. There are no subways, which I am pleased about. I feel like despite their convienence, it would eliminate a bit of the personality of this truely ancient city. You need to know this city to a certain degree, in order to navigate it. Subways destroy that notion and make the city disjointed, impersonal, sectioned.

It's remarkable to me that cobblestone streets connect one modern building to another. This city has so much history layered on top of it. They isolate certain monuments to illustrate this exact point, (i.e. Dublin Castle, Book of Kells, etc). As intriguing as these sights are, I can't help but find them touristy. Of course, Dublin can and should cash-in on their ancient history (some of the sights are even free) What I would enjoy finding are more subtle examples of Dublin's history. The lesser-known history. I've yet to discover what I'm speaking of. I want my understanding of Dublin to expand beyond the recognizable nightlife, highlights from travel guides, etc. I have plenty of time here. I'm sure I can find my own personal piece/identity of Dublin.

Everyone looks like me. I blend in completely. As soon as I open my mouth, that's another story. "Are you Canadian?" this guy at my hostel asked me...What the fuck?...Well, I am..."slightly" Canadian, to be fair. Nance was born there. Anyway, the city itself is "diverse" in that it isn't COMPLETELY white, but just about everyone looks like me, for the most part. It's a bit eery, actually. Certainly in stark contrast to the streets of NYC where I am the minority.

Now.

I'm in Blackrock, at a cozy restaurant with Wi-Fi. United plays today but I have to leave before the match starts, unfortunately. I can't wait to watch a football game in a pub. =)

I moved in today, and met some of my floor-mates. I'm in what is known as the international dorm, so I was excited but not surprised to meet others from The Netherlands, France, and Spain, along with other Americans from Georgia and Cali. Not everyone is even moved in yet, I have only met a handful of people. I'm so excited for this all to begin.

My building itself is really old. It used be a convent. (insert joke about my juvenile behavior here). It has high ceilings, stained glass, even a dusty old organ tucked away behind one of the doors. I like it, it is certainly unlike any place I've ever lived. We all have singles, then share kitchens and bathrooms. I think it will be a perfect mix of privacy and interaction. I'm not going out tonight, I'm still tired and have orientation in the morning.

However, I anticipate my first night out will be tomorrow, and I am looking forward to it. Rumor has it that my liver, is not.