Sunday, February 22, 2009

Weekend Update


Sunday, Boring Sunday.


Well, it's Sunday, and even though I don't have Monday classes, I decided to dedicate some time today to a paper I have due next week for my Sport and Modern Society class, on the origins of the FA (Football Association). Rough, I know.

I have done minimal research on it, pulling a few quotes from one source but that's about it. I started reading my second source, only to realise that "The Playing Rules of Football and Hurling 1884-1905" is actually referring to Gaelic Football. FML. The GAA is HUGE here, and I wish I understood it better, so I did read up a bit. For any of you interested, below is a brief compilation of highlights from GAA football matches...it's wild, especially to someone who has never watched a match of it before. There's punting, kicking, dribbling basketball style, lateral passing, scoring through what we would term field goals, as well as normal soccer nets. I had a few WTF moments watching this...It's an intriguing sport to watch.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDwXzyZtKp0&feature=channel_page


"We shall not be moved!"

On Wednesday, we went to our favorite sports pub to watch the United match. Renee and I got there way early and snagged the best seats in the place, a sofa right next to the big projector. Ballin! Of course, as soon as the match starts, the projector starts spazzing out, flickering on and off, eventually having the equivalent of seizure. We were so pissed since we got there so early nabbing seats that only were in view of the grand projector, blind ot every other TV in the place. It actually started smoking as it fizzled into projector-heaven which was pretty funny, but suddenly our seats went to shit, and now we couldn't see anything. I was about to Bale-out on the device (WHAT THE FUCK IS IT WITH YOU? WHAT DO YOU NOT FUCKING UNDERSTAND? DO YOU WANT ME TO TRASH YOUR FUCKING LIGHTS?) Anyway, we ended up moving and sitting with the guys we had met a few weeks before. They remembered us by name, which kinda shocked me as I figured we were all pretty drunk last time.

United won (holla!) and Van Der Sar extended his time in net without conceding a single goal (over 1300 minutes!) Of course, Blackburn scored on us yesterday so that ruins that but Van Der Sar was resting for Tuesday's Champion's League match with Inter Milan. That should be good. I have a wager with my friend that United will win, I won't lie though, I'm a bit anxious at playing in San Siro for the first round...

Anyway, I guess the noteworthy part of Wednesday would be...absolutely nothing except that a drunken IDIOT standing behind me SMASHED his fist into my skull, so that was fun. I was drunk, but it still really hurt! Anto, one of the guys we were with, was the only one who saw but he burst into a fit of hard-core laughter which pissed me off but not very much. It was comical I guess.

Also, Rooney finally came back (after his injury) that match, and he scored with his first touch on the ball. GLORIOUS! But not glorious enough to justify same said idiot throwing his arms around me from behind and swallowing me in a massive-belligerent-beer-reeking bear-hug. That's what I get for getting a new Rooney jersey over here.


Drinking.

Some of you have told me that you expect more details about "crazy" nights I have had here, and that I don't talk enough about going out. Twist my arm.

Well, for starters, I need to curb my drinking habits on weekdays. It is really enticing to go out though, because the best deals for students are all on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. Once the weekend hits, prices go up, and Dublin transforms into an international-touristy shitshow. I enjoy going out on the weekdays much more.

The nearly non-existent emphasis I have placed upon my studies here has allotted me the luxury thus far of treating everyday except for Monday night like the weekend, if i so desire.

In fact, I have most certainly gotten the most drunk on Sundays and Tuesdays. My friend and I went on a 10 hour drinking adventure a few Sundays ago, from a United match kicking off at 4 pm, to another bar after the match, to "suddenly" being kicked out of a different bar at 2:30 in the morning. Holy Hangover!


Spring Break

My Spring Break extends from March 7-22. But in all honesty, I guess it extends from January 12 - May 28th. Be jealous.

From March 13-22, many people are coming to see me! Kathy flies in on the 13th, Nance & J a few days later, Soap is coming the weekend after St. Patties, and Jordan, Alyson's BF is visiting during St. Patties. I find it hilarious that her boyfriend is visiting me before she does, given that she is my best friend. Girl, I sound like a broken record but I know you read this; CALL ME...for the hundredth time, I can't get in touch with you!!! Luckily, I will be gracing lovely London town the following weekend, the 27-29th.


WHOOAAAAA, your sex is on fire!!!!!!!!!!!

Some of you have been asking me about the music scene over here, outside the traditional Irish music. I have compiled a list of songs that are popular over here, or that will always remind me of my time here.

Sex on Fire - Kings of Leon
Kids - MGMT

These 2 songs, by far, are the most popular and most often played out at bars and clubs, with the chorus (especially for Sex on Fire) being bellowed drunkenly at the top of everyone's lungs at around 2 in the morning. I think you all should give them a listen.
In addition, these songs get some play as well.

Don't Stop Me Now - Queen
Don't Look Back in Anger - Oasis
Use Somebody - Kings of Leon
Last Night - The Strokes
Crack the Shutters - Snow Patrol

I'm sure I will add to this short list, but this accounts for what I have (drunkenly) taken note of in my time here thus far, and what I can recall of the top of my head. Some old, some new, some unfamiliar. I like it.


Now.

I am going to try and watch a bit of the Oscars online now, although it will go on until 4 in the morning so I probably will call it quits well before that. Cheers!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Nicole & Dub-Dub, one month and going strong

Judgement Day

I have been in Dublin for just over a month now, so I had to officially register with Immigration here. The Immigration Office at the Garda makes the DMV look like a fucking carnival. It was a 7 hour endeavour just so the authorities could review my documents, get my fingerprints, and print me a card with yet another lovely mugshot-esque picture of me. I was allowed to leave and come back but I ended up sitting there for 3 hours, not knowing how fast they would call the numbers. I look loopy in the picture, probably because I was practically drooling on myself waiting to be summoned. It was like some warped purgatory, as me and the other foreigners sat there and waited...and waited...you get the idea.

Given that it is my 1 month anniversary of my relationship with the Emerald Isle, I have made a list of things I appreciate after being here for over a month now.

1.) Being able to navigate Dublin Bus. Meaning, being able to close my eyes for a few minutes and not freak out about spotting landmarks indicating it's time to get off. This also includes being able to sit backwards on the bus, being able to listen to my iPod on the bus, and being able to observe other passengers on the bus. For example, a few days ago I hear that familiar buzz of an iPod turned up way too loud. My rule for iPods on public transportation is that if I'm hearing it and can decipher the song, you are probably going deaf. If I were fixated on not missing my stop, I would have missed the fact that an old lady sitting near me with headphones on was blaring Akon "Right now" into her skull at obnoxious and hazardous volumes..... na na na na, indeed. This was more amusing than you might think.
Because I have a thirst for adventure, an expensive weekly student bus pass, and apparently way too much time on my hands, sometimes I get on random buses. However, the thrill factor in this is quite limited since it is "Dublin" bus, just about all routes lead in or around somewhere of vague familiarity. It is nice taking different routes into Dublin though. I like seeing new neighbourhoods, churches, people, etc. It's a refreshing alternative to the monotony of the same bus routes everyday.

2.) Being able to jaywalk in Dublin, whilst listening to iPod... VICTORY! Once again, this sounds simple. However, with cars running in the opposite direction of what I'm used to, combined with a multitude of neon-clad Lance wannabes chugging along on the periphery of all the lanes, and Evil Kinnevals scooting between cars along the dotted lines, a NY attitude about walking can be extremely hazardous. I enjoy a good jaywalk.

3.) Hair and Fashion. Both guys & girls have such edgy haircuts here, I really love it. Crazy colors and so many shades of red...I can't get enough of it. I love seeing guys on the street that have fierce hair styles and the clothes to match...LOVE IT. Also, at uni, people dress up EVERYDAY. It's a good change for me, as my favourite outfit for class back at the Rut is sweats & sweats. I have YET to wear sweatpants outside my residence. (you heard correctly reen!) I really love it, the fashion here, the hair...I may sacrifice one of my travel plans to dye my hair something fierce but I am still in limbo about that.

4.) Food. Well, everyone warned me about the shitty Dublin food but I really haven't had anything to complain about. Maybe that's because drinking sucks up so much of my funds here that I only eat what I'm used to or don't try anything complex. I still can't cook, but I am working on it. For instance, instead of pre-cooked whole-wheat pasta in a bag, (glorious) I actually boiled my own last night. WILD. Sometimes, I even pour my cereal into a bowl instead of shoving handfuls into my mouth.

5.) Music. It is everywhere. The cobblestone streets are freckled with diverse musicians, playing guitars, bag-pipes, weird horns that I don't know the names of, drums, accordions. It's excellent. They play all hours of the day as far as I know. My favourite encounter was last Friday, when I was on Grafton Street on a way to a pub I had heard good things about. Even though it was about 9 and all the stores on Grafton were closed (except for some of the food places) this band was set up in the middle of the street and the crowd was perfect: about 25 people. Some dancing, some clapping, some clearly intoxicated, it was fabulous.

I’m sure this list will lengthen but that’s all I’ve got for now. Next chapter.

"Your tights are so BOLD!"

I love wearing different colour tights. I have purple, blue, grey, many shades of black (in terms of how opaque they are), and most notoriously, my pink leggings that have reaked havoc all over the streets of New Brunz, and now Dublin…holla.

I met a drag queen on the streets of Dublin last Friday. I was off to meet some friends earlier on in the night before going out, and a man stopped me on O'Connell St. and goes:
"Excuse me, where did you get those leggings? I love the shade, I'm into drag." he says this all pretty quickly, and my first inclination is that I (obviously) think he's going to mug me, playing the old "I'm a drag queen" card to throw me off guard. I swap my clutch into my opposite hand and try to pick up any signs of potential creepers around me.

I had never met a drag queen. I have seen one, in a club, but I guess obviously they don't dress like that all the time. Anyway, this guy didn't look like a drag queen. I was much taller than him, for one. Although I guess drag queens wear heels. He was carrying bags in both his hands; he would have to drop them to grab anything of mine, so I put my guard down enough to actually turn to him.

It wasn't until I awkwardly started responding to him that I realized he was for real. He pulled up his jeans to reveal dark semi-opaque black tights covering his ankle. I literally talked to him for 5 minutes, but he was creeping me out...we had now crossed the Liffey and were turning off of O'Connell. I started to feel like he was following me and making the same turns as me...Then I remembered how paranoid I am and thought hey, maybe this is just a normal drag queen looking for some quality leggings.

Once I actually turned to face him I stopped walking (what if he followed me to the bar I was headed? No thank you!) He wouldn't stop talking, was asking me how he could order my leggings, what other colours Express had to offer, the thread count of them, what other colours do I wear, how do they keep me warm, where am I from in the states, etc. Obviously I gave him the name of my alter-ego (Rachel) to which he said "Ahh that's very American! Very pretty!" His name was Eamonn.

Well, it is Dublin so after 5 minutes of being outside it started to drizzle and now I was pissed off that this rambling drag queen was going to cause me to ruin my hair. We parted ways after I rudely interjected into his monologue but not before he slipped a piece of paper in my hand, apparently giving me directions to the best leggings and body wear shop in Dublin. As soon as he gave it to me, I realized it would be an excellent souvenir to show my friends as proof of my wacky encounter. I still have it and being that I think I ripped my leggings open on the sharp edge of the table that night (or maybe I was just drunk?) I might check out that store.


Sangria Kiss Party xoxo

The Spanish people I live with were kind enough to organize a huge party last Saturday (Valentine’s Day) in our residence hall. I’ve put pictures up via la face, (miss you Gill!) and I will assure you that it was a total shitshow. In order to get any sangria you had to bring someone up to the table with you and kiss them. It was great fun, and we all got pretty pissed.

Unfortunately, the housing office doesn’t share the same sentiment. We all received a very stern email regarding our shenanigans. They are now reviewing the video cameras in the residence in an attempt to figure out who cracked one of the windows of one of the main doors. Of course, they will have to fast forward through the drunken limbo contest and other activities. Additionally, broken glass littered the floors, and all the counters and tables are sticky with sangria. They are also investigating into who decided to play with the fire extinguishers. Personally, I’m glad people are taking it upon themselves to practice with the extinguishers, because in the event of a fire I would prefer if there was some veteran fire fighter among us, not some rookie reaching for the thing for the first time. Perhaps I will forward my thoughts onto Shirley, the accommodations manager.

Now.

Although I have decided it would be more honest for me to tell people that I am indeed on holiday when they ask me why I am in Dublin, I can assure you that I am currently in the computer lab at UCD between classes. Hard to believe, I know. Here’s proof: € holla £ € € £ £ £ £ €€€ € € € £ £ love these euro keyboards. They are bit smaller than those in the states but that’s no surprise. Some of the keys are moved too so I feel a bit stupid searching for keys like @ and #. Oh well.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Sheep shit, bogs, creepers & the superbowl



Hey creepers, leave those kids alone


Rutgers planned an excursion to Galway last weekend for all the Study Abroad kids in Ireland and the UK. We were told to take a train to Galway, and that's about all I read into the itinerary, although it went on for pages about all the activities planned for the weekend. I figured I would just go with the flow and be that much more surprised. Hah. It turns out when we got there we got on another bus and drove for an hour and a half into West-Bumble-Fuck, Ireland. By this time it was dark, and wherever we were going had ZERO street lights. We bounced around in the van (a Mercedes from the 80s - HOLLA Alyson) as the driver swerved in and around, up and down the mountains and rolling hills. Of course the scenery is all an assumption as it was literally pitch black outside. I felt like I was on Skull Mountain....for 90 minutes, although certainly not going as fast, and without the waterfalls and creepy-neon tribal imagery. Helloooo nausea. I shut my eyes and tried to keep my lunch down. Luckily, apart from stuffing my face with a muffin from Centra, I hadn't really eaten since my typical thrilling breakfast of toast and toast that morning.

Speaking of Centra, let's rewind to before we got on the bus. We were waiting in a pub for some other students who had missed the train and were arriving late. Sarah and I went to Centra next door to get some food and I needed to top off my cell phone. Anyway, the Centra has a very wide opening, no doors, clearly catering to the mass of people coming from the train station with all their luggage. I notice people lurking around near the entrance like creepers but who am I to judge? I top off my phone and wait around for Sarah, who's in the back of the line. I meandered around near the entrance and scanned the newspaper headlines...Nothing extraordinary, a big car accident, more on Obama... I was in a good mood, finally being off the train. I was probably humming to myself as I walked around in circles waiting for Sarah. I then caught myself being more conscious of my movements, as though someone were watching me...Or more than one person, I felt oddly as though on display.

I spotted him out of the corner of my eye immediately. An old creepy man, dressed all in black, was staring at me as I ate my muffin and walked around. There were other suspicious characters but this old guy was by far the creepiest. Whatever, a creeper of the older generation, not a rare find. However, it was of my past experience that these old creepers could be the worst of the lot - they are unabashed about touching you or saying creepy things into your ear with their creepy ancient breath in your face...like they get a free pass for being old as fuck. Back to the present situation.

I'm reading about Obama, when suddenly the old creeper is literally IN MY FACE. (How did he move so soundlessly?) He whispers creepily and ominously into my face with his old creeper breath and all I could decipher through his mumbling was ".....be careful....be careful." I wish I could have watched my facial expressions on instant replay. As a reflex I retreated from the old man, and into a younger guy a few placed behind me, whom also appeared to be glancing at the newspapers.

Now, on a side note, I have watched too many seasons of 24 to be anywhere near a laid-back person when it comes to traveling or being by myself, especially when out of the country. I am extremely paranoid, and although at times spontaneous and seemingly carefree, when it comes down to it I am a psycho, and think that everyone is going to mug me. This has served me well thus far. Although I must seem very aloof to strangers talking to me when I'm alone, I also have never been mugged, robbed, or pick-pocketed. Instantly my senses were heightened and I clutched my purse, pivoting quickly away from the two strangers I was sandwiched between. The old creeper walked out of the store without another word or glance in my direction. Wtf was that? I turned quickly back to the younger man, whom was looking rather awkward now. Still he was staring at the headlines, but as I watched him he appeared to be glancing a little too hard at them, eyes moving too quickly, while also arching his head as though looking past them. He leaned into me, and I backpedaled instinctively. The young guy left the store abruptly and without purchasing anything. Another creeper I had noticed on my way in followed in suit as soon as he left. I literally spent the next minute or so pivoting around the center of the store, really freakin confused.

Now clearly this entire interaction had me startled, but it also got me thinking: Was the old man looking out for me? Was the real creeper the young guy?

Details I had filed into my subconscious suddenly came to the forefront. It was interesting to me that I noted in my mind how when I topped off my phone, I asked for 20 dollars of O2, as a reflex, instead of Euro. Then the cashier was friendly and asked me where I was from. After our brief exchange I waited for Sarah, but even in the back of my mind I had realized I made myself a target for anyone in that store whom wanted an easy target to steal shit from: Dumb American Girl!

Needless to say I was relieved to get the hell out of there and back to the pub. Despite the immense creepiness of the old guy, it was probably the younger one whom was trying to get near my purse. I will never know.

I know I went way into detail on that story, but I am constantly fearful of being mugged or having something stolen from me. It happens so often here, to the people I live with. Cellphones, wallets, money, honestly every weekend someone gets something taken here..Normally in a crowded bar in Temple Bar, sometimes on a bus.

Back to the bus. As we bumble along the roads in the dark, we all start to make jokes about where the hell we are going. We decided we were either going to be abducted by banshees or we were being punk'd. Images of the old creeper swam in my head as I battled with my will and my stomach to rid myself of nausea.

Holy shit we've reached civilization! We pull into a parking lot for the Carna Bay Hotel, and stumble wearily inside.


Carna

The rest of the weekend can be expressed in great detail, but I will resist in doing so. It is truly something you have to experience for yourself and thus recounting "we went to A, then drove to B, then watched C" will not accurately articulate how breathtaking and evoking this weekend was. I will try my best, in a few words.

At the Hotel, we ate delicious food. It was glorious to be off the bus, and into a warm and cozy living room. The lighting was warm, the room decorated, an alcove for a small stage in the middle of the room, a wooden dance floor as well. We were then treated to some local talent. Young kids aging from what I would estimate ages 8-16 played instruments like flutes, an accordion, the guitar. They were so good. I have a video of it.

It was traditional music, truly authentic, played by these kids of this small traditional town. They all spoke English and Gaelic, and as we would learn later in just about all we saw, this town was intent upon carrying on traditions, upon preserving language and culture by passing it all on to their children.

I felt oddly at home here, although I guess it was hard not to. The room and lighting was warm, the hospitality of the hotel was unprecedented, and the entertainment was for our exposure and enjoyment. I took it all in, as much as I could. I found myself getting sucked in, lost in the music. It felt very familiar, comfortable in me. It was a feeling I can't really find words for. All I can say is that I could imagine myself, hundreds of years ago, enjoying all of this. Being home here, singing with these people, and dancing. It was the most connected I've felt to my ancestry. On both sides of my family, I have Irish roots that have since been lost. I know the towns my mysterious family are from, but nothing more. It bothers me more now, seeing first hand what I have been missing, what is a part of me but what I will always be out of touch with.

The night was excellent, my favorite experience of the weekend. All night the locals sang, danced, and played for us. Each person showcasing their talents, openly. If I were to have grow up musically in this environment I doubt I would be as shy about singing in front of people. It was a warm and caring environment and I could go on about nuances of it for ages but I think anyone by now would get the jist of it.


Hiking through History

Saturday begins with a full Irish breakfast from Sally, our adorable B&B host. I ate just about everything, but I'm not used to that much meat in the morning. (TWSS!) And unknowingly I ate "black pudding" which I'm told is essentially pig's blood. These images turned my stomach...welcome back nausea!! I missed you. I shut my eyes for the duration of the bus ride as we took another bumpy journey to some ancient hills with Michael Gibbons, our extremely knowledgeable if not long-winded tour guide. Exploring around where he took us was absolutely fascinating. Although there was sheep shit EVERYWHERE, that Carla so accurately referred to as being way too identical to chocolate dippin dots. It was swampy and unpleasant at times, but all the while, worth it. We saw an old graveyard, which was eerie. Most of all though, while we were stopped listening to Michael, he informed us that we were all standing on top of an old tomb. THAT was really fascinating and weird. I felt like we were intruding, but also tried not to imagine the dead bodies only meters below me.


Bogs.

Bogs in Western Ireland are just like strip malls and guidos in New Jersey: inescapable. This is hardly a surprise given the immense rainfall. You can build roads over them, and that is part of the reason the roads are so bumpy. Bogs can be as dangerous as quicksand, we were told. People have fallen into them and drowned. People have been punished in the olden days by being tied and submerged into them, drowning them. Some of these bodies still remain. Real-life Inferi! Creepy.

The best part of hiking was what took us about an hour to reach. We were on top of a hill overlooking old fields, a lake, and the vast mountains in the distance that seemed to span into eternity. Like I said, it's hard to put into words the feeling of being up there. As though you are experiencing history. We were looking down on a lake that Oscar Wilde used to sit at and write during his early life. Very cool stuff.

A quick overview of the rest of the trip: Dinner again at the hotel, brief bus ride, Dance Competition at Rus Moc of the locals, all ages. I do have a video of my favorite dancer, Einstein Jr. as we named him:


After the dance, we went to a local pub, and were gawked at by the regulars and I felt like a monkey in a zoo.


Sunday

Lecture on traditional fishing boats where I fought sleep for an hour and a half trying to stay awake. That's the worst, falling in and out of sleep. He was interesting and passionate but I was exhausted.

Train ride back. I pass out.

One great thing about Dublin and Ireland in general is the attitude toward alcohol. It is available for purchase and (I would argue) encouraged in many public places including trains and cinemas. Anyway, we sat near a jolly group of middle aged men whom were cracking beers and talking to us, though I was passed out for most of this.

They did alert me that United played the day before. I got the day wrong. Being cut off from civilization in Carna, I never got to go online or check the newspapers or catch it on TV. At least we won.

Back to Dublin, back to Blackrock. I hoped to nap, but as usual with something to look forward to I was unable to fall asleep. I got ready for the Superbowl, which kicked off at 11 here. We went to a night club, Q Bar, after being turned away from Wool's Shed, which was at full capacity. This was where the rest of the Blackrockers had gone, but once in Q Bar it was freakin sweet! It had the game on all the TVs and a huge projector, whilst having the advantage of being a banging nightclub only a few feet below. It was fun, we watched, drank, danced during commercials, then ran back up to watch the game and half-time show (GO BRUCE!) By the fourth quarter, we were exhausted and it was past 2 in the morning. Took a cab home and passed out.


Sleep.

This whole week was a waste. I don't have Monday classes, I slept through all but 1 of my 5 classes on Tuesday, making an appearance at my latest class where they actually take attendance. Wednesday I have one class then I wandered around Dublin all day. Today, I declared my own snow day after waking up and noon and missing my early class anyway. I don't know what my deal is, but I have been sleeping like it's going out of style. This week I attended 2 classes, total. My professor canceled my one class I had Friday. Excellent. I need to make sure I am not lulled into a false sense of security with the laid-back nature of my classes, as this will surely bite me in the ass come exam time.


Snow.

The only example I can compare the past week to would be from my freshman year at the Rut, when the nasty Raritan flooded, spilling it's contaminated juices all over Rte 18. No class for two days....HELL YES! <-- Take this "hell yes" and multiply it by 11. That is the enthusiasm and zeal felt all over this town when it snowed, and snowed, and kept snowing. All in all, maybe it was 2 inches, MAX. It kept melting then snowing etc etc, but even that is so rare it had people going crazy. Although I missed being on campus for most of this (ZzZzZz) I heard stories that kids had a massive snowball fight at my school, 50 people or so. Total chaos, and anyone walking around was fair game. Also, in some classrooms, the door opened, a snowball was launched to the lecture stage, then nothing more. I was coming out of a shopping center and some little twerp threw a snowball at me, totally unprovoked. Jerk.


Now.


I am staying in tonight, even though it's Saturday. Tomorrow, I'm watching the United game at 4. Unless I got the day wrong again. I am starting to make plans for Spring Break, and I'm hoping to go to Prague and Amsterdam, along with London and Manchester (hopefully to see a game at Old Trafford).