Kinsale and some observations about the Irish

Hi there! For this post I’m going to talk a little bit about Kinsale, which is an adorable coastal town about 45 minutes from Cork, and the rest of the time I am going to describe some of the silly things the Irish do (or don’t do).

Alison, Norah and I went to Kinsale this weekend, and the weather couldn’t have been better. We arrived by the local Bus Eirann around noon and spent the rest of the day exploring, going in and out of thrift shops and art galleries, getting Kinsale’s famous fish n’ chips, discovering fish n’ chips aren’t that good, and capped the day off with a hike to Charles Fort. There are a gazillion shades of green in Ireland, and most of them were displayed at Charles Fort, which was situated on a hill overlooking the bay. We met some Spanish au pairs who are also living in Cork who loved our names and accents (“You sound just like the movies!). When we got back to town we decided to catch the bus back and waited patiently where we were dropped off. When we saw the bus coming, we smiled and stared unexpectedly, our smiles only fading when the bus whooshed past us and stopped way down the street. And that’s the story behind the three girls flapping their arms and sprinting behind the Cork-bound 7 o’clock Bus Eirann. We caught up to the bus though and it turned out that he was going to turn around and come back for the people going to Cork, so we were fine. Overall it was the best weekend excursion we’ve had so far.

Now I’m going to completely switch gears and list some of the downright silly things I’ve noticed about Ireland and it’s crazy and wonderful people that I haven’t been able to slip in to other posts.

  1. Literally EVERYTHING infrastructurally is the opposite, causing everyone who isn’t Irish to look like a fool. I’m 99% sure this is intentional and meant for the amusement of the locals. Example: You want to walk to the store. You’re walking down the sidewalk, hugging the right side, which is how normal people do things. You see someone walking towards you. In America, this is not a problem. They pass you on your left, and you continue hugging the right. In Ireland, the person walking toward you is also hugging the right, which is his left, because NOTHING CAN BE SIMPLE. So you both move to the left, and then to the right again, and then no one knows what to do and you run into the street so that you can get past this fiasco and get hit by Bus Eirann. Next you make it to the store and you aim for the entrance door on the right. WRONG IT’S ON THE LEFT AND YOU CAN’T GET IN. Once in the store, you aim for the escalator. The one going up will be on the right, correct? NO! It’s on the left you nincompoop, and now you’ve tripped and been sucked into the escalator.
  2. The Irish are just quieter than the rest of us. Perhaps I’m in the same store with all its leftness and my friend Norah is excited about a pair of jeans she sees. In America, she’ll exclaim happily, “Ohmahgawd, look at these jeans!” and the rest of the store will ignore her because they are also busy finding treasures. In Ireland, Norah does the same thing, but the Irish stop and stare, because apparently department stores deserve the same silent reverence that the cathedrals do.
  3. The Irish are just quieter than the rest of us, except at night. You might find yourself out in Cork at 9:30pm on a Wednesday. Everything is as it should be, and you go to a pub to listen to some live music. When you come out at midnight, the world has been transformed to a ghoulish place. There are four girls crouched in an alley like gargoyles around a pizza, and on another corner a boy’s head dangles outside of a rickshaw on his way home. French fries and vomit are all over the sidewalk. It’s chaos, but there are no police.  Then, the next morning, like magic, there is no evidence of the pandemonium the night before. I’m pretty sure this happens every night.
  4. Everyone in Ireland is friendly and helpful except the reception staff of my apartment complex. As Mallory said, they must have gone on a search to find the worst people in all of Ireland and asked them to work at Vic Lodge. They would be laughable if they weren’t so scary; the backs of their shirts say in bold letters, “We’re here to help!” and then they turn around and their dour faces are the things of nightmares.
  5. They are obsessed with California. Their shirts, backpacks, decorations, etc. all say “California” with a surfboard or a palm tree or something on them.

But alas, the strangeness of some of the things I’ve seen here are all part of the Irish experience, and none of it takes away from my study abroad trip; nay, it makes it more memorable! I’m having a fabulous time here, and I can’t believe I’ve almost been here for a month! Hope everyone back in the States is doing well!

❤ Jackie

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Hello all! Sorry it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve posted, but I’m going to make it up tonight with an extra long one.

Let me start with our Ring of Kerry tour two weekends ago. Alison, Norah and I hopped on the Paddy Wagon, a big green tour bus with a smiling leprechaun on the back. The bus took us on a very, very curvy road on which I felt rather nauseous the whole hour-long drive to Killarney. The tour guide sang a traditional Irish tune about the Great Famine however, which was a good distraction. Once we made it to Killarney (vomit-free!) I felt immensely better and we got to tour the town, which is absolutely darling. It reminded me of Ashland but older and more Irish with fewer weirdos, as far as I could tell. We had an hour in Killarney, and then we got back on the Paddy Wagon to drive around the Ring of Kerry. The Ring of Kerry is basically a gorgeous drive with lots of viewing points onto the rugged coastal southern landscape, so we got lots of pictures, mostly thanks to Norah who has a nice camera. On one stop we got to hold a lamb, which was arguably the highlight of the trip, and on another we got to see the Wild Atlantic Way, a viewing point that was named the most beautiful place on earth by National Geographic a few years ago (the Irish are VERY proud of this). Another great spot was the Killarney National Park, which we saw on the way back from the Wild Atlantic Way. We got to go on a little hike to see a waterfall, and there was a bagpiper playing in the middle of the woods, which is about the most majestic thing I could’ve imagined. As we were getting close, a said to Norah, “I wonder if he takes requests. Like could I ask him to play ‘Amazing Grace’? I was joking, but apparently he heard me because as we passed he winked and started playing Amazing Grace on the bagpipes in the middle of the woods in front of a waterfall. It was awesome. We got back to Cork around 8pm. The next morning Alison and I went to mass (I say morning—it was actually noon) at a church near the dorm. I had dressed up, but no one else had, because apparently they had read the weather report. So I sloshed through puddles in heels while the rest of the congregation was in pants and raincoats. But now I know for next time! Alison and I are trying to go to a new church/chapel/cathedral every Sunday, because there are so many gorgeous ones in and around Cork. I didn’t get to church this Sunday though, which brings me to my next recap:

Oktoberfest. This weekend I met my friend Emily, who is studying in Florence, in Munich for the opening weekend of Oktoberfest. I flew into the Franz Josef Strauss international airport in Munich, and was feeling dandy. Every airport I’ve ever been to has free wifi, because it just makes sense, what with the number of people these days who skip the kiosks and just check into their flights online. Every airport, that is, except Franz Josef Strauss. “It’s fine, though,” I thought, “because I’ll just get a cab to the hostel and use the hostel’s wifi to let Emily know I’m there.” This was not to be the case. Here’s a travel tip: when you book a hostel, look up how far it is from the airport RIGHT THEN. I did not do this, so when the cab fare was up to 35 euros and we didn’t even seem to be in the city, I asked the cab driver, all casual-like, how far we were from the hostel. “Oh, 20 minutes or so,” he replied. “How much is that going to cost, do you think?” I asked, a little worried now. “75, 80 euro” I was not willing to pay this, even though I was in the middle of nowhere, Germany, so he drove me to the nearest U-Bahn. As I paid him and got out, he remembered something. “The last train leaves in 2 minutes or so. Goodnight!” and he drove off, leaving me in full-fledged panic mode. I ran to the dimly ticket kiosk and tried to read the microscopic german instructions, but as I was doing so the train roared in. I now faced a choice: run onto the train with no ticket, or be stranded at the station in the dark with no phone or internet. I got on the train, wracked with guilt and fear. At each stop, I was sure a ticket nazi was going to take me to a German jail. But alas, I was able to ask a nice English-speaking german how to get to the hostel. I got off at Marienplatz and onto another train (I paid a little more than I had to in order to ease my consious about the last train) and made it to Arnulfstrasse, where the hostel was. But now I realized that I didn’t know which way down the street to walk. I was able to ask a hotel clerk and get the right direction. After walking about 10 minutes and not seeing it, I started ugly-crying in the middle of the street, and was just composing myself when I stopped into another hotel to verify directions. The scary Deutsch receptionist scoffed at me when I asked for directions, because apparently it was only a block away at this point. Which of course I took extremely personally, and which sent me over the edge again. But alas, I saw the A&O Hostel sign gleaming in the distance, and felt a sense of joy probably akin to that of Lewis and Clark when they found the Pacific. The hostel was really nice, and I was able to meet up with Emily and YAY WIFI was able to let my parents know I was ok. So that was a valley, but the next day was a peak. We woke up around 9 and bought coffee and dirndls on our way to Oktoberfest. Oktoberfest is like a huge fair but with more beer and traditional Bavarian clothing. There was a parade, a bunch of rides. a huge cheer as an important person (the mayor?) opened the first keg, and enormous beer tents. First we watched the parade, and then we wandered around looking at the things for sale at the many stalls. We tried unsuccessfully to find a table in one of the beer tents, but people who had finagled a spot were never going to give it up, so we ended up having lunch in a small restaurant on the premises, which was nicer because we could actually hear ourselves think. Emily couldn’t convince me to go on any of the rides except the famous one with the chairs that spin in a circle. Around 4pm or so we decided to leave and see Marienplatz. We shopped for a bit and were able to see the famous clock, and had dinner at the Hofbrauhaus. The next day we walked around Munich, and I lost track of time a bit. I hopped a Lufthansa airport bus (something I would have known about earlier had I done any research at all) and made it to the airport 40 minutes before my boarding time, which is much less time than I usually give myself, but I got to the gate with 15 minutes to spare. Landing in Dublin was the first time Ireland has really felt like home to me. I prefer it immensely to Germany. It’s not that I didn’t have a good time there–we saw a lot of great landmarks—but the Irish people are just so friendly and willing to go out of their way to help. Anyway, sorry for this lengthy post, and I’ll be in touch next week! ❤ Jackie

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First Week of Classes

So I have now undergone a week of classes, and I’m feeling really great about it. Perhaps partly because three of my five classes don’t start until next week, but you know. I’m still killing it. From what I’ve seen so far, the Irish school system is much more relaxed than its American counterpart. Of the two classes I’ve had so far, one will have a midterm exam in the middle of the semester and one final paper, and the other will have a final paper that the entire grade rests upon. I can tell who the Americans are in each of my classes, because they’re the ones who show up to class 10 minutes early with their hands clasped over their notebooks expectantly. The Irish students and professors start trickling in on the hour or a few minutes past it. I thought that accents might be a barrier, but my professors have been perfectly understandable. What I have noticed though is that all of the Irish students take notes in pen. Their confidence is unnerving. Also unnerving: the reading lists here. The professors pass out two reading lists: a primary one (required) and a secondary one (recommended). Each list easily has fifteen riveting titles like The Politics of Ireland: 1798-1998. I’m not entirely sure how one goes about tackling the lists, but I’ll figure it out. A more fun fact is that no classes start before 10 am and most of mine don’t have starting times before noon, which means I don’t have to wake up to an alarm! I’ve also discovered two on-campus pubs. There may be more. For every coffee shop in Oregon there is a pub here.

I also went to Clubs and Societies Day, and signed up for Orienteering, which means I’ll be given a map with a few obscure points on it that I’m supposed to find around Cork and other parts of Ireland and take a picture of. I also signed up for sailing (“Do I have to have any experience?” “Nope.” “Great, sign me up”) and film. I can also go to different events even if I’m not a member, which is cool. Meetings will be held in pubs.

It started raining here last night for the first time since I’ve lived in Cork, but it’s supposed to stop tomorrow when Alison, Norah and I go to Killarney. I don’t know a lot about Killarney, but I think there are some quaint shops among imposing castles, so it should be pretty rad! That’s all for now, but I’ll let you know how I’m doing when the rest of my classes start up!

Cheers, (<—   I’m so Irish!)

Jackie

Jackie Goes To Cork: A Blog Detailing my Rants, Observations and Discoveries while I Study Abroad

Hello folks! I have never blogged before, so if you’re a hardcore blogger and see that I have made some sort of blog faux pas in the eyes of the blogging community, please find it in your heart to forgive me. I have been in Cork for 5 days now, and have seen and experienced so much already I’m not quite sure how to condense it, but I’m going to give it a shot.

I’ll start with my landing in Cork, September 1.

I breezed off the plane and through customs, feeling worldly and awesome, located my suitcase in an impressively short amount of time, and exchanged a bit of money at the Bank of Ireland counter to pay for a cab to my dorm. Which of course is when I started having to flashbacks to the movie I’d oh so unwisely watched on the plane from Baltimore to London a few hours before: that’s right, “Taken.” Because what better movie for a solo girl flying to Europe by herself to absorb on the way there, right? I mean, I’d never seen it! I didn’t consider the consequences. So I squared my shoulders, patted myself on the back for not being an idiot like the female subjects in the movie, and formulated a plan. I would catch a cab, but tell the taxi driver the name of a dorm I knew was near mine, instead of the name of my actual dorm. Brilliant! On the way to the dorm, I was able to talk to the cabbie, who proved to be a really friendly and helpful man. Our conversation went somewhat like this:

Him: Harb scablarb ergspa hooglie dubs?

Me: Sorry, what’s that?

Him:  HARB SCABLARB ERGSPA HOOGLIE DUBS? (Louder, but still jolly)

Me: *decides whether to take a stab at an answer or keep asking what he’s saying until I can make something out*

I tried both options, and both proved embarrassing. But by the time I got to the wrong dorm, I was able to pick out most of his words (turns out, he was speaking English!) and he dropped me off and all of my luggage off with a wave. Which was when I realized I had no idea which direction my actual dorm was. I chose a direction (the wrong one) and started off. A half hour later, having gone up and down the street twice, with my luggage and looking like a disgruntled and exhausted homeless person, I found my dorm (I’m not putting the name of it on the internet because that’s how you get taken). Check in was easy and I found my room without incidence. I put all my stuff down, curled on the bed, and went to sleep for a couple hours. Eventually, I was able to meet with my “flatmates” (doesn’t that sound European?).  Norah is also from Oregon State, and I had met her once before at our study abroad orientation. The other two girls, Mallory and Marie, are from the University of Massachusetts. All three are highly entertaining individuals and a fun group.

The rest of the week was filled with orientations and errands. Which brings me to a few observations I’ve made in the past few days:

A product that has the same name WILL NOT feel/look/taste/be the same as at home 99% of the time. Whether this is a good or bad thing differs from case to case.

Nutella is cheaper than peanut butter!

Notebooks are really expensive. You know how you can get 10 for a dollar at Target? NOT SO in Ireland. They cheapest I’ve seen are around 2 euros per notebook.

You haven’t really walked until your own two feet are your only mode of transportation. Even your comfiest shoes will give you blisters or callouses for the first few days if you’re walking 8+ miles a day in them.

Anyway, today (September 5) we went to the Blarney Castle. Everything was gorgeous. The gardens, the weather, the castle, the trees, WHICH HAVE LIL KNITTED SWEATERS, and even the dungeon were awesome. We hiked up really steep, slippery, terrifying stairs to get to the top of the castle where the stone is. Alison and Nora did it just fine, but when it was my turn, I sat down and stayed there, frozen. I couldn’t get my muscles to bend me over the edge to kiss the rock. And, so, alas, I have an excuse to come back someday! Yay! Then we walked around to see the beautiful scenery, although the waterfall that everyone else was taking pictures of was extremely unimpressive to us Oregon girls. It dribbled forelorenly into a greenish pond. Give us a Multnomah waterfall! But the foliage and the whole scene was really glorious (“It looks like Jurassic Park!” –Alison). Now I’m sitting on my bed, with my majestic view and unreliable wifi, marveling that I haven’t had a big breakdown yet. I’m having an awesome time, and I’m excited for what lays in store! When I get a chance I will get down to the post office and buy some stamps. School starts Monday, so I’ll let you all know how it goes! Until then, have a great week!

❤ Jackie