Tuesday, January 29, 2008

first trad session

Yesterday our Italian roommate came back from Italy and brought back some authentic mozzarella and prosciutto. She had a lot left over so Kym and I made what may have been the best lunch I've had yet since being in Ireland. Ironically, this meal had nothing to do with Ireland whatsoever but oh well. We cut up tomatoes and sliced up a mozzarella ball and then cut strips of prosciutto over it. I had to take a picture of it in order to remember how good it was and to remind myself that I needed to go to Italy at some point to eat more of what seems to be the best food ever.

Tonight we met up with a friend at a pub in the center of the city to listen to a trad session (traditional music session). This was the first one I've been to so I have no idea what to compare it to, but the scene at the pub was really chill and fun. There was this bike mounted up on the wall on one side, and then the entire pub was covered with pictures of famous singers, players, and random stuff I didn't recognize. I took a video clip especially for Laura and Dad since I know this is where you'd be if you were here...

Monday, January 28, 2008

RAG week

Note: This blog entry is mostly just going to be pictures. I'm including a lot of excess commentary only because I don't want to just throw a bunch of pictures up. If a closer look to a specific picture is desired, just click on it and it will enlarge.

This last week was RAG week. It stands for I think 'raise and give' as in give/raise money for charities, but mostly it was just a glorified party week at UCC. No one went to their classes (except of course being the excellent student I am, I went to mine... and then got annoyed by like wednesday that no one else was there so then I finally gave in). Along with poor class attendance, RAG week was an opportunity for all the students to hang out at the on-campus pubs and listen/dance to the daily DJ competitions, and then go out at night to the daily events held around town that were hosted by the students' union. I never made it to the campus pub during the weekday afternoons because the lines (no one calls them 'lines' here- everyone says 'queues') outside were pretty hardcore and I never got motivated enough to stand outside in the rain for an hour to get in. We went out a lot at night though to pubs, which were also whoa crowded, and then on Thursday we went out to the final event held for RAG week which was a costume ball at Cork's City Hall. This band called 'Future Kings of Spain' played and they were pretty good, but they were a little screamo. My roommates and I dressed up- Kym was a pirate and Johnny was a German soccer player. I just wore a dress because I didn't have any costumes lying around my apartment and I didn't really want to go buy one. It was a good night though.

Sunday we went hiking again and it was beautiful. We went to a place called Mahon Falls (I think) but the waterfall was just at the beginning. After about 15 minutes of climbing up right next to the waterfall, we passed it and then it just became another mountain hike. Except this time the weather was completely perfect. Not only was it not raining but it was also very sunny with an incredible blue sky. The hike itself was kind of hard, as usual, only because it was another mountain and kind of muddy again. Only this time it wasn't like bog-mud-water, so it didn't seem so bad. We ate lunch at this overhang cliff, which also had a really nice view. Actually I'm not going to lie. The entire hike had good views.

Monday, January 21, 2008

the bog

bog [bog, bawg] –noun
1.wet, spongy ground with soil composed mainly of decayed vegetable matter.

Bog of Death [uphill and downhill] -noun
1. Sunday's hike.

I have found that the easiest (though very cliché) way to begin a speech, paper, toast, etc. about something that really has no easy beginning is to just Webster (or in this case, dictionary.com) it. There really is no easy way to describe Sunday's hike. It was either one of the best or worst times I've ever had hiking. At about 11:30 AM Sunday afternoon, when we had stopped after about 2 hours of hiking for a lunch break by this large rock (trying to somehow shield ourselves from the downpour of mist), and when I found out that we only hiked about 1/3 of the total distance, I would have easily chosen it as one of the worst times hiking. About an hour later, completely soaked due to the constant mist and steady faceplants and backslides down the muddy slopes of the Bog of Death, I looked over at my roommate Kym who was hiking with me. I must have looked completely miserable because she started laughing, which caused me to start laughing too and I realized that I still had like 2 more hours to go and I might as well just start having fun. So the rest of the hike wasn't actually too bad and then that night when I thought back on it I realized that it might have been one of the hardest hikes I've been on but that I definitely wanted to go back this Sunday for another one.

So what made the hike so hard? The fact that it was raining the entire time, therefore causing the bog we were hiking through to turn into a muddy, wet mountain, and therefore covering the entire mountain in a heavy mist so you had no idea what was more than about 20 feet in front of you. Kym, Johnny (2 of my roommates) and I were in a group of about 6 people. One of which was the group leader, equipped with a map and a compass. I have never been hiking before where there was no trail. At all. We just climbed up mountains (sometimes with all fours) and across mountains and down mountains, following after a guy with a compass, hoping he knew where he was going. All along the way, we were trying to not faceplant into bog water, grass, mud, thorns, and sheep poop. Except we all fell. A lot. Especially this one guy who didn't have on the right boots and tore his hiking pants completely open within like 1 hour of hiking, so he had to finish the last 4/5 hours of the hike with mostly just his boxers and one leg of a hiking pant. Johnny was wearing just his Sambas since he didn't have hiking boots here, so he too was having a hard time not falling when we were climbing down the Muddy Bog Mountain. It also didn't help anything that every hundred feet or so we'd come across a sheep skeleton or partial skeleton from an unlucky (or lucky depending on your view of the hike) sheep that died while on the mountain. Once we passed by this really deep boggy spot that would probably be over my head if I stepped into it and we saw this dead sheep floating inside down below. It'd probably been there for several years, preserved indefinitely inside the bog. At one spot in particular, at the top of the highest mountain, sheep skulls were everywhere. It kind of felt like the Elephant Graveyard in the Lion King. Only with sheep. By the time we finished the hike (I think in total it was about 14 kilometers?) I was so happy to be back on the bus, even though we all smelled kind of boggish.
Despite the whoa uncomfortableness of the hike, looking back it actually was a lot of fun. We had a really funny group who kept the moral high. Our group leader was Mr. Optimism and kept chatting away about how we, for example, only had 2 mountains or so left to hike. Also, the guy who ripped his pants open was really funny as well and kept cracking jokes the whole time. So, like I said earlier, I ended up having a good time and I am planning on going back next week.


Saturday was a big day too for rugby. Munster, the rugby team that Cork is affiliated with, had a big game against the London Wasps. We spent the entire day at the pub, first watching a big soccer game with Manchester United winning, and then watching the Munster game (Munster won). At the end of the ruby game, still not really having any idea how rugby was played, I came to 3 conclusions...

1. the ball can be kicked forward, but has to be tossed sideways or backwards
2. rugby players are the largest, most muscular people I've ever seen in my entire life
3. rugby fans are intense.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

shepherd's pie

For the past few days the weather here has been so nice. I know that me saying this will mean that it will pour tomorrow but honestly the weather here right now is perfect. It's cold and you need a scarf and jacket, but its perfect weather to walk around in. I went shopping yesterday to celebrate the nice weather and bought a pair of black boots with heels and a really nice wool coat, both of which were whoa on sale and I ended up getting them both really cheap. ish. I mean, it is Ireland and the euro-dollar conversion is a bit steep. But whatev.

The other night a group of us got together to go out to our favorite pub, which is a few blocks down from our house. I love the pub scene here. Everyone is really friendly and chill and every once in a while you end up at a pub where live music is being played. I think next week sometime I'm going to go hunt down a live session.

Last night my roommate and I went to this fitness class offered at the gym. It was pretty fun but mostly it just involved jumping around awkwardly to sweet 80s dance music. What was really awkward, though, was that directly on the other side of our huge wall-sized window was the rugby team practicing outside. So while it was fun to watch the rugby team practice, I'm sure they were more amused by watching a huge group of girls making a fool out of ourselves in time to rhythmic dance tunes.

Today for lunch my roommate and I went to a nearby pub that serves homemade food for pretty cheap. I got Shepherd's pie, which I'm pretty sure is a traditional Ireland/England/UK dish. I'm kind of in love with it right now. Apparently it's like minced meat inside? I have no idea what that means or what it was, but it was ground/corned beefish? No idea but it was so good. I went and googled an Irish food website and got a recipe that I thought sounded like the one I ate and I'm putting it below. When I come home I think I'll cook it and see if it tastes right but the recipe looks pretty good so I'm guessing it's probably pretty close.

1lb Minced Lamb or Beef
1-1½lb Mashed Potatoes
½ pint Stock
1 Onion
1 Large Carrot (Optional)
2oz Cheddar Cheese (Optional)
Salt and Black Pepper

Pre-heat oven to 180°C: 350°F: Gas 4.
Finely chop the onion and dice the carrot, if used.
Fry minced meat until lightly coloured and remove from the pan and drain well.
Add the onion and carrot, cooking gently until the onion is transparent and season to taste.
Return the meat, add the stock.
Add a little cornflour mixed with a few drops of water, stirring well.
Bring to the boil and stir until thickened.
Transfer the mixture into a casserole dish.
Cover the mixture with an even layer of mashed potato.
Cover and bake for 30 - 40 minutes.
Uncover and sprinkle with grated cheese and bake for a further 15 minutes.
Alternatively, bake for 30 - 60 minutes, remove from the oven and sprinkle with grated cheese and place under a very hot grill.

Serves: 4-6

Tonight I'm going rock/wall climbing at the campus gym with the Mountaineering club. Apparently this Sunday we're going hiking somewhere with waterfalls so as long as I can get myself out of bed at 730 I'll go and take probably take way too many pictures (weather permitting).

Sunday, January 13, 2008

and classes begin

Well there is really not that much to update. We've been going out to different bars and pubs- one had a live band that played cover songs like Green Day and Snow Patrol and they were really good and friendly and Madison and I talked to them a little bit before the show. Then an hour and a half later the pub/live concert venue turned into a dance club and we danced to songs ranging from 'Build Me Up Buttercup' (is that even the title) to 'Gimme More' by Britney Spears. Apparently she has taken over the entire world.
I've been getting to know my roommates more and they all are really cool. Since it rains all the time here we've been having movie nights every few nights since we can't really afford to go out every night. The other night we made scones (right) and watched Wedding Crashers upstairs in room 7, which is pretty much our party room. And then last night we all made dinner and then watched the Notebook. Friday night we went to another club which was called the Qube- where all the international students go on Friday nights for a free pint and music. One of my roommates who is German taught us their version of 'quarters' which is different than the American one (left). We spent about an hour trying to toss quarters into cups before we left for the Qube, which meant that we were late and didn't get the free pint but we still had a really fun time.

So as far as classes go- here are the ones I'm taking as of right now...
1. Women in Early Modern Europe- taught by this nice woman and the class is full of girls (obviously) and then a few kind of creepy guys who are most likely taking the class because they assumed they would have a good guy/girl ratio. Kind of like why I was an engineer at one point. But not as creepy.
2. Human Nutrition in the Developing World- taught by this guy who looks like a 50 year old version of Albert Einstein and who hasn't changed his outfit all week. Other than that, though, he seems really smart and he's very interesting so that class should be pretty good.
3. Nutrition and Toxicology- taught by Albert also
4. Introduction to Irish Traditional Music- we spent the first class just listening to different types of fiddles, but all the songs were really good and I think this one will be one of my favorite classes. Our essays in that class have to come from experiences going to live concerts/bands around the area and apparently this is the season for music festivals.
5. Introduction to Irish History- not much to be said for this one.
6. Contemporary International Issues- may or may not take this because the guy who teaches it is kind of intense/bordering crazy. Its either this one or this other class taught by this old man who just reads out of a textbook he wrote for the 2 hours. Both sound equally thrilling so it's really just going to be a matter of closing my eyes and picking one.

I'm planning on joining the Mountaineering club here which meets every Sunday to go on hikes around Ireland. I was going to go today but we woke up at like 7 and it was pouring so we vetoed this plan. They also meet on Wednesdays to go rock climbing at the campus gym and then to the pub afterward. I'm also thinking about joining Amnesty International but it conflicts with one of my classes so we'll see.

I can't believe I've been here over a week. I'm kind of getting used to living here and its starting to feel like home already.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

kissing the blarney stone

So this morning my plan was to wake up and walk to the market and buy some fresh food for dinner tonight. But when I woke up this morning it was raining (again) so instead I decided to cancel said plans and go back to sleep. Therefore it will probably be eggs and bread yet again. One of these days I will buy an umbrella that works. Or just get used to the idea that it rains all the time.
Yesterday, on the other hand, was really sunny and nice so we decided to go to the Blarney Castle, which was about 10/15 minutes away by bus. The Blarney Castle was pretty amazing. We couldn't believe how green everything was. Everyone always says that Ireland is green, but you can't really get a sense of it until you see it. I think the fact that it was really sunny helped, but we all went camera happy.
Quick history fact: "Queen Elizabeth I is credited with introducing the word 'blarney' to the English language. Her emissary, Sir George Carew, was charged with persuading Cormac Teige McCarthy to abandon his ancient rights during negotiations of the takeover of the Blarney Castle. But every time that Carew tried, he was met with long and eloquent protestations of loyalty and honeyed flattery of the queen- but also with no agreement. In frustration, Elizabeth I exclaimed, 'This is all Blarney. What he says he never means.' And a new word was born."
-a post outside the Blarney castle and, of course, Wikipedia

According to the legend, kissing the Blarney Stone grants the gift of eloquence. For those who perhaps don't buy this story only need to read this plaque posted inside the castle-->
(Rather than typing the whole thing out, if you click on the image, it enlarges) Actually the only reason I took a picture of Winston was because that might be the creepiest drawing of him I've ever seen but it does serve as pretty good proof of the stone's effectiveness. In order to kiss the Blarney stone, you had to climb up this really high, winding staircase that seemed to be built for a small child. Once at the top, we all stood in line for our turn at the stone. Luckily this guy was there who was from Blarney and he told us how far to bend backwards in order to kiss it since the old man that held us in place while we leaned back didn't really seem to care one way or another. Then again, if I had his job I probably wouldn't either.

Me kissing the stone:

Friday, January 4, 2008

orientation and rain

So it rained today and my jeans got completely soaked. As if on the way to class I spotted a nearby pond and took a quick swim, got out, and then proceeded to carry on with my day. Halfway through the afternoon I just gave up on the idea of an umbrella and just accepted the fact that my pants were now permanently adhered to my legs.

Last night Madison (another NCSU exchange student) and I went to a pub for the first time. We picked one that was close to my house and it turned out to be a lot of fun. We made friends with the bartenders and ended up getting a free drink on the house which was pretty sweet. I had my first official Guinness of Ireland, which I was not expecting to be good at all because I have tried the ones back home and its like drinking tar. Or tar flavored syrup. Turns out, though, that Guinness in Ireland is whoa different and was actually really good. Who knew. I also met 2 more roommates who happened to be at the same pub that night- a couple that will be living in the upstairs room of our house.

Yesterday and today we went through the UCC orientation where I got an official UCC student ID card and learned that the registration process would be as one professor called it "organized chaos." Therefore, I have not registered for classes yet and won't until next week around the 16th I think. Basically we just show up at the classes we want to take on Monday, test it out for a bit, and then decide later if it is a class that we actually want to take. Makes sense I guess but I'd rather just use PackTracks and know in like 5 minutes whether or not I'm taking 'Music in the Films of Stanley Kubrick' for example.

We also got phones today at this cellphone store, where the salesclerk proceeded to sing me a rendition of the SNL skit when I asked him if they had any phone-in-a-box's. On the way home, we stopped at a local Fish and Chips restaurant and had an amazing yet whoa greasy meal that managed to soak through 2 layers of paper onto the table. You can't really tell from the picture, but the fish was huge. I could only eat half of it and stuck the other half in the refrigerator so tomorrow I can play a game called 'is fried food edible the day after'.

Me and Madison in front of the UCC campus:

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

first day.ish

So first of all, I would just like to say that Hannah is responsible for this blog. Seeing as how I'm not a blogger. Or an artismypeacie. Or at least not an authentic one. So honestly I have no idea how updated this thing will be but I'm going to give it a shot for the benefit of parentals and friends who want to know what's going on in Ireland while I'm away...

Airplane ride: 3 stops: RDU -> Washington DC -> London -> Cork
Rides were smooth, easy and I didn't really get lost too bad. On my 7 hour flight to Heathrow I watched Ratatouille and talked to the girl next to me who managed to make it the whole flight without needing to ever get up so I kept having to ask her to move so I could use the bathroom.
I was able to have a pretty sweet 4 hour layover in Heathrow where I just stared at the guy in front of me because I had nothing else to do. Turns out he was a grad student in Ireland and he told me Cork was a really nice city so that was good.

Cork, the city.
Rory and Sarah picked me up from the airport which was really helpful and they dropped me off at my house (below). I had to wait a little while for the manager of the house to give me key but he seemed really nice. It's a 8 bedroom house and I share it with 1 guy, 4 girls, and a married couple. I think. I met 2 of my roommates so far and they seem pretty nice. The rest of them are still on winter vacation and will be back later. My house is really nice. There's a kitchen downstairs which is cute and big and then there are 8 bedrooms. I got to choose between this big room downstairs and a small one upstairs, so I chose the upstairs one because it seemed really cozy and it had a really pretty view (right). That night I ate dinner at Rory's house and it was perfect timing because I realized I had no food whatsoever, nor did I have normal essentials like toilet paper. But his family was really nice and it was good to be able to feel at home somewhere.

Today I woke up at like noon and went exploring. I bought some groceries at a local market. The market alone was so fun. It felt very European, and very non-Harris Teeterish. There were different areas for different fresh food- it kind of smelt weird because of all the fresh fish but I ended up buying fruit, bread, and eggs all from different vendors. I'm excited about the eggs because it looked like everything at the market came in that day so they should be better than Food Lions. I then wandered around the city some more and decided that I am going to really like it here. Everyone is so friendly- some old man who was in one of the food shops where I bought some peanut butter caught up to me outside and told me how peanut butter was good for the heart and that he hoped I had a nice day. And then he kept on walking. Everyone has really fun accents and that fact alone makes everyone more interesting than normal people at home.
I had put together a somewhat European looking outfit (skinny jeans, fake Uggish boots, down/hood vest, and a scarf) so I would blend in sans North Face and it worked because every single girl I passed had on pretty much exactly what I was wearing. Which was weird but whatever.
I really really like it here. I was in a good mood on the way home and stopped by a little bookstore and bought Pride and Prejudice because our house doesn't have TV and the lame copyright laws don't let me stream TV shows from abc or nbc.com since I am not in the United States so I decided I needed something to do. It hasn't started raining yet but I'm expecting it to come soon.

Streets in Cork- outside my house: