Thursday, February 28, 2008

galway

I haven't really posted anything in a while because I've pretty much just been going to class and writing essays for the past week or so. It's starting to get kind of busy here with all the work now due at once.
I finally got around to doing something fun though- last weekend the International Student Society planned a weekend trip to Galway. Except we were really only in Galway city for about 2 hours the entire weekend so I'm not sure why they called it that.
So Friday morning we woke up whoa early and met downtown at like 730 or something and headed out. The bus ride was pretty long- I think like 5 or 6 hours, but we stopped at a few places before getting to our cottages. Our first stop was the Cliffs of Moher, which are pretty famous in Ireland and were beautiful. The wind there was pretty intense. Actually the wind the whole weekend was pretty intense. So we looked at the cliffs for a while, as well as the castle next to it. I took probably 85 pictures of the cliffs, only to find that when I came home and uploaded all my pictures on the computer, every single picture looked exactly the same. Kind of like when Dad took all those pictures of Mt. Rushmore...
The next place we stopped at was the Aillwee Cave, which was known for its bear bones found there. We ate lunch in the cave's cafe, and then took a tour of what may have been the most commercialized cave I've ever been in. We were allowed to take flash photography and the cave had a paved pathway and lights, so it wasn't exactly the most rugged cave I've been in, but definitely pretty. The few pictures I have of the cave look just like I took some quality pictures of a black hole with so I won't put them up.
Our cottage that we stayed in was the cutest cottage I've ever seen. Technically, its maybe the only cottage I've ever seen but it was on the ocean front and was really cozy so I think it still qualifies. We had to pay 2 Euro, though, every few hours to keep the electricity going. We'd all be sitting around a table, for example, and out of no where the lights would just turn off and we'd be thrown into complete darkness, and whoever was in the shower at the time would start yelling to turn the lights back on because they were trapped in a what-became-freezing box of running water. I was lucky, though, and managed to take a whole shower without the lights going out, and it may have been the best shower I've ever had because I was so cold and the water got really hot. When I stepped out of the shower, the entire room was so hazy that I could barely see my hand in front of me. No joke.
Saturday morning we all got up and I decided it would be an excellent idea to take double the dose of Dramamine because we'd be getting on a ferry later and I wanted to make sure that I'd be as anti-boat sick as possible. Because of this idea, Saturday was the day that I became a narcoleptic. Apparently, Dramamine makes you sleepy. Before the pills started to take effect, I was wide awake and enjoying what may have been one of the most terrifying ferry rides I've been on. The water was so choppy and the boat went so fast that the entire ferry would rise up out of the water and then slam back down, motor boat style. We were swaying side to side, on top of crashing up and down, which caused many people to have to leave the seating area to go hang over the side of the boat. I, of course, had no problems with sea-sickness, yet this was about the time I started sleeping. Saturday pretty much went as such: We took a bus tour of the Aran Islands where I napped and then we got out, looked at a pretty view, got back in the bus, I slept, got out and looked at a pretty view, got back in the bus, I slept, got out and looked at a pretty view, got back in the bus, I slept, etc. When we were actually on the bus and looked at sights out the window, if there was something to see, Madison would poke me, I'd look out the window, and then go back to sleep. One of the places we saw when getting off the bus on the tour was a really pretty grave site next to an old church (see left). Actually it may have been an old monastery but since I was sleeping when our bus driver was telling us about it, I have no idea. Another stop was to look at the ocean, at a spot where a lot of seals usually hang out (see picture above).
For lunch, we stopped at another site called Dun Aengus (see picture- got it off the internet so the steepness of the cliff can be seen), which were cliffs about 350 feet above the ground. There were no guard rails or anything preventing people from falling off the side or from leaning over the edge, taking pictures (which is exactly what we all did). In the picture I took off of the internet, on the right, the center square in the middle of the rock wall is where we were at, eating lunch. This was maybe one of the prettiest views I've had of Ireland, not counting some of the hikes I've been on. Below/to the left are all shots I took of the cliffs off of Dun Aengus. I'm making them small to fit them all on, so just click on them if you want to make them bigger. I slept on the ferry ride home, and then I slept on the bus ride back to the cottages, and then I slept during tv night, where we were watching some really bad version of Ireland's American Idol, and then I went to bed at like 8 pm. Lesson learned: Dramamine is not necessary.Sunday, when we woke up to get ready to leave, there was a huge rainbow outside our cottage overlooking the ocean. Of course I took about 234 pictures of this, along with several shots of the view outside from our backyard (see left and right). We then headed to Galway, where we spent about 2 hours eating lunch and shopping in the streets. Galway was such a cute and pretty town, very touristic but very pretty at the same time. There was this one mural painted on the wall of a building, which was a really accurate painting of living legends (such as Michael Jackson, Bono, etc.), legends who have died and are now 'in heaven' (such as Lennon and Johnny Cash, and then at the very top was God, hanging out with Elvis. I couldn't fit the living legends level in the picture, but the rest can be seen below.
I'm having a really good time here and I'm not ready to go back. I'm starting to plan my easter break, where I think I may go visit some friends in Europe, or I will just stay in Ireland and travel around a bit more.

Kym and I hanging out with Oscar Wilde and his dad in Galway:

Sunday, February 10, 2008

tradfest

This week's hike took us to Hungry Hill, which was in county Cork, but it still took about 2 hours to get there by bus. The hike itself was pretty easy, and the views were nice, but it didn't compare to the last 2 that I've been on. I really did appreciate, though, how chill the hike was because I don't think I could do two insane hikes back to back. The climb uphill took about 2 hours, and it was pretty tricky. The email that was sent out about it had a disclaimer about how there would be a 'fair bit of scrambling' involved. Apparently, 'scrambling' means climbing with your hands (and feet) uphill on rocks, etc. Once we got up to the top, the fog sort of came out of nowhere and then we were back to not being able to see 5 feet in front of us. It was so cold and windy and rainy up at the top, but we only really stayed long enough to eat lunch, and then we climbed back down. The hike down took about 2 hours as well, but it was pretty much just walking down a boggy hill with more sheep and their poop. Once at the bottom, we ran across this little puppy who I think belonged to a house nearby (seen in picture below). I considered sticking it in my backpack, but our bus driver is pretty hardcore and won't let us wear our muddy boots on the bus, so I figured he'd have a problem with a live animal, so I put it back down and got on the bus sans dog.


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TradFest 2008

6-10 February 2008 was UCC's TradFest, which was the 'highlight of the Irish Traditional Music Society's year' (according to the brochure). Basically every day for a week, there was a whole schedule of events going on. We attended the ones we could, and everything we went to was pretty good. Monday night we went to a student session at a pub called An Spailpín Fánach (left). It was cool to see students my age playing traditional music, because up until then I'd just seen old people playing it. They were good, but it was pretty chill.

Friday at lunch we went to a concert on campus with Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and Brendan Begley (also according to the brochure). But they were amazing. The fiddler was good (and surprisingly attractive), but the accordion player was the best. He played a few numbers on his own and sang some as well.

Saturday afternoon we went to another pub called Sláinte and heard another student session. This one was a lot better, partly because there was a wider variety of instruments. We listened to them for about an hour, but then got distracted by the rugby game (Ireland vs. France- Ireland came from behind and almost won in the end but lost by 5 points).

2 video clips below:
1. Friday lunch concert
2. Saturday student trad session


video video

memoirs of a pancake.

Tuesday, February 5th, was Pancake Day in Ireland. I have no idea if it was Pancake Day in any other country, but in order to compensate for potential missed holiday celebrations across the world, our house decided to make pancakes all day from every country we knew how. Which meant just 4: America, Ireland, Germany and France.

Between the hours of 2-4 pm, we created our version of German pancakes for lunch (see recipe below). Our roommates from Germany told us how to make them, so we knew they were authentic. This one especially was quite good, but no picture documentation occurred because we remembered our camera after finishing it off. But it was super good.

German pancake:
2 eggs
1.5-2 spoonfuls of flour
some milk
random ingredients found in your refrigerator that need to be eaten.
-whisk first 3 ingredients together and create a large, pan-sized omelet/crepe.
-flip pan-sized omelet/crepe.

For lunch dessert, we had French pancakes: aka crepes. We then put Nutella, bananas, and honey on them and they may or may not have been the best 'pancakes' ever.

French pancake:
-look up recipe online. I have no idea how to make them because Johnny did it.

For dinner, we had American pancakes. These were quite good as well, but nothing special because I've had an American pancake once or twice in my life. Except I did add blueberries and chocolate chunks to add some interest.

American pancake:
-see French pancake directions.

For dinner dessert, we had Irish pancakes. These were basically a mix between the American pancake and the French one, but instead of maple syrup you squeezed a lemon all over it (a large pan-sized pancake once again), and then sprinkled sugar on top and rolled it up in a log and ate it that way. These were pretty good as well.


February 5th was a good day.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

frolicking in the snow

Back in high school when a few of us took a trip to France, there was a moment where, standing on a hill overlooking one of the castles just as the sun was setting, our French teacher told us to stop and 'really absorb this moment because you may never get one like this again.' Ever since then, whenever I'd come across a moment worth holding on to, I've tried to follow her advice. This past Sunday there were several of these 'moments' on what may have been the hardest single-day trip I've ever been on.
To begin with, the bus ride up to Hag's Glen at the Reeks in Kerry was one of the prettiest bus rides I've had. Madison at one point noted that she'd be completely fine paying the 7 euro trip fare just for the bus ride alone. We were driving through a light snow, passing by endless green hills covered in snow, and the music on the bus was this soft sort of EverAfter-ish opera/classical music, which blended perfectly with the weather outside. I pretty much spent the entire ride with my arm stuck in Madison's face, trying to take pictures of what was probably every single tree up the mountain.
We began the hike by hiking up a waterfall. It wasn't snowing at this point, which helped, but the hike required mostly all 4's, and every so often I'd slip and in order not to land in the waterfall, I'd have to pull myself back up. Which meant that 30 minutes into the hike my upper body was already pretty spent. Once we got to the top, we got a glimpse of the 2nd tallest mountain in Ireland, the one we were about to climb. Other than being huge, it was also covered in snow and overlooked a really pretty lake which would later be in about 3452 future pictures. I actually think I'd be a much better mountain climber if I didn't bring my camera with me because I keep wanting to stop every 3 seconds to take a picture.
We then began the mountain climb. Which was actually the rest of the hike. So for about 5 hours, we hiked through the snow, which was anywhere between about 6 inches to about 1.5 feet deep. When we breaked for lunch, it was snowing, and we all sat down in the snow (snow angels, snow fights, snow men etc. included) on a big rock which overlooked the lake. Then began the hardest part of the hike, which was a really steep incline for the rest of the way up the mountain. I was back to using all 4's, only this time instead of stepping on rocks, I was stepping in 2 feet deep snow, trying to not slide down the mountain. Which we all did to some extent, but then you'd just have to like pull yourself back up into place again. Which is why my body is still sore and it's Tuesday (Pancake Day in Ireland actually- more on that later). This stage of the hike was so hard. And not just like 'wow, what challenging climb this is'. It was like, 'holy crap. I can't see the top of the mountain. Or breathe'. (Note: this is just me. I'm sure all the rugged mountain climbers in the group thought it was a piece of cake). But once reaching the top, and after climbing the summit of the 2nd tallest mountain in Ireland, and looking out at the completely incredible view, I had my second 'moment'. There was not one way you could look that wasn't completely stunning.
The "hike" down the mountain was also probably one of the funnest things I've done in Ireland yet. Because of the insane amount of snow, we figured out that you could just sit down and sled down on your butt. So we managed to descend the mountain (that took us about 5 hours to climb) in about 1 hour, by mixing a little bit of sledding and what can only be described as 'frolicking' the rest of the way.
As much fun as the hike was, though, I crashed soo early. Actually, I could have fallen asleep at like 9, but since I have access to the wonderful invention of facebook, it was probably like 1030. But still way earlier than I've gone to bed since coming here.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

bubble hits.

For the sole purpose of wanting this as a reference, I wanted to make a few lists of things going on here- music, fashion, etc. that I might would want to remember later. Especially some of the sweet music videos that I'm planning on including.
So here goes...

Fashion:
Guys- tracksuits. Whoa jealous when I'm sitting in class, cold and wet, and then I look over at the guy sitting next to me with his magic hydrophobic pants, neither wet nor cold. And not everyone wears them. Obviously if you're going out at night this is not the attire used, but I'm not going to lie- there are a lot of tracksuits here.

Girls- going out clothes. All the time. Class attire: skinny jeans, flats or boots, cute shirt, scarf, coat (not the NorthFace coat seen by many-a sorority girl at NCSU but, for example, a double breasted wool coat). Pub/Club attire: dressing up. There is none of this 'jeans and a nice shirt' look seen back in NC (aka my wardrobe- which means I just wear jeans and a nice shirt anyway and then look like I'm bumming it when I go out. But whatev). Girls are super dressed up- dresses, boots/heels, and an intense amount of makeup.

Music:
Disclaimer...This music collection is based on the frequent viewing of the 'Bubble Hits' channel (kind of the MTV2 music channel) on the individual tv's at the Mardyke Gym, where Kym and I usually go about every day. Due to the fact that Ireland has about 8 channels to its name, if one wanted to jog in place for 45 minutes at about 11 am on a Saturday, there is absolutely nothing to watch on tv except for really bad Irish soap operas or the Bubble Hits channel. Which is why this following selection of songs all fall into an MTV'ish style, rather than all types of music in Ireland. Some are really weird (see Robyn's 'Handle Me'), and others are whoa pop songs (see Leona Lewis-the winner of the UK's version of American Idol-'s 'Bleeding Love'), but I'm not going to lie- some of these songs are pretty catchy. Also, they are everywhere.

Lupe Fiasco - Superstar
Mika - Relax, Take It Easy
Robyn - Handle Me
Robyn - Be Mine!
Mutya Buena ft. Amy Winehouse - B Boy Baby
Scouting for Girls - Elvis Ain't Dead
Leona Lewis - Bleeding Love
T2 (Ft. Jodie) - Heartbroken
Craig David - 6 of 1 Thing

Obviously big songs (why the simple plan one I have no idea) that I'm including anyway...
Rihanna - Don't Stop The Music
Simple Plan - When I'm Gone

and then of course Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, OneRepublic ft. Timbaland, Soulja Boy, etc.