Saturday, January 24, 2009

Ceilli: "Kay-Lee"

one of the many strange birds that roam around campusfish and chips at Beshoff's!
Trinity College main entrance
a church off Grafton Street
as opposed to the Mediocre and Exceptional Cigar Emporiums down the street
this might be on Baggot Street, but I'm not sure

This past Wednesday, I actually got the chance to go to a ceilli, which is an Irish dance. I didn't get any pictures of it, though, because I was actually dancing myself (not for long, though, since there was a lot of whirling involved). It was a lot of fun to see a traditional Irish get-together; there were actually people there promoting an effort to get students to speak only Irish on a specific day. Apparently Ireland has a goal to have Irish spoken across the country on an everyday basis.

After the ceilli, however, I stood outside in the rain for just a little too long and ended up with an Authentic Irish Cold. I've spent the past couple of days moping around my room and blowing my nose, but hopefully I'll get better soon. A very nice pharmacist from Boots helped me find the cold medicine, which apparently is not kept on the shelves in Ireland. On the upside, due to a few fevers, I've been warm for the first time since arriving here! Maybe this is the secret to surviving the cold weather.

Despite my Irish Cold, I managed to make it out to the equestrian club trials on Friday. I had to go out to Bray, which was about a forty-five minute bus ride and what should have been a five minute walk. My friends and I got incredibly lost though, and wandered around for half an hour in the dark before wandering into a swimming facility and asking for directions. Luckily, the trials were running late and I made it just in time to ride. They threw me up on what looked like a Clydesdale cross named Max (possibly with some fluffy teddy bear genes as well), and we rode for about ten-ish minutes, just walk-trot-canter in one direction and then a few small jumps. Max, although very gentlemanly, was not really interested in bending. Overall, it was a fun experience, but I'm actually hoping that I didn't get picked for competition so that I don't have to have my show gear shipped from the U.S.

Today, at lunch with Emory's program coordinator, I discovered that Emory will pay for me to travel in Ireland! They won't pay very much, but if I stay in a hostel, they'll pay for me to travel to Galway and stay for two nights, which is pretty exciting. So as soon as I kick this cold, I want to start making plans.

p.s. I dedicate this post to Marie, who interrupted me in the middle of writing it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An Era of Responsibility (I promise not to be so philosophical all the time)

watching the inauguration in Astra Hall
celebrating the inauguration at the student bar
some unexpected blue sky at the Stillorgan bus stop

President (!) Obama has promised that America is entering a new age, of responsibility and action. I know this because UCD very thoughtfully hosted a live viewing of the inauguration in the Student Center, which I just barely made it to (thankfully, my professor was American and let us out early to "go watch TV" with a knowing wink). It takes someone with a strong presence to quiet a crowd of hundreds of college students, particularly when said students are rowdy Americans who have been given free beer; I think it says something that from thousands of miles away, Barack Obama was able to hold our attention from the moment he opened his mouth to take the oath (minus a small collective snickering when the camera panned over Bush in the crowd--Sorry George!). I usually feel incredibly awkward when people clap in movie theaters, but everyone was clapping and cheering and on their feet, and I would have joined in had my hands not been shamelessly full of the free food.

I can honestly say that he held us spellbound. I do take him seriously, and I do find that his speech resonates with me; because of the situation that our entire world is in, of course, but also on a more personal level. This is a time of real responsibility for me. In the next year, I suppose that will be more obvious as the end of my college education looms closer, but right now I am also more responsible for myself than I have ever been. So many things are different here, from the ice cubes (which are cultivated not in a tray, but in a plastic, latticed "ice cube bag") to the style of education.

Although yesterday was technically the first day of classes, I didn't have any to attend until today, which definitely turned out to be an adventure. It may have rained again, but I wouldn't know, since I spent the entire day in class (five classes, to be exact). My first class was incredibly disconcerting; it turned out that everyone else had a syllabus but me, and had been made aware of the fact that we were supposed to have read "The Prioress's Tale." Oops. When I politely asked the professor where I could find the syllabus, she told me that she was the wrong person to ask. This experience is just one example of the great divide between UCD, where I am expected to find my own syllabus and take responsibility for my inability to navigate the school's website, and Emory, where seminar professors will give you a bit of slack for being confused.

I'm not saying that either one of these systems is superior, but I do think that this semester will teach me a lot about responsibility. I haven't been given a brand-new kitchen with a full-size refrigerator that will hold all the food I could possibly need; I've been given a basically functional micro-fridge complete with dodgy micro-stove, and I will (/have already) be reduced to eating bread and jam for dinner if I have no food. That kind of thing is small-scale, but that's the general idea. I need to hold myself accountable for the time that I have spent not exploring, because I can't yet take the bus or walk around by myself. I'll give myself a little slack for coming from a small town, but, quite honestly, Barack Obama was entirely right about this responsibility thing (although he probably wasn't referring to me). When you don't take responsibility, things don't change. Goodbye, status quo! Hello, National Museum of Ireland and a brand new president!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

That Was Actually In the Handbook.

If you're reading this, I'm going to assume that a) you already know me or b) you were intrigued by the title of my blog. If you picked Option B, let me introduce myself. I'm a junior at Emory University, where I've been expanding my brain capacity in the subjects of English and Art History. In my spare time, I write poetry, ride opinionated horses, make interesting facial expressions, and create my own original dance moves (which are currently catching on across the Atlantic). This semester, I'm studying at University College Dublin, where sunshine seems to be a rare occurrence--but I'm learning to love rain, and of course, William Butler Yeats.

If you're in Category A, I miss you all and I'm thinking of you over here across the water. I promise to keep in touch and update you on life-changing events. So far, I have learned three things:

1. Water pressure is beautiful
2. Driving in your lane is optional
3. The grass really is greener

I'm not sure where to start exactly, since I've only been in Dublin for four days. Despite the rain, wind, and cold temperatures, I'm really looking forward to living in this city. UCD's campus is only a 1.80 euro bus ride away from the city center, so hopefully I'll be able to report on many future explorations, in Dublin as well as throughout Ireland. So far, I have walked down Grafton Street, had a Guinness in Temple Bar, and overpaid for my groceries (as well as tripping down the bus steps and generally making a clumsy fool of myself).

The weather was incredibly bad today, so I spent most of it inside, drinking tea, but hopefully tomorrow I can get out of my room and walk around a bit. St. Stephen's Green, which is a park near the main shopping area, has been calling to me. I really can't get over how green the grass is here; I thought that it was an exaggeration, but the grass is really a different shade entirely. It's hard to tell when the rain is pouring down and the wind is making small tidal waves across the lawn, but the grass is almost unearthly green, as though the chlorophyll has been distilled. The view from the plane, of neatly geometric green fields, is really stuck in my mind. I came to Dublin for the city, its literature and history, but I want to go south, north, and west as well. I can't know enough about this country. (expect a lot of poems about the color green)