A mixed bag: my last trips in Ireland

The thought of how little time I have left in Ireland makes me feel a little sick — as I’m writing this, the countdown is down to less than two weeks. I have a new understanding of what it means to be a mixed bag of emotions. So, for these past weekends I’ve been trying to make the most of the time I have left by making some quick trips to the places in Ireland that were still on my list.

Here’s the quick rundown:

Cork and Killarney

A story I was working on about Irish attitudes towards Jews brought me to Cork for interviews (they went fabulously — I’m saving those stories for a separate post). Since I made the journey as far as Cork, I decided to take advantage of it and see Killarney as long as I was venturing outside Dublin. Funnily enough, I planned the trip so last-minute that I overlooked the location of the B & B that I booked before I left. It was a good 10 miles out of town, and consequently I didn’t really see any of the town of Killarney at all. What I did get to enjoy, however, was the peacefulness and serenity of the surrounding countryside. I took long walks and enjoyed the quiet for the evening and morning before heading back to Dublin to continue work on my story.

Galway

I had been hearing Galway’s praises pretty much non-stop since arriving in Ireland, so when Emily suggested we take a last-minute trip there last weekend I couldn’t say no. We took a non-stop bus from the Dublin city center to Galway , which took less than 3 hours. We spent that night and the next day exploring before returning in time to meet Emily’s friend from home.

We both wished we could’ve had more time there, but I think we did a pretty darn good job to seeing most of the city in 24 hours.

Our first full day began with the greeting of an unfamiliar friend — the sun! We decided to take advantage of our luck and walk along the river a short way to Galway bay. We breathed in the sea air and basked in the bright, yellow light for a good part of the morning.

Next stop was the Saturday market. There were tons of stalls filled with fresh fruit and vegetables, homemade bread and jams, flowers, crafts and other fun trinkets.

We got a few gifts that  I won’t disclose for the sake of a good surprise. I did make one purchase for myself — a gold bracelet taht called to me from an antique stall. The place caught my attention right away, with odds and ends displayed proudly in shallow, open boxes, guarded by a man with an Sherlock Holmes pipe in his mouth that I don’t believe he was actually smoking. The guy explained that the bracelet was from an African tribe located somewhere near the Sahara Desert. I didn’t know if I should believe him but regardless, the bracelet is pretty cool. I’ve worn it every day since.

After shopping and moseying for a few hours, we were getting pretty hungry. To my delight, we found a great place with fresh, native oysters for our final meal in Galway. It was at The Spanish Arch restaurant, named after a monument nearby. I had to have Emily document the moment I had been looking forward to for far too long.

Nom nom nom. The seafood stew was pretty darn good, too.

Soon after our late lunch (and afternoon tea, which has become a habit), we hopped the bus back to Dublin. Now, the party is really over — I’ve got my last final in one week! Do I even remember how to study? Anyone who’s still reading, think happy thoughts for me.

Spring has sprung

Spring has sprung here in Dublin. During these past few days of glorious sunshine, I’ve been enjoying the change in weather by The Grand Canal, a beautiful spot just moments away from my accommodation. It has been so lovely, but not so great for getting work done.

The canal glitters as the light dances in short bursts across its moving surface,

the pulsing water stretching in front of me far in each direction.

Across the way, cars murmur past seeming slower and quieter.

The sun brightens the blue-grey sky as the grass shutters with the rhythm of the wind.

The branches of the tall, barren trees surround me reaching for the water.

Smiles everywhere.

Gaits are wider and slower.

He walks alone with vague purpose. Going nowhere.

Couples with hands clasped and conversations low.

A toddler dances down the path, holding tight to his mother’s steady hand.

A man reads against the side of a building, removed and watching.

The hard morning of a businessman shows on his face.

Her chains clink and her camera beats against her chest as she gazes upwards.

The pup walks faithfully at his heels, looking ahead and not noticing any of it.

Birds fly together, higher and higher. Putting on a show.

Conversations fade into one pleasant buzz, rising and falling.

The man puts down his book and looks up as we meet eyes.

We’re all out together again and have this in common.

Happy spring, everyone!

St. Paddy’s Day Parade

I had been looking forward to this day for a long time. It was St. Patrick’s Day, and I got to celebrate the day in Dublin! The holiday here is extended into a weekend full of festivities all around the city. However, Saturday was the big day and the featured event was the parade.

The parade’s theme was HOW? WHAT? WHY? and the performers explored “the wonder and curiosity of science,” in particular some science-related questions children might ask (things like: how do we dream?). The theme was interpreted by actors with elaborate costumes that followed large, magical floats. Marching bands from Ireland, UK, Russia and America performed amongst the companies as well.

My suitemates and I woke up early to grab a front-row seat to the parade near St. Patrick’s Cathedral, right at the endpoint of the route. As we waited, we noticed the streets filling up with people, most of whom were dressed in fabulous wacky, green outfits and red wigs.

It was a wonderful day all around, but I think my favorite part was when the marching band from the University of Missouri (my school back home) marched by. Taylor and I truly went crazy, singing along to the fight song and cheering on our schoolmates.

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International Film Festival


This weekend marked the beginning of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival. The festival takes place in theaters around the city and features a different selection of 10 or so films each day from Feb. 16-26. Opportunities like these are a major pro to deciding to study in a major city like Dublin. A friend and I decided to go to a show Sunday night.

It was a movie from Finland in French, called Le Havre. Le Havre is a small coastal town in the upper region of Normandy in France, and where the story takes place. The film paints a lovely picture of a poor shoe shiner, Marcel Marx, and his eccentric group of friends who occupy the small, yet lively, town. Marcel is a loveable troublemaker who spends too much and playfully flirts his way into people’s hearts. His wife, a careful and doting woman, does all she can to make him happy and loves to spoil him. When she falls ill and needs to go to the hospital, a young refugee named Idrissa stumbles into Marcel’s life as he enjoys his lunch by the waterside one afternoon. Marcel ends up taking in the boy and helping him sneak by the police to find his mother in London.

Although I feel that subtitles always cause a certain degree of separation between the story and the English-speaking viewer, I felt very engaged throughout. It was a wonderful film.

Here’s a trailer, if you are interested:

This particular film showed at the Lighthouse Cinema, which is a theater in the Smithfield area of Dublin — just north of the River Liffey. As it turns out, the venue reopened just in time to host this festival. It is a bizarre and fabulously designed building — several stories and full of hardwood and clean white, accented with neon lights and other modern touches. The hip residents of Dublin seemed to have all come out of the woodwork to enjoy the film and socialize in the makeshift bar nestled into a small corner of the bottom floor of the venue, furnished with scattered and mismatched worn couches in all corners and crevices where people could sit and enjoy their 2 for 1 drinks.

It has been far too long since I’ve been to see a movie in theaters, and this festival is a perfect chance to see some great unique pieces that I would never get to know otherwise.

I plan to see a few more before the week is over.

Dingle, Ireland

This Monday and Tuesday we went to Dingle. We left really early the morning after the Super Bowl (which we watched until waaay to late at what is becoming our favorite neighborhood pub), and the trip was long and tiring. It was worth it, though for the beautiful scenery and a very intimate show of some traditional Irish music in a tiny cozy pub by the fire (see a YouTube video featuring me and some friends below!). To be perfectly honest, I don’t have much more to say about this trip. A lot of it was just about experiencing the beauty of the small town and having a lot of nice quiet time.

Here are some photos:

Howth

Photo cred. Gabbi Reiter

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I have no class on Fridays. I had quite a long night out at the pubs the night before with some of my DIT classmates, so I allowed myself to sleep in pretty late. I was groggily finding my way to my shiny new French Press when my roommate popped her head into my bedroom. “Do you want to go to Howth today?” she asked. I eagerly said yes without hesitation, even though the train schedule and the length of the walk to the station allowed me basically 15 minutes to get ready to go. I threw a hat over my bed-head, brushed my teeth quickly and we headed out on our wonderful last-minute adventure.

Howth is a small fishing village just a 20-minute train ride outside of Dublin. The round-trip tickets were about 5 Euros, which is pretty good considering I would spend about the same on a couple MetroLink rides in St. Louis to go just a few miles downtown. We caught the train a little after 2 p.m., allowing for us coffee fiends in the group to caffeinate ourselves and grab a quick breakfast for the road.

I barely had enough time to finish my Americano before we got off at the end of the line. We just walked straight into the beautiful little town, not knowing where we were going. Oddly enough, all of the girls I’ve met here are photographers and Andrew and Taylor are both into photography as well, so everyone but me was armed with their big SLR cameras. We all felt a little silly, like a group of paparazzi. Immediately we made our way towards the sparkling blue water, which was set off perfectly by the whitewashed boats parked in the harbor.

We knew that there were cliffs nearby, so we decided to weave our way upward, following roads that seemed to be angled in that direction. Along the way, we came across some adorable houses and a stately cathedral. I found a cemetery that we passed quite lovely as well, small and beautiful with unique decorations on each individual grave. They each were clearly carefully kept up and gave off their own personal vibe. It made me critical of the very prescribed and impersonal way graves are arranged in the United States.

One of my favorite parts of the walk towards the cliffs was when we came upon what looked like a little farm, with little patches of garden and a few sheds. There were roosters clucking about and I even spotted two pigs, black and pink, scurrying past. It was an incredible spot made to enjoy, with a chair situated out towards the view of the harbor. I dreamed of walking out there in my pajamas with a cup of coffee every morning.

We walked down what we thought was a public road and were greeted by two pups, one of which was not so happy to see us. However, the one that stuck around was irresistibly adorable. It was a small little guy that looked like a cross between a sheep and some small, round breed of dog. He picked up a stick and then just ran around between all of us, showing off and reveling in the attention we showered him with. We made quite a little scene over him, dog lovers that we all are. As we rounded a corner, followed by the pup, a woman called out from some hidden spot, “Sorry, but this is private property! You want to go down the road and take a right!” Embarrassed and laughing we made our way out of this woman’s property and said goodbye to the dog (who we had by then named Charlie).

Photo cred. Emily Howell.

We walked up and up. I guess truthfully I was more moseying. My pace is much slower than everyone else in the group, it seems. On the way we saw some horses and more impressive properties. The sun was beginning to go down, and everything looked even more beautiful in the warm orange light. School must have let out at some point during this time, because on this leg of the journey, we ran into a couple of groups of young boys in school uniforms. I must say the kids in Ireland have been extra-cute. We asked them which way to the cliffs to make sure we were still on the right track and hadn’t somehow managed to intrude on another innocent person’s property. They said we were headed in the right direction, and asked us where we were from.

“America, eh?” one said in jest. “Hot dogs on every corner!!” We laughed at his weirdly truthful assessment of our homeland and continued. They called back to us, “He’s from America too!” gesturing towards a boy in the back of the group. We asked where in America as a small, very blonde boy came out of the crowd to wave. “I’m from San Franciscooo!” he called to us, smiling and waving.

We made it to the cliffs, greeted by greeted by some Irish hooligans, rolling around on bikes and blaring American rap music in the parking lot where people can park their cars and hike along the trails carved out along the cliffs. The irony of the juxtaposition of the ugly music with the beautiful scene was not lost on me.

We pushed forward, alternatively stopping to snap pictures and just to sit down and take it all in. Pictures or words really can’t quite capture the beauty of this moment. Andrew pointed out the the fog and the colors of the sea and sky were such that you could hardly distinguish the water from the air on the horizon. The grass along the sides of the cliff was so green, and sprinkled with bright yellow flowers. Below, I could see the blue waters crashing white against the rocky shore. The air smelled so clean and it was quiet.

We walked and stopped and walked and stopped, intermittently chirping variations of “This is incredible.” Meanwhile it was getting a little darker and a lot colder. We went a little off course through a patch of thorny branches and ventured very close to the edge. We threw rocks over the sides of the cliffs and I immediately was reminded of my fear of heights and had to cover my eyes when my friends took a photo with their backs facing the edge.

As we made our way to where we entered the trail, the sun was just setting. We all walked, silently affected by what we had seen, towards dinner. We had been advised before we left that the best fish and chips could be found at a restaurant called The Bloody Stream (unfortunate, I know). So, we all squeezed at a table and feasted on the hot, fried goodness before heading back to the city.

Classes? What classes? How I somehow managed to enroll AND have five day weekends every week.

Warning: This is an extremely long and drawn out post that is basically full of complaints about the registration process here. I just found the whole process humorous and ironic and very Irish. Read on only if you want. More colorful posts to come soon.

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It’s fair to say that my last few days have literally been consumed by trying to register for classes. You might wonder why a seemingly simple task such as that would take so much time and frustration, and I would say back that I’m left wondering the same thing. Part of the problem is that universities here in Ireland, students really don’t get to choose their classes. Rather, they enroll in “programmes” and are then just placed into predetermined “modules” for each semester as they work towards their degree. Yes, here they call courses of study “programmes” and they call classes “modules,” which made the whole thing even more complicated in the beginning.

Thursday

On Thursday, Taylor and I headed to campus to register, and we took that to mean register for classes. Instead, we had our pictures taken and were given ID cards and a student number. When we asked about signing up for classes (rather than modules), DIT staff was quite confused indeed. Sicne we got no answers, we then wandered up to the fourth floor of the newish, modern building that is DIT—Aungiers Street, to where the School of Media was supposedly located. We happened upon a woman in an office there. The woman, named Stella, told us that that day was just a really bad day, and that we should come back tomorrow. So we did. We would find out later that Stella was actually the head of the School of Media, and an extremely wonderful person for us to have run into. However, we didn’t know this then. Mind you, this was a Thursday, and classes were to start Monday. We were starting to get very worried.

Friday

The next morning Stella gave us a packet of timetables, with cryptic class names on them in random blocks of time and pretty much nothing else. She told us these were tentative, but should help us with our selections. We could come back Monday to talk further about which ones we would be allowed to take. Before leaving MU, we had to fill out a course proposal, where we listed DIT courses we might like to take, and the international admissions office evaluated them to give us an idea of what they should count for when we go to transfer the credits back to MU. Of course, many of the courses I planned to take weren’t actually offered, or if they were, they conflicted with one another so I had to make new selections. This meant that I would have to get the new ones approved by the International admissions office at home to make sure they would count. And this is still pending whether or not the professors would even allow international students into their classes. Don’t worry about it, Stella told us. It’s only the first week anyways. This did little to ease my worries as she waved me out the door and told me to enjoy Dublin over the weekend.

Monday (the first day of classes)

Monday we met with our advisers on the DIT end, Bruce and Pavel, for lunch and assistance with classes. We would try Stella again after lunch. At lunch, Bruce and Pavel explained that the person at DIT that used to be in charge of international students actually quit and had never been replaced. It seems that Taylor and I are bad luck — our study abroad adviser from MU quit without notice in the middle of our application process earlier this fall. The task of looking after Taylor and I (as well as another American exchange student named Joe from Columbia College) had been forced upon them. Meanwhile, they had both been trying to push it off the responsibilities on the other. Now, we felt like more of a burden than ever. But Bruce, an American from New Jersey, was determined to help us get our class situation figured out. We stormed first to an office of a radio professor while Joe tried to pin down what options he had. This information was hard to come by, even by the professor who what supposed to be teaching the courses, and it was even harder to get a date and time. It seemed that no one really knew or cared to know any answers. Then, we caught Stella and asked her what seemed to be about 6 million and 7 questions. She answered, but we still had no idea which classes we would attend. We had to select the ones that sound interesting and then tell Stella who would then ask those professors if they would have us. Further, we had to check in back at MU to see if these new classes would even work towards our degree. All seemed to still hang in the balance at the end of day 1. But we continually were assured that all was okay. That’s the Irish way.

Tuesday

It was Day 2 of “classes” and I still had no idea what was going on. Taylor and I said a quick “hi” to Bruce Tuesday morning before heading off to stalk Stella some more. We already had probably 6 email exchanges with her before 10 o’clock before we finally decided to just go find her. Of course, she was gone when we got there. Just our luck. So we waited. Luckily, while we waited, the professor of one of my classes came to call on Stella as well! His name is Richard Fitzsimons, and he teaches Studies in Documentary. He introduced himself and welcomed me to the course. Just seeing the face of an actual professor already made me feel as if things were looking. Then, what do you know but another teacher of one of my a desired modules came by—named Michael Foley, who teaches a course for the master’s magazine students that Taylor and I received permission to take in lieu of the full newspaper production class. He was super nice as well. He told us 1) that professors never fail International students because they don’t want to deal with the paperwork. And 2) that we should travel as much as possible. Go to the Ryanair website and pick the cheapest flight and buy a ticket. Go places you’ve never heard of, he said. Skip and class or two. No one will care, he assured us. This was a PROFESSOR saying this before we had even started his class. I returned to the dorm and sent frantic emails back to MU, hoping at least some of my new courses would end up working. Less than and hour later, I got a response. They all worked! And my schedule is better than I could have imagined. Get this:

Monday: NO CLASS

Tuesday: NO CLASS

Wednesday:

9-11 Media Management: an extremely practical class about the issues facing the journalism industry today.

11-2 Print Journalism: a class where we plan, write, design, produce our very own magazine. The people from this class invited Taylor and I out to a pub last night and they all seem like characters.

Thursday:

1-3 Political Communications: another extremely practical and seemingly interesting class about the relationship between the public, the media and the government.

3-5 Studies in Documentary: This one’s pretty self-explanatory — it’s a class from the broadcast-y realm of the school about documentaries.

Friday: NO CLASS

Could that actually be any better? I am so excited to consider the travel possibilities that my FIVE DAYS OFF, EVERY WEEK will afford me. I think that after enduring a hard process leading up to this trip and getting settled in at DIT, I’ve earned some good karma. And it starts here! (Knock on wood.)