Tales of a Year in Dublin, Ireland

Céad Míle Fáilte!


Days 121-125

Day 121: Today was unseasonably warm so I weaved through the mass of French fans outside Aviva and took a long run out to Booterstown Nature Preserve in Dun Loaghaire.


Day 122: Early last week, BC invited us to a reception for the athletic director, who was visiting Dublin this week.  They clearly needed space-fillers and lured college students with the promise of free, reheated from frozen hors d’ oeuvres and drinks.  We stood around in on the blue carpeting of the BC house and starred at the blue walls.  The groups of students split by school—Maynooth, UCD, Trinity—and everyone spoke barely above a whisper.  It wasn’t until we realized how hot it was in the tiny side room that we spilled out into the main room and started talking at normal indoor voices.

An hour or so into the event, he addressed the “crowd” and told us that he loved this city.  He had just had one of the greatest days of his life with his new best friend.  They went golfing and then to the Six Nations match.  Then Gene had the brilliant idea to open the floor to an unscripted question and answer session about his leadership.  Any PR wingman would cringe and this idea.  Either way, he plodded along and gave coherent and well-reasoned answers as to why he fired Al Skinner, and everyone’s favorite hot-button issue, why BC left the Big East.  He laid out four points in favor of the ACC, which all sounded similar and boiled down to “you are who you hang out with.”

He made his rounds with each group of students, inserting himself into the conversation circle with an outstretched right hand and immediate, “Hi, I’m Gene DeFillipo.”  He applauded our “bold decision” to study abroad during football and hockey seasons.  We chatted about his time in Dublin and laughed when he asked where Trinity College was.  (You can practically throw a rock from the BC house to Trinity.)  He liked us so much that he said we just had to visit him for lunch within the first three weeks of the school year…or else!  I wanted to ask him where he was watching the Beanpot Championship that night (which we won, by the way) but I settled for telling him that he had just dipped his Vineyard Vines BC tie into his glass of red wine.


Day 123: Weather report: Thirty-five degrees and constant pouring rain.  Is it a bad thing that I can’t remember the last day it didn’t rain?


Day 124: Received my first official grade of the year.  My 20th Century Women’s Fiction essay was returned with a giant 70% on the front page.  In Ireland, 70% is like 100%–teachers normally refuse, on principle, to give it out, even if you deserve it.  The comments section had mostly illegible professor scrawl but I did make out “This essay is very very good for this level.”  Little did she know, I am a year ahead of all the Irish students in the class and I had read the novel six times.


Day 125: I was nervous about getting a haircut in Ireland because I have seen all the hairstyles of the girls around here.  The dry and pathetic state of my hair won out over my fears and I trekked to Peter Mark.  The salon was modern and clean and all the hairstylists had black outfits with flair and, of course, bizarre hair colors and styles.  At the shampoo station, I received a very relaxing head massage.  In the course of the short appointment, I was offered magazines, tea, coffee, and biscuits.  Granted, the haircut was way overpriced, but it was moderately worth it because I did not leave the salon looking like Amy Winehouse the morning after, or like a toddler had taken a few chunky snips at my hair.

Days 114-120

Day 114: Today was Sarah’s final day in Ireland…for at least a couple months.  We started out in the mist toward the Temple Bar Market.  There were cheese, bread, vegetable, and butcher stands tucked into side streets normally clogged with pub-crawling tourists.  We purchased a blueberry scone and loaf of bread from friendly organic bakers and browsed the selection of mutant carrots and blue potatoes.  After the market, we popped into the National Photographic Archives for a free exhibit on the Big Houses in Ireland.  The photos were remarkably sharp and detailed for such early camera processes.  Most of the negatives were glass plates that were digitized for reproduction, but not enhanced or altered.

From Temple Bar we climbed back up Grafton and dashed into Bewley’s before the downpour began.  We drank cappuccino and tea and split that delicious blueberry scone.  Snack over, we shopped without intent and then returned to Goldsmith for siesta.  Once we were rested and the rain had subsided, we hit the quays to watch the Ireland vs. Italy Six Nations rugby match at Messer Meguires.  I watched carefully so that I could maybe pick up on some of the rules and pretend like I knew what was going on.  The loud moans and cheers from the Italian guy at the next table alerted me when the Irish team fared well.  Ireland won the match in the final seconds!

Busy from our week of travelling, Sarah and I rewarded ourselves with the best burritos Dublin has to offer, although that’s not saying much.  In my never-ending test-taste, Pablo Picante has pulled slightly ahead of Boojum, but both are light years from Cal Tor or Anna’s.  Oh well, maybe when my visitor returns she can bring me a little taste of home….


Day 115: Everyone knows that Superbowl kick-off is at 6:30-something pm Eastern Time.  That means that the game doesn’t even start until 11:30pm in Dublin, which is my bedtime.  I decided to stick it out for at least the first half and the halftime show and went down to the first floor to watch in Sophie and Erin’s kitchen.  There were a bunch of people from Houses 67 and 68 ready to watch the game on the 12-inch TV propped up on plastic bins in the corner near the window.  We watched the National Anthem and the pre-game coin toss.  Then we waited for the commercials.  Only there weren’t any.  Every time that there should have been commercials, the broadcast cut instead to the SkySports set somewhere in London where a young British guy in a pink shirt with the top button undone chatted inanely with Tiki Barber and some other American guy.  Here we were, watching the Superbowl, one of the most American sport events and the stamp of American marketing and consumerism was gone?!  We felt jipped.  How would we compare notes about the best and worst commercials?!  At least hearing Joe Buck’s familiar voice commentating consoled me.

A few of the boys got tired and decided to move across the hall to watch Uday make his top secret buffalo wings recipe.  In a twist of gender roles, the girls stayed glued to the game and the boys left to do the cooking.  I managed to stay awake through the train wreck of a halftime show and get a taste of the prized wings.  No matter how many times I try to convince myself otherwise, I learned that I really do not like anything Buffalo sauce-flavored or any part of the chicken still attached to the bone.  Before the night was through, I saw all the best commercials via and elaborate system of international text messages to Uday’s IPhone and subsequent YouTube searches.  My vote is for the VW Darth Vader commercial, although nothing comes close to last year’s Google ad.


Day 116: Today I learned that the bathrooms in the Garda stations are blacklight so that you cannot see your veins to shoot heroin.  Oddly, the bathrooms on the first floor of the Trinity Arts Block are also blacklight…


Day 117: The campaign for student government began today and by the time I made the short walk from the Arts Block to the library, I ran out of fingers to hold leaflets.  It seems to be a common campaign strategy to jump to the microphone before a professor begins speaking to a large lecture and make your pitch, while wearing a brightly colored campaign sweatshirt, of course.  One interesting part of the Trinity elections is that students actually vote for the faculty member who becomes Provost for the year.  I’m not quite sure what the Provost does, but one candidate made a sincere pitch before Economy of Ireland so I might vote for him.  Perhaps the US should embrace this whole students-voting-for-university-representatives thing.


Day 118: Maybe not today, but definitely some time this week I realized that two of my teachers repeatedly refer to the American presidency between 2000 and 2008 as “The Bush Regime.”


Day 119:  Another fun fact from school: The arts block of Trinity was modeled on the hanging gardens of Babylon but the lead contractor purchased the wrong kind of cement.  Looks like the cost saving cement choice was so acidic that it killed plants on contact, so Trinity was instead left with a giant cement block in the middle of Georgian buildings and cobblestones.


Day 120:  Daffodils peaked out of the soil on St. Stephen’s Green and along with them the hope that real spring, no more of this 45 degrees and grey stuff, was just around the corner.  Shouts of young children feeding the giant swans drifted through the park and to the bench where I sat reading.  I was really enjoying myself, but then my hands started to discolor and a ring of pigeons surrounded my bench, so I moved locations.

In the afternoon, I met up with some friends from the IPA (Irish Policy something).  They are American college students on internship-based study abroad.  Most of them attend DePaul but Caitlin, who attends Catholic University, is best (school) friends with Hannah, who is my roommate Kait’s best (home) friend.  Following?  We dined on the best Ireland has to offer, literally—chips (halfway between French fries and steak fries) and Guinness.  We skipped the unidentifiable meat in the Shepard’s pie.

Later on, we decided to head over to the convention center to watch the red carpet arrivals at the Irish Oscars and hopefully slip in as seat-fillers.  Through the grapevine, Caitlin discovered that the ladies of Sex and the City and Collin Farrel would be attending.  Through the website, I learned that there is absolutely zero chance that mortals can attend.  Unfortunately we arrived just a little too late and the not-so-friendly security personnel told us that if we waited until about 2am, we could see them leave.

It didn’t take much to change our plans and we headed off to Temple Bar.  Normally Saturdays are a slow night out, but Temple Bar was jammers with French tourists in town for the Six Nations match on Sunday.  In one bar, we sat next to a man from New York who was down-the-street neighbors with a friend at BC.  I would say that it is a small world, but I’m beginning to realize that Dublin is just a very small city.



On the red carpet


Days 109-113: Trips in and Around An Lar

Gabrielle was busy with class and track practice this week so I entertained myself which, being an only child for the first nine years of my life, wasn’t very difficult.  On Monday we had lunch at popular blog spot Carluccio’s.  It was about 55 degrees and sunny so we ate outside (not often that one can say that referring to Dublin in February).  After lunch Gabrielle had class (bummer) so I walked through St. Stephen’s Green, down Grafton Street, then through various bookstores.  Gabrielle had track practice outside so I was able to borrow her student ID and use the Trinity Sport Centre and subvert the authorities.

Tuesday morning I went to Trim, a small town about an hour northwest of Dublin.  Trim has a castle, the majority of which is still standing.  Famously, this castle appeared in the movie Braveheart.  Since Trim is a small town (as most are in Ireland), I was able to soak up all the sights in the town then catch an early bus back to Dublin.  Back in Dublin, I took a quick tour through the Yeats exhibit at the National Library.

Wednesday I took the DART south to Dun Laoghaire.  If you recall the Howth post, it is a port town north of Dublin.  Dun Laoghaire is the port south of Dublin.  In the 1820s, it superseded Howth as Dublin’s main port.  The harbor has two large granite piers and today the harbor has a car ferry to the United Kingdom.  The pier was featured the movie Michael Collins.  I can’t even believe I am mentioning that movie because its ending is so historically inaccurate—de Valera has nothing to do with Collins’s death.   Anyway, walking on the pier might have been a mistake because it was so windy and gusty.  This would begin five days of gusty wind in Ireland.  The wind was so annoying I almost preferred clouds and rain.

After I had had enough of the gusty wind on the coast I headed back to Dublin.  I went to Phoenix Park and then the Jameson factory.  I have a feeling the Jameson company created the factory tour to compete with the nearby Guinness factory and to sucker in all of the tourists in Dublin.  Sadly, the company hasn’t distilled whiskey in Dublin since the 1970s (the distillery is now outside of Cork).  The cost of the tour was a bit pricey, but it is worth it if you volunteer to be a taste tester or go home with a souvenir glass like I did.  The tour takes you through an old factory building and the seven steps of making whiskey.  The most important thing about Irish whiskey, which the Jameson tour guide will remind you with pride again and again, is that Irish whiskey is distilled three times.  This gives the whiskey a more crisp and clean taste, and is far superior to any other whiskey in the world, as the tour guide will tell you.  Scottish whisky (no e in whisky) is only distilled twice and American whisky isn’t even a competitor being distilled only once.  The taste testers compare Jameson, Johnny Walker, and Jack Daniel’s.  If you ever are a tester yourself, I recommend you state the Jameson’s is the best.  As an American, the tour guide will not fault you if you mistakenly choose Jack Daniel’s.

Thanks, sis.  I’ll take it from here.

Fresh off the Jameson tour, Sarah and I went to the Abbey Theatre to see a 19th century Irish play called Arrah na Pogue, roughly translated to Arrah of the Kiss.  It was he said, she said play about people who were really bad at keeping secrets.  In it’s day it might have been serious, but it was hard not to laugh when the characters rode fake horses, or dressed up like bushes, or jumped between the front and rear of the stage via an elaborate set of trampolines.

Thursday morning, Sarah and I made our way to the Tourist Bureau to book a day tour of the Wicklow Mountains.  In classic Irish fashion, the office opened after all the tours departed.  The helpful lady made the bus driver swing back and pick us up near Molly Malone.  We boarded the bus and set off for the mountains…almost.  It took about an hour and a half to make it less than 15km outside Dublin City Centre, partially due to the traffic but I also believed that the bus driver was more interested in telling stories than in accelerating through yellow lights.

We made it three miles from Trinity and had just picked up our last passengers and turned down the bucolic avenue of Dublin 4, the ritzy part of town.  The bus driver, John, to us the lore of Dublin’s colored Georgian doorways.  Apparently when Victoria visited Ireland after Albert’s death, she ordered Dublin to paint all the doors black in mourning.  Like all mandates from the British, Ireland did the opposite.  Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, basically any color besides black.  An added feature of the colored doors was that colors were easier to remember in a drunken state than a house number.  After Dublin 4, we turned down embassy row.  We cruised down the street and then bus driver rapidly said, “On the left China, on the right Estonia.”  From the back of the bus, I watched heads windshield wiper and gawk at the million dollar embassies and residences.  Then he stopped the bus and made everyone on the bus state their name, hometown, and why they were on the tour, in what I imagined to be something like AA introductions.  Some were more enthusiastic in sharing than others, but everyone was excited to find multiple couples from Australia and Belgium.

We stopped a few times to look at the sunny, sheep-dotted hills and made the first official stop at Glencree Center for Peace and Reconciliation.  It had all the makings of a retreat center: nature pathway, small café, sporadically placed benches for contemplation.  After a tea and a scone the bus climbed up toward the Wicklow Mountains.  The mountains look a little like desert tundra and were plateaus covered in brambles and hunks of peat.  It was super windy and then bus was rocking back and forth, but nonetheless, John decided to stop the bus again and talked to us for at least a half hour about his pessimism about modern society, oil wells, wind energy, peat harvesting techniques, this father/daughter duo he once had on his tour three years ago, and his top ten tips for marriage.  The rains set in as we descended over the first ridge of mountains.  We stopped again at the film locations for Braveheart and P.S. I Love You and to look at the Guinness family home on the shores of what looks like a lake made of Guinness.  Fun fact: the water in Wicklow is brownish because of the peat and it flows all the way to the River Liffey in Dublin.

Just as the temperature plummeted and the rain picked up, John pulled into Glendalough.  It means valley of the two lakes and there is an old cemetery and monastic tower that is the same number of meters high as Jesus was years old when he was crucified.  Admittedly, I wasn’t too interested in learning about monks, so we hung at the back of the walking tour and sought shelter behind the extra large headstones.  A small chapel at the bottom of the hill was half open.  John peaked his head inside and said Hello to demonstrate the wonderful acoustics.  Then he suggested that we sing Amazing Grace as a group.  I shouldn’t have been surprised because John insisted on playing religious music throughout the bus ride, including a gem from Art Garfunkel and the Chieftains.  The man from Kansas was clearly singing the loudest and the group from Estonia was super confused.  Singing over, we stopped to chat with the mallards at the nearby lake and then took a short bus ride to Avoca, a mill town and film location of Ballykissangel. We ate lunch in Fitzgerald’s Bar and set off to walk through town.  Five minutes later, we were finished and back on the warm, dry, bus home to Dublin.

The bleak weather continued on Friday.  Sarah and I took the train to Maynooth to visit my friend Amy from BC, who is studying there this semester.  I swear that I almost blew off the bridge and into the fake-lake near the train station.  I now believe everything that Sarah said about Maynooth and can attest that it is a tiny tiny place.


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Day 108: Bloody Sunday

Our morning began relatively early this morning so we could catch a full day bus tour to the Antrim coast, Giant’s Causeway, and Derry.  Antrim is the far north east county in Northern Ireland and its coast rivals the west of Ireland.  Our first stop was the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.  Here a steel bridge (sadly, no longer rope) attaches the coast to a small island (Carrick Island).  Fishermen used to cross to the island to access salmon.  Fun fact, from the island you can see Scotland!  Today the bridge is a tourist attraction and yes—you can cross the narrow bridge to the island.  We both survived.

Back on the bus, our next stop was Giant’s Causeway, a rock formation on the coast.  Apparently, the hexagonal shaped rocks were created by heating and cooling lava.  However, if you ask any local about why it is named Giant’s Causeway, you will get a totally different story.  Legend has it that the Irish warrior Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool) built the causeway to walk to Scotland to fight his Scottish counterpart Benandonner.  For the extended version, you will have to visit yourself.  The Causeway is the most popular tourist attraction in Northern Ireland, sort of like the North’s Cliffs of Moher.

After a brief pub lunch we got back on the bus for our ride to the afternoon’s final stop.  The bus driver told us that unfortunately, the walking tour of Derry was cancelled due to it being Bloody Sunday.  My history major Spidey Sense kicked in—why yes, January 30 is Bloody Sunday.  During a civil rights protest in the Catholic neighborhood of the Bogside of Derry on January 30, 1972, soldiers of the British Army shot twenty-six unarmed civil rights protesters and bystanders.  The event itself caused outrage, as well as the UK’s investigation and response, the Widgery Tribunal, which largely cleared the soldiers and British authorities of blame.  The event increased recruitment into the IRA.  The Saville Inquiry was established in 1998 to reinvestigate the events.  The report contained findings of fault that could re-open the controversy, and potentially lead to criminal investigations for some soldiers involved in the killings.  It also found that all of those shot were unarmed and that the killings were unjustified.  On the publication of the Saville report the British prime minister made a formal apology on behalf of the United Kingdom.

I was naturally elated to be in Derry on Bloody Sunday (it is not often we get to see history in action), but sad that we were on such a short time frame.  Gabrielle and I ran off the bus and then up onto Derry’s city walls.  The walls are about 12-30 feet in width and have a circumference of a mile.  We walked around the city walls where, being above most of the city, we could see a commemoration protest winding its way through the Bogside below.  We made it down to the street just in time to see the protest round the final corner and culmination at the “You are now entering Free Derry” sign.  Video camera in hand, I captured Bloody Sunday 2011, then, Gabrielle and I raced back up and around the city’s walls to our bus.  After a two hour ride back to Belfast, then another two and a half hours back to Dublin, we were safely back at Goldsmith Hall.  Tired just reading about the busy weekend of traveling?  We were too.

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Day 107: The North

Who vacations in Ireland in the middle of the rainy, cloudy, shortened daylight of winter?  This girl.  After my overnight flight I went not to my favorite Aircoach bus stop, but to the Bus Eireann stop.  The plan was for Gabrielle to hop on the bus to Belfast where it originated in Dublin, then I would hop on when it stopped at the Dublin airport.  Our plan worked, kind of.  I stopped at the ATM to get some Euros then waited for the bus.  The bus pulled up and I saw Gabrielle inside.  I put my luggage underneath the bus in the stowage area and then walked on board.  I handed the driver 50 euro for a 14 Euro ticket and he said he didn’t have change.  This confused me, as every US dollar is printed with the phrase “legal tender for all debts public and private.”  Sadly, this wasn’t the US.  I asked the now unhappy driver what to do.  Do you have pounds?  No.  My turn.  Do you take credit?  No.  Did Gabrielle have any cash?  No.  Do I have time to run into the terminal to buy a ticket?  I answered that one myself no, as I could see a long line behind me and only a few seats on the bus.  I borderline panicked.  I had to be on this bus to Belfast, not the next one.  The McKenzie traveling duo can’t be separated!  But the driver didn’t care.  Then I suddenly screamed out to everyone on the bus “Does anyone have change for 50 euro?!?”  Thankfully, a guy in the front row did have change.  “Thanks a million,” I said in my best American-Irish.  I handed the driver his money then took the last seat on the bus.

The next two hours were relatively quiet considering the drama of the previous ten minutes.  We arrived in Belfast and found our hotel.  The décor in our hotel room could best be described as clean, IKEA-furnished, with a television (a treat for Gabrielle), and with a bathroom slightly larger than one on a cruise ship.  Soon we went out for lunch … but it was tough to brave the shopping crowds in city centre Belfast.  We were shocked at how many people were downtown—think Times Square, think mosh pit.  After lunch we left the city centre and headed for the Falls Road.  The Falls Road is one of the Catholic neighborhoods in Belfast.  During the Troubles, people painted murals on walls and buildings in the neighborhood as a form of protest.  The murals depict Irish unionism, unionist leaders, and victims of the conflict.  After the Falls Road we went to the Shankill Road, the nearby Protestant neighborhood.  The two neighborhoods are separated by a barbed wire fence ironically called the “peace line.”  Since the 1999 Good Friday Agreement, the gates of the walls are now open and people can move between the two parts of the city.  Before getting to the Shankill Road we found ourselves in a large courtyard of a housing development with murals on the end of each building.  It was creepily quiet and one of the murals was painted so that the gun points at you, not matter where you are standing in the courtyard.  The Shankill Road has murals as well, painted much in response to the Catholic murals.  From the courtyard we found the actual Shankill Road and walked for a few blocks seeing more murals.

At this point you may be concerned—walking the streets of Belfast, nevermind going to Northern Ireland?  Northern Ireland is relatively safe since the 1999 Good Friday Agreement.  The IRA is no longer what it was.  During the 1980s, IRA leaders realized the violence was not effectively advancing their cause so many turned to politics.  A few years ago, the UK reinstituted Storemont, Northern Ireland’s parliament, and now there is a power-sharing government.  These are more signs of decreased violence and a willingness of both sides to work through the political process.

After our eventful day of traveling and being tourists, we had dinner at our Irish favorite pizza place Cafe Milano, before settling in for an evening of British game shows and Juno.

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Days 100-106

Day 100: No report today.  Headed to the coffeehouse on Dawson to be one of those people who sit at the same table all day on their laptops while sipping, painfully slowly, an overpriced coffee drink.


Day 101: Whenever my roommate’s mom asks what the weather is in Dublin, my roommate peeks out the curtain, sighs and says, “It’s a gray day.”  There are many gray days in Dublin where there isn’t even the illusion of sun or warmth.  Today was one of those days.  A solid sheet of gray covered the sky and it looked exactly the same from 9am to 5pm.


Day 102: Despite the fact that I had to have breakfast for dinner, today was a pretty good day.  I took a detour on my run out to Sandymount Strand and found the Irishtown Nature Park.  The peninsula is half nature walks, half powerplant.  Apparently it is a popular dog walking area, and had I known this ahead of time, I probably would have ventured elsewhere, but all the dogs I ran past were remarkably well behaved and the dog owners seemed to respect the fact that not everyone likes dogs.  (Side note: Just because someone dislikes animals does not mean that he or she is a bad person.)  The park was on a small hill partway out into Dublin Bay and looking back on the city, I saw the rusted green dome of the Customs House, the glass nest of Aviva Stadium, and that noisy crane from the construction site next door to my building.


Day 103: Today I accidentally took a four-hour nap.  For dinner I made pasta with spinach and mushrooms that proceeded to make me sick for a week.


Day 104:  There is this one kid in my DFW class who makes obscure references every chance he gets.  Whenever he talks, he cups his hands over his face and brushes at his nose and eyebrows.  It looks like talking is actually physically painful for him, like his brain is working so hard that he can’t handle it.  I don’t really know why, but I find his mannerism very frustrating.


Day 105: They say that bigger is better.  And they say that everything is bigger in America.  These adages collide and ring true in the Trinity Launderette.  For the entire campus, there are 15 washers and 15 dryers.  Point of reference: The laundry room in Walsh had 38 washers and 35 dryers.  I was hesitant to pull other peoples’ wet laundry from the washers but realized that if I weren’t relentless then I would be waiting until the cows come home.  There were old laundry baskets full of damp clothes stacked three high on top of the dryers.  It is a well-known fact that I hate doing laundry and I didn’t think I could dislike it any more.  That was until I wheeled my suitcase o’ dirty laundry across the cobblestones, loaded the powered detergent and clothes into the washers, paid the washers, realized that the washers were broken, unloaded my clothes into other washers, spilled detergent onto the floor and into my eyes, paid those washers, and sat in the cold room hitting “Restart cycle” every 15 minutes until the dryer thoroughly dried my towels.


Day 106: In the spirit of the Black Eyed Peas, I had a feeling that tonight was gonna be a good night.  We made the usual pub crawl from Goldsmith to the Pav to the Porterhouse to Doyle’s and then to Copper’s.  Copper’s was packed and everyone inside had definitely brought his or her dancing shoes, especially the kid wearing the knock-off Franklin & Marshall shirt and leather jacket.  Let me tell you, “this kid had moves I had never seen before.”  He was easily the best dancer in Ireland and got extra points for knowing all the words to my dance jam, Usher’s Yeah.  I got lost in the music and totally missed the point in the night when my friends told me that we were leaving and I should wait on the staircase outside.  After a while, I realized that I should probably find the people I came with, and I walked outside to see my roommate arguing with the bouncer to let her back into the club, fearing I had been trampled in the crowd or accosted in the restroom.  In all honesty, I was having a great time and just wanted to keep rocking out to Top 40 hits and random 90s flashback songs, but we did need to go home.  If for nothing else than the fact that I needed to board the morning bus to Belfast in exactly three hours.


Days 94-99

Day 94: Daybreak didn’t occur until 8:45am and the sun wasn’t out and shining until 12 noon but dusk came around 5:30pm, which I consider a small victory in these dark days of winter.  I went for a run wearing shorts and a t-shirt.  The weather has been unseasonably warm (50s).  Sorry those of you reading from snow-covered New England.  I noticed many people standing on street corners with tourist maps and felt the urge to just stop and where they wanted to go and point.

Breaking news:  The Trinity library is now open Sundays.  This is a huge deal for Ireland.  What’s next?  Post offices open during lunch?

The culinary creation for dinner was lentil soup.  Perhaps I was distracted listening to This American Life on my Ipod while cooking, either way, I overestimated the amount of lentils.  Actually, overestimated would be an understatement.  I had to split the soup into two pots to cook and almost ran out of Tupperware to store leftovers.

Day 95: Today was the first day of classes for Hilary Term (aka Spring Semester minus three study weeks and four exam weeks).  Oddly, the library was PACKED.  How much work could possibly have been assigned in the first four hours of the term?  Then again, maybe everyone was in my boat.  The boat whose captain delusionally decided not to work on two 4,000 word essays over Christmas break and instead wanted to test her mental fortitude and resistance to carpel tunnel by squeezing both essays into one week.

My first class was Economics of Less Developed Countries, which I took last semester as well.  The professor for this “module” (aka semester) is different, but the course is remarkably well organized despite the switch.  Michael King started the class by asking what developing countries members of the class had been to.  Being a Monday, and being angsty adolescents and hipsters, the class was understandably reluctant to contribute.  “Ok, well if no one is going to speak, then we’re going to sit here in silence for ten minutes because I built this little icebreaker into the lecture format.”

Slowly, students shared the experiences of their eco-service trips in Botswana and Nicaragua.  I spent the whole time thinking about what developing country I had been to, with the bizarre hankering that I was drawing a mental blank.  My better judgment told me that Turkey belonged to the OECD and that saying, “I’ve been to Greece and Portugal…which are practically developing countries, from a modern economic standpoint” wouldn’t have been a very funny joke or good first impression.  Then one student answered, “Yeah, I have been to Pakistan.  Near the border with Afghanistan.”  The teacher cocked his head and said, “Are you by any chance a member of the United States military?”


Day 96: Things I forgot about Ireland while in America for holiday: 1) The cars drive on the left side of the road.  2) Stores do not open on Saturdays….or Sundays.  3) Irish fashion is horrible.  4) Students do not attend class at 9am.  Number of students enrolled in class: 48.  Number of students present: 7.


Day 97: Since I registered for classes in September, I have been eagerly awaiting this semester’s David Foster Wallace seminar.  A little background:  David Foster Wallace was an American novelist, humorist, essayist, philosopher, mathematician, and teen tennis prodigy.  His work is unlike anything else I have ever read; the words literally jump off the page and it feels like his voice is coming from the crack in the book spine between the pages.  Critical and popular acclaim came with the publication of Infinite Jest, a massive modern epic set simultaneously in an elite tennis academy somewhere between the Route 16 turn on Comm Ave and the intersection of Summit Ave and the B line, and a halfway house in the seedy parts of Allston-Brighton near the Charles.  He is an equally gifted essayist whose work appeared in Harper’s, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and many others.  He was awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant.  Legions of cultish fans mourned his suicide in 2008 as though it were the passing of a close friend.  While I do not think of myself as a fanatic, I admire his work enormously and think that he was too brilliant for the world to handle; there was simply no place for him.

It was with all this in mind that I stepped into the closet of a room that was supposed to hold 22 eager DFW followers.  There weren’t enough chairs, empty cardboard boxes obscured half the room, and there were no windows.  Eventually the teacher arrived and took role.  My name, along with ten others who were also visiting students, was not called.  He then added our names to the roster one by one, each time asking where we were from.  After that, he asked why each student in the class selected this course.

A bunch of people answered that they “read” Infinite Jest and were instantly enthralled and just had to take the class.  Side note: saying you have read Infinite Jest is just a step below saying you have read Finnegan’s Wake in terms of difficulty, so I naturally questioned those who claimed to have read it prior to age 16.  The insufferable girl from my poetry class said that her best friend locked himself in a room for three days following Wallace’s death and she really valued her friend so she read Infinite Jest and then everything else out of sympathy for her friend.  I had trouble concealing my eye rolls.  This will probably persist throughout the semester.  Sadly, lots of the other students are hipsters.  You know, those twenty-somethings trying desperately to be pretentious and ironic at the same time, when in reality they have nothing to be pretentious about and the situation is not at all ironic.

Bonus points for the girl who said she took the class because her friend bullied her into it.  She would have had to take six tequila shots at The Bleeding Horse if she backed out.  Another girl, from California, said, “Actually I’m a music major and I haven’t taken an English class in a year and a half.  And until last week I thought he was an Irish author.”  I answered that, when I read, I read for the words, not the story.  I had come across Wallace in a writing workshop and selected short stories and essays but hadn’t read any novels or full length works yet.  My answer was truthful and not as vague as everyone else’s but might have accidentally pigeonholed me as “Words Girl” because each time the professor mentioned something about words in the class, he looked my direction.

In the class of 22, there are ten Americans.  I am excited about this because it means 1) class will start on time, 2) at least ten students will attend every class and 3) at least ten students will have read the material for class.  Three things that I cannot say about my other English classes here.  Although I am disappointed about the hipster ratio and the annoying rabid fans who analyze tangential references to postmodernism and the use of nature imagery in The Fountainhead instead of observing the sheer brilliance of Wallace’s word choice, I am overall very excited for this class.

Later in the evening, the new BC-Ireland kids studying at UCD and “the Trinity girls” met at Yamamori Noodles with the coordinator.  The UCD kids came in two separate groups, which seemed odd.  Everyone put on their best, Nice To Meet You face and dined on udon, sashimi, nigiri, and edamame.  This semester’s group is much larger than last semester, and tonight didn’t even include the 10+ kids scheduled to arrive at NUI Maynooth next week.  Due to the size of the group and the awkward booth and table arrangement, conversation was difficult.  Everyone seemed nice enough, which they probably are, but dinner made me appreciate last semester’s group even more.  Shout outs to Rory, Chelsea, Bobby, and Mia.  If you’re out there, know that Dubs misses you too.


Day 98:  This morning I went to the library with every intention of working on my essay for Poetry of the USA, Poetics of Motion in Robert Frost’s “A Late Walk,” “The Onset,” “Gathering Leaves,” and “Mowing,” and to be honest, for the first two hours I was functioning with above average productivity.  The only breaks I took were to glance out at the college green and track the progress of the sun rising in the sky, the shadows advancing across the field, and the frost receding.  Then my cell phone rang—a very rare occurrence.  I grabbed it and scurried to the stairwell.  “Hello, is this Gabrielle.”  Yes.  “Hi, this is George Mannes, I’m writing and article for Runner’s World.”  Oh, hi, yes, how are you?

Following the bank-run-esque Boston Marathon registration this fall, Runner’s World magazine put out a “call for entries” of unique stories about qualifying for Boston, staying up all night hitting the refresh button on the registration website, or coming oh so close after fifteen qualifying attempts.  A few weeks ago, I sent an email with my story and last week George Mannes responded that he “did indeed want to talk with me about the story.”  I was a little nervous during the phone interview, especially because I was in the library stairwell standing directly under a “NO CELL PHONES” sign.  With the reception cutting in and out, I said that if he held for a minute I could walk outside.  He said ok, then hung up and called again within five seconds; I don’t think he understood the concept of “hold on.”

Anyway, we talked for about fifteen minutes, fourteen of which I spent in the cold dark shadow of a building and one of which I stood in the comfortably warm, bright patch of sunny sidewalk three feet away.  If I’m in the article, it would run in the April issue (just in time for Boston) and hit newsstands in late March.  Cross your fingers!  I could be famous!


Day 99:  You might remember how yesterday I planned to finish those pesky little essays.  Well, good news, I did.  Around 11:00pm last night I definitively hit that little red dot in the upper left corner of the Word documents and then celebrated my accomplishment with an hour of pleasure reading.  (To an English major, this is actually something to relish.)  This morning I printed both the Robert Frost essay and “Clarissa and Her Men: The Semiotic in Mrs. Dalloway,” and turned my essays into the central office.  (It would be simply blasphemous to hand a paper directly to an Irish professor, but hey, the system has worked for 400 years, so I really shouldn’t suggest otherwise.)  With the weight of writing off my shoulders, I can now look forward to the anxious anticipation of the grades—which count for 100% of my final grade in one class, and 50% in the other.  All in all, the first week back was expectedly difficult.  There was lots of Skyping home, lots of missing America’s comforts, lots of essay writing, and lots and lots of lentil soup.


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