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.