God Speed from Me
Good Bye Ireland, Hello There Illinois

Well this is definitely going to be the hardest blog I’ve written. In the past few days I have had to overcome something: crying in public. Before coming to Ireland I frequently have said to folks, “Well, I rarely cry in real life but I cry in every movie and TV show”.  This changed this past week, though I still do cry in every movie and TV show.  Let’s back track a bit. Since the last blog a few exciting events occurred. Continued to practice with a volleyball team and it was so fun being way more connected then we were before the tournament.

SIDE NOTE

In a hotel room in Dublin watching some boy band I have never heard or seen before. Turns out they are some HUGE UK 90s pop band called Take That. The concert is huge with like tons of guests. Guess one of the 90s boy bands made it through. They are the ‘top selling band on Amazon’ and had the fastest selling album of the 21st century. I didn’t Wikipedia them or anything. lol weird that I have never even heard of them. Sometimes the world is so small and other times still so big.

END OF SIDE NOTE

    Per suggestion of my lovely roommate Nicky, my roommates threw me a surprise going away party/ you’re done with your Fluids final party. See the Irish don’t take exams for classes they take in the fall until the summer. Basically they get all of April off school to ‘study’ and then have like 12 exams in May. Since I won’t be here, I had to take exams students have a month to study for with a week to study. I was pretty stressed and it sucked because I wanted to be fully enjoying my last two weeks in Cork but studying held me back. Held back is in the Irish sense though lol. That weekend my volleyball team went paintballing and then had a lil’ get together afterwards. Now when you normally experience pain, it makes you not want to do that event that caused you pain.  Yet, for some reason I enjoyed paintballing. It was strange. It hurt so bad but was actually really fun. It has been over a week since we went, and I still have bruises. Plus, the next day due to an unfortunate series of events I had to ride my roommate’s bike somewhere and it was a horrible experience. I was so so sore. Then, the get together went uh well. All I can say hard-circular-object destroyed me. I know that doesn’t make sense. Sorry I’m not sorry. The next week I had to say bye to my dear Conal. L Going to miss that boy too much. But we sent him off with our last family dinner. The last week just Jamie and Lisa were around. I, again, had a lot of studying to do but took time to hit up the Jameson factory with Amanda and her fab sister. Then, said good-bye to her and the wonderful Irish gals we hung out with Tuesday night. Amanda was a bit easier to say bye to because I will see her in February when I got to San Diego for a medical imaging conference.

So, I have a bit of a flaw. Well, I have others but only one to address right now. I tend to care way too much about the people close to me. I know that probably does not sound like a flaw but me wanting a pat on the back but seriously I invest a lot in every relationship I have. However, the downside is that I easily get hurt when the care is not reciprocated or a friendship I invest a lot is broken so easily by the other person. Hence, often don’t let people in because I know this little weakness of mine. Sadly, one of the producers of tears this week was someone taking advantage of that. Had met someone and thought we both considered it just a casual/ enjoy each other’s company sort of thing. Had a talk clarifying this like 3 weeks before I left and gave an out then if that was not okay. Then, had him promise to just not freak at the very end. Guess what happened? He ended up letting what other people thought mean more than what we had talked about. And freaked about having ‘commitments’ when I was leaving literally the next day and would likely never see him again. Ugh. Boys are so annoying. In his defense, was nice about it all but wish it could have waited one more day. So, that sucked. But maybe just a little way to make it easier for me to leave, hey? Met up angrily with Chenae right after and the restaurant we went to (our favorite) got to see sad Bri. Luckily, Chenae and others reminded me that it was not worth getting bothered about.

   ANYWAYS. The majority of the tears came from saying good bye to the rest of the people that have made this trip so great. I just really love the person I was here and that I could be completely myself in any given situation in Ireland. In the states, there is a lot more pressure at parties to always be on you’re A-game. In Ireland, no one really cares and they just want to have fun. Like the last party we had at our house consisted of a bunch of art students, rugby players, Americans, musicians, and those in-between, and everyone got along great. I don’t believe I would ever see such an eclectic group like that back home. It’s sad. It will be hard to go back to a place where I have to think more about what I say or do, especially because I never realized I had to do that in the states until I came to Ireland. Plus, the Irish are pretty much impossible to offend and put fun before work (definitely the opposite of the states). I am someone prone to migraines, and I haven’t gotten one in Ireland. That says something. Saturday we all did the ’12 pubs of Christmas’ AKA go to the 12 pubs on Barrack street and get a drink at each. I think everyone was just a little off because we all wanted to have a blast but at the same time were all super bummed to be leaving each other. Ended up going to a bunch of places not even on Barrack street and took little Lisa home early.  Rachel, bless her heart, made us pancakes upon return. The next morning I packed and said good-bye to my lovely Jamie. «Insert more tears». Did I mention my roommates got me the most fabulous ring ever?? Then, went to breakfast with Chenae, her man Sean, Rachel, and Lisa. Tried black pudding (made from blood). Felt I had to before leaving and then hit up some of my favorite places in Cork: AKA got hot chocolate. I spent SO much money this week on Christmas shopping that I avoided going to any of my favorite Irish stores that day. Then said bye to Lisa and Rachel. LOVE THEM. «Insert more tears» Then dududu said bye to Chenae (and Sean lol). You know in the movies where one lover stands on the platform waving while the one on the train tries to remain in view for as long as possible? Yea, we did that. So, the whole train got to see a teary-eyed Bri.

                Now, I sit in Dublin airport eating my final fabulous European scone. The other American roommate in my house was more of the stay-in sort of person and decided to write not such nice things about my housemates in one of her final blogs about what she “won’t miss about Ireland”. I mean I guess to each its own but it’s sad because my roommates and other close friends MADE my experience in Ireland. It has literally been the most amazing experience of my life. So here are some things I will miss from Ireland:

   1.  How words in America do not match those in Ireland. Recent example: when someone in Ireland asks for a rubber, do not think they are asking you awkwardly for a condom. A rubber in Ireland is an eraser.

2.      Scones. They are so good.

3.       Butter. Though their dairy made me sick, the butter here is just a million times better. Fresher I think.

4.       Tea. Mmm. Barry’s Tea changed me from an everyday coffee drinker to an everyday tea drinker.

5.       Laid-back lifestyle. The Irish, again, put enjoyment before work, and I hope to bring that attitude back to the states.

6.       Volleyball team. My volleyball team was amazing and my weekend with them was one of my best. It was so great to be a part of a formal team again.

7.       Travelling easily. RyanAir makes travelling within Europe so cheap and everything is so close. America is so far away. Will miss being able to go to London or Scotland or wherever for the weekend.

8.       No political correctness. Again, the Irish cannot be offended and don’t care at all about being politically correct. If you take it offensively, they view that as your fault.  “It’s all good craic man. Relax.”

9.       Style. People here dress much better. Especially for classes. Sweatpants are a no no.

10.   The city. Cork is a rather large city with 150,000+ residents. Will miss living in a city not too big like Chicago but much bigger than Iowa City. It really is a fun experience.

11.   My pharmacists. My lovely New Zealand pharmacists were so helpful with me not agreeing with Irish food. They even gave me chocolate the last time I visited them. Too cute.

12.   Mentoring. Got to read with underprivileged kids in Cork. Will miss my mentee.

13.   Accents. It will be so lame going back to a place where everyone sounds the same.

14.   HOT CHOCOLATE. Convinced the best hot chocolate is in Cork.

15.   English Market. Fresh markets are hard to beat. English market was so cute and great.

16.   Penney’s. Yep, I will miss their darn cheap prices and cute clothes.

17.   Rain and green. Though the rain was frustrating at times, I will miss how green everything is here due to the rain and that everyday whatever happened yesterday sort of gets washed away.

18.   My house. Living in a home was so much fun. Apartments are nice but it is hard to beat a house. Except, here homes come fully furnished, making it that much more enjoyable to live in one and not have to worry about that. Too many good memories at 7 N Mall.

19.   Different opinions. When you study abroad you meet people from all over America and all over the world. In the Midwest there are different opinions but not to the extent when you get Irish, Australians, Germans, Italians, Californians, Colorado-ians, East Coast people,  Midwesterners etc in a room: opinions vary A LOT more. Loved learning new perspectives

a.       Best recent one: talking to Jewish , American friend Adam on the train to Dublin and he was explaining the Jewish version of the devil. That he is not someone not under God’s rule that tempts you to do bad things, but works for God to notice when you do bad things. Thought that was a very, very interesting way to view the devil. As more of a police officer rather than an evil force.

20.   My roommates/ Chenae/ Amanda/ Rachel/ Tara/ Brit/ Meg/ errone else – You are truly the reason my trip was amazing. Thanks for everything. I love you all. 

So much more I will miss but 20 things for now is good. I had no internet service at the airport and am actually home now. The day I get home its rainy. How fitting. On the plane I felt tears come to my eyes a few times but there was a very good looking English guy sitting next to me I chatted with. He held back my tears.  Well, I guess this is it. The last Irish blog. I love you Eire. Love you all.

God speed,

    Bri

Be Where You Are

        Not that I never appreciated my mother on Thanksgiving, but hosting your own Thanksgiving for 15 people definitely gives you a new understanding of how much goes into making all that food. Luckily for mine, many of the guests offered to bring essential food items like dessert, mashed potatoes, and macaroni cheese (I guess not a typical one but was seriously amazing). For 15 people, we decided to get two turkeys. Cooking the turkeys the next day was pretty easy but cleaning out a turkey is just down right gross. Chenae is a vegetarian, and I didn’t blame her at all for literally not being able to watch. I mean the nice store people but some of the giblets in a bag for you but you still have to reach in and pull out some nastiness. I was very appreciative of having male roommates for this occasion.  You go Jamie you go. Amanda and I more observed his antics. I think he secretly enjoyed it. Jk jk. The dinner itself went super well. I made a cute lil Thanksgiving day quiz that the Americans “should” have won since it was over Thanksgiving history but I honestly had no idea if there were more Indians or Pilgrims at the first dinner nor who the captain of the Mayflower was (Indians and Christopher Jones respectively). Also, passes around a bowl with little “What are you thankful for”-esque questions. It was good craic for sure. Of course everyone afterwards had their food comas and took a lay down in the living room, but in true Irish spirit they were all up 30 minutes later ready to commence the after Thanksgiving celebrations with an additional 10 or so people. The night ended with about 2 or 3 people in my room chatting about life and how great Thanksgiving is. Woke up the next morning to my iPod, computer, and camera un-stolen but my toothpaste was gone. How strange. Turns out the twins took it because they didn’t feel like looking for theirs? Or they were out? Either reason is a little strange but oh well.

     The weekend after I grabbed a pint with a few friends at this pub called Old Oak. Before the boys arrived, Chenae, Amanda, and I were approached by this group of Scottish firemen. Yes I know. They were a very eclectic group of ages and personalities. One of the guys and I started to joke with another that we were cousins. We had a quick side conversation about what our last names were/ mother’s maiden names. That information was enough to convince him. Then, when the boys (Conal, Jamie, and Zach) arrived we also convinced Zach that he was my cousin, as well. Let’s just say Zach has some invested interest to be impressive. So, knowing this guy was my cousin he started chatting him up and offering to buy him drinks. It was precious. When we revealed the truth he and everyone else was embarrassed. Rightfully so. We looked ABSOLUTELY nothing alike. He was like over 6 feet and big dude, dark hair, dark eyes, from Scotland. I’m I dunno normal height, normal weight, blonde, blue eyes, from America….

   Truth has dawned upon us Americans though. For the first time, we all have to do legit school work. Amanda actually lived at my place the other week because seeing each other do homework made it hurt a bit less. It makes it SO much harder to care and study knowing I only have two weeks left and am desperately sad to leave. One thing we both learned is that my wonderful, fantastic roommate Conal loves to talk and does not care how into your work you look. HE IS TELLING HIS STORY! No but his stories are always very funny and I still love him. Some more interesting things that I have never mentioned that the Irish do differently are that for weighing themselves they don’t use pounds or kilograms. They use this strange measurement called a stone and 1 stone = 6.35 kg. Saw a sign that said “Learn how to loose seven stones fast!”. Sounds like something for years ago used like lets see how many rocks it takes to balance you on scale or something. Also, whenever I tell people my name is Bri they give me two response: “Oh like the cheese?” or “Oh like from Desperate Housewives?”. I think the latter is the more surprising one, especially because its the more common response I get. Don’t usually get any reaction back home. Will miss that :( Also, got a funny question from Chenae this week: “So I heard its politically incorrect in America to call snowmen white or to show snowmen because they are white because its racist. True?” Okay. I have never ever heard this in my life and if there is any truth to this I am shocked. Snow is white THUS snowmen are white. Really? Please let this be false lol.

     This week I studied a lot, Jamie had another lovely art friends party where I shared more American games and tried to make Nicky admit how good looking he is, and Amanda had her parents send her ingredients to make banana cream pie. It was yum. Especially the graham cracker crust. They don’t have graham crackers here. Also made banana bread from the excess banana pie bananas, rushed to get to a bus to see lovely Jamie’s artwork and be all sophisticated looking at ridiculously overpriced artwork, saw Pulp Fiction for the first time, and watched the Irish famous Late Late Toy Show. It is this ridiculous program where they just show toys that kids like. They have like children who are talented signing and dancing and kids showing off toys and the audience gets all this free stuff and its like FOUR HOURS LONG. It is nuts but actually really really entertaining. Had I not gone to bed at 4:00 AM the night before and woken up at 9:30, I probably would have watched it all. Finally, went into a gift shop with Amanada and heard an announcement that “If you spend over 100 euro in store today you get a free traditional Irish music CD”. Amanda and I laughed at the people who got that CD spending that ridiculous amount on touristy gifts. I was buying stuff for all you folks back home. Needless, I got the CD when my total rang up to 114 euro. Cool. lol YOUR ALL WORTH IT THOUGH!!

  Overall, just feeling really sad lately. You see, I know I am going to come home soon and see my family and friends but once I leave here I will not see these AMAZING people I have met for a very long time, if ever again. That breaks my heart. I have truly become a different person with a more laid-back/ positive view on a lot things. Studying abroad with no close friend from home on you side is an amazing experience that forces you to grow up and truly be comfortable in who you are. There will be no way for me to show the people here how much they mean to me and how much they have done for me. I AM SAD TO LEAVE!! eek. I started this blog with ‘Be Where You Are’ and say it again here because so many of us get caught up in the future and right now I just want to enjoy exactly where I am for once. For you entertainment though I did make a video of my Irish roommates talking in order for everyone to hear their lovely accents and me to remember them. Jamie barely has an accent, Conal is in the middle, and I basically make Nicky repeat everything he says because it is so strong. You will also learn how much they LOVE the phrase “Top of the morning to ya”. Love you all.

Enjoy: http://youtu.be/LNZQpPsCx-M

God speed,

Bri

PS. The next two statements are going to mean nothing to my readers but are more memory joggers for me in the future. There are moments and things I choose to disclose from this blog because its public. So here they are: A vs Z BP showdown and fall off bed x3.

Getting Married, Second Place, & a Curve Ball

Hey there! I thought I would finish with the recent sad news but decided there is no way I’ll make everyone read about my trip to Scotland and the most fantastic weekend here AKA volleyball tournament thinking they sucked because the tone may not overjoy. You see. I was on the bus ride home from Galway and about 40 minutes outside of Cork I received a simple text message from my sister: “Can we skype”. Nothing threatening in that at all. Actually pretty normal thing for us to do on a Sunday. Yet, I said to the lad sitting next to me, Zach, that I felt weird about the text message and laughed it off that my Irish-over-worrier mother has rubbed off on me too much. Unfortunately, my gut instinct was correct. Turns out my Uncle Pete passed away suddenly this weekend. He was found unconscious in his room on Thursday I believe with his phone in his hand. My uncle has had health issues on and off for a while. He got diagnosed with throat cancer a few years back and struggled with the radiation and therapy/ having to quit smoking. Since then, his health has just never been the same. He was diagnosed with diabetes and had been giving himself insulin shots in the stomach. This lead to the development of a hernia in the stomach that I guess was huge. It ended up bursting and tore open his large intestine. This caused bile to spill into his body essentially poisoning him with ammonia levels of about 700. He passed away Sunday, November 20th. It’s been hard. He had been on the up turn and was always a uncle so genuinely interested in what I was doing with my life. My friends here probably think I am a hundred percent because been trying to just act as if everything is normal. Feel very torn between acting like its normal or if that is wrong of me because I should be grieving him and his fantastic role as my uncle. It is hardest, though, not being able to be with my family and give my dad the hug I so badly want to. My dad grew up with my Uncle Pete and not many of his crazy life stories don’t include him. Luckily, my Irish family is awesome and has been helping me take my mind off things, but again not really sure the best way to grieve someone when you are so far away from home. Found out today that he had planned for me to come with him and my little cousin to a Blackhawks game in February. Pretty much lost it with that and still truly hope to make that game. All in all, I have many fond memories of him laughing at his own jokes and always reminding me how prou d he was of what I’ve accomplished. My grandpa used to always bring me reeces on Thanksgiving and the first Thanksgiving after he passed my Uncle Pete brought some for me. I think it meant more than I was ever able to tell him. My mom said when they pulled the plug my Uncle Rick could hear birds singing outside. When she got home, she was upset that she had not been there in the last moments and my dad was trying to convince her it was okay. At that moment my dog was barking at something outside our glass front door. It was very late at night on a dark, cold November. My mom said when she looked out the door, a group of thirty birds suddenly flew off our porch. Never before had birds sat on our porch, let alone on a cold night when it is dark outside. She said it felt like him telling her it was okay. God I love my family.

     So, enough of that. But as I tell a little bit about my solo trip to Scotland and my volleyball tourney keep in mind they were both amazing trips. Just harder to tell them now. Like I said, Scotland was my solo trip. Well sort of. I arrived in Glasgow by myself and immediately met some awesome Irish people. Of course lol. They gave me some advice on places to go. I spent the day at a free museum by the gorgeous Glasgow University and exploring the city center. Now, I thought Glasgow was very pretty and rustic looking, but still thought places in Ireland were much prettier. Then. I went to Edinburgh. Hands down the most beautiful place I have seen here. My friend I worked with this summer, Bria, goes to the University of Edinburgh and offered to host me for the weekend. So, technically the solo-ness of the trip ended here. Lol. But it was nice to do what I wanted and when prior. Yet, Bria was a FANTASTIC host. Got yummy free food and room n board. Got to sleep in her parent tempurpedic mattress. So comf. She showed me all around Edinburgh on Saturday. Like pictures do not do this place justice at all. It was just unbelievable. As we were passing the city hall she commented that she had never had the opportunity to go inside. Right then we noticed a sign that said they were having a wedding open house for interested brides. Luckily, I have a ring that just passes as an engagement ring and, yep, I was engaged this day. Bria was my bridesmaid. My soon-to-be hubby was Scottish and we wanted our wedding where we met. Oh gosh. The city hall was beautiful and I got to try cakes and foods and see wedding placements. Drew the line when they asked if I wanted to try on wedding gowns. EEK! Said I already had one. DOUBLE EEK! Could not believe they bought it. Thank god they did not ask me my boy’s name. Not sure I even know any Scottish sounded names. I would have froze for sure. They personally invited me back for an information night and we scurried out before I felt any more guilty about lying to these clearly desperate for business women. Got to hear the fabulous Scottish accent and see lots o pictures of SCRUFFYs!! They loved westies there (guess they are Scottish) and, thus, I love Scotland. Was honestly really really sad to leave Sunday and definitely hope to return to all its glory some day. Didn’t get to see enough.

    The weekend after that we had a four day tournament in Galway for the UCC volleyball team. I had gotten to know the girls pretty well over the last few months but had not met the boys team yet. So sad I met them now at the end of my trip and not the beginning. Not only was the tournament itself really fun but every night hanging out with the guys team turned out to be as fun as many of the crazy weekends I have had here in Ireland like going to Portugal and London. Volleyball in Ireland is by no means as legit as it is in the states AKA why I am on the team. To put in perspective: I am one of the taller girls out there. However, our team has been together for about 6 weeks (all of us our international students) while the other 10 teams have been together a lot longer. The boys team has been together longer since a lot of them are full time UCC students (mainly medical students from Canada). Us gals still pulled out 2nd place, though we could have got first :(, and the boys took the cup. So many interesting things happened a long the way. An Italian dude randomly walked into our hotel room one morning. No one said anything to him for about 5  minutes because all of us were caught so off guard. Finally I informed him he was in the wrong room lol. One of our setters is this peppy, smiley Malaysian student. Full of energy but when she messed up she had the best lil’ angry dance ever. Two of the male players are just UNBELIEVABLE at volleyball. Both played pro before entering medical school at UCC. Both are married but we can let that slide ;). Unlike at volleyball tournaments in the states where different teams are giving each other the evil eye, all the teams got along and hung out every night at different pubs in Galway. It was just so great. On Saturday after the tournament finished there was a banquet for everyone. To put it into perspective we came into the night with funny hats like sombreros and Indian wigs and cowboy hats + glow sticks + the long standing cup the boys get for winning. Woke up with none of these. And we lost 6 volleyballs. Great. lol At one point the electricity went out and while the other teams sat around and talked ours played this ridiculous gigolo game. All I kept thinking was: “Do these people know what a gigolo is? This should not be the name of some silly volleyball warm up…” Thinking about leaving these people so soon breaks my heart. Again, compared to other posts this one is actually relatively short but hopefully later on I will be able to add some more memories here and there for this one. I love you all. RIP Uncle Pete.

God speed,

Bri

Amanda

Hey there! The week after coming back from Faro, came to find out that the Irish really love Halloween. So much so that they started celebrating Halloween the Thursday before it began and get school off for the big day. It appears, via Wikipedia, that Halloween actually started over here in the Celtic countries of Ireland and Scotland. My Australian friend, Chenae, has never celebrated Halloween and was excited to have her first one. Don’t get me wrong, I do really like the holiday but I hate thinking of what to be. I think there is such pressure to do something that is both original and either cute or funny or so-scary-its-acceptable. AKA a witch with a wart and black hair won’t cut it but a short-skirted scarecrow or all-out zombie with painted skin, scars, crazy hair, torn outfit, and more are okay. Unfortunately, we decided to pick our Halloween costume for Thursday on Wednesday and did not want to spend a lot of money. My American friend, Amanda, whom this blog is titled after, was “Beauty is in the eyes of the beer holder” in that she had a cut out of a letter I with the word beauty in it and held a beer. Clever clever. Chenae and I went through many ideas: Guinness, peanut butter and jelly, WHOs from How the Grinch Stole Christmas, deck of cards, etc. We decided though to be aliens because we really wanted to put a bottle in our hair and it was also cheap to buy ugly green clothes, metal kitchen sponges, and stickers. This was the results: 

Now recall that something we originally wanted to do was be the WHOs from the Grinch. We thought it would also work with the bottle in the hair and Christmas-ey clothes but were convinced by my Irish roommates that Irish folk would not know who the WHOs were. Well guess what. 75% of people we met that night out guessed that we were WHOs. So we just went with it and stopped correcting them. Honestly, we just started accepting any interpretation of our outfits. I think at least 100 people went out of their way to come up to us and tell us how “clever” or “grand” or “unreal” our hair was. Halloween overall was SO fun in Cork. Everyone gets really into it and had lots of fun meeting up with some of my male roommates for dancing at the Brog.

    After Halloween, went back to Dublin with Chenae. Poor Amanda was suppose to come but darn Ireland made her deathly sick the morning of. Dublin was actually really fun. For some reason I had low expectations because the Irish talk Galway up so much compared with Dublin. Most of our time there was spent simply walking around the city and window shopping but it was still really fun. Went to Kilmainham Jail which held and executed many political figures that fought for Ireland’s independence. Some as young as 16. Also visited Trinity College which is likely the prettiest school I have ever been to. Even the students appeared better looking. Stayed at the most amazing hostel ever, ate at my first sushi train, and had FALAFEL which I miss so much since Cork does not have a restaurant for it. The next week I became the Bri many of you know well. I stayed in most nights that I did not have volleyball practice and studied for an Organic Chemistry test. Wa wa. I studied hard not only for my Irish grades sake but because I will be taking lovely Organic Chemistry II when I return to Iowa. After the test Thursday I felt like a new person + I finally got some tests done to determine if my stomach’s hatred for Irish food has an underlying cause or not. Turns out it doesn’t. Meh.

    On Thursday my volleyball team played its first practice game which went pretty well and was super fun, went over to the ‘surfer clubs’ house and met nice Irish students there, and then went to Reardens where a little glitch in the system forced me home earlier than expected. Friday night Chenae and I were challenged to a Mario Kart competition against some guys from UCC for food to a favorite restaurant in town. Though Chenae and I both have video game experience, I still expected to loose to a bunch of guys and had my money ready to hand over. However, we not only won but actually dominated the boys. It was pretty amazing and the boys were embarrassed afterward. The night was really good craic though. It was nice to just hang out at someone’s house and laugh at the fact that they made tea four times in the 5 hours we were there. Rest of the weekend was just exploring Cork, eating good food, and watching good movies AKA perfection. I was the only one home in my seven person house which was wonderful during the day but creepy at night.

  So many of you may be wondering why the title of this blog is Amanda. Well, you see my dear friend Amanda read through the blog and noticed that many instances where I could of brought up her presence I didn’t. I hang with dear Amanda almost as much as I do Chenae but our travel schedules don’t meet up and often I just travel with Chenae. Thus, Aussie gets in many of the more interesting stories. So this is me giving Amanda the credit she sincerely deserves as someone who has made my experience in Ireland amazing and someone I have become very close with in a short amount of time. It is actually shocking how close I have gotten to people in just three months. I think going through such a whirlwind of experiences and feelings makes it easier to open up with people. It is crazy how much Amanda and I have in common: both have much older sisters we are extremely close with, both had weird friend experiences at the same time, both have been to developing countries that completely changed our outlooks on the future, both can’t handle the Irish dairy, both love Ryan Gosling and his godliness, etc. So this is a little tribute to my lovely Amanda, my lovely Aussie, my lovely roommates, and all the other fantastic people I have met in Cork. Truly truly truly the experience here has been made by the people I have met. Miss you all!

God speed,

Bri

47-year-old + Polish creeper < beach + cheapness

           I am back in lovely Irish weather of 41 degrees Celsius after an amazing three days in the 80 degree weather of Portugal. Even worse because three days was not along enough to get a proper tan and, thus, warmth, sand, and relaxation seem almost like a dream. But let’s back up a little. Last Tuesday, we decided to make potato soup for some friends and convinced my roommates to come out. My friend Amanda graciously made mine with soy milk and overall the dinner went well. We decided to go to one of our favorite pubs, Reardens. Unfortunately, my young roommate Conal who is 17 was unable to get in with his fake because they wanted two forms of ID from everyone. I felt a scary foreshadowing of what would be waiting for me back in the USA very soon… Inside things went well. It was a slower night surprisingly but Amanda, Chenae, and I were excited to finally rid ourselves of the Irish boys of the past and meet new people. Basically all we had to do was talk loudly, let people hear our accents, and boom we were in. I am going to struggle next semester meeting people with no accent advantage ;) …. Anyways, the night went well but about five minutes before leaving we. saw. them. All four of the Irish guys we consistently try to avoid because we are more than ready to meet new people came up to us. Luckily, Amanda had, well, told one of them her true feelings towards him so he did not stick around very long. But the end of our night consisted of fake smiles with them before we were able to slip away. Before heading out to Faro, Portugal on Friday, Chenae and I decided to check out the Cork City thrift stores. We were walking around on this beautiful, sunny day and suddenly started to feel rain drops. We looked-up expecting a dark cloud emerging above us and found that not only was there no dark cloud, there was literally not a cloud above us but somehow it was still raining. Only in Ireland.

     On Friday morning we headed to Faro with a plan: since we couldn’t check into our hotel until 2:00 PM and we were getting there at 10 AM we would just go straight to the beach for the day. At Faro airport, I went to go buy sunscreen and Chenae suggested the I not pay 14 euro for sunscreen and get some cheaper on the beach. We took a SUPER expensive bus ride, 1.80 euro ;) , to the beach and happiness came over us both. It was beautiful out and the beach was picture perfect. Unfortunately, there was not many shops on the beach and no one spoke English very well AND Spanish is very different from Portuguese. A stray dog also decided we were his owners and followed us as we searched desperately for a shop. The only one we found was out of sunscreen. We went and sat on the beach with the lovelysheet my mother sent me to use at the beach (such a great idea mother), and decided was it worth it to get burnt or would it be better to run back to the airport for sunscreen. Noticed a women down from us that seemed to be using sunscreen. I went up to this elderly Portuguese women to discover she was nude but, nonetheless, I awkwardly asked if I could use a little of her sunscreen. It was spf 50 and due to her not speaking any English, she literally gave me enough to cover my face. Ugh. Then I spotted another couple that also seemed to be lathering up. Went over to them, they were not nude, they were some Eastern European couple (couldn’t quite place the accent), and not only did they let us borrow sunscreen but they gave us an entire bottle of spf 15 because they had three. I love other backpackers. As I made this transaction, I noticed two boys sitting on a bench watching what was going on. I had saw them earlier that day but, at the time, thought nothing of it. Just wait….

   Flash forward five hours of reading and relaxing on the beach. We take the bus back to Faro city center and using a map from the tourist office we attempt to find our hotel. The map was pretty big and very deceiving. We got very lost and learned quickly that one end of the city to the other only was a 5 minute walk. Thank God. After finding someone who spoke English we got proper directions to the hotel and held our breaths. The hotel was very very very cheap and after our London experience we did not know what to expect. Yet, not only was it in a great location (right by the night scene) but also clean and well decorated. Should explain that the ‘hotel’ was only one floor, had a kitchen and living room, and only about 6 rooms. We got our own private room which is always nice so you don’t have to worry about your stuff. Set out on the city to discover just how darn cheap Faro is: a bottle of vodka was 10 euro, bottle of water .08 euro, huge meal 8 euro, AMAZINGLY cooked chest nuts (I thing they were chest nuts) for a euro, glass of sangria for a euro, leather purse for 10, etc etc. We were in heaven. We decided to play it safe and get sandwiches at a cafe for dinner. While we ate sandwiches and drank sangria, an older Portuguese man decided to sit down at our table, his English was very good, and explained that as tourists we should not eat at cafes but needed to eat something traditional. He also explained to us that Portugues people don’t need alcohol to be friendly unlike the Irish (his opinion not mine!!), Latin American people were the happiest people in the world, good food + good weather = good people, the history of Portugal, why the British are lazy, and much more. Needless to say it was a very interesting conversation and we got a good laugh out of it. He told us we should stop by his restaurant the next night to get some real Portuguese food. 

     We went back to our hotel to freshen up and are met by a decent looking, 25-year old guy. We say hello but then retreat to our room to rest. The beach always tires me out. He comes to our door about 30 minutes later and asks if we would like to have a drink with him and his friends. We couldn’t place his accent but he seemed nice enough and we agree. I ask him where he is from, he says England which is a clear lie because his English is not good at all and then he concedes he is Polish. I thought this was a little strange, to lie about where you are from, but he then explains he moved to England for work a few years back. Okay. Fair enough. We sit down in the living room and he pours Chenae and I drinks that are literally half alcohol half Coke. Okay then. The two other boys are Slovakian and tell us they just met the Polish guy that day. One of them then says that he saw us on the beach that day, and I remember him as the guy on the bench. The conversation starts off normal, especially with the Slovakian guys. Then, notice everything the Polish guy says is a bit weird. For instance we were talking to the Slovakians about what they were doing in Faro, they say they are on a week holiday, and the Polish guy randomly chimes in he has been in Faro for over a week. Uh, okay? Then we talk about how one of the Slovakians works in IT and the Polish touches my arm to tell me he wants to “tell a funny”. Instead, he quizzes Chenae over the capitals of basically every country in the world because she is a geography major, which he somehow knows. She tries to explain she is food geography not places but eventually gives in and plays along. The Slovaks then say they have to go move their car or it will be towed. They all leave, and Chenae and I poor our drinks into the other boy’s drinks because we realize the Polish guy especially is not our preferred company. Unfortunately, the Polish guy comes back and sits down. He starts telling us how every girl he has every been with has tried to use him for his money and “made” him buy them jewelry and clothes. Okay? Next he pours us even stronger drinks that we don’t touch and he explains that “Every time he reaches out a hand, he can’t grab the hand. He wants to help but can’t and is not sure if it is worth it”. Okay? Lady Gaga comes on the radio and I ask him if he likes her. He replies “No because she wears make up here <points to his eye> and here <points to his cheek> and here and here and here <points to random places all over his place>” Chenae and I literally trying so hard not to burst out laughing. She asks what he thought when Gaga dressed like a guy. This guy who supposedly has lived in England for 5 years clearly did not understand the question and returns to explaining how every girl is just after money. This is our cue: Me: "Alright well we are tired from the beach we are going to go take a nap". We rush to our room and do decided to lay down for like 40 minutes. About 20 minutes in Polish guy knocks at our door "Girls want to come have a drink?"… uh no we are sleeping we will be out later. He leaves. Ten minutes later <knock knock> "Girls come on. Come have drinks. Good fun."…. uh no we are still laying down we will be out later. Over the next half an hour he continuously came to our door beggingfor us to come have drinks. We never even opened our door and many times he stood out in hall for like 5 minutes asking us to come out “For just one drink and some fun”. Finally, I hear one of the Slovaks at the door and, deciding they were semi-normal, open the door to him. He is now wearing an American flag shirt. Great. I explain that we just need some time to get ready and would appreciate if they just went back and we would come out for a drink when ready. Slovak convinced Polish to go. Instead, Chenae and I got ready in about 5 minutes and booked it out of the hotel.

     We walked around for a while just trying to see what places there were and accidentally came upon the restaurant the older man from earlier worked at. He mistakenly thought we came there on purpose and asked us to sit down for some wine. We told him about the creeper Polish guy, and he apologized and told us we could stay at his place that night if needed. Thanks, Dad??? He then showed us an amazing meal we could have the next night for only 8 euro each. He asked us to guess how old he is and, being nice, we guess like 38 or 40. Turns out he is 47 and that he is a “free spirit with no intention of marriage but just lots of love”. He also tells us he likes younger girls. O great. Then he says “You see. Today I met this beautiful Australian girl and I really liked her and we will see.” Chenae being the totally clueless girl she is was like “Oh who is that?”. I immediately change the subject to avoid him answering and start talking again about all the countries he has been to. Come to find out that he is actually divorced because 7 years ago a Japanese tourist came to Faro for a few weeks, they ‘loved’ each other, he got her pregnant, and then he moved to Japan for a few years to be there for the kid. Some souvenir huh? Now they are divorced and he only sees the now 7-year-old once a year. I asked if he missed him and he replied “Eh, not so much. You can’t live your life missing someone, you have to live loving someone.” Okay? One of the other workers at the restaurant came up to us and asked where we were from. Chenae explained Sydney, Australia and I reply Chicago, USA (most people know Chicago but do not know Illinois). However, the two guys start laughing at the mention of Chicago. Turns out that Chicago in Portuguese means “to take a poop”. Great. Will just being saying Illinois from here on out. Joke they told: Two Portuguese guys are on a plane to New York. After a few hours on the plan, the captain announces they are getting close to the city. One of the guys had been in the bathroom for a while and the other excitedly runs to the bathroom to tell him he could see New York. He knocks on the door and exclaims “Carlos! I am in New York. I in New York!” Carlos replies “I am in Chicago. Go away!!” The three of them laughed their heads off.

     We went around with our 47 year old tour guide for a bit and enjoyed the cheapness of Faro. Unfortunately, he did reveal his love for Chenae and did not respond well to her having a boyfriend. ‘Dude you could be her dad’ was all I wanted to say as they argued about if 21 was too young to be in a serious relationship. Due to the awkwardness, we called it a night early and clearly did not return to his restaurant the next day. We went to our hotel and as soon as we got in our room, Polish guy came by in SUPER short red boxers to ask us to come out for a drink. We say no and he starts his “Oh come on. Just one drink. Please please” Fed up beyond belief, I walk up to the door, look him in the eye, and reply “We are going to bed. We don’t want a drink. Leave us alone.” Slam the door closed. That night our room was a little hot, and I was way over tired. About 5 minutes into falling asleep, I don’t really remember this, I guess I jumped out of sleep and anxiously asked Chenae who she was. I then asked what ‘that’ noise is (it was someone taking a shower). When I finally snapped out of it, I realized I was having a dream about creepy Polish guy and freaked out about it. About half way through the night, I am awoken to Chenae falling out of the bed and heaving. It sounded like she was having a seizure (yes, I have been around someone having one). I freaked because I don’t know Portugal’s “911” or what to do. “Chenae, Chenae, you okay?!?!”. Still heaving she turns around eyes wide. Apparently she was having a dream the Polish guy was in the bed and when she woke up the cover was over my head. So, she thought I was the Polish guy and freaked out. We died laughing that both of us had nightmares about him.

    The next morning the Polish guy apologized for the night before and the Slovakian boys leave for their next destination. Fair enough. We spend the day again at the beach and the afternoon shopping at the ridiculous cheap stores. Ironically two other Americans we know for Cork were in Faro and staying at the same hotel. We asked them to dinner Saturday night. After dinner we went to the carnival that was in town because not only were the desserts amazing but they had really good sangria for a euro a cup. I asked the girls how their Friday night was at the hotel. Here is the icing on the cake of this long story. At the hotel if a room was not in use it was just left open. When the girls arrived in the evening, the owner took them up the room and was surprised to find the door closed. The owner opens the door to find the Polish guy setting up a camera on top of the TV with it pointed towards the bed. The two Slovaks apparently in there, too. The owner freaks out and makes them get out. He offers the girls a place at a hostel across the street. The girls said the three boys in total shock grabbed the camera, a box containing who knows what, and run out. They said it looked like they were setting up to film something pretty freaky. Chenae and I are stunned. Just think. This happened sometime shortly after we left the hotel. It was possible the boys had not realized we left yet and only God knows what they were planning. So freaky yet such a good ending to this messed up story. We tell the girls our side and spend the next forty minutes laughing at just how utterly messed up the situation was.

         The two girls were going to Paris the next day and wanted a chill night. So, Chenae and I hit the town by ourselves. At the last bar we went to near our hotel, we asked the bartender what we should order as our last Faro drink. He asked us if we had tried Licor Beirao. We had not and he said if we guessed what it was made out of he would give us two free glasses. Literally, the best alcohol I have ever tried in my entire life. It was like candy. It didn’t burn and was so nice to just sip in the warm night. Our guesses: liquorish, figs, chocolate, etc. All wrong. Turns out it is made from a secret combination of flowers and seeds. So delicious. Bought a bottle at the airport to bring home. We returned to the hotel and never saw the Polish guy or 47 year old again. Left early Sunday. Since the story is dominated by these two fellas it may seem the trip was a bust. Yet, the beach, the weather, how cheap everything was, the shopping, the other less-interesting-but-more-normal people we met, the carnival, and the food were so good that no two guys could have ruined it. They instead provided us with some great stories. I spent 40 euro on my flight to London and spent about 120 on my flight to Faro. However, overall I still spent less on my trip to Faro than I did on London. I liked London but no strong desire to return this semester. I would go back to Faro tomorrow if I could. That’s all for now. Love and MISS you all. (Strangely home sick lately!!)

God speed,

  Bri

Night Life, “Home”, and an Irish Rugby Team

     Hey there. Realize it has been some time since the last time I wrote but between classes becoming legit, meeting more people —> more nights out, and volleyball time has been flying. No worries though this will be an extra long one. Last week was a pretty normal Irish weekend. I returned to the Cork night life for the first time in a few weeks since I am finally feeling better. Had an American friend invite me to this pub called Franciscan well that brews their own beer. Normally its expensive, but my friend had buy one get one free coupons. It was literally America inside. A lot of the Americans studying abroad live in the same student accommodation and have a tradition of going there on Mondays. There was like 45 people in this one area and only two weren’t American. I was even convinced at one point that the group had arranged themselves into what looked like the outline of our beloved country. It was fun to chat about everyone’s experience and have someone agree with me about all the things the Irish do ‘strangely’. However, since I had not gone out in a while, the Well’s beverages hit me a lot harder than anticipated. Later on, I was chatting with an Irish lad and everyone wanted to go somewhere else in the city center. I live literally three doors down from the Well and decided continuing to go out was not the best idea. Instead of being normal and just saying good-bye, I asked the Irish guy if he wanted to see a magic trick, he answered yes, I pointed down the street, he looked where I was pointing, and I ran away in the other direction. Lol.  I’m such a nerd.       Going to Portugal next weekend (woo) and hadn’t brought my bathing suit to Ireland. Was not willing to pay for a new one when I have a million at home. So, my parents sent me a package that included that and many other wonderful items. Not only did they graciously send me Life cereal, but I had mentioned to my father that I wanted to read The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo and it was very expensive in Ireland (like $25). He sent that in the package as well. :)   I will say, I thought at first my parents had sent me illicit drugs. The delivery man has a distinct “I’m here” of hard core knocking and door bell ringing. I was awoken last Tuesday to this and, knowning my package was on the way, jumped out of bed to answer the door. In my pajamas, with bed head, and glasses on I answered the door to a middle aged delivery man. He asked if I was Brianna K and I replied I was. He then asked me if I wanted the package. Thought it was a strange question but answered yes. He handed me an electric signature pad and asked me again if I was positive I wanted the package. Me: <awkward giggle> “Yes”. Delivery-man: “Okay please sign there”….”Now initial this one”. Me: <thinking why they need two signatures> Delivery-man: “Any idea what’s in the package?” Me: "Uh yea some stuff for a trip I am going on soon." Delivery-man: <laughs> “Good stuff. Your American huh? What you think of Amanda Knox.” Me: <am I about to get arrested? is he trying to hint something? Amanda Knox?> “Well, I think she was innocent”. Delivery-man: “Huh. Yay sad story. So much wasted time over a simple mistake” <awkward pause, kind of start to sweat, looking around for the cop cars> Delivery-man: “Okay. Well, I won’t bother you any longer. Have a great day.”  Like wtf. It was so strange. Opened the package to no illicit drugs and was just utterly confused. Kept waiting for the door bell to ring again or something, but I guess he was just a strange dude that asked me about the first American-esque issue he could think of.       Because of the Monday Well scene + volleyball for 2.5 hours, I didn’t go out on the typical Tuesday night but decided to wait till Wednesday. Thought it still would be reasonably fun and 1/4 as crowded places. If you have read the blog before you know about the group of boys Aussie and I met on Arthur’s Day and whom we hung out with again a few weeks later awkwardly at their house. Well, since then we have hung out a few more times many strange events have led us girls to..well.. want to meet other people. The group of boys did like silly boys always do and basically allocated one of us girls to one of them despite Aussie already having a boo, and Amanda and I never agreeing to the allocations. Last Wednesday we met at Amanda’s very excited to finally meet new people. Started the evening at a traditional Irish pub that had lovely live music. It was a relaxing place to start off the night, and we decided afterwards to hit up one of our favorite pubs, Reardens, where bandaoke (karaoke with a band). Upon entering, the place was a little bare but we knew a few of the attendants and my roommate (who is 17 and others thought was 24) was there. About 20 minutes in we realized something horrible: the boys from Arthur’s day were there. Ugh. We were cordial and said hello which led to them being pretty attached the rest of the night. Luckily, my ”allocated” lad, Conn, gave me an easy out. He didn’t know that my roommate, Conal, was my roommate and Conn introduced himself to Conal. Conal proceeded to mention that he was from Clonmel, Ireland. Conn replied with, “Oh man. I could name so many chicks from there I have been with.” Conal being the protective roommate he is immediately gave me the break down, I laughed for 20 minutes, and felt less guilty about ignoring him the rest of the evening. Have a feeling it will not be the last we see of the lads (in their defense some of the boys in the group are really fun to hang with) but ready to move on.    After Reardens we went to a really classy place to get some food: McDonalds. I never feel like buying red meat and try to get my necessary intake from high quality places like McDonalds. So, I excitedly went up to the counter to order what I have been ordering from McDonalds since I was 16 in every country from America to Ghana to England to Ireland: a double cheeseburger with mac sauce (it is like a mini-Big Mac). The guy taking my order was about to type it in when the manager came up behind him with a “We can’t put mac sauce on any other sandwich but the Big Mac!”. Me: “Oh really? I order that every time I go to McDonalds. Well then….” <start to think about what to order instead> Manager: “No offense. But you have probably never order that because it is against policy to do that.” Me: <well I wasn’t going to make it a big deal but..>  “No seriously. I have even ordered it here before. Could I just get the sauce on the side?” Manager: “Well, any person that has ever given you that should be fired. And no, open sauces cannot be given on the side. You just need to order something else mam and stop lying” If the guy taking my order was not mouthing sorry and looking so pissed at his boss I would have left, but instead I order a darn regular double cheeseburger and called it a day. It was the most upsetting McDonalds experience ever. If only Ronald was real and loyal customers could give him a call.    
     This past weekend I got to go home with my lovely twin roommates to Waterford, Ireland (yes, as in Waterford crystal). I accidentally drank some Irish milk again Thursday (I’m so stubborn that my body is normal) and was sick again Friday but decided to stick it out and go with them. Very happy I did. Again, it was really nice to have a mom around, a sarcastic dad, a home, and a cozy bed. Plus we got rides both ways from her mother and then their brother which made it even more enjoyable a trip (probably couldn’t of handled a bus). There house is in the beautiful Irish country side. The talked up a lot their friend Rachel’s house (which was gorgeous and modern) but I have to say I loved the homey feeling of the country side and couches full of pillows. The view from their front room window is above. Not fair right? Friday night we had a wonderful homemade dinner, watched the American X-factor, and just hung out. Again, probably doesn’t sound terribly excited but it was so nice to relax and their parents/ lil family arguments between the twins and the parents made it so much fun. Saturday we went shopping around Waterford (I love European clothes = dangerous) and had dinner over at Rachel’s house. It was spaghetti with meat sauce which they call some ridiculous name over here, but delicious none-the-less. Then we went out to the towney pub Geoff’s (sounds like Jeff’s). Lisa & Dionne’s friends were really fun to hang out with but when we arrived this random table of boys kept looking over at our group in that not-sly-at-all-way-boys-do-it. I laughed and commented that Irish boys are not all that different from Americans, and asked the girls if they wanted to go over there. They said yes half jokingly and were shocked to actually see me go over to the table and sit down. Only Lisa mustered up the courage to join. I believe she is happy she did. The group of guys were older but an eclectic group ranging from a 40 year-old bald, sarcastic, car mechanic to a 24-year-old gorgeous architect about to move to Canada. It made for a very funny night and since they were not 19 and poor, Lisa and I saved a lot of money via them buying the rounds. We finished up around 1:00 AM and, thank god, got offered a lift from their brother home (was not feeling sleeping on a floor). One of the best parts of the trip, naturally, was their 3 dogs. I assumed the Westie and I would fall in love via our Scruffy-connection but actually bonded much more with the Yorkie Benjy. I am not really a sleeper-iner and on Sunday I woke up at like 8:30 AM (though I went to bed at 3 AM) and went for a walk around with Benjy. It freaked me out because he was not on a leash and every car that passed drove so fast. I would pick him up each time I heard one coming which he did not like. Probably one of the best walks of my life. It was a sunny day in Ireland (so rare) which went it was reasonably warm and the twins live in this countryside with an amazing hilly landscape and lots of green. Each home along the road was different: theirs is a semi-modern light yellow ranch, the next I saw was a two-story hot pink house, the next a cemented home not painted, the next a gated mansion, and so on. I often would get lost in the homes, freak out that I lost Benjy, and find the little cutey walking right next to me. Had a competition with their bro-ski over who the dog loved more: I think this may have sealed the winner. Sunday I baked a red velvet cake with Dionne while Lisa made home-made scones (SO GOOD) and their mom cooked a roast for dinner. It was nice just hanging out in the kitchen, working the hang over out. Below is their dog Benjy watching Dogs 101. SO CUTE!!

    LAST STORY I PROMISE! On Sunday we got back to Cork around 9:30. My roommate, Conal,  is on the rugby team at UCC and had warned me that the rugby team was coming over on Sunday night. When he first mentioned it he had apologized that they were coming. I thought he was apologizing because I might not be home and would miss it, but he was because he claimed they were crazy, crazy boys. I laughed and said he didn’t need to apologize for having in-shape rugby boys over at the house. I now understand what he meant. THESE BOYS WERE NUTS. Walked into a house full of 35 big rugby Irish guys that kept doing little chants and three of them had their drinks literally tied to their hands. All of them were very nice and introduced themselves but the things they did to each other were actually gross. WARNING THIS STORY IS NOT MODEST OR APPROPRIATE. I DO NOT SUPPORT THIS BEHAVIOR BUT WANT TO REMEMBER HOW CRAZY THIS WAS IN 40 YEARS!  At one point the oldest member of the team had to take his shirt off and lay across the kitchen table.  Another French lad had to strip down to his underwear and straddle the older guy. Then the Rugby team poured who knows what (some mixture of beer, whey protein, and other kitchen items) into a condom. The French boy held one end in his mouth while the other guy had to tug at it with his teeth until it broke and he drank the contents inside. OMG!!! Later on, the captain had to drink another disgusting concoction out of four guys’ belly buttons. Something out of animal house. Literally thought the stuff you saw in the movies never actually happened but in Ireland for the rugby players I guess it does. I am sure you can guess what our house looked like the next day. Lovely Conal had it all cleaned up by the afternoon and he had to bleach wash the floor three times. It is still a little sticky. Well, that’s all. Love and miss you all.
God speed,Bri

Roots & Kidnappings

   Starting to feel better! Yay! I think I just need to avoid the dairy and water over here. All the other Americans are fairing well, so don’t freak out if you visit Ireland, but for me it just doesn’t seem to sit well. Still last Wednesday helped make a potato soup with lots ‘o milk in it and cookies with lots ‘o milk, and I enjoyed a lovely baked potato with no butter will the others ate. Sounds like a horrible night I bet but it was not because the Irish gals here are just such a laugh. It amazes me so much how different two countries with so much in common can be. To begin, the girls FREAKED out that I had been a cheerleader at a point in my life. In Ireland, they don’t have cheerleaders for any sports and, like red cups, see cheerleading as part of the ‘American dream’. They literally begged me for an hour to teach them a cheer. Luckily, I was able to blame my sickness on not being able to but truly just felt too on the spot to whip out an old Mustang’s chant. Honestly, cannot remember many of them except: “We want a touchdown. Where? Where? Over there!”. Pretty lame one….   Later that night I came home and hung out with the family AKA my roomies. One of the twins wanted me to look someone up on facebook, and I asked her how to spell the name. Lisa (the twin): “C-HAYCH-A-OR-L…” Me: “Wait what was that?” Lisa: “C-HAYCH-A-OR-L..”  Me: “Are you speaking Irish? Type it in!”. What she was saying was C-H-A-R-L (IE). Yep, they say their letters differently. Most are the same but H = HAY-CH; R = OR; and Z = ZED. Bizarre right? Especially or instead of r. Like or is a word you use. How do they spell ‘or’ verbally I wonder…. “O OR”… No no just spell the word, don’t repeat it…. “O OR”… lol Crazy stuff. A few other interesting word non-translations: If something is savage it is not dirty and unruly but really awesome, like you had a savage night. If you talk sh*t, you’re not talking bad about someone but just talking about nothing. The word ‘rain boots’ does not exist but its wellies instead, though I tried to explain that was a brand. A jumper is a sweater. A session is a party. Craic is fun. To be pissed is not to be angry but to be drunk. More to come I’m sure. :) This is what living with Irish students does for you.

   On a more exciting and personal note, I got to go to Galway where my family is from. I arrived on Friday and was picked up by our family’s friend Maura. Most of my family still here is much older. So, Maura offered for me to stay with her since she is young and not to the kids stage of life yet. HER HOUSE WAS AMAZING. She lives right on Galway bay in a four-bedroom house. It is just her but her dad often stays with her because her mother passed away in January. The house is brand new and beautifully decorated. It was nice to be in a homey home with a mother-esque person watching over me. I live in a house in Cork but it is much more a college house than a home. For instance: At Maura’s,  I enjoyed nice meals, relaxing movies, and walks along the bay. At my house, I walked home last night to find two first-year Cork students throwing my yogurt at each other in the kitchen. Joy lol.

   Anyhoo. Got to Galway Friday and went to a ceili or a typical irish set dance. How it works is there are groups of eight (4 couples) that stand in a square formation and do ‘sets’. Each set is about four songs with similar moves. Everyone somehow knows every move to every dance and the music doesn’t even have any words! I personally thought many of the songs identical. Throughout the night you do 8 sets and have, of course, a tea break after the fourth. IT WAS SO FUN! Like puts American non-dancing-grinding to shame. I had NO idea what I was doing but everyone was very helpful and just laughed at my inabilities. Literally just watching was entertaining. Next morning we went for a fantastic walk with her golden retriever Molly along the Bay. Stunning view of the mountains on the other side. That day I got to meet my great uncle John. We took a day trip out to Crough Patrick and the surrounding mountains.Crough Patrick is where Saint Patrick (St Patrick’s Day) fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. If you complete the 4 hour hike and say prayers along the way, you get to ask for a miracle at the top of the mountain. We only walked about 1/8 up lol.

            

This is a picture of some of the mountains taken with my very low resolution camera. Like times this picture by 100 for beauty! Just drove around the country side, did a little hiking, had a lovely dinner, and got to hear tons of stories about my family from my uncle. He was precious. It was really cool to hear about my grandpa and grandma when they were young. Sometimes hard to see them like that now. Sunday I got to go to my family’s land. Now the house my great uncle lives in is…well.. kind of dirty because he is an elderly man taking care of a lot of land without a wife or kids to help out. So, naturally he does not really care how clean the inside is. Besides that I was amazed at how much land there was, how big the two homes were, and that my family owns cows. I feel so more Iowan now. Also, got to see the house where my grandparents met. It was just really surreal that them simply working at this house (my grandma as a maid/ nanny and granpa as a gardener/ handy-man for the rich folks) when they were young is literally the reason I am here to write you this blog. Tried to upload the picture of the house for you all but the upload button is being fussy.Came home a little more sick from all the traveling but in general at peace for finding my roots and enjoying a weekend away. Plan to go back in November and visit my Great Aunt. Maura was just so wonderful to me and can’t wait to actually be able to eat normal the next time.

    Came home and met up with Chenae and Amanda. Amanda is an American friend of mine who has a really cool sounding life. She lives in San Diego and goes on concert cruises every year. She meets bands not known yet but who she meets always turn out to be celebrities. For instance, Taylor Swift and Zac Brown Band. Yep, she knows them both. She also spent the summer in India and has amazing stories from there. Well, turns out Amanda had met some guys that Chenae and I had also met on Arthur’s Day. Small world right? So, we decided one night to go to a small get together at the boys’ place. They tell us where they live: Albert Road. They tell us its too far to walk, we look on google maps, it looks fine, and we try to walk it. Realize it was a bit of a hike and decided to get one of the guys that ride a bike and you sit in the carriage in the back (MUCH cheaper than a taxi). In the carriage and the man riding the bike doesn’t know Albert Road. Neither do we. Get dropped off at a random spot. It’s ten at night, it’s raining, it’s cold, and we are in a non-populated part of town. If there was ever a scene from a horror kidnapping film, this was it. For some reason, us three thought it hilarious and had the best laughs trying to find the boys’ house. Finally did and realized sitting around with people you have only hung out with before in pub/ party situations is pretty awkward. Lol. Conversation was pretty forced and lots of giggles around the room because we all knew what was going through each other’s heads. The night did get better and now we can hang out with them in any situation I presume. It’s always interesting how that works out. Going to get some good night’s rest and have VOLLEYBALL tomorrow. Made the advanced team (woot) and really want a Cork jersey. Crossing my fingers I get picked to play the tourney in November. Love and miss you all.

God speed,

Bri

Decided this week to give you all a tour of my house. Since I wrote last, things have been pretty the same. Tried out for volleyball and got on the team but not sure I will stick with it. They practice a lot, and I want to travel on the weekends. Still kind of sick which means I have to stick to a blan diet for a week via doctor recommendations. It’s amazing how sick one can get of bread and rice. Been hanging with my roommates a lot because they rock. I made them a red velvet cake because they don’t do red velvet in Ireland. Best quote: “This is the best cake I’ve ever had. Don’t tell my mom I said that” - Conal, my roommate. Will be taking a trip to Galway this weekend to visit my roots and need to start doing real school work. Eek. Love and miss you all.

God speed,

   Bri

Water: Making you Better or Sicker?

      After the London extravaganza, I got to go on a three-day all expenses paid field trip with my early-start semester class. This trip included seeing many of the spots those of you from home have probably heard of: the Burren, Cliffs of Moher, and Galway city. Also, got to see some sites that are less known but nonetheless amazing. Again, it is helpful when you have a very knowledgeable professor explaining what you are looking at. One was the Laemaneh Tower House and Semi-Fortified House. The fancy name comes from the fact that the family took a 17th century tower house (stone, tall, square home) and attached it a more typical big rectangular stone house. The house was built by an older gentleman who late in his life married a young women, Maria Rua. Of course Maria out lived her husband when he passed away a few years later and the home + his wealth was given to her. Then, she re-married and this also-wealthy man ended up passing before her, making her even more wealthy. Maria re-married another time, once again out lived this husband, and settled with staying alone till it was her time to go. So, naturally there are local Irish myths of Maria being a murderous evil women in search of money. You go girl.

    We then ventured to the Aran island which you can only get to via ferry. Here we went to Dun Aonghasa. Now, most people claim the Cliffs of Moher are the most beautiful natural cliffs one can go to but I think Dun Aonghasa gives them a huge run for their money. Here are two pictures I took, the first from Cliffs of Moher and the other Dun Aonghasa:                                                              

 

From this initial vantage point, the Cliffs of Moher do appear more beautiful with their height and green grass but the difference for me was that at the Cliffs there are barriers to keep you from getting close to the edge. At Dun Aonghasa there was not and I was able to sit on the ledge and look out at the beautiful ocean and scenery:

            

     The trip went grand and all the food, especially seafood, was to die for. But then, on the last night of the trip, I got sick. I figured it was food poisoning based on my symptom of needing to sleep near a toilet but the sickness lasted for about 5 days. Later found out that unlike in Cork where tap water is treated to drink, Aran Island water is in general not good for drinking. Most of the other people had drank alcohol at dinner and afterward that last night but I, being a good person, decided to drink tap water because water is so good for you. And I got sick. Not a fun sickness either. All better now but it really put a damper on the rest of our trip and the next few days. Did go to a local town called Kinsale for a day. It had a ‘beach’ which was hardly a beach but it was a gorgeous city. Not sure any town in Ireland isn’t stunning, though.

   Started classes this Monday! The first day was a rather overwhelming experience. In my first class, a first-year class at UCC, I felt like a grandma. For all the other students in the class this was their first college course ever and they were over the top excited for it. When they found out I was 20 their eyes widened like it was some magical age in the far future. One even asked me what it was like to be 20. My next class was a second-year class and you could tell many of the students did not see each other over the break because they were all catching up with each other when I entered. At UCC, regular students only take classes in their major and no general education components outside of it. Thus, everyone in this second year class not only knew each other but knew I was an outsider. I was excited to see some girls in this engineering class, tried to talk to them, but they weren’t having it. O well. My next class was organic chemistry and luckily I knew a girl in the class from having met her when I was buying a sweater from the store she worked at. Yes, this was a new accomplishment of mine: getting personal life stories even out of an employee at a store. My day ended with a class called Environment and the Public Health. An amazing class about diseases caused by the environment like water-borne diseases and malaria. Just my sort of class.

   The rest of the week got better and better. More people talked to me in class, I signed up for volleyball and science club (pushing up glasses), got a lot closer with my roommates, and started to feel a hundred percent better sickness wise. My roommates consist of one American girl, twin Irish gals, another Irish girl, and three Irish lads. Besides the twins who are somewhat similar I suppose, we are all very different but get along very well. Also, had the opportunity to go to some Irish students’ house one night and met some insanely nice Irish girls. They were unbelievable welcoming and excited to meet Americans/ Australians (Chenae came too). You can tell that Chenae and I have been hanging out a lot because people consistently bring her up to me when she is not around like: “Oh hey Bri. Yea, I saw Chenae last night!” Never really sure how to respond… Chenae and I watched Zoolander the other night which I think almost permanently cemented our frienship…. last step: Moulin Rouge.

  Cork city has become a new place with the arrival of the students. It went from this relaxed place to hang out to this nuts town. Like the students are crazy. They put Iowa City students to shame. It’s been nice being around people my own age but hoping that it settles down once ‘freshers’ week (the first week of class with all the new first-years) is over. One huge plus has been having people to walk home with. Before, I lived on the opposite side of town than my friends and had to be creative in order to not walk home alone: often resorting to these dudes who drive you home on their bikes with little carriages attached. Now, lots of students live on my side of town too and it has been nice not having to spend money getting home. Cork city is a lot bigger than Iowa City and, thus, walking alone is not really an option. Tonight is Arthur Guinness’ birthday, inventor of Guinness, obviously. Ireland loves this day. Oh boy. Love you all!

God speed,

   Bri

Best Not Plan Ahead

   Hurling is a crazy game. I watched the game at this pub in downtown Cork. When Americans watch sport games, they get into it but they tend to interact with those around them. The Irish get in the zone. There was audible reactions to the game but besides that no one talked. At first it seemed strange, but once you realize how intense and aggressive and fast hurling is you understand. It’s like a mixture of baseball, football, and soccer. There is lots of fights and lots of blood. Craziest part, the guys who play don’t get paid! Like a few days after this Sunday match, the players would return to their day-to-day jobs. Afterward, one of the players from the team who won gave a speech on the tele. Granite I have met some Irish folk I struggled to understand but this guy was like speaking gibberish. Everyone else in the pub seemed really into what he was saying but us Americans were so lost. A few days later I commented on how strong his accent was to an Irish student. Laughter ensued. He explained that I couldn’t understand him because he was not speaking in English. I guess for the Gaelic sports like hurling they ‘require’ the players speak Irish during their remarks to keep with tradition. I’m not sure if this made me feel less stupid since it made sense why I couldn’t understand or more so since I couldn’t tell he wasn’t speaking English.

    Dear mum, I cooked for a group of 20 people!! Well, sort of. Like I mentioned before, my friends here in Cork have started a sort of ‘family dinner’ tradition where one person hosts everyone for dinner and everyone else brings wine or dessert to share. This week, in my HUGE kitchen, I made tacos with refried beans instead of meat with chips and salsa. Not hardcore cooking but was proud nonetheless. It was a big success minus that finding Mexican food in Ireland is very difficult. At the first store I went to, the guy literally didn’t know what refried beans were. Since I have a problem saying no when people ask to bring guests, I ended up knowing only like half the people at my house. One was my new roommate Dion who is fabulous and another was this … uh.. very blunt French boy. He meant well but just did not seem to have much of a filter. After dinner we attended a pub crawl that started at the university. All I could think about was that no American institution would ever let that happen. I love Ireland. At one of the places they were checking IDs and the French boy didn’t have his. So, naturally they couldn’t let him in. He got very angry and yelled, “The doorman is racist against the French!”. Uh no dude, that’s his job.

    The rest of the week was less exciting with the occasional pub and writing an essay for my early start class. Also, had my final Monday and attempted to do some studying for that towards the end of the week. Friday morning the Aussie and I headed out to London. I, being the American I am, insisted we get to the airport at least an hour before our flight since it was international. She tried to explain how small Cork airport was but I figured it was at least Midway size and that time would be needed. She was right. Literally got through security and to our gate in like 20 minutes, that’s how small the airport was. Darn laid back Aussies. The flight was very cheap because we went through an airline called ‘RyanAir’. I decided that RyanAir does nothing convenient for their passengers except for the most convenient thing of all (low prices). Though I flew for like 40 dollars and booked only two weeks before, you can only bring a small bag on the flight, pay for checking bags, no food or drink is offered free, and they actually play advertisements through out the flight. Yet, for the price and short flight it was completely worth it.

   Upon arrival in London, we walked around the downtown area stopping into shops along the way. At first, clothes seemed cheap. “Oh it’s only 24 pounds for this super cute shirt!”. Then you convert it to dollars and your thoughts become “Oh damn this sort of flimsy shirt costs 48 dollars”. Hence, I only bought a key chain and scarves from the shops we went to. As we walked to our hostel, I was amazed that, though more American looking than Cork, London was very pretty and had many lovely parks to walk through. However, the closer we got to our hostel the worst the situation became. The internet had described our hostel as close to the city center, beautiful, and in a great neighborhood. Instead [as you can see below] it was very far from the city center, run down, and in a very quiet/ creepy part of town.

                                  

  I know the picture does not look so bad but trust me it was not what had been described to us. THANK GOD they messed up our order. Instead of a 6 girl room that we put a deposit down for, they only had a 12 person co-ed dorm. Thus, we were able to get out of our booking and go find someplace else. Luckily we found this AMAZING hostel for only 9 pounds more. It was beautiful and right downtown. Met an Australian girl in our room who at the age of 19 has decided to go around Europe for a year by herself. I was shocked, Chenae not as much. For being 19, she was more brave and sure of herself than I am. With literally no plan, she is just going to bop around the world. Nuts. That night we enjoyed a more relaxed night with some folks we met at the hostel at a pub nearby. The next morning we went to an adorable out door market in London and met up with Samantha Dieger. Sam is my roommate from college’s friend from high school whom I have met a few times before. Kind of one of those things that though we haven’t honestly hung out that many times, it feels like we have known each other forever. Again, just kind of walked around the lovely city of London and found it surprisingly hard to find an outdoor place to get some coffee.

    That night we left London for Sam’s and her man’s place in a London suburb. Though London was nice, I was very excited to get away from all the crowds. Tristan’s home was a wonderful change in scenery and his mum was awesome. Like such a mom. She made us this wonderful dinner and it was clear which two had been traveling on a cheap budget the last two days. Chenae and I were the only two that significantly ate anything and throughout the next hour we both caught each other stealing little bites of stuff off the table. It was one of the best meals I had since being in Ireland. That night we went to Tristan’s friend house before heading to my first club ever. We met many more English folk and I must say, the English accent is much easier to understand than the Irish. I felt really at home and had a blast. By the time we got to the club, we all felt pretty good and were just ready to dance and have a good time. Like I said, it was my first club ever and it was amazing. Everyone was in such good moods and dancing. Our group was split up most of the night because we were all just meeting people and doing our own things. We got to see this popular British singer called Example. By the time he started, I stopped waiting for the introduction and questions and was just literally introducing myself as, “Hi I’m Bri and yes I’m American”. It saved a lot of unnecessary small talk. Only semi-bad moment of the night was Chenae deciding the mosh pit towards the stage was a good idea and getting elbowed in the nose. There was lots of blood. Yet, the Aussie trooper was back on the dance floor a bit later after we decided the blood on her shirt totally looked purposeful and not like blood (the next morning it was clear the shirt had blood on it.. o well). We got home around 3:30 A.M and Sam’s lovely friend Steph gave up her bed to Chenae and I. We had no trouble passing out within 5 minutes of returning.

  The next day we were going to go to this lovely London carnival with Sam and one of Chenae’s friends from England was going to meet up with us. That didn’t happen. To say the least, the day started off pretty uh slow. We woke up at noon. Again, Tristan’s mum made us breakfast which probably saved my day. We returned to London, attempted seeing a few touristy things, and settled in at a fancy McDonald’s before getting back on the bus to the airport. You see the week before, we had essays due for our class. Chenae decided to finish her essay AFTER the family dinner + pub crawl I mentioned earlier. It was due early the next morning. Let’s just say… there were instances in the essay you could tell. So at the airport I read her essay, and we found ourselves dying of laughter over the mistakes. Our flight home seemed awful. Like the landing was the scariest of my life, and I vowed to never ride RyanAir again. Then, we got off the plane and unlike in America you get dropped off outside and walk into the airport. I guess the winds from the recent hurricanes were just reaching Ireland and the WINDS WERE NUTS. Like stronger than I had ever felt. Could not believe we even landed at all and now love RyanAir for landing as well as they even did.

  I called this post “Best Not Plan Ahead” because our trip to London proved just that. We had planned a hostel, a day of shopping, a day of seeing ALL tourist sites, a strict budget of 80 euros/ 60 pounds, and a festival on Sunday. None of it went as planned and the only thing we did actually book ahead of time, the hostel, was the worst part. Luckily, it was still an amazing weekend and thouroughly enjoyed my first club experience. Also, was struck by how much 9/11 affected London and Ireland. My final on Monday? Went suprisenly well. Chenae and I got lots of studying done on Sunday since we felt more like sitting around than site seeing. Now off to a three day field trip in Ireland. Life is rough. Love you all!

God speed,

Bri

Who I saw live:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLXt3yh2g0s