God Speed from Me
The Shoe

        

     In Iowa City, it is pretty impressive when you go out 5 days in a row. In Cork City, not so much. Monday through Friday of this fine week I found myself at a pub. Most of the time ending with An Brog AKA Summit (pictured above). Monday was by far the most relaxed night but I was educated in Irish swear words. Basically learning that no word is that serious in Ireland. Even “twat”, a rather offensive one in the states, is a word mothers say to their children. It implies idiot here in honestly the lightest sense. You even hear the forbidden “c” word thrown about by the Irish men whenever a sporting event is on the tele.One guy explained it that “It has basically become impossible to insult an Irish man”.

  The group of Americans + 1 Aussie I have bonded with here have begun a sort of ‘family dinner’ tradition. The idea is one person cooks/ spends money on that while the others all bring a bottle of wine or something with to share. As the dinner rotates around the group, money evens out. This week I attended my second family dinner and spilled wine for the 2nd time. The first time was on Chenae’s brand new mac book. Thank god our reflexes were quick and we saved it from the RED wine. This time I joked about spilling and then spilled my white wine on the floor. Not as much of a party foul but sad to see Ireland did not rid me of my clumsiness.

   After the family dinner, the night began at this pub called Washington Inn. Upon arrival we met these two lads from Cork. Both were ~24 and conversation started pretty easily. There was like this weird natural switch-a-roo that happened every 10 minutes. First Aussie and red-head guy would talk while I and brunette did, then a switch would happen. About 2 hours into the convo I pointed it out and everyone was a little freaked by how right I was. Well, us four had grand conversations about Australia, America, Northern Ireland (never going to bring that up to Irish guy again), pubs, Cork, etc etc. One of the best was me asking why they said ‘tree’ for three if they clearly could say three. It sounds like a rude question in retrospect but I put it nicely.. no worries. Both the Irish boys agreed that tree (the plant) and tree (the number) sounded exactly the same but one came out with a beautiful response <in a perfect American accent and speaking very slowly> he replied “Well-why-do-Americans-say-everything-phonetically-huh?” I died of laughter. As the conversations progressed, the boys mentioned there was a hurling game on TV Sunday and we should join them to watch/ maybe even play hurling after wards to try it out.  Chenae and I were genuinely interested. Later on, us four and our family dinner crew went to… of course.. An Brog. Note we had to do much convincing of the Irish boys who claimed to not like the “dirty Brog” and we came to find out that An Brog = The Shoe in Irish. So fitting lol. At some point I went off to say hi to some others in Brog I recognized and when I returned to the Irish boys two new American gals were chatting with them. Both were very nice, cute girls and at first I thought nothing of it. I started a solo convo with one of the American girls and.. get this.. she whispers in my ear “Yea we met these two here the other night and watched a hurling game with them earlier today. They even taught us how to play afterwards!”. Wow. Not only did the two Irish guys obviously go to the Brog even though they pretended to hate it but they clearly used the same pick-up tactic of hurling on other American girls just a few nights before. Ugh did I feel stupid. I told Chenae what happened and, after a quick stop to McDs, we went back to my place to contemplate the facts of the night. I must say Chenae did not have much to say but this should be said in light of the fact that I gave her a hoodie to sleep in and she put it on like a pair of pants. She was feeling good :)   Okay, I am going to apologize now to all women-empowerment readers who want to read a story of how I stuck it to the man and called the guys out on what happened/ never talked to them again. Well, one of the boys already had my number and texted me later on. I did give the guy shit for bringing two American girls to the same exact thing he asked us to do (though he claims this was just a coincidence) and do poke fun at it often. However, I kind of decided that I’m in Ireland and despite this little screw up on their part they were cool guys whom we did have hilarious conversation with up until the point of the ‘reveal’. Needless, we probably still will go watch hurling with them tomorrow. Plus, I am friends with the one on Facebook which means he definitely could read this post. (Sorry James! No hard feelings right??)

  Wednesday consisted of my second pub crawl where I learned a very interesting Irish term that is NOT used the same way in America. At one point I was talking to this Irish lad named Jer (I had to have him spell his name because I seriously thought he was just grunting when he first introduced himself). He had a tongue ring, and I said to him “I am surprised how many young people here I have met with tongue rings. Its not as popular in America” He then asked “Well have you ever met anyone  with a tongue ring?”  Me - “Uh yea. I just told you, I met like 5 or 6 people with one”. Jer - <eyes open wide> —awkward silence— then laughter “I forgot about that not being an American thing. No. To meet someone or to have met someone her means to like kiss with tongue”. So, I basically just told him I was a slut without even knowing it. In case that was confusing, met/ meet in Ireland means making out. They don’t say making out. You can also say ‘shifting’. I asked how do I know if a guy just wants to introduce me to his friend or wants me to kiss his friend. His and the other Irish folk that were now tuned in replied “Uh. I dunno. You just do.” Great. Also, you do not “get a ride home” that is something very dirty (I am sure you can figure that one out all on your own). You always say “get a lift home”. My American friend got a lift from an Irish gal and upon arrival at her house said “Thanks for the ride!”  which caused an uproar of laughter in the car.

           

  Thursday and Friday I went on a field trip with my class to the Irish National Museum in Dublin, Christ Church built by the Vikings-ish in the 10th century, high crosses (AMAZING), Newgrange (in the picture above), and Tara castle where Braveheart the movie was filmed. Newgrange is a tomb from 2200 BC!! The stones around the building were collected from up to 50 miles away and the big ones at the bottom weigh at least 10 tons. It was built in about 60 years which was twice the life expectancy at the time which implies it was built over multiple generations. It is not a typical tomb but one were bodies were brought at first and then later on placed into surrounding satellite tombs. Newgrange is the second largest of three large passage tombs in the Bend of Boyne area of Ireland. On December 21st (the winter solstice) the Newgrange’s tomb is PERFECTLY illuminated all the way through for about 20 minutes. That takes some serious planning and insight. I know it looks too perfect to be that old but about 20 years ago engineers took the location of the fallen rocks and calculated (based on distance from the main tomb and other engineering things) where the original stone would have been. They then re-placed the original stones into the main structure to make it look like this. The stones have not been re-polished or painted in any way. We got a tour inside but no pictures could be taken. This tour would have been perfect had our tour guide not acted like she was in a Broadway musical. Everything she said was dramatic with a pause and lip lick between each sentence (hands folded of course). I wanted to punch her. She seemed very knowledgable but it took so much away from everything with her low tones and awkward pauses. “For me -pause- the cieling of this tomb -pause and lower tone- is the most amazing part” Trust me, everyone noticed.

    All the places I mentioned my class visited were fascinating with detailed artwork/ jewelery out of this world and just how old/ real everything was blew me away but I won’t bore you with too much detail of them all. I do want to say a bit about the castle of Tara because it again just amazed me. It was built in the 12th century and the cleverness of it blew me away. The doors, stairs, windows, etc were designed perfectly to defend against enemies. They even placed the chamber were the human feces went below the important people’s bedrooms with vents from the chamber to their closest so that the odors killed any ticks or parasites on their clothes (remember these people showered maybe twice a year). They made the chimney shoot go up in a spiral so smoke could get out but when it rained the water would have to trickle down the spiral and hence would likely evaporate before it was able to put out the fire. Each of the wooden guard towers around the castle could easily be removed if set on fire. Crazy stuff. Here I learned where the phrase “Giving someone the cold shoulder” came from. If the King of the castle wanted a guest to leave he would not ask him to but would give him the shoulder AKA the worst part of the pig/ cow that was being eating at that night’s feast. He would often have the chef leave the shoulder cold to emphasize the want for them to leave. HENCE cold shoulder :) Our tour guide was some well known archaeologists which was really cool and it was nice having a super knowledge person talk about the place we were in.

  One night our class stayed at an adorable hostel and went to a pub (entry to the pub was paid by my uni lol) to listen to this AWESOME live band. Our professor made the disclaimer before going in that “Thought it doesn’t HAVE to be alcoholic, it is rude to go to a pub and get nothing to drink. So order something!” Love him. The band was this long bearded big Australian guy and this cute little Irish blonde. He played guitar while she played the drums, flute, whistle, or washboard. They were just so in sync, she was an amazing singer, and so obviously in love (they were married). It was so fun. At dinner earlier my Aussie friend had used the word ‘undies’ (apparently that is very normal there) and it became the runny joke for the night between the four of us in the class that have gotten really close. Perfect night. In the morning, the hostel owner brought us duck eggs with feathers still on them. Guess who was one of only two who tried them? Me! When in Rome right?

   Sorry this post is so long BUT almost done. On Friday after the field trip some UCC students organized a night for the new Americans to mix and mingle with them. It was a small group but I was happy to meet Irish students finally (they don’t arrive for another two weeks or so). One of the Irish boys heard I was from Iowa and used this pick up line on me: “I like corn”. SERIOUSLY ?!? Luckily my mom and dad recently/ randomly included a can of corn in a care package they sent me. So, I was able to make a joke out of his awkward line. Some the Irish students started to warn us about muggins in Cork and that we should never walk alone at night. They pretty much made Cork seem like Detroit. So, I went home and my now-scared self looked up crime rates: Iowa City has a crime rate of 4 per 1000 residents, New Lenox 12 per 1000, Cork 20 per 1000, Chicago 57 per 1000, and Detroit 76 per 1000.  So, I am less safe than in IC but basically this pretty big city is as bad as New Lenox. My nerves have greatly decreased. I guess there are just these guys called ‘knackers’ that will ask you a question like “Can I have a smoke” or “Where is a good pub near by” in order for you to get close to them and then they mug you. It has happened to one American student who was alone since being here when he was asked for a cigarette. When he reached in his pants to get them and looked down, the guy pulled a knife on him and took all his credit cards. Hence, I stopped bring cards out (just quid AKA money) but as long as I am smart I will be fine. I will be living with UCC students and they are not here yet like I mentioned, so I have had to rotate convincing people to walk me home. Luckily, everyone here is really nice and willing to do so. Even the Irish boy from the story earlier will text me at night to see if I need someone to walk me home because he knows my ‘dangerous’ living situation. However, MOTHER, there is nothing serious to be worry about. Police here don’t even carry guns. I think Irish students exaggerated a little bit to get the point across that us Americans needed to be smart. That is it for this week. Love you all.

God speed,

Bri

Why the clover?

                        

   The end of this past week/ weekend was much more touristy though there was still a lot of pubs mixed in. Went on a field trip to this AMAZING cathedral and church. Even despite the on again off again rain, it was beautiful. My adorable teacher was so good at explaining all the history of the building that lots of people not in the class joined our group for the free tour. Over the weekend went on a trip to a free-range zoo where all the animals get to just party together. Well, kinda. The cheetahs and bison are caged in but all that separated me from an angry ostrich mixed in with some Zebra and Giraffes was a little wooden fence up to my knee. Monkey, kangaroos, birds, and other less dangerous creatures were literally walking down paths with you. It was my dream come true. I was INSIDE animal planet. I even had my Australian friend with me to give it a more Steve Irwin feel. Jk jk. Love you Chenae if you read this!  Then we went to THE Blarney Stone (it gives you eloquence if you kiss it). The castle that housed the stone was real cool because you got to go in and climb the stairs, see the bedrooms, etc. The stone was really lame. It was just a piece of building that you had to lay on your back and lean your head backwards to kiss. There was a line of 40 before me and I did not see the man use any sort of cleaning product on that stone. Hence, I skipped the kissing part. We also went on a “Lake Walk”. It was very charming, very Ireland, and very fun. Got real close to some free range cows. The are creepy up close. Made me almost feel weird about eating them….. so I went home and ate a Big Mac. Jk.

   On these lovely visits around Ireland, I read up a bit in my Ireland travel guide my mother graciously got me (thanks mum!) and discovered why the darn clover is so big here DESPITE the fact that they grow everywhere. Turns out, the once slave turned priest St Patrick (yes the one we celebrate) used to teach the Holy Trinity using a 3-leafed clover. Cute eh? On a side note, I actually learned in class today that it is likely the Celtics never actually existed and that is more simply a style of art spread through Europe, not a group of people. Sorry Boston Celtics, your name is a lie. The Archeology class has been pretty fun overall until I realized today I have a paper due next week and I booked my trip to London the weekend before my Monday final……luckily its Archeology? I will just study during the week and on the plane. No worries mum! Brilliantly (very Irish word) enough I get to take all classes at the gym here for free. Normally I go to cycling because its right after my class, super hard, but super fun. On Sunday I tried Power Core Ball that was supposedly a beginners class. There was only 8 of us in the room and the other very in shape looking women seemed to know each other and the teacher of the class. Right away, I was dying. It was an abs, legs, back, butt, arm class all in one. More than once, the instructor yelled right next to me, at me, “Is this too much? You getting tired lad? Well keep pushing!”. I sorta wanted to cry. Not only was is embarrassing that she kept calling me out for my struggling in front of everyone but I did not know what to say or do back. Most of the time I just awkwardly smiled at her…sometimes laughed… sometimes said “I’m okay”…. none seemed to really please the lady. In her defense, I am very sore today but may not return.

  Also attended my first Irish pub crawl. Went to four pubs where at each you got a shot if you were with the group. It was fun meeting actually Irish boys my age. They said words like brilliant and ye and what not. At one point a woman came up to me and asked “Where’s the fag machine?”. I froze. Was this a joke? Am I dressed weird? Is that word not offensive here? Came to found out fag means cigarette and all the pubs have “fag machines” for people to buy them. The Irish boys had quite the laugh out this. AND EVERYONE SMOKES HERE! Like everyone. Like they look at me funny when I deny their offers for one. The last pub was An Brog which is basically Cork’s version of Summit for those from IC. Despite its dirtiness I met many very nice Irish people there. One in particular was this really cool boy who did not look Irish at all but more Italian. His dream in life: to play Batman in a movie in L.A. Interesting dream… I did attend a pre-gaming session with other American students a different night. It was fine and everyone was very nice but I just kept thinking that if I wanted to watch people play/ brag about drinking games I would have just stayed with my loved ones back home. Yet, Chenae enjoyed her first experience with American drinking games. So, it was not a total loss and I met a guy who within 10 minutes told me he had tried heroine. He was currently a nice guy and clean now. Hence, began the Bri-Knoll question session about drugs, which he keenly took to.

  I had my party foul number 2. Went out to dinner with my two gals from Iowa and this new friend, Tyson. We somehow got on the topic of Mongolian grills. Tyson had stayed pretty quiet throughout the conversation but at the end said “Oh yea! Have you heard of the place called Manaco?” Well you know when you feel it is not important if you have actually heard of the place because the story that follows is funny/ important either way and you just say yes so they will skip the description? Well, I did that with a “Uh huh. I think I have!” (very excitedly since I just met this fine fella). To my dismay, he responded with “Oh. I just made that up. I have never been to a Mongolian grill”. Great first impression Bri. So much more I could tell you all but that is it for now. Love you all.

God speed,

  Bri

"Love Many. Marry none."

                        

    This is a picture of the back of where I will be staying for the next four months. On the left is my house and on the right is another. The home was built in 1720 and owners have tried their best to disturb as little of the old outside architecture as possible. Its adorable and the insides are very up-to-date. They handle housing much more intelligently than we do: They provide their tenants with furniture, vacuums, FREE washer/ dryer (like literally they are the same machine), plates, etc. It makes so much more sense than the American way of buying and throwing out. I have now been in Cork for about four days. Jet lag is finally gone! Hooray! Some initial reactions about Cork: it is beautiful, everyone drives small cars, I frequently think no one is driving a car until I realize they are on the other side, the weather is crazy, the shops are amazing, everyone is friendly, it is great not tipping, they are smarter and include tax in prices, and the Irish love to talk. I have started my class, Archaeology, with American students and one Aussie gal. The Aussie girl is Chenae and she is awesome. We both are crazy curious about the other’s home country. So, she doesn’t mind my 100+ questions a day. I obviously fell in love with my teacher the first day. He is young, so friendly, gives us a 30 minute coffee break, and has a perfect accent. Too bad he is married….and 25 years older than me. He is just incredible nice. When he asks a question and a student gets it obviously wrong he tries to cover it up and be like <insert Irish accent> ‘Oh that’s a wonderful thought I did not put up here but that too, that too’. I have given some pretty blonde answers, seeing as I know nothing about Archaeology, and  he always encourages me that my answer is intelligent. The class is really cool. We go on like 6 field trips free of charge and even to a place you have to book 18 months in advance to go to! It is just insane how much history is here.

   Last night was my first big night out since being here. To be simple: I went out with Aussie and an American. We went to a small pub with a beer garden and ‘pub grub’ because we all wanted to save money on food. Upon arrival a cute beagle puppy was being shown around to guests by an Irish guy. We knew we were in the right place. About an hour or so into being there and having decided I was not going to drink because I just got off antibiotics, one of the other girls from our class called to ask if we wanted to meet up at another pub in the City Center. However, right before leaving to go, the same puppy Irish guy, about 25 years old, slams a HUGE glass of who knows what on our table and says ‘Enjoy ladies!’  All three of us froze: Do we drink it? Do they drug people here? Do we have to go talk to him? What is it? That was weird?. Our ‘intelligent’ solution: the Aussie and I would drink it while the other American ordered a different drink in case us two got drugged. This was after analysis of the guy a bit more and his group of friends and that it was a small, homey place…in our defense. The drink was delicious and we convinced someone who worked their to try it for security. Yet we still didn’t know if we were meant to go talk to him and his friends. Fast forward to end of drink: the Irish guy came to sit with us, drank out of the drink AKA not drugged, he worked there as a manager and was sitting with the owner, and proceeded to give us much more advice about Cork. By advice I mean hilarious information about the city and lots of arguments between his thoughts and those of others around us. I did notice he was less Irish looking than most with dark hair and skin and green eyes. We somehow started talking about 9/11 (by this point we were sitting with the owner and their friends and on round 3 of free drinks) and he commented that his mother being from Pakistan made everyone get on his case after 9/11. My immediate response: “Oh yea you kind of do look Pakistani’ And his: -Out burst of laughter- “I was joking. I am Irish through and through”. Great…

      As the night went on we ended up going with the group around Cork as they pointed what pubs/bars/clubs to go to and which to not. We ended up at this huge pub and by now it was just original Irish puppy man, Aussie, American, and I. The place had a large relaxed common area, a room with a DJ, and a room with a live band. The singer of the band that night was this good looking guy who was AMAZING! I do not know how he was not famous. Again, I fell in love once his accent came out. I wondered how old he was out loud and joked about the ‘10 year’ rule for dating (no worries mom, all in good fun, not serious). Don’t joke around Irish men. The Irish, after the next song, went up to the stage and told the singer I was curious how old he was. Great… Though embarrassing, its probably good he asked. I had guessed 26 tops……. He was 39. Enough said. Now back to Irish. By this point he had purchased a fair number of drinks for us all including a blue moon and an amazing chocolate shot but it was still a much more actually talk scene than that at Iowa. At one point, I was trying to teach Aussie how to salsa while American and Irish gabbed about dark beers. After watching Aussie step on my toes four times, Irish asked me to dance. In America, we grind AKA front-to-back AKA not actually dancing AKA eww. In Ireland, the boys know how to dance. I simply followed his lead and it was by far the best dance of my life. Oh and by the way, we were the only ones dancing. After that, I was pretty much breathless with shock, it was 2:20 AM, and I had class in the morning: I needed to re-coop. Irish left us gals to help some folks from Austria find a club… a strip club… where the people shower in front of you? Only in Ireland…and maybe Amsterdam. On the walk back, I commented that the accents are going to kill me. My lovely Aussie friend had a wonderfully comment to this: <insert Australian accent and beach waves and perfect tan> “Oh that’s fine Bri. You can love many. Just remember to marry none or I guess one.” Damn perfect Australians.

God Speed,

    Bri

My First Day

       Well, here goes my first attempt at blogging. Currently, I am sitting in a cute little room in Cork exhausted but not tired yet. Today AKA yesterday ended with me giving a final presentation over everything I worked my booty off on for ten weeks and then way-too-short of good-byes after wards because I had to catch my flight. At the airport things went smoothly. My bag was UNDERWEIGHT and my parents and I were able to get a ‘lovely’ meal of Italian beefs from some little airport restaurant before I left. I believe this was when the fact I was going to Ireland for four months was actually settling in. I remember looking back at my parents waving as I was about to get my passport checked by security at O’hare. After she checked it, I looked back in anticipation of a final good bye wave from my parents, but they had already been shooed away. That hit me hard. The feeling of ‘wow I have to do all this traveling alone’ set in.

     Chicago to London went well. I sat next to this cute, Indian couple from London. They were so nice and their accents rocked. OF COURSE my TV on the plane was broken. While everyone around me carried on with their new release movies and TV shows, I stared at a screen that never stopped flashing ‘You’re entertainment will start soon’. Luckily I brought along a fasinating TIME magazine about new science like the mosquito zapper and first scientific proof that homoesexuality is genetic. That magazine saved my trip.

  Most around me were familiar with the London airport we were landing in. When I told them I had an hour and a half to get from terminal 5 to 1, they all laughed or made a ‘uh-oh’ facial expression. As if my nerves were not high enough…. So the man in my row had a plan. I was currently in the window seat. Towards the end of the flight I switched with him to the aisle seat and took my 2nd carry-on out of the over head and hid it under his feet. Once landed, I got all prepared with my backpack on my back and carry-on that he graciously had stuffed under him on my lap. As soon as the seat-belt light went off I booked it to the front of the airplane and got off. Thank God. You know those people you see running in the airport and you think ‘don’t they know to get to the airport early?’. I was that person. THE AIRPORT WAS HUGE. The terminals are literally different buildings 4 miles apart.  I easily ran 2 miles in terminal 1 to get to my gate after the immigration guy asked me a million questions about why I was going to Ireland!

   Needless to say, as I boarded my flight from London to Dublin I was drenched in sweat and frantic. The lady next to me was an understanding American who took my mind off things by partaking in a conversation about Iowa (I had Hawkeye sweat pants on). Once in Dublin, things went smoothly. I got my luggage, breezed through customs, got a bus to the train station, and got lunch for an hour or so while I waited for my train. On the train from Dublin to Cork, I met a nice lady from Cork whose son moved to Chicago because he fell in love with an American girl. Predicting my future? Boy are Cork accents STRONG! She kept telling me how she hates downtown Cork on the weekends because all the young kids are drinking so much. All I kept thinking was ‘You should come see Iowa lady!’. Instead I pretending to understand and added that kids these days are crazy. Lol.

  Ireland is beautiful. As green as you would imagine on the nice, sunny day I arrived. Outside of a short nap, I spent most of the ride just admiring the landscape and getting advice from the lady I sat by. We also talked a lot about Chicago and Michigan Avenue. In Cork I grabbed a cab to my new home. The man was so nice. When he discovered it was my first time in Cork, he free of charge showed me some walkways to use to get around and places to eat. Too bad his accent was so strong and I only picked up bits and pieces…

   I would share more about the actual arrival in Cork and the delicious, legal beer I got at a pub right around the corner from where I live but, at last, I should sleep. It’s 1:00 AM here while y’all are just getting ready for the night at 7:00 PM. :/ Tomorrow I need shampoo and toilet paper. First priorities!!! Love you all and god speed.

Bri

Be where you are. Go where you want.