Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Limerick is finally coming to life.

I finally have roommates, a class schedule, and an immigration card! I think that means I'm part Irish now. A lot has happened since my last post. I went to class for the first time at UL, made loads of new friends, and picked up on a lot of new lingo.

Ellen was the first to move back and we started hanging out instantly. She invited me out to the Lodge with all of her friends. It was a crazy night. I didn't even know that many people were in this town! All the students started trickling back and I've met 5 out of the 6 of my roommates. Apparently one isn't moving back until next week because she got stitches in her foot and is on crutches. Yuck.

I'm so thankful for my "housemate" situation. I feel like it fits me perfectly. There are 4 girls and 2 boys and all are pretty social. It's nice to see people in the living room when I go in there. They know everybody in the rest of the building and seems they know everyone in the whole complex. Perfect.

Classes seem like they're going to be pretty easy. A 40 on examinations is passing and above a 70 is an "A." I wish it was like that back home! My entire study abroad group is in my Traditional Irish Music & Dance class so that's a plus. And I have Mondays off. I love it here.

I had my meeting at immigration today to get my GNIB (Garda National Immigration Bureau) card. Let the traveling begin! I can't believe this is all happening and so fast. I love everything about it here so far (except the exchange rate) and I think it's going to be harder to say goodbye to Ireland than it was to College Station. Even though I love it there. Gig 'em.

That's it for now. I'm compiling an Irish urban dictionary to be posted at the end of the semester. It's already pretty long! I didn't realize they had a different word for EVERYTHING. I mean...everything.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I don't like spirits.

Last night. Where shall I begin? Our API started off the night bowling (I found my weakness with a score of 44) and then continued at Erin's apartment to celebrate her 21st birthday. One of her roommates and her friends were more than we could have asked for. They took care of us in every way - told us where we should go to celebrate, offered to get us "drink" before we went out (because it's way too expensive at the pub), and let us in on a few tips about lots of different things. Erin's roommate was trying to explain prices of different drinks and kept saying, "I don't like spirits." We finally figured out that she meant liquor. Took us long enough...

It was all a bit awkward at you could imagine with five lost American girls in a room of seemingly intimidating fourth year Irish students. It took barely any time at all for the group to get more comfortable with each other and start the normal college antics. We were asking probably too many questions about every day things here (like different lingo we didn't understand, what their hometowns were like...all the usual unknowns). It didn't take long for the conversation to make a 180. I came to Ireland for myself but not to necessarily talk about myself. It's very flattering that they seemed to want to know more about us and our colleges than I had expected. The boys were particularly intrigued by fraternity life. [Disclaimer: Dear MTV, you're making America look silly and I don't appreciate it.] Anyway, I guess being wrapped up in frat life as a dumb (i mean...young) college girl paid off for something. I got to tell all the dirty secrets I know about pledges, hazing, and other scholarly things of that sort. Outraged, Neill said, "There's no way Irish boys would ever put up with that. I'll show them a thing or two..."

Erin’s roommate bought her a cake (after knowing her for two days that’s a lot nicer than roommates I’ve had and known for years). They called us a taxi and we piled in to head to the pub. This was definitely a different Irish pub than I’ve been to or even pictured. It was full of students and almost made me miss Northgate a little. Almost. I’m so glad we’ve made friends here who will guide us and protect us! They looked after us like we were their little sisters and made sure none of us were alone the entire night. That’s more than I can say for posses back home. I guess what I hear about Irish boys and their charm is correct. These boys anyway. The music was surprising and definitely throw back. There’s nothing wrong with rocking out to YMCA and Blondie in Ireland, but back home it certainly is debatable.

I realized a few things last night about Texas and America. Yep, in just one night. First, I learned to never be ashamed of where I come from. Not that I would ever be ashamed of the good ole US of A, but there are times I get worried what stigma people will peg us with when we claim our nationality. So far, everyone we’ve come across has been more intrigued than anything else. Second, I’m very proud to be from Texas no matter how many comments I get about cowboy boots, cowboy hats, horses, cattle, or the overusing of the word “y’all.” Third, even though our dollar is of quite less worth here, a couple kids still wanted to see it and one even asked if he could have it. 
Overall, it’s been a good few days here in Limerick. I found a replacement for ranch dressing last night and came across a few bottles of Dr. Pepper at the Spar on campus. I’ve made a few friends and can’t wait to meet many more! Tomorrow starts our orientation and bring on the wonderful frustration of registering for classes. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Little Luck

Wherever you go, whatever you do, may the luck of the Irish always be with you. 

Monday, January 18, 2010

"If a boy calls you a fool, it's more than likely a good thing."

We started off the day with orientation at 10:30. I've been waking up so early the past couple weeks that I was up and ready to go at 7 am. I'm glad I invested so many euros into my case of redbull. Eileen cracks me up. Since the one boy of the group decided to show up an hour late, Eileen was giving us 6 girls a run down about Irish boys' behavior. A few of my favorites:

"If a boy calls you a fool, it's more than likely a good thing."
"Don't be offended by their language. The use the 'f*ck' word in just about every sentence. It's not to take any offense to. Unless they say 'f*ck off,' then you better do it."
"They don't mean to be offensive with all the cursing they're just...Irish."

After the helpful hints, we piled into a cab and headed to King Johns castle. It was pretty cool, but of course all the most amazing towers are blocked off. You can get a nice view of Limerick and the River Shannon from the top though.

We walked a little bit down the road to St. Mary's Cathedral. Can I get married there please? It's so pretty. I'd never really been inside of an old church like that. Houston's First Baptist is cool because it's all modern, but there's just something about the thought of worshiping God in a building where people have been doing the same thing for hundreds of years. I had to sit on that one for a few minutes. And my legs were tired.

Off to shopping. Eileen is my new 'mammy.' I needed a cell phone and she took me there, let me pick out the phone I wanted, then told the man what I needed and got me the best deal. I don't think I'm ever going to do something on my own. I've had fun with all the girls and getting to know the town a little better. We're going shopping tomorrow for bowling and our first night out after! Erin's turning 21 so we're all going out to a club (should be interesting) then pub crawl? I'm excited...but I really would appreciate it if the Irish students would come back already!

"Don't end up there." -Eileen

Sunday, January 17, 2010

that's good craic (crack)

I finally had a little social interaction today! It's very draining not seeing a human being for a few days. I almost lost it. I even started dreaming with an Irish accent. I guess I forgot what my own voice sounds like.

We met up for lunch and shopping with other API study abroad students today. Lunch was amazing. Maybe because I've been eating peanut butter and crisps (aka chips) for the past few days? Everyone seems really friendly and it's comforting knowing there are other students going through the same experience! I still haven't met my roommates and I'm a little nervous/anxious to meet them. Apparently students go home on the weekends and all the breaks. Guess that means more travel time for Audrey!

I've heard some great rumors about school and how relaxed it is. Teachers are there to lecture and that's it. No tests throughout the semester, only at the end. Amen! I keep forgetting I actually have to go to school but it sounds like it's going to be a breeze. I'm ready for the ball to get rolling and start making new friends. At least the other study abroad students are here to go around with. More adventures to come!

Friday, January 15, 2010

I finally have a home in Ireland.

We finally got to Limerick yesterday afternoon. I absolutely love it. So far it seems like a smaller Dublin but still pretty fast paced. We drove around the university as much as we could and found the village I'm living in. We went and talked to the guy at the front desk and he let me move in early! It was such a blessing to not have to do it all by myself.

I got all unpacked and situated and spent my first night alone last night. I've definitely had much worse in College Station. I think this semester is going to be a good one!

My parents just left this morning and I don't think it's hit me yet. It means so much to me that they took time out of their busy lives to show me around and move me in. They have sacrificed more than I can even repay (for now anyway!). This will be so worth all the time and energy all of us spent. Now I'm just waiting for everyone else to get here tomorrow!

Cliffs of Moher & Bunratty Castle

On our last leg of the journey, we had to go see the Cliffs of Moher and the Bunratty Castle. Everything here looks exactly like the books. If you want to save some money, don't bother coming here. All you have to do is flip through a few pages in a text book. The real deal is way better though!

Mom was scared at first to go to the Cliffs. Sometimes, if the wind catches just right and you're too close to the edge, you can fall right off. And that's a very long fall. Dad and I told her we'd tie a rope to her ankle and attach the other side to the car if she wanted us to. You have to make a hike up slippy (aka slippery) sidewalks and paths to get to the top of the cliffs. Once you get up there it's so amazing that you can almost forget how ridiculously cold and windy it is. Almost. It's beautiful...just like everything else in this country.

Next we traveled about 40 minutes to the Bunratty Castle that was built in the 1400s and refurbished a bit in the 1500s. It was a lot smaller on the inside than I'd expected. There were tiny spiral staircases throughout the castle and itty bitty rooms. I completely get why they say "throw them in the dungeon" now. You take about 30 steps down a spiral staircase (and only barely 2 feet wide) and then there's a 10 foot drop to the dungeon. There's no escaping that. Going up top was probably the coolest thing. People on the watch could definitely see people coming from miles away. It was one of the most amazing views I've seen. I'm so very lucky to call this place home!

He still wants to drive on the right (wrong) side.

Where have I been?! I have so much to update. Things here have been going stupendously. My dad even said, "Thanks for traveling to a foreign country so your mom and I can visit." But that doesn't surprise me. Tonight we went to our first official Irish pub, but I need to keep things in order here.

After we made the 6 hour trek to Kenmare from Dublin, we set out for the Ring of Kerry. I woke up with a beam of sunshine hitting my face and yelled, "The sun is out today!" I was more than excited to hit the road to see the country side of Ireland and be one step closer to my new school and apartment. The Ring of Kerry is more than amazing and you can't help but praise God for his beauty and divine creation. It's hard to question whether or not there is a Maker when looking at these beautiful landscapes. Staring out the window on the cliffs, mountains, and rolling fields of lush green grass sent me into an almost constant prayer: thanking God for his masterpiece and praying that I don't get car sick. It's also hard to question whether or not there is a savior after he kept us alive through all those mountainous and curvy roads. Sheesh. I thought driving in Houston was stressful...

The trip was long and treacherous but you just can't help but stare out the window. Dad loves to hug the left side (I got a few branches to the face when my window was down)... And after 3 days of driving, he still wants to drive on the right (wrong) side of the road.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"Do you have to go there?"

We left Amsterdam at about 7 in the morning to get to our flight to Dublin. I was so excited I could hardly sit still. After we were sent in circles to find Aer Lingus, we finally got ourselves checked in and our extra luggage “pre-paid.” Gotta love loopholes (or miscommunications), which save you money while traveling!

When clouds broke and I saw the green patches of land for the first time, I got this feeling of accomplishment that I have never felt before. Taxiing to the terminal made me teary eyed as I pondered my new home. I couldn’t stop smiling and shaking my parents on either side of me. The guy on the row across from us said, “Wow, someone’s sure excited.”

Little did I know, we were about to embark on a crazy journey from Dublin all the way out to Kenmare in County Kerry. Obstacle 1: driving on the left side of the road. Dad automatically went to the left side of the car and I kept saying, “Wrong side dad. Wrong side dad…” Dublin was a crazy trip. Everyone was moving so fast and the roads were so skinny that it didn’t seem possible for 2 cars to fit on it. After running over a few curbs and squeezing into parking spots, dad pulled it off.

Obstacle 2: getting the GPS to find us and find our way out of Dublin. After our British lady recalculated about 1500 times we got on our way. We didn’t know that the roads would be winding and flooding the entire trip to Kenmare. At one stop, we asked the lady the best way to get to Kenmare and she said, “Do you have to go there?” Everyone so far has been pretty nice but either doesn’t understand our question, our wording, or why in the world we’re going to where we say we are going. Silly Irish. Or silly Americans? I donno, but I am smitten by their accents.

Obstacle 3: finding a “toilet,” not a restroom or bathroom (because they don’t understand what that means). The whole while I was awake (probably half of the trip) I couldn’t stop staring at the scenery. I love the landscape and it was exactly what I was expecting! Rolling, green hills with sheep and stocky horses. So far, so good. I love this place and feel completely blessed to call this country home for 5 months! I can’t wait to finally be in Limerick tomorrow! But, we’ve got to be tourists first. We’re off to eat shepherds pie and tour the Ring of Kerry in the marnin.

Ps. My camera died and I slept the whole car ride...but I'm charging up and getting ready for lots of scenic pictures tomorrow! I can't wait... driving along the coast :) maybe we'll get some sunshine? But this is Ireland after all.

Monday, January 11, 2010

De ballen Amsterdam

Gijs took us to dinner tonight and it actually wasn't too bad! Indonesian is not as bad as it sounds... everyone should try it! After dinner dad and mom were hesitant but I made them go to the red light district. The XXX of Amsterdam is also not as bad as it sounds (outside looking in anyway!). I saw some things that seemed surprising but most did not. The live porno threw me a bit... but other than that it wasn't surprising. Mom was freaking out every time I took my camera out of my pocket and dad made a comment whenever we got a whiff of the "coffee shops." But that's all I wanted. I have experienced all I can take of Amsterdam for now (and with my parents). Get me to Ireland soon! We're leaving at 8 am for Dublin and I can't wait! I'll be at my new home in no time.

Goodbye Amsterdam!

I have been Amsterdammed.

We arrived in Amsterdam about 9 am local time. The flight wasn't too bad...even thought I was up for about 8 hours of it. Of course when we get here our hotel room isn't ready until 1. We drove around Amsterdam with Gijs and his wife (who are both super friendly & great hosts). We went to his canal apartment and then drove out to his country home, which is also on a canal and way fancy. We were trying to figure out something to do but Gijs told us on Sundays nothing is open BUT there were always ladies in the brothels who were ready to dance for you. Sweet.

Today I woke up not feeling too great. I decided to suck it up (meaning dad forced me to) and go do typical tourist things with mom and dad. First we went to Anne Frank's house which was about 300 feet from where we're staying. It was very ominous and surreal to be exactly where she was when she wrote and hid from the Nazis. It made me wanna cry that she died one month before the liberation. Of course I bought her diary and am going to start reading it today! I think I found a new role model.

After the Anne Frank Huis we went to the Van Gogh Museum. I love hearing Gijs say "Gogh." That'll never get old. Museums are boring and not very entertaining, but I actually didn't mind this one. Van Gogh was a crazy man who did crazy paintings. It was a bummer that we didn't get to see starry night. Guess I have to go to Japan to see that one.

On the way home, I saw naked ladies dancing in windows for the first time. My eyes are no longer virgins. They looked like they hadn't seen sun in a while and they definitely needed to put some layers on! They look out a window all day...don't they know it's snowing outside? I have been amsterdammed.

I'm excited (kind of) for dinner tonight. We're going to eat Indonesian food... I think I might play the "I don't eat" card and just drink some Heineken. I learned that it's Dutch beer... man, where would I be if I didn't travel the world?!