Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I wish...

... I liked my job as much as this guy.

Heh. I guess we can all learn a lot from a Zamboni.

Maybe 2010 will have me smiling like that.

The Secret Lives of Stuffed Toys

My mother asked me if she could get rid of my stuffed animal collection.

Is this the sort of thing that warrants more than a perfunctory thought?


Where do I start? It's so difficult to describe what these toys mean to me without having them here, in front of me. Yes, I know that makes me sound like I don't really care about them at all, but the truth is, they were just more comfortable in my parents' house, safely stowed in my closet, in a cozy nook in my closet. Under a blanket.

I swear, they like it.

Gah. My stuffed animals. Do I start with the fact that many of them were gifts? Or that they were my friends? Or that they were the only things that would listen to me, when I was a child, and even later, when I was an angst-ridden teenager who felt like NO ONE would ever understand me? I loved each and every one of them, and I still do, and now, now they'll be separated from each other and I'll never see them again. It's downright cruel, to be honest.

I feel like a complete nut-job for caring this much, but I am pretty sure that those stuffed animals were the reason I didn't grow up to BE a complete nut-job. You see, I projected every unpleasant facet of myself onto those toys, and they represented all the parts of me that I didn't like. There was Priscilla, the pink bunny who suffered from low self-esteem. She worried about not being liked so that I didn't have to. There was also the Bear Family, who hated the dark so much that they would cuddle up to me at night to keep them safe from the monsters (in the closet, not under the bed). Betsy the rag doll showed up during my adolescence. I'm sorry to say, she was suicidal, and lived on top of my curtain rod, constantly debating whether or not to leap. Ah, well. Teenagers.

I could go on and on about the secret lives of my stuffed animals, but that might make me seem a little crazy.

I have to call my mom and save my friends now. I can only hope it isn't too late. The bears might be okay, but those stuffed bunnies don't do well with change.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Guide to Shopping the Black Market

I bought Evan a roomba for Hannukah.

Not just ANY roomba, though. No, no. It's a roomba with personality, history, and an amusing story.

It all began when I realized that I had dropped the ball on shopping. I thought I had more time! Isn't Christmas 3 weeks from now? Oh noes! He's Jewish!

What's a girl to do?

THIS girl decided to avoid the lines at Target, the craziness of driving, and instead called up an old buddy who can best be described as "a guy who knows how to get stuff." He's the guy you want to know if you ever end up in prison or in dire need of a last-minute holiday gift for someone important.

He directed me to reply to a specific craigslist ad and say that I was friends with him. No joke. I've never done that before, but the guy responded amiably enough and immediately set up a time and place to meet.

As I waited at the designated corner, I caught a glimpse of a large box with legs walking toward me. No head, just a box and legs. As it turned out, I bought Evan a (possibly) black market roomba that day, from a midget. True story.

Happy Hannukah, sweetheart.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Remember, remember, the 5th of November?

I remember quite a bit about this date, but the clearest memory I have doesn't even belong to me. It's the date that a Guy Fawkes tried to blow up Parliament in 1605. No, I am not 404 years older than you thought I was, and I am not a time traveler. I'm not even a Guy Fawkes fan -- the man must have been a lunatic. No, I remember this date because of something I read as a child, and reread numerous times since then. V For Vendetta is, and will always be, so much more than "the one movie where Natalie Portman shaved her head." It is a time capsule. It is part of my childhood. Most of all, it's the reason I love comic books and my big brother, who no doubt, has also written about Guy Fawkes.

He has. But for reasons all his own.

I remember this line simply because it is the 5th of November.
I remember the 5th of November because Guy Fawkes made the world remember it.
I remember Guy Fawkes because of a graphic novel that Alan Moore wrote.
I remember the graphic novel because of my older brother.
I remember my older brother because I think I know what the 5th of November means to him.

He gave me the novel to read when I was far too young to understand the nuances and politics of the story, but I read it anyway, because, honestly, I read anything he gave me. Over the years I grew to understand the finer points of writing and the tremendous effort good writing requires. Every time I felt like I needed a reminder, I would go back to V For Vendetta, and I would be happy.

Recently, I discovered that I could get the same feeling from reading Bilal's writing, and the realization startled me. For years, I believed that my own writing was inspired by writers I could only admire and attempt to emulate from afar. While that might be partly true still, I will remember today as the day that I understood my greatest influence is my big brother.

Big Brother might always be watching, but my big brother will always be watching out for me.

Thanks for the inspiration, Bilal.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Guide To Being __________

Apparently, I'm not very original when it comes to my "decorating style." Sure, I have my fair share of IKEA-crap, but who doesn't? For what it's worth, I have gone to great lengths to make my spacious studio apartment homey, cozy, and reflective of who I am.

"Who I am," according to my mother's home decorating guide, is "eclectic." I have been labeled as "eclectic."

How is it possible to be labeled something that is essentially defined as "undefined?"

Then again, whenever I have to choose my "race" on a scantron sheet or at the DMV, I always end up filling in the spot for "OTHER."

Monday, November 2, 2009

I win!

I recently won an award! You may have voted for me.

"Worst Friend Ever"

It's a little like winning the title for Miss America, but without all the crying and thanking. Okay, maybe a little more crying. I will be representing bad friends everywhere for one full calendar year, or until I stop being such a lazy bum.

Thanks for voting.

For the record, there isn't actually an award for being a bad friend, but if there was, I'm pretty sure I could have won it. Not responding to emails, text messages, voicemails -- these are minor and common things that we all do from time to time, and not necessarily deeming qualities of a poor pal. Not doing these things for six months is what it takes to win the illustrious "Worst Friend" crown, which is, by the by, made of old Big Mac cartons from McDonald's. Man, have I been lousy about communicating. And eating.

To all those who voted for me, I'm sorry. Since I got back from Ireland I have been keeping busy, but not with anything terribly involving. The seasons are rapidly changing and all I can think is, "Crap. I really need to call ______." And then I'll do laundry, or download music, or watch several hours of "Law and Order." There must be a bazillion episodes of that show.

The point is, I WON'T call or write anyone when I know I ought to. I do this for two reasons: 1) I'm a lazy bum and have been since I got back to Chicago and 2) because I'm a lazy bum who doesn't do anything except chores and watch "Law and Order," I feel like I don't have anything interesting to report. I would call it a vicious cycle, but it's too lethargic to be called vicious. It's a sloth-y cycle.

There's a silver lining to this poop-cloud of a post, though. As the title-holder for "Worst Friend Ever" I am making a promise.

I promise to lose this title as soon as possible. I will return messages in a timely manner, with enthusiasm and joy. I will make and keep plans. I will start doing interesting things again. I will, in short, get off my lazy ass.

Right after this episode of "Law and Order."

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Busy Bee Feels the Sting of Productivity

I got back from Ireland and my Grand Trans-Atlantic Adventure over a month ago and I have only NOW found the time to post something, anything, regardless of how trivial and whiny it may be.

Oh, and this might be a bit whiny.

To briefly recap:

I returned to Chicago on May 30th, full of life, energy and a new mission to improve my lot. By June 15th, my determination was fading amidst the chaos of working full-time at my tedious serving gig and my get-up-and-go seemed to have got-up-and-left.

I miss Ireland. I'm not gonna lie, I ADORE Chicago, and couldn't be happier about being back, but I don't miss the Chicago I knew when I left -- I miss the Chicago I know I could have. I miss the potential. Is that strange? To miss something that doesn't exist yet? Well, if it is, I'm not necessarily bothered by it as much as I'm bothered by the routine I've fallen into since I returned.

Sure, I've been busy, but with what, exactly?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Chicago Celebrities

I just had my picture taken with Rod Blagojevich, and he told me that my hair looked "nice."

I'm not sure how to assess this situation, seeing as how I can't seem to stop giggling like a maniacal girl scout in a roomful of thin mints. Is this funny? YES. Is this weird? Absolutely. Is this something I should think about with a little more depth? Probably.

Here's the thing:

I was just getting off work when someone came in and said, "Rod Blagojevich is sitting at the Starbucks patio right now," and everyone around me FLIPPED OUT. Some people wanted to start a fist fight. Some people wanted to ignore it. And some people, like myself, wanted to see it -- the dirty, criminal, celebrity politician -- firsthand. I checked my bag to make sure I had my camera with me, which I did, and said, "I want a picture with him."

The thing is, I didn't quite know WHY I wanted a picture with him, at least I didn't know until it was snapped, and I stated, "I now have a celebrity photo!"

Blagojevich IS a celebrity and whether it's for reasons that are good or bad doesn't matter anymore. He's made national, if not global, headlines. He's Britney Spears. He's Paris Hilton. He's OUT THERE, and that fact is undeniable. Why is he out there, though? Is it because he was the governor of Illinois, the governor of the state that our new president came from? Or is it because of Chicago's history of crooked politicians? Is it the fact that he's a delusional weirdo? Or is it because he's famous for being so unbelievably BAD at what he was supposed to do?

It doesn't really matter, when you put it into perspective. He's famous, rather INfamous, for being himself, and being himself was all he was being when I met him. He was shaking hands, getting introductions, and taking photos with perfect strangers. He was OWNING it, whatever "it" might be.

I suppose that's what it means to be a celebrity -- taking what comes, and taking it all.

Monday, June 8, 2009

little things

if there's one thing i can say about Europe, it's that the differences are all in the little things.

it's good to be home.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

delayed reaction

the countdown began yesterday. since then, i have noticed two things.

1) i have NO patience for my housemates anymore. i have a pavlovian response to their presence and especially the door-slamming.

2) i am getting more homesick every day. it's like i delayed my homesickness to the very end, and now it's coming at me HARD.

sigh. i just want to come home.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


i leave in two weeks. a fortnight. 14 days.

i leave for my adventures in budapest, berlin, venice, and london. i keep repeating those cities, in that order, like a mantra. i tried to add in chicago, but it threw off the rhythm. because i have a rhythm now. not the musical kind. everyone knows that i can't keep a steady beat going. but i have a rhythm to how i live here, in ireland, because i DO live here.

at least for two more weeks.

i'm not sure how i feel. happy, sad, elated, tired, grumpy, nostalgic, excited, worried...

yes. i feel all of those things and there isn't a damn thing i can do about it because i am leaving and there isn't enough time left to sort out my feelings. i have just enough time left to enjoy it while it lasts.

i have two weeks.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Journalism FAIL

I saw Robert Fisk tonight. Rather, I heard him speak at a lecture called, "Politics, Journalism and Globalisation of the Middle East." Man, what a crock of shit.

Not only did he do his damnedest to sell his book(s) but he wouldn't answer my question. At all.

FISK: Yes, the young lady in the back.
ME: Mr. Fisk, since you have mentioned that online journalism isn't going to succeed, and print journalism is a dying art, where do you recommend readers get their news, and moreover, how and where do you think journalism is going?
FISK: Oh. You're an American, eh? Well... journalism is changing, and that change can be seen on the internet, and making sure that online journalists can maintain a readership is important, but completely different from MY experiences... blah, blah, blah, buy my book(s).

Listen up, Fisk, I know that you're a big shot and you don't have to answer to anybody because you've achieved a buncha great things in your life, but your profession has to answer to someone, and that someone is The Rest of Us.

I wish I'd gotten an answer and then I wish I hadn't re-read his articles, because now I'm just pissed off that this guy gets to write garbage and is revered for it.

i don't know that for a fact. i can't say that. he obviously has some serious in-depth analysis and his writing is cohesive and well-supported. but it's still biased. and now, so am i.

Can you answer to THAT?

Monday, April 13, 2009

tools of the trade

i wrenched my back. this phrase leads me to a cacophony of puns and thoughts that have to do with tools.

getting screwed.
getting hammered.
hammer toes.
getting nailed.

none of them are quite as painful as a wrenched back. god, this is miserable.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Well then. Now that I'm back in Ireland, fully re-adjusted and re-settled, I would like to say this:

Where did the semester go? I can't believe it's almost over. I know I haven't been writing much for the past several weeks, but there's a perfectly good reason for it -- I've been traveling. A lot. And I'll be traveling more at the very end of the semester before I come home to my Chicago.

Oh, did you want to hear about Paris? And London? I promise I'll recount the adventures as soon as I can decode my random scribblings on various receipts, cocktail napkins, brochures, and coasters. I scribbled a lot.

For now, I'll be buried in my schoolbooks.

Monday, April 6, 2009

the end of the adventure

oh dear. this is it. the end. it is monday now and we spent sunday going to the sherlock holmes museum, the war cabinet rooms (churchill museum) and then walked around a bunch to see big ben, parliament, and then found a place to eat. we finished up sunday with a jack the ripper tour at night, which was kinda spooky, but mostly annoying because of the people in the massive crowd who had seen "From Hell" with Johnny Depp and considered themselves 'experts' on te subject. tools.

monday was short and sweet. very sweet. we went back to the muffin man, where i think i will always go to whenever i am in london. the cupcakes were outstanding and the food was delightful. i will miss the muffin man.

we flew out on monday (today's post) and got back to ireland safe and sound. then we proceeded to watch "From Hell" and reinforce the belief that people are dumb. dinner was had. bus timetables were looked at.

it was a nice adventure. i don't want it to end.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

London Calling

I must be Irish. There's no other explanation for how I reacted, or rather, WANTED to react to the British customs officer when we left Paris...

picture this:
a long hallway in the train station, the French customs officer five feet in front of me, and the British customs officer stationed five feet beyond that...

FRENCH OFFICER: Do you have anything to declare?
ME: Nope. Just going to London.
FRENCH OFFICER: Okay. Move ahead.

I walk a few feet and come to the British officer.

BRIT: Do you have identification?
(I pull out my passport and Irish "Garda National Immigration Bureau" card -- GNIB card)
ME: Yep. Here ya go.
BRIT: Hm. Ireland, eh?
ME: Yes, I'm studying there.
BRIT: I take it that you mean SOUTHERN Ireland then?

MY THOUGHTS: What?! SOUTHERN??? How DARE you call it SOUTHERN! It's the REPUBLIC! Nothing you would know of, you English ASSHOLE! They broke their backs for YOUR country, and now you have the nerve to describe the majority of an island your ancestors attempted to colonize as a REGION? How DARE you?!?

ME: (after some nudging from Evan) Ahem. YES. Southern Ireland.
BRIT: Enjoy your visit. Move ahead.

GRRRRRRR. Maybe it's having been in Ireland for a few months, maybe it was the fact that I knew my history, but man, that guy annoyed me.

That was the last irritation I suffered from during my time in London, though. Evan and I took another bicycle tour, where our guide turned out to be Irish. I felt a certain kinship with him from recognizing his accent as Cork, and we conversed as I would with any of my friends from Limerick.

We saw the palace, although it was a bit disappointing after having visited Versailles, which made the English palaces look like a two-bedroom ranch-style house in the suburbs, comparatively. We saw some beautiful monuments, the National Gallery, the Portrait Gallery, and a messload of other places. The biggest difference I saw was how Paris looked like it might fall apart if you shook it too hard or stomped your feet. It was delicate. London is a SOLID city -- stable, reliable, and above all, intimidating. I also enjoy the fact that they speak English there.

We went to see "Les Miserables" near Piccadilly Circus on Friday night, which kindled my interest in seeing as many big shows as possible now: "The Lion King," "Chicago," "Wicked..." I want to see them all. As soon as possible. You should too.

You should also visit the Churchill Bunkers. This is easily the BEST museum I have ever been to -- it was interactive, informational, and, because Churchill was such a character, thoroughly entertaining.

The weekend and our trip concluded with a visit to the British Museum and dinner with friends. It was fairly amazing. You should try it sometime.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

travel itinerary

Leaving Paris might have been a sadder event had it not been for the way I left. On a train. A BULLET train. Specifically, the bullet train that goes from Paris to London. In TWO hours.

We spent our last day in Paris (for now) tromping through the gardens and visiting St. Sulpice. You may remember St. Sulpice as the church that Dan Brown (hack, hack -- what? I have a cough. HACK.) made famous in "The DaVinci Code."

I have a shy, slightly strained relationship with religion. It's a subject that requires more attention than I can give to a simple posting, but put plainly, I don't know how to relate to it. Yet, walking into this church, which by the way, was the first church that looked... authentic, threw me off. It was massive, of course, but it was also being utilized in the manner for which it was meant. People were PRAYING. For real.

There was a woman who was taking water from a particular saint's altar, most likely asking for help with her garden, because that was what the saint (I wish I could remember who it was) seemed to exist for. I kept thinking, "Why is she here instead of, well, TENDING to her garden? Wouldn't that make more sense?"

Europe is full of churches. I knew that when I signed up for this adventure. What I didn't know was how it would affect me. It scares me, but also reassures me that people have a guide, whether it be Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, VooDoo, or what-have-you.

After consulting all the guides I've gotten for traveling, it doesn't seem as strange now to see other people consulting their spiritual guides. After all, it's the best way to get where we want to get to.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Fine Art: Degrees of

Synopsis: Evan and Shama get more culture than cottage cheese! Art, art, and more art! From the modern to the classics, these two time-travel around Paris and find out what the "Royal Treatment" really means in Versailles. They really "canvass" the area!

Is anyone else getting sick of this style of posting? Or is it just me? Man, I just want to talk about Paris, and make it interesting. I want to be able to look back on these entries and say, "Wow. I really did that. I saw all this neat stuff."

Maybe that's why people create art. To remember.

What I remember is going to the Pompidou Centre first, and seeing the Alexander Calder exhibit. It was more than fabulous. It was downright entertaining. I am consistently amazed by artists and their ability to make something out of nothing -- in Calder's case, it was making sculptures from wire. I know it might not sound any more interesting than looking at a closet full of cheap hangers, but it was magical. The center itself was pretty nifty too, although it reminded me of a cross between a giant hamster tube and Pee-Wee's Playhouse.

From there, we took a train out to Versailles. Painters and sculptors must have made a killing off of the royal ego. I don't know much about art, but I know that I saw a LOT of it here. How to describe Versailles? In a word: Decadent. My only prior knowledge of it (sad to say) is from Sofia Coppola's (blech) movie, "Marie Antoinette" (BLEEECCCH). I knew it would be grand and stuff, but I wasn't prepared to walk through golden gates, or stroll the ultimate backyard, or wander through rooms that I thought only existed in Merchant Ivory films. I swear, I thought those movies embellished the luxury. Not so, not so.

On our way back, we decided that we needed to go to The Louvre, because, well, it's The Louvre. The whole day felt a little like a fairy tale -- a palace, the journey, the people -- I even met a knight in shining armor.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

waiting for god... oh (apologies to Mr. Beckett)

Synopsis: Vladimir and Estragon wait at a tree. They just STAND there. Luckily, Evan and Shama don't hang out with either of these sad sacks and decide to go for more adventures in Paris! Their version of finding hope might make Beckett cringe, but at least they got the absurd part right.

ACT 1:

VLADIMIR: We are waiting for Godot.
EVAN: Well, uh... okay. Have fun guys. We're gonna get some crepes for breakfast. See you around.


VLADIMIR: That passed the time.
ESTRAGON: It would have passed in any case.
SHAMA: But the crepes were delicious! You guys should have come with. I had this delicious concoction of lemon and honey... oh it was tasty.
VLADIMIR: Never neglect the little things in life.
EVAN: Yeah, I agree. Hey, we're going to see Notre Dame now, and maybe Saint-Chapelle.
VLADIMIR: Did you ever read the Bible?
ESTRAGON: The Bible... (he reflects) I must have taken a look at it.

Evan and Shama depart. Vladimir and Estragon continue to stand there. Later...

SHAMA: Wow. That was beautiful! I love that the city left one spire uncleaned, to show how dirty it used to be.
EVAN: They probably just couldn't reach that one. But it was neat. The windows in Saint-Chapelle were incredible.
SHAMA: Have you guys been around much of Paris, or do you just... stand here?
VLADIMIR: Hand in hand from the top of the Eiffel Tower, among the first. We were respectable in those days. Now it's too late. They wouldn't even let us up.
EVAN: The line IS pretty long... Have you been to The Catacombs?
VLADIMIR: (lost in his thoughts) It would be nothing more than a little heap of bones at the present minute, no doubt about it.
SHAMA: Um, yeah. That's why we're going.

Evan and Shama depart for The Catacombs. It is much more than a little heap of bones, though. It's a massive heap of bones, all laid out in tidy stacks that make up the walls of the underground labyrinth. (We were told that there were upwards of 6 million skeletons residing there. It was spooky and very Indiana Jones.)

EVAN: Aw, man! That was so cool. I just wish I hadn't gotten dripped on while we were in there. It was kinda gross.
SHAMA: Ha ha. You have death-water all over you.
VLADIMIR: (angrily) No one ever suffers but you. I don't count. I'd like to hear what you'd say if you had what I have.
SHAMA: Unless if you have a turkey sandwich, I don't think I'm gonna say much to you right now.
EVAN: Hungry?
SHAMA: Always.
ESTRAGON: I'm going. (he does not move)

Evan and Shama get some bread, cheese and tomatoes from one of the numerous fresh produce/cheese shops that surround the accommodations. It is all quite tasty. Shama regrets the food in Ireland, but is much happier with the people there than in Paris.

EVAN: Why don't we go see the Arc de Triomphe and then head north to Montmartre?
SHAMA: That sounds like a great plan! Do you two want to come with?
VLADIMIR: Hmm... It'd give us an erection.
SHAMA: Don't be so dramatic. We know it's the "bohemian" area of Paris, and there are supposed to be, like, sex shops and strip joints, but can't you control yourself?
ESTRAGON: You know the story of the Englishman in the brothel?
EVAN: Englishman? I thought you guys were written by an Irish guy, but he wrote you in French.
ESTRAGON: An Englishman having drunk a little more than usual proceeds to a brothel. The bawd asks him if he wants a fair one, a dark haired one or a red-haired one.
SHAMA: This is absurd.

And it was absurd. We went from churches to underground tombs to a monumental, er, monument, and finished up the day in Montmartre, gazing out at the streets littered with advertisements for dancing girls and booze. At the peak of Montmartre was another church that we promised ourselves we would get to. It was weird to see a church in that neighborhood, but on the other hand, it IS Europe. They give good church.

NOTE: All lines taken from "Waiting For Godot" (Act 1) by Samuel Beckett are used entirely out of context. Mostly. I think.

Monday, March 30, 2009

the speed of light

Synopsis: Adventures in Paris! Evan and Shama make it to the City of Lights and meet up with Evan's cousin, Josh and his companion, Jackie. Things take a turn for the bizarre when the four meet a down-on-his-luck accordion player who needs two singers, a guitarist, and a bass player to fill in for his band that night! The friends help him out to the best of their ability... and skyrocket to fame! How long can the band stay together and how big will they get? Special guest appearances from the Welshmen, Kevin and Evans in this episode.

Yeah, but no. None of that happened in Paris. Well, we did get a surprise email from Kevin, which put some very big smiles on our faces. If those two are to be the running gag in this series, I'm totally okay with that.

But I digress. Paris.

When we left yesterday morning, it wasn't as simple as waking up and hopping in the rental car. No. It was as difficult as getting our laundry out of the locked laundry room only to find that it wasn't really dry, then packing and wearing some pretty damp clothes, which we did. We were worried that we were going to miss the flight, but little did we know, this would be the earliest we arrived at any of our departure points.

I guess 'modes of transportation' is a good place to start. From the airport we took a shuttle bus where I realized I spoke the poorest French in the history of language. It would have been embarrassing if it wasn't quite so funny. I tried to keep up a conversation with a charming little boy, but even the 4-year old couldn't understand me.

From the bus, we took the Paris Métro, which puts the CTA to shame. Brown Line, I love you, but you're as moody as my mother. After we reached our 'apartment' and settled in, we did the standard "walk around like wide-eyed tourists" bit and improvised the "how the hell do we communicate here" part before making our way to the Eiffel Tower.

We did NOT go in the Eiffel Tower. I'm not apologizing for it either. There was a line that made me think of what the DMV in Hell would be like and I was not about to waste my first 5 hours in Paris in a freakin' LINE. Instead, we met up with the lovely folks of the Fat Tire Bicycle Tour just in time to take the evening bike ride.

The ride was amazing. Not only did we have outstanding tour guides, but a pretty awesome tour group. Everyone should have small children around to shout and point and laugh out loud at all the things we think we are too old to laugh and shout and point at. We got to see Notre Dame, Academie Francaise, The Eiffel Tower all lit up and sparkly, Princess Diana's Flame (which was actually a gift from the U.S.), Musée D'Orsay, and then (my favorite) we got to bike around the Louvre. Heck, we even stopped for the greatest ice cream in the world. THE WORLD. The tour finished up with a boat cruise on the river Seine.

All in all, I'd say we did a fairly good job of speeding through the City of Light without missing a thing.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

where there's a will...

Synopsis: Evan and Shama are at it again! Even though they have a big trip ahead of them, the two decide that they have time for one more Irish adventure... or do they? Will they make the only bus to Tipperary, or not? And what about getting back to Limerick? These two might be in over their heads! Let's find out!

I have been continually surprised and pleased by what Evan and I can accomplish, with our collective wills. Maybe our wits need a bit of work, but we have determination down cold. What began as a whim to visit the Rock of Cashel in Tipperary turned into a series of maps, routes, bus timetables, and frequent quizzical glances. We finally decided to throw a metaphorical dart and go wherever the next bus out of town would take us. And then we realized that would be stupid.

It was a Sunday, and Sundays mean little to no public transportation in a country that already gets by with the bare minimum in public transit. Exhibit one: We tried to catch a bus into Limerick City at 10:30am only to find out at the bus stop that the busses don't even start running until 11am. I miss you, my temperamental, but ever-present CTA.

Well, we finally made it to the bus station and looked at every possible destination for the day, decided that neither place sounded too appealing and that we still wanted to go to Tipperary. So, we took a bus to the airport and got a rental car. Yep, more adventures in driving on the other side of the road! Wheeee!

Once again, I was reminded of how destination points are nice, but getting there is the fun part. We cruised the Irish roads for a while, and eventually made it to the Rock of Cashel. The Rock of Cashel is the Swiss Army knife of historic buildings. A castle, a fortress, and a church, this place does it all! I was particularly taken by the fresco work. It was neat.

Know what else is neat? Hurling. After Cashel, Evan remembered a hurling match that our Croke Park guide mentioned from the other day. He also remembered that it wasn't far from Cashel, so, off we went! We caught the second half of the game and rooted for opposing teams-- Evan shouting for the Home team, and myself hooting for the (supposed) underdogs from Dublin. It was, once again, a heckuva match, with Tipperary winning by just a little bit. It was still fun to holler.

The rest of the evening was a blur (except for the very distinct memory of driving on the wrong side of the road for a few minutes -- that is a vivid memory). We made it back and packed our bags for Paris, relieved to have a car to get to the airport the next day. Is there anything we can't do, when there's the will to do it? Oh yeah, the laundry.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

the calm after the storm

commercial break

saturday, march 28th. we are still and silent, watching television and reflecting on the weekend in dublin. brian has left. he's probably just about home now, settled into his place, looking at familiar surroundings.

we sit on the couch under blankets and watch television until it gets dark. we don't move to turn on the lights. we are that tired. we think about everything we have done and everywhere we have gone in the past week.

it was all very fascinating, but now, now we are tired and want nothing more than to sit in the dark and watch television.

we'll be back after this brief bout of exhaustion.

Friday, March 27, 2009

the spin-off series

Synopsis: Evan, Brian, and Shama bid a fond farewell to Maureen, Brittany, and Marc as they head off to Dublin. The three reach the bustling city and find their hostel, Oliver St. John Gogarty's, named for a scoundrel of a man. Will the three friends have adventures worthy of this notorious man?

Also in this episode: A trip to the Guinness Storehouse, a visit to The Book of Kells, and the Trinity College library. Evan decides he wants a hurley after a tour of Croke Park Stadium. Shama discovers her new ability to fall asleep standing up, and Brian departs for the U.S. leaving Evan and Shama to their own devices. Music for this episode provided by the mysterious "Silver Fox."

A lot happened in the few days we spent in Dublin, and I wish I could remember the details, but alas -- I went and got older, and my memory isn't what it used to be. Of course, the pictures are what really tell the story. I'm glad we started our visit with the Guinness Storehouse. It was more of a museum, re-telling the history of the dark stuff. It's got some history, including a 9,000 year lease Arthur Guinness took out on the building when he first began the brewery. It's true that there is poetry in a pint of Guinness. There's poetry in all of Dublin. If you can get to the tippy-top of the storehouse, you'll see it all laid out for you, through the observation deck. If you're lucky, there might be a rainbow waiting there for you too, like it was for us. The city is astounding, and to have it so immersed in it's own history through Joyce's works is fascinating. I might give Joyce another shot.

The Temple Bar area is a whole other adventure, albeit a bit tourist-y. Then again, we're tourists, so what's the harm? The pubs were pretty, bright, and full of rowdy, boisterous people. We did miss our friends, Kevin and Evans though. Those Welshmen were great. We had a nice night out, but I was so tired that I excused myself a bit early, even though I was missing the traditional music stylings of a man only known as, "The Silver Fox."

The next day, we said goodbye to Brian. Then we went to Trinity College. Gorgeous, majestic, old Trinity College. It was strange to walk into the campus straight off of the main streets. It was an entirely different world. I loved looking at the Book of Kells, and Evan and I marveled at the work that was put into it. The library was even better. I want every library to look like Trinity's.

Evan and I decided to take a tour of Croke Park Stadium before heading back to Limerick. I don't know much about sports in general or Irish sports in particular, but I know how much pride a country and city takes in its sports by the look of their stadiums. Ahem, U.S. Cellular Field? I'm talking to you. Croke Park Stadium took my breath away. Maybe it was because of the size. Maybe it was because of all the walking we did. Either way, Evan and I took the tour with a few other people-- an older couple-- and we quickly found out that the gentleman used to play. I couldn't figure out whether or not I was in the presence of a Babe Ruth, or a really good Little League coach. I don't suppose it really mattered, because in Ireland, the players don't get paid. That's right. They play because it's a privilege, and honor, and they WANT to.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

the calm before the storm

tomorrow we leave for dublin. tomorrow i celebrate my 28th year. tomorrow i turn in my essays, almost a week early because we are going to dublin.
but that's tomorrow.

i have spent the last two days studying like mad and writing like a lunatic.

the guys are out right now so i can get these things done. i think they're attempting to learn set dancing. i am sorry to miss that, but i have to get this work done today so that i can enjoy tomorrow.

deep breath.

Monday, March 23, 2009

cliffs notes

Synopsis: In this episode, the gang gets "Moher" than they bargained for! (laugh track here) The six travelers road-trip to Clare to take in the view at the Cliffs of Moher. After the group splits up, Evan, Brian, and Shama do a little rock-hopping at The Burren and wind up in Galway. They meet (supporting characters) Kevin and Evans and have a wild night with the Welshmen! But that's not all! After a harrowing ferry-boat journey to the Aran Islands the next day, the trio must decide how close to the edge they really want to go...

Adventure, excitement, drama, and comedy!

Well, it may not have been as action-packed as all that. It might be a cliche, but the real reward of traveling is in the journey, not necessarily the destination. This might be especially true when the journey involves driving on the opposite side of the road, learning how to drive a stick shift, learning how to take the parking brake off in order to drive a stick shift, making rest stops at charming little towns for lunch, meeting the locals, or in our case, meeting other visitors. Kevin and Evans (yes, those were really their names) were a couple of friendly fellas from Wales who were in Galway for a marathon. They kept us laughing until nearly 2am. It's a wonder that we made the ferry to the Aran Islands the next morning, but boy am I glad we did.

The Aran Islands surprised me. It felt so... OLD. We visited a ring-fort that was no longer a ring because half of it fell off with the cliff it was built on. Scary, I know. Here's Evan's take on the cliff at Inis Mor (one of the three islands that make up the Aran Islands). We did a lot of walking (even though my boot broke) and climbing, ooohing and ahhhing. We even got our "authentic Aran sweaters" which weren't even made on the island! Hooray for being tourists! My sweater has a giant neck-hole and Evan's smells a bit like sheep urine. Now THAT'S authentic.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

i'm still breaking them in

when i left for Ireland, i brought two pairs of boots and a pair of wellingtons for the rainy days. here's what happened to one pair during the weekend. i managed to hold it together by tying the laces around the bottom and the instep. they just barely made it. so long, old friends. we had some good times together.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Best. Detour. Ever.

On our way to Cork, we saw posters for the Aussie Super Circus. Then we saw the circus. Then we stopped by the circus. I enjoyed meeting the llamas, wallabies, and emu.

reality tv meets situation comedy

I watch too much television. I admit it. I tried to be one of those people that didn't own a television and only read books, magazines, newspapers, and the backs of cereal boxes, but I have come the firm and absolute conclusion that I am a tv junkie.

"What does your sitcom addiction have to do with anything, Shama?" I hear you ask. Well, here's what:

This and the next several posts focus on my time traveling around Ireland, Paris, and London from March 20th to April 6th, and for the sake of keeping a record for myself while making the stories entertaining for all three of my readers, the posts are going to read like this:

Synopsis: In this episode we meet Evan and Brian, brothers from Chicago who travel to Ireland to meet their gal-pal, Shama, who has been studying there since January. We also meet Brittany and Marc, good friends of Maureen's, who, coincidentally, also hail from Chicago. Maureen and Shama have become fast friends, but will their friends do the same? We'd better hope so, because all six of them are going to crammed into a tiny car for several hours while they drive to Cork, Clare, and Galway! That is, if Shama can even direct them from the airport to the University! Annoying hilarity ensues!

Also in this episode: Evan and Brian get used to their new surroundings, Evan discovers he is the only one of the group that knows how to drive a stick shift, the gang goes on a quest for eloquence, but not before they get sidetracked by... a circus! What could happen next?

Right. You get the picture.

In real life, I did have a surprisingly hard time directing us from the airport to the campus, even though Evan showed no difficulty in driving on the other side of the road. We got everyone settled and took a stroll to the ruins Maureen and I stumbled upon, went out for a pint at the campus pub, and called it a night. The next day, all six of us crammed ourselves into the little car Evan had the foresight to rent and we drove down to Cork (pronounced "Cahr-kh" by the locals) to see and make out with one Blarney stone. Yes, I know the locals all pee on it at night. What I didn't know was why people kiss the Blarney Stone. It's told that the smoocher will be granted the gift of eloquent conversation, if they manage to make it up several million steps then hang upside-down to kiss the seemingly-ordinary stone. We were all pretty excited, some more than others.

BRITTANY: Come on, bitches! I wanna get some fuckin' eloquence!


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Irish Prom

okay, so it's not REALLY prom, but it certainly felt like it. i had a cool dress, no date, and a messload of fun people to spend the evening with. it was actually the Clubs and Societies Ball, and it was held to award outstanding clubs and societies for their extraordinary efforts and accomplishments. it was also an excuse for everyone to get really dressed up, have a great meal, dance, drink, and do it all in a fancy-shmancy hotel.

the catch: you had to buy your (pricey) tickets in advance. luckily, i already had mine, through the debate society. i've mentioned in several previous posts how much i love these people, but i also want to mention that they were up for multiple awards this year. if i had been allowed to vote, i would have voted for them twice. so, i already had my ticket, which they reserved for me before i even knew this thing was happening. god love 'em.

the awards portion was nice, the band was good, and everyone looked fabulous. my favorite part of the evening? as usual, it was dessert, which i got to enjoy twice because of the empty seat at the table which got served anyway. it was a trio consisting of a chocolate mousse, raspberry sorbet, and a strawberry tartlet. i didn't know if i would ever get as delicious of a dessert ever again, so i took a picture of it.

and then i ate it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Saint Patrick's Day

... is a holiday here. An honest-to-goodness holiday. I'm not entirely sure of which holiday I can equate it to though. Some of it reminded me of Memorial Day. When I walked out of the house today I was greeted by blaring music, footballs being tossed around, people sitting outside on the grass or on couches they had dragged out. There was a scent of barbecue and beer in the air. The weather was outstanding, and I think Spring is finally poking her head out from behind the dreary damp in the form of a million bright yellow daffodils.

It also felt a little bit like Chicago today. Specifically, the day of the South Side Irish Parade. Except without the mobs and drunken buffoonery. Well, no mobs at least.

Is this a drinking holiday? Sure, but I'm from Chicago, where Flag Day could be considered a drinking holiday. Did I indulge? Not really. I was happy enough to down my Fanta and just watch as everyone around me joked, drank, and generally had a good time. They tried to subject me to "beer pressure," but I was happy enough knowing that I was in Ireland for this event. Who wouldn't be?

As the day progressed, I kept thinking that it felt a bit like Halloween too. Everyone was dressed in their finest of cheap, gaudy, green hair ornaments, hoodies, boas, or in some cases, capes. It felt a little bit like New Year's. The noise, the celebratory greetings, the jovial hollers of, "Happy Saint Paddy's Day!"

Of all the holidays it felt like, it occurred to me that it couldn't be compared to any holidays I've experienced in America because, quite simply, this is not America. Well, maybe it felt a little like Christmas too.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

the hyphenated world

Identifying with a culture, class, religion and country has always been a strange fascination for me. I know I have written about the multi-cultural aspects of Ireland before, and I have also written about my own minor identity crises, but I still don't quite know what it is I truly identify with or how much it even matters these days. We are all hyphenated, to a degree.

Pakistani-Indian-Muslim-Middle-Class-American? In Ireland.

Ireland has a strange history of being oppressed and colonized, while struggling to find its own true voice in the world, and for that my sympathies go out to this country. But what about the fact that the Irish language is dying? What about the fact that Yeats CHOSE to write his masterpieces in the language of the oppressors? Why do we allow our native languages to be overshadowed by English?

I am trying to learn French. I have a bit of Spanish. I can understand most Urdu very well. I try very hard to pick up Irish phrases, but it's so unlike any other language I've ever heard that I can't make sense of what I read and how it should be pronounced, and I LOVE that.

When my mother speaks to me in Urdu, I hear her in English.
Yo le puedo oír sólo en inglés.
Je peux vous entendre seulement dans l'anglais.
Ich kann nur Sie auf Englisch hören.

I can only hear you in English. I can only dream in English. Yet, I have a heritage that is older than America, and I can't access it. And that makes me unbearably sad. When I see Irish words on the street signs and hear it on television, I feel so hopeful that this country will never let its language die, the way I let it die within myself. And why did I let it die? To belong.

All anyone wants is a sense that they belong somewhere. It's home. But what I didn't realize, growing up as a first-generation Pakistani-Indian in America, is that I would never fully belong in America. I have a strong grasp of English, and I have centralized my education on it, but I will never be without the hyphen -- that divisive line which reminds me of a past that hold precedence over my present and my future.

So, why is it that there is only 10 percent of Ireland that speaks Irish? What happens in 20 years, when it's only 5 percent? And then what? Will this gorgeous language become obsolete?

I saw a short movie today in class that made me weep. Yes. I WEPT. Here it is. I hope nothing gets lost in the translation.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

wild horses can't tear me away

i don't think they were actually wild horses. they were more like tame ponies. maureen and i took another long walk today, to see some other ruins near the campus, and came across some gorgeous animals. two ponies, grazing in what looked like a football field. huh.

we approach, they whinny. we move towards them, they move away. they were calm and regal, and we were fascinated.

horses. just grazing. they were so relaxed it made me think about all the other animals i've seen since i've been here. the dogs aren't on leashes, and they never bark or chase one another. it must be the environment. things just move so much more slowly here. the Irish make jokes about how nothing ever starts on time here. parties don't usually start until about midnight. teachers are late, but never too late, to classes. time moves at a different pace here.

i know that in America, the clocks have been changed, which mean that I am now only 5 hours ahead instead of 6. this is odd. Ireland won't switch their clocks until April. i wish i had the time to find out the reasoning for it, but the one thing that is on a deadline are my essays, and i have more than a few of them to do.

homework. sigh. tear me away.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

quick aside


and i left some of my souvenirs on the shuttle to Girona Airport. not like Ryanair would have let me bring them anyways.


Monday, March 9, 2009

picking favorites

The air in Barcelona smells like a bakery as it is shutting down for the day. It is warmish, and slightly sweet, and there is a sense of familiarity in the breeze. Spain. I went to Spain this weekend. I never in my life thought I would be able to say that, yet, there it is.

I'm back in Ireland now, and I feel a sense of familiarity here as well, but it is different somehow. I can't quite put my finger on it. Maybe it's the weather. Maybe it's the difference in how the landscape is cultivated. I know they are distinctly different countries, but they both become generalized as "Foreign" countries in my mind, because I am, after all, an American. I admit, I am a city mouse, and Barcelona felt more comfortable to me, with its trains, dense population, apartments, streets and architecture. But I am happy to be back in Ireland. I feel less anxious here, less guarded. It's a feeling I don't often get when I'm in America.

I am reminded of a phrase I read once: You can't pick a favorite place until you've been to them all.

Well, I might not be able to say Ireland or Spain are my favorite places, but I will say that they're pretty high on my list, so far.

In Barcelona, I felt exhilarated, like how I felt when I first realized that I wanted to live in Chicago. Today, I say that I want to live in Barcelona, the way a child says they want a new toy. Saying that, I finally begin to realize just how very American I really am. "I want to live in Barcelona! I KNOW I have Ireland, but I want Barcelona now. Give it to me or I will stomp my feet, tell the teacher, and slam my bedroom door."

Maybe that is the difference between my identifications. I AM an American. I WANT Barcelona. But Ireland actually has ME. I loved Barcelona. It was brilliant. I could describe the sounds, the food, the sea, the scent, the views, the way the city looked like an intricate collage from the top of a mountain, but I wasn't there long enough to describe it in useful terms. I can't describe what a mundane day might be like in Barcelona, because I didn't have one. I went to museums, and tourist-spots. I ate and drank and saw the things that tourists eat and drink and see. I did not want for anything during my time there, and my time there was brief.

I think I love Barcelona, but I can't really be sure. I only got to see it, as a child sees a new toy from a shop window. As this child, I go back to my room, and look at the things I already have: I have America. I have Pakistan. I have Ireland. I recall wistfully the colors of Barcelona, and wonder if I will ever see it again.

Picasso's work.
Gaudi's architecture.
A Flamenco dancer's skirts.
The beach in the moonlight.
The various nibblings in the market.
Gothic cathedral spires far up in the sky.
The impossible Catalan language; French and Spanish.

While I was in La Pedrera, Gaudi's famous apartments, now a tourist spot, I was approached and interviewed by some folks from Hong Kong about my views on Gaudi's work and it's relationship to the city. I'm usually terrible when it comes to impromptu answers, but I think I summed it up fairly well. I said, "Normally an artist is inspired by their surroundings, but in this case, I think the city has been inspired by the artist."

Gaudi's work is fantastic, in every sense of the word. It is dreamlike and unreal. That is how I see Barcelona and how I will remember it.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


i leave for barcelona in 12 hours. i am a little nervous about traveling. yes, i know how ridiculous that sounds while i'm in Ireland, but it's different when you're leaving FROM a comfort zone like Chicago and when you leave from a place that you only kinda know. luckily, i looked up some fabulous travel blogs and found them all to be highly interesting, though some were not terribly useful to me, as travelling works differently for many folks. some want convenience, some want comfort. some want it to be cheap, and some don't really care.

i'm traveling and have made plans to best of my ability. i love google maps for this reason. how did people manage without the internet?

i guess i'll find out this weekend.

this is my departure post. i will post again when i return.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

recipes for disaster?

Hey hey! Meatloaf Wednesday! I was told by one of the guests that it was, "the finest meatloaf" he has ever had. He followed that with, "It was the ONLY meatloaf I've ever had. But it was the finest."

I love feeding the Irish kids. They're always so grateful, AND quotable. God bless 'em.

Aside from the mammoth meatloaf, others brought their own contributions to the meal. The Americans brought the biggest bag of chips (french fries) I have ever seen, and the makings for s'mores. The Irish... they brought 'Taytos' and Dairymilk.

How do I explain Taytos? First of all, you need to know that 'chips' are fries, and 'crisps' are chips. Sometimes Taytos are called chips too, even though they're more like crisps. Got all that?

Taytos are the epitome of potato chips (crisps). They are quite good. Not as good as Dairymilk, though. Man, if I miss anything about Ireland, it's going to be the chocolate. Gosh, it's good here.

All in all, the evening was a delicious success that reawakened the culinary ninja in me. I want to cook. Sometimes I believe I really can cook, but it's only in fleeting moments that take me and everyone else by surprise. The culinary ninja strikes again! What will she make next? When will it happen? Could this be her final adventure? Dum-dum-DUUUUM!

Maybe I'll make a quiche tonight. A NINJA quiche.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

it's all about meme

sigh. i finally gave in to the meme. truth is, there isn't a whole lot going on at the moment because i'm getting ready to leave for Barcelona this coming weekend. in the midst of not spending money, going out, or doing interesting things, i turn towards... the internet.

i mentioned this game in a previous entry, but i never actually did it. i usually don't participate in blogosphere-fads or 25 things lists, because, quite simply, i could be doing other things. today, i have nothing, so here is my award-winning album, "The Worst Vice Ever Invented" from my fictional band, Hovelange.

Hovelange, interestingly enough is a tiny town in west Luxembourg. they have a population of 270. i was thinking about visiting Luxembourg.

Monday, March 2, 2009

don't get your knackers in a bunch

i learned some new words today. they make me giggle.

KNACKER: a somewhat insulting term for an Irish person of a, um, nomadic background. basically, they're what Americans refer to as 'white trash.'

HALF (insert a number 1-12): actually means 'half PAST' the hour. this confused me for a short while and i was showing up at events a full hour early, wondering where in the hell everyone was.

HOOVER: it's a vacuum cleaner.

GOOD LUCK: is the Irish version of 'goodbye.' kinda says something about the level of optimism in a country where they'll wish you good luck instead of goodbye, eh?

THANKS A MILLION: standard Irish version of saying 'thank you.' i rather like it.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


i love learning about Ireland. i love learning about the sports Ireland holds dear. the result of this love led me to go to my first hurling match. it was a lotta fun and kinda confusing, but then again, i've had a rocky relationship with sports. don't believe me? i've put together a short video to prove it.

one of my favorite observations during the day was the fact that the advertising on the arena walls were all for banks, or ice cream, or sporting equipment. it was nice not to see ads for beer everywhere. i can dig that. even though Ireland has a reputation for drinking, it doesn't touch their love of a good hurling match where guys beat the crap out of each other.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

a beautiful day

I missed you today, my dear Chicago. I missed your changeable weather, your steady hum of traffic, people, electricity, and crisp, lake breeze. I missed you, and you will always be mine, but today... today, I belonged to Lahinch.

Lahinch reminds me of the Ireland I dreamt of. Well, except for the surfing. People SURF here. There were cliffs and rocky beaches. There was dancing and hiking. There was a waterfall surrounded by brightly-painted homes that set a scene for the movie in my head. But it isn't a movie anymore. It's now a memory, and an experience that I won't be able to describe in this entry. It was magical.

I did things today that I have never done in Chicago, and that isn't to say I can't do them in Chicago, it's simply that it never occurred to me to do them at home. I learned how set dancing works. It's amazing. I can't actually dance, because, like most forms of dancing, a sense of rhythm is required. Ah, well. 7-4 time? What IS that?

The rocky beaches of Lahinch rekindled a dormant sense of adventure. I hopped, stepped, slid ankle-deep into wave pools, but I also got to see mussels, barnacles, shells and stuff that I never noticed existing on the shores of Lake Michigan. Are there any of these weird little ecosystems back home, I wonder?

I climbed up a near-vertical rock-face, simply because it was there. I had fun doing it, and I loved the sense of danger. I play it too safe in Chicago. Climbing is fun. So are tours.

Tours are amazing! I plan on taking every single Chicago tour I can, when I return. We were shown The Burren, which is a plot of land that looks like the Earth got angry and shoved limestone platforms up to the surface, as if to say, "I'm tougher than you think." I didn't know our planet could do that.

I didn't know our planet could have such magnificent caves. I figured everything had been discovered by now, and therefore lose its magnificence. Apparently not. I thought bats would be more frightening. I thought guided tours were lame. I thought I would get tired of the landscape in Ireland. I thought I might be able to dance. I thought I knew things, but I learned today that there is always something else to be amazed by. Thank you, Lahinch. It has been a beautiful day.

Friday, February 27, 2009

i'm a lame-ass.

i don't go out as much as everyone else does.

the status on my facebook page said, "Shama is studying." to which i received an array of concern from people asking if i was sick or if everything was okay, because it IS friday night, and who studies on a friday night? i tell you who -- lame-asses like me.

i actually managed to shame myself into going out tonight at the last-minute.

this might prove to be a bad idea since tomorrow is the trip to lahinch and that means being at the bus stop at 7:45am. then again, i AM in ireland. when in rome...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

food, glorious food

it's hard to eat here. i can't tell if my nutrition is suffering because this is college or because i'm in a foreign country.

i eat like crap here. it has to stop.

my daily intake of vitamins and minerals tend to come from the following: a box of chips (potato wedges), a capri-sonne juice pouch or two, and a sandwich of cheese and... more cheese.

i'm having people over for meatloaf on wednesday. correction, i'm having some IRISH people over for meatloaf on wednesday, namely because they said, "Meatloaf? What's that? We've only heard of it on 'The Simpsons.'" no kidding. this will be my third attempt to make one, and i'm not sure how it's going to play out. i can't seem to find the ingredients that i normally keep, and i am instead finding all kind of ingredients i never thought i would have use for. foods like: beets. they are fresh from the garden, but i don't think i actually LIKE beets.

god, i'm starving. i'm not saying i can't eat, i'm saying that i don't really enjoy food right now. it's there to provide some sustenance.

note: the KFC here does not sell mashed potatoes. so much disappointment.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

while the getting is good

i am making plans to travel.

i am making plans to travel outside of Ireland. this involves a certain amount of familiarity with Ryanair, and other 'airbus' companies. i have no such knowledge, and am therefore 'winging it,' to be punny.

first destination: Barcelona.

Barcelona promises to be a city of culture, class, and architecture. it also scares the living shit out of me. i spent the day reading reviews of hostels and travel blogs. getting robbed? no thank you. bed bugs? NO THANK YOU.

i'm scared now. i don't want to get robbed. or infested.

i booked a hostel that is located just outside of the city centre because i'm honestly frightened of what could happen in the city itself.

regardless, i'm going, and it has made me stop to think about what else i could see while i'm here.

i'm going to Venice, Italy. i want to see this city before it sinks. when i think of Venice, i consider the fact that i never got to see New Orleans before Katrina hit it, and i will always and forever regret that. I also considered Iceland because of the fact that its economy collapsed in on itself, like a lawn chair. i wonder what the country looks like now. and then, there is Greenland.

Greenland is a curiosity simply because i want to see glaciers while i still can. i watched parts of "Planet Earth" and it rekindled my love for my planet and every corner of it. i love the idea of Greenland. so does this guy. hit track 6 and have a good time.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


among all the observations and experiences i have had since i arrived, the most constantly surprising thing is...


man, if only Uncle Milty could get a load of this.

this is the spoiler/teaser for "Home and Away" which is a terrible title for a terrible show. when i say 'terrible show' i mean, 'highly addictive, stupid soap opera.' seriously. it's great. and awful.

i found out that everyone here watches a lot of American television, too... from 5 years ago. since i've been here, i have caught myself up on "Scrubs," "Smallville," and "One Tree Hill" only to find that i'm watching storylines that i know the endings to. oddly enough, i think "One Tree Hill" and "Smallville" might be suspiciously good shows. (i KNOW "Scrubs" is good). don't quote me on that, but from what i'm watching here, combined with my observations from 'teaser' commercials i saw before i left, i think that my scorn and pessimism may have been wrong.

"Home and Away" is still terrible, though.

so is "Gilmore Girls," which i always suspected of being a cardboard version of "My So-Called Life." by the way, it is, but that doesn't stop anyone from watching the rapidly-delivered-dialogue-posing-as-realistic-conversation. it's baaad. yet, everyone here watches and loves it. go figure.

i do love the commercials here. there's one that never fails to crack me up.

and then there's one that will give me nightmares for the rest of my life.

on saturdays, i get reruns of Nickelodeon shows like "Drake and Josh" and "iCarly," both of which make me wonder if i am actually stupid enough to enjoy these shows or if i'm just homesick.

luckily, i can still keep up with "Battlestar Galactica," but i'm way behind on "The Office" and "Gossip Girl." yeah, i follow "Gossip Girl." don't you dare judge me -- you just watched a "Home and Away" clip.

Monday, February 23, 2009

observation #299

house parties work the same way in Ireland as they do in America.

there is a lot of beer, booze, and the ever-present "Mystery Punch." things get broken, and there are white Christmas lights strung up across the ceiling that provide just enough light to make everyone look good. there is plenty of comfortable seating and more things get broken. people you have never met before and will possibly never see again will tell you things they might not even tell their therapist.

and of course, the late-night snack-and-cigarette run. heh. it was fun.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

this weekend

i wish i'd gone to tipperary with maureen and andrea, but the bronchitis isn't gonna go away if i keep giving it a reason to stay, now will it?

here's where i DIDN'T go this weekend. oh well.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

perpetual motion machine

I've never been one for politics, but I try to stay informed, which is one of the many reasons I joined the UL Debate Society. The Irish Times Debate Final was last night. It's a big to-do, and the motion made me realize how much more informed I could be.

"This House believes the partition of Ireland should remain permanent."

Whoa. It's a heavy topic. I'm going to attempt the briefest summary I can muster of Irish history now. Bear with me.

432 - Ireland is Christianized by St. Patrick whose influence lead to cultural/educational growth. Catholicism is the thing to do.

800-1100 - Vikings! They show up and say, "We wanna fight!" but then decide to hang out and become farmers and stuff. Everybody seems cool until...

One of the Irish kings gets a little gung-ho about seizing power and land and stuff, so he asks the Normans from England to do him a solid, but Normans show up at the party and decide not to leave for about 400 years. Not only do they overstay their welcome, but they rearrange the furniture, eat all the food, don't chip in for beer, and set up the feudal system which makes everybody pissed off in a passive-aggressive way.

1536-1685 - Henry8@England writes: Hey Ireland! What's up? Listen, that Catholic platform you've run your system on for like, a thousand years, isn't working for me. I like this other platform, Protestant much better. Try it. No? Fine, then I'm gonna crash your system and delete a bunch of your stuff. Then, I'll send my friend Scot over to do a re-install. He's kinda like me. You'll like him. Promise.

1685-1690 - SOMEHOW a Catholic (James) gets the throne in England, but he only has it for a little while before William of Orange snags it. Willie follows Jimmy to IE and wins The Battle of Boyne. There's this Protestant organization in the North called the Orange Order that really like Willie.

1691-1793 - Oppression, oppression, oppression. Exploitation. Oppression.

1798 - The United Irishmen! Catholics, Protestants, liberty, freedom, and equality are on one side, while the Big, Bad Brits are on the other side. The Brits kick everybody's ass (sorry, I mean 'arse') and make Ireland part of Britain with The Act of Union.

1800s - Struggle, struggle. Tenancy system breakdown. Struggle, struggle.

Famine. I will make no attempt to joke about this, as it is one of the most horrifying events in history.

1912 - The Brits decide to throw IE a bone and offer up Home Rule which would give them (a little) independence. The Protestants in the North don't want to be outnumbered by the Catholics, so they say, "Um... no thank you." Then, these other guys, the Fenians, say, "Hey, we really want full independence and we're gonna fight for it. So there." They fight, but get their asses handed to them by the Brits.

1919-1922 - The War of Independence finally gets everybody's attention and negotiations between Irish Nationalists and the Brits result in the division of IE (North: Ulster and The Rest: Irish Free State) which causes a civil war. Finally, the division is solidified, and IE becomes The Republic of Ireland in 1949.

1925-1950 - But wait! There's more! The IRA! Guerilla activities against the Brits in the North are carried out by the minority Catholics until the Brits decide to send in some troops to straighten things out and make it all proper and shit.

1998 - The Belfast Agreement becomes the hesitant move toward peace by way of reform, reestablishment, and reducing the British military presence in the North. The IRA also decides to put the guns down. Phew.

Now, back to the motion from the debate. Partition should remain permanent. The debate was a history lesson from every side. I got a chance to hear opinions from both sides of the fence, and I think I learned more in those two hours than I could have in a semester of class. I hope you learned something just now, too.

The funniest thing is how this debate was structured. It was in the style of the Irish Times, which is distinctly different from British Parliamentary style. Then again, why on earth would you want to argue in the style of a country that caused the debate in the first place?

Friday, February 20, 2009

i'm having a little whine tonight after dinner

"You've heard of people calling in sick. You may have called in sick a few times yourself. But have you ever thought about calling in well?

It'd go like this: You'd get the boss on the line and say, "Listen, I've been sick ever since I started working here, but today I'm well and I won't be in anymore." Call in well." --Tom Robbins, Even Cowgirls Get The Blues

Being sick sucks. Being sick makes everything a chore, even walking to the Medical Centre to find out exactly how sick I am and how to get better. I really wanted to skip class today, but that quote kept running through my head and I couldn't justify missing a class, especially when I know that I'm going to skip a class or two to travel.


Bottom line is, I made it to class, but boy, was I sick. I can't wait to skip a class on account of being well.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

(crossing) the fault line

The hot water has gone out again. I think it's funny to say that it's 'gone out.' Where did it go? Is it running errands or on a date?

"Have you seen the hot water, dear?"
"No. Not for some time now. I think it went out."
"Did it leave a note?"
"No, but it never does. You know how hot water is."

While I'm busy personifying things, I would also like to mention the Launderette. The name "Launderette" conjures an image of a sweet, petite lady, dressed in a pleasantly starched apron and bonnet. She clucks her tongue at me when I try to put too many clothes in the washing machine and reassures me that powdered detergent will be fine, although I still worry about the dandruff-like flakes that may not wash off.

Sweet as she is, she costs quite a bit for her services. I have to use tokens to do my laundry. It's approximately 5 euro per wash and semi-dry. 7.10 for one wash and two dryer tokens. In U.S. dollars, that's about... $9.00. Yikes.

"It has to be done, dear," she says to me.

And she's right. Since I've been here, I have tried to maintain my personal sense of style while being aware of youthful, Irish fashion. It's tough. I wasn't really prepared for the onslaught of dresses, tights, ballet flats, scarves, and jewelry that dominate a young lady's wardrobe. Despite packing a moderate amount of clothing, I find that I have too many clothes, yet too few options. Is it silly to worry about appearances? Sure, but I always have, and I'm not sure how to stop now. Oh, you didn't know? I'm superficial and a little vain.

So, for the sake of vanity, I do laundry once a week, and this particular week I did something I thought I would never do. I'm so sorry, but I had to use the dryer before they locked the doors.

"It has to be done, dear," Launderette said. She winked at me and clucked her tongue at you for leaving your things in the dryer for FOUR HOURS. I just want to apologize for handling your personal items, and I sincerely hope I don't have to do it again. You had some questionable attire.

Hey, Launderette? I have a few favors to ask of you. Next time you see some hot water, would you tell it to please come home? Thanks. You're great.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Private Correspondence Between Us: Letter Three

Dear Ireland,

I was touched by your last letter, but why did you have to steal my bank card today? When will we learn to trust each other?


The Private Correspondence Between Us: Letter Two

Dear Shama,

I am sorry for treating you unfairly. I was trying to be thoughtful when I made it snow here for the first time in years. I thought you missed your home, with all its snow and cold. I won't do that again. As far as your living conditions go, I am also deeply apologetic. I was a little hurt when you arrived and assumed that I was a drunk and uncouth. I suppose I did want to hurt you after I watched you spend your evenings at the pubs instead of with me. I have a lot of history, you know.

Have I been vindictive? Yes. But I'm trying to be better. You have a cozy home now, you have your computer back, and I will try to get that package delivered to you. I am also sorry for all that I've cost you this month. I just assumed you were another rich, ditzy American, looking for a good time.

Let's do start over.

Your friend,

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Private Correspondence Between Us: Letter One

Dear Ireland,

Please give me a break. Looking back on this past month, I realize now that we had unrealistic expectations for each other. I wasn't very sensitive to you -- I looked at you and thought, "This is gonna be fun! She looks like she knows how to have a good time!" I know now that I was wrong to make those assumptions. You have much more to offer. I am so sorry.

Can we please start over? I really want us to be friends. I still think we have a good chance if we can start by trusting each other. What do you think? I'm hopeful. Please don't break my heart anymore.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

I need an IV after the IV

It didn't occur to me the these tournaments are referred to as "IVs" until I got back to my house in Limerick and desperately wanted fluids to replenish what I lost over the weekend and to soothe my aching throat.

Debating requires talking. A LOT of it.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Top Secret

What happens in Galway, STAYS in Galway.

End of story.

Happy Valentine's Day. I'll be back in Limerick tomorrow.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Hostel Environment

I'm going to Galway! I'm excited about this trip for a few reasons:

1. I'm competing in my first debate tournament with
2. My new favorite people: the UL Debate Society, who
3. Promised me that Galway is a beautiful city with
4. Loads of things to see and do!

I'm also staying at a hostel for the first time, and despite the bad reputation hostels have gotten due to a certain movie I'm feeling adventurous. Sure, things have been a little rough, but when the going gets rough, the rough get going, right? Ah, something like that.

some hours later...

The hostel is BEAUTIFUL. It's clean, bright, and has plenty of comfortable community space for sitting, eating, and chatting. I have already heard at least four different accents/languages, and it's located in the center of town! I can't wait to go exploring! There's Nora Barnacle's house, and the Spanish Arch, and Eyre Square... so much to do, so much to do...

some MORE hours later...

I was told to put my camera away. I was told that, "What happens in Galway, STAYS in Galway." I am here, but I am not here to explore a city. I am here to compete, and compete I shall. There were 2 rounds of debate tonight. It occurred to me during the first round that I have no clue as to what I'm doing. All I know is that I MUST debate. I'm not opposed to debating (pun intended), but I didn't realize how taxing this weekend promises to be. To be continued...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Adventures in Wonder-What-Will-Happen-Next? Land

Ireland was the center for the Dell corporation for several years. Then Dell moved out. All that remained, was a land of PCs...

I have a Macintosh, darnit, and I need someone to fix it. Now.

I ended up taking it into town (i.e. downtown Limerick) to a 'Comp U B' store, specializing in Apple products. They said they could fix it. They said it would cost around 50 euro. They said it would be ready by Friday or Saturday.

I tried very hard not to dwell on the negatives. I walked around the city. I had lunch and a nice conversation. I visited some of the city's landmarks. People's Park was lovely. The Art Museum wasn't awful. Tait's Clock was exactly what I expected. And the tiny, run-down magic shop was appropriately hokey.

Sigh. I just wish that I didn't have to write this post from the cold memory of basic recollection. I wish I could write this withthe clarity and energy from a recent experience. At least the pictures are nice.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


So what if it's snowing for the first time in years? The cold isn't that bad.

Who cares if I haven't got heat or hot water? I can just heat up a kettle and wash my hair over the sink.

Does it matter if my wallet seems to be hemorrhaging money? I knew this trip wouldn't be cheap.


Traditional Ceili Dancing (pronounced kay-lee), to be exact! It's been a dreadful week overall, with a smattering of joyful interludes. I am so excited to see this and maybe even try it out! When the world gets you down, dance!

several hours later...

My computer broke down, and then I almost did too. This must be the worst string of luck I have ever experienced. I don't know what happened, but it looks like I got some kinda bug. It's kinda funny, actually. After nearly a week of icy showers and no heat, my computer is the one that caught a virus instead of me.