Mismatched Socks

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The amount of mismatching socks I have now outnumbers the socks that still have their mates. I came here with about 10 pairs of perfectly matched socks; I’m now down to about four. It’s a good day if I get to crack into a fresh pair of matched socks, but these days seems to be fewer and farther in-between now. Everyone has this sock problem, I’m sure, and I now understand why my dad used pin his socks together after he wore them -I always though that it was the strangest thing. Who would actually take the time to pin socks together after wearing them? Well it turns out pins that are cheaper than buying new socks, so I’ve started pinning the few pairs of matching socks I have left. Is this what adulthood feels like? I guess it’s all balance sheets, planned meals, and pinned socks from here on out. Maybe I’ll get a tattoo as an ode to my youth. Also, while we’re on the subject of missing laundry, I think there’s a laundry bandit on the loose in my housing residence. Ever-so-gradually, I feel like my clothes (not just the odd sock) are starting to disappear, and I know I’m not the only one with this problem. So I think I’m going to stake out the residence laundromat the next few times I do a load of laundry; I’ll provide updates on the Glenomena Laundry Bandit as they filter through.

It’s been about two weeks since my last because these past few weeks have been a whirlwind. Since my last post, I’ve been to Barcelona and Donegal, and I’ve spent my time in Dublin writing papers and finishing group projects, all of which are due next week (the last week of classes). Recently, I’ve caught myself getting quite used to this singular way of life; I work hard from Monday until about Thursday afternoon, and then I get on a bus or a plane and head off on some exhilarating adventure in some part of the world that I’ve never been to. I am constantly in awe of my surroundings, and I think something inside has woken up. The world is a miraculous place that is overflowing with remarkable people. I’ve gotten a taste of the world outside the one that I knew prior to this experience, and I’ve discovered a thirst for new experiences and different cultures. I am constantly humbled by the kindheartedness and warmth of the strangers that I’ve met in my travels. And I don’t think ‘strangers’ is an appropriate term to use; the application of the word automatically incites a sense of apprehension towards a new acquaintance and acts as a barrier to a potential relationship. I don’t mean that every single person is warm and friendly or that one shouldn’t handle himself or herself with care; I only mean that there’s been nothing ‘strange’ about so many of the wonderful people I’ve met in the past few months and to call them strangers is misleading.

As I’m sure most of you are familiar with Barcelona, at least in name, I’ll focus on my trip to the lesser-known Donegal. Donegal is a county in Ireland that sits on its Northwestern tip, and, more specifically, we took a trip to Mount Errigal, which is Donegal’s tallest mountain (750+ meters) located near the town of Gweedore. The trip was dubbed a ‘survival trip’ and was put on by ESN (the same student network that organized the trip to Belfast –see ‘Peace Piece’). We stayed in a fantastic hostel in the foothills of this magnificent mountain and, as the name of the weekend suggests, we spent our time hiking, cycling, rock-climbing, and kayaking. I can’t properly describe just how fulfilling this trip was, so I’m not going to try. I’ll provide pictures instead as well as pictures from my trip to Barcelona.

I would like to mention, however, a man I encountered in Donegal that left a lasting impression. Aodhan led my group and I along a walking tour around the coastal area near Mount Errigal. Aodhan seemed like the happiest fellow in the world and had this air about him that I can only describe as if he knew something that the rest of us didn’t – in an enlightened way not in a weird or creepy way. I was drawn to his positive energy, so I sparked up a conversation with him, trying to pry the secret of life out of him that he so clearly knew. As it turns out, Aodhan is an extremely educated individual with multiple degrees, one in international relations and another in education. He worked for the United Nations on a humanitarian relief effort in Lesotho, Africa for a number of years before returning to Donegal where he was born and raised. He said that he grew weary of the corruption and perilous conditions in which he worked, so he went back to school to get a Master’s Degree in education and returned home. As we walked through the rolling hills of this world seemingly untouched by the harshness of modern civilization, Aodhan mentioned that he missed the looking out on the horizon while he was away from home. He remarked that as long he could watch the sun rise everyday in the East and set over the sea to West in the evening, he would be perfectly content. And perfectly contented is what he seemed.

Aodhon’s words stirred a revelation within myself that I’ve long tried to grasp. For me, I can now say that I understand that life isn’t about working to support a desired lifestyle; it’s about defining one’s purpose and working to support that purpose, whatever it may. Money is necessary and it certainly makes things easier, but what is the point in making money if one’s only purpose to make money only for the sake of being able to make more money (I do not take credit for this idea -I discovered it from reading Alan Watts). Purpose for me exists in relationships and helping people to better themselves. More importantly, life’s about being happy in pair of mismatched socks because, really, no one cares about your socks but yourself.

“There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.” (Quote by Douglas Adams)

Sunset on the beach in BCN

Sunset on the beach in BCN

BCN street

BCN street

 

 

View of BCN from a hill that my friend and I hiked

View of BCN from a hill that my friend and I hiked

 

The rolling hills of Donegal

The rolling hills of Donegal

Mount Errigal nearly engulfed in some eerie fog

Mount Errigal nearly engulfed in some eerie fog

This is Oscar. He's one cool dog.

This is Oscar. He’s one cool dog.

Donegal Beach

Donegal Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Donegal

More Donegal

The fierce Atlantic

The fierce Atlantic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My friend Aurelie fearlessly attempting her first Abseil

My friend Aurelie fearlessly attempting her first Abseil

Another view from Mount Errigal

View from Mount Errigal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

View from about halfway up Mount Errigal -the wind was so vicious everyone literally had to hold on to mountain to not get blown off

View from about halfway up Mount Errigal -the wind was so vicious everyone literally had to hold on to mountain to not get blown off

Welcome to London

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Back from another eventful and exhilarating mini vacation away from Scotland! This time I took a detour to the venerable and charismatic hub of Great Britain, London. After a series of misfortunes, ranging from a cancelled flight to realizing I had directions to the wrong hotel, the journey to London was definitely off to a shaky start. However, I can think of many things worse than being lost in London on an uncharacteristically sunshine-filled, pleasant day. After soliciting directions from anyone who gave off the presence of being a local, I eventually arrived at the desired destination and finally met up with my uncle and sister.

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Being new to the London scene, it proved beneficial to have a docent present, as my uncle studied abroad here during his college years. We took all the touristy pictures imaginable, witnessed the crossing of the guard at Buckingham palace, and unsuccessfully attempted to find an alcoholic beverage that my sister fancied. I always knew it was a long shot, but a surge of disappointment came over me when my quest was met with failure.

While the city itself was charming, the real magic happened once we stepped outside the city and entered the remote city of Leavesden, the filming spot of Harry Potter. I’m not going to sit here and try and convince you that I am a diehard Potterhead, for that would be an utter fallacy. I do enjoy the movies, and I must recommend this attraction to anyone with the slightest interest in cinematography, because it was truly fascinating. Not to mention the incomparable deliciousness that is the rich and frothy Butterbeer! That alone is worth the trip! We got to experience the making of Harry Potter with an audio tour narrated by Draco Malfoy himself. To see the craftsmanship, dedication, and just how pedantic the process was, really made me appreciate the whole elaborate movie making operation. I even began to reconsider my career choice, even though I know making it big in this business is a one in a million chance. I’d definitely opt for behind the scenes activity, seeing as I can’t even master the Scottish accent, regardless of all the exposure I have had in the past few months! Due to my lack of accent acquisition and overall inability to do any accent other than my own, my acting aspirations unfortunately have been quelled.

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I was a little excited about attending potions class!

 

The next morning we woke up bright and early to witness the famous changing of the guard at Buckingham palace. Due to the stoic nature of the guards, I expected the event to be quite austere, however the British band marched in playing swing jazz tunes and even a rendition of Pharrell’s hit single “Happy.”  Overall the event turned out to be quite a bit more upbeat than I initially envisioned.

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We explored the Notting Hill market, buying a bunch of trinkets along the way. Took the quintessential Abbey Road picture, and even got to view London from the top of the eye! All in all it was a fantastic experience, but now I am back in Glasgow until finals commence. So let the inexorable studying and dread sink in! Some actual studying to “study abroad” after all this adventure, honestly how could I even complain? Until next time!

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Leaving my mark on Abbey Road; life in a nutshell!

Festival Falls

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Starting on March 29th Hong Kong started to have terrible weather again with massive rainstorms along with high winds. But things turned for worst on the night of the 30th when a really big rainstorm, plus hail the size golf balls, started to terrorize the country. Luckily there were no major casualties but some MTR stations flooded and high class malls had their glass roofs broken by hail.

My roommate and I were actually out that day until 7pm, and if we were out later by a minute we would have been caught in the rain and hail. The rain was really bad to the point where we couldn’t see the normal apartment buildings on a normal night.

before(On a nice night)after(The night of the storm. You cannot even tell there are buildings beyond the lamp posts)

One of the high class malls hat had their roofs broken along with a major MTR station that flooded is actually near HKBU. The mall that received the most damage was Festival Walk, a seven floor mall (though after this incident people have nicknamed the mall Festival Falls) and connected to the mall is the Kowloon Tong MTR station that serves two major subway lines. My roommate goes in and out of the Kowloon Tong MTR station daily, and we were actually there the before the station flooded. It’s crazy how lucky we were able to avoid the mess that occurred later that night. I asked some of the local students on my floor if this was a normal occurrence and they said Hong Kong does have hail, but not the size of golf balls, so this rainstorm was out of the ordinary.

The video is of Festival Walk during the storm

I also texted my cousins that night and they said V City, a high class mall in Tuen Mun (New Territories) also had some windows broken along with some flooding inside the Tuen Mun MTR Station, but nothing as crazy as Festival Walk and Kowloon Tong.

The amazing thing was that the following day, the Kowloon Tong MTR Station was drained and everything was operating as if nothing had happened. Trains operated slower than usual but it’s pretty amazing at how fast the MTR system recovered. I didn’t visit Festival Walk the day after the storm, but it also operated as if nothing happened. Yesterday (April 9th) my roommate and I visited the mall to get tickets for Captain American (WOOT) and there is still visible damage to the mall a week and a half after the storm.

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(About 1/3 of the malls escalators are still out of order)

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From what I have been told from the friends I have made here and from my cousins, Hong Kong has experienced the coldest winter this year along with a major hail storm since 30 years ago. But, the weather has cleared up since the end of last week! The sun is beginning to shine again with the temperatures in the mid 70′s!

Disneyland – The Happiest Place On Earth

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Midterms are finally over which means I have some time to relax until finals come. To ease off the stress from midterms, my cousins and I planned a trip to Hong Kong Disneyland. HK Disneyland is the smallest of the five Disney theme parks in the world, which means you can finish exploring the park in a whole day. Hong Kong houses two theme parks right now, which are Disney and Ocean Park. Ocean Park was established first and also has cheaper admission rates (I think adult tickets are around 300HKD which is roughly $40USD) compared to Disney where adult admission is 450HKD (Tip! If anybody plans on studying abroad in Hong Kong and loves Disney, I suggest you to get the Platinum yearly pass, which is 600HKD for students! This allows you to get multiple entries vs. 450HKD per entry and special park benefits).

Getting to Disneyland was really easy. An MTR stop and train carts were specifically built for Disneyland so it is really hard for anybody to get lost going to Disney. For students carrying the student octopus card we sadly don’t get 50% off our whole entire ride to Disney but it is better than nothing.

Hong Kong Disneyland is the smallest Disney theme park of the five in the world but do not let that fool you. HK Disneyland has three areas that the other parks do not have, which are Toy Story Land, Grizzly Gulch and Mystic Point. I was most excited for Toy Story Land because it is one of my favorite Pixar movies. The park is built to make you feel like a toy, so everything is “life-sized.” The rides in Disneyland are pretty mediocre, nothing too overwhelming for young children, so if you were planning to come here to scream your heads off I suggest Ocean Park for that. The lines for most rides moved fairly quickly, the longest wait was probably 20 minutes which is nothing when you compare it to the lines at Six Flags or Dorney Park on a crowded day.

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(In front of Hong Kong’s version of Cinderella’s castle)

I stayed at Disney for about 5-6 hours and I would’ve stayed until the park closed to watch the fireworks but my cousins and I were tired and hungry. We headed to Yuen Long in New Territories near where my cousins live for dinner at a cheap Korean restaurant. I miss a lot of types of foods from the States, but I missed Korean food the most. It is actually quite hard to find authentic and cheap Korean food in Hong Kong so I was looking forward to dinner that night. It was a nice day/night so we sat outside on the street in front of the restaurant for dinner. At that moment, I actually felt like I was in “Hong Kong.” The atmosphere and the area I was in played in a big role because Yuen Long still retains the older aspects of HK compared to Tsim Tsa Tsui or Causeway Bay and it was also a Friday night.

Eggettes and Stinky Tofu

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It’s been almost 3 months since I have arrived in Hong Kong and I can say my Chinese is improving at a scary speed. In Hong Kong, the primary language is Cantonese where in Mainland China the official language is Mandarin. Now Cantonese and Mandarin are already different as they can be, but standard Cantonese versus spoken Cantonese are also very different. Standard Cantonese is what is used for the newspapers and some news reports while spoken Cantonese is what is used for everyday speech and for texting/talking online. When I text my cousins on Whatsapp, I ask them to text in Chinese because I want to be able to recognize characters, and if I come across something I have never seen before, I will write it out on my Macbook and have the system read it out to me. The Macbook having this option has been one of the key reasons why my reading has improved a lot. Aside from reading, my spoken Cantonese is also improving! I noticed when I first got here, I would stay quiet or talk in a really soft voice because I felt people would give me that judgmental stare, but I’m slowly shaking it off. My local friends have told me that my Cantonese is really good (little to no accent!), which gives me more confidence to speak Cantonese. It also helps that I translate for my roommate when we’re out but I still find it difficult when locals speak really fast (I’m getting there though!)

Ordering food here is still a challenge. My roommate and I usually steer away from places without an English translation or places that do not use the number system. This is usually a problem in the more local districts (ie. Kowloon City) but less on Hong Kong Island where most expats live. This limits a lot of our options but we’re slowly beginning to expand. If we do get in a tough situation, we just point to a certain menu item and hope we will get what we think we ordered.

One of the many things I have tried while I am in Hong Kong is their street food. Hong Kong has so many different kinds of street foods to offer, like fish balls, eggettes (called gai daan jai in Cantonese), stinky tofu and more. I have tried the stinky tofu and let’s just say it taste like it sounds.  I have a strong stomach and will pretty much eat anything that is edible but woah, stinky tofu is not my cup of tea at all. When you walk down the streets of Mongkok and you smell something like trash/sewage water, it is probably stinky tofu. I recommend if you ever have to chance to go to Hong Kong to try stinky tofu just to say, “Yeah, I tried stinky tofu!” But stinky tofu is a popular street item, along with my favorite eggettes! From how my roommate describes them, they taste like sweet pancakes but in puffball forms!

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(Eggettes)

How_to_eat_stinky_tofu_in_the_streets(Stinky Tofu image credit)

Arriba! Living the Spanish Dream

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So after a long hiatus, I am finally ready to jump back into the blogging game! During my absence from the writer’s desk, I have been galavanting through the mesmerizing streets of Spain. At every corner I was blown away by enchanting architecture, enthralling alleyways, and the prevalence of olive-skinned light eyed men (I must admit they have always been my kryptonite). I also finally realized the imperativeness of learning the Spanish language. I’ve known for quite a while how beneficial bilingualism is, but being in a country where your native language isn’t the predominant one definitely contributes to feelings of being an outsider. However my congenital Mediterranean looks did help me blend in quite a bit!

My trek across Spain included visiting the cities of Barcelona and Granada, two diverse but equally captivating places. Although at times Barcelona seemed like a complete tourist hub, I absolutely fell in love with the city.  Barcelona may even give my favorite place in the world, Cinque Terre, a run for its money!  The vibrant atmosphere when walking down Las Ramblas, the copious amounts of tapas consumed, and the the daily trip to the bustling marketplace of La Boqueria, I’m not sure how to articulate it. I was simply, ineffably happy. We saw Gaudi’s masterpieces, frequented indescribably ethereal churches, and indulged in all the Spanish delicacies, without regard for calories (which I don’t know whether to describe as a positive or negative thing)!

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Gaudi park Barcelona

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Above and Below Pictures both of Sagrada Familia, a famous church in Barcelona

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The 60º weather and the perpetual sunshine was quite refreshing, after being enveloped by the clouds of Glasgow for nearly 3 months. With sunshine on my face, flip flops on my feet, and sangria in my hand, I knew I’d found my transient paradise. I enjoyed walks along the beach, with the exception of the lone nudist that was taking his leisurely stroll across the beach. I’m not one to criticize cultural differences or advocate for the proscription of nudity on the beach, but I think maybe a little sign indicating that you might come across a “freebird” would’ve definitely better prepared me for my sighting.

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The view from my Barcelona balcony!

 

 

I believed leaving Barcelona would leave a hole in my heart, but upon arrival in Granada, I feel in love with a city all over again. Feeling a little less touristy, Granada had this bohemian, laid-back ambiance. We saw flamenco dancing on the street, socialized at a reggae styled bar, and truly took in the picturesque views of this city surrounded by the Sierra Nevada mountain range. There was something about the juxtaposition of this populated gorgeous city with the mountain ranges in the distance, that really made me aware of how utterly spectacular the world could be.

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Both pictures from Alhambra, a massive Islamic palace located in Granada

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Leaving Spain was quite heartbreaking, and not to mention difficult, due to my limited Spanish repertoire. How I made it back to Glasgow in one piece knowing only how to say, “I’m lost, I’m sorry, and Where’s the beach?,” I will never know. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to further expand my cultural horizons and appreciate how enriching and beautiful diverseness is. This study abroad experience has been shaping up to be the absolute best time of my time, and I hope that my blogs inspire everyone to jump on this opportunity if given the chance, you will not regret it!

Well in a few days I’ll be off the London where I will meet up with my sister and uncle and delve into the wonderful world of witchcraft and wizardry. Until next time, cheerio!

The Underdog

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I am constantly asked why I chose to study abroad at UCD; it’s generally the most common ice-breaker when meeting a fellow study-abroader. When asked this question, a few months ago I would have given a long-winded answer about how I wanted to broaden my horizons, immerse myself in a rich culture, remove myself from my comfort zone, etc. etc. etc. To be perfectly honest, I never had any grand reasoning for choosing UCD; it made sense academically, and there was no language barrier. I didn’t necessary close my eyes, spin the globe, and pick the place that my finger landed on, but I also didn’t spend much time agonizing over the decision. I simply knew that I wanted to study abroad, and, after a bit of investigation, Ireland and UCD felt like the right choice. Several months into the experience, I have no doubt that I made the correct decision.

My previous long-winded explanation as to why I chose UCD wasn’t at all untrue; rather, the reasons that I would give were simply the reasons that I chose to study abroad in general. They just weren’t too specific to UCD and Ireland because I didn’t yet have a decent answer. In my two short decades on this earth, I’ve become a firm believer in abiding by my instincts and ‘going with my gut’. I’ve found that, in the overwhelming majority of instances, when I give in to my doubts and decide to go with a second or third guess, my first guess ends up being the right answer. With this being said, my instincts led me to UCD, and my experience here has only served to strengthen my belief in ‘going with my gut’.

I don’t mean to gloat about my apparent superior intuition; I think my instincts are perfectly average. I just believe that things have a way of working out the way they should. I’ve found it easier and less burdensome to trust oneself and to resist trying to control the outcome of things. Attempting to impose one’s will on the world seems that it might expose an individual to many disappointments; the incessant need to control every last thing would make for an anxiety-ridden reality. So, without going on too much of a philosophical rant, I am pleased to acknowledge that trusting my instincts worked out for me this time.

Now, when people ask me why, I know the exact reason that I specifically chose UCD and Ireland: the people. Of course, this is more of a retrospective observation rather than an impetus, but, at this point, it’s all the same. The Irish are an extraordinary people, and I’ve come to enjoy their company very much. Like many others, I’ve always had a tendency to identify with the ‘underdog’ figure; there’s just something about that boxer that pulls himself off the floor in the last round, riddled with exhaustion and nearly battered to death, and lands that knock-out punch on the Champ fueled only by passion and pure heart that is wildly admirable and captivating (I’m speaking of Rocky vs. Apollo Creed of course). My family has many roots in Ireland, and I realize now that I come from a long line of underdogs. Ireland has long lived in the shadow of its big brother across the Irish Sea and embodies the very image of the classic ‘underdog’. Through a long history filled with its share of strife and hardship (the Great Irish Famine, Easter Rising, Civil War, The Troubles, etc.), Ireland has remained steadfast and resolute.

Against odds that at times were staggering, Ireland has never lost its identity, and that identity is evident in its people. Their resilience is remarkable. The other night I was at a pub unwinding with friends, and I happened to sit next to these two Irish gentlemen with whom I sparked up a friendly conversation. The older of the two was a middle-aged carpenter that appeared particularly weathered; he informed me that he was an in-between jobs at the moment. The other was a younger man that was beaming over the job interview in the culinary industry from which he just came from. Both men were ordinary guys that just seemed happy to be alive. We shared some great conversation, and the older gentleman, despite my objections, insisted on buying me a pint of the ‘black stuff’ (Guinness). I was struck by their remarkable kindness and generosity. These guys probably live paycheck-to-paycheck, but they seemed more enlightened than others I’ve met with very large bank accounts.

Money certainly makes life easier, but it far from the most important thing in life. Relationships and sharing love are far more important, and one doesn’t need exuberant amounts of money for those things; the Irish people have taught me that.

Wall Grafiti in Galway

Wall Grafiti in Galway

 

 

 

 

What Really Matters

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Ireland’s teaching philosophy, at least at the university level, is much different than America’s philosophy. I don’t mean to make oversimplified generalizations about the methods of entire countries, but, speaking only from my own experiences, Ireland approaches education differently than America. America’s model of  higher education is predicated upon continuous assessment. In most of the classes I’ve had at Temple, there are generally assignments due every week, with two mid-terms along the way and a final built-in at the end. Ireland’s philosophy, however, is quite different. In each class I have here, every individual is assessed based on three submissions: a group project,  a term paper, and a final exam. This means that each submission is heavily weighted, and it also means that, during the course of the semester, there are periods of relative inactivity followed by intensely busy periods. There are advantages and disadvantages in each structure, but I must say that I was quite conditioned by America’s methods before got here. I’ve quickly learned that my practiced strategies for excelling in the classroom needed adjustment if I was going to do well in my classes here. After a long week filled with term papers, group projects, late nights, and lots of coffee, I’ve thoroughly learned my lesson; those blissful weeks in which no assignments are due are simply a mirage. There is always work to be done!

Despite a few arduous, long nights, Ireland’s educational structure has also offered me the opportunity to travel around Europe. Traveling for the sake of exploration and experience has a romantic lure to it and, to be quite honest, is one of the main reasons I decided to study abroad. The reality of whimsical exploration has proved no less alluring than I imagined. Drinking tea in London, eating waffles in Belgium, enjoying fish and chips in Galway –life has been difficult recently, and I fear I still have several weeks of this taxing lifestyle left to endure.

Really though, my experiences have deepened my perspective and, in a sense, rearranged my goals. I’ve met many people in my travels, many of whom are fellow travelers, and I’ve often found a kindred spirit in unexpected acquaintances. I am always intrigued by those individuals that are traveling around the world on their own, seeking only new experiences and friendly company. I suppose I can relate so well to these individuals because it seems we both seek the same thing. I’m not sure that I can properly articulate what that ‘thing’ is partly because I’m not so sure of what it is myself; I only know that I am still searching for it. I do know that I’ve discovered several things about myself in the course of my travels, and, for now, that is enough. One of the most important things that has become exceedingly clear to me is just how lucky i am to have a place to call home. And, in reality, it’s much less about the place and much more about the people that make up that place. Family is the single most important thing in my life, and that thought comforts me no matter where in the world I am.

In lieu of a quote, this time I will leave you with a word that has been on mind my since I discovered it a few days ago in my travels of the world wide webs. The word is ‘sonder’ and technically (according to Merriam Webster) isn’t a word. The internet, however, begs to differ, and this is what it says the word means:

“the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.”

Sorry for the long-winded definition, but I am so intrigued by its idea that I felt it necessary to include the entire thing. Here are some pictures of my recent travels in London:

View of the Thames and Tower Bridge

View of the Thames and Tower Bridge

Temple Gardens

Temple Gardens

View from atop St. Paul's Cathedral

View from atop St. Paul’s Cathedral

 

 

 

 

 

Big Ben and Westminster Palace

Big Ben and Westminster Palace

Waterloo Sunset

Waterloo Sunset

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

Last Week of the Term

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I find it quite unbelievable that I am writing this blog during the last week of the spring term! Well let’s not forget about the impending May finals, well actually let’s forget about them for a while to avoid eliciting any premature anxiety! So this Wednesday I will attend my last lecture here at the University of Glasgow and all I can think is, where has the time gone! It feels as if only yesterday I was glued to my iphone consulting with Googlemaps on how to get from one classroom to another. And now, people ask me for directions and about 50% of the time I can appropriately direct them! I know the statistic doesn’t predict any tour guide profession in the future, but I’m proud of myself for learning the ways around this amazing city of mine.

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Last week I handed in my final, and only, paper for my Scottish culture class. And I have to say I feel pretty well versed in Scottish affairs, even landing myself the coveted role of Sean Connery on the Buzzfeed: How Scottish are you? quiz. If that doesn’t solidify my status as a true Scot, I don’t know what else will!  In my paper, I talked about Scottish emigration and how the people of Scotland carried their culture with them wherever they went. I even included a quote from the revered philanthropist Andrew Carnegie who said, “America would have been a poor show if not for the Scotch.” I’m cannot aver with certainty whether he was referring to the emigrants themselves or the bountiful cases of whiskey they brought with them, but either way I think this quote perfectly exemplifies the influence the Scots had on the world.

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Generally accustomed to a spring break consisting of one week, I was completely baffled when I saw that we had a month off for Easter Holidays. So with inspiration and a money-conscious mind I couldn’t wait to start planning trips all around Europe. Now, with spring break only a week away I can’t say that all my plans are finalized but, I’ve some incredible plans set in stone!

This Saturday I embark on a week long stay in the beautiful country of Spain. Although I doubt it’s time to whip out the bathing suits, I am definitely looking forward to the overwhelming presence of the sun and hopefully getting a little color into these pasty cheeks of mine! Most of our trip will be spent in the percolating city of Barcelona. As a girl who has been mistaken for Spanish on countless occasions, I knew that learning to speak the language would behoove me. Unfortunately, that particular endeavor is on my bucket list and yet to be accomplished. I am hoping that the language barrier won’t prove to be too much of an issue during my trip!

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In mid-April I will be meeting up with my uncle and sister in London, where we’ll attempt to put on our best British accent and then, become complete tourists! I absolutely cannot wait for this trip, as its been around 3 months since I’ve seen any family members, well besides through the computer screen. I can’t wait to ride the London eye, take an iconic Abbey Road picture, and taunt the soldiers at Buckingham Palace. But most of all, I can’t wait to be able to buy my 18 year old sister her first legal alcoholic beverage. I sincerely hope that that aspect being the part I look most forward to doesn’t speak to badly of my character! Actually, I cannot wait to go on the Harry Potter tour. I’m not going to sit here and pretend to be a diehard Potterhead, but I am quite a fan of the movies and would love to get to see items from the sets. However, my sister Andrea specifically told me that I will be the biggest loser at the tour because I do not possess a wand. I don’t think her usage of loser was correct in this particular context, but she made me well aware that I will indeed be out of my element!

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Now for another installment of the demotic Scottish phrase of the week: “chuffed.” Chuffed is a word used to denote feeling pleased due to an accomplishment or situation. Here is a sample sentence, “I am chuffed that spring break starts at the end of this week, and that my brain has a one month break from school.”

Cannot wait to keep everyone up to date as I venture across Europe and the U.K.! Until next time!

What’s the Craic?

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If you were to amble about the streets of any Irish city or perhaps an Irish institution such as the one that I attend, you would likely overhear a few (possibly more than a few) odd phrases exchanged between the Irish people. One that particularly tickles my fancy is “what’s the craic” (craic is pronounced ‘crack’). Imagine, for a second, being unfamiliar with the Irish dialect (as I was when I arrived) and hearing in passing ‘”that was some good craic (again, it sounds like crack) last night, mate”.  After hearing the word used a few different ways, I decided that it was more likely that the Irish had their own meaning for this word rather than it really meaning what I knew it to mean. It is actually just another word for fun or entertainment; “what’s the craic?” is the Irish equivalent of asking “what’s going on?” in the U.S. Nonetheless, I still can’t help applying that old meaning every now and then; it provides for some good, wholesome entertainment. Here’s a few common phrases using the word that you might hear any proper Irish lad or lady mutter; have yourself a go at it and try not to crack*** a smile …

“Where’s the craic tonight?”

“The craic was proper last night”

“Let’s go to ___, I hear the craic is mighty”

“What’s the craic”

The craic has, indeed, been quite mighty since I arrived here what feels like forever ago. I would be remise not to mention the craic had at the St. Patrick’s festival in Dublin. It was certainly mighty. The festival officially kicked off on Thursday and continued on, almost without stop, until the wee hours of Tuesday morning. The city was bursting at the seems with excitement and every last pub and restaurant was packed to the gills. Despite the immense crowds, a sense of celebration and repose drifted lazily about the city. There was hardly a worry of any danger, as is usually not the case when celebrations of these degree take place. I can’t really explain this other than to say that I’ve found the Irish to a more relaxed people as a whole. It’s been rejuvenating to ease the gas pedal for a bit. Despite this air of calmness the Irish seem to have, they are no less productive than others. There is value in hard work, but there is also value in the ability to step away from one’s stressors every once and awhile and to take a deep breath. I find myself better motivated after doing so. And after all, our time here is scarce.

St. Patty's Festival

St. Patty’s Festival

The other day I was having a cup of coffee at a McDonald’s that was convenient at the time, and I couldn’t help but to overhear the family sitting in the booth behind me. After the father brought over everyone’s food, I heard him direct them to join hands and to bow heads. He then commenced a long and deeply reverent grace, thanking God for their health and for the food sitting on the table. This was the first time I’d ever heard anyone say grace at McDonald’s. I was moved by this type of reverence, and I started to wonder about my own faith. It occurred to me that the reason this type of homage is called grace is because, simply, there is grace in reverence. It inspired me to attend mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral that Sunday. Whatever your beliefs may be, I think most might agree that life is a gift, and to be thankful for that gift is good. If nothing else, it is a practice in humility.

“Reality is only a Rorschach ink-blot, you know” -Alan Watts

Photo of the landscape of the Burren - one of the natural wonders of Ireland

Photo of the landscape of the Burren – one of the natural wonders of Ireland

View of a valley in Glendalough just before the sun dipped being the far side of the mountain

View of a valley in Glendalough just before the sun dipped being the far side of the mountain

View from atop a mountain in Glendalough

View from atop a mountain in Glendalough