Archive | June, 2012

When in Ireland, get lost in the words of W.B. Yeats.

30 Jun

I’m taking an Irish Literature and Film course at the National University of Ireland in Galway this summer, and for the first 2 class periods, we have focused on the poetry of William Butler Yeats. I’ve read Yeats’ poetry before, but there is something really special about reading poetry by someone who wrote his poetry in the country that you’re currently studying in. Or, in another sense, reading poetry in the country where it can be best interpreted.

According to the notes I took in class, William Butler Yeats was a late romantic poet who absorbed the impact of Gaelic folklore as subject matter for his poetry. He was interested in old legends, and therefore he took old folklore and tried to make it relevent. He also felt that the modern world had become culturally impoverished, so he strived to renew the modern world by showing the capacity of the imagination. Yeats was impacted by fairy stories because they had deep connections for him to the human imagination.

One of my favorite poems that we read by Yeats was “Song of Wandering Aengus.” In this poem, Yeats uses the idea of the supernatural as a symbol for art. Also, the poem discusses what it means to be a poet, while also emphasizing that you must follow your vision, no matter where it leads you. Here is the poem (from

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire aflame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And some one called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

When in Ireland, seek out the live music.

29 Jun

Last night Alex (my roommate) and I went to Eyre Square in downtown Galway in search of live music. We took the bus, which I prefered since I’m trying to save my energy as much as I can. Anyway, the bus dropped us off at Eyre Square, and we went hunting for music. We saw this pub called Richardson’s and saw a sign that said “Live Music Tonight” and decided to take a look.

The pubs in Ireland can be pretty different from one another, but I like them. Richardson’s was pretty typical. Warm, inviting, plenty of places to sit. Though it wasn’t packed when Alex and I got there, there were still a good many people there enjoying the soccer game that was on tv. Though I didn’t drink last night, the bartenders were very nice and asked us if we wanted anything. Since the pub wasn’t packed, I think it gave the bartenders a chance to try to make sure everyone was happy and enjoying themselves.

The live music started at 9:30, once the soccer game was over. The band was made of up a fiddler player, the beautiful red-headed accordion player, and a guitar player. Alex and I were set for the night once we saw the beautiful red-headed Irish guy. The music was really wonderful too. Since the pub wasn’t packed with people, Alex and I enjoyed it more because rather than the musicians having to play over the noise, the music just played for itself. About halfway through the night, one of the band members (the guitar player) asked if there were any Americans in the house, and Alex and I said yes. His response: “There’s always one.” We laughed.

They then proceeded to play a Bob Dylan song as well as a Simon and Garfunkel song. Alex and I sang along to the songs we knew and cheered happily once the songs we over. Even though the music was amazing and neither of us wanted to leave, I knew that if we didn’t leave after a while we wouldn’t be up for our Lit class at 9 this morning.

We did end up making it to our class this morning, and both of us are still happily chattering about how much fun we had last night. Tonight we are planning to try to find the band we heard last night. I’m sure they’d enjoy having two American girls being their groupies, or at least that’s what I’m telling myself.

When in Ireland, visit Connemara.

28 Jun

Favorite shot in Connemara

When in Ireland, embrace your Irishness.

27 Jun

Due to some wireless difficulties at my homestay family’s place yesterday, I was not able to post a blog update. I was just as heartbroken to not be able to update as all of you were when you didn’t here from me (Ha…okay, maybe you weren’t as heartbroken, but a girl can dream right?) Anyway, even though I don’t begin classes at the National University of Ireland at Galway today, today is still a full day of introductory classes.

In terms of how yesterday was, I said goodbye to my mom (which was sad in itself). However, I also met my roommate for the summer, Alex. We get along great, and she’s actually taking the same 2 classes as me this summer, so we’ve got the same schedule. Woo hoo. Anyway, since I was thrown into sharing a tiny apartment at the back of a b&b right off, it gave me a chance to meet someone right away (not including my API group that I’ve also spent some time with…though it hasn’t been much). But yay for making friends. It’s awesome! Alex and I also bonded by going to this crepe place called Mr. Waffle, which is just right down the straight from where we are staying. It was incredibly yummy. I got a Strawberry Ice Cream Supreme crepe, which is a crepe filled with strawberries, dark chocolate, and vanilla ice cream on the side. I felt like I had died and gone to heaven, and as Alex pointed out, it was as if we were in a “crepe coma,” and truthfully I can’t think of anything better. Anyway, yesterday was more of a relaxed day since most of the other people in my group were still getting over jet lag, but the evening concluding with dinner at this Italian restaurant called Milano’s which was super yummy. I had lasagna, which was amazing!

As I said, today is all about the introductory classes so that I can get a feel for the classes that I’ve signed up for and make any changes if I wish. I have signed up for Irish Literature and Film and Gaelic Culture, both of which are literature based classes. 4 straight weeks of Literature? Yes please! Maybe by the end of this summer I’ll be wondering once again why I’m not an English major as well as a Psychology major. Hmmm….yeah. Anyway, Alex and I just went to the Keynote Address, which was a welcome talk, or a “hey welcome to Galway. We’re happy you’re here,” kind of thing. At first it was exciting, but I think they could have made it just a tad shorter and we would have gotten the same effect. Long lectures….it’s the college life. However, one thing I did like was the mention of embracing your Irishness. When the speaker asked all of us in the lecture hall to raise our hands if we were part-Irish, the major of the lecture hall raised their hands, myself and some others excluded. However, the lecturer did point out at even those who didn’t obviously have Irish in their blood still should embrace their Irishness, whether that refers to culturally, socially, or just fully, completely, and without hesitation. I’m all for it, let me tell ya!

When in Ireland, take luck where you can find it.

25 Jun

Most of us have heard the phrase, “the luck of the Irish,” but whether the luck is still around or not, I’m not sure. I’ve never really believed in luck, but since coming to Ireland, I’ve learned to just take luck where you can find it.

For instance, I’m currently in Ireland and tomorrow I start my study abroad program at NUIG. That’s luck. Though it may not seem like luck that I am here, it’s lucky that the right opportunity arose to allow me to be here taking part in a study abroad program. There are not many people who get this kind of opportunity, but when I realized that I had this chance, I had to take it.

Even though I’m excited about what my program holds and I’m looking forward to meeting new people, I’m nervous. It’s scary….doing something this big. I don’t know anyone. I’m in a foreign country. Thankfully they speak English, but even that isn’t too much of a reassurance considering how big of a step I’m taking. Even though I went to Peru in January of 2010 with a group from my high school, this is a step up from that. Though traveling to Peru was my first time out of the United States, the trip only lasted 12 days, and I was with a group of students from my school, so I knew everyone. In this instance, I don’t know anyone, and I will be here for 28 days rather than 12. Quite a difference.

I know that it takes time to adjust, and my mom has warned me that I shouldn’t be too hard on myself about not doing everything since just being here and taking classes for 4 weeks is huge in itself. However, there’s always that voice in the back of my head urging me to not hold back….that voice in my head that would rather go out and do stuff instead of hang out on campus and study and pleasure read on the quad. However, hanging out on campus and studying/pleasure reading on the quad sounds pretty great to me. Since it is luck that I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy this experience, I’m going to enjoy it my way. All students are different, and all of the students participating in this study abroad experience in Galway, Ireland have different expectations for how the program is going to go. Just because my expectations don’t match those of another student doesn’t mean I need to fret. Maybe it just means that I need to enjoy being in Ireland/taking classes/reading, and maybe by some small stroke of Irish luck, I’ll meet someone who’s looking for a similar experience.

When in Ireland, laugh at the road signs.

24 Jun

In Ireland, the phrase “go mall” means slow/slow down. My mom and I have gotten quite a kick out of this phrase because it just sounds so funny to say. We have come across so many sayings or road signs here that are common for the Irish, but yet make us American collapse into a giggle fit. For instance, I explained in my first Ireland post, When in Ireland, don’t drive like an American, that driving on the opposite side of the road has been enough of a challenge. However, when you throw in phrases like, “go mall” and “Caution: Unstable Road Edge,” the only choice we have is to laugh and hope we can stay on the road and not have an accident.

Since my mom and I were still getting used to being able to get around Ireland by car, when we saw the “Unstable Road Edge” sign, we thought: Great. Just great. We soon found out that Ireland is full of curves, or “bends” as they call them here, as well as bumpy countryside roads. Therefore, shouldn’t they also include a “Stable Road Edge” sign? I think so.

Also in Ireland they call speed bumps “ramps,” which is also pretty funny, especially because the “ramps” can be pretty extreme depending on the speed that you are driving. You know how in America there are some pretty major speed bumps that have the ability to make your stomach drop? Yeah, well, it seems like all the “ramps” do that here too. That being said: ramps + unstable road edges + bendy roads + all the potholes just leads to a bit of an upset stomach at the end of the car ride. Maybe that’s why the Irish drink so much. Maybe they’ve just gotten out of the car after driving on a tiny, curvy, bumpy country road and all they want to do for the next few days is sit in a dark pub and drink Guinness by the pint. Just a thought. 🙂

When in Ireland, don’t miss the Cliffs of Moher.

23 Jun

As promised, here are some shots from the Cliffs of Moher yesterday. It’s definitely a site that shouldn’t be missed when in Ireland! 🙂

When in Ireland, have your camera ready.

22 Jun

I thought it was about time that I post some photos for all of you to see the beauty of Ireland I’ve been seeing recently. These photos are just from the first 2 days, so they don’t include my trip to The Cliffs of Moher today. Those photos will be up tomorrow, so come back then for a look at some breathtaking shots!

The first picture of the trip. 🙂

It’s just like a postcard!

In Glendalough (the Wicklow Mountains)

Along the Ring of Kerry.

When in Ireland, pharmacists are as good (or better) than doctors.

21 Jun

To continue with my “When in Ireland” series….on Tueaday right before my flight from the JFK airport to Dublin, I realized that my throat was starting to get sore. The easiest thing would have been to just bypass it and not really make a big deal of it. However, when I woke up this morning, it hurt worse when I swallowed and my throat glands were super swollen. The normal reaction (or the “normal” reaction that entwines my mom and I’s increased cussing since arriving in Ireland) would have been: “Aw shit I’m getting sick!” However, though my throat hurt like crazy when I swallowed, I gave in to the lovely pull of Ireland and drank as much tea as possible (see, normally I’m a coffee person. However, ever since being introduced to Irish tea, I have converted…or at least for the remainder this trip).

Anyway, since I was feeling worse this morning, I had one cup of tea before breakfast, 2 cups of tea at breakfast, and 2 cups at “lunch.” And I say “lunch” because since we had a full breakfast…we didn’t eat lunch until 4pm this afternoon (2 hours ago). The Irish must think our eating times are so weird. However, they just smile and bring us a pot of tea with our meal, even though drinking tea here is more connected to a mid-afternoon tea-time I’m guessing.

Even though our lunch was late in the day, those who served our lunch were super sweet. Since they were so accommodating, we decided to ask their advice on what to do about my sore throat since the pain hadn’t let up from this morning (except for the times when I was drinking tea). A sweet Irish woman suggested we go to a pharmacy. “Don’t go to a doctor. You’ll have to wait an hour and pay 50 Euro to get the same information from a pharmacist that could be free. Truthfully, the information that you get from a pharmacist will be just as good (or better) than what a doctor will tell you.”

Therefore, we turned around and headed back towards Killarney, where we are staying tonight. We ended up seeing a pharmacy before getting to Killarney, which was easily found by the neon green plus sign that flashes just outside each pharmacy. Anyway, after describing my symptoms to the pharmacist, I was given a throat spray and then got some Halls throat lozenges to help with pain as well. Even though the throat spray left an awful taste in my mouth, I “chased” it with a strawberry-flavored throat lozenge and felt the pain ease up in a matter of minutes. Even though my throat still hurts some, I’m just relieved that I now have something to ease the pain. Something is always better than nothing. Plus, now I have made a great discovery to carry with me throughout my time in Ireland: Pharmacists are as good (or better) than doctors!

When in Ireland, don’t drive like an American.

20 Jun

Well, I’m here! Yay yay yay! My mom and I flew into Dublin this morning, and we are now staying at a B&B in Glendalough, which is near Wicklow Mountains National Park. It was a very long day of traveling yesterday, but after sleeping for a solid 6 hours, I think we’re both feeling a little better.

Probably the funniest part of today has been getting used to driving on the left side of the road and having the steering wheel on the right. My mom’s been the one driving, so thankfully I haven’t been in the hot seat. However, it’s been quite an adventure. First off, since the steering wheel’s on the right, that means that the passenger seat is on the left. So when I’ve gotten into our cute little diesel rental car, it’s been strange to not have the steering wheel in front of me on the left side. At first, when my mom and I left the airport in Dublin, it didn’t seem that weird because in the beginning all the cars where going the same direction. More often than not though, I had to remind my mom to stay in the middle of our lane because she’d start drifting to the left. Thankfully, since my mom has had to get used to not driving like an American in Ireland, she’s been driving slower than usual. However, that isn’t to say that I haven’t gotten nervous. There were a few moments today when my breath would catch, but we’re still here.

Truthfully though, it hasn’t been that hard for me to remember that we’ve got to drive on the left. I just keep thinking…..opposite, opposite, opposite. However, we’ve had our share of scary moments. See, the thing about Ireland is the roads are really narrow and many of the lines separating the lanes are pretty faded. Therefore, relying on the line in the middle of the road isn’t too smart. We’ve just been hugging the left shoulder of the road. However, on the super narrow roads, especially when a car is coming from the opposite direction, it seriously looks like the other car is just going to plow right into us. We can only hope that there aren’t a set of Americans coming from either direction, because then we might be in a bit of trouble!