Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Good-bye to Paddy's Green Shamrock Shore

Well, as most of you know, I finished my thesis early. And though I will miss Ireland more than words can express, it's time for me to come home. I'm flying home tomorrow, and will be in VA for a week, and then in Utah.  I am SO ready for some hellos, and sick of all the goodbyes I have had to say in the past couple weeks. It's late and I have to get up early because stupid Jedward is carrying the Olympic torch right through the route I need to take to the airport so I'm leave way early to go around the closed roads. But before I sign off, I want to put up some pictures from my most excellent past couple weeks. I turned in my thesis, all bound and perfect, and then celebrated big time. I will miss my college! 

Celebration! Done with my thesis, waiting until October for results.

Then, me and Sam embarked on my favourite trip of this whole year- to the Aran Islands. IT WAS INCREDIBLE! I promise once I am home I will write more about  this, but for now some pics will have to suffice. 

First, to Bunratty. Awesome theme park, which has a medieval castle and villages of "Ireland through the ages"- Victorian cottages, people in costume...I think this is heaven.

 Next, to Inishmore. We put on our ponchos, rented some bikes, and had an amazing adventure. 

Fish and chips at the pub, some phenomenal music- and a VERY attractive band at that! 

I tried to climb a fence made of loose rocks, not as easy as it looks. 

Again, I will be blogging more about this trip, as it was absolutely incredible. The Aran islands are such a unique, beautiful place. They still speak Irish there, which added to the whole experience. It was the perfect way to end my year.

To finish, here's a video worth watching- the High Kings, a popular Irish band. I got to see them live in December, and they are amazing. I love this song, and it really captures how I feel about leaving:

Fare well to old Ireland
Good bye to you banna strand
No time to look back
Facing the wind
Fighting the waves

So, fare thee well
my own true love
I'll think of you night and day
A place in my mind
You will surely find
Although I am so far away
And when I am alone, far away from home
I think of the good times once more.
Until I make it back someday here
to Paddy's green Shamrock shore

I am so grateful for my time here in Ireland, and the people I have met and the good times I've had. Until I make it back someday- Fare well to old Ireland! Sl├ín! 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Shamra vs. the Mummy

Today I touched a mummy. Not just any mummy- a crusader!! We went to St. Michan's church in Dublin, which has a fantastic crypt with lots of dead bodies and coffins. The coolest part was a the 800 year old Crusader and the 400 year old nun- amazingly preserved because of the methane (I think) that comes from the soil, slowing down decomposition. Their skin and nails are preserved...SO COOL! Our tour guide seriously talked exactly like Professor Snape, same inflection, same deep voice. If I closed my eyes, I couldn't tell if it was a short Englishman in front of me or Snape. This only added to the whole experience.

The Crusader is the one on the top, placed that way because all through the middle ages to present day, it is supposed to be good luck to touch the hand of a Crusader. This led to someone breaking off his index finger, so they moved him (the mummy, not the finger breaker!) to the back of the crypt away from people. However, Professor Snape let us touch the Crusader's hand if we were super careful. In all my travels and experiences, I have never gotten to do something like that! I like to imagine he was alive during the 3rd crusade, and maybe knew Richard the Lionheart or fought Saladin or went to Jerusalem. The historian inside me was warm and fuzzy for the rest of the day.

There may have been an awkward moment when I very publicly confessed my love for Celine Dion down in the crypt. The tour guide was talking about spies, and proceeded to list people you love to hate. Celine Dion made the list, and I (louder than intended, it was a very echoey crypt) said "hey!". This of course brought attention from everyone on the tour, including the guide, who looked at me with some pity, some concern, mostly disdain (his sneer did greatly resemble Snape's). He asked me if at the very least I hated Mariah Carey, to which I said yes. Someone had to defend Celine's honor...

We left soon after, before I could shame myself further, but our day was not over. We popped over to Whitefriar Church to Saint Valentine's relics. People go to see his remains on pilgrimages, and of course, their busiest day is Valentine's Day. There was a book where you can write your prayer to St. Valentine, and there were some really cool entries. One woman was returning to Nigeria and leaving someone she loved behind. She asked for their protection and health, and that they might meet again in the future. Cheesy, yes, but also kind of nice. The book was full of entries like that, from people from all around the world.

All in all, great day. Probably the best part of living in Dublin is the fact that I am still finding stuff like this, and there are so many places to explore. I really love it here and am going to miss it so much! 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Bono, Boats, Bay and a Braggy Blog

I don't have a lot of time to blog right now- gotta run to aerobics (I mean sexual harassment/ emotional abuse class- another story). But I have mini brag about my life forthcoming: I found the most magical study spot on the planet.

Yep, starbucks. It's right on Dublin bay and overlooks the ocean. So as I type up and edit my thesis, and eat some delicious pastries, I get to look out at sailboats, barges, and sometimes cruise ships as they come and go. Since the college is right across from the Starbucks, there are mostly students here, also studying. Perfect atmosphere- not too loud, not to quiet, and lots of friendly faces! I'm definitely starting to recognize the regulars, and I made a Jamaican friend the other day. He gave me the rest of his poppy seed muffin. Across the bay is Howth, a gorgeous peninsula (I posted some pics of it earlier). Gotta tell you, it is BEAUTIFUL! Today there were probably over a hundred sailboats...so cool. Also, pretty awesome to watch this video while overlooking where it was filmed- not to mention Bono lives in Howth.

Yep, that's my view. Best part- I live super close- ten minute bus ride, about a twenty min walk, you just follow the coast right on up. Love love love it here!

Oh, highlight of last week- I accidentally washed my clothes with a packet of mexican seasoning and dehydrated onion packets (Tesco doesn't do plastic- and I keep forgetting to bring grocery bags so I just stuff my purchases into my pockets. Guess I forgot to check all pockets...) So everything I own now smells strongly like fajitas. Which is surprisingly pleasant, and leaves me constantly salivating (that's not so pleasant).

Monday, April 30, 2012

Shamra vs. the Leprechaun Hunt

Sorry this post is so long overdue. I was recovering from the trauma!

We went leprechaun hunting. In Carlingford, Ireland this is, in fact, a National Leprechaun Reserve. Don't believe me? Here is the news article documenting the process of official EU designation and recognition of the reserve

"The Slieve Foy mountain on the Cooley Peninsula is set to become an official designated Area for the Protection of Little People by the European Union.
Representatives from the commission will travel to Ireland to formally announce it as a 'Designated Area of Protection for Flora, Fauna, Wild Animals and Little People' under the EU Habitats Directive.
On February 28, the area, which was previous Ireland's European Destination of Excellence will host a public ceremony where the official designation will be held.
Over 20 years ago, a leprechaun's suit and bones were found close to the Wishing Well on the Slieve Foy mountain by the late local businessman PJ O Hare. Since then, they have been on public display in his pub ever since.
The discovery sparked off the introduction of the Carlingford National Leprechaun Hunt where thousands descended on the mountain during the 80s to hunt for leprechauns. This led to the formation of a group who, while delighted to receive such a surge in visitors, still wanted to protect the little people and their habitat."
The area is now listed under 'priority' within the 'Natura 2000' established ecological network which defines habitats or species that are in danger of disappearing."

Yes...that species in danger of disappearing are leprechauns. At least they still have the suit, right? Anyway, there is a national leprechaun hunt every year, and we decided it would be fun to go and check it out. Note- Carlingford is an incredibly quaint little village. Population: 623 (I kid you not). There was also a 2500 euro cash prize in it for those who participated. So we arrive at Carlingford, all happy and excited for a day of leprechaun hunting, pub food, and hopefully some cash. I don't know about you, but when picture a leprechaun hunt, I imagine it like this: 
Happy. Frolicking through a sunny field with your friends. Finding money. Feeling silly because you are the only people over 5 years old. These were my expectations. So we registered for a license- yes, you have to have a liscence to go on the actual presereve. And then we are instructed to follow these bag pipers to the actual preserve where we "hunt" for little green boxes of cash. There were 200 of them, with various amounts of money inside. 
Here we are, so excited, with our licenses. 

And so it began. 

Leprechaun Hunt Fallacy #1: It was not just us and a bunch of children. Literally thousands of people poured into the town for this hunt. So we were herded like cattle, following the bag pipers...I read that 6,000 people came that day. The villiage couldn't accomodate all the people. But not to worry, we soon realized there was PLENTY of room...

And we followed those bag pipers up, and up and up...out of the village and up towards the mountains Carlingford was built at the foot of. This was actually turning into a semi-difficult hike- very steep, rocky road. The bagpipers finally quit playing, and we thought we arrived, but no, it was too steep for them to hike and play. Warning number one...And then the path turned into a trail, seriously going staight up the mountain. Children kept tripping and falling. Someone got half trampled. A few people were sitting on the side of the trail, sick from heat exahustion (yes, this was, ironically, the ONE day it was actually HOT in Ireland). And then we passed paramedics (like in a marathon) and booths with water (again, like a marathon). Up, up, up we kept going, until we hit this sign and people are dispersing all across the mountainside: 

Leprechaun Hunt Fallacy #2: A Leprechaun preserve is not a happy, sunny field. It is an entire mountainside, where extremely tiny boxes of money are hidden under layers of thorny bushes.

WE LOOKED EVERYWHERE. I mean it- under the giant thorny bushes, IN the giant thory bushes, under rocks, near the sheep, near the sheep poop...

At this point, I was feeling a little deranged. I wore sandals. And there were a LOT of thorns in my feet.

Leprechaun Hunt Fallacy #3: Little green boxes with cash are as non-existent and hard to find as actual leprechauns. And even though a random smug fat child finds one really close to where you were looking does not imply that it is easy (or possible) to find said boxes. 
Four and a half hours later: Empty handed,hungry, exhausted from scouring an entire mountain side, sun burnt, cut, scraped and bruised from thorns, we decided to quit.
Leprechaun Hunt Fallacy #4: 
We did, however, manage to catch a brief glimpse of a real leprechaun running on the mountainside:

The End. :) 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

St Patrick's Day...

...was insane. A picture is worth a thousand words, so here's 14000 or so words- photo credit to Vladimir, Giampaolo, Tim and Sam. Thanks guys, for making it so I don't have to purchase a camera. 

Personal fav- the rhino in a wheelchair. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Happy Easter

Happy spring everyone- happy Easter! I'm sorry I haven't updated lately (good things are coming- leprechaun hunts, pics from Belfast, hopefully information on what the heck I am doing with my life, especially this summer...) I just want to post a brief, nostalgic Easter message. I've had quite a few great Easters in my life-one of the highlights was a razor from my mom when I was 11 and finally allowed to transition from wookie to girl and shave my legs. Another was receiving a giant pink plastic bunny full of chocolate that also tasted strongly of plastic. And of course there is the yearly entertainment that comes with watching my dad scour the house for hours (fruitlessly) trying to find his chocolate bunny. And the spectacular year when Layna and I ate Wendy's junior bacon cheeseburgers in our Taurus. But despite these wonderful past Easters, there is one very special year that touches me far more than chocolate, razors and cheeseburgers- April 2009, when I lived in Jerusalem. Let me tell ya, it's the place to be Easter time. The entire city fills with thousands of visitors and pilgrims, and it is the one time of year Christianity takes center stage above other religions in Israel/Palestine. So, we walked on Palm Sunday, the long walk into Jerusalem carrying our palm fronds, and visited the sites of the Via Dolorosa, the route where Jesus was supposed to walk and the nine stations of the cross (all the traditional sites of the passion). Passion plays were rampant in the streets, and people from all countries across the world came to celebrate. On Easter Sunday, we got up early and went to the garden tomb where there was a service- I don't know what denomination, but there was more singing than anything else which was happy. Probably one of the best days of my life. I know I am babbling on, and I will stop writing shortly and post some pics, but this was the one time I was proud to call myself Christian, and proud to be religious. Currently, as a student of history and religion, my colleagues and I are constantly questioning and critical of  religion. While I believe this is a healthy part of life and learning, sometimes my fellow students are so involved in their cynicism they cannot appreciate the good religion brings (along with the bad, I know) and see this time of year positively. Particularly in a Catholic country such as Ireland, which has had its share of bloody religious conflict. Anyway, this is just a post to say that I'm grateful for my own beliefs, and I respect all others, and I miss Jerusalem with all my heart, because it taught me to look past that logical cynicism and appreciate the rich diversity of different world religions, particularly Christianity.