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Friday, July 9, 2010

Third Week at NUIG

This week at NUIG, we had guest speakers Paula Meechan Reading and Theo Dorgan. Both were very interesting writers and stressed the importance of knowing the history of a word to draw on its many layers of meanings. Then we watched a documentary about Nobel Prize winning Poet Laureate Seamus Heaney.

I think it was Sunday night that I dropped a heavy jar onto my laptop's keyboard and fried the hard drive. It was in the repair shop for several days installing a new hard drive and getting it all up and running, along with attempting to save most of the data off of the old hard drive to transfer over to it.

So, the good news is that I have my computer back. The bad news is that I've lost a lot of stuff and I'm behind on my homework. And I know what you're thinking. Part of my homework is to keep a journal. A rose is a rose and all that junk.

We went to town one evening after classes to shop and decided to eat at the Couch Potatas. The potatoes are slow baked in the oven and all of their ingredients are fresh. The service and prices were very reasonable. In our group of four we have one vegetarian and one vegan. It's sometimes hard to find a restaurant for all of our needs, but this one fits the bill nicely.

I had a warm chicken salad. It came with brown bread or a potato, and I chose the potato and ordered a side of sour cream and chives to go with it. The other sauce came with it and was a cucumber dipping sauce.

For dessert I had the strawberry lumpy bumpy. It was a layer of crust, cheesecake, ice cream and white chocolate, with a side of real whipped cream. OMG, it was amazing. Dessert and tea or coffee was only $5 Euro. Molly ordered the caramel lumpy bumpy which was the same thing in caramel and delicious, but extremely sweet. Erin ordered another dessert that I've forgotten the name of, but it was also very good. Alas, they did not have any vegan desserts for the other Molly, so she was left out.

The Galway Film Fleadh is in town and I've been attending a few indie films. I saw the animated film The Illusionist which was very sweet, then a drama London River which was about the London bombings a few years back, then a Leonard Cohen documentary about the Isle of Wight concert which was very interesting. I got home just after midnight.

The next day I saw Nothing Personal which was very interesting and funny and then The Disappearance of Alice Creed. I rate Disappearance top notch. It's gritty, but extremely entertaining and one of the best indie films I've ever seen!

Today Katelyn and I explored and shopped a bit. We ate at the Amnesty International Shop and Cafe.

Where we had the vegetable soup and brown bread for only $3.95 Euro. It is one of the best vegetable soups I've had in Ireland thus far and the shop is filled with a lot of fair trade gifts to browse.

I had a little more than an hour before I had to get down to the boat dock to take the river tour of Galway on the Coiribe and we made our way slowly in that general direction. While we were outside of Enable Ireland thrift store, I looked at my watch and realized that I had missed my boat! I mean, I hadn't bought a ticket yet, but I was really planning on going. Oh, well! At that point we stopped in the nearest pub and had a cider, then headed homeward.

On the way, we stumbled upon the house of Nora Barnacle, James Joyce's wife. She was also the inspiration for one of the greatest short stories, The Dead.

After that, we had planned on going to more indie movies, but we're leaving for the island of Inishbofin in the morning and I still have laundry to do and packing, etc. So, there will be more to report and more pictures in a few days!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Second Week at NUIG

The second week of classes we're getting into a routine. We're trying to stick with our homework during the week, and plan on exploring on the weekends, with some exceptions for special events. Most of our jet lag is gone and it's just a matter of getting used to the sun coming up at around 4:30AM and setting at close to 11PM. Our day usually consists of at least a short nap somewhere. We can't seem to help ourselves.

This week we had talks and readings by Dermot Healy and Kerry Hardie. They were both delightful in their own way. I bought Kerry's book of fiction called The Bird Woman and she signed it. I also bought Louie de Paor's book of poetry called Clapping in the Cemetery and Mary O'Donoghue's book of fiction called Before the House Burns.

The folks at NUIG put on an Independence Day celebration for us with a bar-b-que. They had hamburgers, cole slaw, etc. (and of course the obligatory baked potato) and showed fireworks on the television sets and gave us poppers for party favors. The college bar was decorated in red, white and blue balloons. This time I had 2 wine coolers. Those of us who had bought Louie de Paor's book hit him up at the party to get his signature. We're shameless that way!

On Thursday, I went to the post office to mail off an urgent package and found out that their post offices don't offer nearly as many services as ours do. I guess they don't have as much competition or something. Anyway, in preparation for sending boxes home in the future, I went to Eason's book store (which has stationary in the upstairs) and bought some shipping boxes and packing tape. I need to investigate if the airlines will ship something back home because there appears to be a 5 kilogram weight limit. A kilogram is 2.2 lbs, so I can ship roughly 12 lbs. If I have more, I guess I'll send multiple boxes, but the airline might be cheaper. We'll see.

On Friday, I booked the Connemara tour with O'Neachtain Tours and had a blast. It was an all-day affair. These guys only charge students $15 ea (not $20) and they pick you up at your door in the morning and drop you off in the evening so that you don't have to walk or worry about a taxi. There were only seven of us on the tour that day and so they took the smaller bus, which was much more maneuverable. He stopped several times to let us out for photo opportunities, taking pictures of the Connemara ponies, waterfalls, etc.

Our tour guide and bus driver Stephen soon started referring to me as his #1 photographer because I was always the first to jump out and take pictures. He painstakingly explained to us how the farmers of Connemara dry out turf from the bogs to use for fuel. He pulled over and encouraged us to take pictures, which none of us did. He said, "What? My number 1 photographer is not interested in the number one fuel choice of Ireland?" I said, "No, maybe if you had some cute sheep I would, but not for just the turf." So we drove on and he found me some cute sheep!

As Stephen was giving us information about the Connemara region, he said, "The Connemara region is filled with eligible bachelor farmers and they're many times seen walking the roads. If you ladies are also looking for a man, this could be your lucky day. If you see one you like, we can pull over and invite him on the bus. Oh, look there's one now! Ladies, what do you say? Shall I pull over and invite him on with us? Is he a keeper?" It was an old grizzled farmer smoking a cigarette. We declined.

When we pulled over, Stephen would say, "We're stopping for 10 Irish minutes. That means I'll let you out now and I'll be back to pick you up on Tuesday!"

Stephen also kept saying that at 4PM that we'd have bus karaoke. At 4PM, he stayed true to his word and even sang us 2 Irish folk ballads to get us going. And yet still, no one would take him up on it. Ah, well.

When Stephen dropped us off at Kylemore Abbey he said that we were to meet him back at the bus at half 3 (3:30). He said that if we weren't there that he would assume that the sisters had convinced us to join the Benedictine order and were staying. We were ALL on time.

We spent 2 1/2 hours at Kylemore Abbey. Lunch was first on the agenda. I had goat cheese and sundried tomato quiche and a seafood chowder that was generously chock full of salmon and other seafood. It was among the best I've ever had.

Then it was off to tour the castle, the cathedral, I skipped the mausoleum, but I spent a lot of time in the gardens. The food raised in the gardens feeds the sisters and guests, and is also used in the restaurants. I had just enough time to breeze through the main gift shop but I had no time to really find anything before I had to be off to the bus. Aftera all, I was not about to join the Benedictine nuns!

If I did this right, this week's blog should have paragraphs and this next object should be a video of one of the many street musicians we encounter in Galway's city center.