Oh What a Week….

Okay, picking up where I left off…

Saturday morning everyone in our group woke up bright and early for our trip to County Clare, the Burren, and the Cliffs of Moher. Finn and her husband Kevin brought along their three children (all under the age of four) to join us on our journey. The drive itself was beautiful as we traveled across the quaint countryside outside Galway city. The roads were very narrow and bumpy, and my stomach was not too happy with the bus or the driver after a while. My eyes, however, were glued to the windows as we passed little white farmhouses with tons of sheep, horses, and cattle all calmly grazing on the land.

Our first stop was at Kinvara to see the medieval castle of Dunguaire. We were able to get off the bus and walk around the grounds (although the castle itself was closed for the day), but the lake surrounding it as well as the little fishing town next to it were very picturesque. Next we came to the Portal Dolmen of Poulnabrone, a five thousand year old burial site in the middle of the Burren (pronounced like burn). The Burren itself is a group of large hills that throughout centuries of use and erosion gave way to the limestone underneath its soil, so nowadays all of these hills are covered simply in rocks and stone. It was really interesting to drive through such an area, because I’d never seen any place like it. The landscape looked kind of lunar in a way, with no ability to really sustain life there.

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Above: Castle Dunguaire, Below: Poulnabrone

After we passed through the Burren, we were on our way to the coastal town of Doolin. It used to be widely known for its fishing, but more recently it’s become quite the surfing hotspot. We grabbed lunch at a local pub, and I got my first meat-and-potatoes meal since I’ve been here! Let me tell y’all it was scrumptious. We also got complimentary soup through API which was delicious as well. So at that point I was thoroughly full and ready to hike around the Cliffs of Moher.

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Finally, we reached the mythic cliffs. We were blessed with great weather, and I snapped a ridiculous amount of pictures to try and capture the place’s beauty. Sadly, the pictures can’t even do it justice. Just being there, standing on the precipice of 700 ft. cliffs with the waves crashing below and salt in the air had such a majestic feel to it indescribable to simple photography. We thankfully had an hour to hike around, and my wellies came in handy since part of the walk was extremely muddy and covered with water. With each cliff edge I walked, the more beautiful the view got. And (parents, don’t listen to this) although there were barriers around to keep people from falling off the cliff face, they were easy to step over and my friends and I were able to get breathtakingly close to the edge. It was just amazing to feel so high up and so small in such a place of natural beauty and wonder; if you are ever in Ireland, you must go to this spot.

Image ImageImage That first step’s a doozy.

Finally, both exhausted physically and photographically, we all made it back to the bus for the trip home. Before we reached Galway, however, we stopped at the Aillwee caves and did a half hour tour around in them. The cave system was pretty cool, but for my camp girls out there, they were nothing like Cumberland Caverns. There were paved pathways throughout the whole tour, and no climbing, helmets, or flashlights were involved so I kind of laughed the whole way. But it was a pretty cool excursion.

We got back to Galway at around 6 pm, and I’m pretty sure I fell asleep around 10. The next day, I mostly did readings for school and bummed around. Monday I went to class, and the gym (!!), and then I went home and did more work until I went to go see Django Unchained with some of my housemate’s friends. For those of you who have yet to see it: GO. It’s so good and totally badass.

Tuesday and Wednesday I did pretty much the same thing, but Wednesday night I went out with some of my housemates for their friend’s birthday party. There were seriously so many people at the apartment; it was ridiculous. After a few hours of predrinking, we grabbed a cab and headed to the club Karma. As soon as we got there though, I lost all of the girls (seriously all twenty of them… how it happened I have no idea), and was pretty much stranded by myself. I then decided just to go to the Front Door and meet up with a couple of friends, so that was much more fun.

Thursday night Katie and I held a “gathering” at our apartment…. which turned into a rager. At one point I’m pretty sure there were at least thirty people in our living room, and a bunch of them were random Irish lads I’d never seen before in my life (I blame you, Ryan). After a few instances of broken glass and having to calm Katie down a bit, I decided to go upstairs and change into more comfortable shoes. As soon as I came back downstairs, everyone had deserted me to go to the clubs, and I was left alone with Corinne, another API student, who was so nicely cleaning up after the party. I helped her out and hung out with her a bit, decided to make some pasta, and realized that I really didn’t want to join the rest of the crew downtown by riding in a cab all by myself and trying to meet up with everyone, so I just went to sleep.

Today, Katie and I have just been bumming around, cleaning up some more after last night, and, as usual, talking about food and how hungry we are all the time. I’m crossing my fingers that tomorrow I’ll actually make it to the gym and finally get around to doing my laundry (GTL anyone? Too bad it’s Ireland and nobody tans here), but I’m not gonna push the envelope too far. It will be a Saturday after all.

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Good Craic.

A quick lesson on more Irish lingo:

shifting = making out

craic (pronounced like crack) = fun/a good time

Not to actually be confused with the drug (unless that’s your idea of having a good time, and if that’s the case, I hope you’d seriously reevaluate your life and decisions… because we all know crack is wack), having great or fine craic pretty much just means an experience that usually involves friends and laughs. So, to put the two words together: Suzy had a great craic shifting with a certain lad on the dance floor last night. No, Suzy was not smoking crack with a shifty guy; she was just making out with him in da club. But, Suzy, beware! He probably tastes like an ash tray due to the copious amount of hand-rolled cigarettes he’s been puffing all night. But at this point Suzy is probably too drunk to notice. So goes a typical night out in Ireland. Not that I personally have ever had this experience, dear parents, it’s all metaphorical.

Anywho, this past week started out uneventfully, with me dutifully going to class and doing readings, etc. Monday and Tuesday nights I just stayed in and did some schoolwork and got my sleep on. Wednesday, however, I was ready to go out, so Katie and I went to a pregame with our fellow API students, which was really fun. We played a round of Kings, and everyone had to put their phones in the middle of the table so as not to be too distracted to talk to people in the group. The first person to pick up their phone in the stack would have to buy everyone a round of drinks later that night; everyone was too cheap/poor to take that risk, so we all just had fun with each other! We then made our way to Kelly’s pub, where a social event for the International Students Society was underway. Our group got there kind of late, so we didn’t really do much socializing outside our circle. After that, we went to the Front Door, which was more fun and crowded and hung out there until 1 then made our way back home.

The next day I was feeling rough… it was a miracle that I made it to class and survived the walk home. I took a bit of a frat nap after that, woke up at 9 pm, and was ready to go. This time I went out with my housemate, Orla, and her friends, again to the Front Door. It was really interesting to go out with a different group of people and see how they all went about things even if it was at the same pub. The Front Door was even more crowded that night, but the people were friendly and we all had a great time. Today, since I didn’t have class, I slept in super late and have vegged out literally all day, a great way to recoup from the past two nights. This weekend, most of my housemates will be staying in town so hopefully we’ll have some chill movie nights or something. Tomorrow, our study abroad group will take a day trip to County Clare and see the cliffs of Moher. I’m sure there will be a ton of great pictures, so I’ll definitely post a few after I get back! Goodbye for now 🙂

Galway Girl

I’ve officially completed my first full week in Ireland! I’m also officially in love with the country. Let’s see, time to pick up from where I last left off…

I woke up Wednesday morning, walked to campus, and went to class. Afterward, I went to the club/societies fair to sign up for some things to get more involved and meet more Irish people! Some of the groups I signed up for include the Art Club, Kayaking Club (!!), and the International Students Society. I’m so stoked to get started with some of the activities these groups offer, such as open studio hours and live model still life sessions for the Art Club and cheap excursions around the country funded by the International Students Society. It’s gonna be a busy semester.

Wednesday night Katie and I had a few American students over for a pregame, and we were planning on going to the pubs afterward, but a lot of us ended up just staying in and playing beer pong and chatting. It was definitely a really fun, chill night (as well as cheap since we didn’t go out… always a plus). Thursday, however, was a bit rough, but I was able to make it to campus even though my head was pounding and my laptop died before my lecture started. The solution to the afternoon’s challenges lay in some aspirin and a nice nap, so by the time the evening rolled around, I was ready to rally. Katie, my housemate Amy, and I all went over to Amy’s friend’s apartment to pregame and go clubbing, and we ended up going to Coyote’s (again). It was much more fun on Thursday night than Monday night, although Katie, our friend Shelby from API, and I all got separated from the Irish girls as soon as we got to the club yet again. At one point in the night, the three of us found ourselves in a corner booth with Shelby and Katie being hit on by what I am 90% sure were thirty-year-old Slovenian mob bosses while I was being chatted up by a poor 18 year-old Irish boy that I had to tell over and over again did not have a chance. Eventually, we made it out of that mess and had a lot of fun just the three of us on the dance floor.

Friday turned out to be another rough morning since I had to wake up at 8:30 am to sign up for an English seminar that I needed to take this semester. Thankfully, there were two more spots open when I arrived, so I was able to get what I wanted. After that, I promptly chowed down on some nice pasta from the College Bar, walked home, and took a nap. By the time I woke up it was dinnertime once more, and, as much as I didn’t want to drink again, I ended up being convinced to go out. Shelby had a lot of Americans and people from our program over to her apartment for an American style pregame with beer pong and flip cup (I have to admit I was such a champ at that game). Although I hadn’t originally planned to join the group to go to the pubs, after that game of flip cup I definitely had my second wind, so I walked with everybody down to a pub called the Quays. It was lots of fun to go out with the group from API, although the drinks were super expensive. Afterward, we all walked together to McDonalds and had some late night grub, and I indulged in a double cheeseburger, fries, and chocolate milkshake. Oops. Then we all went back to Gort na Coiribe for some well-deserved sleep.

Saturday, Katie and I bummed around the apartment literally all day, watching Irish game shows and doing what we do best: sleeping. We stumbled upon this show called World Without End which takes place in 14th century England and is SO DRAMATIC… we were instantly hooked. That night I finally was able to sleep through the full night, which is a huge accomplishment, considering that literally every night I’ve woken up at 5 am and haven’t been able to fall back asleep until at least 8. Today, Katie and I had a nice walk around Galway’s city center, where I snapped some great photos. We got slightly lost in Ireland’s version of the suburbs on our way back, but somehow managed to find our way back to the apartment unscathed.

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With everybody coming back to William and Mary this week, it’s definitely easy to miss school and all of my friends back in the States. Last semester was the most fun I’ve ever had at college, and it was pretty bittersweet to leave everybody and miss out on all the fun stuff that will be going on this semester. It’s weird not having Theta here as my support system and security, and I miss my sisters a lot, especially living in the house. But I know I was starting to feel too complacent and set it my ways last semester, so I do need this complete change in environment to shake things up a bit in my life. This journey is seriously going to be the time of my life, so while I will get a little homesick this week, I can’t let these unique opportunities offered to me pass me by! I’m excited to see this next week unfold, and as always, I’ll update all of y’all about my adventures. So long for now…

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If I Share With You My Story, Would You Share Your Dollar With Me?

The last two days have been absolutely ridiculous, but in the best way possible. First, to explain the title of this post: things are so expensive here. Thank god for my mom’s clearly outlined budget for my weeks here, otherwise I’d be blowing through my banking account faster than you can say “Guinness.” Cab fare, drinks, food, water… It all can really add up over here. I’ve also heard the song from which I stole my title a surprising amount of times this past week, so it all seems kind of fitting.

Anyway, a few things I’ve noticed about life over here –

1. The sayings are kind of funny, but I’ve already noticed myself saying the word “toilet” instead of “bathroom.” A list of differences I’ve found so far:

  • Timetable = class schedule
  • half ten = ten thirty (or any other hour)
  • pre-drinking or “prinking” = pregaming
  • jumper = sweater
  • wellies = rainboots

And many more…..

2. Driving on the left side of the road can be so confusing when trying to cross the street. I have to look both ways about fifteen times before I can really feel sure enough to cross the street.

3. Although Galway is technically a city, it’s got a very cozy village-like feel, which is really comforting and welcoming to a traveler like me. All of the Irish people I’ve met have been so friendly, nice, and helpful to me if I have any questions. They’re such a hearty and hardy bunch of people: they’ve been through rough times, and their current recession is a present day example, but they’ve all got a positive spirit and confidence that they’ll push on through just as they always have.

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My apartment. Just kidding.

 

I also set up my timetable for the semester, and I finally get to celebrate the fact that I have no Friday classes! Class schedules are pretty confusing – one class can meet once on Wednesday at 2 in one room, then again on Thursday at 4 in a completely different building. Not at all like America. I’m taking five classes: The Rise of Modern America, Medieval Ireland c. 5-9th century, Aristocratic Women in the Medieval Era, Study of the English Language, and Human Geography. I’m actually pretty excited for these classes; they all seem really cool (sorry History nerd geeking out). The first couple of days have gone okay.. there was some confusion yesterday on where and when my first class was meeting that ended in me walking around campus for half an hour having no idea what I was supposed to be doing. You know the whole part about how Irish are supposed to speak English, and I wouldn’t have to deal with learning a new language? Yeah. Well all the buildings on campus are named in Irish, so I can’t even pronounce them when I’m walking around campus looking for them… so it can get kind of frustrating. But I suppose I’ll survive.

After classes on Monday, I took a bit of a Kat nap and woke up just in time to get ready to go out. My apartment-mates, Amy, Rachele, and Orla, asked Katie and me about five times each if we were going out that night, and we eagerly nodded yes. Apparently, the first Monday night of the semester is huge in Galway. We decided to do what everyone was going to do that night: go clubbing. So I donned some high heels and a hot outfit for my first real night in Galway. Our roommates took Katie and me to a pregame at some of their friends’ apartment, and gradually more and more girls came, all of them dressed to the nines. They all looked so cool, so I was a little bit intimidated. However, they were all really nice and friendly to us and were very intrigued about fraternity and sorority life over in the States, asking me a lot of questions. After a while, we piled into the cabs to take us to this club called Carbon. However, literally every other student in Galway had the exact same idea to go to Carbon, so we decided to skip the insane line and go to another club called Coyote’s. Even though everyone and their brother had gone to Carbon, Coyote’s was still pretty packed. After a while though, I got bored and lost interest in running away from aggressive Irish boys, so I took a cab home and went to bed. I woke up at 5 am to my roommates’ friends talking loudly downstairs and couldn’t fall back asleep. They burst into my room, one of them asking,”Are you the blonde American?” Why, yes. Yes I was. Three of them stayed in my room to chat while I snacked on popcorn for a while. One rather flamboyant friend of Rachele’s, named Gavin, entertained us with some pretty funny antics, but then I kicked everyone out at 7 to sleep. I woke up an hour later, severely regretting my decision to have a 9 am history seminar, but I forced myself to get up and go. It was actually an interesting class, but by the time it was over, I was exhausted from last night and slept for most of the day. Earlier tonight, our group of API students went to Monroe’s pub for pizza and Irish set dancing. We listened to traditional Irish music and watched people do some funny dance moves, but I went home early to sleep. My legs and ankles are exhausted from walking so much, so I’m really physically exhausted as well as potentially still getting over jetlag.

Overall, I’m loving it here. My roommates are so sweet, outgoing, and love to have fun, so I know I’ll get along with them really well. Our apartment is set in a townhouse style, with the first floor having the kitchen/living room and a bathroom, and the second and third floors each have two bedrooms and a bathroom. The building is pretty new, but Katie and I seem to be having trouble really figuring out the whole idea of having to physically turn on the hot water heater set to a timer, which has resulted in some brutally cold showers.

The weather here has been nearly always grey. The sky seems almost always covered by one massive, misty cloud. There are three stages of misty Irish weather: low hanging fog, misty rain that is super light but seems to be coming from all directions, and slightly heavier rain that definitely comes from above. Everyone got a nice treat of seeing the sun today for the first time in a week, a really welcome blessing. Also, if you are to learn one lesson from this post, know this: never try to keep up with or outdrink an Irish person. They will always win. While thankfully I have yet to make this mistake, I definitely found out how hard people go in this country last night. It was a lot of fun, but I’m not sure my body could handle drinking as much as some of the people I saw last night. Time to catch some z’s and get ready for more classes tomorrow! Cheerio.

The Post You’ve All Been Waiting For

Wow, what a trip so far. Not really sure where to start… I guess I’ll pick up on the day of my departure. I woke up at the crack of dawn on Tuesday (okay actually 8 am) and begrudgingly got ready to go (if you didn’t already know, I am not a morning person). So my parents drove me to the airport, hugged me goodbye, and watched me go through security. On my flight to Newark I sat by a really nice pilot who talked with me about my impending journey. I slept most of the flight then woke up in Newark, where I got to experience a great 5 hour layover, finished the third book in the Game of Thrones series, and promptly started the fourth one.. Exciting right???!!! Anyway. On the flight overseas, I sat by another girl on my program on the last row of the plane (whaddup), so it was nice to finally know someone I’d be spending the next four months with. I watched The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a movie about seven British people in their sixties and seventies that suddenly decide to move to a hotel in India owned by the guy in Slumdog Millionaire. It was really good, actually; I definitely recommend it. I thought it was a pretty fitting movie considering my own journey was just now getting under way. Then I fell asleep for an hour and woke up to a little girl crying for 45 minutes. Frustrated and unable to fall back asleep, I watched the movie Hemingway and Gellhorn, which depicted the real life affair between the famous novelist and a war correspondent in the 1940s. Also highly recommended. Finally, the plane landed and I set foot on Irish soil. I went through the long lines at customs, picked up my bags, and was ready to make the drive to Galway. Or so I thought.
Amanda, the fellow API student I sat by on the plane, and I eagerly met the lady holding the API sign outside of baggage claim. She introduced herself as Finn, our group director for the semester. She gathered our entire group around and told us, “Don’t think of me as your mum. Think of me as your big Irish sister!” And she explained to us the basics of what we were doing for the rest of the day and what to expect overall in Ireland. She spoke with an adorable Irish accent and seemed very excited to meet us all. However, the last flight with API students wouldn’t be coming in until noon, and it was only 8 or so in the morning, so the group was pretty much left to its own devices for four hours. So naturally a small group of us wandered over to the airport coffee shop that just happened to sell alcohol and ordered some Guinness. I, of course, with my not-so-hardy taste for beer ordered a nice little glass of Sauvignon Blanc. It actually tasted very good for airport wine, and I was happy with my first legal drink. It feels pretty cool to be legal two and a half months earlier than I would be in the US… Kind of as if I’m cheating the system.
Anyway, the glass of wine made me feel pretty sleepy so I somehow ended up contorting my body to fall asleep on one of the awkward airport benches, and before I knew it, the last group of students had arrived and we were finally heading out. It took forever for the bus driver to pack all of our bags on the tiny little bus, but eventually we got moving. I luckily got a window seat and was able to get a great look at the Irish countryside on the way to Galway. It was a misty day, which made the grass seem so much greener, the squat, square houses so much quainter, and the horses, cows,t and sheep so much happier. The earth here seems to have a life of its own, almost as if it breathes. This country is beautiful.
We got to Gort na Coiribe (pronounced gurt na carrihbuh… Weird) at about 2 that afternoon, and I quickly proceeded to nap directly on my mattress with my coat as a blanket. My roommate, Katie, and I then went to Dunne’s (Ireland’s equivalent of an upscale Target) and bought bedding and food for the night. I got the best fuzzy blanket ever. And then I fell asleep at 6 pm. Katie and I slept so well that we overslept the our orientation the next morning and had to be taxied over to campus by Finn. We then listened for two hours about various important things about the university and were basically bored to death, but somehow we survived. There was a break in between the seminar and the campus tour our group was to go on, so a bunch of us got lunch at the College Bar. Some of the people in our group also grabbed a drink; I got Bulmer’s hard cider which ended up making me a bit giggly for the tour, along with a couple of other girls, but all in all it was a great afternoon.
Later on Thursday night, our group met at Milano’s restaurant for dinner on API. I decided to get a “leggere” or light pizza, which they boasted was only 500 calories. When it came to the table, it looked like a normal sized pizza with a mound of salad greens on top. However, when I moved the greens aside I found that there was a large hole in the middle of the pizza. That’s 500 calories for ya, I guess. I made up for it by getting the Chocolate Glory for dessert, complete with brownie bits and a chocolate straw. Yes, it was good. Afterward, the group went out to a pub called Tis Coili (don’t ask me how to pronounce it), famous for its traditional Irish music. The pub itself was quite crowded with a somewhat older clientele since the students had not arrived yet, but it was a really great atmosphere. We then wandered to King’s head, known for its live cover bands and more modern music. We all walked home after that, excited to have made a great first night out.
The next morning, we went to an academic advising seminar, and that was pretty boring. We were done at three that afternoon, and I finally got to meet up with this guy:
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It was great to see a friendly face in the middle of a strange country, so I was really excited to chill with Ivan for the weekend. We cooked pizza and had wine for dinner, then met up with the roomie and Hannah, another student from William and Mary, to get ready to go out. We went to King’s Head and listened to a great band play some live music from the upper floor, then went to a club called Karma to take a look at a different side of Galway nightlife. We were unimpressed.
Saturday, we all woke up at 2 pm (it was a little bit too good of a night). Katie, Ivan, and I all bummed around the apartment till dinner, when Ivan treated us all to dinner at the Spanish Arch. I got the appetizer/entree/glass of wine special for 20 euros; it was delicious. I got Lousiana chicken wings for the appetizer–literally the best wings I’ve ever had–and spinach and ricotta ravioli for the entree. Seriously, Ivan, my stomach thanks you.
After that, we met up with some other kids from our program at a pub called the Front Door (apparently a local hotspot for people that are “on the prowl”), but we just sat and talked with people in our group. I yelled out in excitement when “Sweet Home Alabama” started playing on the speakers, talked a bouncer into letting me dance on a table, and we all went home around 2 am. Overall, a great night. Sadly, Ivan had to leave this afternoon, but our other apartment-mates moved in, and Katie and I introduced ourselves and they all seem very nice. Now it’s time to get ready for classes to start tomorrow and get into the groove of being a student again! Toodles for now from the Emerald Isle.

Twas the Night before Departure

…. And all through the Hammond household, things are pretty damn quiet. Yes, although it is New Year’s Eve, my mother has me sequestered at home to make sure I don’t get myself arrested or killed or something the night before I embark on my journey. Needless to say, this sentence is rather bleak considering my own parents are out gallivanting with their friends, my friends are out gallivanting downtown, and my brother is watching Enchanted. Thus, my company for the night is this guy:

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My one solace, of course, is my focus on the impending day or so. My flight leaves in a little over 13 hours (!!!), and I can’t believe I can finally say it, but I’m actually packed and ready to go. I’m afraid I won’t really be able to sleep tonight, but I’m fighting that problem by sipping on some *~*~* sparkling grape juice *~*~* that will also help me calm my nerves. 

Mostly what I’m feeling right now: disbelief. All day, I have been unable to wrap my head around the fact that I leave so soon. Tomorrow, I’ll wake up in Memphis, fall asleep somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, and wake up once more in Shannon, Ireland, where my plane touches down on January 2nd. There will be a few other students from my program on my flight, which will be fun. Basically, I’m just trying to make sure I actually make it over there at this point, double- and triple-checking for my passport and other important documents. Heaven forbid I forget one of those things and get stuck in customs or something. I’m dotting those final i’s and crossing the last t’s to make my journey over there as easy as possible. So, despite the fact that I’m (somewhat) alone on the brink of the New Year, the thoughts of what is to come as 2013 dawns has me excited beyond belief.