Galway

Hello bloggers!

I’m back from Ireland now, home safe and whatnot. Since my last post we traveled to Galway, took an overnight trip to the Aran islands, visited Coole Park, and saw some Dragons. It was an eventful week.

Galway was lovely. Although it was rather hot, there was usually a breeze coming in off the bay, and the city was easy to navigate and fun to be in. We happened to be in town during the Galways Art’s Festival, and so we got to see some pretty cool stuff – acrobats and dragons in the streets. (There’s a final video attached with some clips.)
We took a trip out to Inis Mor as well, which was a refreshing break from busy towns and crowds of tourists. Possibly even a little too refreshing, as that night our entire room was in bed well before it was dark. Our hostel was directly over a pub though, so we had the experience of being lulled to sleep by groups of people singing in Irish. That was actually pretty cool. In the morning we hiked up to Dun Aengus, a fort on a cliff that has been around since before the pyramids. It was a pleasant trip.
When we got back to Galway we were given a free day, which I spent visiting the aquarium, and following days were spent on excursions to Coole Park and hanging out in Galway. We saw swans made famous by Yeats, and the tower he had lived in, and we wrote poems and had class by the river and I ate a lot of ice cream.
On our final evening of class we watched a play entirely in Irish – there were subtitles on a screen to the side – which seemed like a fitting way to conclude out trip. After that we all went our separate ways.

Altogether it was a really great trip, and I feel like I’ve learned a lot. I came home with considerably more books than I left with, a notebook nearly full with notes and thoughts and poems, a camera full of pictures, and memories to last a lifetime.
It had only been a couple weeks of the trip in total, but it felt like so much longer. Still, it didn’t seem long enough. I would go back in a heartbeat.
Thanks for reading, hope your summers have been great as well. I’ve got a final video here for you from Galway. I have more footage, but that will have to find another purpose.
Best wishes,
Alex

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Dragon Attack on Shop Street!

I will never forget what happened last night for as long as I live. Seriously.

A few people and I went to the first official event of the Galway Arts Festival- a street parade featuring Sarruga’s Incredible Dragons. When we got to Shop Street, we waited for about 20-ish minutes for the dragons to reach us. While we were waiting and eating gelato, we watched a street performer giving a show to a big crowd of people. Although, I guess I should say “tried to watch”, since none of us could actually see over the crowd. I noticed a pole about 4 feet tall close to me, so I grabbed two of my friends’ shoulders and hoisted myself up on the pole so that I could see what the street performer was doing. After a few minutes of me watching and telling everyone what was happening, he finished his act and the crowd applauded and then dispersed. I stayed on the pole, mostly because I didn’t know how to get off without seriously injuring myself. Suddenly, we heard the roars of the dragons, getting ever closer to us. Once we saw them, I honestly was a little frightened. They were really well designed and actually quite lifelike. They were also pretty big—maybe two cars width. I stayed balancing on the pole so that I could take pictures and videos of the dragons, since they would come really close to me. One of my friends warned me that they might try to touch me, since I was twice as high as everyone else and I would be so close to them, but I honestly didn’t think they would bother. Well, I WAS WRONG. The first dragon came by without incident. After it passed, I turned around and saw the second one roaring in the face of a little girl. I should have realized this was a bad sign, but of course I stayed balancing on the pole, thinking I was so macho for having the best view on all of Shop Street. I was taking a video of the second one making its way towards us and I got a great shot of its head going right by me. Thinking it had already passed, I looked away for just a second… and then BOOM. THE DRAGON STARTED EATING ME. I mean, not like poking me, or like, hitting me, but seriously chomping up and down around my body. Needless to say I was caught completely off guard, but I’m proud to report that I stayed balanced on the pole for the entire attack. He ate my head and my arm, but I stayed steady on the pole, half laughing and half yelling over the roars coming from the speakers in the beast’s throat. All I could see were the glowing yellow eyes, big teeth (I have scratches on my right shoulder), a long red tongue, and flashes of bright lights coming from people’s cameras. Finally the monster seemed to decide he had had enough of me, so he moved on, leaving everyone who had seen what happened practically crying from laughing so hard. I jumped off the pole and tried to get my composure back, but boy, was that difficult. A mechanical dragon had just attacked me! I mean, how ridiculous is that?! I managed to keep the video shooting during the whole attack, so right when the dragon took its first bite, the video seemed like it could actually be from some horror movie, since you can hear me screaming, the dragon roaring and growling, and people laughing. Okay, I guess the laughing part wouldn’t be in a horror movie…

A couple of other people got videos too (well, who knows exactly how many people got videos of it?), so there is legitimate evidence of the attack, in case you’re thinking I made this up. But I swear—it happened! I just hope that feisty green dragon doesn’t try to eat any more innocent study abroad students…

Alex

Alex

Rivers and Roads

Hi! So, something really exciting happened the night I got back from the Cliffs of Moher! My friends and I tried to busk again in the streets, this time late at night when there were a lot of people about. When my two friends were practicing before we started, they went through a list of possible songs, one of them being “All Star” by Smash Mouth. To my surprise, I found myself singing along (I’m a terrible singer) and I actually remembered all of the words to the fast parts of the song. They had me perform it with them on the street when we went out there, and it was so much fun! When we had had enough of busking, we went to a pub sort of out of the way for a change, not really in the town center. It was very relaxed, we had no trouble finding seats close to the band. One of my friends, Gabby (the one who plays guitar/sings while we busk), got to chatting with one of the performers during one of their breaks. After a few minutes of conversation, Gabby turned to one of my other friends, Corrie, and asked if she would be willing to perform a song with her in front of the whole pub. Before she could answer, the guy Gabby had been talking to stood up and announced in a loud, booming voice that two girls from America were going to be performing “Rivers and Roads” by the Head and the Heart. They hurriedly got ready and I got my phone out to start recording, since I knew they would want evidence of what they were about to do. Right before Corrie started singing and Gabby started strumming, the entire pub got completely silent. I only got a minute of it on video before my phone ran out of storage space (I guess I’m taking a lot of pictures!), which was a pity because at the end, everyone in the pub sang the chorus with the two of them. It was one of the coolest things I’ve witnessed since I’ve been here, and honestly something I may never see again. They did a fantastic job, and although they admitted they were really nervous, I told them it was one of the best performances I’ve honestly ever seen.

The next day, Sunday, we went to the Aran Islands, which I had been looking forward to ever since the other group told us it’s a really fun trip. They advised us to wear sunscreen and dress comfortably, which I was more than happy to do. It was an hour bus ride (on a double decker bus!) to the ferry and 45 minutes on the ferry until we arrived there. Once we all unloaded, we were directed to a wall lined with dozens and dozens of bikes! We all picked one and got going. We biked 4 miles along the coast of the island until we reached a little café/shop, where we stopped for lunch. After that we hiked to the very edge of the cliffs. Hiking there felt like we were in the middle of a Lord of the Rings movie, since we had to step on the rocks, not on the grass. Sometimes the grass would cover up big holes you could accidentally get your feet stuck in! It reminded me of the scene in the Two Towers when Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli are running through an area much like that to find the orcs who captured Mary and Pippin. When we got to the edge, I realized it was actually scarier than the Cliffs of Moher. Once we (carefully) toured the cliffs and took a look at a natural swimming pool, we hopped back on our bikes to head back to the ferry. I forgot how much I love riding bikes—I had such a wonderful time biking the 8 miles there and back! The view of the coastline was magnificent, and there were also plenty of horses, sheep, and cows to look at as well. The only issue was my seat. It was too low, but whenever I moved it higher and locked it into place and then continued riding, after a few minutes it would hit back to the bottom. This was really annoying to deal with, since whenever it happened it took me by surprise and I almost fell off the bike every time, but I knew things could be worse. One of my housemates who went on the trip the other weekend said that her bike’s chain fell off and she had to walk the whole way! Right after I turned my bike in at the end of the trail, I literally ran into a study abroad group from SeattleU! It was really shocking to see them, but really awesome at the same time! They said they were going to be in Galway for the rest of the week, and I can’t wait to meet up with them—this time totally planned. Seeing them reminded me of what a small world we live in. Crazy, right?

And so the craic continues!

Alex

Macklemore and the Cliffs of Moher

One of my favorite things about Ireland is being able to strike up really interesting conversations with locals, since they’re just so easy to talk to. They seem to always know that I’m American… surprise surprise. Maybe that’s because I always look a little lost or something! Anyway, they always want to hear about America and how it’s different from Ireland. On occasion, it becomes very apparent that some of them don’t know much about America at all. One time I had to explain the difference between Washington D.C. and Washington state to an Irish guy. I don’t think I’ve ever had to explain that for anyone before! These conversations usually happen in pubs, since that’s where the Irish typically have the most social interaction. I guess it’s sort of stereotypical, but it’s true! So, last Friday, some of my friends and I went to a pub and were sitting and listening to the Irish music (they played “Galway Girl”!) and my roommate soon struck up a conversation with the two guys sitting next to her. I joined in after about 10 minutes, but I could only hear some of the stuff they were saying since the music was so loud. What I gathered was that they were from Dublin but had come to Galway for a wedding that was going to happen the next day. I noticed that one of the guys had a Macklemore haircut, so I asked Corrie (they couldn’t hear me over the music, since we were practically sitting next to the band) to ask him if he knew who Macklemore was and if that’s who inspired his haircut. Well, embarrassing for me, he had never heard of Macklemore. Corrie repeated the name several times because the guy was politely asking again and again if he heard it right, but after a few times of yelling “MACKLEMORE” he admitted he had never heard of him. The other guy said he felt like he had heard the name before, but couldn’t think of where. Corrie told them that he’s rapper from Seattle and I really like his music. To my dismay, Corrie mentioned casually, “oh yeah, and Alex can rap some of his songs!” Well, once the guys heard this, they asked me to actually rap Macklemore literally next to the Irish band. I refused, while laughing, but Corrie assured them that I could do it. The guy with the Macklemore haircut said, “Wow, I guess we’re sitting with the next Will Smith! Except she’s female and white…” So there ya have it—that’s a (somewhat) normal conversation between two American girls and two Irish guys at a typical Galway pub!

The next day all of us ISA champs got up early, boarded a bus, and headed to the Cliffs of Moher, with a few stops on the way. We stopped at lots of old archeological sites, which were all very interesting, but the best stop was for lunch! I would have to say I ate the best seafood chowder I will probably ever eat in my whole life. And if that wasn’t enough, I also finished it off with possibly the best fudge I’ve ever had. When we boarded the bus after lunch, everyone swapped fudge pieces, so I got to taste all of the different kinds. One bumpy bus ride later, we finally reached the Cliffs of Moher. I was speechless for a moment before exclaiming “WHOA” once I was able to see them in their entirety. I feel like the word “whoa” by itself is a good enough description of what the Cliffs were like. They were simply breathtaking. The pictures I took (and I attempted to be really artsy) honestly don’t do them justice. They also don’t accurately show just how scary it was to be on the edge! There were fences in only a few areas (which was quite a shock), so most of the time the path we walked along was totally open. I probably got as close as 2 feet away from the very edge of the cliffs. Although being that close was thrilling, I got the most thrilled after hearing what movies the Cliffs have been featured in. Just a couple of my all time favorite movies: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and The Princess Bride! My residential director said that he was so glad that we got to see the Cliffs on a clear, sunny day. He said that some people visit them multiple times without getting weather nearly as perfect as it was for us. Looking back on it, I am just so glad I got the chance to see them. Witnessing such natural beauty in that sort of magnitude is undoubtedly something to be thankful for.

Alex

Dingle Lovin and… exams!

So here I am, chilling after a weekend adventure to the gorgeous Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry and taking my exhausting midterm exams yesterday afternoon. The trip to Dingle was AWESOME. I would have to say that the highlight was sharing a very small hostel room with just a few other girls. It really wasn’t that bad, nothing to complain about or anything, although I have to admit it was just a little tight. Oh wait, did I mention I shared the room with 11 other girls?! Oh man, it was so cramped and just absolutely ridiculous, since no one else had to be in such a small room with so many people, but honestly, we were never in there except to sleep. Plus, it was  a perfect bonding experience, since we all thought it was so hilarious! Dingle was 5 hours away from Galway, so on our way there we stopped and checked out the Blarney Castle and the cute little village next to it. The rest of our weekend in Dingle was spent riding on a huge bus through the roads on the mountains, stopping every once and a while and saying hi to the sheep, running around the breathtaking beaches and grassy hills, and visiting old archeological sites. My residential director, Dermott (he’s great! He always helps out everyone in ISA who has any problems- he even planned out my entire 10 day trip for when my family comes to Ireland when the program ends!) said that the sheep would run away from you if you tried to approach them. My two friends and I decided to try it anyway, and we ended up befriending a remarkably old sheep who we named Remington O’Hare! We also spent time roaming the tiny town of Dingle, which is a sea town right on the water. It was a wonderful adventure, but once we got back we had to cram for exams!

My exams were for History and Music, and although my professors prepared us well, I was totally drained once I had finished the two of them. They took 3 hours total, and the setup reminded me a lot of Advanced Placement tests I took in high school. Although the style of teaching here is different than what I’m used to at SeattleU, I have been learning a lot in both of my classes. We’ve covered thousands of years in Irish History, so I’m still feeling a little overwhelmed with dates and keeping everything together. But I’ve been thinking a lot recently about something that comes up literally every History class, and that’s the Irish Roman Catholic vs. English Protestant conflict. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, basically England was in control of Ireland for pretty much forever, but all of the Irish natives were Roman Catholics by the time the Protestant English Crown began taking much more interest in affairs in Ireland. The English Crown tried for years to convert the Catholics to the Anglican religion (the church that initially separated from the Roman Catholic Church), and after countless attempts, they were ultimately unsuccessful. As a Protestant, it has been really hard to hear and read about all of the unjust policies the Crown created for conversion, especially hearing about how whenever the Irish rebelled, the Crown would send soliders over to murder the rebels as well as innocent women and children. I wrote about one of these brutal conquests for one of my History essays on the exam. My professor shared a very personal story one class to explain how the divisions between Irish Catholics and Protestants are still present to this day. He grew up in Belfast in Northern Ireland, which is primarily inhabited by Protestants. He said that when he was a teenager, he was harassed on a city bus by fellow Catholic teenagers who mistook him for a Protestant. They stopped beating him up once he recited the Hail Mary prayer word for word, proving to them that he was actually Catholic. He said that in Ireland, your religious identity is your political identity. It basically defines who you are, even if you aren’t particularly interested in actually practicing the religion you identity as. Needless to say, it’s extremely difficult to hear about such terrible division between different groups of people. It’s a topic I’m definitely interested in, and I’m really glad I have the opportunity Irish history in Ireland, rather than in the States. It would definitely be a different experience.

So anyways, I have a long day of class tomorrow, along with a Sean-nos (Irish for “traditional”) singing workshop for my music class! Hopefully I don’t embarrass myself with my atrocious singing…

Alex

Light Posting, Light packing.

Hello there! My name is Alex and I will be leaving for Ireland in a couple days! It’s going to be a short trip -about 2 and a half weeks- so I won’t be blogging here too long, but I probably should introduce myself anyway. I’ll keep it light.

Alex is short for Alexandria, and I am a film major who just finished my freshman year at Seattle U. I’m originally from The Dalles, Oregon, which – because no one has ever heard of it – is about an hour east of Portland. I like to draw and write and, above all, to tell stories. I’m really looking forward to traveling this summer, and to sharing some stories of my own.

As excited as I am though, time for departure seems to have snuck up on me. It feels like I haven’t had enough time to get everything packed and ready to go, but somehow I’m already nearly done. I guess it helps that I’m trying to bring as little with me as possible. The stuff you bring with you isn’t nearly as important as the adventures you have.

Talk to you all soon,
Best wishes,
Alex

Since when is Nebraska in Africa…?

Hi everyone! I’m going to write a quick update, since I don’t think I’ll be able to post anything for a few days. Tomorrow I have a really busy schedule and the program is hosting an Independence Day barbecue, with FREE dinner! And then I’m going on a program-sponsored excursion to the Dingle Peninsula this weekend. So if I haven’t mentioned this before, my class schedule literally has no pattern at all. I could have History at 9am on Monday and then at 4pm the next Monday and then not have it the Monday after that. This means I always have to check when I have my classes, since I can’t really make a daily routine out of such a crazy schedule. But, since everyone is in the same boat and we all have classes together, I’m constantly reminded from my friends as to where and when we have class. We also like to meet up to walk to campus together in the mornings. It’s been raining a lot (in fact it is right now), and so the walks can get rough, since we have to cross a long bridge and the rain here is like misty/windy rain, so it gets right in your face. I’m so glad I brought my Seattle rain jacket!

Last night I went to a pub with a bunch of people so that we could watch traditional Irish dancing. That particular pub, Monroe’s, hosts Irish dancing every Tuesday night. One of the girls in my program, Kate, got to chatting with an old (I’m guessing he was about 70 years old) Irishman wearing a striped sweater who’s name was Billy. I was sitting really close to them, and so I fortunately got the chance to hear one of the funniest encounters I have honestly ever heard. When Billy asked Kate where she was from, and she said “Nebraska”, Billy’s response was, “Oh, is that in Africa?” I saw him point to her cheetah-patterned blouse when he said that (apparently cheetah print is NOT an Irish thing…). Kate said hurriedly,  “No no, not Africa!” But he touched her shoulder and said, “It’s okay. We accept you Africa.” Then I laughed for about 10 minutes straight and told the others at my table what I heard. Later, Billy danced with one of the other girls in my program in front of the whole pub, and they were great! Billy had moves! They did a dance that reminded me a lot of that scene in the movie “Titanic” when Jack takes Rose down to the bottom of the ship where all the Irish people are dancing and having a great time. Everyone at Monroe’s who knew me was trying to get me to dance, since one of my friends showed everyone a video from earlier that day of me attempting to dance at a traditional Irish dance workshop I went to for my music class. I didn’t go out on the dance floor with the dancers, partly because I hate dancing in front of people and partly because the dancers were so spectacular, I would have looked idiotic. I also didn’t want Billy to criticize my dance moves, because he watched one of the videos of another person dancing at the workshop and actually said she was terrible! It was fun though- I feel fortunate that I got the chance to see such fantastic Irish dancers, plus, it was hilarious hearing the encounter between Kate and Billy!

So, that’s the latest update for the past couple of days! I’m really excited for the trip this weekend, although I have midterm tests for my classes this Tuesday, so hopefully I’ll get some studying done, even though I’ll be on the trip. Oh, and we went busking (playing music on the street) again today but only made 3 euro… we think it’s because today’s a weekday and the other day we did it was a Saturday. Oh well, it’s still a ton of craic!

Alex