I have been here for three weeks now, which doesn’t seem that long. I have my go-to grocery stores. I know when I am getting ripped off at a pub (the price of a Guinness is the best marker). I can get to and from without getting horribly lost on the bus. These all seem to confirm that I am settled into life here in Ireland. Maybe it will even be hard to adapt back to American culture in the spring, but that is a later discussion.
Living with mostly Irish apartment mates gives me ample opportunity to compare Irish and American culture. Often our conversations are interrupted by us trying to figure out a common word that we use to describe an object or concept. A sweater is a jumper. Cotton candy is candy floss. High school is secondary school. Granola is muesli. There are many more examples. The other night we got to talking about Irish traditional names, which resulted in us all being very entertained as I stumbled through the pronunciation of every name they could think of. But it’s all in good humor, I’ve impressed them with my very basic Irish language skills.
Ireland has been full of many adventures so far; we’ve barely been in Dublin on the weekends. We have taken a trip to the North with Notre Dame. We visited Belfast, Derry, and the Giant’s Causeway all in one swoop. On this trip we learned a lot about the Troubles, which is still a much discussed topic here, especially with Brexit and the Backstop. We visited the site where the Titanic was constructed in Belfast, which was also home to the Titanic Studios where Game of Thrones was filmed. Most of Belfast is still separated by walls, keeping the Protestants and Catholics apart. All the gates close to separate them at 6:00 pm except one guarded road. As an outsider I was shocked, but the locals we talked with didn’t seem to mind them. Derry (or London-Derry depending on who you are talking with) also has walls running along the city that have been in place for hundreds of years. These walls also served as peace-keeping walls between the Catholics and the Protestants.
Another weekend we went on a pilgrimage to Glendalough where we hiked up and down a mountain. It was absolutely gorgeous. When we got near the top we looked down and saw a path coming from the valley and went “I’m glad we’re not walking that. It looks so far.”; that is the path that we took back. It looked flat, but in reality was not in the least. The views fed our bodies and rewarded us to keep moving. Every bit of Ireland I see is more gorgeous than the last. That same weekend we had the chance to watch the Women’s Gaelic Football Final at Crokepark. The game had record-breaking attendance and was quite the match. It was pouring down rain, so the scores were low because the players could just not get traction. At some points it looked more like a slip-n-slide than a Gaelic football game. Dublin won the game making it their third championship win in a row. For those of you that don’t know what I am talking about, Gaelic football is a traditional game that is like a combination between American football, soccer, and rugby. The goal appears as the resultant of smashing a soccer net and a goalpost together. If you punt it through the goalpost, your team receives one point. If you kick it into the net, your team receives three points. There are fifteen players on a side at a time and only four substitutions are allowed during the game (2 30 min halves). To get the ball down the field you can either punch it (similar to throwing) to a teammate or carry it in your hands, but only for four steps. After four steps, one most perform a dribble-like maneuver where they bounce kick it back into their hands. It was much more exciting than an American football game, since the action barely ever ceases.
When I am not travelling around Ireland, I am either on campus here at UCD or at the O’Connell House hanging with Notre Dame kids and attending classes. My classes here have proved to be very interesting and spread across many different fields ranging from history and language to computer science and design. The Irish college system varies from that in the States. The course grades depend usually on only one or two assignments or exams. All of the classes are much more lecture-focused than interactive. And fewer Irish students attend lecture than American students. But I am still chained to my desk during free time, studying and trying to master the content. Who knew manometers could be so complicated and that you could learn an entire coding language in 24 hours? There might be a lot of different things to learn, but they are all much more interesting than my introductory courses last year, which definitely makes studying a lot more enticing!
Enjoying Murphy’s ice cream in Dingle
To my family in the States: I miss you all and hope that you all are well. Feel free to drop and email, Facebook message, or Whatsapp to say hi. Just because I’m an ocean away doesn’t mean we can’t figure out some way to communicate. I am doing very well here and eating really good meals. I even made pancakes from scratch the other day that were fantabulous!