Thursday, March 12, 2009

Germany tomorrow!

So we are heading off to the land of Deutsch for a couple days...leaving tomorrow morning at 8am from Dublin airport. To get to the airport on time we need to take a bus from Galway at 2:15am. 3 hour bus ride, 3 hour plane ride, then 2 hour bus ride from the Dusseldorf airport to Cologne (Koln). Going to be a long day of travelling on what will probably be little sleep. Despite that, we're looking forward to it!
Alyssa met a German girl (Lotte) at Amnesty Internation and all three hang out pretty regularly now. Lotte is from Cologne and asked her mom if we could stay with her, and she agreed! So we are sleeping there tomorrow night...not Saturday though. On Saturday we need to get on a bus from Cologne at about 2:15am to get to the airport before our plane brings us back to Dublin at 7:15.
So yeah, it is obviously a short trip, and early travelling times, but it should be nice to finally go to the continent, albeit briefly. We are planning on doing a couple week excursion there in April so this will give us a little preview. Plus, it's Germany..Chocolate and Beer!!! I don't think there is anything that could better appease these two travellers. We are going to a Chocolate Museum in Cologne that apparently has a massive chocolate fountain. Hurray!! We are bringing our swimsuits :)
PLUS Ireland will be great to come back to! We are going to spend Sunday in Dublin and then on Monday Alyssa's Mom and sister (Cindy and Christy) are going to arrive in the city! AND THEN on Tuesday it is St. Patrick's day, which we will be marching in the parade in Galway and of course engaging in all those Irish festivities (and by all those, we all know there is really just one 'Irish festivity'...whether it be a wedding, funeral, or any other occasion).
We can't believe our trip is halfway through already but we definitely are seeing this weekend and next week as the beginning of a very good second half. We've been bumming about more than we planned to this first half so we are going to play some catch-up!
Hopefully we'll have computer access when we are in Germany but who knows. If not we'll just have to write when we get back to Galway Monday night. We'll definitely have some foamy, chocolatey pictures to put on photobucket too.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Pray tell--where does time go?

We recognize it has been a considerable duration since last we kept interested parties updated with the excursion we are at present pursuing...
Erik has been busy, for once, this past week with working on some school work. He had an argument due at noon on Tuesday and a portfolio due five hourse thereafter. HThe argument--Dublin's suffocating effect on Stephen Dedalus's artistic necessities as a modern intellectual. Great fun. Yes.
Portfolio--Presentations of God in Royalist literature of the English Civil War (or somethinglikethat). Very interesting. Mhm.
This last weekend taught him a lesson he learned long ago, but apparently there was a relapse: Procastination is not a profitable way of leading one's scholarly career. No 'tisn't. He hasn't done very much for quite some time regarding his school work, as it all seemed so distant--when suddenly it is days before two documents are due and he hasn't started! Nostalgia of Freshman year <>. Now he will surely try to keep himself on top of things. About four weeks to go and four papers to write. Simple math shows this is roughly one paper for every week. While it is unlikely they will be produced in such structured fashion, he will make a more conscious effort of at least working, sorting, thinking on, out, about these papers in a timely manner.
Alyssa has also been quite busy working with Amnesty International (Promoting human rights on a global scale for nearly half a century). The organization is to hold a position in the upcoming 'St. Patrick's Day Parade' which will take place in Galway City. She has been labouring with two others, James and Lotte, Irish and German, in the construction of the party's theme and presentation. After some struggles and discussions, the members have decided on banners, signs, a personified candle with personified and minionated flames revolving around, as well as a percussion/samba band to march the personifcations in uniform cadence.
The previous evening to the current date (that is, 5 March 2009), the Alyssa and Erik went to see a production of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. While the script was superb and the venue charming, the company, as a whole, was perhaps a bit lacking. It was a very enjoyable stage production, one must consent, but at times some players acheived an air of haughtiness about them; although this is Wilde's intent with some characters, it has always seemed to be on a subtler scale--as if the characters don't know of their pomp. Exaggerated, these actors made their characters very aware of their pomp, which detracted from the very irony and wit that bites every line. Lady Bracknell was fabulous.
Another reason, beyond that of business, that updates have not been as regular, is the lack of electronic-hyperspace availability through the medium of evanescent networking. Only that of direct linkage has been available at the Hoppe abode; and that hardwire manifests itself in a living area often occupied by numerous persons. It has been a most difficult task to join the multitudes on this most advanced mainframe. For this, we duly apologize.
A fond farewell until our next entry on this WeBlog that excitingly connects so many persons and frighteningly shrinks our world to that of a prompting screen.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Dublin, Erik's Birthday

So last week I went to Dublin with the interstudy crew (interstudy being the organization I came to Ireland with). So my roommates and one other girl that isn't living with us. The interstudy students from all over Ireland went for the weekend (well, those that chose to go). We basically just went out for a bit on Friday night (resulting in that last semi-coherent post) and then on Saturday we were free to do what we wished during the day. We met with Coleman (our Irish liason guy) at 5:30 for dinner and then went to a play after that, titled Marble. It was really good but quite the depressing play to see on Valentine's Day--all about the falseness of the daily lives we live and why do we live it, etc. Very Existentialist. It sucked for us (Alyssa and I) being away from each other on Valentine's Day, but we just celebrated a day late, on Sunday when I returned to Galway. We had a very lovely evening getting dinner and a bottle of wine at Mustard, a cozy little restaraunt that is attatched to Galway's old mill.
On Saturday during the day I went out with Allison and Brenna, two other English majors from interstudy. We went to the National Library of Ireland where there was a huge Yeats exhibit, showing old manuscripts, various masks from his plays, his passport, videos and ideas of his regarding the Occult (he was hugely influenced by mysticism and the occult). There was a room right when you walked in that had a poem of his projected on the wall with photos that would change being projected all around the wall, with famous Irish poets reading his poems (one of the poem's was actually a recording of Yeats himself reading a poem, though I can't remember which poem off the top of my head). The whole thing was really cool.
After that we went up to the reading room, where the Scylla and Charybdis episode of Ulysses takes place (well actually it takes place in the librarian's office which is attatched to the reading room, but we couldn't get in there :P). It was beautiful, a huge rotunda with a dome, books going all around it with little desks to sit at and read in the center. I would show a picture but they wouldn't allow photographs in there!
After that we headed to the James Joyce center, which was amazing. There were a bunch of documentaries on Joyce and Ulysses and some interactive things with a biography of Joyce and a guide through Ulysses; many portraits; a table of a friend of his (who was a Jew killed in the holocaust) at which various intellectuals living in Zurich would sit and discuss. Joyce wrote a lot of Ulysses at that table (sidenote: he wrote almost all of the book in social environments, not in seclusion, it made it more 'real' he believed). It was also the site where they all gathered and went through the publication, making a list of errors (which were corrected in the Galber edition), and where translations were made. There was also a model of one of his room when he lived in Trieste, and some really old copies of his books. Outside there was an enormous wall-mural which depicts Ulysses in graphic form...I think I found a tattoo on it to be inscribed on my arm :)
We were pretty tired so we headed back to the hostel after that to rest up for the night. Unfortunately I didn't make it to all the places from Ulysses I wanted to go, but I guess I'll have to make a trip back for it! Oh, at the shop I bought a bottle of wine that Joyce cited as his favorite drink in Finnegans Wake. I guess he drank a ton of it. It was specially made for Bloomsday (June 16) of 2004, marking the 100-year anniversary of the date Ulysses takes place (and the day Joyce went on his first date with Nora Barnacle). It has a picture of Joyce on the bottle! I couldn't pass it up, so I got it and am saving to drink it on Bloomsday this summer...
So then we went and did those things, after the play I met two girls, Ayleen and Nora, who were studying in Belfast. They were very cool, much more like me than my roommates, so we went out and got a few drinks and chatted and stuff. It was nice being with people I could identify with better.
So the next morning we left early and got back to Galway. It was great to be back; Dublin is nice and all but I am so glad we aren't there. It's dirty, pretty ugly, and too big. No wonder Joyce left! Galway is a perfect place to be. So Alyssa and I celebrated our Valentine's together that night and had a wonderful time...
Only three days after that was my birthday!! 22, woohoo!! It was a great birthday. I started my volunteering at Sciole Bhridh, the primary school that Alyssa is already volunteering at. I am doing the same stuff she has been doing, just working with the little bastard Irish kids. They are wild!!! A lot of fun though. After that we hung out at Alyssa's for a little bit, and then did dinner and a movie. We went to an Indian restaraunt, Kumar's, for dinner. It was delicious--and so many vegetarian options!! After that we saw Vicky Christina Barcelona, Woody Allen's new film--wonderful. It was very like his earlier films regarding relationships and what-not; although he wasn't in it, you could hear his voice with pretty much everything said. It was great and it's great that he is getting out of that slump he was in for so long! The birthday was very relaxed but just what I wanted, a nice day with Alyssa Hoppe :)
Until next time--cheers!

Friday, February 13, 2009

So here I am...In Dublin and it's late

Here we are in Dublin and it is all alot of fun. It is like...what? 2:30 AM and we had a great night out. We went to the Official Temple Bar and had a drink. It was um very expensive. Not too much worth it. So we headed around and went to some other places
The hostel is very nice. It is Avalon House. Apparently a best of European Hostels. I don't know. But its good. Free computers!!! Woo!!!
Tomorrow we are waking up early and going to the James Joyce Center. I love that man. He is probably the greatest genius since Mozart or Da Vinci. But better because he wrote Ulysses. I don't know if YOU know. But that is THE best novel ever written. Okay so quite a claim, and arguable...but it's in the pantheon for sure. If you haven't read it. OOOO a pun. so. yes I am going to stop at episode landings...
We also discovered the national library has a Yeats exhibit. Which we will stop at. He is great too. A mentor to the previous ex-patriate.
I don't have much else to say besides a rant. Which I won't put you through. It's Dublin. And I am um here. Hah!
Greetings! Until Next time when this will make more sense
I was just back and was thinking OOOOO a blog! A blog! How Millenium-Centual. Hah. Yes. You know what I mean
Only it's not anymore. Damn Modernists and their PRINT TYPE and their SOC oh here I am thinking I am all Modern and just writing on a Computer!! Compute for me please (it can't)!
Cheers and farewell. I know you wish you could sip that Guinness in this native city.
Also some newsI saw a poster and that is Charlie Parr is playing Dublin on birthday. I love him and am thinking of retunring to see him. Ohhh yeah.
And's to G, S, and G. Cheers!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Erik's random thoughts in the library...

Pink Floyd is good wherever one listens to them.
Ulysses is too, but it is even better in Ireland. I am going to Dublin this weekend with the interstudy group. I plan on spending most, or all, of my Saturday doing Joycean things...going to the James Joyce center, stopping at the sites of the Ulysses episodes, probably getting a gorgonzola sandwich and a burgundy at Davie Byrnes, walking down Sandymount strand with my eyes closed, ineluctable modality of the visible...thought through my eyes. Signatures of all things. Close your eyes and walk into eternity...
I spend most of my days reading either Joyce or Shakespeare. My other classes are minimal reading. I don't know what to do with all my time and am somewhat stir-crazy. I have applied to a bunch of volunteer organizations, even more today. Hopefully some of those go through. I will hopefully be getting something set up with Westside Ability, working with people with learning disabilities. Alyssa is staying much busier than I am with all of her work and I must say I'm somewhat jealous.
We went to the Cliffs of Moher on Sunday on a tour trip through the Burren, the landscape that makes up most of County Clare, the county south of Galway (on the other side of the bay). The whole trip was magnificent and the cliffs themselves majestic. We took pictures but the pictures don't do justice--they never do, do they? They capture the image, but not the smell, the wind, the atmosphere. Standing at the cliffs was like being witness to Earth's greatness...700 foot limestone cliff faces dropping straight down, met by the blue-ocean's crashing waves.
I have a bunch of mold growing in my room. I really need to take care of that...not good for the lungs. Of course I haven't taken good care of them in some years. The mold is growing along this crack in my wall and I am not happy about it. Who would be? A mushroom maybe...have some fungal friends.
The weather has been very good to us this week. It's hardly rained. That's good.
My wonderful laptop issued to me in December by the very prestige state institution of Winona State University is already not working well. I have not had a computer that lasted longer than 3 months without an issue from them...and all I use my computer for is email, papers, pictures, and now blogs. By no use misconduct. Lovely laptop program. You should send it back to us and make sure you insure it for $1600 and we can figure it out and send it back! I'd rather not if I don't have to. So I am just testing time and continuing its use.
My birthday is less than a week away! All the exciting birthdays are gone...just the once a decade ones to mark that you are now in your 30s, 40s, 50s, etc. Jeez! I'm not sure what we are doing for it yet. probably going out to eat and a play or a movie or something.
I like....birds.
Peace and love, live long and prosper, God bless ye, and may the Force be with you.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Photobucket up!

Hello. So we finally got our photobucket up and running. We are working on adding all the info on all the photos and what-not, but at least it is up so you can see some pictures of this beautiful country and our beautiful faces! The URL is:

Hope this works. If it doesn't let us know. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

While you were all thinking about the Superbowl....

So we had an interesting couple of nights this last weekend. I think the story needs to be prefaced by stating that Erik had not been feeling well since the end of last week. A kind of swollen gland and aching body. With that in mind...

On Saturday night the two American-lovers-in-Ireland went out with Alyssa's housemates for the first time. One of her housemates, Enda, is to be moving to Australia for employment this week, so it was a send-off party. They left Alyssa's abode around 9ish with her other housemate, Dave, who was still there; Martin and Enda had already left. They went to a pub where the other two said they were but by the time the trio arrived they had left. They went out in search again and eventually found them at a pub, A Bunch of Grapes. There was a group there with the housemates and when Alyssa, Dave, and Erik got there everyone left to go to a different pub, pseudo-nightclub, called the Living Room. It was an okay place, very trendy with terrible music (thus the pseudo-nightclub), but the group was fun.

The funniest part about the night is everyone's reaction to Alyssa's surname--Hoppe (pronounced Hop-pee). A couple girls in the group thought it was hilarious, they didn't see she was with Erik and asked if her and Dave were going to go home together. Dave and Alyssa looked at eachother, laughed, and said 'no.' The girls laughed hysterically, saying, "Oh, that's too bad--because ye could go home 'Hoppe'!!! Hahaha" One of the girl's names was Emma, the name of Alyssa's bunny at home. Alyssa found the coincidence in this talk of her surname, Hoppe, by a girl with the same name of her bunny (bunnies 'hop'). Later, Erik was outside with Martin and Dave and the two girls smoking when the last name was brought up again, by the girls, laughing. They asked if it was a common last name; he said, "No, not very common, but not unusual. People certainly don't laugh about it. It's funny though because she has a bunny...isn't that fitting for Hoppe?" Martin laughed, smiling and making a little bunny face with his hands up near his face, "Oh I'm a little bunny, I'm so Hoppe!!! Hahaha!"

That is when it dawned on Erik why they found it so amusing...with their accents all the Irish people thought the last name was Happy. They were talking to Dave the next morning and again it was brought up. He asked how to spell it. H-o-p-p-e. "What? Really?" "Yeah, if it were Happy," Erik said with his long, slow Midwestern accent, "we would have said Happy!" And that was that...

So then it was Sunday. Alyssa and Erik were planning on going to a concert that night at the Roisin Dubh (pronounced Rohsheen Dove: Irish for the Black Rose), a pub that has a stage and showcases a lot of alternative-types of music. The band they were going to see is called the Crystal Antlers; they're from California and have been described as a soul-infused, psychadelic-blues rock. Damn, if that didn't sound like music they would be into, nothing would. They were told it was free but it was 5 quid. That's fine. The night was awesome. It must be stated that the Crystal Antlers did not have any soul or psychadelia and hardly any blues, just a lot of rock. Very Sonic Youth, At-the-Drive-In sounding: noisy. It wasn't bad, just not what they were expecting at all and had it not been for the second act they probably would have been disappointed with the entry fee. The set was 30 minutes maximum.

The opening act was this little man singing and whistling about 5 songs that all sounded the same about a girl who had left was understandable why she left if he was so whiny all the time! The second guy, however, was awesome. His name was Robert Sarazin Blake (check him out online, seriously!!). He had this beautifully deep voice and this extremely fast, flamenco-like, style strum of his guitar. He had excellent skill of narration and was quite entertaining. He would stand up there and basically tell stories, morphing in and out of song. When he was playing he would just close his eyes and move his body and his hands and this beautiful music came out. 'We would listen to this all the time," they thought. Others didn't seem as fascinated; in fact, this one boy Erik knows from school, Daniel, said it sounded too much like Dylan. What? Dylan? Him? Obviously these Irish folk don't have an ear for folk. Because he sounded absolutely nothing like Dylan--I mean, really, he didn't. Not just saying that because we are huge Dylan fans and like folk in general; his voice and guitar were a completely different style. That's what was so great, however, was that this was a folk-singer living in post-Dylan world that actually had his own style; he was doing his own thing, not just the pre-disposed idea of folk that everyone thinks it should be (you know, Dylan). It was great. They bought two of his albums and talked to him for awhile. He is from Seattle and tours kind of all over, doing a short tour in Ireland and England and then heading back to the states. He said to write him an email and he'll come play at our colleges. They are definitely taking him up on this offer because he would fit right in at Ed's No Name Bar in Winona, MN.

They left right after the Crystal Antlers because Erik still wasn't feeling well. They went back to his house and went to sleep. Erik didn't sleep well at all, sweating oceans out of his body, feeling a thousand degrees, getting up to go to the bathroom all night. He decided to get checked out the next day. He usually doesn't get sick and could tell something was wrong. He went to the health services on campus, where the receptionist woman was nothing short of a bitch to him, while being nice to everyone else. Probably because he said, "Hi, I haven't made an appointment but I was wondering if I could see a doctor today." "No it's been busy all day with queues out the door. We're only accepting emergencies." After just seeing some boys come in claiming they had a sore throat and getting and appointment later that day he said, "Well, what's an emergency?" She looked annoyed by this question, but it wasn't meant to be smart-allecky. It was an honest question! Obviously those people weren't dying or anything, but apparently their sore throats were emergencies. He described the nature of his ailment and was given an appointment for later in the day. So he killed some time on campus. He wasn't expecting such a long wait and didn't bring a book or anything (the one time he doesn't... Murphy's Law is amidst). He went to the computer lab, actually looked up the results for the Superbowl (just to know whether he could give mom or dad crap at home), looked up forecasts for the Oscars (Slumdog Millionaire it looks like, unfortunately, but Mickey Rourke should get one for the Wrestler! Phenomenal film and phenomenal performance. Almost as phenemonal as Phenemenon and John Travolta [just kidding, way more phenomenal]), read some random news. Finally he had to go back to health services at 4:20.

He went back and met with the nurse. She took his temperature, it was high, about 100 F. Blood pressure was normal. He described his symptoms and she made an appointment for him to come back at 6 to meet with the doctor. So he killed some more time, pretty much doing the same thing. Only the Superbowl and Oscars were out of the way, and so was random news. So it was down to really random news...did you know that in Japan the new fad is categorizing personality type by blood type? It's true, even their politicians are using them in campaigns. "I'm an O, he's an AB, vote for me." Oh those Japanese and their Hello Kitties and Pokemon and Blood Types...

He finally went back to health services at 6ish and checked in. All of the sudden, however, a bunch of people were getting to see the doctor before him. The receptionist noticed and told one girl to stop, went back to the doctor, and finally his name was called (it wasn't in a rude manner to the girl, and she was understanding about it. She was only there for a mumps vaccination). He went back to the doctor, told her the symptoms, she examined him and a look of thorough concern crossed her face. She kept ending every sentence with Love. Like, "So what's the problem, love? This isn't good, love. Oh we need to get you to the hospital, love. Let me get a note of referral, love, so you don't have to pay when you get over there. Sit tight, love."

She went and got a letter printed out for him and handed it to him sealed, explaining directions to the hospital and to go there immediately, to the Emergency and Accidents area. Quite obviously Erik was a little concerned now. She hadn't detailed the problem too much for him; the details were all in this sealed note. He tried calling Alyssa to see if she could come with but she didn't answer. Her phone was forgotten at his house, which was locked and uninhabited at the moment...

He got to the hospital and with only a little difficulty (it is huge) found the A&E center. He checked in at the reception area handing the woman behind the glass the note. She opened it and he tried reading its contents; it was difficult as it was upside-down and behind glass. All he could make out was "patient needs urgent attention" "surgery" and "amarous this could be (insert huge medical term here)". Then, the woman behind the glass asked him what religion he was. He was unsure whether to go with struggling Christian, atheist, agnostic, or not-specific. Under the pressure though Atheist was all that came out. This was horrible, as, because of the puzzling words he found on the letter, if he died all he could think was, "Non-believer--you're going to Hell!!!" Then she asked the home address and phone number along with his next-of-kin's names. What the 'ell? he thought. Do they need to know this stuff for what exactly? So a priest can read me my last rites and an address to send my DC to? He was remaining calm but his head was frantically nervous. He still didn't really know what was wrong with him and now he is in a huge hospital being asked these questions. It was quite scary, and he again tried calling Alyssa. This was far too scary to be alone. The waiting area was packed with people, some crying, some coughing, some young parents with babies. Struggling to hold back tears he sent her a text to please meet him if she could.

His name was called very quickly and saw the triast nurse. Because of how busy the Irish hospitals are, there is a nurse that assesses patients' conditions to see how quickly they need attention. After seeing him, taking his temperature, and reading the note, she left to find a room for his immediate occupancy. As the nurse was gone Alyssa finally called. She couldn't wait around thinking about him any longer at her house, unable to do anything, and walked to his house to see if any of his housemates were home. Carly was luckily there and let Alyssa in. She got her phone from Erik's room and saw the missed calls, didn't bother looking at the texts, and called him immediately. It was perfect timing, as he was becoming quite scared and her voice lifted his spirits. She was just as scared, as the last time they had spoken he was only leaving to go to the campus. She had no idea anything that had happened in the meantime. She said she would be right over. Alyssa didn't know how to get to the hospital, though, and Carly walked with her, keeping her company. During this time, Erik was brought back to a room.

Alyssa finally arrived at the hospital and was looking everywhere for Erik. Everyone she asked assured her he was certainly in the waiting room if he had only just arrived. She knew he wasn't, however, because of what he told her while they were on the phone. Asserting herself, 'no, I know he is back here,' a doctor finally asked what the patient's name was. 'Erik Kline.' A passing nurse said, "Oh I heard that name; I think he is back here." She then saw Erik sitting alone in a room waiting to be seen by a second doctor. One had already seen him and was going to bring in his superior to check it out.

Alyssa came in and gave him a hug. He had been waiting in quite a dismal condition; being examined, blood being drawn, giving a urine test, sitting with a needle in his arm, still unsure what's going on. They waited together and just talked about nothing, which was all that needed to be talked about. Neitherwanted anything serious--they just wanted to occupy the time and keep eachother company and in good spirits. Finally the first doctor came back with his supervisor. Alyssa was asked to leave and Erik was examined again. The doctor told Erik that he didn't think this was as serious as previously thought. He thought it was only an infection of the gland. Even so, he said, if Erik were to experience these symptoms again he shouldn't wait "one minute" to seek attention, because the results could be very bad. The two doctors left and allowed Alyssa back in. The original doctor brought in some painkillers and antibiotics and told him to wait a little bit because they were calling a specialist in to come and confirm what they thought.

So they were brought out into the hall and waited. It was packed. Patients sitting on chairs along one wall while more patients were in bed-trolleys along the other wall . People everywhere. Eventually, after an hour or so, the specialist came. She brought him back to another room and everything sort of started all over. He described his symptoms and was examined (more thoroughly this time). She asked a little more questions--do you smoke (a little) do you drink (yes) anything else? (well...I do a lot of heroine). She looked immediately concerned, and upon seeing his smiling face, gave him a friendly tap on the arm, realizing his jocularity. After her exam, she came to the same conclusion, but wanted to be sure, so she asked if it was okay to call her colleague over to also examine him. He said of course that was okay, rather be safe than sorry.

So Alyssa came back in the room and the waited again together, killing time with idle talk. The other specialist came and they both examined Erik one more time. He was convinced of the same it was a pretty confident conclusion now. An infection. That's all. Erik was given some prescriptions, told he would be called for a follow-up, and the needle was finally taken out of his arm ("Wouldn't want you going home and shooting up," the doctor said with a smile). Albeit still sore, he left the hospital very relieved. Erik and Alyssa walked home in very lifted spirits singing Disney songs. Both were very happy with the results; although it was Erik's body, Alyssa seemed to be the most concerned. That's one of the many ways he knows he loves her--her honest and selfless concern for others (including him, but not limited to-).

Erik is on the mend now. He is taking his prescriptions regularly and is starting to feel better. He is still a little sore but everything is going to be okay. All the Irish talk about how horrible their health care system is. It's so packed and inefficient and busy. Erik and Alyssa got a first-hand account of it, an addition making their perspective of Ireland truer than what it would have been without this experience. And in reality, it's pretty good. Sure it is busy, but no one is dying as a result of an inability to pay for it. Everyone is taken care of, and beyon that, thoroughly taken care of. Including the on-campus doctor, Erik was seen by five doctors that night, including two specialists. By the second doctor they were pretty sure what was going on but wanted to be positively sure. So they kept having others look. Yes, it took longer, but they are happy it did, as they can be confident in the doctors' conclusion. The doctors were all very friendly, optimistic, and helpful. Despite the original fear the evening began with, each doctor slowly eased their minds; with each succeeding doctor, a little nerve was lifted. By the end of the night, they were walking home smiling, singing Disney songs!!!

A scary experience, surely, but an unforgettable one as well. We definitely wouldn't take it back.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


This past Saturday, Erik and I realized that we have already spent nearly a month in Galway, so we decided to take a break from city life and see a smaller area of Ireland. We love taking walks, so we wanted to go somewhere that was close enough in distance to do so. Originally we thought we would go to Athenry, where the focus of the town is an old castle and other medieval buildings; it's about 14 miles from Galway. However, many parts of Ireland seem to close down during their "winter" months, and we were unable to find a place to spend the night. We settled on a closer town called Oranmore where there are ruins of a castle with origins that are unknown; this is also where the tip of Galway Bay is located. We found a bed and breakfast to stay at, the first of hopefully many, and we immediately decided to head out there; we would leave as soon as I was done volunteering at 3PM. We had recently purchased rain boots that we were in dire need of, so we were excited to get to try them out. Unfortunately, we didn't think to bring other shoes! It was only a six mile walk one way, and we left at about half four (430). The walk was very relaxing and we were able to see some of the country side, even a few thatched roofs! During the last hour of our journey it began to rain lightly, but luckily we were wearing our rain boots.

At about half six we made it to our B&B. It was a lovely home that over looked the bay, and right across the bay was a view of the Oranmore castle. We met our host, were shown to our room, and dried off a bit. After taking a short break, we headed to the town to get a bit to eat and a few pints. We ate at Keane's Restaurant where I had fresh salmon with potatoes and veggies, and Erik had curry chicken and rice. The restaurant was lovely, and our dinner was accompanied a Motown classics soundtrack! After that we headed over to a local pub for a drink. We stayed for a little while, but were quite tired and wet from our walk. As we were leaving, there was a band who was setting up, that we would later learn was my roommates band! Unfortunately, I had talked to him earlier about where his gig was at, otherwise we would have stayed and listened...especially since their specialty is Motown funk!

The next morning we woke up and had a traditional Irish breakfast (without the bloodsausage, which Erik had told me about on our walk, whew!) It consisted of tea, cereal, homemade bread and homemade jam, eggs, toast, regular suasage, and bacon. It was the first time that I have had ham in years, and it was delicious! I had forgotten how good it really is. After our hearty breakfast, we got ready for the day, and were off for a hike.

We made our way to Renville Park, and after much confusion and a bit of wandering the town we made it. In order to get to the park we passed through residential areas and then through farming lands. It was a beautiful area for walking, and there were several families taking strolls together. This led to our realization that, at home, we don't see parents out with their infants in strollers very much; it is even more rare to see a father alone out with his kids out in a stroller. It's completely common to see mothers/father/parents together with their infant(s) in strollers, whether it be morning, afternoon, or evening, seven days a week. Just a difference we realized--one that made us smile and gave us insight on family values of Ireland.... Anyways, along with them we saw many unleashed dogs (which is another common feat, in the city too, and the dogs are all so well-behaved!...imagine Summer or Nickle out in public, leashless!!), kids playing soccer, and a person flying a kite. There was also a view of an inlet with ruins of an old building across the way. Brilliant! After walking through the woods we came upon the remains of another old building, but we couln't tell what it was for, and we were unable to enter it. Before going to the park we tried to see if we could get to the Oranmore castle, but it appeared unattainable. We both had high hopes of being able to go inside a castle or ruins, so we decided to trek along the shore of the inlet and make our way to the ruins.
After following the shore, which consisted of rocks, seaweed, and purple oyster-shells, we got to the 'entrance' of the field that contained our destination. It was elevated about 3-4 feet above the shoreline with a small wire fence going around it. It was apparently a private farm and a sheep pasture; the sheep were standing off in the distance at a different ruin. We walked straight to the ruins we wanted to get close to. It kept getting bigger and bigger as we got closer and closer. While we were walking towards it two vehicles left their houses and drove down the road a little closer to the ruins...about 50 feet. They then just got out of their vehicles and watched us. This kind of freaked us out, so we quickly got to the ruins, where we unspokenly agreed to stay on the opposite side of the ruins, beyond sight of the Irish men watching us. This worked out though, as this was the sunny side, which made for much better photos. After getting close to it, we discussed and we came to the hypothesis that it was probably a priory or a monastery. It was almost definitely a religious structure, as it was topped by a cross and had those ecclesiastical looking arch-windows. It also seemed like it had a living/sleeping quarters, a little of which we explored after we realized a part of fence was down near there. We got inside and climbed down the rocks to the closer, darker basement. It had rained the night before and there were cracks in the ceiling from the floor above, so a constant drip was sounding somewhere in these big stone rooms. Being down here for only a short period of time, we thought of the guys watching us, looked around in this 14th century dengeon-looking basement, thinking only
this is how scary horror movies begin, often involving traumatizing ways of death, and quickly climbed out into the beautiful, sunny, mid-50's weather outside. Realizing our spectators weren't closing in on us, we started back to the beach. We were obviously on someone's property, they allowed us to see what we wanted to see without bothering: we didn't want to wear out our welcome. We really wanted to see the other ruins that the sheep were hanging out at; we couldn't tell what it was...but it was a big cement fence that was shaped in a square with pillars holding it up, with thatched, or grown-over, roof houses that were of differenst sizes all facing one another. It looked like a little village or something--maybe it is a little sheep village! That would be so cute!
Anyways, we didn't want to bother them, thinking that is probably what these farmer-men were most concerned about. We quickly got out of the field and walked the short walk back around the bay to the park. We arrived, sat down at a picnic table, ate an orange and some bread, had some water, stretched and headed back to the little town. We thought about old school rap songs the whole way, rapped some Coolio...then some Will Smith. Big Jiggy Style. We laughed about that little rap stint...Wild Wild West, Jim West, Deperado, No we don't want nonna this...and laughed. Fresh Prince, Will Smith, Big Willy. Ha! It was even more amusing when we would be rapping loudly, and then walk by natives, unable to contain our rapping, so just doing it under our breaths. The volume increased as the distance between us and them did...
We got to the town, bought some food and put it in our body, and decided to head back to Galway. We though of maybe taking a bus, as we had already walked somewhere around 14 or 15 miles since leaving Galway. The bus wasn't going to leave for over an hour though, so we started walking. We went back a different way...a totally different way (on accident), and spent most of the walk on the shoulder/bike lane of a highway--for about 5 of the 6 miles back in our support-less rain boots. This was a little painful and a little scary, and especially since we didn't know exactly where we were, we just kept following the Galway signs around the roundabouts. We finally did get back though, after about 2 hours. We suddenly came into town very near my house, completely clueless as to where we were until we were there. We desperately needed to take our rain-boots off. They were very beneficial for our rainy walk there and our trekking through mud and thick seaweed, but for our 6 mile walk back on asphalt, they truly sucked. Our feet, ankles, knees, and backs were all in very much pain upon our arrival to my house. We went to my house first, so I could change my shoes and grab a book for one of Erik's roommates. We went to his house, and I use some contact solution of his roommates' ; I haven't purchased any, seeing it is 17euro for a normal sized bottle at the pharmacy (the only place I could find it). He also changed his boots, and we hobbled back to my house to make a huge, delicious pasta dinner. We devoured it while watching X-3 the Last Stand with my roommate Martin, and headed to bed where we slept very soundly. Despite our bodies' soreness the first part of this week, the trip was a beautiful excursion and a nice break from the city. The weather was in our favor, we had a delicious breakfast, and we got to get up close to some real ruins. We are looking forward to many more future adventures!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

First post!

Well, this being our first post and the tenth day of our stay, there is probably too much to say...I'm sure we won't be able to cover everything so far that we have experienced, but we have to start somewhere. Reminders will probably keep popping up in our minds and we'll be able to write of things that were forgotten in this post.


We left the MSP airport on the 30th of December. The plane was an hour and a half late or so, due to a snow storm (Minnesota's final and very fitting farewell). We had a connection at JFK in NYC, and by the time we landed we had about 50 minutes to switch terminals and get on our flight to Dublin. Needless to say, that was a hastle. It didn't help matters that it was probably one of the busiest times of the day at the airport. When we switched terminals we had to go through security again, where it was packed and everyone was in a hurry. There was nobody either helpful or friendly--looks like we're not in Minnesota anymore. We hadn't eaten during this time either, so on top of tired, rushed, and flustered, we were also starving. Finally a woman brought us to the front of the line to get through and the security workers were straight-up mean. Doing your job is one thing, but this one woman in particular seemed to revel in picking on Alyssa...and then ask "What's wrong? What's the matter?" "What did I do to you?" the woman finally asked when she realized we were pissed...uh, how about just being plain mean? We were sitting next to a guy that moved from MN to NYC on the plane over there, and we were going to ask him if it was true that all New Yorkers were assholes. We didn't need to I guess, because this confirmed it. There were actually two nice men that helped us figure out where we needed to go, but we will just assume that they weren't from NYC...

We ran through the terminal to get to our gate, and got there about 20 minutes before the plane was supposed to take off (they were already boarding). The entire time we were running people would say and shout things at us asking us why it was we were running. Common sense? Running through an airport? Probably trying to get to your plane before it leaves? We got on the plane and managed to switch our seats so we were by eachother, in the back row. Alyssa took some dramamine for the motion sickness, but we still hadn't eaten... she got sick :( There was a flight attendent that was extremely kind to her because of this though, giving her whole wheat rolls (reserved for first class) and a big quilt (also reserved for first class). We managed to sleep a little bit, when we weren't being harrassed by these two little girls sitting in front of us (cute at first--quickly turned annoying).

We finally got to Dublin, and I think Alyssa should tell about this little trial...


The airport that we arrived at in Dublin was much smaller than the others that we had been to earlier in our travels. At the gate we exited we from we walked through a short hallway that led us to the customs lines where we waited with the other passengers from our flight. Erik went first and seemed to get through alright, and as I waited I watched a boy who was about our age going through a different line in front of me. This lad appered quite flustered although the customs officer he was speaking to seemed much kinder than the sterotypical bulky Irishmen, with burning blue eyes, that Erik was trying to get past. I hoped I would go through the older, genteler looking man's line. The boy stood there like a deer trapped in headlights, his face turned red and you could see he was beginning to shake. I told myself that it would be no big deal and that I just needed to be friendly and confident and I would get by alright. Unfortunately, I ended up with the angry Irishman. I walked up as I had planned and said hello and asked him how he was doing. He completely ignored my introduction and immediately began drilling me about the purpose of my travels. I explained to him that I was coming to Ireland on an Independent Study abroad program where I would be doing volunteer work that would be finalized after my arrival. He asked me for letters and paper work, which I had little of. He looked at what I had and was very displeased. He even suggested that I could have forged all of these letter (which mom and I had only forged one of!). So then I was just like that other boy standing there shaking, praying to God that it would all be over soon, and hoping that he would just let me by. He sat there staring at me for what seemed like an eternity, and finally said "If I were to go to your country and show them what you have shown me right now, they would put me on an immediate flight back what should I do with you?" I appologized and said that if it were up to me, I would let him in! Then I asked if there was anything that I could do in order to make things ok. He scoffed at me and stamped my passport and told me that I needed to get things straightened out immediately. I was so relieved! Obviously, he had a small warm place in his heart that he hid quite well. So, then we finally made it in to the country. Woofta!

We made it into Ireland, and were finally able to go to the luggage carousel to retrieve our luggage. Before we had left I made sure to pack an extra set of clothes, just in case something happened to our luggage. I suggested it to Erik and he didn't really seem fond of the idea seeing as he would have to unpack his bags to do so. But in the end he decided to bring just a few extra things that he did not intend to pack for careful measures. Luckily we did, because our luggage did not arrive with us, probably due to our quick change of planes at the Kennedy airport. Tired, sick, flustered, and hungry we headed out to the streets to hail ourselves a cab that would take us to our hotel near the Temple Bar area in Dublin, where our luggage was suppose to meet us the following morning.


We got to our hotel, which seemed like the nicest hotel we have ever been to (just an average one for Dublin, though I guess). We had a while before we could check in, so we dropped off our carry-on bags and explored a little. We walked around St. Stephen's Green (Dublin's "Central Park" so to speak). One of the biggest changes was made very clear here, for St. Stephen's Green was still very green! No snow!!! It was probably about 40 degrees and the cab driver told us it was a cold spell: ha! We can get used to this! we thought. So we walked about a little bit but Alyssa was still not feeling to great and we were both just exhausted so we went to the hotel and just hung out in the lounge for a bit until our room opened up; Alyssa slept on a little couch with the company of Aragorn and her latest companion, Flynn. I called my parents and told them we were okay, updating them on our New York experience. Our room was good to go and we went up and took a little nap to get some energy for the evening. We woke up, took showers, and headed out for a Dublin New Year's! We started by going to Juice, a vegan restaraunt, which was very good. The food was very good, at least, but it was a bit uncomfortable as the table across from us had three girls that were literally staring at us the entire time (one whose back was to us thought it okay to just turn around and stare at us the whole time). In Dublin, everyone is very Euro-trendy, in black and sleek clothes and what-not; you know, exactly opposite of the tie-dye and patchwork Alyssa and I like to sport. And we only had the clothes on our backs and what was in our carry-on. Oh yeah, Alyssa was still wearing the jeans that she vomited on. Well, not vomited on, for she vomited in a bag, which just so happened to have a hole in the corner of. So the jeans that vomit leaked on. Lovely, lovely!

Then we went to a pub/music venue in Temple Bar. There was a great band playing called Rat King who sounded alot like the Arctic Monkeys; the front man was one of the most entertaining performers I have seen in some time. He was awesome. Barefoot, coming out in the crowd and dancing, sometimes laying down and singing, and sometimes having what-seemed-like choreographed movements with the music. Two Irish dudes came up to us with a smile and said, "You're not from around here, are ye?" No we're not. "Can I get a picture with ya then?" We laughed and said yeah and his friend took a picture of him with these goofily dressed Americans. They were over and a DJ was coming up so we decided to hit up the streets for a bit, which seemed to be where the party was really at. The streets were so crowded you could hardly walk through them, everyone drunk and happy to start a new year (see pictures which will be on photobucket). There was a lot of street music going on, where people were all dancing and celebrating. This was a ton of fun. Eventually we had to go to the bathroom and get a drink, and every bar seemed packed, so we decided to go back to the place we were at earlier. It had livened up quite a bit--lots of people and a DJ who enjoyed such classics as Coolio's "Gangster's Paradise" and Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" An odd mix to say the least, but it was a lot of fun. What made it even more fun was this Dubliner John who took quite a liking to us, I think because we were as weird as his dance moves. He was hilarious, kissing us on the cheeks when the ball dropped and shouting happy new year. Soon after the ball dropped, however, Alyssa wasn't feeling well from her two-and-a-half pints of Guinness she had had. She's a heavy drinker, you see :)

We left and she felt like she was going to vomit, and she insisted to do it in a corner where there were no people (which was nearly impossible to find). We eventually did find a corner, however, and she did her deed, and very soon after we walked away from it there seemed to be random spots of puke all over the street/footpath. Obviously not everyone is so insistent on private puking! We made our way back to the hotel without a problem and just went to bed; we were still very tired from travelling and time-change and what not. But to say the least, we had a great New Year's Eve celebration.


So we woke up and it was 2009. We went downstairs in the hotel to eat our breakfast. Alyssa didn't eat much, because she still didn't feel well. We went out to the front desk and asked if our luggage had come yet. No it hadn't. Damn. This was probably about 9:30 or 10. The airport guy said it would be there by 9. If it wasn't we should call the airport and see what's up. So we struggled to do this, because you had to pay for the phone from the room, and there was a pay phone in the lobby to use, which we had to use a credit card to pay for. I was hesitant but we had to call. So I put my card in, called, no one answered, it went to an answering machine. I left a message. I checked my bank account later and it turns out that the company is some big scam thing and my 30 second local phone call cost me 12 dollars...I need a to call and get a refund.

So we didn't have our backpacks, it was after 10 and we had to check out by noon. Once we had checked out the hotel couldn't accept our backpacks anymore. We really wanted different clothes (especially vomit-y Alyssa).

We just hung out in the hotel room putting off having to check out. We wanted to take an 11:10 train but had to wait for the 2:30 train. Our phone rang at about 11:45 and our bags arrived. Thank God! We changed quick, checked out, and took a taxi to the station. The taxi driver was really funny and commented that we looked like "a couple of fohkin' geeks!" All in good fun though. He also said we needed help, because of Aragorn, Flynn, and Casey Jones all being strapped to our bags. We miss our pets! we justified.

We got to the train station and purchased tickets. I guess buses are cheaper than trains here; the tickets were 35euro each. We were also starving and got some food at Supermac's, a sort of McDonald's thing (I know gross), BUT they had veggie burgers there! So we got a veggie burger and some fries. We were in line for the train and some old women were glaring at us the whole time, whispering back and forth. We got onto the train and slept as best as we could, waiting to arrive at Galway.

Finally we did get there, after about 2 and a half hours. We walked to our hostel, which was fortunately located right across from the train station. We went to bed almost right away and had a good night sleep. Probably one of the only good night sleeps we had at the hostel.

While we stayed at the hostel we explored the city and went out a couple nights with others from the hostel. One night we partied with some Scotch boys in kilts, as well as some other Americans (from all over), a German girl, and a couple Austrian girls. It was a great place to meet people. Due to the uncomfortable beds and loud snorers, however, we were pleased to finally get out after a week.

From then until now we have done not much more than slowly get situated into Galway life. Erik has moved into his flat that interstudy provided him on Forster Ct, a few minutes walk from Eyre Square. Alyssa found a room to rent in a flat in Cill Ard, also a few minutes walk from Eyre Square. We're also a few minutes walk from eachother! Hooray!

School has started for Erik, classes are going pretty well. Very laid back. He has wanted to get started with some clubs (Animal rights club, volunteering club, Socialist party club (;P), Mountaineering club), but his email isn't working at the university so he hasn't heard back from them! He has to get on top of that!
Alyssa has begun her volunteering, starting at the Amnesty international cafe and shop. It serves all fair-trade products from around the world. Everything from baked goods, to tea, to games, to hand drums...all sorts of stuff that are made by workers who are ensured to get a fair return on it. Next week she will begin at an after-school program helping children with homework, working at a Cattery at the Galway Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (GSPCA), and another after school program. Good thing she likes kids!

Obviously there is a ton more to say, but we have just felt so overwhelmed by trying to update everything that has happened in this one post. I think now we will be able to update it much more often, detailing things maybe we missed, things that will happen, and more, all the little details we observe. Everything is so different, but not overtly different. Subtle details that remind us daily how far we are from home--a place we miss very much, but are just as excited to be having a new, temporary one here, across the pond on the coast of the Emerald Isle.