May 18, 2012

The quest to find the perfect lephracaun..

Well, it has been QUITE some time since my last post and I should forewarn you that I am running on little sleep and a looot of caffeine so my grammar and spelling are going to be a wee bit.. well, destined for failure. Today marks the end of day 3 on my Irish adventure and it's seriously hard to believe that I have only been here for three days. I guess I should start with the run down of the basics. From May 15-29 I will be in Dublin, then Cork, then Kinsale, then back to Dublin, Ireland for a "Traditional Irish Music" study abroad program. I am taking Irish Step Dance classes (one day in and already can barely walk), Gamelean classes (crazy drums and wooden xylophone looking instruments that make a very African sound), and of course.. the Irish fiddle. We met with our instructors today at the College of Cork which is located in an ancient church at the top of the city center in the town of Cork. Cork is located on a beautiful river which apparently has a lot of trout in it (according to a very old drunk Irish man). My instructor for fiddle is a sweet, sweet old man with an accent that is very specific to the area of Ireland he is from. Southern Irish sounds very sing-songy as opposed to the Northern accent that is almost British sounding and very monotone. He has us learning tunes by ear that he has picked up over the years from different pub sessions around the country and he learned from his family. Music is mostly orally taught and passed down through just remembering the sounds and trying to imitate them yourself. There is very few people I met that have had formal training and they are definitely not formal instructors with their teaching methods by any means, not that it would matter much anyways because I can only make out about 1/2 of what my professor is saying. Our grade is off of our attendance in local pub sessions and reflection papers on things we're learning from locals.. so I guess I'll share a few stories now and stop with the boring background information.. here goes, brace yourself!

Here's just a random place in Dublin but shows how much Irish pride they have. There are sports/rugby bars like this everrrrywhere.

Night one in the pub:
Well, at midnight seeing as to I turned 21, a few of us ventured out on our own to find a hole in the wall pub in downtown Dublin. Little did we know, there is an entire street dedicated to pubs and pub sessions (session are when local musicians come play for just free beer traditional jigs and reels) called "Temple Bar Street" in which they hand out wristbands for free shots and hate American tourists. The irony in their hatred is that it is just spun off the fact that we as tourists got to witness THEIR love for OUR music! We landed in an itty, bitty pub (not wider than a single wide) in which there were wall-to-wall locals screaming American songs such as "brown-eyed girl", "don't stop believin", and "fat bottom girls". They messed up about every word but were so drunk they didn't care and turned off any Irish music that came on. The funniest part of the night was not even the irony but the extent to which they party on a week night. There was a fat old man (in his 70s) running around twisting his shirt over his head, "like a helicopter" as Petey Pablo once put it, with his beer gut hanging out and hairy chest and belly exposed to the entire general public. Every girl loved him. It was the biggest culture shock I think I've ever experienced. Who woulda thought an old Irish man would have such a love for "Fat Bottom Girls" and U2 songs? :)  Needless to say, about 4 of us stayed for a few hours and experienced firsthand this American music love-hate relationship and observed the obnoxious drunks over a few local Irish beers such as Murphy's, Guiness, Blarney Blonde, and Smithwicks. What a 21st birthday...

Here are my two best gurrrrfrans on the trip & I at Temple Bar Street.. where I spent my 21st birthday!

Night 2 in the pubs:
I don't think I could've asked for a better way to bring in my legal drinking age birthday. NO words can describe what we witnessed in the pubs tonight. I learned more about culture, politics, southern pride, and farming in this one night than I have from entire textbooks about Irish "culture". The night started with our class arriving at about 8pm (early, I know), to watch local musicians perform on the banjo and violin. They were INCREDIBLE and drew a very local crowd (about 20 men and no women). My professor warned us that Ireland has a large population of Africans that can be very hostile at the beginning of the night, this statement made us all a little bit uncomfortable and wonder if he was just being racist. Then we realized, he was more than right. A Sudan man approached all the girls at the bar quickly upon our arrival that spoke virtually no English besides "Can I ask you a question, I like your hair and teeth." and "I am a man". We tried to be nice at first until he tried to KISS my roommate, Hannah, and then tried to kiss a boy in the group as well. We had already made friends with the local bartender who was telling us stories about his hometown and guessing which parts of America we were from and asking us about our politics and if we liked Obama (the Irish LOVE him because he is from here) who luckily decided he would come to our rescue. The Sudan man persisted to stalk us throughout the night even when told to go away and then tried to kiss the Irish bartender (who was a male as well) who then proceeded to tell him to "get the f out". A short and sweet gesture that put everyone at ease :). Then, I met two wonderful old Irish men - one I could barely understand and was missing his two front teeth, and one a local pub owner that was taking care of the old man. They told us that the best beer was Murphy's because it supports Cork's local economy and Blarney Blonde because nuns brew it in the local convent around the corner from our hotel. How ironic! He found out it was my birthday from some classmates and decided to buy our drinks all night and told us about how Irish people HATE Englishmen (which there were quite a few of at the bars that kept on making fun of us for being slow Americans that couldn't be trusted with fake teeth) and how much their local economy was hurting. Right now there is a huge political debate in Ireland over whether to start their own currency, called the Punt, instead of the Euro so they will no longer be impacted by Spain and Greece's financial crisis. The English get quite a kick out of this and make fun of all of the Irish for being poor and dumb. Needless to say, it got a little dramatic between the two groups of men throughout the night and we decided to not stay long enough to see how it all panned out. But, I did stay long enough to have my birthday diva moment and stand up for my Irish men friends (especially the precious 70 year old old man that held my hand when we left saying how glad he was we talked to him in barely legible English) and tell the English men to "F off" after they constantly harassed us from about 5 feet away about how dumb we were. They couldn't stop laughing then asked if I was from Texas because I looked like a farmer. Let's just say I didn't stoop to their level and respond.. I had a few words brewing but decided to not get locked up abroad.

Phew, I need to stop writing about my diva moments it just brings back strong feelings. :) So anyways, now would be the time you have all been probably waiting for and to answer the question on most people's mind when they enter Ireland.. "what the HELL do they EAT!?" Well, meat. Irish bacon (more tender than ham), blood sausage (or as they like to call it.. "pudding"), fried eggs, and toast with black current jelly (similar to blackberry jam) is the "traditional Irish breakfast". The eggs are local and the meat is all free range (which we witnessed while driving here from Dublin) and you can tell a SERIOUS difference. Lunch is almost always sandwiches. The main sandwiches that are served here are chicken and chicken stuffing (YUMMY), Irish ham and cheese, and egg salad (my favorite). For dinner there are several things served here that you can't go wrong ordering. First, for some reason they have extremely good Indian and Thai food.. their currys are to die for and super spicy. Then, there is fish and chips of course which is always good. And finally, the regular Irish dinner... meat and potatoes. Lamb to be specific and sometimes duck, but the Irish beef is insanely good and very, very moist and fresh tasting. So to put it nicely.. BRING TUMS IF YOU EVER WANT TO SURVIVE IN IRELAND. Or you will spend half of your trip in your beautiful hotel bathroom...

meat for breakfast! suprise.. :) the little black thing is blood sausage (aka black pudding)

Castles... holy crap, I found where Repunzel lived. We visited The Rock of Cashel (where the original St. Patrick's cross is) that dates back to the year 500 a.d. and his medieval coats of arms all over it. I have never been so smitten IN MY LIFE. We rolled in the grass hills (kid you not), climbed castle walls (probably not legally), read about 100 old royal graves, and pretended to be princesses wandering through the old town that surrounded the old King of Munster's "humble home". Interesting history lesson on that.. we learned from a local that half of the structure they are trying to raise money to rebuild currently because someone in the 1916 uprising tried to set it on fire because the Bishop used to live in the castle. They literally tried to smoke him out because there is no chimney! We will later be visiting the Blarney castle of course to kiss the infamous Blarney stone and I will for sure put pictures up of that as well.

here's a picture of one of the castles in Ireland called Rock of Cashel. It was in use for the King of Munster from 500 A.D. to 1101 then the Bishop lived there until someone caught half of it on fire to smoke him out and try and kill him. (drama drama drama!! :) )

Here is a beautiful Cork, Ireland street.. we ate at a restaurant in the inside of one of these cottages called "Granny's Kitchen" with about ten tables and the lady went out the back door after we ordered to just cook it in her house. Cute as can be. So much greenery and sheep throughout this area.

And finally, my personal favorite, the fashion. I honestly expected everyone to wear all black here like they do in Europe and boy was I wrong. I have never seen so many neon, bright patterns IN MY LIFE. It's funny that we get the reputation for having obnoxious American fashions. Most Irish (even the older crowd) wear very bright colored trench coats, wonderful boots, colorful glasses, and lots of high heels in funny patterns. Their clothes are very nicely made and relatively cheap compared to America. They are definitely ahead of us on a lot of trends, such as scalloped shorts that are to DIE for, and it's a very good thing I'm on a budget or I would come home with an extra piece of luggage filled with lace-up wedges and real leather boots. The men even wear very brightly colored things. Lots of linen pants, jeans, and very casual business wear. Everyone's hair is always styled, the women mostly tease and straighten their hair, and almost everyone has bleach blonde hair.. I finally fit in! :) Pretty much, to sum up the observations I've made thus far on the fashion in Ireland I can say about three words: bright, obnoxious, linen. Yup, I'm in love.

Anyways, I should probably get some sleep for once.. or go find a pub to crawl in to but I will try and update this at least one more time while I am here. I love you all and thanks for reading this super long update on Ireland. If you can't tell by how many words are in this post that I am travel giddy.. then I don't know when you ever will.

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