My First Two Weeks in Ireland: Thoughts/Feelings/Impressions

So today marks my seventeenth day as a resident of the great country of Ireland!  (HOW has it only been seventeen days? It feels like it’s already been much longer than that!)  My first week here was spent with mom, which was a great time.  We did lots of exploring; we walked to Poolbeg Lighthouse (which is quickly becoming one of my favorite walks of all time), we saw Christ Church Cathedral and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, we drove through Phoenix Park, we did a tour of Trinity and we saw the Book of Kells.  We also did some great souvenir shopping.  I bought myself a penny whistle (because I wanted to start playing tin whistle again) but it cost €8 and is complete crap so I’m regretting my decision…  Next time I will actually invest in a good whistle! And we did a lot of shopping at Penney’s and bought things such as duvet covers and fluffy robes (always an essential wardrobe component) and tennis shoes.  Mom also bought me a great pair of hiking boots that I LOVE and I have already used a ton (so thank you, Mom!!).

The week that mom left was orientation week, so I thought I would be pretty busy.  But it turned out that I only needed to do a few housekeeping things, such as get my student LEAP card and my student ID card and open a bank account.  So most of last week I just hung out at the house.  I did some walks, went into campus a few times, and cooked a HUGE amount of chicken noodle soup with leftover veggies that I had.  (I bought myself a big soup pot that still wasn’t big enough so I ended up using that plus my two biggest pots I already had to cook the soup…  It was quite an adventure!).  On Friday, Miriam (my landlady) took me on a lovely road trip.  We drove from grocery store to grocery store in the Blackrock area and only bought things with yellow “marked down” prices.  It was actually very fun.  We bought some delicious trifle, tiramisu-flavoured yoghurt, granola bars, and a lot of other random items.  We also visited a range of stores, from Tesco to Marks & Spencer to Donnybrook Fair.  Before we went on this trip I was planning to take the train to Dún Laoghaire (pronounced “Dun Leary”), but Miriam was gardening when I went out and she told me to wait a bit because it was going to rain.  So we went into the house and had a cup of tea (and biscuits for me because I’m addicted to chocolate) and chatted about life.  And then we went in and watched some BBC News.  And then we went on our grocery store trip, so we spent a good 5 hours together on Friday.  It was great bonding time!

The activity fair for Fresher’s Week

On Saturday I went to Linda’s house and helped her clean the house.  Her daughter was working as a stage manager intern for a modern dance performance that was part of the Dublin Fringe Festival, so she invited me to go along to that in the evening with her and her husband.  It was a really interesting show, and afterwards they made me dinner which was so kind of them!  Sunday was the all-Ireland Gaelic Football Final, between Dublin and Mayo.  I went to Linda’s house to watch it, and it was so intense!  They played in overtime and we really thought Mayo might have a chance!  But Dublin won (so yay, but also sad for Mayo).  I think some of my ancestors may have been from Mayo, so I was rooting for them!

A stream in the Wicklow Mountain National Park

This past week was a blur of induction things for my program and working a part-time internship with a non-profit music center in Dublin.  Monday I had an interview for the internship, was offered the internship (on a very temporary basis), went back to campus to do some more induction classes (aka meeting with the program directors who basically told us what to expect from the course) and then went back to the music center to start my first day working there!  Tuesday was also busy because I had my YMCA class directly after class and work.  Wednesday was supposed to be an easy day, but I went to 7 hours of research and career presentations on campus (which were very interesting!) and then went to work for a few hours and didn’t get home until 7 or so.  I also slept in on Wednesday and was 30 minutes late to watch the presentations!  So I’m learning my lesson – multiple alarms from now on!

Making our way through the peat bogs on the Wicklow Mountains

Thursday my program went for a beautiful hike in the Wicklow Mountains.  I was expecting a hike in the woods in a typical National Park setting, but I was very surprised!  Our first stop was on a mountain road in the middle of a peat bog landscape.  We were very elevated, in the middle of the “Wicklow Mountains”, and it was very windy and chilly.  But so beautiful!  Our program leaders walked us out into the bog, and it felt like we walked really far because we were jumping from grass mound to grass mound to avoid the boggy wetlands, jumping across small trenches where water was flowing, and generally trying not to twist our ankles or get soaked.  But we really only walked out from the road a few hundred metres!  After that, we drove into Glendalough (pronounced “Glen-da-lock”) and went to the Wicklow Mountains National Park “official entrance” (I don’t know what else to call it – where all the car parks were…  But technically the whole mountain area is part of the WMNP).  There we had lunch and then a park ranger (with an adorable dog) talked to us about the logistics of running a National Park.  She explained the frustrations of dealing with local legislature, lack of budget, and other such issues that the park has faced.  We then climbed a very steep trail and then went off the trail to climb an even more steep hillside.  I felt like a billy goat!  It was really fun, but I’m very surprised nobody fell and seriously injured themselves…  After the hike, I was meant to be going to a choral performance at the National Concert Hall at 6.30.  However, the hike that was supposed to be over by 5pm didn’t get us back to campus until 6.15pm.  So I ran to the NCH in my muddy hiking boots because I didn’t have time to change!  I was late, but they let me in anyway.  It was an INCREDIBLY interesting performance where the Chamber Choir of Ireland read through two pieces by two composers that were still (kind of ) in the works.  Once they read through the pieces, the conductor and the composer had a conversation about what worked and what didn’t work, tweaking things and having the choir sing new versions of passages to try to bring the piece to the next level.  It was so interesting!  The composers featured were Michael Gallen and Amanda Feery, and I was very honored to get to meet them after the performance.  Their pieces were really stunning!

The view from a lookout point in the Wicklow Mountains
Gathering for our talk about the National Park

Friday we talked about our fieldtrip to PORTUGAL for my course (which I am very excited about, but they made the fieldwork involved sound very daunting…  So I left the meeting feeling drained without having done anything!).  Later in the afternoon I went to the music center to help set up for the ‘pop up’ opera that they were putting on for Culture Night (check out more information about Culture Night here!).  So I got to watch them set up and do sound checks, and then I was in charge of photography and social media during the performances.  There were four performances, and I was so amazed by how many people showed up for them!  It was a really cool experience.  The opera (called Beneath Iseult’s Tower – the story of Isuelt’s Tower here) was commissioned by the music center specifically for Culture Night.  The three composers (Elis Czerniak, Sínead Finegan and Norah Walsh) also performed in the opera, which was very interesting (more info on the opera here).  After the performance, we had a few glasses of wine with them and the other people involved in making the opera a success!

The last performance of “Beneath Iseult’s Tower” – being performed right next to Handel’s Arch!

So that is basically a list of all of the things I’ve done so far.  I’m really enjoying Irish sayings such as “I’m absolutely wrecked” and “it’s raining cats” and “come here to me” and “I haven’t been out that way in donkey’s years” or “that’s gas”.  I also am missing Mexican food, which is a silly thing to miss!  I did try eating at Tolteca yesterday, and it’s very similar to Chipotle except better somehow…  The cheese is obviously Irish cheese, but besides that I can’t pinpoint what the difference is!  I also have been loving the weather, mostly because it’s been really sunny and mild for almost a week!  But even when it’s raining and windy, I really enjoy it.  Does that make me strange?

The world premiere of “Beneath Iseult’s Tower”!

So there you have it!  I’m sure I’ll have loads more intel after I’ve been here longer, but I figured there are probably some people (I’m assuming a grand total of two people) who are interested to know these minute details of my life here so far.  So for those two people – I hope this makes you happy!

Taking pictures for Culture Night!

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