Sunday, February 21, 2010

Wrap Up

So as you probably guessed I arrived back in the U.S. quite a while ago:) I'm really bad about finishing this up. It was an amazing semester and I have met friends that I will remember for the rest of my life. I am actually interning this summer in Washington D.C. and Nikki (my Australian roommate) will be visiting family there. I am so excited to see her! I have plans right now for Erika (my Canadian roommate) to come visit me in August this year and go to the Iowa State Fair. And that leaves Mariel (New Zealander roommate), I think I will take a graduation trip to NZ to see her:)

This semester at Purdue has been so crazy. I'm taking 20 credit hours, doing Purduettes and the Purdue Contemporary Dance Company....that doesn't leave too much free time. I'm enjoying being back though, and had a great Christmas with my family. I am so blessed and have enjoyed every minute of my adventures this past semester. I guess this is the official end to my blog, so thanks for following along:)

Friday, December 4, 2009

London, take two!

Yesterday Erika and I flew to London to fulfill my life long dream of seeing the Royal Ballet. We got off to a rocky start. We woke up at 5am in order to take the Aircoach to the Dublin Airport for our 8:10am flight. We had already checked in online and printed out our boarding passes so we asked two security people what the next step was. Both of them said to go through security and head to the gate. We did so and sat at the gate for about an hour. We got in line to board the plane and when we got up there, the Ryanair people wouldn't let us on! Contrary to what the two airport people had said we were supposed to have a stamp on our boarding pass. I was so confused because I've never had to do this before. They made us go back to the beginning and miss our flight. We not only had to wait until 11:40am to fly to London, but Ryanair charged us each 100 Euro as a "transfer fee." Excuse me, but that's the biggest load of bull crap I've ever heard in my life. I've missed a flight like this before with United and they transferred me to the next flight at the gate free of charge. The least I can say is I'm very dissatisfied with Ryanair and plan never to travel with them again.

But we finally got to London and took the Tube to our Hostel: Pickwick Hall. It was an adorable little place a few blocks walk from Holburn Station. It was great because we got dressed up all fancy and then took the Tube down one stop to Covent Garden. Finally one thing worked out that day and we picked up our reserved tickets! I was so relieved!!! We took a look around the gift shop; I bought a Royal Ballet tee and Erika got her mom a Nutcracker doll. Although it was raining we explored the Covent Garden market before the show. Our seats were in the upper amphitheatre but they were great! We were in the forth row and had a wonderful view down on the stage. The Sugar Plum Fairy and Caviler were absolutely wonderful! Their performance was flawless and the audience just couldn't get enough of them.

The next day we toured the Tower of London. We saw the Henry VII: Dressed to Kill exhibition. I find it slightly unsettling that they make such a big deal out of a guy who wasn't very nice. I learned from the exhibition that Henry VIII spent the modern day equivalent of one billion pounds on seeking out war. On top of that he killed all of his wives because they couldn't provide him with children (which was probably his fault anyway). I guess it was cool to learn about his many suits of armor he had made for him. I guess the only justice was that when he died at the age of 55 he had gotten pretty fat, but that doesn't bring his victims back to life.

After lunch we took a tour of the Globe Theatre. It is the third Globe. The first was burned down in the Great London Fire, and the second one was torn down by the Puritans because they thought theatre was evil. Our tour guide was an adorable man who was really excited about what he had to say. Overall it was the best tour of the day.

We swung back by the hostel to pick up our backpacks and then headed to Harrod's. We walked around the designer rooms and were in awe of the expensive prices. It was the poshest shore I've ever been in! I don't think they have it right in their slogan when they say, "All Things for All People, Everywhere." I think they really mean All Things for Only Rich People, Everywhere. I'm really glad I was able to see it though because it was the most beautiful store I've ever been in. And they had really nice bathrooms!

Now I need to get to studying for finals because my first one is next Tuesday. I have four next week and just one the next week. I can't wait until I'm done on the 14th because then I'm home free until I fly back to Iowa on December 20th!






Covent Garden decorated for Christmas



The Royal Opera House ceiling



The Royal Opera House stage



The Royal Opera House balconies



In our seats before the show:)



The Royal Ballet dancers



The Sugar Plum Fairy was AMAZING!!!



The Tower Bridge



The Tower of London



Shakespeare's Globe Theatre



Harrod's Department Store

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving

So last Thursday my American friend, Britt, and I attempted to cook Thanksgiving dinner for our friends. I'll cut the suspense and let you know it was kick-butt-awesome! We had a ten pound turkey with an herb honey glaze, stuffing, corn casserole, garlic potatoes, glazed carrots, broccoli with cheese, rolls, sugar cream pie, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and brownies with white chocolate chunks. Needless to say I was in a food coma before dessert even began.

It was so much fun to prepare the meal together. As Britt said, we all now fully appreciate how much our mothers and grandmothers did for us in previous Thanksgivings! I was really worried about the turkey. We didn't know the rule about letting it defrost 24 hours for every four pounds so we ended up having to put it in a water bath the day of. We did all we could and the bird was still a little frosty inside when we removed the innards and extra skin and feathers:( But we didn't get food poisoning so that's a plus. Did I mention that our oven here in Merville Residences is crazy hot? Well the turkey finished about an hour ahead of schedule so absolutely nothing else was done! We scrambled to boil the potatoes, cook the veggies, and bake the corn casserole. It all got done and we just sort of reheated everything when we were ready to eat:)

Since it's been a couple of days since Thanksgiving I've had some time to reflect. I saw on the news Friday the story of the man shooting his family at Thanksgiving dinner. I thought to myself that the victims probably had no idea it was going to happen. They probably sat down to eat just like my friends and I had and it just happened. It made me think about how grateful I am to have such a wonderful family and great friends, and know that we would never hurt each other like that.

To whoever reads this I love and miss you so much!!! And I can't wait until we're reunited in December:)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Midweek Thoughts

The weather is crazy here. I have never experienced wind like I have today. You may think you've had wind, but has it been gale-force, hurricane-like wind? I about got blown away today...several times. And it was raining. So of course you can't use an umbrella in a hurricane so I just got wet. :( Now that that's out of the way, I came to a realization today. I am a member of the Drama Society at UCD. It gets you discounts at all of the shows they do. I think it's so amazing that they put on at least one (if not two) plays each week! This semester I've seen "The Importance of Being Earnest," "An Ideal Husband" and "The Reduced Shakespeare Experience." They were all so good! And since I've seen just these three plays, I have noticed that I see their characters throughout campus every day. I find myself staring an extra second at a stranger only to realize they were the priest in a play I've seen. I bet they think I'm loony.

PS-I am officially finished with all labs for the semester, woop woop!!!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Galway & the Aran Islands

This weekend was the BEST trip we've had so far in Ireland!!! It was forcasted to rain all weekend (imagine that) but it didn't rain once on our sight seeing! Thursday afternoon Britt, Mariel and I took a bus to Galway city. After dropping our stuff off and eating at the hostel we took a night walk around Galway City. We saw the River Corrib and the Cathedral of St. Nicholas lit up at night. It was so weird though, because there were scientists catching eels in the river...we watched them dump out their nets of eels into large garbage cans. There were so many eels and they were writhing all over the place! Gross:(

Friday morning we took a bus from Galway to the ferry that would bring us to the Aran Islands. We found our hostel and then rented bikes for the day. We biked around the largest island, Inis Mor, to see the best ringed fort in Ireland. It's called Dun Aonghasa and is perched on top of some seriously high cliffs. It's about 2,000 years old, an the walls are 10 feet high and 13 feet thick! We had some lunch at the only cafe around an then biked back to the town. There are only about 300 people who live on the island which is odd to think about. Well, we were exhausted so we went back to the hostel to take a nap. It was absolutely FREEZING in there so Mariel and I took a nap with our coats on...we woke up in time for supper at Ti Joe Watty's pub. It was the best feeling to get in there because it was so warm with a fire crackling in the fireplace. It was obvious we were "outsiders" so we got a lot of funny looks and questions. The people were very nice though. It was pitch black when we walked home two hours later, with no streetlights down the rock path to our hostel. Since it was the off season we were the only three guests in the hostel. It kind of freaked us out because there were no locks on any of the doors, but we managed to make it through the night. After a nice breakfast we took the 8:15am ferry back to the mainland.

On Saturday we took a bus tour to the Cliffs of Moher. We had wonderful, but windy, weather for this attraction. It was absolutely breathtaking!!! The Cliffs go along the coastline for five miles and are as high as 650 feet above the Atlantic! As hard as it is to believe, they are only the third tallest in Ireland. They're just so famous because they are so accessible to tourists. Our bus driver gave us the parting advice of not climbing over the barricades to get a better look. He said a couple of years ago a 20 year old Hungarian guy tried this and fell to his death. At that height it's just like hitting a cement floor. Then we drove back through the Burren region that the Cliffs are located in. It's a region of National importance and protected by their government. It supports the greatest diversity of plants in Ireland. Limestone, created from layers of coral, seashells, and mud, is the bedrock of the Burren. Geologic forces in the earth's crust heaved up the land, and the glaciers swept it bare and left boulders as they receded. Rainfall reacted naturally with the limestone to create a mild but determined acid, slowly drilling potholes into the surface. Rainwater cut through weak zones in the rock to create Europe's most extensive system of caves. The beautiful flowers that bloom here are grown on a special soil that's a combination of algae powder, bug parts and bunny turds.

When we got back that evening we checked into the Kinlay House Hostel. This place was magical and like a hotel!!! It's the best hostel we've ever stayed in:) After dinner we set out to check out the local pubs. We first went to An Pucan Pub where we receive a complimentary pint. We watched a little of the soccer match on TV before heading over to the Crane. This place has the best Irish music in town! We stayed for a couple hours to enjoy the spontaneous music before heading back to get to bed.

Sunday was spent looking around the town. Mariel gave us a guided walking tour (since none were going on) with the help of Rick Steves. She was wonderful! We did a little shopping and then caught the bus back to Dublin. Once again, this was the best trip ever!!! Now it's time to put my nose to the grindstone and get some work done because finals are coming up. The only other trip I have planned now is to fly to London on December 2nd to see the Royal Ballet perform the Nutcracker...a life-long dream of mine.






We three friends embark on our journey to the Aran Islands on a ferry boat...



First photo stop on our bicycle ride around Inis Mor of the Aran Islands!



There was no fence so I peered over the edge...thank God I'm still alive!



Crashing waves on the largest Aran Island: Inis Mor



A 300 year old thatched-roof Irish house



The Cliffs of Moher, they are only Ireland's 3rd highest cliffs...I'd hate to peer over the tallest ones!



Dunguaire Castle



Lynch's Castle: Now the Allied Irish Bank, Galway's best late 15th century fortified townhouse was home of the Lynch family, the most powerful of the town's 14 tribes (more than 80 Lynch mayors ruled Galway in the 16th and 17th centuries).



Sea side street in Galway



Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Galway

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Weekend Around Dublin

This weekend was a very cultural one at that. On Saturday Mariel, Erika and I went to see the Edvard Munch Prints exhibit at the National Gallery of Ireland. It was amazing! They had a collection of 39 prints of his, and the owner of "The Scream" let the Gallery borrow it for this exhibition. I must say that I would consider the majority of Munch's work as dark. A lot of it was about death and no wonder considering both his mother and sister died of TB. The literature around the prints also mentioned that Munch experienced a nervous breakdown in the early 20th century. I was surprised to learn that Munch only died in 1944; I think that's very recent for an artist so well known! Usually famous artists lived in the 17th and 18th centuries when I think about it. Does that make sense? After this exhibit we went to The National Wax Museum Plus. It was alright but not as good as others I suspect. We saw many people of wax such as Samuel Beckett, Oscar Wilde, Santa Claus, The Simpsons, Gollum, Jack Nicholson as The Joker, and Hannibal Lector. I think the best part was the vault rooms in the basement of the museum that had Irish history. We learned about the 1916 Rising, the Salmon of Knowledge, and Setanta.

On Sunday Mariel and I set out for another cultural day at the Irish Museum of Modern Art. It is housed in the old Royal Hospital Kilmainham, which was built in 1684 as a home for retired soldiers and continued for almost 250 years. After repairs in 1980 the building was fit for the Museum opening in 1991. We saw some very odd things, along with some cool stuff. The weirdest thing I thought was an artist who put powerstrips and plug-ins all over a room and that was "art." I feel like the problem with modern art (for me) is that often I feel like I could have done the same thing, so I do not appreciate it as much as an elaborate painting. Since we finished shortly there, we decided to go back to the National Gallery to actually take a look at the paintings there. Some of the highlights we saw were Caravaggio's "The Taking of Christ," Vermeer's "Lady Writing a Letter," Velazquez's "Kitchen Maid with the Supper at Emmaus," Monet's "Argenteuil basin with a single sailboat," and a Picasso. It was a beautiful building to look at. There was a security guard in one of the largest rooms who was dosing in his seat. It reminded me of the beginning of the movie "Bean" where Mr. Bean is slowly falling from his chair while napping at his post. Eventually he falls to his knees on the floor and as his head hits the floor a hallow noise rings out. It made me laugh to picture this! When we had our fill of the paintings we walked across the street to Merrion Square in search of the Oscar Wilde statue. We found him perched on a rock and climbed up there with him to snap a few photos. It was a great weekend at home in Dublin, but I can't wait until next weekend when we visit Galway and the Aran Islands!





Oscar Wilde made of wax



The Wax Museum in Dublin...The Simpsons!



Irish Museum of Modern Art



Modern art piece



Rabbit with drum statue at Irish Museum of Modern Art



Oscar Wilde statue in Merrion Square

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween in Derry

This past weekend was spent celebrating Halloween in Derry, Northern Ireland, not to be confused with the Republic of Ireland. As we learned this weekend from our tour of Free Derry this was a long and bloody process to become what Derry is today. The civil rights movement in Ireland has its deepest roots in Derry. After countless attacks of British and Unionists on Irish civilians many riots took place in the streets. In January of 1969 the defiant slogan "You Are Now Entering Free Derry" appeared on a gable wall in the Bogside area of town. It still stands today as a reminder of Derry's history. The most famous event that took place here is known as Bloody Sunday. On this day 14 unarmed demonstrators were shot dead and 14 others injured by the British army in the streets. This was a defining moment for the IRA to gain more support in their crusade for justice and equal rights. Basically there was a plantation created here by the British who sent over protestants to take over the area. In those days you had to be wealthy to vote, so gerrymandering made it possible for the protestants to have 2/3 majority in the votes. The Irish Catholics were never allowed to vote and were kept down by the men in power. Our tour guide said it's not just about religion, it's just that the poor protestants didn't care about equal rights like the Irish Catholics. I learned how bloody and gruesome this portion of Ireland's history was. I was so surprised that I haven't really heard much about it before in school. The murals around Derry were very well done, and you could really see the fear on people's faces.

On a lighter note, we visited the Giant's Causeway. It's a World Heritage Site that stretches four miles of the coast. The shore is covered with large pillars shaped like hexagons that stick up at all different heights. Geologists say that the Giant's Causeway was formed by volcanic eruptions more than 60 million years ago. While the surface of the lava flow quickly it cooled, contracted and cracked into hexagonal columns. As time went by the columns were eroded and broke off into many stair-like steps. We also learned of the mythical origins of the Giant's Causeway. Supposedly, the Ulster giant warrior named Finn MacCool wanted to reach his love on the Scottish island of Staffa (as back then the Causeway reached all the way to Scotland). A rival giant ruined Finn's Causeway as he fled from Finn and tore it up so that he could not be followed.

After we explored the Causeway we returned to Derry to get ready for Halloween night. I was a detective, and made my magnifying glass out of an industrial sized toilet paper roll, a Ticonderoga pencil and plastic wrap. Twas an excellent costume!!! We enjoyed the Halloween parade, fireworks, and a night out at a local club. It was such a great weekend and I'd encourage people to find out more about the Civil Rights Movement in Ireland. Enjoy the pictures...



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Northern Ireland is so beautiful!!!



The train ride was gorgeous!



The Giant's Causeway



The rocks are shaped like hexagons.



I climbed the mountain of rocks!



Murals in the Free Derry portion of town. They represent the Nation Civil Rights movement that happened here just about 40 years ago. That's recent history!



Erika wanted it to look like I was eating the rocks...I don't think it worked.



The rocks were so tall.



I was a detective and Mariel was a pixie. We had great costumes:)



These kids were so cute! There was a band entertaining us with songs and the kids were dancing around. I think that dancing is in the Irish blood because these kids were great!



There was a parade at nightfall along the Foyle River. Here are some kids that walked in the parade.



There were beautiful masks.



There were fireworks over the Foyle River



I met a hot dog!!!