Archive for March, 2010

There’s No Place (Like an Irish) Home

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

            In an experience like no other I’ve had yet in Ireland, Maura and I went home with our Irish roommates this weekend. For the most part, I’ve written just about the out-trips we’ve taken from Cork on the weekends, but I’ve neglected to mention some of the most enjoyable times we’ve had, where all of these lovely trips have ended- in the kitchen of Apartment 19 with Emma, Fiona and Mairead. Accuse me of not taking full advantage of the night life and legal drinking age, not to mention the off-license (liquor store) down the street that delivers, but I have spent many a night sitting around drinking tea (eating chocolate), and just talking in the kitchen. And I swear I have learned more in my 3 months with them than in any classroom. Maura and I could not have been luckier than to end up with them. I’m not exaggerating, I’m just being cliché- the time spent with the five of us is what I think I will remember and miss the most when I leave in just two months.

            I got to see a different side of them this past weekend, though. The Irish girls took us home to meet their parents. Friday and Saturday we spent in Fermoy, in County Cork, with Fiona where both she and Mairead live. Sunday Fiona’s mum drove us to Waterford, where we spent the day with Emma (home of the crystal- or it was, but the worldwide economic slump has impacted the crystal industry and unfortunately the factory is closed until further notice, but that is another matter entirely and irrelevant to my weekend spent with the girls). All three girls live up to the Irish agricultural tradition and live on family farms. I don’t know what I expected, but their families were absolutely wonderful people- they welcomed us with open arms- literally, both Emma’s and Fiona’s mothers greeted us with hugs. (And although I will get to see my own mum in just a few days when she and my dad come to visit, it was really nice to have a bit of motherly love after 3 months!).

            Fiona took us all around her town and we got to hang out with all her friends, including Mairead, who she grew up with, in town. Friday night? Not that atypical- out to dinner, and then for a drink at the local pub before going home for a cup of tea. It wasn’t that different than what I would do in America, but I found it all really interesting, entertaining- I was just content to sit back and see what her everyday life was like. Saturday, we saw her farm and had dinner with her family (yes, yes there were indeed potatoes served ;) and went to see one of her friends play the drums for a benefit at a pub in a nearby village. That was another experience altogether- we walked into the pub and instantly it was like everyone’s heads turned and they knew we were outsiders- and not just us, Fiona and her friends from Fermoy didn’t fit in either. I was used to standing out in a crowd here with my Northface jacket and lack of boots and jeggings (jean-leggings, the latest fashion trend), but this really opened my eyes to the regional differences and fierce local loyalty that characterizes Ireland. I live in Northern Virginia- an area where local regional distinctions have been blurred; I couldn’t tell Burke from Springfield from Fairfax- but in the pub in Araglin, just 20 km away, there was definitely a unique character, distinct and unique from that of Fermoy. In such a small country, there is still remarkable diversity. It would be more than a bit ignorant to complete write off Ireland as being uniform, but I still find the regional differences, from the accents to the houses and land

            We got even more of a taste of the diversity of Ireland when we met Emma. We drank tea with her mum and dad and drove all around the county- to Waterford city; to Dunmore, a beachy town; to meet her sister; to a trail in the woods and an old stone tower that offered an amazing view of the five counties that connect to Waterford. I think I’ve seen a lot of Ireland on all the bus trips, but it was really cool to be with Fiona and Emma in a car (oh, how I miss my Ford Taurus!) – I think you see things in a different way when you are whipping along down those narrow country roads- you are just closer to it all. We ended our day back at Emma’s farm (Emma has a dairy farm, with cows for milking, while Fiona’s dad raises cattle to be eaten) and her mum cooked us dinner as well (again, potatoes were served- I told you I had an authentic Irish weekend, didn’t I?). We drove back to Cork with Emma Sunday night and headed right to bed, visions of cattle and Irish countryside dancing through our heads.

(Lack of photos=  Maura took ‘em all, I kept forgetting my camera!)

Updates from Cusco

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

While Cesar and the grandfather played cards I watched the BBC World News – catching up with the world that I have become somewhat estranged from on my quest for the Spanish language.  The reason I mention this is that one of the stories covered was Sectary of State Clinton’s to Mexico.  They were interviewing people from the streets, who of course spoke Spanish and before the English was dubbed over, I could understand what they were saying.  Every time I find a new sign of my bilingualism, I smile and give my self a pat on the back.

I have started my last class in Cusco – Civilization (I just had a time of spelling that word because I was trying to spell in Spanish and of course my laptop did not recognize it, another pat for me).  I have another student in my class, Samuel from Kentucky, a agricultural major who has ignited my desire to drive around the United States camping in national forests the first chance I get.  This class is more like what I would encounter back at UMW.  Little presentations, a lot of homework, and notes; I had forgotten what a college class was like.  The Spanish classes were different and my culture class was simply reading a packet a week and visiting different sites/towns in and around Cusco, neither of which were bad, but definitely new learning environments.

I have not met any new students in the past two weeks.  I was on vacation with my brother (which I believe has started a trend of him and I traveling the world together, at least I hope so) and my class last week was in the afternoon, making it difficult to meet everyone else since they have classes in the mornings.  Now though that I am surrounded by new people I can not be asked to go mingle, at least today, 23 de Marzo, I had no desire to make small talk waiting for the discovery of a thread that could lay a foundation for a meaningful friendship.  I thought of myself as a very social person, relying on those around so I would not feel alone.  However, with my attitude towards the new students today and with the arrival of David, the new boy living with us, maybe I have changed in this aspect.  I know walking to school with David is stressful – deciding where to cross, do I go now in front of this car, will he get left behind, should we take this street or that one.  Maybe I am crazy and walking somewhere with someone on the same route you have taken for the past 3 months is not stressful for everyone.  I wonder if I stressed out Matisse when I walked with him.  I will have to ask him.  Finding independence with in me is another one of those pats on the back moment.

I have also found a deeper connection with the family now that David has arrived, especially with Belinda.  For example, the first morning David was here – he showered and used my towel to dry himself off as it was hanging in the bathroom.  When we were leaving for school, he handed the towel to Belinda not knowing what to do with it.  I saw it was mine, Belinda saw it was mine and she looked at me smirked and told David she would give him a towel since he had not brought one.  This little unseen moment between Belinda made me very happy and laugh later in the morning.

A little Andino lesson for you all or ya’ll which is still a part of my English vernacular, which never fails to make the Europeans laugh.  I have seen little statues in the tourist traps all around Cusco.  A condor and beneath it a puma and beneath that is a serpent.  Today I learned they represent the three levels of the world”

Condor: Hanaq Pacha the world above, the sky or heaven

Puma: Kay Pacha the world that we know, the earth

Serpent: Ukhu Pacha the world below, the underworld

Much to my surprise this morning when I logged onto to EagleNet to register for classes I found that someone had already signed me up for the classes I wanted.  I emailed different people all over UMW, so the investigation will begin soon.  Until then, thank you!

Things To Do and Iguazu In Brief

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

Yay I am finally writing this! I am sitting here at the computer lab at my university…yes, my computer is temporarily broken. I suppose I better make this a long one because it may not be until later in the week or next week until I am able to write again.

My dead computer has several complications: no picture updates YET, and I have to figure out a way to regrister for classes at Mary Wash tomorrow morning. Oh and tomorrow is a national holiday here in Argentina. So I won´t be able to use this computer lab or visit an internet/computer cafe. Thankfully our wonderful Study Abroad Office offered to do it for us, so I just e-mailed them although I will be very very lucky if they are able to do it on time.

I hope this is making sense, I am trying to do a lot at once! I am looking up places in the city that will fix computers (that would be an experience) and also my warranty from Dell which expires on July 14th. But it´s only for the US. I know they have international ones but I will have to look into the details. I also need to find an Apple store to buy a charger for my iPod. Yes, I can get wifi on it, but I can only charge it through my computer! Of course.

Sorry this has turned into my to do list…Enough of the boring stuff. I just had a great weekend at Iguazu Falls!!

[Actually let me again complain again for a second to be done with it. I had this weird itchy rash on my legs last week, my stomach still always hurts when traveling for a long distance and I caught a cold on the 13 hour bus ride there. I am finally feeling a lot better today though!]

So we woke up on the bus in the morning and went to old Jesuit mission ruins. We then had an asado at an estancia a half hour away. There was a pool, hammocks, and areas to play futbol and volleyball. Our hotel was still 3 hours away, but due to an accident and a protest it took us much longer to arrive…We had a late dinner (maybe even for Argentine standards) and I went to bed sick and exhausted.

It rained a lot in the morning when we got there, a lot of my pictures are of me in a lovely poncho. I just almost wrote pancho which means hot dog.

Eventually the rain stopped, and we got soaking wet on our boat ride under the waterfalls anyway. AMAZING. My pictures don´t do it justice and my words definitely won´t either. Here is where I would insert the pictures if I could…but you´ll just have to wait!

Before we left for the airport, we visited a Guaraní villiage. I really wish I could write more about it but it´s getting dark and I better go home.


Ring Around the Kerry

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Doubling up on the school sponsored trips last weekend, I went on UCC’s “Ring of Kerry Heritage Weekend” this past Friday through Sunday. Biggest highlight? Two delicious 3 course meals. And we stayed in a hotel! With a pillow top mattress, hot shower, and 2 pillows!

            But really, besides the accommodation, the trip was wonderful. The Ring of Kerry, in case you don’t feel  like Wikipedia-ing it, is a world-famous 100+ mile driving route in south-western Ireland. Full of fantastic scenery, gorgeous lakes and ocean, and breath taking views, it was a definite must-see in the Study Abroad Ireland Experience. The woman leading the trip, Marian, is a spoken Irish- teacher at UCC, and was from the Kerry area. She seemed to know everyone that we came across and really tried to give us an authentic Irish cultural experience.

Skellig Islands. Isolated ancient Christian heritage sites- pretty cool!

Night #1, for instance, began with the aforementioned delectable dining experience, followed by a talk by Maurice Fitzgerald, a famous Kerry Gaelic footballer, who explained the game and brought along his nine year old son to help teach us some drills. After Maurice, we hs a group of musicians that played while we had a Ceili (pronounced Kaley) Irish dancing class. After working off the dinner, we went to bed to be up early the next morning for the Skellig Ring Tour. The first stop on this more off-the-beaten path area of Kerry was Valentia island, where we stopped at the world-known Valentia slate quarry and took a walk up a mountain with a farmer’s family. Valentia Island looks out on the Skellig Islands and is home to the Skellig Experience, a World Heritage Site. The Skelligs, which were too much of a journey out to see for our group tto go on in our limited time table, were inhabited in the 8th century by Monks looking for complete solitude, which they found (their only company were the massive bird colonies), at least for a while, until the Vikings invaded in the 13th century. We hopped back on the bus (we were on a rather tight schedule) to see Ballinskelligs, where Marian grew up and where her mother (who we got to wave to) still lives. To say it was a lonely area isn’t quite right, because, although the area is very rural, the sense of community that I felt was remarkable- there were so many locals that we got to interact with and that were willing to come meet us as a favor to Marian, one of their own. It was eye opening to see such a different way of life.

The Ballin'-Skelligs. Waterfront view AND a castle? I'll take it!

After an afternoon free to ourselves, another speaker was on Saturday evening- a woman who told us about her life growing up in South Kerry, a large part of which she grew up without electricity, speaking Irish, and attending all of her school years in a one-room school house which required each student to bring in daily a piece of peat for the school fire. After listening to her speak, we were offered a Q and A. Reluctantly, I raised my hand and asked how old she was (in hopefully the politest way possible-  I think that even in Ireland it is a social norm violation to inquire as to a woman’s age). She was 60. Just miles from where our Ring of Kerry Hotel sat, she had lived without electricity for the first 9 years of her life. Do the math- Southern Ireland didn’t have electricity until nearly 1960. And some regions went without until even the 70’s. It’s not a backward area, either. It’s just a different way of life- a simpler way, more personal way of life. Sure they exist in the Internet Age, yes, they have cell phones, but, unlike me, they just don’t spend hours social networking. Their Facebook is the local pub. I can’t really compare it to my way of life- neither better nor worse- just different. Hearing and seeing all that firsthand was probably my favorite (although I remain ever reluctant to use superlatives here) part of the Ring of Kerry weekend.

Table Quiz- still "studying" abroad, even at a pub. It's dedication.

Cahersiveen harbor view from the stone forts

But there was still Sunday. After a table quiz, in which I unfortunately did not succeed in winning the Skellig chocolate prize with my fellow teammates on Saturday night, most of us (those who had not had one too many table quiz pub beverages) left early Sunday morning for a walk around Cahersiveen and up to an ancient Stone fort. We took the rest of the trip in a rather speedy fashion- we met up with students from Galway on the trip and were tightly pressed for time to get them back to the bus station in Kilarney. But we made a few photographing bus stops with commentary provided by the knowledgeable Marian, and visited Daniel O’Connell’s- who is famous for winning Catholic Emancipation for Ireland house in Derrynane. We returned to Cork 5:30 on Sunday, and collapsed in the kitchen of The Spires Apartment 19 with a cup of tea- satisfied and sleepy.

County Kerry

No Hurricane in Townsville

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

After all the fuss to “ready the cyclone kit”, stock up on tin food, and fill the bathtub with water in case the power goes out and we need water, Hurricane Ului did not hit Townsville.

In fact, I woke up yesterday to sun and ended up going on an hour and half walk (there and back) to a public pool before going for a swim in the Ross River for the first time. The Ross River runs by my house, but for some reason my friends and I had only gone to the pool or the beach before.

There apparently are Fresh Water Crocodiles in the River, but as they are smaller and a lot more timid than their cousins, the Salt Water Crocodiles, they never bother the people in the river. Actually, the weekends are very popular for the locals to go swimming in the river, and have a bbq at one of the public bbqs.

Today has absolutely been pouring though! I managed to make it to school without it raining, but ended up getting a ride back from a girl in one of my classes. I’m really lucky; according to the facebook status of one of my roommates, she’s stuck at the school library because she forgot her umbrella and doesn’t want to walk home 25 minutes in a torrential downpour. I hope it stops raining soon so she can come home!

Luckily, I can do all my homework at home tonight, even though I get easily distracted by my lovely roommates!

Here are some pictures of the grocery store leading up to the Hurricane when everyone thought it was going to hit us:

All the bread was gone. Only the super expensive loaves were left.

The Long life milk was gone too.

Our panty was full for once!


Sunday, March 21st, 2010

Outside of the Stadium

Flares at ΠΑΟΚ Stadium

Wednesday, March 10

In America, our most popular sporting events tend to be football, baseball and basketball. In Greece (and the majority of Europe I’m sure), the sport of choice is always soccer. One of the first experiences that I had while I was here was when I was at a taverna with a group of friends. The restaurant’s television showed a soccer game that was being played in Athens. About a quarter of the way through the game, the tv crew stopped covering the game itself but instead began to focus on the audience. Why you may ask? What is more entertaining than watching men wander across a large field and go after a ball for 2 hours? First of all, in my opinion, everything. But for the tv crew, the factor that drove attention away from the riveting soccer game was the fact that a riot had started in the stands. On the right side of the tv screen was policemen with their shields up, looking more frightened than authoritative. On the left side of the screen was angry men with adrenaline rushing to their heads, throwing flares at the police and shouting obscenities at the tops of their lungs.

So, when I was invited to go with a group of ACTers to watch a soccer game this weekend, I weighed my options. I could either have a wild and crazy time at the soccer game and have a risk of getting seriously injured OR I could stay home and write my Anthropology paper. Obviously the first option won out… and to those who are worried about my academics, I’ll have you know that I ended up acing that paper!

Six of us Americans decided to go on our maiden voyage via bus over to our first soccer games ever about half an hour before the game started. The game was between ΠΑΟΚ (PAOK), the best or second best soccer team in Thessaloniki and Panthrakikos, a minor team from Thrace. When we arrived at ΠΑΟΚ stadium, we passed kiosks full of ΠΑΟΚ paraphernalia such as black and white hats and scarves and friends and families gathered around card tables who were finishing off their retzinas and coke. Their form of tailgating at games is much more sophisticated than how us beer-crazed Americans go about it. We had to hunt down the admissions office for Gate 6 and paid 25 euros to get into the game. One of the biggest differences between ΠΑΟΚ stadium and the American stadiums that I’ve been to is that all of the sales for food and souveniers is done outside the stadium. Inside the stadium is all about the game with no material distractions. Another difference is the fact that the food being sold consisted of skewers of meat (σουβλάκι), roasted seeds and walnuts. People were also selling large squares of styrofoam. It took us a while to figure out what they were for but one of the people I was with recognized that the salesmen were yelling the Greek word μαξιλάρι which means pillow. My friends Aidan and Niko bought some for 50 lepta each.

We had to walk through censors and had to be checked and patted down. When we got into the massive stadium, there was a sea of people wearing black and white in the stands and two teams dueling on the field with all eyes on the ball. We found our section and sat down on our cold hard bucket seats. I found myself envying Aidan and Niko’s styrofoam pillows. Up in the stands in the most infamous area known as Gate 4, there was a mass of people jumping up and down to the beat of a massive drum that could be heard throughout the stadium. They were chanting words known by heart that could only be about pride for ΠΑΟΚ. At various times, people could be seen shoving each other in the excitement and then some would fall like dominoes down the decline of the stands.

I learned that whistling is the same thing as “boo” – a distracting sound made when the opposing team has the ball. I also learned that when a goal is made, it is perfectly acceptable to shout as loudly as possible, shove anyone around you and light flares. That’s right. Flares. It is also acceptable to throw the flares toward the very same field that your favorite soccer stars are playing on. After the second goal that ΠΑΟΚ scored, the smoke was so thick that it was hard to see the other side of the stadium.

We all decided to leave 10 minutes before the game ended. We were very cold and very tired and a little apprehensive of what the crowd would be like at the game’s end. We waited for the bus home but soon found out that because of the game, the bus was cancelled. So, we walked along the busy roads for 20 minutes to find a cab. Aidan used his Bostonian cab-hailing skills and finally got us a taxi.

At the end of the day I was very cold and tired but the entire experience was totally worth it. And ΠΑΟΚ won 3-0. Go ΠΑΟΚ!

To see pictures from the game, go here:


Saturday, March 20th, 2010

I was originally going to write about The 39 Steps and Alice in Wonderland, both of which I enjoyed in very different ways, but I haven’t the heart. Starting Thursday night my living situation kind of exploded in my face and next week I’m going to be moving into a new flat. On Monday I head off on my first excursion outside of London and am really nervous about the whole thing. I’ve discovered that any amount of stress makes me really homesick, so right now I’d like nothing better than to take a flight home and not come back to London until I’ve graduated from college. Of course that’s not really an option, at least not right now. I will say this though: I love this city and I think if my time here had started out differently and if I’d had at least one person from home with me, I wouldn’t be quite so miserable right now. But I can’t change the past, so here’s the future.
I will say this about The 39 Steps: If you ever get a chance to see it, do it. It’s one of the most brilliant plays I’ve ever seen and is now officially my second favourite play after The Importance of Being Earnest. As for Alice in Wonderland only see it if you can see it on a big screen and in 3-D. Otherwise, I don’t think it would really be worth it.
There probably won’t be any updates until I get back from Liverpool at the end of the week. I’ll be registering for classes for the fall while I’m in Liverpool, but I’d prefer to not have to bring my computer with me, but even if I do, I probably won’t update anyway. Until then, don’t panic (I’ll try not to.)


Saturday, March 20th, 2010

So since I live in an apartment with 3 other girls of course the topic of shopping has come up and we have gone several times. We live near one of the main malls in Buenos Aires called Alto Palermo. It is within walking distance and is comparable to a mall anywhere else in the world. When inside you feel like you could be anywhere in the US or the world. It is nicer and bigger than the mall at home. However, the stores here are pretty different. Most of the stores are little boutiques with a small selection but very nice. They range in price but most are comparable to the US, cheaper than a department store but not quite at the level of Ross. We live in a very trendy, desirable barrio so we also have lots of shops all around on the streets near our apartment. One thing that is interesting is that sometimes there are two prices listed for the same item- one for effectivo(cash) and one for tarjeta(credit card). The cash price is always cheaper of course. The ladies who work in the boutiques are always very nice and try to help you as much as they can. It can be interesting when picking out clothes here because a lot of things only come in one size. Here it is even more imperative you try things on because sizes can be relative or nonexistent in most cases. I have bought some shirts/dresses and a cruel pair of sandals. Overall, shopping here is a totally different experience than at home.

Grocery shopping is a whole other experience. We have a “disco” grocery store less than a block from our apartment and another larger, more American grocery store about 2 blocks away. The grocery stores here have less items to choose from and the stock is extremely variable from week to week. They do not have things in cans or jugs. Milk and juices come in like giant juice boxes, but in liters not gallons. It can be extremely tricky to find what you want due to the language barrier but for the most part you can extrapolate what things are. There is no definite organization or signs so I usually just zigzag up the aisles to make sure I find everything I want. For the most part there is very little prepared or processed food here. The cheese here is extremely good. The fruits and veggies are also super fresh and delicious. Especially the mangoes. This week I discovered the 2nd grocery store which has more American brands. I was so excited to find prego pasta sauce, hunts bbq sauce, and kettle cooked potato chips. You never realize how much eating things you know and recognize means to you until it is impossible. I had bbq chicken last night and it was to die for- quite possibly the best meal I have cooked yet. Most of the food here is reasonably priced but some things are more here. Campbells soup is like $5 a can here. You would never think that in a country known for beef and meat they would be expensive and sort of hard to come by. The President just told the people of Argentina to start eating fish instead. Seems ridiculous that in a beef country you’re not supposed to eat beef. The beef that stays in Argentina is not as good as what they export also. Water water everywhere but not a drop to drink. Kind of bizarre. I’ll just stick to chicken which also seems a little pricey to me. 30 pesos ($8) for 3 chicken breasts, albeit large ones.

Tonight will be a relaxed movie night for me and my roommate. The nice thing is the movies here are in English with Spanish subtitles so it’ll almost be like home. Plus we have a 2×1 coupon, we’re such big spenders. Buenos noches

Hurricane Ului to hit Townsville tomorrow!

Saturday, March 20th, 2010

Tomorrow Morning (March 21, my time) a category 3 hurricane is expected to hit the coast of Townsville.

Hopefully there isn’t too much damage, but my roommates and I stocked up on a lot of canned food and water in case we lose power for a few days.

Here’s some links if you want to follow the hurricane’s progress:…

Microsoft Excel 2007 is my best friend.

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Yes, it’s true. I don’t know where I would be without the trusty Excel programs helping me determine how much money I’ve been spending a week and on what, how much money I have left to do fun trips in Australia in such an easy to read format.

I am also appreciative of the fact that UMW requires Business majors to take a class on how to use Excel and Access because that class showed me a lot of time saving and useful tips on how to take full advantage of these programs. I think they should offer more sections of this class for people to take because it is so useful across all the disciplines.

On a related note, I spent TWO hours today figuring out my finances for Australia. This is mostly because I was backlogged on entering in data for four weeks, so I had to catch up on all of that.
The good thing about spending so much time on this is that I know mostly where I stand in terms of how much money I have for Australia. The bad thing is I’ve realized how much money I have for Australia.

Before my travelling adventures began, I had the optimistic notion of travelling all across Australia: north, south, east, and west. When I was in New Zealand, I also decided I wanted to travel to South Asia to continents like Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand with my friend Kristen from Contiki.

Sadly that dream was shattered when I told my mom about all my grand traveling plans and Mom said, “Sarah, are you finding the money for these trips at the end of the rainbow?”

Yes, being a broke college student with a limited budget is not conducive to grand traveling adventures. I’ve been trying to find a job in Townsville to help finance some OZ trips (Ozzies make bank here! One 21 year old girl working at a grocery store gets $21 an hour!!!!), but it’s nearly impossible for three reasons:
1) I’m only going to be here 4 more months.
2) I need to find a job easy to get to where I live without a car/ with in bus distance
3) I have to fight all the other Uni students who live here more permanently for jobs.

I should probably give up on finding a real job and just rent myself out as an “American Language Tutor” so I can teach all the Ozzie kids American slang like “Whateves” or “For realz?” (Learning this through TV is just not the same as from learning it from a real person)

Until then, I am just going to be more thrifty about spending my money I have and look forward to the day where I will make oodles and oodles of money at a fantastic job so that I can take a two year long break to travel the world.