Sunday, September 20, 2009

Week Two

So, I am up late writing this post because my sleep schedule is officially messed up. Looks like going to bed before three A.M. is just a natural impossibility for me. Oh well, the night life is pretty grand over here. Especially when you're lost down town being led by a drunk man in the middle of the night.

So, the week started off fairly well. As most of you know I had the fun task of surviving the last weekend on only a few euros. It was easy enough for the first few days. But the appeal of cheap pasta and cheaper tomato past was becoming unbearable. So I did what any poor college student would do - swipe from student clubs. See, during this time known as "Fresher's Week" all the student clubs are trying to get people to join and they offer many goodies if you do so. One of which is free pizza every hour from 11 - 2 during the week. The only catch is, you have to have the card from that club. Heh, well, you're suppose to anyways. Needless to say, I ate lunch for free and didn't get tired of pizza. (Don't worry though, I eventually did sign up for the clubs - too many probably.)

One club in particular, DramaSoc, I am excited about in a new way. This is because at UCD there really isn't an Improv group per say. Really, there is just workshops done randomly throughout the year. When I told them I wanted to start one up and had quite a few years experience, they asked me if I would be willing to teach classes on the subject. I was elated! I would love to not only do improv but teach improv, definitely an amazing moment in my life. I just hope all goes well.

In more academic news, I found out how useless Irish Banks can be - no offense! This is because the UK doesn't really count them when it comes to Internet transactions. The system is slightly different over here and so my debit card is not registered as a proper number (the first four digits do not match the company's common digits in the UK.) Of course, if I visit any store in-person it is completely fine - go figure. Even Amazon failed me! No bother though, I found a local book store that can do online transactions with my card.

Other than that - things are going really well. I went out Friday night and had a blast at some Russian bar in down town Dublin. I am still amazed how they can switch so quickly from 80s pop to Beastie Boys then onward to Daft Punk and finish it off with Rage Against the Machine. And everyone dances, good or bad. It is rather funny, especially because you can't help but dance along. Just all about having a good time I suppose.

And finally, for those of you that have been asking (K-Boh especially) my address is:

G10-11-03 Glenomena Residences
University College Dublin
Dublin 4

Have a wonderful time everyone and I'll catch you later.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Week One

Survival of the fittest they say - but what happens if you are scraping by on four euros for five days? Wonder if it can be done? Well if I live through tomorrow on my diet of water and poorly made pasta then yes Virginia, there is a cheap substitute for healthy living. But of course, the journey up to this epic ascetic life is interesting of its own right so I suppose I should tell you. I certainly hope you don't mind my pseudo-rant and slight whining for a brief moment. (Of course, if you didn't, you really wouldn't have signed up for this would you.)

The week started out well enough. Woke up on Monday morning, rolled out of bed, and went to my Philosophy Department meeting. Met a few nice people there, but a bit strange for me. You see, as far as I have come to learn the differences between the countries, Irish people don't mind jumping right into a conversation. If you walk up to someone and merely say your name they will talk to you like you've been friends for life. So note my fear when I see everyone jabbering on about whatever around the room and I think I'm the only odd man out. Well finally, forgetting where gusto got me last time, I dove right in and said hello to a few people.

Now, instead of getting dragged to a bar and breaking my tooth I was in for a much more mentally breaking surprise. Because someone had said to me, "Robert, why don't you come to the first class and check it out." Sure, why not. What was it on? Merleau-Ponty, ah well - that should be good. Here is where I gleamed three important. One, Irish people can't sit anywhere for two hours without breaking for tea (they might get something else to drink, but they call a tea break). Two, the Irish accent is only compounds the complexity of philosophy. And three, two hours is not enough time for a complete overview of Husserl's philosophies and its growth into what would become Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology. Needless to say the latter almost sent blood shooting out my nose when the class ended from my brain being overloaded.

The next part of the tale I am reluctant to tell because of the matters with which it pertains. But I have been asked to tell it anyways. I am not certain if many of you know this, but there is a drink in Ireland and probably other parts of Europe (from Ed's agreement in this I think it is a definite) which is called Squash. Now Squash is not some vegetable, but rather a term meaning the concentrate of the drink. Of course, you are suppose to mix this with water and it flavors up the tap quite nicely. I didn't know this and when I first bought the drink I took a healthy chug of it. It tasted a bit off but I thought, it is natural and I suppose this is Irish life. Later I would notice the "concentrate" part in the back of the label and how I was suppose to mix one part Squash with four parts water. It was even a little while later that I would learn Squash is an impressive laxative when not mixed properly. Granted this was a liter later and whatever part of my brain didn't exit my nose from my philosophical experience certainly had another chance of escaping out the back door.

But there I am, alone in a strange new world having survived the strange drinks and it was time for my second day of class. I was still trying out classes as one's time had not been decided, the other didn't meet until Wednesday, and I had a free elective. So I went to Law, Liberty, and the State and fell in love. The class was amazing, everything I could have wanted in my philosophical education. Meanwhile, in the background, e-mails were being sent to solve a problem - which Greek Language course do I take in the second semester as mandated by my Ancient Philosophy Core. See, I had noticed that the only classes offered in the second semester were continuations of the first and I was completely new to Greek. So I couldn't just hop right in and hope to survive.

Well, wouldn't you know it - a solution was found. Come Wednesday morning I have an e-mail telling me that I need to sign up for beginner's Greek this semester. Of course, it meets four times a week and one of the times is right over Law, Liberty, and the State. ARGGG! Oh well, I made it through my first Greek class and it was fairly painless. I rather enjoy it actually and am glad to be learning the language. And my Ancient Theories of Mind course is equally enjoyable, even if I do have to read every book ever written on the subject of Aristotle or Plato. But hey, that is what I would do in my free time anyways.

After that, aside from my Greek class, my week was rather uneventful up until Friday. That's when I found out that the phrase "Who wants to go to the bar" is literally tossed around like a beachball. I don't care where you are or what you are doing - that phrase will come up. We were even in a bar and someone said that in order to move everyone to another bar! But good times were had by all and I needed it. Because earlier that day I found out that it was going to take until Tuesday for the money from my loans to be usable in my bank. PSECU spoiled me, I felt like I deserved my money immediately upon handing them the check.

But I was out of cash. I was banking on that money (hmmm, I wonder if there is a connection to those words) because I was running low. In fact, after paying nine euros to do my wash I only had four left. But nope, there was no way to do it. I had to wait for my money. Now you might be wondering, "But BoB, you had four euros and needed to eat - but went to the bar?!" No worries, I survived on the good graces of my friends to gain me the nectar of the gods. Then, as we all were philosophers, we spent the next six hours going through as many topics as we could in a confusing tangent of debate. We hit such topics as Joseph Campbell, Bondage Sex, Anne Rice's novels, Irish Law, George W. Bush, and Time Travel. We had three people leave us in disgust and confusion (a number we were proud of) and began bartering with the table of science students for slices of their pizza.

So all in all, a fun time. Sure, there might have been some rough patches - there always will be. And I might be entirely too full of pasta. But I got to enjoy a great experience and many more to come. This week we are going to be signing up for clubs and I am very excited about that. Not to mention I finally get to go to my Platonism in Late Antiquity class tomorrow - an experience I have been anticipating.

And sorry for the delay in posting - I will try keep them a little less spread apart (Meaning they will also be shorter in length--maybe). I miss everyone and I am sure I will talk to you somewhere and somehow.

Until next time.

Friday, September 4, 2009

"There's a phone in the next building" (3/3)

The next two days of my journey have taught me that I need to get some sort of phone. Because, when I woke up the next day and realized I wasn't dreaming - there was a huge chip in my tooth - I knew I had to go to a dentist. But where would I find one? I quickly flipped through the leaflet they handed out at the meeting from the night before. Hmmm, no on campus dentist, but the doctor's office on campus can give me some numbers. Alright, that should be easy enough.

But of course, I couldn't go to the dentist yet. I have to fill out a lot of paperwork first. See, I am on a very tight leash right now in Ireland. This is because the government does not recognize me as a student yet. I wont be until everything is fully paid off, I've gained a student card, and can prove that I have enough money to escape the country if required. All well and good, but having signed my paperwork yesterday I may be seen as a legitimate person in about two weeks.

And of course, the queue was insane for the paperwork. Ah yes, another important thing of note, no one stands in line here. No one talks about getting in a line here. It is all about the Queue. So I "queued up" and stood in said queue for about two hours. Wonderful. So now it was off to the doctor's office. Well wouldn't you know, the Irish take their lunch around one it seems - or perhaps a mid day break, I don't know. All I know is I had to wait until two. And then I queued up again for another hour.

Let me stop here for a moment and tell you that in American the Flu virus was always considered a joke to me. H1N1 sounded funny and I didn't give a care about some pigs. In Ireland though, sneeze to many times and people will run from you. It is not a joke over here, definitely glad I decided against bringing my Mad Cow t-shirt.

So once it was my turn, I asked the nice receptionist if they could give me the number of some dentist in the area. I was told no, that they didn't have a list, but I could probably find one online. Great, I understand I am an adult and all, but can we take this whole behaving like an adult down a notch. I mean, I've never dealt with insurance before, I've never really gone to a dentist alone before (not for something like this anyways), and I am completely lost as to where any of these dentist offices are online.

Skipping the boring details I finally find one and need to call them. Well, it is after hours for them by now so I figure I'll just wait. What I should have done was located the phone in that time. Because when I started my day today at eight in the morning, I didn't find a phone until 10:20. Why? Because of that Irish need to come up with an answer. Apparently, years ago, the campus was filled with public phones. Now, there are none. And thankfully the women in the international department are so nice. They allowed me to use their phone before I broke down and probably went on an American style rampage.

As an American, I can tell you that I have been told many horrible things about the European healthcare system. So I was quite scared when I thought about the fact that I was about to go and get my tooth fixed. Not to mention, I had to get on the bus again. But of course, in Ireland, you just ask. So I walked up to a complete stranger and asked him how in the world I got to Park Dentist Clinic. He said, "I'm getting on the 145 that is going there, I'll tell you when to get off." Really? How wonderful, I would have been told to die in a fire in New York. Well, perhaps they would have told me how to get there after stabbing me a couple times.

But I must say this. The dentist office was amazing. First, the dentist was the nicest guy I have ever met. Did everything with a splendid job and worked as fast as he could. I must say the fixed part of my tooth looks fairly well, can't really tell I ever broke it. So for all those people who hate European healthcare, I can prove it isn't so bad. And the dentistry is suppose to be the worse over here. Heh, I wish I could boast such bad service.

But here I am, back on campus. My fourth day and I have gotten lost, tried Guinness, broken my tooth, applied for classes, signed my life away, went through European Dentistry, and have a Friday evening to look forward to in Ireland.

It has been interesting. At times I have thought that I just wanted to run home, forget this place and just go back to my easy life. But then I look around, and think about how well these people are helping me. My first real experience as an adult and it is happening in Ireland, what a place to truly "grow up" in. Now we'll just have to see how my classes are - maybe then I'll want to come rushing home :-p.

"Hello, I'm an American and I don't know anyone."

Never before would I have prized and despised the words that title this post more than I did my second day in Ireland. I must emphasize this, it is my SECOND DAY in Ireland.

So the day starts off rather bleak. Now, I don't mean the weather, if you begin to think that the weather here is "bleak" you will go mad. That is because it is, at some point in the day, dark, rainy, and cold. It was probably sunny five minutes before that but God can't let the Irish get too carried away in their celebration of the day.

I've come to find that the Irish people want to tell you an answer. If you have a question they will do one of three things. Either they will tell you the answer, find someone who can tell you the answer, or come up with some old story that might lead you to the answer. Often times the latter two fall in conjunction with each other and you get this Irish argument about who has the proper story and where whatever you are looking for actually is. But those stories usually are false, at least now, and so you will be running all over campus because someone faintly remembers there being something that you are looking for in another building. Sounds confusing? Walk about four miles trying to look for a building you've "walked right past over to the left" and confusion is the least of your worries.

Now luck is something I've come to believe in while here in Ireland. It is because at moments I just get lucky as hell. For instance, I was lucky when I was on the bus my first day that the reason I found UCD was due to two other people also going to the campus being on that bus. And on my second day a girl walked past me who was an international student talking of a meeting the internationals were having later that day. I had not heard of this (perhaps because I am a graduate) but decided to go anyways.

Going there I learned a lot about the campus and met some of the people from various clubs as well. But, of note in this story, I also learned of the bar. That's right ladies and gentlemen, there is a bar right on my campus. So, after the meeting and the over priced BBQ (Where we also learned that if you don't BBQ in the rain, you just wont BBQ in Ireland) I walked over to the bar.

This is where I learned three valuable things. One, Guinness is amazing in Ireland. The majority of the taste is not so different, Guinness is Guinness, but there is a freshness about it - a degree of flavor that is just missed when it is transported over seas. The same goes for a Smithwicks (I asked, it is pronounced Smitticks or Smithicks. Usually due to the accent that drops the 'h' in a 'th' sound.) But there I stood, at the bar, with Pitbull's "I know you want me" playing in the background and I decided I needed to meet some people. So, I slammed down my drink, grabbed a new one, and walked up to some people at a table as the music switched to "Killing in the Name of" by Rage... Yeah, the music is like that here.

I met about four people, all of which were excited to meet an American. To cut the length of this short, through them I met about four more people and we all decided to go to another bar. This was because the bar was going to have free drinks from 11 - midnight. Woohoo, my first European club. This was going to be amazing.

So, we get to the club and begin the drinking. I had quite my fair share - but that is hardly the point. You see, I could pick out the American women easily. They were the extremely drunk ones who were flinging themselves around the place. And it just so happen that as I was taking a drink one flung herself at a man who drunkenly flung himself at me. This sent my arm shooting up into my mouth and breaking off a part of my front tooth. That's right everyone, in my second night in Ireland I broke a tooth at a club. I gave the guy one look and he damn near ran away. He reluctantly stayed long enough to apologize before disappearing into the crowd.

So what did I do? Well, it didn't really hurt... And there wasn't a dentist open at midnight. So I decided I would continue to party and go to the dentist the next day. That should be easy enough, right?

"Sir, what do you have in your bag?" (1/3)

Sorry I have been absent and neglecting my posting duties. Many of you would have just noted this as my usual forgetful self. Others may have figured that I was having so much fun gallivanting around Dublin that I couldn't keep track of the time nor remember where my room was. While I can promise you that I never forgot about my record keeping blog, I can say that the latter statement is only partially true.

Because the events are so long that have lead me up to my fourth day in Ireland, I will break them down into three parts. The first of which shall be my plane trip.

Now, many of you know that I am not the biggest fan of planes. Mostly because I have no idea who the guy up front is flying the thing and whether or not he really deserves to be. Kudos to American Airlines for giving me a very night flight. Both of which went off without too much of an issue. That is, of course, neglecting customs.

You see, some of my friends had the wonderful idea of getting me a stuffed animal from Build-A-Bear. This heartfelt and loving gift would have been otherwise benign if it weren't for the fact that they purposefully gave it to me after my luggage was filled to the brim. Speaking of which, thank you to the wonderful lady in American Airlines who did not charge me for my luggage being three pounds over the weight limit.

Ok, so here I am a confused and lost little soul walking around the huge airport that is Chicago International. Now, when I say huge I mean huge. I was impressed by the size of this place, and the amount of shops inside of it were just staggering. But, alas, I digress. The main point is that this is an international flight, I was going straight into another country. And for that reasons my plane was fortunate enough to have customs standing in the walkway picking out random people. So of course, a very nice woman looks down at my carry-on and stops me.

To describe my carry-on is simple. In one hand I am holding a laptop bag. In the other, a bag containing a teddy bear! Needless to say the woman looks at me slightly confused because even though for the last hour I have been trying to train my Build-A-Bear to be a covert op, hiding behind enemy lines within a bag, he thinks he is a commando and keeps poking his head over the top. So the lady asks me "Sir, what do you have in your bag?" I don't know lady - a bomb?! I've bought this sweet little innocent teddy bear and carried with throughout the whole airport so that I could kill everyone going to Ireland. Yes, that's right, nothing says "Die Irish" like an American teddy bear. Probably one of the most awkward moments of my life.

But then we land, apparently the Irish think it is fine to just walk down a flight of stairs off an airplane, and all goes well. I felt a bit slighted though - when the lady in the airport immediately said to me - "Non-EU over there." Now, I am not exactly patriotic and I am pretty sure I wasn't running around with an American flag draped over my shoulders, but to just pick me out of the crowd that easily? I know Americans walk/talk/and act like a bunch of bumbling loud-mouthed morons, but at least seem like you were slightly confused by my presence.

Now, here comes the interesting part. I have never used a bus system before in my life. If I used a bus, it clearly went from point A to point B - usually paid for that single purpose in life. So when I whimsically hop onto a bus into downtown Dublin I had no idea what I was getting into. For instance, I heard the phrase "Who told you this bus went to there" more often than I would like to admit. And it cost be a good bit of change and some friendly people to finally find my way to UCD's doorstep. Of course, the doorstep is about half a mile from where my room is - travelling much lighter next time. But upon finding my room and throwing everything in haphazardly I felt like I was done with my day.

That is, until I took a good look at my restroom. See, I am not certain of what the Irish believe is "comfortable", but Americans hold their bathrooms as a sacred entity. And while I do have my own private toilet, sink, and shower, I do not enjoy that they are not more than six inches away from each other and in a five by five room. I could conceivably urinate while looking in the mirror to shave as I washed off in the shower. Very economical, not very comfortable.

But for the first day, it was pretty good. Oh, and it rained.