Dublin, Ireland Week 4 – Classes and adventures

I haven’t talked much about classes here, so I thought I should. I’m a communications major at WOU, and here at DCU I’m taking Press & Public Relations, Issues in Multiculturalism, New Media & Society, and Ireland Sex & Text, which are all working great toward my com/social science degree. I’m enjoying the content of all my classes, so that’s going really well. Classes are less often than at WOU, many are a single two hour session per week, and they all have less assignments throughout the term, usually just one final project, essay, or exam at the end of the term. This seems to give students less incentive for attending class, or, more incentive for grudgingly attending class, and then talking, texting, arriving late and leaving early, and sighing loudly and disapprovingly throughout. Lectures are fairly normal, always led by powerpoint, and involve group work and class discussion (though much less discussion than at WOU). Overall, classes have been easier and allowed me more free time than any I’ve taken since freshmen year, and this is both wonderful and dangerous. I’m struggling to make sure I don’t fall behind with the work I do have, and to not overbook myself later in the term when I have much more work to do in all my classes. Something each of my classes have done is teach me, indirectly, more about Ireland, about its current political and social issues, its organizations, and its role and position within Europe and the larger world, among other things. At the same time it’s brought attention, sometimes directly to issues, similarities and differences with the U.S., and has at times made me feel a bit ashamed to come from the U.S. This was a surprise, because in the U.S., we tend to think we’re pretty great, but because of where I am and why I’m here, and because of recent news and the ongoing presidential campaign, more attention has been brought to the fact that that just isn’t true. The realization of the sheer number and magnitude of educational, social, and political issues faced in the U.S. today was first brought to my attention when I began community college four years ago. In the last few weeks I’ve been given a new perspective on it all, and more importantly something to compare the U.S. situation to. I don’t want to get into it too much, that’s not what I intended my blog to become and it’s a bit depressing besides, but I needed to bring attention to it. I think this national reflection, if that’s what you want to call it, is one of the most important and impactful outcomes of my sojourn so far.
So, anyway, about my fourth week here in Dublin. I went on a few adventures during the week, small and large, and I’d like to talk about those.

First we went to one of the many Dublin parks, St. Stephens Green, and had ourselves an unexpected pigeon adventure! We walked by a man feeding dozens of pigeons on a bench and when I stopped just to take a picture he told me to come over. I said no because they kind of freaked me out, but I felt myself walking over at the same time because I told myself before coming here to do things I normally wouldn’t. He showed me how to hold my hand out and gave me some bird seed, then all of the sudden pigeons starting landing on my arms and eating from my hand. It was so weird. I had the phone in my hand and thought “Take pictures! Take Pictures! There are birds all over you!” and I watched as they flew on to Nathaniel too, and I felt them pinching my hand as they grabbed some seed, and one tried to land on my scarf, and I tried to pay attention as Daniel (the pigeon man) told us about the pigeons and how he nursed many of them back to health. The whole thing was very surreal and ended all at once as the several dozen birds, including the ones still on my arm, flew off in a loud and beautiful flurry that blew my hair back and made me literally gasp. Daniel said they warn each other and flock like that when they see a falcon around. The whole thing was strange and fun and taught me to be more okay with making unexpected decisions. I loved it, and the park by the way, was beautiful.

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The following day, I got lost. We had tickets to see a play, Dancing at Lughnasa, and Nathaniel was out of town late for a class trip. He got dropped off at the city centre and I had to get there by myself, which I hadn’t done before. I should have just taken a taxi right to the theatre since it was getting late, but I wanted to save some money so I decided to take the bus instead. I don’t have a smart phone and the Dublin bus app though, and I forgot which bus number to take. I tried to call and text Nathaniel but my phone ran out of minutes right then, figures. So I walked to the bus stop and guessed which number and got on the right one. I was already worried about time, the show was at 7:30pm and it was a quarter after when we got into the city centre, and I still had to walk from my bus stop. I got off at the wrong stop, as far as I could tell, but close enough to my marker, Trinity college, and I thought I should be able to find my way to the theatre on Grafton street if I’m quick. But I walked down the wrong road, still in the right general direction, but I didn’t exactly know what I was doing and it had just gotten dark which complicated the issue. I saw some signs toward the pigeon park and knew I could get where I needed to go if I just got to the park. So I kept walking down small busy streets I’d never been on, walking in no particular pattern, so that I was definitely going in circles, and walking past dozens of people all of whom I thought I should ask directions, but I think I must be close, and they look busy and I don’t want to ask, etc. I stopped on one corner and rubbed my head, sure I wouldn’t make it, and an elderly man asked if I had a head ache, and said to leave the suffering to the saints, so I told him I would and kept moving. After another circle around a block, at least I think it was a circle, I stopped in a small clothes store that was still open and asked where Grafton street was. To my surprise, she said turn right outside and walk all the way down, that’s Grafton. I was close, somehow. So I walked as fast as I could down that street and then on Grafton, shooting past people and trying not to trip and fall, and I noticed it was 7:29pm, no way I’ll make it now. But I turned the corner toward the theatre and saw Nathaniel who caught my eye and then ran toward the still open doors where other people were filtering in for last call. We made it. I was exhausted and frustrated with myself, but luckily the play was fantastic and did a perfect job of distracting me. From this fun little escapade alone in the city, I learned to trust my instincts more (after all I had the right sense of direction), especially if it means doing something I don’t want to like asking for directions, because it’ll make my life a lot easier. Also, I’m getting a paper map to carry with me before I go out alone again.
That weekend, we went on another adventure to Northern Ireland all on our own. Planning this fairly simple trip was surprisingly complicated, and took me two weeks to finally do and our originally two night trip turned into one night and a lot of travel time. We wanted to go to Giant’s Causeway on the coast, a beautiful and popular area I had heard about before. Nathaniel knew nothing about it so I was really excited to show him. So Saturday morning we caught a bus to the airport where we (after a lot of searching and running) found our booked bus to Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland. After a two hour drive we had just enough time to catch a train from Belfast to Coleraine. So far we were doing great, it was only 11am and we didn’t need to be at our hostel by the causeway till 4pm, so we should have plenty of time for exploring. But, once we got to the small town of Coleraine we were slightly disappointed to find that, because the season was over, bus ran infrequently to Bushmills and the causeway, and the next bus that day was at 3:45. So, we waited. We ate at a cafe in town, and walked all over and asked three different people in town where we could find an atm. We finally got to one and took out pounds, because we were now in the U.K. I thought euros were interesting, pounds are even cooler. They have many interesting people, the bills are nice colors, and the coins are so many different shapes and sizes. American money is going to seem so boring to me now. Eventually we caught the bus to the even smaller coastal town of Bushmills. Now, we still had to get to our hostel and weren’t sure how, but with the help of some nice locals, we got a taxi in twenty minutes and arrived at Finn McCool’s hostel, recommended to us by our program coordinator. It was now 5pm and we had just enough daylight to go explore the beach. There were still other late tourists out walking the trail down to the grassy hills and beach below where they gazed and awed and snapped photos, and we joined them. It was still pretty warm out, and the tide had come in around the big boulders where waves crashed. It was lovely. We stopped at a sandy area for awhile, Nathaniel drew a picture of the beach in his little notebook that goes everywhere he does, and I took some pictures and sat and looked around, listening to the ocean and the conversation in different languages as people walked past on the path. We didn’t get to the famous hexagon-shaped rocks of the giant’s causeway because the sun set, it started to get cold, and we headed back up the trail to The Nook restaurant that promised hot food, just halfway between the trail and our hostel. It was delicious and there was a cozy fireplace, a great end to our long day. The next morning after breakfast in the hostel, we headed back down the trail and just a little farther till we got to the great, geologically-puzzling rocks. They were so impressive in person. We wandered around, amazed, and wondered at how the rocks were formed, how long ago, how many more are hidden in the cliffs or washed away by the sea, and how they will one day be gone long from now. We realized to our amazement, that we were in view of the rocks the night before, and had no idea. They are entirely different from a distance. So, we spent a few more hours there and finally headed back up to The Nook for lunch, and got ready to catch the bus and start the long and tiring journey back home. We left Bushmills at 4:30pm, and eventually arrived in Dublin at 12:30am. Even though it was complicated and short and stressed me out, I was so glad we went on this little trip on our own. It showed me that we were capable of traveling without someone holding our hand, and I think the next trip we plan will be easier. I was also just so happy to see more of the country and experience how close so many lovely and interesting things are in Ireland. I can’t wait to see more. At the same time, I’m getting more of an urge to explore home when I get back. I love Oregon, it is such a gorgeous state and I live so close to so many great places that I’ve never explored. This is helping show me that I can go explore them more easily and cheaper than I thought before.

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