Saturday, January 31, 2009
And I took a little movie of the fireworks too, that you can watch HERE
We danced our little hearts out -- I have to say, much more than last week at the goth night. I definitely upheld my "90s video 'ho" image (sorry Dad!) and I'm sure that we gave the bystanders around the dance floor something to watch. The first thing we noticed about the crowd was that it was mostly men -- I guess the Manchester craze of the late 80s and early 90s didn't make a lasting impression on the ladies of the day. And of the women in attendance, most were dressed in the typical Dublin women style with lots of makeup, frilly outfits featuring really short hemlines, and really high heels. Aside from the fact that I don't really like the way heels look on me, I just think it looks ridiculous to dance in them. So I guess I truly showed myself to be a foreigner with my style, especially, once again, as the only person in an entire room full of people with a large piece of artwork. I have to wonder what kind of impression it gives to people here -- do I seem trashy? exotic? simply American? or just stupid and tastless? or maybe all of the above.
Anyways I noticed so many interesting things last night, not the least of which is the obvious fraternity among men. I noticed that when men talked to each other, they touched each other, on the shoulders, around the waist, etc. And on the dance floor, when a popular song came on, people would dance and sing together, and dance arm in arm, embracing. Not in any sort of sexual way at all, but in a completely fraternal manner. I enjoyed watching it because I can only think of one other time I'd seen that sort of behavior back in the States, and that was actually at a Lucero show. We found that the crowd was friendly enough and the music was really a blast from the past. And I can't think of a better dance partner.
The buildings on the old campus are quite old and beautiful -- I'd even say majestic. Here are a couple of other shots I took:
Along with a collage I made of a church:
Thursday, January 29, 2009
The sponges here suck. I haven't seen a decent sponge in Dublin. They're all those synthetic cheapo sponges that you get at the dollar store back home. I can't figure out where you get a decent sponge, like a Crate and Barrel pop-up sponge, even. The smears! The smears!
Not to generalize, but Americans have a reputation for being loud, but I tell you the Irish can sure keep up. Yikes there are some yellers up in this piece.
Customer Service is crap. When you call anywhere, like the bank or an internet company, or if you go into a restaurant or a store, the service people don't treat you anywhere near as well as in the US. I never realized how good it was over there! But here there's just no veneer of friendliness or helpfulness. You really are at the mercy of the mood of the person on the other end. And I've found that they generally are wont to leave out one little bit of information that might have been helpful to you. However I have come across a couple of helpful folks here and there -- the guys at Vodafone sent me to their competitors for broadband and I have to say it was a better deal!
Getting into town is so much easier than where we were in Somerville. It feels like a luxury to be so close to civilization. At the end of the street there are about 4 or 5 buses that go into Dublin Center. And there's also a grocery store (I learned this week that groceries are also called "messages" here! isn't that cute?), a nice bakery, and a liquor store, although the grocery store sells booze too. In Somerville it was always such a hike, so it's nice to have these things so near. Our fridge and freezer are both very small -- like the size of those bigger dorm refrigerators -- so we have to go to the store more often. But it's nice that way, I think. It gives things less time to spoil anyways.
Yesterday may have been the first mostly sunny day since I arrived, and to make up for it, today is cloudy and dark. But I think it's better than slush and snow and freezing cold. :)
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
I ate a nice little brunch, and read a supplement to the Tribune. Of particular note, to me, was a section where they interviewed about five or six out of work young people. I have to say it wasn't encouraging. The recession is all over the news here. I feel very little hope of finding work any time soon! But I will do my best, of course.
After brunch, I walked around with really no aim at all, and just window shopped. I had only a couple of errands in mind: to buy Mark's uncle a birthday present, and to get a little gadget for getting online, which, after weeks of research and hemming and hawing, I'd decided was the best and least expensive way to have internet at home. I'd finally decided that it was the way to go, and all I needed to do was go into the store and get it. BUT when I went in, with all kinds of ID and bank info and stuff, it turned out that you need an actual bank *statement* to sign up for a contract. As my account was about a week old, and had only one transaction, so I didn't have a statement, and apparently a letter from the bank wasn't sufficient. So I had to leave the shop empty handed, which disappointed me to no end because I had had my heart set on getting set up online and calling family with Skype (not to mention job hunting of course).
So I got on the bus, rather sad. But speaking of my bus ride home, as I was fixing to get off the bus, my eyes nearly popped out of my head as I noticed THIS bit of graffiti behind the driver's seat:
I didn't even care what anyone thought -- I reached into my bag as quickly as possible and snapped a photo. If you're having trouble making it out, it's a sort of cartoonish depiction of 3 KKK members with those letters written above them. I don't mean this as a commentary on Irish society, but WOW. I mean seriously wow.
Yesterday evening Mark and I went over to his uncle's house to say happy birthday. And on the way I had to take a couple of photos. The first was of a park that is just at the end of our street that I hadn't been to.
We sort of found ourselves biking through it by accident, trying to find a short cut. And this older gentleman was calling at us that there's "No bicycling in the park! No bicycling in the park!" Ah well. I almost felt bad for laughing at him.
The second photo I took was for my friend Egan because I noticed a guesthouse with his name:
I definitely got my exercise today because I went back to the place to get my internet gadget (bank statement in hand) and I realized that while I had the statement, I had forgotten my wallet at home! So I had to bike all the way back home and get it and bike back again! But as I was zipping back and forth, I thought to myself that I was glad that I got my bike training in Boston because if I wasn't used to Boston traffic, I don't think I'd ever have the guts to ride around Dublin. I'm just about used to the left side thing, but sometimes I do get confused. I'm officially messed up because I was watching a documentary where an Englishman goes to the States and drives, and I couldn't figure out where they were.
Tomorrow I will go out in search of a solution to the problem of Gypsy using the leather sofa as a scratching pad....
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Friday morning, 11:30. On Wednesday we went to the Sir Alfred Chester Beatty Library museum with Mark's Dad. I stupidly forgot the camera. But the collections were beautiful and fascinating, and the conversation between the three of us was quite lively at times. Admission into the museum was free, but we decided to grab a bite to eat in the museum's cafe, which was highway robbery (30 euros for two lunches and a two coffees). After that, we caught the bus back to the pub across from Mark's parents' house and his mom popped over for a couple of Guinness. All in all a very nice day. But otherwise I haven't done a whole lot of sight seeing aside from a heck of a lot of shopping for the house right when I first arrived, concentrated mostly to one general area that is sort of like Boston's Downtown Crossing.
I'm 15 pages into my portfolio, and nearing the end, but I am feeling discouraged that it will actually get me a job in the industry. But at least it will be done and I can send it out and then set about creating a new collection to replace the weakest collection in the portfolio, and then once that's done, another, and so on and so forth. I may simply start sending out my portfolio directly to designers and ask for suggestions, informational interviews, etc. I just want to start talking to people whose work I like. I did send out an email to one designer who's in Dublin Fashion Week (it's next month) to ask if she needs interns or helpers in preparation for the event. No response yet.
Also anxiety producing is my CV, which I feel may need some work. It's my first CV, as opposed to the traditional US Resume, and given its lack of response, there's got to be something wrong with it. Given my vast experience doing the jobs I'm applying for, I don't think it's that I'm not qualified. And my cover letters are pretty ok I think. Or maybe I'm just being too impatient. But I'm definitely starting to get a bit stressed out on the job front. Businesses are closing all over the place here and unemployment is up. I just hope that my education and experience is enough to offset my foreign status (though I am legal to work).
Procuring internet at home has been a frustrating process because everything here is done via "broadband," and most of the providers require that you have a landline to get their internet. It's just really hard to swallow a 50 euro bill for something I used to pay 17 US dollars for at home. So I may look into another option, which is this thing that you put in the window -- a sort of wireless connection thingamabob. But it's not as reliable I'm told. It's all so frustrating! I hate having to go to the internet shop to get online. (Right now I'm typing this on my computer at home, and I'll upload it later, probably at the pub with free wifi up the street.)
People have asked if Dublin is like living in a time warp or if it's a modern city. Sometimes I am struck by the old-fashioned quality of life here. Many of the roofs on the houses are covered in moss, and of course the faces of the buildings are most often original. But then there are also modern features like the Luas train, which looks very space age compared to the Boston trolleys! People tend to put much more effort into their outfits here -- I'm quite a slob in comparison with my jeans and hoodies and lack of makeup and flat ironed hair. I've never seen so many people with flat ironed hair! Holy crap! I've been tempted to buy some new clothes since I arrived, but I have actually not bought one single piece of clothing. I promised myself I would wait until I got a job. Though I did bring over some fabric, so of course I could make myself something. Given all this spare time I've got, it just may happen!
Speaking of which, I am going to get back to the portfolio and see if I can finish it today.
Sunday morning, 11:18am. I guess I'm officially a non-contributing member of society because I thought it was Monday when I woke up this morning! But alas, it's Sunday. Mark and I stayed in yesterday working on our separate projects -- I finished my portfolio (this version, for now -- it's a 22 page .pdf) and Mark worked on his two papers for school that are due next week. Then, having a real case of cabin fever, we decided to go out. Of course, with my luck, it was raining by the time we were leaving, and I was reminded once again that I forgot to buy fenders for my bike before I left the States. I was a little cranky about it, but I knew that taking a bus into town and a cab home would be twice as annoying as getting a little wet, so I grinned and beared it as we took our somewhat short ride to our first destination, the Welcome Inn, just outside of Parnell Square. Mark had been warned by his dad that it was "where the queers go," but actually we later learned that is just a weekend pub patronized by people who maybe don't dress as conservatively as the rest of the city (some might use the word "hipster" but as I have an aversion to that word, I won't if you don't mind), and so naturally I wanted to visit it. We'd already been to Mark's two other haunts: the Dice Bar, a little place that reminded me of the Plough and Stars but that is a bit of a hike from our apartment; and Fibber Magee's, a metal dude hangout a couple doors down from the Welcome Inn that was ok, but, you know, a little rough around the edges for my taste. This is only going to mean something to about three people, but the Welcome Inn sort of reminded me of the old Shakeys Pizza in Nashua from the outside -- it has these multicolored paned textured glass windows in the front that the light shines through. Then when we walked in, the ornate Burgundy burnout velvet wallpaper and black vinyl seating reminded me of the Royal Oak bar in Brooklyn. The place smelled like someone's basement in the 1950s, that is, very musty. But the look was pure 60s. Above the bar hung these mod cylindrical lamps that had multicolored bits of glass for the light to shine through. There was a corner with a huge black vinyl booth entirely done up in wood paneling. And all over, these fantastic little 60s rectangular tables. The place reminded me of a bar that would have been on the wrong side of the tracks in Twin Peaks. We just needed the one armed man to walk in and we'd be all set. There were only about 20 or 25 people inside, but it seemed like more were filtering in as we were going -- we only stayed for the one drink before we had to be off. But I'll definitely want to go back there again. Despite the musty smell, I felt quite comfortable there. And it's a pretty short distance from our house, so that's always convenient. I'm already envisioning my DJ night there. haha. You can see some photos that someone took and put up on flickr HERE
Then we were off to Peadar Kearney's, the new location of the "goth night." As you know, neither Mark nor I are goths by any stretch, but being music lovers of all kinds, we love ourselves a good goth night now and again. And when you aren't into the dancing, there's always the people watching! Of course I debated what to wear, being on the bike and also having massively conservative style these days, so I went with a black t-shirt and jeans. I figured I'd be the only one in the club with a full sleeve anyways, since tattoos aren't as common here in Dublin as they are in Boston, and I was right. The folks weren't quite as colorful as the crowd in Manray (no little people in bondage gear), but there were a couple of people who stood out, namely this very enthusiastic dancer in a fishnet top and leather kilt with a patent leather cummerbund with buckles and a fanny pack. He had hair down to his behind and he was very dramatic dancer indeed! Sadly the evening ended in tears for him. At first Mark and I thought that he was merely doing some kind of interpretive dance on the floor, but as it turns out he had apparently been hit in the eye by something or someone and was in a great deal of obvious pain. He left the club with one hand over his eye and the other hand groping his way out of the place, half muttering to himself, half sobbing. Poor guy. Bonus points for the show though. There was another guy who was done up in traditional goth head-to-toe patent leather and the obligatory platform boots, with long black hair back in a ponytail, but he had gone through the trouble of getting those novelty contact lenses so his eyes were the lightest light blue, almost white. I made eye contact with him a few times (no pun intended), and I couldn't help but be freaked out each time. It's like, you know they're contacts, but you want to stare anyways. He really just looked like he'd watched too many Marilyn Manson videos. But the crowd had a really great time -- you could tell they were so thankful to the music and danced with joy -- an irony not lost on me, of course. Once again, we haven't talked to anyone or made any friends on our night out, but we had a great time as usual, so I have no complaints. As long as I have one partner in crime, I am quite content for now!
Today I hope to get over to the Internet shop and call my Dad. I thought I would have had internet at home by now so I could be Skyping at home, but the way things work around here, it's going to be at least a few more days. Being cut off from hearing people's voices has been trying. But in a short time I should be able to communicate freely!
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Sunday January 18, noon: When we woke up this morning, I was struck by the cloudless, blue sky, but that has quickly turned into wind and rain, much like yesterday. Today I'm determined to go out, though, and run some errands, though it does look pretty nasty out – the kind of weather where an umbrella is completely useless. Mark and I have been off in separate rooms working on our separate projects since yesterday – him on his papers for school, and me on my portfolio. I'm 14 pages in so far, and I can see why I never did it before – it's a load of work! When I was working two (and sometimes three) jobs and having a social life, how was I supposed to find time to spend the hours putting this together? It's nice to finally be doing it, though I wish the designs weren't so old now. But it's inspired me to do new work as soon as this is all put together.
Anyways, I rode my bike through Dublin at night for the first time Friday night when Mark and I went to see Billy Childish & the Musicians of the British Empire, who put on a great show at Whelan's. But man, was the riding intense! First of all, I'm still not used to the whole riding on the left side of the road thing. Secondly, the cars and buses will ride ride up next to you within inches – you have to be nearly fearless. On the plus side, since I've been here, I have never seen a car beep at a biker, not once. Cars and buses are very respectful of bikers. So while they ride right up next to you, it's not in a head-trippy kind of way, just in a trafficy way, if that makes sense. I felt like I was in a video game; it was really exhilarating and fun, but scary at times. I didn't know where we were headed, so I just had to follow Mark and hope for the best! I am loving my new bike (though I need to tape it up – the bright blue colour screams “new bike, please steal”). We hung around Whelan's a little after the show. The crowd seemed to have some decent folks in it – people who I could see us hanging out with – but of course we were both too shy to actually talk to anyone, but that's ok. Then we got back on the bikes and went to get some felafel, and then walked around a little, tried to find an Indie night that Mark had read about, to no avail, and stopped into a club called the Czech Inn, which was entertaining, and then decided to bike home. By then it had rained. With no fenders, I got a bit soaked up the backside on the way home, but not too bad.
Now the sun is out again, and the wind seems to have died down. I should probably seize the moment and get out of here! I'll leave you with the view out of our kitchen window, with Gypsy napping:
Monday, January 12, 2009
I still feel like I'm walking around a movie set every time I leave the house. I know it's patronizing, but the thicker accents sound fake to me and I find myself wanting to burst out laughing. And things just have such different connotations here. For example, right now in this internet cafe there is a vending machine for a candy called "Minstrels." Uh... that just would not fly back in the States. I mean, remember what happened to the restaurant chain Sambo's? The beer "Galway Hooker" also raised my eyebrow at first (but I have to admit was very tasty).
A little bit worried about the cat. We're still trying to find a readily available diabetic-friendly food that she will eat. Wet foods seem to be generally in gravy or jelly, which are both high in sugar content. Also, while she loves our apartment, her favorite spot seems to be my pillow... whether my head is on it or not. Last night I had to deal with a bad combination of her being pissed off at the food and me taking up the pillow, and her litter box not being to her liking (apparently), so after being beaten, battered, and bitten, I finally kicked her out of the bedroom. Then just as we were leaving the apartment, I went to grab a hoodie from the top of my pile of folded sweaters, only to discover it was soaked in cat pee. So uh... we'll have to deal with that. I can't describe it but if she can't sleep on my pillow, she is like Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Kitty Hyde. Anyways, no one cares about my cat, haha. But it's worrisome to say the least.
Ok, wish me luck with Ireland's beaurocratic red tape department!
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Apparently they did away with a real tree on O'Connell Street and have this new-fangled thing that lights up and changes colors. Mark hates it, so I took a photo of it
This morning I rode my bike for the first time! The ride terrified and exhilarated me, riding on the left side of the road, with no bike lane, and these little teeny roads with drivers who are not afraid to come within inches of a biker whatsoever. My new bike is wonderful, but the brake levers are placed way far up, making it difficult to reach and get leverage on. Mark is going to put new ones on for me at some point so I can reach them better with my short arms and little hands. We rode out to the post office in Fairview to fetch my last package, which thankfully came!! So I can stop stressing about that now. And it was the lightest of the bunch so it wasn't such a pain to bring back.
Yesterday I had a little adventure -- I took the bus into town and brought my wheel to the shop, which as it turns out, didn't need a tool for the part to be put on, but that was fine -- the dude put the piece on the wheel for me and then I walked around for like 4 hours with this bicycle wheel in my hand! But it was light, and not a huge deal. I was sort of hoping to come upon a store that would have just the thing for my clothes, or else my books, but I really just kind of wandered around aimlessly. I did find a part of town where there was a bunch of thrift shops, but no luck in the furniture area. I also happened upon a bunch of furniture shops, but they were all too fancy. I was supposed to get a SIM card for my phone, but I only wandered into one shop for that and I just wasn't sold on it so I left. I finally got myself good and lost in a sort of slummy part of town, so I had to look at my map to find my way, but I had pointed myself toward the general direction of home, so I wasn't that bad off. First, I came upon this kind of neat sculpture with changing colored lights:
On my way home I bought an American-style coffee maker on sale so we could stop drinking the mud from the french press, and also as a little thank you gift for Mark for assembling my bike. Speaking of which, we ran into the landlord this morning and he said there's a shed being built for our bikes, which is going to be *stellar* so we don't have to keep them in the apartment. And that really means a lot because it opens up the whole entrance way, meaning that there will be plenty of room for a studio for me. I was overjoyed -- I can't even tell you. We had talked about converting our parking space (located under the building) into a bike park, but that was going to be pricey. But now we don't have to! I can't wait to save up and get a desk. And then we can get another little chair for the living room, too. I really do like our apartment a whole lot.
It gets dark here so early! By 4:30 I think it is. So a lot of my photos are at night, like this one, taken I think after my last time at the pub where I get my wifi connection, on my walk home:
Then, here are some random photos. One of the river next to our building.
Mark in our kitchen
Gypsy, on the bed (surprsingly not on her favorite spot: my pillow)
Tuesday Morning, 10:40am. One of my packages still hasn't come, and I can't seem to find the mailing receipt, which means that if it doesn't come, I'm screwed. I'm really annoyed at myself, and I don't even want to look at which box it is. I really hope it isn't the one with my wacom tablet, because that will be a bit of money to replace. I hope it isn't any of them, but it's got to be one, of course.
Yesterday we had to go to immigration so I could register. Mark wanted to leave first thing in the morning, but I really wanted to stick around and see if my package came in the post. It didn't, and so we got a late start. Because of the holiday, the Department hadn't been open since before Christmas, so it was a madhouse when we walked in. I asked the person at the front where to go, and he told me to get a ticket at window 15. It was sort of crazy in there, and I was sort of myopic when I walked in the room, that I immediately thought, “What luck! Window 15 seems like the only one with no line!” So I walked up and got my ticket. But as we walked away, we realized that we had just inadvertently cut about 50 people in line. So with still about two hours wait by our estimation (there was 167 people ahead of me), we sheepishly left in search of internet and food. We went to one of Mark's favorite vegetarian restaurants, Govinda's
But then when we got back, we discovered that there would still be about three hours' wait until my number was called! So we left again, but got a little nervous after a couple of hours. Here are some photos I took while we were out and about:
The River Liffey
Mermaid Sea Horses on Mark's favorite bridge
It turns out there was no need to hurry back – we still waited a couple more hours in the Immigration Department, and I started to get really nervous that the office would close before my number would be called. But finally I did get called, and everything went smoothly – I got my immigration ID free of charge, and it entitles me to work for the next five years. After that, I'm not sure what I've got to do.
By the time all that was done, we were pretty grumpy, so we stopped into a middle eastern market for a couple of food items for the kitchen (mostly spices), and headed for home. I was feeling very sad, to be honest, that another day had passed and I didn't accomplish all the things I wanted to accomplish. It's hard because I have this gigantic to-do list and yet limited resources, and of course I want to do everything at once. But, you know, I can't get a job without being a legal resident, so there's that. Although the kitchen came furnished with plates and silverware and pans, we can't cook decent meals without going out and spending some time and money getting food and other things like cutting boards, spices, oils, condiments, etc – things you have in your pantry that you don't think about until your pantry is literally bare! I still have a list of about 20 items that I need to buy, but we've made some very nice meals yet.
Today I'm going to go out by myself while Mark works on schoolwork here at home. He has been wonderful about going around with me, setting up the house, and all of that, but he has two papers to complete by the end of the month and he needs to get cracking. Though as I am typing this, he is assembling my bike. I am trying to maintain a very positive attitude, but I have to admit that each day to do hit a wall of frustration, not knowing where I'm going, where things are, what stores have what, what buses go where, not being able to call up any number of people and say, “What are you doing? Let's get lunch / dinner / drinks / karaoke or whatever.” And so that's hard. I know it will be lonely for a while, and knowing that makes it a little harder, actually. I think about how just days ago I was with all my friends laughing and carrying on, and sometimes I think, “Oh shit.” But I know that I will have new friends here, and that my old friends will always be there, and we'll keep in touch (much better once I have internet at home), and life just has to go this way. And as for family, I still can't even think about it without breaking into tears. I hope that gets much, much easier. And I hope my sister is working on her vacation to London as we speak so I can meet her there. ;)
There's a new IKEA in Dublin, but it isn't clear to me how to get there. I could go to the bus info center and ask how to get there, but I'm wary of carrying the things I actually want to get there. So instead I may just try to shop around some other stores for something to hold my clothes today. If I find something, great, and if I don't, then I'll have managed to get a look around the city on my own. The weather here is consistently cold, not so far from how it is at home, but much more consistent, so we don't get those freaky 60 degree days out of the blue. It's in the high 30s to low 40s pretty much every day. It has not rained during the day since I've been here, but it's mostly overcast every day.