Monday, May 31, 2010

I'm sitting in my local library, and who would have thought that it would be so full of people! Studious people working diligently on...well, actually it's mostly teenagers so they're probably working on Leaving Cert exams or something. But they sure look like they mean serious business. There aren't that many tables that I can see, so I'm in a chair with my laptop on my lap. I am supposed to be writing, but I wanted to make a quick blog update first.

I started this blog, to be honest, mostly for my father to read. It's strange to write in it knowing that he can't read it. But it's nice to know that I have a lot of other loved ones who are reading it still, and who I now keep in my mind and my heart as I go about my life in Dublin, and then write about it here.

Anyhoo - last Friday Mark and I had a fantastic outing to a place called Dalkey. Apparently this is where the rich and famous like Bono, Lisa Stansfield, and Enya live. We took the DART (that's kind of like the commuter rail in Boston) about a half hour or so and got off on the coast. We had nice lunch of veggie burgers and soy lattes at this cute little health food store called Select Stores. I wanted to buy a lot of things there, but we took one little snack to go and headed on our way. I took a photo of these farm fresh eggs, because I was just saying to a friend in Boston that the eggs aren't refrigerated in Ireland. This seemed a little unbelievable to me, too, when I first got here, but they taste so much better that way.

We started on our way, walking to an undisclosed location. Mark told me he'd been in the area before, but I didn't know until we'd started walking that it was my Dublin guide book that had given him the idea for this walk, so therefore he didn't *really* know where we were going. We sort of ambled down a street, and came upon...Beacon Hill! No, we weren't transported back to Boston, but I took a photo of the gate for posterity.

So we walked a little more, and decided to head towards the water, even though technically we were lost. And then we came upon this little park that had a very nice view.

Clearly this is where the rich people live, and you can see their houses here:

Wouldn't you like that view?
So we walked until we saw this little entrance to an uphill path, so feeling like Alice in Wonderland, we took it. If you look at this quickly, it looks like just a rock. Then you notice that it's a neat little rocky bench:

When we got up, we thought this was a pretty cool view:

but actually that was not even as good as what was to come...(as you'll see. remember the photo above's little brown bridge.)
So we were enjoying the nice view when I spied a little cat who looked curious about us, so I called her over. She was affectionate and friendly, and reminded me of my Gypsy at home.

When we left the little perch we'd climbed, she seemed so forlorn at our parting. Here she is, watching us walk away:

We kept truckin' along, and came upon that brown bridge pictured earlier, so we crossed it because it seemed to lead to the baths. Here's the view looking back to where we came from taken on the footbridge:

Baths aren't really a big thing in the US, I don't think. But they seem to be a pretty common thing in Ireland. Basically they're like man-made tide pools on the ocean that catch the water, where you can, well, bathe. Here's the one we came upon:

It's difficult to distinguish, but here are steps that go into the water:

The weather and the atmosphere were so pleasant, that I felt the most content that I'd felt since I got back to Dublin. So I took the kind of photo I only take when I'm feeling content: a photo from my point of view at the moment:

Here I am, happily lounging in the sun like one of those walruses or seals you see in National Geographic:

We kept on walking, and as you can see the views started to seem less like Ireland and more like somewhere a LOT warmer:

Then we entered the walkway up to the obelisks. Yes, that's right! Obelisks! I think there are fairies hiding behind these trees:

When we got to the top, there was a curious pyramid of steps. Naturally, being human, we had to climb it:

Here's the view from up there:

At the obelisk, some little boys were playing warrior games, and it did seem like a pretty damn cool spot to play imaginary games, especially if you're going to pretend to be knights and wizards and stuff.

On the other side of the obelisk, there was a pretty neat view, which my little camera can't even begin to visually describe:

Then we began the descent down the hill, and stopped to eat our little snack here:

We admired all the fancy houses, and I decided which ones I'd like to buy. I probably couldn't live out there full time, but they would be great second homes, I reckon. Then we spied this curious pathway that ran between two property walls. It was so long and narrow that you couldn't see to the other side, and it looked like it could be a dead end or else haunted. But not lacking in a sense of adventure (and it pointed in roughly the direction we wanted to go, which wasn't the same direction as the road), we decided to turn down it.

And sure enough, it led us exactly in the right direction! Then we caught site of these gorgeous and gigantic trees. I tried to take a photo but it was a total failure because these trees were behind a fence (aka someone's yard) and so huge. But as we walked, and took deep breaths, we realized from the beautiful and refreshing smell that these were eucalyptus trees. Imagine have a bunch of eucalyptus trees in your yard! That's my new dream, I decided.

Then we got back on the DART in Killiney and headed back to Dublin. We met a friend at Bruxelles which was actually a pretty nice hangout! I dunno about upstairs, but downstairs they split the place up -- one side is like the "rock" side with death metalesque music playing and dark hardcore decor, and the other side is a little more "pop" with a more light atmosphere. I took a photo of a Bowie stencil done on the wall of the poppy side:

Then we met up with another friend at The Long Stone, and man was that place a trip! The inside is nuts, with all these (fake?) trees and this huge...I'm not actually even sure what you'd call it...a wall sculpture? Anyways, it was a fun time:

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I'm back in Dublin!

This will be a quick post, so I apologize. I've been pretty busy upon my return, and to top it off I've had a bit of a cold. Since I've returned, I've been trying to get some SPRING CLEANING done to remove all that dust and fire soot from the winter, as well as all that dirt and clutter than builds up when you aren't paying attention. It's kind of slow going, I have to admit, but the weather has been just gorgeous since I got back, so I've been able to have breakfast out in the garden every morning and go for beautiful walks in the afternoons.

On tuesday we partook in the great Irish tradition of protesting. If you haven't heard, Ireland's economy is the in the shitter. And it seems like the only ones being asked to sacrifice through "cuts" are people who need it most and have the least to give. So we went on a little march. I was a bit apprehensive, although this wasn't my first Irish protest, because I always am afraid something bad is going to happen and I'll get in trouble and get kicked out of the country of something, but I being certain that my luck isn't *that* bad, I went, and it was a rather moving experience. People from all sorts of different looking backgrounds were there, from your anarcho-punks to your working class ladies, to your academic looking types, to your regular nondescript looking people. I even saw a lady in a very nice business suit there, holding a sign. I took a couple of pictures, and then I also took a little video so you can see what it was like from my point of view, walking in the middle of the short march.

There was a decent showing, but the sad part is that there was absolutely nothing in the news about it the next day. The major media outlets here in Ireland are so tied into the government and the church that it's like a built-in sensor. What amazes me is that when you listen to the news on RTE radio in the morning, you'll hear about every dumb-ass drunk dude who crashed his car in the entire country the night before, but you won't hear about a few hundred people who were protesting the Dail and Dublin Castle the day before.

It's happening again next Tuesday, and I highly encourage anyone who wants Ireland to take care of its hospitals, schools, workers, people with special needs, etc. to come along and be a body of support.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

One of the things a person worries about when they move away from the country where they were born is that the people they love will fall ill or worse. When I moved to Ireland, My 78 year old father was in relatively good health. Last year, when he was sick, I was lucky enough to be able to spend six or seven weeks with him, helping him out and getting him back on his feet. Unfortunately, this year, we weren't so lucky. My father passed away on April 24. He was the most wonderful man I've ever known, and my heart is heavy with the sadness I feel from having lost him. Below is the eulogy I read today. I'm posting it as a testament to his tenacious spirit and the joy he brought to so many people's lives. In a week, my husband and I will return to Dublin, where I will go back to my regular life, although nothing will ever be the same again.

My father was a fart smeller, I mean a smart feller.

When I was a kid, Dad posed to us the difficult and profound philosophical questions, such as “Are you an ugly girl or a pretty monster?” And such apt observations as, “You look just like that guy over there. Except for the moustache...He doesn't have one.”

Anyone who knew my father for even an hour knew that he had a dry sense of humour. At the same time, my father was never loud or brash. When my brother and sisters and I were young, he had a way of making us laugh even when we were determined to be miserable. If we claimed to have a stomach ache, he would test our ailment with a simple question: “If I rip off your arm, and hit you over the head with it, would your stomach still hurt?” He had a raspy, gentle voice, which he almost never felt the need to raise in order to get a person's attention. His quiet nature made him pleasant and easy to be with, as talking was never a necessity, but if you wanted to, he could converse on just about anything. He was good company, whether it was walking the streets of Venice, strolling through a flea market, lounging on the beach, having breakfast at a greasy spoon, or just sitting on the couch watching TV.

Despite his generally laid back nature, my father had that Coraccio curiosity to understand how things work. By things, I mean both physical and metaphysical. He preferred to come out on top, but he didn't need to always win. For understanding the cause and effect of why things happen seemed to lessen the disappointment when they didn't turn out the way he wanted them to. He never expected too much out of life, and so when something did go the right way, he had a habit of remarking on it with surprise. “That was kind of cute,” he'd often say, or “How fortuitous!” His joy was usually quiet, as was his sorrow. If he could move on to the next goal, he always had something to look forward to.

If I had one of those days when it seemed like I would have been better off not leaving the house in the morning – the kind of day when everything goes wrong – I often called my dad to tell him what I'd gone through. I knew that in the process of regaling him with the day's events, we would both have a good laugh. I can't explain why or how, but I knew that if there was anything comical to discover in a mishap, my father would appreciate it. Sure, I could have been in tears while going through the experience, but re-seeing it through my father's eyes brought us both laughter. Other times, when I called my dad with the usual complaints about work, school, and romance, he often gave me the same advice: “You just gotta keep hustlin'.” This simple philosophy virtually encapsulates my father's entire life. No matter what was thrown his way, he quietly persevered. And in his 80 years, he did a heck of a lot of persevering.

We made a lot of jokes about luck. It seems like his wasn't always very good. Everything, and I mean everything he had in life was earned. He taught us that if you want to be loved, you need to show love. If you want to be appreciated, you have to appreciate others. If you want devotion, you must first be devoted. It's not a guarantee, but it's the only way you will ever have a fighting chance. So as a result, he had family and friends who loved, appreciated, and were devoted to him. And this, I think, is how he measured his own success. And it had nothing to do with luck.

My father taught us to do the things that make us happy, to love the people we want to love, without shame, unabashedly, and without reserve. He taught us to enjoy ourselves, to please ourselves first, and to revel in the joys of the moment: the simple things like a good meal, a sunny sky, a surprise card in the mail, a cold beer when you're doing yard work, a good cup of coffee in the morning, a back scratch, a phone call, or an enjoyable book. I could spend all day listing the things my dad enjoyed, because despite everything, he never took his life for granted, and I never once saw him feeling sorry for himself.

As he was coming out of lung surgery, groggy from anaesthesia, unlike most people who would ask, “How did it go?” or “How am I doing?” my father struggled to find the breath to ask me, “Where are we on the itinerary?” We had a goal, and he was hustlin' to reach it, and he never quit. He never gave up on himself, and he never gave up on any of us. So now, when the grief and loss feels like it's simply too much to bear, and I wonder how I'm going to make it through the rest of my life without him, I know exactly how. I'm going to keep hustlin'.