Sunday, June 19, 2011

If I started a fund to go to Ireland, would anyone donate?

As I’ve mentioned in prior pieces I’ve written, I’ve turned my musical gaze across the pond to our European allies.  It’s not to say that I don’t like American music anymore.  It’s just that I’m looking to enhance my palate with tastes of something different lately.  Enter Two Door Cinema Club.

Two Door Cinema Club, in my opinion, is like what Death Cab for Cutie would be like if they were from Northern Ireland and their songs were half their length (seriously Death Cab, a guitar riff on repeat for 6 minutes?).  Though they haven’t released anything too recently, I think they’re worth highlighting for the growth in radio play their getting.  The band is a three piece that uses synth drums to back their poppy hooks and intricate guitar work.  Their popular song right now is “What You Know” but their whole album Tourist History is very catchy and delicately crafted.

There isn’t too much I can say about this band that their tunes can’t say for themselves.  I admittedly don’t know much about them, but I look forward to seeing them at Lollapalooza later this summer.  Check them out.

The Script- For The First Time

Glen, having been a friend of Mic Christopher back in the day, played the song in this Guiness ad last night. And I was reminded of Tumblr’s Fassy situation. Watch it. He’s in it. And very…wet.

I am extremely exhausted but want to get everything down before I sleep (it’s about 9:30) so this will probably be very long and completely disorganized.

Woke up this morning at 5am, because the sun was coming through my blinds. Ireland does not do nighttime, apparently. I have literally not seen darkness since getting here. Spent my morning looking up how to order mixed drinks at bars without sounding like a noob, because everyone else gets “a pint of Guinness” but try as I might I do not like Guinness. I have a list of things I want to try, when I have enough energy for pubs and nightclubs. Next weekend. I’ve been pretty jetlagged but am holding up fine - the thing that’s making me more miserable than being sleepy is that I’m really sore. Between the hiking trip last week, the long plane ride, and the very spring-y bed in my apartment, I’ve been really achey and sore the whole time.

The weather here is beautiful but chilly - December weather in Phoenix, plus more moisture. Been in sweaters and jeans the whole time and very comfortable. They say this is unusually cold and it will warm up as June progresses, though the weather is still very unpredictable. In one day yesterday we saw very warm sunlight and hailstones. Another first impression: the cars here are tiny. Every car is just incredibly little. I come from a place where many people drive SUVs, Hummers, pickups - and some of the pickups and SUVs look like someone stuck an air compressor in the gas valve and inflated them. Massive cars. Not a single car bigger than a Prius in Dublin, except the buses, which are very large.

Speaking of “where I’m from” - it’s been awkward but interesting explaining to people where I’m “from.” I’m from Phoenix, going to school in Baltimore, and here with UIowa (many people are not - along with the 19 IWP people, there are about 70 more IES students doing other programs.) A lot has been made about personal identity and what it means to be an American abroad and how we’ll learn a lot about our own selves during this trip. A lot of kids on the trip identify as Irish-American even though their Irish ancestry may go back many generations. I’ve never identified as anything but American, or “American mutt.” I’m not too caught up in being American, either, or my hometown of Phoenix. Don’t feel much of a connection to any culture, ethnicity, or nation, really. So it’s interesting to learn about the Irish identity because it’s so different from my own.

In terms of meeting people, one great icebreaker has been Humans vs. Zombies. A lot of kids go to schools that play, so we can talk about that, and the kids who have never heard of it are interested too. UIowa had a game but it was prematurely ended and never revived because someone got hit by a car. I’ve been talking about HvZ a lot and it’s been a fun way to get to know people. HvZ is a force for good.

Today was orientation, which meant 8 hours (no, really) of powerpoint slides on everything from public transit to Irish history to safety to housing. Dublin is a very safe city, relatively, and it has very low violent crime rates and very high petty crime rates. A lot was made about personal safety. I got a little nervous until I realized that if they took a group of students from Dublin to Phoenix or Baltimore, they’d tell them the exact same things. Basic common sense like don’t leave your bag unattended, be aware of your surroundings, know what the “dodgy” areas are, don’t go home with strangers, etc. I am tired of the you are always a potential victim mindset, especially directed at the female students, but I understand that urban areas require caution and intelligence and they have to let us know that.

During orientation we also went over cultural issues and talked about Irish stereotypes of Americans and what Irish people are “really like” and so forth. Some interesting stuff, like the fact that Irish people tend to be “friendly but distant” - when someone says “how are you,” they don’t expect an answer, not even the cursory American “fine, how are you?” We were warned that making lasting friendships with the locals will be an uphill battle, even though we’ll have many warm one-time conversations at pubs and so on. Another thing we kept hearing is that Irish people tend to be pessimistic, with very dark humor, and a penchant for teasing one another. They told us that Ireland doesn’t really do political protests, and that they tend to complain and accept bad situations rather than getting angry. There’s a dark outlook in the culture: things are only alright because they’re not worse, and everyone’s barely getting on. We were told that Americans are very optimistic go-getters and bootstrap-pullers, that we get things done, see the bright side, etc. I realized that a lot of the comments were the “American Dream” mythos re-told from the perspective of another culture. Fascinating.

Also, we were told that Americans have a reputation for being loud because we are loud, and one reason that was given is that Irish people speak more softly because the country is so small that gossip can be dangerous because on a pub or in a train, there might be someone who knows the person you’re talking about. I thought this was an exaggeration until they told us that there are 4 million people in Ireland. (Fun fact: there are only three thousand Jewish people in Ireland.) The person giving the talk said that if an Irish person starts talking to a stranger, and they get to talking about what county they’re from and so forth, it’s very common to discover that they’re fourth cousins or something. Very bizarre for me as an American to imagine. At home, I don’t know my neighbors.

Another thing about Ireland that we’ve been told about ten million times is that things go “a little slower” here. Things like home repairs that would be done within less than a day in a place like NYC take a few days here, and people are pretty flexible with being on time for things. Our professor told us he’d lived in rural KY and NYC, and the pace of Ireland (even in Dublin) is much closer to KY than NYC. We were told that as Americans, we expect things to be much quicker, and will need to be very patient with things in Dublin like waitservice, buses, waiting in line (queuing), etc. I haven’t really noticed that things are that much slower, but then again, I’ve been half-dead and I still feel like I’m on vacation, so I don’t mind much and haven’t been paying attention. I’m sure once I’m back to my normal American self, and I have places to go and things to do, I might become more aware of the Irish pace. I did find these warnings hilarious, because everyone I know who’s gone abroad says the same thing about the place they went, that time is more flexible and people don’t flip out and rush about. I guess it’s very much an American thing to shoot to arrive at 2:55 for a 3:00 engagement and to expect orderly lines and quick customer service. They told us that “customer service” is not really a thing here, and Irish people are more independent and people in service jobs can be “more rude” (really just “less polite and servile.”) I have noticed that waitstaff, cashiers, etc. behave more like complete, real people and less like the-customer-is-always-right robots. I like this.

One last thing we were told to expect in terms of culture shock was that Irish people can be more blunt and confrontational than we’re used to. We were warned that we will constantly be asked our opinions of American politics, and hear their opinions of our country/leaders, even if they’re not so tactful. I haven’t talked to many locals, but I’ve already noticed this a bit - our cab driver told us our neighborhood was nice and asked how much we were paying in rent. Of course we had no idea because it was included in the price of the program, but I was taken aback. I would never ask a stranger about the cost of something so expensive - I consider that rude. I would only ask a very close friend how much they paid for a car, house, etc. Talking about things like money and politics seems to be less taboo here. I’m actually excited to talk to some locals and see what the perception is and what sort of dark humor, teasing, and bluntness I’ll encounter.

For lunch I had a delicious sandwich with smoked salmon, cream cheese and avocado. I’ve notice cheap smoked salmon on a lot of menus, and a lot of people have said Dublin is a great place for good seafood. This Arizonan is quite excited. After the exhaustive and exhausting orientation a bunch of us went into the area Americans would refer to as “downtown” (they call it something else that I can’t remember right now, so tired) to get local cell phones. I think we bought out their entire supply of 20E phones. The guy who helped me with mine was very nice and chatted with me about America - he asked if I was from there and when I said yes he seemed relieved and said he asked a Canadian that earlier today and they were offended. He asked what part of the states I was from and I said Arizona and he asked if that was near Nevada and I said yes. He told me he had been all up and down the west coast and the east coast and started to say the north coast but realized we don’t have one. As he was in the middle of telling me how he had been all over the US his coworker wrote “NO HE HASN’T” on a paper and held it up behind him. We laughed, and the guy turned around but didn’t catch his buddy.

After we got our phones, one of the guys I was with decided he wanted Starbucks, so we went to one that was playing American pop music. Then we went to a dinner at a nice restaurant provided by IES, and one of our appetizer options was barbecue wings, one entree was a burger, and one dessert was apple pie. After sitting through an entire day of “expect some culture shock” and “you’re in a different place, be adaptable” and “be conscious of differences,” we found this hilarious. I think some of us, myself included, are getting a bit antsy to experience Dublin for ourselves - when do we get some of this culture shock we were promised? We’ve only been here for one full day, and we were all exhausted and the day was filled by IES programming, so it doesn’t really feel like I’m in another country yet. Everything has been pretty “normal,” except for little things (like I needed to give a cashier two cents and I accidentally gave her two 5 cent coins, which look like American pennies, and she rather condescendingly handed me one back.) I understand the accents, my adapter/converter works with no problems - I’m still in a sort of dreamlike state where part of my brain is not yet convinced that I’m in a different country.

I am very much looking forward to not being so tired and sore and over-booked so I can get out and explore the city. Everyone keeps telling us to be very careful to plan travel, go out to events, etc. We’ve been reminded that we only have 6 weeks here, and we really should make an effort to experience as much of Ireland as we can. I have taken this especially to heart, because I was pretty disappointed with my last summer - I really wanted to “experience” Baltimore, but I barely did. We spent days at a time in the apartment, and didn’t take advantage of very many opportunities the city provided (parks, events, galleries, museums, etc.) So I am committed to making this trip different. I already have some pretty full weekends planned - Bloomsday, Dublin Pride parade, a soccer match, a concert in Belfast, a music festival where the Saw Doctors are playing, etc. I plan to be smart with my money but not too smart, and to not spend any time on the internet besides the time it takes to post to this blog, check my email, and research things to do in Dublin.

That’s about it, as far as I can remember. It’s been a long, long day. Tomorrow the IWP kids are going on a walking tour, and then I think we have the rest of the day to ourselves. I plan to explore the city a bit, be a dopey tourist and buy postcards, and do the homework that’s already been assigned for the IWP kids.

Because some people have asked: No comments enabled on this blog, just email me if you want to respond to something, or click here. Also, I do not have a mailing address at my place here, and all mail to me should be addressed to the IES center. I can give you that address if you want, but I am not homesick and should not be bored, so I wouldn’t mind just getting emails. Remember that you cannot text or call me and I will not be checking my ‘normal’ tumblr. I’d be down for skype, but we’d have to arrange that ahead of time, as I am in a different time zone and so on. Now it is bedtime for me, 10pm and the sun is still going strong. No idea yet what time it goes down.

have you ever accent video with me and my best mate debbie (:

Serenity (by kathryn maude)


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