Saturday, September 27, 2008

Droolin' over Doolin

At last! The final chapter in the story of last weekend's expedition to the west of Ireland.

When last we left our brave explorers, they were on a ferry bound across Galway Bay to Doolin, a tiny seaside town. Rough waves and a chilly breeze did nothing to quench the enthusiasm of the nine travellers --- though the rainstorm that caught them by surprise certainly did.

Doolin's tiny. One road that can't even remotely be called a Main Street winds through, passing the two hostels and three pubs that host and entertain visitors. However, this road passes by golf courses and cow pastures for a whole mile before it actually reaches Doolin. This is the terrible fact we discovered when we stepped off the ferry, umbrella-less and without a dry change of clothes. We trekked, caught between amusement and hysteria, alarming the munching cows with our cursing and complaining about the lack of sidewalks and good Samaritans.

But a hot bowl of Guinness stew with good brown bread cures a whole bunch of ails, and shivers and sniffles are two of them. Plus, we had so much to look forward to the next day --- the Cliffs of Moher. We turned in early in our lovely hostel, with the promise of hot scones in the morning.

And what a morning it was!

Tummies full and bodies rested, we went out to the Cliffs prepared to be astounded.

This is what we saw:

Imagine, the sun rising over this. Now turn over your right shoulder:

Can you picture anything more idyllic? Keep turning:

Ahh, there are the cliffs! And, once more, turn:

There's an Irish saying: "Is glas iad na cnoic i bhfad uainn." It translates to "far away hills are green," a more lyrical way of saying the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. Here's the thing, though. Every hill is green here!

Basking in the Monday morning sunlight.

I cannot get over this.

From the cliffs you can see Inisheer! If you look closely, you can make out a brownish oblong thing on the righthand side of the island just by the water. That's the wreck of the Plassy, the beached ship we played in on Sunday.

I wish you were here on top of the world with me!

We Owe China $500 Billion??

It's Saturday morning here in Dublin, and we're curled up on the couch watching McCain and Obama speak.

"IT'S ON: THE FIRST PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE" proclaims the bottom of the screen. Instant goosebumps! --- it's all unfurling so quickly from now until November 4th.

What's really interesting is that there's a live feed of the debate on two channels here: Sky News, an English-language news channel, and TG4, the Irish-language TV station. Maybe it's just because it's 2:30 AM here on a Saturday, and there's not much else to broadcast to the sleepy people here, but it really seems like Ireland wants to engage itself in the U.S. presidential campaign. We're not complaining! And, uncannily, McCain just compared America's business tax rate to that of Ireland's. That'll be all over the papers tomorrow!

They call Obama "the Hopemonger" here in magazines and Op-Ed columns. It's absolutely clear that Ireland, and most of Europe that I've heard of, wants to see him succeed. On our first day here, during our orientation program, we were told that Ireland likes to consider itself "closer to Boston than Berlin" in terms of its cultural relevance and political leanings. That becomes more evident by the day.

What an election to be voting in, and what a time to be abroad!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

With a Little Help From James Joyce...

' "There was no row," said Gabriel moodily, "only she wanted me to go for a trip to the west of Ireland and I said I wouldn't."

His wife clasped her hands excitedly and gave a little jump.

"O, do go, Gabriel," she cried. "I'd love to see Galway again."

"You can go if you like," said Gabriel coldly.'

Oh, Gabriel. What you missed out on, you'll never know.

Thankfully, we took a little field trip out to the west of Ireland this weekend, and it was just wonderful. Unlike the trip we'll be taking to Belfast in a couple of weeks, this excursion had nothing to do with any class --- it was pure fun and exploration, courtesy of Tisch. All of us students, plus our program director Susanne and our R.A. Sigita, drove out to Galway on Saturday morning, taking in kilometer after kilometer of green fields and dozy cattle.

Apparently Saturday was the best day of the entire Irish summer this year. It was nearly cloudless, with temperatures hovering in the low 80s. Coming from Washington, where the average summer day feels like the inside of a vacuum cleaner bag, hot and damp and dusty, that's laughable. But boy, did the people we encountered make the most of it! We strolled around Galway, munching on crepes as we took in the weekend farmers' market, packed with olives and leeks and blocks of limestone for sale --- all of it hawked by sunburnt smiley men. It's a sweet and good-natured town, far less industrial than Cork and less self-involved than Dublin. If only we had more time there!

But we hustled on. We had a ferry to catch, you know!

The next leg of our journey took us out to Inisheer, the smallest of the three Aran Islands. It's located between the Atlantic Ocean and the mouth of the Galway Bay. Let's go back to Joyce for an introduction to the Islands...

' "O, Mr. Conroy, will you come for an excursion to the Aran Isles this summer? We're going to stay there a whole month. It will be splendid out in the Atlantic. You ought to come...and haven't you your own language to keep in touch with -- Irish?" asked Miss Ivors.

"Well," said Gabriel, "if it comes to that, you know, Irish is not my language." '

Well, Gabriel, it is the language of Inisheer. All of the Islands are considered part of the Gaeltacht, or Irish-speaking region of contemporary Ireland. For the most part, Gaeltachts are quite traditional, close-knit communities. Inisheer is no exception. About 200 people live on the island, most of them fishermen. There are three pubs, two restaurants, a hostel, a bed and breakfast, and a general store. No police officers, no firemen, no bowling alley.

There are, however, ancient ruins and Napoleonic watchtowers, a rusted shipwreck on the shore, and a half-dozen loyal dogs who followed us over boulders and past blackberry hedges as high as my chest. It's a lonely, lovely place. With so much free time, I walked around the island, hearing at long last actual Irish spoken conversationally! I was so thrilled to finally be able to use what I'd learned from my two semesters of Irish. While everyone knows English, they always were happy to answer my "go raibh maith agat" with a "failte romhat." I wish we could have stayed longer.

Dead seagulls and all, it's an astounding place. But there was one leg left of our adventure: traveling back across Galway Bay to Doolin and the Cliffs of Moher. That's a story for another day. Maybe tomorrow! Stay tuned.

I love and miss you all!

Monday, September 22, 2008

See? The Cliffs of Insanity!

Remember this?

That's exactly how I spent my weekend:

NYU took us on a field trip this weekend --- Dublin to Galway, then out to the smallest of the Aran Islands, Inisheer, to spend the night. A few of the screenwriters broke off to spend an extra day exploring County Clare and the Cliffs of Moher, where that scene from "The Princess Bride" was filmed.

I'm getting together all of my stories from the past couple of days...stay tuned!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

There is a Bee in My Bonnet, and I Will Now Step On It

Still to be blogged: Ireland's fascination with Elvis, observations on juice, and reviews of some local pubs around Dublin.

However --- something really got to me today. Diablo Cody, who won the Academy Award this past year for Best Original Screenplay for "Juno," just updated her blog. I'm absolutely not her biggest fan, Lord knows, and apparently tons of other people aren't either...her latest posting is a diatribe defending her self-created persona. Why that needs to go all over the internet? Your guess is as good as mine. But something she writes really sticks with me, especially after these first three weeks in Dublin.

So, what was that, Diablo?

""I may have won 19 awards that you don't feel I earned, but it's neither original nor relevant to slag on Juno. Really. And you're not some bold, singular voice of dissent, You are exactly like everyone else in your zeitgeisty-demo-lifestyle pod."

Mhmm. But that's not what really gets to me. She pities me, NYU film student, "shooting your failed opus at Tisch."

For the past twenty days, I have been surrounded with strong, witty, immensely powerful minds. I have the privilege to learn with, play with, fight with, and live with some of the most dazzling, brilliant people I've ever met --- people who do not and will not ever need to rely on name-dropping or pop culture references to tell their amazing stories. We're not just coining catchphrases in our writing. We're changing things. And no, we're not bold, singular voices of dissent, Diablo. There's no dissent here. We've been encouraged by our families, our teachers, and above all, by each other. The support system I've found at Tisch is incomparable. I'm sorry you never got to experience it.

So, homeskillet, enjoy your 19 awards. I'm having the time of my time writing with people who care about me and will stand by me, failed opus or not.

Monday, September 15, 2008

You Say Baloney, I Say Blarney

So --- Cork was disappointing. That's been said. Do I regret the trip? No way.

Rousing ourselves early Saturday morning, we dashed down to catch a bus to Blarney, about twenty minutes outside of Cork. It's a tiny little village with a beautiful town green, a few cafes, a school, and a post office. It's also home to one of the biggest tourist attractions in Ireland: the Blarney Stone.

Yes, it's all very cliche. But if the legends are true, and kissing the Blarney Stone really does impart "the gift of gab," then why not? We're screenwriters here --- we need all the eloquence we can get! The castle itself is just stunning. Few of my preconceived notions about Ireland have been challenged --- it absolutely is a country full of tiny towns, green fields, and random ruins scattered about. The Blarney Castle was built around the 11th century, but it was destroyed in 1446. The King of Munster rebuilt it, placing the legendary Blarney Stone at the top of the castle. And so it stands today!

We clambered up the stairs, holding tight to the stone walls. I'm so amazed by Carmen...completely afraid of heights, she went all the way to the top --- documenting the journey on her video camera! I couldn't be that brave.

So we kissed the stone. Check! Now we join the ranks of thousands of other overfed tourists who lay on their backs and lean over the edge to get a little piece o'luck. Don't cluck your cynical tongues at me, please. I fully embrace the tackiness of my ways. But that wasn't even the highlight of the trip!

I can say without hesitation that the gardens at Blarney Castle are the most beautiful place I have been in years. Perhaps even ever. Six of us girls went wandering through them, just stunned by the peace and the loveliness. The timelessness of the forest is almost supernatural --- it's peppered with these natural rock formations that have been around forever. An old circle of stones where druids used to walk. Deep streams that flow soundlessly between trees and underfoot. You can see perfectly to the bottom, where old willow branches and river weeds drift around. I held my hands underneath a waterfall and drank ancient water. Ancient water!

As quiet as the forest is, you never quite feel alone. It's so easy to understand how many fairy tales originated in Ireland. Something about the light, about the moss and the's another world. I honestly would not have been surprised to see a unicorn emerge from behind a clump of trees. We all had goosebumps --- realizing that as little girls, we had dreamed of playing princess in a place like this. To find it exists entirely and utterly as we imagined is mindblowing.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


In keeping with the spontaneity of Ireland, a couple of us took a little jaunt to Cork this weekend, catching a bus early Friday. Cork, in the south of the country, is Ireland's second-biggest city after Dublin, and its third most populated after Dublin and Belfast. Historically, it's known as "The Rebel City," due to the role it played in the War for Independence and Ireland's Civil War.

Colloquially, it's known as a bit of a letdown. Cork's a mix of Cumberland's dreariness, Baltimore's unease, and the shopping centers of Queens. While very well-dressed, the people there were far less likely to return smiles. This may not be a reflection on the Corkonians themselves --- we were asked for directions by three different groups of Americans, some Canadian visitors, and a posse of Israeli tourists. Nobody's quite sure of their bearings in Cork, and somehow the atmosphere takes on the feeling of an outdoor warehouse full of strangers.

But even a bleak destination is manageable when you're traveling with friends. And what companions I had! The girls and I had such fun exploring up and down the River Lee while waiting for the others to arrive. A wonderful dinner at an organic place called Nutmeg cheered us all up immensely, and we ended the night in hilarity --- all ten NYU kids in one hostel room, trying to sleep and failing catastrophically.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

It's Called the Emerald Isle for a Reason

For those of you skeptics who've questioned my passion for Ireland's greenery:

Saturday, September 6, 2008

What's Duller Than Watching Paint Dry?

Here in Dublin, the answer is: watching your laundry dry.

Our apartments are outfitted with joint washer-dryer units, and holy mackerel, are they slow. I'm sitting here on the couch listening to the half-hearted whirl of it as it labors over the three pairs of jeans I put in there at 11:30 this morning. Yes, you counted properly, that WAS twelve hours ago. Twelve hours! That can't really be that energy efficient, even though I did put it on the half-load eco-wash setting. There's got to be a better way. So far the record among us students is getting a full load of t-shirts laundered in five hours. We wept to think of the luxury.

I had boatloads of fun on Thursday night, going to a comedy night at the International Bar then out to dance at a fun pub called The Globe. Aside from one hideously unfunny September 11th joke, the Irish comedians certainly upheld their reputation as terrifically witty people. And The Globe was just too great. I'm still not used to the alcohol-saturated nightlife here, but heading up George's Street away from touristy, overpriced Temple Bar was really refreshing. Plus, I discovered the handy fact that if the music is what it should be, it really doesn't matter what's in your glass. Guinness or soda water, if you're grooving, you're fine. As Dave, a fellow patron, said: "If you take anything away from this stupid Irish man, make it this: dance is the true religion." Not bad, Dave!

Today was another big day: the annual River Liffey Swim! A bunch of us went up the river to see the two hundred brave souls who participated in the race --- which has been going on since 1922, when the Liffey was apparently quite a pleasant place for a frolic.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Here's my window! And beyond that, some of the beautiful things I've seen thus far:

I've Got No Frankincense At All

Just as when I was in Australia (could that possibly have been seven years ago?), I'm consistently tickled by the flavors of things here. What marketing focus group decided that prune yogurt would be a hit here in Europe but not in America? How come Dubs get to munch on "Prawn Cocktail" Pringles in jolly pink cans, but Bostoners can't?

Case in point! My new toothpaste: Colgate Herbal. Bought at the 2€ Store for, well, two euro, it features a soothing bouquet of chamomile, eucalyptus, sage, and myrrh. Myrrh! I honestly didn't know that was still around. How delicious, though! It's a little bit overwhelming at first brush --- almost as if you've cut open a lawn mower's bag of clippings and shoved your toothbrush inside. Spitting into the sink, I half-expect to see little pieces of grass and clover. Why is this not readily available in D.C.?

Along those lines, I'll say this: grass is INSANE here. I'm trying desperately to figure out just how much of the municipal budget is devoted strictly to maintaining and manicuring the patches of grass in the city. Over by Trinity, it's stunning to see Astroturf-esque expanses of beautiful, soft green grass. Cut low to to ground and perfectly planted, it begs for little lambs to graze upon it. Unfortunately, that's a right given only to those honorable citizens who have received the Freedom of the City. Lucky recipients like Bob Geldof and Bono have the right to graze sheep on common ground within the city boundaries.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Lidl Disappointed

I'm about to run off to my very first screenwriting workshop...I'm excited to get back to work on something big!

We're only a few days into the semester here in Ireland, but already the penny-pinching is getting extreme. I walked into another of the student apartments over the weekend to find a group of at least four people standing around a pot of marinara sauce warming on the stove, ladling big warm spoonfuls of sauce into their mouths. That's one way to get your vegetables!

After our first night's meal of grostequely pricey deep-fried fish and chips, we've tried to avoid fast food. Jet lag plus the hangover of too much grease and sodium, combined with the simple knowledge that you've just paid about $15 for a plate of food you could get at any mall food court for under $5, is pretty nauseating.

So with optimistic hearts, we set out on Sunday for Lidl, a cheapo grocery store on the north side of the Liffey. It was kind of a letdown. Some good deals, sure, but not what we poor college kids were hoping for! Plus, not taking credit cards? No good. No good at all.

One thing that I really appreciate about Ireland (and, from what I've heard, a good deal of Europe) is the lack of shopping bags. "Paper or plastic?" just isn't an option here, unless you're willing to cough up a few extra Euro. That being said, having to pay for the use of a grocery cart is pretty startling too. But the fee for shopping bags means everyone brings their own, which thrills a little green piece of my heart. Anyhow, we're surviving on simple fare, which is satisfying in its own way. A piece of seedy brown bread with blackcurrant jam for breakfast. A banana and leftover pizza slice for lunch. A salad with oil and vinegar and some baked chicken thighs for dinner. Little by little, we're finding shortcuts and timesavers for getting through the days!

Time for class --- more later!

Monday, September 1, 2008

There are a few ways still in which I am very much reckless and impetuous:
- I have never once separated my whites and colors in the wash.
- I squeeze my toothpaste anywhere but from the bottom up.
- I do not make my bed.
- I sleep with my contacts in.
- I blow my nose loudly and often.
- I walk briskly with scissors.

Here's another one to add to the list!

For the next three months, I'll be living here in Dublin, participating in NYU's study abroad program. It's coordinated by the Tisch School of the Arts --- so all twenty-four of us here are film majors, and we're more or less pretty familiar with each other. You can bet that after the next fourteen weeks of working together, crewing together, pubbing together and living together, we're going to be a heck of a lot closer.

I flew into Dublin from Dulles Saturday morning, and I'm only just now unpacking --- so forgive me for all these belated details, especially if you were expecting me to be in Manhattan this semester! After the first two days of settling in, we've finally found a slightly domestic pace to comfort ourselves with. That doesn't mean we'll be laying low, especially if this quote from Sir John Pentland Mahaffy is to be trusted:

"In Ireland the inevitable never happens and the unexpected constantly occurs."

I can only hope. Please stay tuned for more updates! I miss you and love you all!