Friday, August 20, 2010

Forty Shades of Green [And Grey]

I moved to Cork yesterday, along with the rest of the IFSA-Butler Early Start kids (more on them when I return to my tales of Dublin). The day started out relatively nicely in Dublin. As we drove southwest over the next two and a half hours, it got progressively darker and greyer, until it would have put Oberlin at its most miserable to shame. Eventually it started raining, and continued to rain all the way to Cork, as we were dragging our stuff into the apartment complex, as we were walking into town… you get the idea. It was still raining when I went to bed. It was that fine, misty kind of rain that’s just enough to be annoying if you’re out in it, but will still somehow get you soaked.

I’ve concluded that weather forecasts mean very little here. The sky just does whatever the hell it wants. One of the presenters at orientation today had a quip about going through several seasons already this morning. It turned out to be a gloriously warm, sunny day, despite yesterday and despite the fact that last night my weather widget predicted another cold, rainy day today. Dublin was beautiful like today while I was there alone, except for a shower here and there, and then during my IFSA-Butler orientation Tuesday and Wednesday it was raining and then sunny, raining and then sunny, raining and then sunny all day long. I don’t mind it much, actually. I mind the relentless grey of Ohio. I mind downpours. I mind sub-freezing temperatures and snow. Indecision I can live with, if the bad isn’t as bad as all that.

Anyway, the landscape outside the bus window yesterday morning also got progressively greener as we moved southwest. People always talk about how green this part of the world is, and at first I had been unimpressed. Now I understand. And eventually I realized that if I could stop looking at the green pastures and the cattle and the wheatfields and the flocks of sheep with border collies standing guard, and look up once in a while, I might see a crumbling medieval tower rising up out of the landscape as casually as you please. I didn’t see anything yesterday that would compare to the castles I saw just hanging out along the highway in the French countryside, but it was exciting nonetheless.

My apartment is glorious. I have my own bedroom AND my own bathroom, and the kitchen is nicer than what I have at home, albeit with few useful cooking utensils. There’s a nice living room, too. My room is brightly lit, my desk is huge, my chair is comfy, my shelves and drawers are generous, my closet is organized. Everything is very well-maintained. This is far nicer than anywhere I’ve stayed in Oberlin. Possibly this is the nicest place I will live for a long time to come.

The apartment I’m in houses five, but so far I only have two roommates. Presumably there will be another two here next month when the real semester starts, but I have no idea whether they will also be international students or whether they will be Irish.

The major downside is that we are a good fifteen minute walk from campus, which is significantly more than what I was expecting from what people had said to us before we got here. Downtown is at least that far again past campus and possibly farther. It doesn’t help that there are five or six apartment blocks in the complex and I’m in the one farthest back from the road. Of course.

The other downside is that laundry costs twice as much as at Oberlin, and the machines are smaller.

Laundry also proved to be surprisingly confusing. First of all, buying detergent was a nightmare; it would appear that it only comes in powder form and that one might have to use multiple things depending on what you buy. I settled on a box of single-use packets that you throw right in with the clothes instead of having to measure the right quantity and put it in the right drawer on the machine. Probably not very cost-effective, but I might be able to get through the whole semester on one box, and if not at least I still won’t waste as much at the end.

Then I didn’t understand any of the settings on the machine, and eventually just guessed and hoped my clothes and sheets wouldn’t be ruined. (They weren’t.) I guess it’s the things you aren’t expecting to be different that turn out to be the most so. The dryer was easier, but dryer sheets do not exist here, it seems.

I had similar problems with the oven later this evening. The settings dial has no words (like bake, broil, etc.), just little symbols, none of which mean anything to me. I picked one at random and moved on to the temperature knob only to be reminded that I have no idea how to convert between Celsius and Fahrenheit in my head. Guessed on that, too. Fortunately I was only heating a sandwich and not actually cooking. I’m going to be in serious trouble when I get to that stage of settling in.

At any rate, we did go into town (a very long walk in the rain) yesterday afternoon to buy things like bedding and towels and hangers. There are two Irish department store chains (the stores in the centre of Cork are literally across the street from one another) that sell reasonably nice clothes and shoes and housewares incredibly cheaply. It’s a little like if Target took on the appearance of Macy’s but kept the same prices. Awesome. Probably going back for other stuff over the next week or so that was less urgent but will be nice to have. Ditto on groceries; I bought a few things for the weekend but haven’t yet done any real stocking up. Learning to navigate the supermarket is also going to be an interesting challenge. So many unfamiliar things.

The Early Start orientation was today, which consisted mainly of sitting in a lecture hall for five hours while various representatives of various offices and organizations talked at us. Useful but dismal. But each of the professors teaching an Early Start course said a little bit about their class, and the archaeology guy seems nice and fun and I think the class is going to be amazing. I can’t believe it’s only going to last four weeks. Afterwards we had a tour of the campus (by some sadly uninformed student guides who I don’t think had been trained in any way or told anything about the Early Start program or visiting students in general), which is very pretty but also large and confusing. I doubt the tour did much for any of us in the way of being able to orient ourselves. I can find my way to the building where my class is, and the library is right next to it, so that’s all I’m going to worry about for now.

That’s all I’ve got about Cork for now. I’m going to hold of on my judgment of the city itself until I’ve gotten to know it a little better; my brief exposure to the city centre yesterday wasn’t enough to make me feel like I know where anything is, let alone what it’s like.

Tomorrow I think the IFSA group is going to the covered market downtown together for some foodstuffs (we walked through it on the way to do our sheets-shopping yesterday and it’s amazing), and there’s a big football game against Dublin on Sunday that we’ve all been strongly encouraged to watch from one of the pubs downtown. I have no idea how Gaelic football works, but I’ve heard there are places in Cork where a pint is cheaper than anywhere I went in Dublin, so there’s that. My class starts Monday, which is also when I get my ID card, so I can set up my computer accounts, and register with Immigration, and generally become an official UCC student in more than name.

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