Sunday, August 29, 2010

[We're] A Long Way From Home

When I got to the hotel, I was met at the front desk by Maria, one of the staff members from IFSA-Butler’s Ireland office (conveniently located just across the square outside the hotel), who gave me some information, and a map of Dublin I obviously didn’t need, and a voucher for yet ANOTHER tour bus pass, and placed me in a double room with a girl named Kelsey, whom she explained was actually just coming up from Cork to meet us new arrivals and hang out with us during orientation, since she herself had actually done the program last spring, stayed on in Cork over the summer, and arranged to attend UCC for another semester this fall.

Other than two girls who had arrived over the weekend and were staying in a different room, I was the first one there, and there wasn’t anything planned for us until dinner, so after lying around for a couple of hours I wandered out to investigate the National Gallery (which happened to be about two buildings down the street from the hotel). On the way out, I met another IFSA person, Suzy, the one who actually lives here in Cork (I think she might be a grad student? She’s a UCC alum, at any rate.), who was sitting on the front steps with her dog. The most beautiful dog I have ever seen in my life. And I’m pretty sure that’s not hyperbole. She’s some kind of sighthound, sleek and elegant, about the size and shape of a Pharaoh hound (as far as I know; certainly bigger and heavier than most greyhounds), but solid, shiny black. I don’t think a person would need to know half as much as I know about dogs to appreciate how gorgeous this girl is. And I’m not even a huge fan of sighthounds, in general.

… But I’m sure you don’t care as much as I did. So moving on. The National Gallery is enormous and has much to offer art connoisseurs. But if you know me, you know that I like ancient art. Art with historical significance. Decorative art on objects. I prefer things to paintings, and though I have nothing against paintings, I have to be in the mood to look at dozens of rooms of them without getting bored. I was not in that mood two Mondays ago.

Mostly, I was there to see the Caravaggio that all of Dublin seemed so proud of, and this I accomplished. It’s of Jesus being arrested. I sat and looked at it for a while. It didn’t do much for me.

I did walk around a lot of the other European galleries, and saw some things I enjoyed, including a not-very-famous Van Gogh I really liked. But I should probably go back and try again if I have time on my next visit to Dublin. There are definitely things I would appreciate more if I was more willing to take the time for them, and I basically skipped the Irish art wing, which feels just a little bit wrong, considering.

I had a late, awkward lunch by myself in a café around the corner and then went back to the hotel. Suzy and the dog, Sooty, were still on the steps, and we bonded a bit more about loving dogs, and how beautiful and regal Sooty is (“Yeah, she knows it,” was Suzy’s response to something particularly gushing that I said), and Suzy asked me to hold the lead while she went inside for a moment, which pretty much made my day.

Kelsey turned up shortly before we were due in the lobby for dinner. She was very talkative and friendly and could not say enough nice things about Cork.

Dinner was at a pub in Temple Bar called The Purty Kitchen, which was pretty authentically Irish (possibly the only place I ate in Dublin that was). After much deliberation, I settled on beef and Guinness pie (which was fine but which I probably will not order again anywhere else—although at least I can honestly say that I’ve consumed Guinness, and let people assume what they will from that statement). Afterwards, Kelsey sort of took charge of us and we went to a pub down the street where several girls ordered their first-ever drinks (I had forgotten until arriving that I would almost certainly be the oldest, since most normal people go abroad junior year). It wasn’t very exciting since it was still too early for most people to be out, but it was good initial bonding time and good question-Kelsey-about-everything time.

In addition to myself, there are four other girls here for Early Start through IFSA-Butler: Abby, Chelsea, Kristin, and Carolyn. I genuinely like all of them. Abby and Carolyn are in the archaeology class with me. I’ve barely seen Abby (outside of class, that is) since we got to Cork, and haven’t spent a lot of time with Chelsea, although we run into each other fairly often. Kristin and Carolyn and I are still spending a lot of time together.

There is also Roger, who is also from Oberlin (no, we did not know each other beforehand), who was not present at dinner that first night because he was delayed in getting to Dublin. He turned up about halfway through orientation Tuesday morning. He’s around, here in Cork, but I haven’t really hung out with him since we got here, either.

There’s not a lot more to say about Dublin, I guess. We had orientation talks in the IFSA office, which is very cozy and on the basement level of a Georgian townhouse, on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, followed by lunches in nice Dublin restaurants. On Tuesday afternoon Suzy dropped us off at the Guinness Storehouse for a tour. As I’m sure you can guess, I had approximately zero interest in being there, but since it was paid-for and it’s one of those things tourists are basically required to do, I guess I’m glad I went. And the bar at the very top of the building is circular and has one giant window all the way around, so you have a panoramic view of Dublin for several miles in EVERY direction. I almost-literally ran around it taking pictures.

Wednesday afternoon we just had free time, and I convinced everyone except Roger and Chelsea that we wanted to go to the Collins Barracks Museum (the National Museum of History and Decorative Arts), but by the time we got there (by tour bus again, so it was a lengthy ride) it was closing in less than an hour and we only had time to rush through a war history exhibit. But that was neat, and I will definitely be going back to see the rest of the museum when I return to Dublin, so I don’t have any regrets about that.

And then Thursday we got up and got on a bus and came to Cork, so that’s orientation week in a nutshell. I’m sure I planned to include more detail at the time, but since I’m so far behind I’ll leave it there for now, and maybe sprinkle in a story or two later on if I remember.

Next up: first week of classes in Cork, and my weekend adventures.

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