Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Warrior Bard(?)

Well, in the past couple of days I've mostly just continued to agonize over my schedule ("timetable," rather). I have to go talk to the bodhrán guy tomorrow, so fingers crossed for that, and I'm still waiting to hear about the timetable for tinwhistle lessons. Yesterday I attended the first lecture for a folklore class for visiting students that I suspect I will not be taking, but I'm considering going to the second lecture tomorrow anyway just to be sure. Last night was the first lecture for Intro to Irish History for Visiting Students, which I'm very much looking forward to even if it is a night class with irritating timing. There was a short lecture and then we watched a History Channel-style video (in which our lecturer appeared several times, allegedly wearing the same shirt he was wearing in class last night, although I personally didn't notice) about the Famine. I will spare you the rant that belongs here; suffice it to say that I left class depressed by the video but also seriously pissed off, and I am truly sorry that some of my classmates find one of the greatest tragedies in modern history to be so boring.

Probably they are all friends with the people from my archaeology class who found it amusing to lie on the "altar" at Drombeg and have human sacrifice photo ops.

Classmates notwithstanding, I think it will be a good class.

This morning I went, on a whim, to a class in the geography department called "Introduction to Geoinformatics." It sounded interesting and is team-taught by a Sciences person and an Arts person, which is interesting by itself. Unfortunately, I got increasingly concerned during the introduction that there was going to be a lot of GIS. So during the break (it's a two-hour time slot), I approached the lecturers and explained my situation and asked if it would be an appropriate module for me given that I already have some background in GIS. They basically said it's up to me, that some of it will probably be easy for me but the work should be pretty evenly divided so GIS won't be the dominant topic, and that they try to make connections between GIS and the other things they're talking about as much as possible. I said I like that because I'm an archaeology student, which they both seemed very interested in and which prompted a remark from the Sciences/GIS guy about it being good for them to have some idea of the background of the people in the class so they can target the information better. I got a very similar reaction to my presence in Professor Wojtal's GIS class at Oberlin, so that was encouraging. I'm still a little on the fence, though. No more than half the class would be review for me, and even that would be good practice, but I'm not sure whether that makes it worthwhile. I'm considering writing to someone at Oberlin for advice, but I kind of suspect it'll still come down to what I want to do.

That's partly why I'm giving the folklore class another chance tomorrow, because the archaeology lecture I went to this afternoon was dismal, and that was the class I had planned to take before stumbling upon the geography one. "The Paleolithic in Eurasia" was not something I was super excited about, but it would be interesting, and the archaeology class I'd planned to take during the first quarter (since the archaeology department is irritating that way, and pretty much all the classes I was interested in this semester are in the second quarter) conflicted with something I wasn't giving up. Turns out this was not a suitable replacement. I got to spend an hour of my afternoon listening (sort of) to a very confusing overview of evolutionary theory and human genetics, complete with totally meaningless chalkboard scribbles, that, after having already been taught at least three times, in more detail, everything he discussed, was utterly boring. And that was presented so confusingly that I don't think I'd have been able to follow at all if I hadn't already learned it three times over. Plus the lecturer seems dull, and just to top it off, the essay assignment is virtually identical to a paper I wrote for my Human Origins class two years ago. So no. As weird as it seems to keep saying I came here to study archaeology and yet not take any actual archaeology modules until the second half of the semester, that definitely seems the better course of action. Even if it results in the strangest and most inconvenient schedule I've ever had—and I'm the queen of those.

Now that I’ve rambled on too much about classes, I’ll get to what I actually wanted to talk about: today was also Societies Day. “Societies” are basically student-run social clubs (whereas the word “clubs” refers to groups for playing sports). And today there was a fair in the student centre where all the different societies had little booths and information and sign-up sheets. I put my name down too many times: I may or may not be active in the History or Literature Societies, but they might do something interesting at some point; I might take more active part in the doings of the Archaeology Society; the Choral Society was the main reason I went in the first place but, naturally, meets on Tuesday nights in the middle of my history lecture. The lecture is 6-8 and the choral society meets from 7-9, so in theory I can go after my class and catch the end, but it remains to be seen whether that'll be worthwhile. I'm skeptical, but I also don't relish the prospect of another semester without singing.

BUT I also put myself on the list for the Medieval and Renaissance Society, which is basically an excuse for mostly-grown men with some interest in history to dress up in chain mail and whale on each other with blunted swords, then watch movies like Braveheart and A Knight’s Tale.

Honestly, despite my own dorkiness, I’ve never been much for hardcore reenacting, with personas and staging battles and stuff, but I do like the idea of learning how to use weapons and make costumes. And I like hanging out with history geeks.

The first meeting was tonight. It was a little painful for me at first, especially since Tyler’s long-lost Irish twin was there, but once they moved out of demonstration/show-and-tell mode and into first training session mode, and someone gave me a “spear” and started telling me how to use it, I decided I didn’t care anymore.

So it was a lot of fun. Hard (I don’t have the coordination for a sword, let alone something significantly bigger), but fun. I am definitely going back next week, and at some point there will be movies and games and crafts in addition to playing with weaponry. But on that note, it was even hinted that I might get to try swords and archery despite only being here for a semester, even though they usually drag things out over a whole year even for foreign students (and the Irish students are stuck with a full year of mastering the spear before they get to move on).

The people who are involved are really friendly, and most of the others like me who were there for the first time seemed nice. I think I might have been the only American in the room, for the first time ever anywhere since I got to Cork. But also for the first time ever anywhere since I got to Cork, I didn’t feel weird or [too] self-conscious about being American.

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