Friday, September 25, 2009

      At this moment, Dublin is highly in touch with its collective consciousness.  If you went out of your flat yesterday, you couldn't help getting into at least three conversations about each of the following.  

  1. The Lisbon Vote
From what I can gather (my main sources have been outspoken men in pubs, so bear that in mind), the importance of the Lisbon vote is not in the details of the Treaty, but rather what a ratification would mean for the Republic symbolically.  
In general, and this is in no ways a defining statement, those who are rallying for a No vote are of the Old Guard.  Ex-, or current, IRA members, sympathizers and those over a certain age are campaigning against the Lisbon Treaty because they see it as forfeiting Ireland’s power in Europe and undermining the Constitution of the Republic.  On this side of the debate, it seems to me that the motivation is stemming from a dire will to be an independent state.  While this might seem like an outdated fear to some, it is actually quite understandable given the history of the past century in Ireland.  

The campaign to ratify Lisbon is helmed by the Youth and student voices.  Any bar that you walk into within a reasonable distance from Trinity, someone will undoubtably strike up a conversation with you by pointing a finger at your heart and threatening, “what are you voting on Lisbon?” Now, this is all in good-natured slagging really, but if you say you are leaning towards a No vote, things could get quite serious quite quickly.  We found this out the hard way when several of my peers were convinced they would vote No by the many signs posted on streetlamps across the country - which were then later discovered to basically be propaganda.  
There was a certain desire within us to be in support of that old Irish Rebel Cause - the fiery desire to be independent of Britain.  This is the romanticized Irish Politics we see as radical.  However, in reality, that brand of politics is now quite a stick in the mud.  The reality is, Ireland IS an independent state - now the problem is the problem that every other European country has: how do the European states work together while maintaining their own individual National identity and pride?

        2. Yesterday was National Arthur’s Day.  

        I walked through a street in the city centre where I was caught in the middle of a hundred plus people group toast to Arthur Guiness and his brew.  However, not all Irishmen were proud to celebrate the man - one local pub patron was quite adamant that we were celebrating the drink and not the man because Arthur Guiness persecuted the catholics, to which another patron replied, “Yes, but didn’t they all?”


Monday, September 21, 2009


The one overarching theme of my time in Ireland so far is “Money, Money, Money”.  It seems as if “they” who make up the prices of things, or that is to say the “market”, just plops a euro sign in front of an american price for say, a pint, and calls it a day.  I must stop doing the conversions from euros to dollars in my head because that is a surefire way to frustration and insanity.  But no matter, I’ve made a budget for myself - Ha, we will see how long I can stick to that.  
The most expensive budget category in Ireland would definitely be entertainment.   One can find food, especially produce, for relatively to very cheap.  However, buy that same food and serve it in a restaurant? The prices become outrageous.  And maybe a bit ironically, it is incredibly expensive to go to pubs.  You would be hardpressed to find a pint for under 4.50 Euro, or around 6.25 Dollars.  
So, the obvious solution is to buy liquor or beer, or my new favorite, cider, from your local Off-License (Liquor Store), and do what we Americans call “pre-gaming”.  In Ireland they have a comparable practice called “sessioning”, although “sessioning” could be done at any point, not just before going to the pubs or clubs, but before, after and instead of.  
“Sessioning” is basically just a verb used to describe sitting at a buddy’s house and drinking instead of being at a bar - not a house party, but something more chill than that.  
This past weekend, the five people I’m studying abroad with went to Waterford to stay with two different families.  One group attended an Irish Christening and the family party afterwards, while Julia and I got shown the town by the 23 year old son of our family.  It would seem that these two weekends would be quite opposite, but they are tied together in similarity by the thread of drink.  
In America, we would tend to assume that any religious celebration and family party would not, at least not so blatantly and with such excess, be focused on drinking.  However, when we told our new friends that the other Americans would be at a christening, the response was “Oh, they’ll be hammered then”.  
Another interesting note on the christening; One of the Irish fellows we met explained the tradition of christening this way: “Oh, everyone gets christened.  I’m not religious at all, but if I had a kid, it would get christened”.  
This would be a nice segway to a bit of reflection on religion in Ireland, but to be honest I don’t have the energy.  Let it suffice to say, it holds a truly bizarre place in the fabric of an Irish life.  More on that later when I have the energy to try and translate to the page some of the speech we were given on Irish Identity by a professor of English at University College, Dublin.  
Settling in to life in Dublin has proven to be a tad difficult.  Last night was actually the first night that we stayed in our apartment overnight.  Apparently the Irish electricity company, ESB, are a bunch of buggers.  However, today the fun continues! Fresher’s Week!

Edit: Day One of Fresher's Week cost me 42 Euro - Membership fees for five clubs (The Phil, The Alternative Music Society, DU Food and Drink, the Publications Society and the International Student's Society), plus a 5 Day Pass for Fresher's Fest 2009.

         Yes, this school is so big that it has its own festival to mark the beginning of term - I'm not at Sarah Lawrence anymore...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Am I Really Here? Or is this just the inflight movie...

First of all, jetlag is a drag, friends.  After travelling for many years with at least one other person to motivate me through this stage, I am finding it very difficult to force myself to stay up past 5pm.  
        Scene: 12:30 (Must use the 24 hour clock now).  Students start to pour into the common room of the Abbey Court Hostel, awaiting the 2:30 check-in time with exhausted eagerness.  I pass out for an hour in a couch, and wake up about thirty 20-30 somethings sprawled out on various surfaces throughout the common room, obviously suffering from the same illness as I.  I.E. It's four in the morning in my body!
However, I can’t be too disappointed in myself.  No, my day was not jam-packed with activity, but I completed a fair amount of “holy-shit-i’m-in-dublin”.  Did not take any pictures, did not do any strictly tourist activities, but rather simply let myself acclimate to the surroundings. I’ve found that if you try to absorb a city too quickly, before you are mentally prepared, you end up with a general feeling of a place, rather than specific memories.  I generally feeled Dublin out today, but made some memories as well.  It’s only my first day, and already so much has happened.  
Darkey Kelley’s, the bar I had dinner in, has a propritier named George who’s son is studying at Trinity as well.  He asked Chicago was indeed windy, to which I responded “why, yes, we do talk a lot”.  I think my response might have been lost in translation.  
This evening, while I was reading my orientation packet on the bank of the River Liffey, I met a man named Nelson.  He asked me for a lighter for his cigarette and proceeded to ask me many questions about myself, and my goals in life.  His personal philosophy is to always pick the positive route in life - that’s how you reach your goals.  Dublin, he says, is filled with negative, a city full of sin.  It’s always easier to choose the shiny (or in his words ‘golden’) negative path, but that will get you nowhere.  He appreciated my study of philsophy, saying that asking questions is the only way you could get answers.  Born in Africa to a mother from Madagascar and a Camroonian father, Nelson (or Emmanuel as he later asked me to call him) had lived in both the States and in Europe.  
He described his love of survival - that’s why he chooses to live in cities like New York and Dublin, where he believes daily life to be a fight for survival.  He feels it makes him appreciate his life more.  I don’t know if that is the life I will choose, but I can say for sure that I admire it.  Surviving by choice, not by force of circumstance, is the path of a person strongly committed to their beliefs, not just in theory, but in reality.  
Emmanuel asked me to accompany him to some birthday party at an undisclosed location that was in need of fresh blood, but the savvy traveler in me took that as a cue to say my goodbyes.  Although I know I made the smart decision, I’m disappointed I won’t get to hear more about his philosophy and how he is living it.  
I always admire people who can share so much of themselves with some random person on a park bench, and so eloquently.  Emmanuel has no idea who I am, but I have a blurry picture of his outlook on life from that five minutes on the side of the river.  
        Scene: The Negative Path. 1500. Outside a young adult club behind my hostel on Abbey Road.  Five or six young teenagers  loitering on a stoop laughing and chatting with a member of the Gardai (Irish Police Force), while their friend is passed out on top of herself precariously balanced near a pool of her own vomit.  The Gardai is laughing along with the kids, barely glancing at the girl.  This strikes me as extremely disturbing, but in actuality, it could be a quite positive moment.  Maybe progress has been made in creating a more productive relationship between the Law and the Youth? I'm sure I will discover a more concrete answer soon.  Again, I'd like to reiterate that it was 3pm.  Perhaps I like the fact that the drinking age is 21 in the States, so I don't have to see my friends little brothers and sisters passed out on the stoop of the Woodlawn Tap at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon.  
Cheers for now!

Thinking About a Guinness?

Thinking About a Guinness?