Monday, December 22, 2008

Better Late?

I wrote this on the airplane coming back from Ireland. I thought I should get it up and book end the trip a little before posting anything else. Although, I had been awake for over 48 hours at that point and I have little to no memory of what I wrote, so I apologize in advance.

I saw a falling star last Saturday.

In transit:

The same way that I never let myself get excited about a trip until I see the place out of the airplane window, I found myself not really realizing that I was leaving Ireland until I watched it fade out of sight through the window of my first flight today. I probably won’t ever really realize how I feel about leaving; I’ll just mope around for a couple of days, never admitting to myself that I’m actually sad.

I sat in the Heathrow airport for a couple of hours today, fighting self-induced narcolepsy and trying to piece together my emotions. I really didn’t think I was going to cry last night. As much fun as I had in Ireland, I never really felt attached to it. I’ve left my heart in many places, San Francisco, Paris, San Sebastian, Honduras, but I don’t think Ireland it one of them. I did however, as I realized painfully last night, give little bits of it away to people I met there.

Cork isn’t a beautiful city. It’s not quaint and it doesn’t have quite the number of hints towards its humble beginning as Dublin does. Maybe Cork didn’t have humble beginnings; maybe it’s always been a port town which comes with all the cold, non-nostalgic trappings of business. But as I wandered aimlessly through the city in the past few days, I saw it as more a part of Ireland than I have at anytime during the past three months. On Sunday night I went for a walk down by the water. I followed the path to the left out of the city center and when I reached the end I started down the highway that stretches out of Cork to who-knows-where. And then I kept walking down the road, almost oblivious to the cars rushing by with purpose and direction. But suddenly Cork was connected with Ireland, connected with the countryside where culture (not “Culture”) thrives pure without as much of the pollution of international communication.

And then it grew dark and I turned around and walked back as the ice formed on the ground beneath my feet.

The next day I wandered on the other side of the river, up in the Shandon area, looking for the hostel that Laurel and I stayed at two years ago, and the Cork-experience I’d had during our stay. The steep hill of Shandon, the discount stores and dim-lit bars all framed in doorways and window panes coated with shiny, sticky paint with hand-lettered signs across the top, was more like an Ireland I had seen before, more like the Ireland I’d expected. And after sitting outside the hostel for a while in the same spot where Laurel and I had taken pictures two years ago, next to the same graffiti mural that I'd watched grow, I descended back into the bustling center of fashion and metropolitan life that is Cork’s City Center.

“Hey, smile and enjoy it! You know, merry Christmas and all that.”

We’ve all been talking for the past week about how sad it’s going to be to say goodbye and how we’re really going to live it up for the last week of out lives in Ireland. We’ve been going out every night to hear music or to visit our favorite bars and to spend as much time with our new-found friends as we can.

And I realized for the first time, the niche we’d each carved out for ourselves. From the bar where my Sacramento friend sits in with the live music every Sunday night, to the bouncer who knows us at the bar we always end up at, to the people I can expect to find in every place we frequent.

So last night, I carefully parceled out my time to make sure that I got to see every friend who I truly valued. I rushed out of the birthday apartment-party where I ate and laughed, then shouted apologies and promises to return when the bars closed, as I raced to catch the bus which had just passed. I jumped into a taxi with some people I didn’t know and arrived in town with two hours left to say goodbye to everyone else, all of whom I knew would show up at the Brogue sooner or later.

I’ll never forget bumping into one of my roommates by the bathrooms and have her embrace me and look up with teary eyes and tell me that I was one of the best roommates she could have hoped for and how she was going to miss me.

And that’s when I realized just how hard it was going to be to leave the people, friends, I’d made. Saying goodbye to the people I truly valued as friends was easy because I know I’ll make an effort to keep in touch, because somehow I just don’t believe that we are really saying goodbye forever, believe that we’ll meet again someday. Saying goodbye to the three Irish friends I’d made was more shocking than difficult because it was as I said goodbye to them and realized how grateful I was that they had happened to be at the Brogue that night, and I'd happened to run into them and been able to say goodbye, and I realized that I actually had Irish friends to say goodbye to. But again, people I plan to keep in touch with, and who I will definitely visit again when I get back to Cork. Because I will of course be back. (I may not have left my heart there, but it’s still become a part of who I am. It may not have been my favorite place, it may not have lived up to my expectations, but it is my Irish hometown.)

The hardest part about saying goodbye last night was the people who I never will see again. Ever. The people who I was friends with, but more casually. Not the people who I would seek out, but the people who I’d been brought together with because of our shared American identity. And it was made all the more sappy and emotional because that particular group of friends was PLASTERED and therefore not capable of softening the harsh reality of goodbye.

Maybe the reason why I’ve been having such a hard time finding the tears, even with the exhaustion brought on by a total of three hours of sleep within the last 48 hours, is because I don't really plan on loosing people I should be crying for. I mean, I can’t right? Because the people I’d cry for are the ones I’ve given little bits of my heart to, and I’ll never loose those little bits of heart.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Hold on to your hats Folks, 'cuz this one's gonna be a Doozy!

I'm sitting here with an empty can of Coke on my left and an empty bag of "crazy sour" Skittles on my right.

And my hands are already shaking.

Back in freshman year, back when I was a double major in PACS and Art (oh those naive days of old), I convinced myself that a bottle of Coca-Cola and a bag of Skittles made me think more creatively. So every night that I had to work on some big art project I'd head down to the vending machines at like 11:30 pm (of course) and return with a frosty bottle of Coke and a half-eaten bag of Skittles. (What? I was on the 8th floor. That's a long elevator ride; it's necessary to dig into the provisions.) I'd sit with my sketchbook dwarfing my lap and sketch and plan and think.

Remember how I said that I've convinced myself that black tea doesn't have caffeine? I did the same with Coca-Cola. I told myself that it was my coffee substitute. Because I refuse to become a coffee zombie like the rest of you crazy kids.

I have no art project idea due tomorrow, not even a paper. I just needed a little pick-me-up.
But whatever the reason, the results are right here. I can promise you only one thing: this post will probably be too long to be readable, too convoluted and tangential to be followed and too excited to be interesting.

That said. Onward and upward.

So here's the problem with Ireland: when the fire alarm goes off, and I SWEAR it wasn't me this time, you not only have to go outside, but you have to suit up. I may have mentioned this before, but I had NO IDEA what I was talking about. It used to be, you have to put on a jacket then the alarm goes off. Now it's a coat, and make sure you're wearing pants, not shorts, put on your shoes, not flip-flops and bring an umbrella and hat. Make sure you have your keys and probably some money, because it'll be a while before the fire-trucks come, so you may need provisions from the vending machine.

Here's the other thing: it will take so long for the fire-trucks to come that the building would have burned down, were it not for the constant rain that this country boasts. I mean, if it's not actually, legitimately, 100% raining, it's misty enough to be considered rain, and everything, including building and flame would be enveloped in a layer of condensation enough to slow the burn.

Can you tell the weather has been SUCKING here for the past couple of days?
I mean, I'm in the South and we usually have drier weather (comparatively) around this time of year. We've had some gorgeous days. But since Monday it has rained most days and since Wednesday this thick mist has covered Cork. I wake up every morning thinking it's fog, or, you know, snow (which it doesn't here), but it's not. It's wispier than fog, and more depressing at the same time. You know that everything outside is soaking wet, and there's not a single drop of clean, pure, fresh, delicious rain to make it worth it.

So I've been inside. Doing "work." Well, trying to at least. Yesterday I did work. I also listened to music with a friend for a while. Today I wallowed.

Yes, wallowed. That's what three days of this does to a girl. That and exhaustion from the "final week festivities," pressure of work, end of the semester blues, anxiety and anticipation for going home and a little bit of heartbreak. You know, because I'm leaving and everything. Oh! and of course hormones. I'm a girl, I get to blame EVERYTHING on hormones if I so choose. It's my prerogative. (Wow, that word is totally not spelled the way I thought it was spelled. That just looks weird.)

So I've been wallowing. Last night I waited 45 minutes to find a taxi at the end of the night, started to cry because I was so cold I thought I was going to loose my toes, and today I wallowed. (Somehow those two relate, I'm sure of it. Or else, I just wanted to find a way to work my near-frostbite experience into this post.)

ugh. Just see what sugar gets you? I leave this blog post for ONE MINUTE and I totally lost track of what I was going to say. Lets see... weather sucks... Oh!

I'm looking forward to going home. I know that Berkeley and San Francisco aren't REALLY tinted the sepia-and-rose color they seem to be in my memory. I know that I'm not headed back to those days in the early summer where the sun cuts through a blue and green world that stands in Technicolor-sharp relief. Those days where every blade of grass is visible and you can see every detail in the fluffy white clouds meandering across the sky. Those days when everything is slower and everyone is smiling. The macramé, braids, flip-flops and daisies are everywhere and you feel like the hippie children's children who sit in parks with guitars and finish their text messages with "peace" have the right idea about the world. You can feel the heat emanating off the sidewalks and frozen treats are always on the mind. In cities where a wide variety of ethnic food seduces passersby on every corner, lunch means eating take-out on some grassy knoll. Those days when the only thing that seems really important in life is to do something ridiculously poetic, like piling into some tiny car made back in '83 with no AC and road-tripping to music played through iPod speakers, or walking along the railroad tracks, picking dandelions and kicking pebbles until you see where it takes you, or playing baseball in the streets and heading down to the local playground at dusk just to feel nostalgic, or hiking up to Sunset on Mt. Tam and sitting in the grass watching the entire bay flush orange. Days that should have a soundtrack featuring Creedence Clearwater, the Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan.

I know it's not that time of year. It's not Summertime when everything from the grass to the sun is golden. But that's the Bay Area I love the best. I mean, to someone who is still a part of our nations school system, Summer = Freedom. And I know that the summer I just described is NOT the summer that we always see, but there are glorious stretches of time when this is my existence. And this is what I really miss.

But I get nostalgic for that time of year EVERY year. Last year, in April, when I was ready for summer to start, I started craving lemonade and Southern Rock and sitting outside in the sun. I even made a play-list for it.

So I know I'm not going back to the image of SF and Berkeley that is conjured in the minds of all when those cities are mentioned. But I do get to go back to MY holidays.

Don't get me wrong, the holidays here are fantastic. Being a Catholic country that does not celebrate Thanksgiving, the Christmas trees started popping up the day after Halloween like acne on pre-teen the minute he or she hits puberty. Maybe not the DAY after Halloween. The lights are beautiful; the cobblestone streets that are open only to the foot traffic of the patrons of the myriad shops and boutiques of Cork City are almost canopied with light displays. Every bar is wrapped in Christmas garlands and Christmas lights. I'm sure they'll sprinkle the glitter in the streets any day now.

But I'm looking forward to the giant Christmas tree in Union Square with all the Christmas displays in the department store windows and watching everyone bundled up in fake fur like it's really, truly cold. I'm looking forward to the Pottery Barn-and-Restoration Hardware decorations that festoon the marketplaces of Marin County. I'm looking forward to the start atop Christmas Tree Hill (That's still there, right? Did it catch fire last year, or am I just crazy?). And of course I'm looking forward to my own house, where my family appreciates my fanatic holiday spirit.
Where everything will be red and green and gold, right down to the candles on the table. Where the glorious tree which stands in front of windows and mirrors the stars outside during the night. The house smells like Christmas from the mulling spices forever brewing in the kitchen and the fresh garlands that my mother strings around the house. It's always warm because there's usually a fire in the fireplace and soft strains of lullaby-like Christmas carols drift through the living room. I can't wait for the bows and the wrapping and the ornaments, whose bright colors and geometric have this great, classic and old feeling instead of the cold "modern" feeling Ikea-flavored geometric designs tend to have.

Oop! And hello sugar crash. Now I'm bored and sleepy. So much for a frenzy of research tonight! At least I won't be up until 2 am bouncing off the walls.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

what to do when the weather is this crappy

I have a knack for discovering things that have already come, hit peak popularity and gone.
I mean, have you heard of this band "The Who?" They're amazing! And this chick Dorothy Parker, she's a fantastic writer, you should really read some of her stuff; she does a lot of reviews of books and plays and such.

Bands and books and such I'm sure you can forgive me for, but my proudest moments are when I discover a TV show and proceed to gush about it as if I'm the first one who has ever seen it; even though it went off the air two years ago.

I did it with Friends, That 70's show, recently with Weeds and now with Veronica Mars. I get this "new-convert" obsession thing going on where it's all I can talk about, all I want to watch, I sing the theme song all the time... you get the picture.

Unfortunately everyone else has already been through the honeymoon stage and is over it, and "don't really want to hear it, Maggie!"

Ah well, at least when I get into a show that's already been on the air for a few years, or has even gone off the air, I get to spend my "brain -break" time during finals week watching them. I don't even have to wait a week to see what happens next!

Seriously. If I were the head of advertising for a company that caters mostly to college-students, I would double my ad sales to online hosting sites during finals times. Everyone is on those sites, like or,, and my personal favorite, actually, I won't release that one in case the secret government anti-internet pirate squad sees this and takes it down. That would be devastating. But even the legal ones, like or I think streams in HD too. all those sites are gold-mines. I KNOW I'm not the only college student who does this. (Proof? I've got your proof! We're all on the same IP address in this dorm building and so megavideo, which tracks the IP address and keeps a record of the number of minutes towards the limit that have been used per day. So I'll turn my computer on in the morning to watch "The Office" and I'll get a message saying "you have already watched 1,792 minutes of Megavideo today, please wait 134 minutes or sign up for unlimited use!" I have NOT watched 1,792 minutes of TV already today, thank you very much!)

In other news: 2 Performances, 1 Final and 1 Final paper down, 2 Final papers to go! (and they're the shorter ones!!!)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Read All About It

I love the smell of newspapers. The newsprint itself has such a distinct smell, kind of fresh, but muted, not a sharp fresh like air or grass. It's warm but not musty. The ink, too, adds a whole different layer of smell - dark and almost licorice-like, but with a bamboo flavor.

I walked into one of the practice rooms this morning and immediately smelled the newspaper. It was all the way across the room, sitting on the windowsill in the sun. The sun has a curious way of augmenting the smell of newspaper and deepening its warmth. The newspaper itself was similar to the Wall Street Journal, but with more color. But the paper size and font were about the same. It just made me think of home and Sunday mornings when the newspapers get spread out on almost every surface of the house: coffee table, dining table, kitchen chairs, bathroom floor, my parents' bed.

Maybe my parents are fighting a loosing battle, single-handedly trying to save the print newspaper buisness, but then again, these are the same people who brought me up to cherish the smell of old books, not just for their comfort and that nostalgic feeling that comes from old books, but for their possibilities.

So all the newspapers are scattered around the house, and they all have that particular intensified smell from the sun or even just from the morning bustle. There's colors and pictures and words. Glorious words! The beauty of the way the letters are formed with their lines and curves within their orderly phalanx of words and sentences. The history and familiarity they hold, that has just become a part of our knowing. I mean, it is so easy to identify a piece of newsprint even in a tornado of mixed media art. And that scrap of newsprint, by virtue of the fact that it is publishes, tells about the past and hints to us the distant past. The Golden Age of print and newspapers and news: Hollywood, World Wars, Depressions. The days when news was big and bold and black and white, instead of mimicking those days with fonts and layouts shining out from the blue glow of a television or a computer screen.

I realized this morning that I haven't picked up an Irish newspaper in the three months since I've been here. I got a free copy of "The Star" which is much like "US Weekly" only on newsprint. Leafed through that a couple of times. Considered making a collage with it. But other than that, I've had no connection with newspapers in all my time in Ireland. I haven't even gotten chips wrapped in it.

I guess what I'm trying to say, in a way too poetically convoluted manner is, I'm looking forward to going home in a week. I'm looking forward to the comforting smell of newspapers that is my home, my history and, in many ways, my family history and possibly my own future. I'm looking forward to returning to a place that is the past, has already been published. Of course my family and my home will continue to grow and change, but it is the nest of my childhood and will always be tied to my past in that way.
I've loved Ireland, but I'm not ready to settle down here, it's too fast and new to feel comfortably like a home. And therein lies the irony: we all come to Ireland to see a land tied intricately to its past, our past and our ancestors and especially its ancient traditions and lore. But we forget that parts of Ireland are every bit as modernized as any other country, and those that aren't, are getting there. I took a bus tour around the Burren in Western Ireland (Clare County) and although we passed through little villages with corner pubs, the roads were paved and the outlying houses were more like cookie-cutter tract housing than I'd ever have expected. I haven't found the Ireland that Yeats immortalized, poised on the boundary between our world and faerie. I don't know if you can. Maybe someday I'll finally make it up to Donegal, Sligo and Mayo, and we'll find out.

But for now, in the Ireland I know? You won't find men in tweed hats drinking pints of Guinness in the middle of the morning hidden behind an oversized newspaper. The men are there, certainly, and friendly as all get-out, but there are plasma-screen TVs in all the bars.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Trouble with Blogging

I swear I meant to work on my paper tonight, I tried. I have the document open and everything, the only problem is, I've got my blog voice on. That, and I watched some TV on my computer while I was eating a late dinner so instead of the academically flavored writing that should be, like this:

Although jazz was to one day be called the Great American Art form, it had humble beginnings in the folk-steeped culture of the deep South, which would have been possible, had it not been for centuries of isolation of the African-American culture."

(which, I should mention, took me 20 minutes to get intelligent-sounding), it's all coming out sarcastic and witty.

"To the earliest jazz musicians, back when jazz wasn't even called "jazz," wasn't even called "jass," there was no internal impetus of this "great art form" that urged it to move forward; more or less, it was just a sound that, for one reason or another, was 'hot' enough to make some money."

Ugh. It's just so convoluted and informal. There are too many appositives, too many slang terms in quotes, and it's just way too long. I mean, we all know how much I enjoy my lengthy sentences, but there is a time and a place for everything. Plus, there's just something a little... smirky about my blog writing, as in, I'm usually smirking while I write it.

I guess I'll just have to study for my exam tomorrow instead.
Dealing with the Irish school system is just so difficult! How am I supposed to know what to expect from an exam or what is expected in a paper? Ugh, the trials of being me, am I right?

Mid-Essay, Final Exam and an overusage of parentheses

I have two things I'd like to discuss today (although the only thing I REALLY should be discussing is either the intricacies of jazz harmonics or the development of jazz in a historical context.)

The first is my insistence on admiring the fashion of high school girls on TV shows and movies from the late 90s. I mean, I guess it's not entirely a bad thing, but I'd really like to end the cycle of psuedo vintage graphic tees and pigtails or, you know, anything that resembles a belly shirt (especially if it's crocheted.) I mean, a couple of nights ago I went out in purple tights, black boots, a black skirt and layered purple and black tank tops. Oh, with a vest and pigtails. It was like the Hot Topic girl from 7th grade grew up just enough to loose the chokers, black nail polish and chunky goth boots. But just barely.

Okay, so on the whole, it wasn't a bad outfit. A little "twilight-loving-school-girl" but that may have just been my paranoia. It's the IDEA behind the thing that bothers me. It's the fact that I watch an episode of Veronica Mars or one of those horrible teen dramedy movies that we all secretly hate-to-love (and not the other way around) and see the protagonist and think "Ohmigaw! She is so cool! Maybe if I dress like her I can be cool too and maybe then the cool kids will want me to sit at their table and eat lunch with them!" (So... the last part there about the cool kids was a bit of an exaggeration... maybe those movies/shows are pulling me in more than I think...)

Let's not beat around the bush here. There are certain merits to a college girl dressing in that laid-back "I still wear a lot of the same stuff I did in high school, but now it's ironic and artsy, plus I get that cool vintage/thrift vibe." I can do that, I get it. I like it.

My problem here is the fact that I still seem to think that TVs high school girls wear the coolest clothes. I saw an episode of What Not To Wear once about a girl who had this same problem, except she had graduated college already. I fear I am doomed to go down the same path.

I mean look at me; I'm half-way through my junior year of college. I'll be graduating in a year and a half (God willing). I'm studying abroad and living out and away and on my own. I don't want to be in high school anymore, when everything was easy and safe and right there, and I called my mom "mother" when we weren't speaking because it was SO much more formal and thus stinging.

And yet I still secretly want to emulate the cool kids on TV (well, at least the edgy, angry ones I think are cool...)

So I've been thinking, and I've decided that this phenomenon is one of two things: a natural human tendency of sorts, something about media manipulation and stuff like that (if my brain weren't so fried, this would be a much clearer statement. OR it's an early mid-life crisis.

I think it is the latter. Thus I will be requiring a fast, well-oiled corvette (preferably a vintage stingray) and a fast, well-oiled boy-toy.

Man, I meant for that all to be a lot more thought provoking and philosophical. It looks like it's reads "whiny." Sorry guys. I guess my brain's too fried.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go back to listening to the music of my youth and continue to avoid studying.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

What happens in a diet of meat and potatoes

So as I sit here, watching TV on my computer, eating ridiculous amounts of pasta and working on my 9-pager, all I can think about is food. Now, this could be hormonal (the standard fall back), it could be due to matters of the heart (le sigh, and yes mom, I did recycle that phrasing from our earlier conversation), or you know, boredom.
I mean, I literally sat at my computer for about an hour thinking about a bowl full of pasta. But it didn't stop there. I mean, I stopped eating pasta for a month here, so it's just about the only thing in the house that I haven't ODed on yet, so it's conceivable that I was fantasizing about it.

I mean, peanut butter? We were over it before I made peanut butter cookies for Thanksgiving and I'm still over it.

Cornflakes and jam (because I can't drink milk)? Meh, we had a fling for a day or two, but that's all it was. There's really no substance there.

Oatmeal? I was into it for a while, but either I just can't take the sweet or I make it with peanut butter, and, well, we've already been down that path.

Apples? I'm just not that into them. I mean, they're nice and all, but they're not really interesting. And there again with the peanut butter.

Bananas? Same story with the peanut butter (any wonder why I'm so turned off by peanut butter now? obviously we saw to much of each other). Also, the banana peels here have this sickly, yet faint green/brown tint which squicks me a little.

Soup? I mean, there are a couple of cans in the cupboard, but I'm just not really into cans.

Quinoa is too high maintenance and time-consuming. I usually really like hamburgers but the ones I recently bought taste a little artificial. Eggs are good, but my most recent batch of hardboileds was a disaster (yes, that is correct. I cannot hard-boil an egg) and we don't have any ketchup to spice up scrambleds. Nuts are too boring and I'm too picky about dried fruit to brave the mixed bag in our

And salads aren't a meal. Period. End of story.

But it wasn't snack food I was really focused on. (Ooh, mashed potatoes would be DELICIOUS right now. Geeze I sound pregnant.) No, I was nostalgic for REAL food

Like the crab dinner we always have Christmas eve. With the lemonaise and the gluten free bread which used to be sourdough bread and champagne flutes of Martinelli's.
Or a really good, meaty bolognese sauce on thick spaghetti, the kind of sauce that it rich with tomato and loaded with spices and meat and yet still light and slightly sweet.
Or my favorite pad thai, which I can just visualize. And taste, I can literally taste it. Thin rice noodles, moderately spicy sauce with the little bits of egg and green onions. Oh and the lime! I adore the lime.
Also, hot dogs. Like good, old fashioned hot dogs with relish and ketchup. Where the skin is tight and sweaty and not hard and boiled like the one I had at Eddie Rockets (a.k.a. Irish Johnny Rockets) last week.
I would linger happily on the thought of tacos, but the lack of Mexican food here is so devastating that I can't even bring myself to think about it, the spicy and the sabor. Oh, even the word Mexican food makes my mouth water and I'm not even imagining the flavors or anything.
And I can't even remember what sorbet tastes like. (Don't get me wrong, Italian sorbetto is heavenly, but sometimes Haagen Daz raspberry sorbet is just all I really want.)

(My God, throw in some pickles and it's like a pregnant lady's dream...)

Thankfully, it's now 1:45 am and I'm too tired to make more pasta. Because as good as it is, it's not filling the void inside. I mean the one that was created when I was ripped away from the exquisite culinary delights of my family's kitchen, my grandmother's kitchen, and of course, sunny California.

hmm... if we have any salsa left maybe I'll have scrambled eggs for breakfast... I wish we had ketchup.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

It's Christmas TIIIIME in the city!

So it's paper-writing season which means I'll be updating this blog daily... if not hourly due to extreme boredom. I must warn you, the content will likely be inane, but at least your daily dose of Maggie will be more regular.

I went to a Christmas party last night. Why they held a Christmas party on December 2nd, I don't know. I mean, we're not even close to the 12 days of Christmas.

Anyway, it was 7 euro to get in, but I think Lady Luck had her arm slung drunkenly around my shoulder last night because man! what a night! The girl at the door didn't have change for 20 euro so she gave me 15 euro back. So then I approach the bar to redeem my entrance ticket for a free vodka something. I don't like vodka, so I decided to get it cut with Sprite (works best. and if you add grenadine it's like Shirley Temple's all grown up.) I guess Lady Luck hiccuped a little because the bartender heard "Sprite" and gave me... a Sprite. With nothing else. I know there was nothing else because he felt bad and gave me two Sprites. So I started out the evening double fisting Sprites. Merry Christmas, ah to me.
Luckily, one of my other friends felt bad and bought me a rum and coke. He is now my best friend, and my ultimate plan for my last few weeks here is running smoothly.

But it was a good party. I mean there were decorations, snacks, Santa hats, plenty of Ho-Ho-'Hoes, and a giant blow-up Santa who was somehow walked around and gave out Jell-o shots. That Mariah Carey song about "All I want for Christmas is You" came on twice, along with a Grease medley and numerous Michael Jackson songs. What more could you ask for?

As the bar closed down and we supported my friend out the door, the general consensus was to head to The Classic for the rest of the night. The Classic is a club. I'm not really into clubs. I wanted to go to The Brogue, just like every other night and sit in familiar dinginess, listen to hard rock and metal, and scan the crowd for cute boys.
But everyone was on their way into The Classic. So the new Maggie (who is really the old Maggie who has just gotten her groove back) decided to just go to the Brogue anyway, and as I sauntered down the street with two friends who had (luckily) been turned away at the door (for alleged drunkenness), Lady Luck and I clinked martini glasses.
The rest of the crew eventually saw the light and ended up at the Brogue as well, and thanks to myself and my imperceptible comrade of fortune, we snagged the couch seats (which are not as bouncy and cushy as the purple velvet makes them appear as I unfortunately found out by flinging myself upon it). And the night was fantastic. And at the end of it, I found 2 euro which is similar to finding 5 dollars. No joke.

Oh, and to those of you who have been following my personal life on more conversational terms, essentially, I went back last night. (Codespeak that I'm sure even the Navajo Windtalkers couldn't crack.)

For now, it's back to the grindstone. Back to the paper writing and the reading. Back to dealing with the University of California Public School system. Back to faxing and searching, emailing and planning. And tonight when I go out, I'll lean myself up against the bar and when the bartender asks "What'll it be Miss?" I'll sigh and say "Smitty," "Smitty," I'll say, "gimme something to dull the pain of dealing with the bureaucratic filth that invades our souls, minds and hearts and slowly chips away at our resolve and destroys our desire to rise above and to choose until we've become nothing more than zombies, molded like all the others and all those who came before to follow and act with no resistance and to allow the cycle of oppression and subjugation to continue in this Orwellian world. Hm? Oh, sorry. I'll take a rum and coke. And if you make it Old Jamaica, I won't say no."

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Paper-writing Procrastinating Time!

Lets talk about wishes.

About 6 months ago, during my lunch break from summer school, I walked myself down to the little Brazilian food stall on University street. I don't remember what I ate (except that it was DAMN good) but I do remember that the owner pulled out a green ribbon from the large jar of ribbons and said something about three knots and three wishes and let it fall off on its own. I think, his accent was a little hard to understand. But I did. I made three wishes and I tied three knots. I wore it around proudly, it fit me. Green is my favorite color and I really liked how it looked sitting there on my wrist. I wondered when, if ever it would fall off; it seemed really sturdy. But for the past two months it has been fraying. Part of it has rolled, so it's no longer flat against my wrist. And a knot may have come out a while ago, I can't tell.

Long story short, the thing came off this morning in the shower. I tried to untangle it and lay it flat on my wrist as is my wont, and it came off smoothly. I stared at it for a few seconds. It's gone. No longer on my wrist. Wishes freed to the universe and ready to come true. There's a little white band on the top of my wrist where it used to sit.

So now I don't know what will happen. I mean, if I think about it, the timing is perfect and conditions are just so that my three wishes could come true. But we'll see.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Uh oh Hueston.

We have a problem.

I was watching Weeds today (yes, watching Weeds and not doing my homework. I know, I know) and I realized that I was reading the English subtitles when characters spoke in Spanish. So then I tried not reading them (easy enough, the Japanese subtitles from the bootleg copy I was watching covered them up anyway) but I couldn't understand the Spanish. Could. Not.

And I'm leaving for Costa Rica in a month and a half.

Non e bene No es bueno.

Also, I just found dried pasta in my skirt. I'm disgraceful.

In other news, today I begin my countdown to my next 14 hour flight (can I get alcohol on the flight before it leaves International waters? must look these things up), and start wrapping up the schoolwork here that I don't even feel like I started. 16 days left, and suddenly it's not enough time. Of course I've been making the most of it; I've been going out more to meet people, I've been walking around the city more, I've been traveling around Ireland more.

I went to Galway last weekend and couldn't have picked a better weekend. The weather was gorgeous and deceiving, much like a gold-digging socialite. It was blue and clear and the clouds were puffy and white. The air was crisp and clean and bit like friggin frostbite. I'm pretty sure the temperature was about equivalent to that at which they cryogenically freeze people.
My face looks oddly puffy in most of the pictures but I'm sure that is my body attempting to compensate for its exposure to the elements.

I stayed with a friend of mine in his super high security dormitory buildings. It took all my secret agent skill to get in each night. Trust me. I can't really divulge details because it's all super top-secret stuff, but sufficed to say, I'm part ninja.

His mom and her friend were also staying for the weekend, and as much as I protested that I needn't be a burden, he insisted that I act as barrier and or distraction. But it was a good arrangement, slightly awkward, but good. I got to pretend that I had people visiting me because we did all the visiting things: went out to find traditional music, ate out in pubs (and spent considerably more money on food than I had intended) and took a tour bus around the area. Actually, that last part was fantastic. I really wanted to see the Burren, it's supposed to be one of the most beautiful places in Ireland, but I wasn't sure how I was going to do just taking the local buses between towns. The tour bus fixed this problem and had the added educational advantage. So we saw hills and caves, fields and rocks, old broken castles and ancient ring forts. The guide pointed out the famine walls which are stone walls and roads built all over the hills that have absolutely no purpose save job creation during the famine. We stopped at the Cliffs of Moher (if you think you don't know what I'm talking about, you're wrong. They're way famous, see for yourself:)

actually, the lighting sucks. Sorry about that, I was more interested in the clouds than the actual cliffs which were unfortunately disappointing. Or maybe I was too cold to appreciate them...

Also in Galway I collected more evidence that I can visit any city, even one as small as Galway, and stumble on a really cool, dark and edgy bar that has live gigs. Literally stumble. But no matter where I live, I will never, ever be able to find that venue. I mean, there's got to be some in Cork here, I'm pretty sure I've been told about them, and yet, all I can seem to find are the same small, packed pubs and a scattering of clubs. Same with Berkeley (although that may have something to do with the whole 21 and over rule...)

But really, Galway city is beautiful. It's got this great artsy feeling that comes from somewhere, I don't know where. Maybe it's the colors of the buildings and the cobblestones. Maybe it's the fact that all the shops, restaurants and pubs are small and close together. Maybe it's simply that the city is small and on the water. Whatever it is, it was a fantastic city to walk around in, like we did on Sunday. There was a little craft mart where I almost emptied my wallet, except I only had two euro in cash for the bus ride from the Cork bus station to my apartment. We walked down by the water where everything was picturesque, and not only thanks to the shocking blue sky that we were graced with that day.

Then finally, I climbed back on the (thankfully) heated Bus Eireann for a long and entirely unproductive 4 hour ride home. And just think! Next week I get to take an 8 hour one! yipee!!

ETA: P.s. It is so friggin cold here that not only can I see my breath, but it has its own shadow. Yes. This I discovered when I locked myself out of my room (note: not my apartment. I was in my apartment, and thus wasn't wearing shoes, sweatshirt or coat) and had to stand outside the warden's office for 10 minutes. Just be thankful I'm still alive.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

"Whoa ohh ohhh! Your Sex is on Fire!!!"

Thanksgiving is, by name at least, the day that we spend giving thanks. Generally it is the day that, before we eat a ridiculous amount of food, we force ourselves to mumble something on the spot and/or cliche about what we are thankful for. I feel like rarely does one get a chance to suddenly understand how thankful they are.

But for me, man, this year has been the greatest Thanksgiving ever. Not only was the spirit of Thanksgiving out in full show because I'm abroad, but I actually had a moment of true Thankfulness.

If you ever get to study abroad, do it in the fall because that's when Thanksgiving is. Something about Americans celebrating an American holiday brings out a rejuvenated sense of thankfulness and patriotism. It's a true coming together and the spirit of sharing saturates the air.

I headed down to the coolest, most traditionally Irish bar that we have in Cork, which we had rented out for our Thanksgiving. I had a good time. I had some friends there who I ate with and chatted with, I met some Irish Thanksgiving newbies, and then I headed out to my second thanksgiving.

It was halfway through this second Thanksgiving dinner, where I was surrounded by kids from all over, Ireland, Italy, Spain, America, that I actually had a moment of clarity and true thanks. It may sound cheesy, but it's true.
One of the girls had a seizure and collapsed on the floor. No one was really sure what was happening but we acted as fast as we could, got her on her side, called the ambulance and her parents (who were luckily in town). When she finally came to we got her legs elevated and she began to talk her way through the shocked silence. She's on medication for a tooth infection. She has one of those hole things in her trachea. Seizures were a common occurrence for her when she was younger (talking a couple hundred) and she wears one of those bracelets that has her emergency medical information on it. She won't be able to walk for the next 13 hours because of the seizure. And she went on.

I don't. I don't have any of that. Having food allergies sucks and having random and currently unattributed stomach pain sucks harder. But I don't get seizures that demobilize my legs for 12 hours. There is no hole in my body that should not be there. I don't have to wear my medical information around my neck. I haven't had an ambulance called so many times that I know the procedure.

And in that moment, sitting slightly uncomfortably on the couch, I realized what I'm really thankful for: to be alive and to be able to appreciate being thankful. My relatively good state of health. Friends and family who I can celebrate with and whose company I can enjoy.

I'm thankful for two Thanksgivings. I'm thankful for guitars and international students and four hours of jam sessions. I'm thankful for friends who I can laugh with. I'm thankful for friends with whom I can sit quietly and not feel awkward. I'm thankful for friends who I enjoy being with when I'm sober even if they are not. I'm thankful for An Brogue. I'm thankful for Italians who dragged me out on the dance floor. I'm thankful for kismet meetings of other fantastic friends. I'm thankful for way cute bar backs who end up at An Brogue. I'm thankful for friends who will stalk said bar backs with me in awkward, embarrassing 12-year-old ways. I'm thankful for drunk Irish flattery from drunk Irish friends. I'm thankful that I tend to like flame and lighters. I'm thankful for memorable moments like when way cute bar-backs try to burn the pants crotch of one of the drunk Irish friends, you know, as a joke. I'm grateful that the drunk Irish friend did not, in fact drop trou and burn off all his nether-hair as he was possibly threatening to do? I'm thankful for small music celebrities and I'm thankful for my paparazzi skill with a camera. I'm thankful for impromptu rap sessions in the street.

I'm thankful that I'm in Ireland and I'm thankful that I finally. Finally. wish I could stay longer.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Oh how I love Tuesday nights.

Every week I look forward to Tuesday night. Monday nights are the worst because I know that there are only a few hours until I have to get through Tuesday. Sunday nights are pretty bad too because I've got Monday and Tuesday ahead of me. But Tuesday nights are amazing.

Tuesday nights are the start of my weekend. My only class on Wednesday is at 4:00 so I can stay up as late as I please. Tuesday nights are rocking around here. There's the whole excitement of getting ready and the stream of neon lights as we parade between bars. But sometimes I stay in. I stay in my pajamas and eat way too much sweet stuff and watch TV on my computer and fall asleep with a smug smirk on my face because I know I'm not going to wake up with a massive hangover.


I have three weeks left here. I spent the first month hitting the big bars and clubs with my roommates. I spent the second month traveling and/or sick. And then I found it - with my weeks dwindling away I discovered the campus bars and the people who haunt them on the right nights. Thursday nights is open mic nite at the New Bar. It's all chrome and mahogany and geometric with a finely polished bar, tall bar stools and cute bartenders. The lights are dim and yellow and the crowd is just too cool for wherever they happen to be. The musicians all know each other and gather toward the front, packed into a few booths and the small tables. Everyone else just relaxes with a pint and carries on their conversations between songs.

The Old Bar is the perfect foil to the New Bar. The stools are mismatched and upholstered with what looks like the couch of a 97 year old spinster. The bar looks more like a diner counter than a bar and the wooden parquet floor is perfectly worn away everywhere except underneath the raised stage where it gleams. It's louder and rowdier even though the same people are there. The lights are full and harsh and the speakers look like they could have been attached to the ceiling with duct tape.

The Live Music Society (who knew there was one of those? Not me obviously...) had their annual songwriter's contest semi-finals there tonight and a friend of mine was playing. And it was fantastic. It was fantastic to have so many different styles thrown at me in one night. It was fantastic to be surrounded by this group of people who all loved the music and all knew each other and all yelled out their support. It was fantastic to sit and listen to some really talented musicians pour their hearts out through a microphone. It was fantastic to finally get blown away by my friend's music (it was the first gig of his that I've been too... oops.) and it was fantastic to listen to him play one of the sweetest songs while sitting next to the girl I'm pretty sure he wrote it for/about.

And it was nice that I could do that for free and then come back and enjoy my quiet, indulgent Tuesday night. After all, gotta rest up for Wednesday and Thursday (which will, of course, start at the New Bar).

Monday, November 24, 2008

All I want right now is to see a shooting star. I know exactly what my wish would be.

But you don't really see stars here. Not the real ones at least, I'm sure there are many around here who have drunkenly or otherwise ended up on the wrong side of an inanimate object or, you know, fist and been rewarded with twinkling lights.
No, it's too cloudy. With this unpredictable weather, it's not unusual to start the day sunny, watch the clouds roll in, and then sprint from the hail and end up watching the sunset through scattered showers.

Occasionally you can see the stars here, but they are too faint and too uncommon to ever encourage hope for a shooting star. They aren't wishing stars; consider yourself lucky just to have seen them. That's wish fulfillment enough.

But if I could, I'd wish to be lying on a rooftop on a balmy evening watching a meteor shower; and enjoying but not fully appreciating how lucky I'd be to see such a wealth of light.

...and maybe a bag of jellybeans. Man, I would give my first born child for some of those. I seriously can't find good candy here. The ONLY non-chocolate candy is gummy-based or skittles which don't even taste like real skittles.
le sigh.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I pretend black tea isn't caffeine.

I pretend it isn't caffeine and then drink it after dinner as a distraction (or just to look cool) while I am typing away at my computer. Sometimes I'm doing actual work. An hour an a half later I'm still typing away, swept up in what I tend to believe is a great fantastic creative brainstorm. Or I've been blessed with a brief period of intense productivity, so I make lists and I plan and I budget. And I get excited about what I'm going to do the next day when I wake up. I'll clean my room, I'll get started on that paper, I'll walk myself downtown to pick up a few things, I'll DO things. There are papers busily strewn about my desk and the feeling of accomplishment floods my veins carried along by the adrenaline. I decide that I will start working out more, eating better. I find heavy things and do arm exercises at my desk while I am planning and working and typing.

And it's exhilarating because the caffeine doesn't even cross my mind. Black tea isn't caffeine, so why would it have any effect on me?

And then I wake up the next day groggy and without the slightest idea as to why I chose to stay up until two o'clock planning and designing the Christmas cards I want to give my roommates before I leave.

But I have to pretend because if I don't, I'll start drinking tea in the morning to get that sense of accomplishment early in the day. And then I'll have to move on to coffee to get the buzz, and then espresso. Green tea is a gateway drug, kids. It leads to black tea which just leads to a whole mess of problems.

Good thing caffine doesn't affect me, right?

Man could I use some sugar right about now...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Come i Romani

I know I promised (crossed my heart and hoped to die) a post two days ago, but I've made it up to you at the end of the post.

Our last day in Rome was one of those days that you need on vacation, one of those literal-in-every-sense-of-the-word vacation days. The ones where you stroll and enjoy and let yourself become as much of a part of that particular place as possible. It's the day that you get to distance yourself from the other tourists still caught up in all the wonder and bustle and delude yourself into thinking that you are less of a tourist. You feel that you've been living in the place for long enough to be a part of it, you've seen, you've figured it out, you've tried it, you remember it. You have a history with the place that allows you to feel at home. And because you are home, you don't need to be a tourist, you can enjoy what life is like for those who do live there, and you get to experience the place more intimately.

So with none of the haste to see that had woken us at the crack of dawn for the past two days, we got up late, ate late and got ready with leisure.
We sauntered through the Borghese gardens, which the guide book said were like Central Park, but in reality, they were much more Luxembourg-esque. And in the off-season, half of the people there were just Romans, jogging, walking their dogs, studying, reading, being. Then we made our way back through the tangled maze of monuments that had been the frenzy of the previous two days, picking the streets more wisely and somewhat correctly.

We asked and received directions in Italian to the piazza called Campo di Fiori where we sat by the fountain and watched the daily market break down while we ate our fashionable late lunch.
As the day drew to a close we found ourselves winding through the twisted fauna and laundry-line covered lanes of Trastevere, the old neighborhood, up to the summit of Giancolo hill to watch the sun set on Rome.
After a hearty dinner and my long-awaited, very Italian after dinner cappuccino (with extra sugar) we headed out on a night walk back through the heart of Rome. Of course, some of us were rather more wired than others...
We passed back through Campo di Fiori at night and watched the cobblestones, swept clean of the morning's fruit leaves and bits of packing boxes, fill with Roman youth doing their dance of interaction. We passed by the Pantheon, no longer packed with tourists and completely devoid of protesters. We walked by the Trevi fountain, as beautifully lit as any post card would depict it. And with a final quick and hopeful glance at the Spanish Steps, we turned back to the hostel, ending our short-but-sweet Roman Holiday. (And yes, I did try to channel Audrey Hepburn from Roman Holiday by being fabulous on the Spanish Steps.)

A couple of years ago I met a traveler in a bar who told me that the best time to see Rome is in the winter time when the crowds and the leaves have both gone.
I really couldn't have agreed with him more because Rome in the winter is gorgeous. And seeing the crowds in November, I couldn't imagine what the crowds of the summer must be like.
The similarities between Rome and Paris are obvious, but the differences are, I think, more striking. Rome to me will always be a stoic city with tears streaming down its face, and I believe that being there in the winter really brought that out. I mean, it is an ancient city with a tumultuous history and the evidence is obvious. Even the buildings look like they are crying. They are more obviously old and the water damage over the years looks like tear tracks. Many of the buildings are painted those warm reds and oranges that just scream "Italy!" But so many more have that same cold paleness of ivory, like the ancient statues that dot the city like a pox. I mean it's a city that's built on history, literally and coexists with buildings that were broken thousands of years ago. Archaeologists and historians tell us we are so lucky to have history preserved for us, and for that Rome has become famous. But for me, those ruins are really just broken buildings that were never repaired.
Don't get me wrong, Rome is an amazing city, and it's obvious from the outset. It's bustling with life and people. It is truly Italian, with it's food and it's people (especially the little old ladies who still wear their knee-length skirts with nylons and orthopedic shoes like my great-grandmother did), it's little restaurants and it's old neighborhood. It's truly modern, with it's bustling commercial and financial centers, and it's upscale neighborhoods with houses that are villas in their own right. It's truly on the edge and forward-thinking with it's recent past and current political situations that have called the university students into the streets to care and to act.
But at the same time, it will always be sad, because it will always have the fallen ivory statues and columns of a great civilization that crumbled.

And that's probably why Rome is best in winter. Because with fewer people, and the crisper air and the paler sky and the bare trees, you can see that sadness in sharper relief. And that melancholy beauty is what sets Rome apart.

and so I give you:

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I'm sorry, what?

So I promise to write a flowery, poetic and inspired (and probably rather purple) post later today about Rome, my last day there and my general thoughts and ponderings on the city. Cross my heart and hope to die.

But just a few things before I leave for class:
I have had the hardest time understanding Irish accents in the past couple of days. I mean, my professors are all perfectly understandable. Maybe it has something to do with lecturing and the lifestyle of the academia and all... but everyone else has just been ridiculously difficult.
Maybe it's because I'm having actual conversations with actual Irish youth for the first time in the two months I've been here (honestly, it's like I'm living in Little America up in here...), maybe it's because I just got back from Rome where it took me three days to get a handle on the language again and now I'm phasing back out of Italian/English and into Irish/English.

But whatever it is, it's ridiculous. I mean, do you realize how much longer a conversation is when you have to say "Wait, I'm sorry, what?" after every other sentence? Or how hard it is to keep the continuity when, after asking "what?" three times I still can't understand the statement and so just nod vaguely and smile.

Then again, I could just be distracted and hard of hearing because I'm pretty sure I had a similar conversation with a girl from Minnesota yesterday.

...hmm... maybe there's a bit of a hitch in my master plan of listening to loud music while I'm young and then taking advantage of the advanced hearing technology that will develop by the time I get old...

Friday, November 14, 2008

A-gitazioni Happened on the Way to the Forum...

Today was supposed to be all about ancient history. We started at the Colosseum and pretended we were the emperor deciding Russel Crowe's fate (maybe next time he'll think twice before throwing a phone at a helpless hotel clerk.) We hit the Forum and walked down the streets like triumphant heroes returning with the spoils of a war that oppressed and destroyed hundreds of cultures. We stood by the Rostrum and pondered jumping the rails to stand up and repeat history: "Friends, Romans, Countrymen... Lend me your ears!" (as if it hasn't been repeated enough...)
We wandered Palatine hill, the site of the Imperial Palace which we decided would be a right cozy home. I've always thought a throne room would be the perfect addition to any house I have.
And then it was onto the Pantheon, which I think had some sort of governmental use, but is really just famous for it's dome.

But we got waylaid by modern history.

See, in Italy, the government is trying to cut funding to schools which means something like half the universities will be shut down, the rest will be more expensive, more croweded and employ fewer teachers. So the students are protesting. En Masse.

Alana was telling me about some of the smaller demonstrations in Perugia and how some bigger ones are televised. En Route to the Colosseum we saw a few groups of students marching with signs and said "oh, how awesome! I love it when people care!"

And then we saw more. While touring the haunts of the ancients, we would occasionally look down and see the gathering of youth grow bigger. And then we could hear them.

And they marched. They marched up the streets in exactly the direction we were headed (the Pantheon) - much to my delight.

"Come on! Let's join in!!!"

I literally took every opportunity I could to pull us into the throng. "No really, I'm almost positive that they're headed to the Pantheon..."

Alana didn't believe me so we ended up trying to avoid the crowds and find lunch. We ended up finding a Pizza and Kebab place, however it was across the stream of protesters.
"Come on! We'll go up a couple of blocks and then march with them and slowly make our way across the street."
So we ate kebabs packed into this tiny place with about 20 Italian students all jostling for a mid-protest boost.

Later we tried to avoid the crowds again by having gelato by the Trevi fountain.

But in the end, we really wanted to see the Pantheon. And luckily for me, it was the site of one of their demonstrations\sit-ins. Oh I was in heaven. Amidst all these people who cared so much about their education and their rights that they were filling the streets with passion. Facing the lines of riot cops with shields and helmets. (Which is scary. I mean, I know my Italian history. I know what happened in the 70s. Those lines of cops were ominous.)

So that was today. We finished off with another nap and another thrifty dinner and gelato (again.)

Tomorrow: Living Roman.

Ciao Roma!!!

So I plan to write a long and poetic post about Rome when I return to Cork. But for now, we'll just get the dailies out of the way.

I arrived Wednesday night, the night of Alana's birthday and we had a right grand party. We found our way to the Trastavere for dinner in a quaint little place down some alley. After a 325 mL bottle of wine, Roman artichokes, veal and a brownie, we were warm and giggly on the way back to the hostel. Which, by the way is a very awesome hostel indeed.

Thursday we did the Vatican partly to avoid weekend crowds and partly because it was raining. If the Vatican itself doesn't strike the fear of God in you, imagine being there amidst thunder and lightning and torrential rain. And then imagine emerging to the clouds opening up to a dynamic and Renaissance sky ready to frame a descending angel or two. Yea.
We walked through the museum and sat in awe in the Sistine Chapel, Sprinted through the rain for a quick lunch break at a small pizzeria, and then returned to spend an hour dwarfed by the Basilica which is the most amazing dichotemy of GIANT and yet intimate-feeling.

We both agreed that dinner needed to be Chinese. Why? you ask. Why would we crave Chinese in Rome, one of the very centers of Italian cuisine? Well, for one, I can eat more Chinese food than I can Italian food, for another, Alana lives in Italy and gets this all the time and finally, you just can't explain cravings. Also, a sit down, two course Chinese meal for 7 euro each? Quite fine, thank you very much!! Plus they gave us these little key chain-y things instead of fortune cookies!!!

And today, forecast: hopefully not rainy. Docket? ruins and the ancient Romans. The Colosseum, the Forum, The Pantheon etc.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

To put all of that previous babbling behind us, to distract you from my own political musings and public hashing-out of my own thoughts and to celebrate this historic moment in history, this is for you:

Maya Angelou

I've watch people on TV sobbing with joy at Obama's election, I've heard that his speech brought many to tears, but I've never imagined myself crying because of politics. Ms. Angelou drew the first tear from my eye, not only with her amazing, eloquent and powerful words, but also with the entirety of her personal history and national importance. It shouldn't be shocking that her words in conversation carry as much emotion and meaning as any poem, she is a great American writer.

And I am fully and completely inspired by her.

Unfortunatley, the floodgate have been opened and I start sobbing like a baby every time I read something about "a new chapter in history" or "a monumental and historical event" or "a long awaited change." I mean, something JUST. HAPPENED. Just now, and even the cynic in me is helpless to it's overwhelming historical significance. This is going to be in the history books, not just 20 years from now, but hundreds of years from now.

Someone please get me a tissue.

Let's get political (yes, I do believe that I am the first person EVER to make that play on words, thankyouverymuch!)

Apparently, We actually Can.

And I have some thoughts on this (as per usual).
I've been reading articles all morning about the way that this election has brought people together. They are saying that in line to vote people had a very "we" mentality vs. a "me" mentality (Link
And apparently voter turnout was ridiculously high. (I heard that in Connecticut, it was almost 98% turnout!)
Wasn't it just a few years ago that turnout was almost at an all-time low?

So what is going on with our country? I mean, as far as I can tell, this election was so deeply divided between red and blue, it could have been gang warfare. I mean seriously, I'm sure wearing a certain color tie has become, in the grown-up world, pretty much the same as wearing the wrong color bandanna. I know that around here, if you support McCain, getting bitch-slapped is the least of your worries.

I think I have to believe that this transcendence and this complete and utter obsession with politics that our country has shown is the result of a deep, aching need for a change. I mean a real change. Something that will turn our country around, something that will bring us out of financial crisis, something that will end the sickening stalemate of stupidity that we call a war, something that will end the distrust of the government, of our protectors, that has seeped into all pores and corners of our nation.

And honestly? I think either candidate would have brought about that change. They are both moderate enough and both understand the current situation of the people of the United States well enough to publicly address their needs and make the changes that need to be made. But this wasn't an issue-election the way the last two elections were. I mean, I don't follow politics like I should, but the issues really fell into the background. I have no idea where Obama stands on abortion. I don't know what McCain thinks of illegal immigration. But I do know that they both have what it takes to regain international credibility and respect for the United States. And that's what I think really mattered in this election, and I also think that's why there was such a sudden interest and... passion, for the political "now" of our country.

I hate to say it, because it sounds cynical, but we were voting for a figurehead, and that's a lot easier for people to understand than the issues. Just look at why so many people voted for Bush - he seemed like a guy you could sit down and have a beer with. Well, thankfully we realized that running a country like you're drunk is no way to deal with the lives of millions of people. Just look at who we could vote for this year - two heroes. I mean, serious heroes. McCain is a war hero, and just by running Obama became a hero to every minority group in the country, and I'm including women here. And it's obvious in the way they talk.

And that's why I think people could transcend party lines while in the midst of a deeply divided election - because either way it would end up the change that we all needed.
That's also why I think voter-turnout was high, especially with that problem group - the youth, people knew they were taking part in something big, something historical and at the same time were still aware of the importance of participating as one person in a divided election.

So we're finally fully aware of out right and responsibility to vote as US citizens. We finally care about what's going on in our world. We finally have a leader who is inspiring and welcomed with open arms by the INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY. (Seriously, I was looking at the latest Reuter's headlines, it's all "Leaders of Europe hail Obama victory" "Asia offers warm welcome to Obama")

So what happens now?
I mean we've put so much into this election, where is it all going to go? They tell me that I missed the most amazing night in Berkeley since the 60's. (I told them to stop making me jealous, that wasn't fair.) Apparently there were so many people on telegraph that cars were trapped, people were crowd surfing and fireworks were going off. From my early-morning sources, I hear that Santa Cruz was similar. Well, fantastic! I'm so happy to see my nation celebrating a political victory. But where is all that energy going to go?

The world is not going to change over night. We have not been magically transported back into the era of political fervor that was the 60's, activism doesn't work the same way today. I mean, Obama doesn't become president tomorrow. He's not going to have the troops out of Iraq for his inauguration party. And the economy is not going to miraculously recover as part of the celebration. It's going to take a lot of work. The dark days are still ahead of us, and I think many people don't really understand this. I think we've all been dazzled by the idea of change, that we're still seeing stars. But those are going to fade, and fade fast, and we'll be left with the same sights we had before.

Yea. It's going to take a long time. I support Obama for many reasons, my primary reason is, in fact his inexperience. He has the intelligence to surround himself with more experienced people, but hopefully some of that naivety will help pull us out of the same system that we have been dealing with for years. The world is changing, we need to too.

But there are a lot of other reasons that he scares me. Even before being elected president, he had the highest guard of any president in the history of the United States. He is a black president in a country where there still is racism, not matter how hard we pretend it's not there. I'm thankful that he chose Joe Biden as his running mate because there is a very real chance that Obama could get killed. Also, I worry for what is going to how public opinion of him is going to change when the stars fade out of our eyes. We expect great things, amazing things. We anticipate a period of drastic change and rapid regeneration of the dead limbs of our society. It's not going to happen like that and when it doesn't, I worry that people will blame Obama. I mean, society doesn't understand how politics works, society judges by what we see in the media and we judge by whatever is happening in the moment. We can't know what is going on behind the scenes. Will we become complacent and bored again? Or is this really a change?

Yes We Did, but what will we do now?

I, for one, am going to go have a margarita. Happy cinco de noviembre everyone!!!
(Do you have any idea what the "mexican food" is like here? We had to get together a celebration to cook and remember. Though... no one else is from California, right? So when I said "tacos" they went "ground beef!" and I went "oy..." I'll just have to continue dreaming about my steak tacos with onions and cilantro for another month and a half.)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Karma is a bitch.

So all today I was like "hey loosers in America, I'm going to see the new James Bond movie because it's already out here! Oh wait, you can't see it until November 22? That sucks! Haha!"
I mean I would seek people out, like, just to taunt them. (Sorry Dad, Malcolm)
And then a friend of mine is like "oh! you're going to see the Bond movie? I'm going with a bunch of friends at 6:45. Meet you there?"
And I'm like psyched to go with a big group.
But when I met with my friend she was all "Hey, so Burn After Reading starts at 9:30, ready?"
And I was like "Wait, not Bond?"
And she goes "Oh my god! You wanted to see the Bond movie!? Oh my god, I got confused, sorry!"
And then I'm all "That's okay." Because I generally avoid conflict.

So we get down to the theater at 9. There's a 9:15 showing of the Bond movie, but I don't say anything, right? Because she wants to see Burn After Reading.
But we couldn't have switched anyhow because I guess all the Bond tickets sold out while we were in line or something I guess? Because the man announced it. Whatever.

So then we buy our tickets, and I get really excited for a soda and candy, except by the time I get through the candy line I've finished my soda. Great. Plus, the candy sucked.
So now I feel sick because of all the sugar?

PLUS! Burn After Reading? Like, SO not a comedy. I mean it's the Coen brothers right, so I should have known, like. I mean we just sat there for like 5 minutes afterward going "What?... I mean, what? ... wait, that was SO not a comedy!"

I mean, it wasn't bad or anything. I mean, it's the Coen brothers so it's brilliant. But. I mean. But.

So there. So I didn't see the Bond movie yet. So you can all go off and buy your bootleg copies of it and be all "Oh Maggie, guess what? We saw the Bond movie without you again! It was fantastic! Oh my god, I want to tell you about this part where... Oh! I shouldn't! But it's SOOO GOOD!!!"

Oh there is hate oozing out of my pores right now.

Karma? You're on my list.

Watching John Malcovich say (pardon my language) "fuck" was probably the highlight of my week. Just something about the way he says it, the way his face moves and contorts is just genius!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Things to Know

So you wanna study in Ireland? Well, there are two things you need to know if you are an American thinking of studying in, moving to or even just visiting Ireland.

1) Every foreign girl is hoping to live the movie P.S. I Love You. She is on the look out for a charming Irish musician who will steal her heart and sweep her off her feet for deep and passionate (if short-lived) true love.
2) Every foreign boy is hoping to live the song "Galway Girl" and get knocked completely senseless by a lithe, enchanting Irish girl.

And I knew right then,
As I gave her a twirl
That I'd lost my heart to a
Galway Girl.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Adieu, Adieu, To you and you and you

And so fair readers, I bid you adeiu.
I thought perhaps my last brush of death on this trip would be my run-in with a pregnant horse. Alas, I was wrong.

For today is the first day of the Halloween weekend, and I, frail and sick, fear that I may not survive.

For the past week I have been basking in the excuse of being sick - sleeping in, staying in my pyjamas (I'll spell it whichever way I want to thank you very much), watching movies. And although I don't deny that the sick part has been absolutely horrible, the results have been glorious.

But today, today it all ends. Today I must sally forth. I have woken early, far earlier than I have since last Saturday, to prepare myself. I join my friends in town in exactly an hour to go shopping for costume accoutrement, and by the time we return, I will have less than 8 hours to create, prepare, dress and go.

For this is the start of the Halloween weekend! And it shall be a grand weekend! Pre-Halloween parties, the night itself and then post-Halloween parties. 3 full nights of revelry and mischief, oh how I love the Halloween season.

But I weep for the loss of a more innocent time. A time when I went to sleep at 9 pm and woke at noon. A time when afternoon naps were plentiful and sweet. Yes, I mourn the loss of last week (literally), and the peace I found then. But my mourning SHALL NOT! Shall NOT! hinder my Halloween activities! I SHALL celebrate with all due excitement.

and so, fair readers, from Here, go I. And with luck and through miracles, I shall survive, even in my weakened and fragile state. And with that luck and through those miracles, I shall come out victorious and return to you, my fair and gentle readers.

Thus, I bid you adieu.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

On the Social and Cultural importance of Slut-O-Ween

An Introduction:

"Halloween has its origins in the ancient
Celtic festival known as Samhain (Irish pronunciation: [ˈsˠaunʲ]; from the Old Irish samain).[1] The festival of Samhain is a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture, and is sometimes [2] regarded as the "Celtic New Year".[3] Traditionally, the festival was a time used by the ancient pagans to take stock of supplies and slaughter livestock for winter stores. The ancient Gaels believed that on October 31, now known as Halloween, the boundary between the alive and the deceased dissolved, and the dead become dangerous for the living by causing problems such as sickness or damaged crops. The festivals would frequently involve bonfires, into which bones of slaughtered livestock were thrown. Costumes and masks were also worn at the festivals in an attempt to mimic the evil spirits or placate them.

Thank you Wikipedia.

For some, Halloween is a time of revelry, a time of imagination, of sugary reward, fantastic costumes and of harmless trickery. For others it is a time of pint-sized monsters terrorizing perfectly peaceful neighborhoods, forced generosity and an overabundance of mis-used eggs.

And then there are those for whom Halloween is a golden opportunity to unleash amply assisted décolletage and generally show some - a lot - of leg.
It is for these, these intrepid, these courageous, some may say shameless, masses, that the powers that be have coined the term "Slut-o-Ween." (Personally, I believe that said powers were scraping the barrel a bit with that one. I mean, did no one throw out "Hoochie-ween?" Because "slut-o-ween" sounds like "slut-machine" which has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Halloween.)

Slut-O-Ween. The time of year when feminists, mothers and the traditionalists come together and take up arms against the sinful, evil and carnal display of flesh, crying out in dismay at the racks of costumes for women which all seem to have been misplaced from the little girl's section and been re-labled with the word "sexy." The time of year when the spirits of the dreams of every middle-aged pervert, whose "gentleman's magazines" are anything but (n/p), manifest themselves in high heels. The time of year when there is more twisting of the word "trick" than there has been since 1936. The time of year when we question the sexualization of the next generation's prostitots and when we discuss the limits and constraints on female sexuality in society.

But are we missing the point? Does Slut-o-Ween serve a bigger and more important purpose than to open the arena of discussion on social topics that we'd all just rather avoid during the rest of the year? I say yes, yes! Yes with raised arms and a heroic and faraway look in my eyes!

Don't get me wrong. I don't advocate slut-o-ween for my own selfish purposes. I am not one of those brave saviors who strut about in their heels and tiny armor. I am far too much of a perfectionist with my costumes to wear high heels if it is not perfectly authentic. (One year, as the waitress on the American Graffiti poster, I wore roller-skates. Ginger Rodgers may have done everything Fred Astaire did, except in heels, but she never tried to go trick-or-treating in roller-skates. Let me tell you.) In fact, I usually look down upon the armies of Slut-o-Ween with disdain, because it's really not original if you and every other girl out on Halloween is dressed like a hooker.

(You'd think I've also dressed as Mother Theresa one year, from the way I'm preaching, but in fact, I have not.)

But this year, I was forced to re-think this judgment. Fear not Gentle Reader, for I am not attempting to defend said women for selfish reasons; I am not becoming one of them. However, my experience abroad has, as is to be expected, broadened my horizons. It began with a logical explanation for the short skirts and high heels, and then morphed (with the help of the web of wikipedia) to a completley new perspective and respect on and for Slut-o-Ween.

See, what I could never understand back home was the pressure that the nightclub scene puts on women. In most clubs, you get turned away for not wearing appropriate (read: high, pointy and painful) shoes. And once you've transitioned to the club scene, you've obviously left the trick-or-treating scene. The modern purpose of one's costume is no longer to impress generous neighbors into giving you more candy. The modern purpose of one's costume is to continue to celebrate a holiday intended for all, not just children, while simultaneously impressing the bouncers to let one into the club. So here where I start to think that maybe we can see Slut-o-Ween, not as an excuse to dress risque, but as a coming together of normal going-out attire and the spirit and celebration of Halloween.

And then here's where I really start thinking. If the modern purpose of a Halloween costume involves inappropriate clothes in appropriate settings, then what was the traditional purpose of the Halloween costume again?
Aha! Thanks to wikipedia we learn that it is to "mimic and placate the evil spirits."
Well then. Are not the armies of hoochie-ween doing just that? Embodying the sinful, evil and carnal spirits? And if these are some of the most dangerous spirits threatening our youth today, are not these women taking up the front line on Halloween, protecting young girls and teaching them to defend themselves against capture by the true evil spirits? I, for one, believe that they are doing such a fine and accurate job of mimicking said spirits, that the rest of us needn't worry.
With such mighty warriors roaming the streets of every city that celebrates Halloween, I believe I shall feel quite safe on Hallowe'en night when the boundary between this, our world, and that of the underworld fades away.

For the record, I plan on dressing as a shark one night and the Absinthe Fairy the next night. Because, among a large group of American teenagers who are, shall we say, overexcited at the prospect of easy access to the fabled green liquor, I should think that the Green Fairy will really need some placating. And I will be more than happy to fight the good fight (especially if it's an excuse to not drink the stuff. I hate licorice.)
Plus, I'm really excited to dress up like a fairy again...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Flashes of Understanding

I have, lately in my life, been feeling disappointed by the big choices I have made. Not in any life-shattering way, but to be sure, there is a general aura of quiet disappointment. It's been elusive and hard to define and has left me questioning my happiness and the way in which I define the same.
But today I have had, as I often do, a sudden moment of understanding. Apparently, W.B. Yeats and myself are two of the same.

As Seamus Deane once said of the great poet: “Yeats began his career by inventing an Ireland amenable to his imagination. He ended by finding an Ireland recalcitrant to it.”

And thus is the lonely, disappointing life of an idealist.
I chose to go to UC Berkeley because I expected to find people full of life and passion who, upon their soap boxes and through their academic endeavors, would call the world to arms, would demand change actively and daily, and would live their lives as fully as possible in every way. I thought I would jump readily into a fight, a surge of change and start making the difference in the world that I wish for. I was so convinced of this, my own invention, that I vowed to go to Berkeley or no other and closed my mind to any other possibilities.
Though I have found a place at Cal and a love for the city of Berkeley, the second half of my first year was strangely depressing. Instead of political fervor and world shaking movements I found a conservative campus that was fully permeated with an competitive obsession with one-up-man academics. I found flailing and floundering movements that lacked logic, direction and the ability to succeed. I failed to find myself among those who were more passionate and more experienced than myself who would take me under their tutelage. And, thus disappointed, I gave up.
I set my sights and hopes on studying abroad. On Ireland. Or, as I have found, on the poetic and literary image of Ireland. The Ireland that I know through the literary revivalists of the turn of the century. The image of Ireland created by nationalists who sought to revive their beloved country and raise her up to be worshiped. The Ireland of mysticism, spirituality, nature and countryside, heroes, and music. The image that was preserved and fiercely guarded by immigrants to protect themselves from the harsh reality of a new country and the troubles of living. The image they passed down to their children which was augmented and enforced by the enchanting music and literature that came from those on the island who also wished to escape raw reality.
And so, wandering pilgrim searching for fulfillment of an ideal, I arrived in Ireland, hoping to find that image of Ireland that is still perpetuated in movies and music today by national pride and patriotic love of the Irish and Irish immigrant descendants alike. Hoping to finally live that dream ideal I've been searching for since the innocent and sweet light of my idyllic childhood was pulled from my by the hands of time.
And I arrived. I arrived in a city. I live in a dorm. I am surrounded by Americans who came looking to drink. I see construction and modernization out my window and wake to it each morning. The only aspects of this city which I expected and hoped for are unappreciated and unnoticed by all, the Irish and the foreign students alike. Who notices the river Lee, eddying beneath the great, sturdy stone bridge and surrounded by blackberry bushes? Who appreciates the sound of footsteps echoing along the painted tile floor of the old church in which I study Irish music? Who wants to admire the old stone buildings up on the hill, smudged with lichen and set in a bed of old growth trees and moss? Who, in a modern world and in a country that has recently pulled itself, literally by its bootstraps, up from poverty, wants to be forever associated with an image of rural, simple and superstitious life?

So I, the ever idealistic wanderer, was dealt a double blow - culture shock/homesickness (which is normal for all) and a disillusionment that crushed my last hope for an idyllic life. But acceptance is the first step to recovery. And I am beginning to pick up the pieces with a new understanding.
My love of travel stems from the security in spending short periods of time in a place. I mean, if I never spend more than a week in one place, I will always be in the awestruck honeymoon stage and will never have to accept the brutal reality that has always disappointed me. But I can't always be on the move. I can be as active as I want, but at some point, I have to face reality, I can't keep running forever hoping that by the time I stop, I will have gained the knowledge and experience to deal with the feeling of being jaded. Which is impossible, of course.

And so today, I see Ireland with new eyes. It is not what I expected, it is not what I hoped for. But at the same time, I know I am lucky (which also tends to happen). Although I am not living every part of my life here the way I expected, I can still find it. The one aspect of Irish society which is true to my imagination is the music. That expected love of traditional music, and the image of the twisting lilting strains twining themselves around the bottles and out the door of small pubs is true. It can be found, even in this modern city in which I live. That, is exactly what I pictured and wanted. So it's lucky I came here to study Irish music, huh?

Yesterday, I arrived back in Cork and for the first time in a month, I felt at home. Not just in my room where all my stuff embraces me daily, and not just in my apartment with its places and things I know and understand by now. I feel at home in the city. It's not yet a comfortable home, but it was the only feeling of belonging than I've had so far. Sometimes when I feel overwhelmed here, all I can think about is the places and things I love back home. I have a mental list of things I want to do when I get home. But last night when I sat down to write it out (I was in a list writing mood), I couldn't quite think of any. I mean, of course there are places I'd like to go, and things I'd like to do, but the yearning that I'd felt for them earlier was gone. I've ceased longing to go home and have started longing to become a part of this city and this country and to make the most of my time here.

Is this just part of the cycle of culture shock? Is it Mercury coming out of retrograde and FINALLY letting me live my life again? I don't know. I don't care. But if you want to come visit me in the next two months, I'd love to show you around my current home.
(My Ireland. The River Lee, Cork City and the hills beyond.)

(I bet I can use some of that for my final English essay on the literature of Modern Ireland..."We're all searching for that ideal identity...")

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Praha pirahnas.

Oh Prague.

How do I begin?

We started our journey on Wednesday afternoon to arrive at the Dublin airport at 11 pm for a 7 am flight because the first bus into the Dublin airport is at 7 am. And let me tell you, the phrase "this is a security warning. Do not leave your bags unattended. Unattended bags will be seized and may be destroyed" will haunt my dreams.

The Dublin airport at night is like a battlefield littered with the bodies of the casualties of inefficient planning and/or transportation systems. And in the true anarchical style of a battlefield, the hierarchy of comfy sleeping spots is based on time and experience. Though, it does depress me to see a 50+ year old man who is so used to traveling for business that he knows to bring a sleeping bag with him to the airport so he can hang his coat and shoes over the back of the chair that he has staked out since 9 pm. And the victorious authority stomps through the field in their garish vests and Doc Martins demanding passports of the huddled masses who are only desperate for sleep. And those Starbucks workers who can weasel bits of power for themselves abuse it and lord it over us lowly homeless. I mean, since when does he get to decide that everyone has to wake up at 4 am?

By the time we could check in and go through security, I almost understood the stupidity of whoever tried to bring the half-full bottle of Jack Daniels that was sitting on top of the security x-ray machine. I mean really, did they think they could get that through? And yet, and yet...

By the time our plane took off for Prague, we had been traveling for 12 hours, and had slept for a sporadic 3. Little did we know that this would be a pattern for the weekend.

Day 1 was spent checking into our quintessential YOUTH hostel, getting our bearings, eating and napping.
Night 1 consisted of learning the extent of the quintessentialness of said YOUTH hostel which put on a pub crawl. Imagine a group of youth travelers, mostly Australian and American (including Canadian) carousing through the streets of Prague under the direction of the hostel's management, who were of the exact same mind. Let's just say that the description of what the pub crawl's cost included the word "unlimited."

And oh the stars did converge and conspire against me that night.
Mostly, I blame Absinthe, which is a fascination for many, even a "jaded" bartender like myself who hates licorice and only tasted it for the shock value.

For Prague, I can say this: considering how absolutely awful I felt the next day, and I'm talking full-day recovery feeling sick, tired, mortified (the last mainly when I realized how much the taxi driver had charged me/ripped me off) and just generally shitty, I still loved Prague.

We spent Day 2 seeing the city, and literally traveling. We walked. A lot.
The girls I traveled with were all nice, but I do believe that a big part of the experience depends on who you are with. Lets put it this way: without any self-pity, I was always the one on the far side of the picture. We were all just different kinds of people and travel differently. We saw everything on the Prague to-do list, but it was in a markedly different way than I would have under other circumstances. For example, I'm not big on shopping and spending money, but we stopped at -literally- every store that sold pashminas. By the end of the 2nd day we knew which stores had the cheapest ones. And by the end of our last day there, the shopkeepers were saying "oh! back again?!" I mean, between 6 girls we bought 59 pashminas. (I did not buy 59 pashminas, I bought significantly less. I didn't even buy the average 9.83 pashminas. But I did contribute to the number...) An experience I never thought I'd have, but I did. And it was fun.

But it was fantastic traveling in Prague with them because they have friends studying in Prague, and as a group we had a fantastic time going out at night.
Prague nightlife is amazing, even when you decide that it's going to be significantly more tame than your first night there was. I think at one point the plan was to stay up to see the sunrise over the Charles Bridge on Sunday night, but we accidentally almost did that on Saturday night instead when one girl (who had to leave a day early) looked at her watch and went "hey, guys, can we go now? It's like 5 am, and I have to be at the airport in 2 hours."

We never actually saw the sunrise in Prague, that'll be on my list for next time I'm in Prague (because I am definitely going back.)

On our final day, we realized that we'd already covered all the big Prague things: the castle, the cathedral, a couple of old famous squares, the Charles bridge, the big tower, eaten a sausage from a sausage cart, bought pashminas, etc. All that was left was the Jewish cemetery (which was closed because it was Sunday), a little craft market and the Communist museum. Which, by the way, the Communist museum, though fascinating, seemed to be sending mixed messages to my sleep-deprived brain. Pro-communist propaganda from back in the day sat alongside descriptions and explanations that had a very blatantly anti-communist slant. But the poster was of one of those nesting dolls, except it has fangs, which is just awesome!

Dinner was... well, hilarious. First we went to this place where the waiter was so outright rude and hostile, that we got up an left right after he took our order. But then we ended up in it's polar opposite where all the wait staff joked with us and teased us in a friendly way, calling us their "angels" and bringing us complementary appetizers. At one point I asked for ketchup for my fries and they brought me mustard, which I meekly accepted until one of the other girls, called the waiter over and asked for the "red one." So he brought over Tabasco sauce. Finally, with most of the wait staff and some of the kitchen staff poking their heads around the corner and trying to stifle giggles, he triumphantly brought over a dinner plate with a small dollop of ketchup in the middle. Oh they were so nice.

It was interesting going to a country that I knew next to nothing about (except that it is "an amazing city" which everyone seems to have to say when they refer to Prague). I had few expectations, and had no idea what I wanted to see. But with everything bad that happened, over spending, horrible hangovers, I still loved Prague. I still had a fantastic time. And I want to go back. Well, really I need to go back now that I know what I really want to do and see and how I want to experience the city. It was an amazing city.

And coming from me? That's saying something.