Ireland, week one: Hop on, hop off

As some of you know, I’m in Ireland for the summer, studying and interning abroad  with other UC Berkeley students at University College Dublin (UCD). Here are my brief updates for the first week:

Monday 6/15

Didn’t sleep much on the plane because of the mandatory screaming baby on-board. Since I was taking my flight with KLM, the movies on the plane had Dutch subtitles. Dutch sort of looks like German, but not really. Had a layover in Amsterdam. I forgot how many famous Dutch people there are: Anne Frank, Van Gogh, and that crazy writer from the Fault in our Stars.

Aer Lingus, the Irish airline

Just arrived in Ireland. Most of the signs are in two languages- English and Irish. Irish is one of those languages that I’m too embarrassed to even attempt to pronounce, despite being able to sound it out phonetically. Too many strange accents and marks. Everything is green, green, green, which I love!

It turns out University College Dublin is a twenty+ minute bus ride away from the heart of the city, which was disappointing. The campus might have been rowdy during the school year, but no one is here during the summer except international students. We each get our own rooms, so we hardly ever get to see our roommates.

City nightlife also proved to be quieter than we thought, as we found out after a walk around City Center. We ended up at a burger joint that was more American than America because everyone was tired and not too picky about food.

Tuesday 6/16

Today is a strange holiday called Bloomsday, which celebrates James Joyce’s novel Ulysses. We enjoyed a free breakfast on the UCD campus, half of which included

Happy Bloomsday! Hope you like animal organs!

animal organs that I was too squeamish to eat. Plenty of UCD staff dressed up in the Joycean fashion, while the study abroad students simply showed  up in their college attire.

Finally crossed the bridge to north Dublin after we spent the morning on the UCD campus attending orientation and buying our student discount bus passes. Today’s trip was mainly about shopping for much-needed supplies, which for me meant a hair dryer and an umbrella. I failed to find an umbrella.

For dinner, we found a pub in the touristy Temple Bar area called the Norseman. The food was great, and the live musician was so good we thought he was a sound recording. After today, my feet were so tired that I went straight home and stayed there.

Wednesday 6/17

Remember the umbrella I neglected to buy yesterday? We started out the day with rain, and I worried about getting soaked on the way to my 2 pm interview. I ran down to the on-campus convenience store to buy lunch, an umbrella, and a copy of the Irish Independent. Yesterday’s tragedy involving a collapsed balcony near the UC Berkeley campus was splashed across the front page of every Irish newspaper. Some of the victims in the accident were students from UCD.

By the time I headed toward the bus stop, the rain had stopped in typical unpredictable Berkeley fashion. The commute to my internship workplace turned out to be a long bus ride, followed by a pleasant walk in a tourist-heavy area. My interview was more of a tour of the Irish Independent newsroom, which was awesome but thoroughly intimidating.

Kids practicing their hurling. They're way better than most of us.
Kids training in hurling. They’re way better than most of us.

I took the bus to Na Fianna, a Gaelic Games club where locals train in the Irish sports of handball, hurling, and Gaelic football. I was still wearing my skirt and boots from the interview, which made me stand out painfully when my fellow UC Berkeley group arrived in their coach bus, all dressed in comfortable sports wear. The club staff gave me an over-sized jersey to wear, but I still had to run in my boots.

We split into three large groups and rotated through handball, hurling, and Gaelic football. For each sport, our group leaders started us off with basic drills, then pitted us against each other in competition. I displayed sub-par hand-eye coordination in handball and hurling, but my soccer experience somewhat helped me through Gaelic football, a weird combination of basketball, volleyball, and soccer. We also got a free dinner afterwards, so the whole experience was so much fun!

A rather touristy area but fun all the same.

A group of us went out later to pub crawl at Temple Bar. For most of us, it meant hitting two pubs before getting sleepy and calling it a night. The first one featured a singer who mostly played American pop songs. Three of us ordered the Apple Twist cocktail, which was apple juice with vodka.

Thursday 6/18

As I predicted earlier, both my butt and hamstrings were sore from yesterday’s sports activities when I woke up today. This afternoon, I went downtown with a friend to do the hop-on hop-off bus tour of Dublin. We passed landmarks such as St. Stephen’s Green and Trinity College, but only stopped by the Dublin Castle and Christ Church Cathedral/Dublinia.

Afterwards, we stayed on the bus and saw Guinness Storehouse, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Phoenix Park, Dublin’s Writers Museum, etc. Along the way, I collected a series of quotes from our droll bus driver: “In front, we have a happy couple walking across the street. Definitely not married. They’ll kill each other in a few years.”  Also, “Museum of Modern Art? More like Museum of Modern Rubbish. Don’t tell my boss I said that. She’s an angry woman. I think she secretly fancies me.”

St. Stephen’s Green

Little Museum of Dublin had free admission on Thursday from 6-8 pm, so we met up with another friend to tour the the museum, which included some interesting exhibits about Christy Brown and The Irish Times. Then we bought burritos and had dinner in the middle of St. Stephen’s Green. On the way back we saw swan babies! Such a precious moment.

Friday 6/19

We had our first on-campus lecture for the local culture course, and our instructor blew through the history of Ireland up until the potato famine and English conquest. Lunch was savory crepes at the on-campus cafe. Afterwards, there was an internship workshop that prepared us for the Irish workplace.

Our hop-on hop-off bus tour ticket was good for two days, so I again went downtown for a tour of Docklands. Turns out Google, Facebook, and Twitter have their European headquarters in Dublin, on the so-called “Google dock,” or “silicon dock.” We switched back to the main bus tour to explore Trinity College

Twitter European HQ! Who would have guessed?
Twitter European HQ! Who would have guessed?

and St. Patrick’s cathedral under the good old Dublin rain. Dinner was at a pub called Bachelor’s Inn, where I tried traditional Irish beef stew.






And that’s my first week in Ireland. More to come later!


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