Tagged: study abroad

Guinness, Bananas, and Bill Murray

My thoughts are disorganized, and so is this post. You can look for coherence and deeper meaning in what I wrote, but chances are you’re just like any Literature student: reading into unimportant details that the author did not mean to be significant.

Yes, I just undermined my entire undergraduate education. Moving on.

That Time I Went to Ireland

After surprising my family with a spontaneous trip home for the holidays, I arrived back in England with one week left of my winter vacation. And because Carpe Diem and YOLO and all of that, I caught a flight to Ireland for a week overflowing with Guinness, sponsored by Bus Eireann, and featuring Irish music at its finest.

Dublin

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Obligatory

Dublin is exciting. If you happen to be in town on a Sunday or Monday there is a free comedy club: The Comedy Crunch. They serve free ice cream (though really it’s a wedge of something that resembles ice cream on a purely atomic level), and the emcee is a bit of a riot. There’s plenty to do in the capital city, but you’ll most likely ache for the quintessential image of an Irish countryside with sheep and a handsome wandering Irishman.

The Hostel

For the second time, I stayed at a hostel. This time, however, I was not the one harboring a murderous rage towards a snoring she-devil. This time, I’m fairly certain I was sharing a room with a future murderer.

Let me explain myself. We were sharing a room with seven other men and women. That was perfectly fine for approximately seven hours. The next morning, we’re dressing relatively early to tour the city. As I’m putting on my shoes, I look up and see Jack the Ripper incarnate sitting up in his bed just staring at us. We held eye contact for 4 seconds. Even then, when he’d been found out, he just went on sitting there.

Fear

Okay, I realize that’s not enough evidence to convict, but bear with me. That night, we went on a bar crawl with our hostel, but I left early to finish an essay. So, as I’m sitting in the hallway of our hostel, writing what I think is the next great American novel, I can sense him the way your once-broken bones can sense a storm coming. And like every horror movie ever, I slowly turn my head and there he is at the top of the stairs. Just staring.

Anticlimactically, he belligerently stumbled down the stairs after a few seconds of contemplation (a few seconds I interpreted as him plotting my murder), and collapsed onto his bed in a drunken heap.

Still, though. Close call.

About Those Sheep and Handsome Irishmen

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The dead man speaks

The sheep were sighted within twenty minutes of leaving Dublin. The handsome wandering Irishman, however, was a bit harder to come by.

But because life has a sense of humour –

I JUST SPELLED HUMOR WITH A ‘U.’

(Interminable pause to allow for crisis of conscience.)

As I was saying, life has a sense of humor. So after settling into our hostel that had a particularly pungent smell that can be credited for the concierge’s hazy look, slurred speech, and absurdly high level of chill, we headed to a local pub.

I’ll level with you. I watched P.S. I Love You the night before because:

1. I was going to stay awake as long as humanly possible to avoid being murdered by Jack the Ripper.

2. I was in Ireland, so obviously I watched that movie.

I had some high expectations walking into this pub. Alas, we did not meet Gerard Butler (although in Dublin we did have a drink at Whelan’s – the pub at which a part of the movie was filmed). No, instead we had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of gypsies.

So close, reality. Oh so close.

Specifically, three gypsy men. One of whom was wearing a shirt that read: Free Hugs. And on the back: Free Hugs for Sluts. I’d be interested to know just how successful he thought that outfit choice would be.

I couldn’t understand the majority of what they said, and by majority I mean that in two hours of conversation I understood one dirty joke, their brother lives in Dublin, and they work laying pavement. So I did what anyone does when talking with a mumbler or at a loud concert: I smiled and nodded. But that put me in a sticky situation. Their enthusiasm grew as the night wore on and I kept politely laughing and nodding. I was half convinced that I inadvertently agreed to run away with them. We left before I became a gypsy bride.

Dingle

Dingle was beautiful. Quit your job and work the land for 40 years sort of beautiful.

Dingle Harbour

Dingle Harbour

When I arrived home, I was lucky enough to have two friends from back home waiting in my room. Both Audrey and Alli are studying abroad for the foreseeable future, and in our long overdue reunion that stretched into a week we visited the cold, deserted English beach, hunkered down with tea, coffee cake, and a movie when the English weather threw a fit, and tried to work through our study abroad/imminent graduation anxiety the way you would navigate a difficult calculus problem. I’ve never been that gifted at math, so it comes as no surprise that an answer wasn’t easily forthcoming.

The Dingle Peninsula

The Dingle Peninsula

Alli has since left for the Netherlands, but not before promising to see us again before we head back to the good old US of A.

My Nightlife is Bananas

No, but really. My nightlife actually involves bananas. A few nights ago, a French-American-Cyprian-British group of us went to an on-campus bar. Well, it felt like a club to me, but I’m sure that is inaccurate. The mere sight of hard alcohol makes any environment – my parent’s living room, my kitchen – seem like a nightclub. My life has a low tolerance for shenanigans.

Anyway.

I was not drinking because I had an important meeting the next morning. I played flip-cup with water. Which is a terrific way to stay hydrated. I almost drank a full 8 ounces of water that evening.

Anyway.

We walked to this bar. And because we just couldn’t have a lull in our evening, our French friend Zephyr brought a portable stereo with him. (This piece of technology must have a better name, but I don’t know what it is.) One of us was craving chocolate, so we made a pit stop at the campus convenience store. The rest of the group took this as an opportunity to buy more alcohol, but I needed bananas for my oatmeal the next morning. So I bought bananas. Why this caused such a commotion is beyond me.

I needed bananas.

There were bananas.

I bought said bananas.

Logical.

After about half of an hour of dancing, I was famished.  Conveniently, I had six bananas in my bag.

Bananas

Bananas

Life lesson: snacks are never a bad idea. The bouncer may laugh at you, your friends may gawk, but I’m telling you that if after 45 minutes of dancing you whip out six bananas on an overcrowded dance floor, you will be a hero. You will not have bananas for your oatmeal in the morning, but you will be a hero. Like Jesus with his fishes and loaves. Only not because I had six bananas and they only fed six people.

Post script: in reality, you should not bring bananas onto a dance floor because you will inevitably face the issue of disposal. People will not typically look for a trashcan while raging, and will instead throw the banana peels into the air. Gravity being what it is nowadays, the banana peels will then land on the floor. And you will find yourself searching for six banana peels in a sea of sweaty bodies in what could be a prototype for a failed 90’s computer game.

… … … … …

There really isn’t any rhyme or reason to the structuring of this post. I would spin it so that there was some sort of loose connection between getting my daily fix of potassium and traveling around Ireland, but I’m not that talented a thinker. I suppose that we need adventure the same way we need potassium, or zinc, or whatever else we need to survive. Without adventure – whatever form it might take – we’re restless. We’re unable to be here, wherever here may be.

But adventure is harder to take than a multivitamin. It’s expensive and it’s exhausting. But more than that, being abroad, the young twenty-something is particularly vulnerable to a horror known as the quarter-life crisis. The crisis doesn’t discriminate, and comes in many forms, but will invariably come out of nowhere, and take hold of your mind like a parasite. And all of a sudden, you can do nothing but ask questions like: Who am I? Where am I going? Does life have purpose?

the-eye-of-sauronAsking these questions is like looking into the Eye of Sauron. You’re left in a cold sweat, terrified, and desperate to forget what you’ve seen. So you find the nearest source of alcohol or you journal, or both. Lately, though, I’ve been watching Bill Murray movies.

If there ever was a modern mythical creature that could fight the real-life Mordor known as twentydom, it is Bill Murray.

So, I suppose we should eat potassium to keep our bodies strong. We should find adventure to keep our spirits strong. And we should watch Bill Murray to deal with the inevitable crises that come our way. And if none of that works, we should drink.

Bill Murray: The Original Gangster

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It’s Probably Nonsense

I’m going to level with you: I don’t know how to write a blog and I don’t have much to write about.

I’m 21 years old. I have virtually the same practical experience as an infant. I can tell you stories for the next eight months, but it seems to me that a blog should have some coherency. I should have a message or something. I don’t want to incessantly post stories that are of no benefit to anyone other than my mother who uses this blog to track my whereabouts and to confirm that I am, in fact, alive. Hi, mom.

I spent some time thinking about what idea or issue I wanted to write about in this post, and came up with the following gem:

So, growing up. What’s up with that? This sounds like a doomed opening line for a comedy routine. Like a really, really bad comedy routine. One that ends with tomatoes or whatever people throw nowadays. Beer bottles probably. Man, that’s dangerous. People: don’t throw beer bottles. Throw toilet paper or something. That’s soft and suggestive of the quality of their material.

To defend myself, I had just experienced the very illuminating task of using my hard-earned money to buy laundry detergent. I had never purchased laundry detergent before, and I did not enjoy the transaction.

For your sake and my dignity, I’ve decided to stick with anecdotes for the time being. In the spirit of brevity, I’ve compiled a collection of short stories covering the last two weeks of my life here in the UK:

Family Dinner

My housemate Pepe decided to cook something Spanish sounding for us. It was an omelet with potatoes and onions, and I could walk downstairs and ask him, but I don’t feel like moving. As the token vegetarian, I was assigned to the salad.

I waited to go downtown to buy ingredients for the salad until around 5:00 because I spent the better part of the day trudging through Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Nevertheless, I boarded the bus to town to get the mixin’s. However, it was Sunday, and all shops close at 5:00 on Sunday. As do the buses.

In the sequel to my first night in this country, I walked forty-five minutes uphill in the dark. Because it gets dark at 6:00 here. Also, I accidentally off-roaded it, and was certain – and I mean absolutely certain – that I was going to be murdered. I lived. Either the murderer chickened out, or I’m a super good runner.

The kitchen smelled fantastic. I hadn’t eaten because I had not gone grocery shopping in over a week, so I was really feeling these omelets. I was practically salivating in our kitchen when Pepe frantically said he needed my help flipping the omelet.

Okay, so I don’t have any culinary skills. Another thing I don’t have: hand-eye coordination. So, when Pepe asked me to support his movement (I have no idea how to articulate this action – use your imagination) as he flipped the omelet in our pan that is too small and was covered with a plate that is even smaller, I was not optimistic. And rightly so. Before I knew it, the pan was upside down and half of the omelet was on the floor.

As we stood there looking at the egg that now covered the counter, stovetop and floor, I’m fairly certain we had a similar thought that can be best explained as: In this moment, I realize that I am suited neither for adulthood nor early adulthood. I have no idea what I am doing and the egg on the ground is a representation of this fact.

As is often the case, things turned out perfectly swell.

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The infamous omelet

Pepe finished cooking the omelet. I supported five more flips, each more successful than the last. I am told that has more to do with the consistency of the egg than my talent at supporting others, but nevertheless. We had a great dinner. Really, it was fantastic.

Afterwards, we spent the better part of twenty minutes cleaning up egg, but it was worth it. Despite the walk uphill, my near-murder, and the omelet fiasco, we had a household dinner. #Success

Clubbing with Ezra Pound

Despite the fact that I am only in class for six hours every week, I am still enrolled at a university. To maintain that status, I went to the library to read up on the Fascist and Anti-Semite, Ezra Pound. I promised to meet friends afterwards at an on-campus club.

Problem: I still had my backpack.

And that is how I found myself dancing to “Stacey’s Mom” in the middle of a fire-safety violation amount of people with my backpack on. Really worked my way up the social ladder with that one.

Whitstable: Take Three

Last weekend, my housemates and I walked to Whitstable. To be clear, I voluntarily and knowingly walked roughly six miles to a town I had already visited. If you know me personally, take this to be a testament to my growth as an individual. And here’s the kicker: I didn’t complain. Not once.

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Trekking to Whitstable

Maybe once.

If you are my mother, you will have read my previous posts about five times a piece and easily remember that my first night in Canterbury I inadvertently started a journey to this town. I followed up on this unwanted adventure with a nicely planned trip a week later – an account of which can be seen and read in earlier posts. Well, I now feel that I deserve the keys to the city.

In a Subtle Subject Change, I Have a Pitch

This winter, my good friend Alyssa is traveling to Panama, and needs help to get there. Financial help, she’s not hitchhiking. We bonded over a shared love of exercise (joke), and now she’s traveling to Panama to teach dance at three orphanages as a form of therapy and cross-cultural understanding.

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Alyssa. She’s real. I’m not scamming you.

In case you didn’t gather as much from the previous sentence, she is easily one of the best people I’ve ever met; and the very fact that she’s going on this trip is a testament to that fact.

So, here’s the link. Check it out: Get Alyssa to Panama

Consider it my early Thanksgiving, Christmas, or just I-am-away-from-my-family-for-all-major-holidays gift. Or as a good deed, pay it forward type of situation. Whichever is more convincing.

Note: Please appreciate my surreptitiousness.

The Cathedral

I expected the Canterbury Cathedral to be incredible. Therefore, it didn’t surprise me much that I was overcome with awe upon first seeing it. Nevertheless, that building is fantastic.

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Before

I realize that I can get worked up over seemingly mundane things, but people built this Cathedral. Actual human beings constructed this building out of stone.

I can’t even properly play with Lincoln logs.

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After

The Cuban

Earlier this week, I went with a friend to a joint fundraising event for the Kent Snowboarding and Live Music Societies. While I love snowboarding and wish the best to those who choose to ride down a mountain, I was more interested in the live music. Our first week in Canterbury, a band called the Aztec played at a campus event, and this was our opportunity to see them once again. They sound like angels. They have a saxophone. I mean, come on.

To understand our mental state, know that while listening to melodious harmony we were drinking Cluster Bombs – some sort of alcoholic beverage (unimportant) rimmed with Pop Rocks (important). In retrospect, this is a very aggressively named and creatively made drink.

We danced, listened to two sets, and then casually and confidently made our way back to the bus station after a successful night out on the town. However, and this should come as no surprise to you, the buses stopped running. We misread the timetable and after thirty minutes waiting for a nonexistent bus, we came to terms with the walk ahead of us.

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Enthusiasm

I say ‘we’, but that is generous of me. I have not reached complete acceptance yet. As can be evidenced by my request for a man’s cigarette, so “I can burn this bus station to the ground.”

I have some growing to do.

However, I would still deem the night a success. I would even deem the walk home a success. Entirely because we passed a Subway, which was miraculously still open, and bought three cookies for a pound.

. . .

I’ve found that life is generally the same on this side of the Atlantic. The humdrum of life is pretty universal. I still write papers, buy groceries, and sleep through my alarm.

If I were going to try to send you a message (and not in a terrifying mobster sort of way) it would be to not get too caught up in the humdrum. While I’m in the midst of a hefty amount of reading, it’s easy to forget that I’m here – in the UK. It’s easy to buckle down, attend to the tasks of everyday living and forget to look up. It’s easy to forget that adventure is right there, if you really wanted it.

Maybe we should live as though we were abroad every day of our lives. We should see adventure, whatever form it might take, as necessary. Not something to be put off for a later date, an imaginary date when the issues of everyday life won’t get in the way. Maybe we should appreciate the time we have here – wherever here may be.

Those are my two pence.