Monday, June 29, 2015

Kilkenny, Birthdays, and Dublin Pride!

This weekend was the most fun we have had since getting to Dublin.

On Friday, it was JP's birthday, and we all celebrated, maybe a little too much!

We've been going to a famous club in Dublin called Dicey's, and after treating JP to BBQ (why did he want to go to BBQ in Ireland?) and getting some fun cocktails, we ended up dancing at Dicey's all night. We came back, soaked with sweat around 4 am. It was probably the most fun I've ever had out!

The next morning, we reluctantly rolled out of bed late and made brunch for everyone. I made scrambled eggs while the girls made pancakes, and I had at least 3 pieces of brown bread with Kerrygold butter and drippy, delicious jam. We plowed through half a stick of butter that morning.

Saturday was also Dublin pride! Around 60,000 people came to Dublin to walk in the parade, and we all went to the parade to support all of the people who finally got the right to marry, not only in Ireland but also in the US! It was an amazing, amazing moment that I'll always be proud to have witnessed.

On Sunday we went to Kilkenny, which was one of the most fun trips I've ever taken. We had no plans for the day, so we were completely spontaneous. Kilkenny is in the southwest of Ireland, and it was around 1.5 hours away by Irish rail. The city is quaint; it was a medieval city that was inhabited by Vikings, and later even hid King Charles II, the British king, from Oliver Cromwell during the Restoration.

Some highlights from our trip:

  • relaxing in the rose garden at Kilkenny Castle and stealing a rose, which was glued to my nose the entirety of the trip because of how beautiful and fragrant it was

  • witnessing the first ordination of a priest in the huge and historic St. Mary's Cathedral in more than 25 years!
  • climbing the Round Tower of St. Canice's Cathedral... this watchtower was a lookout post and bell tower in the 9th century! Before we climbed the tower, we asked if it was scary. "No way!" answered the women working there. Boy, were they wrong. The tower was 10 feet in diameter, and you climbed 108 ladder steps straight up into the tower. There was no windows inside, and the walls were crumbling. However, the view was worth it, and now I have a significantly stronger stomach.

  • taking a break by playing clue and drinking craft beer in a pub
  • winding down the night in my favorite bar to date- Left Bank. It is an old bank that has been converted into a lavish, dark wood, swanky pub. We were lucky enough to witness an amazing jazz singer and her band while drinking our wine and Irish coffees

  • came back on the train and promptly passed out!

FYI: We have been walking SO MUCH in the city. We calculated it, and I usually walk 5+ miles on a normal work day. A day that we do sightseeing or shopping, we probably walk 7-10 miles. Because of this, my feet have never hurt so much in my life. I come back every day, sore and exhausted, and my feet literally pound when I'm trying to sleep. The plus side is that I feel no need to go to the gym and I can eat all the Kerrygold butter I want. Ha.

Friday, June 26, 2015


We had a great day Wednesday!

We met with the group of separated children that we will be doing activities with all summer. JP works with the social workers that are in charge of these children- they all have come to Ireland with no parents or family. 

JP told me a story of two eight year old Congolese boys, one that was very ill with sickle cell anemia, that were crying in front of him as they told their story to social workers. They hadn't seen their family in 5 years, they were sick, and they were very scared. 

We took about 20 of these kids, some of them not really kids, ranging from 15-20 years old, to a performance of Mamma Mia in the Bord Gais Energy Theatre. They were from African countries, Albania, and other Eastern European countries, all here without family. The girl that Priya and I were sitting next to was named Beatrice. She was from the Democratic Republic of Congo, 19, and had never seen a musical before.

After the play, we took a trip to Howth to go out to dinner and walk around. It was absolutely, hands-down, one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen.

We had an incredible, incredible meal at The House, where I had a cheese plate, an asparagus and artichoke tart, and shared a banoffee dessert and a warm brownie with ice cream. I couldn't breathe after.

Afterwards, we took a walk along the pier, each of us speechless, in awe. Ireland seems familiar, almost like New England, with its fishing boats, rocky sea, and sea-salt air. However, it's much more majestic, with giant green mountains jutting into the sky, their lines soft and smooth and fluid. It is unlike any other place that I have ever been. 

We stood on the edge of the pier and shared how lucky we all felt to be on this program. Later, we walked back, hushed, introspective, content.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

First Day of Work

I started work at New Communities Partnership!

I have a great team in this small office, composed of people from Ghana, Ireland, Italy, and Poland. We are a completely free service that helps people understand the citizenship process, and get their documents together in order to apply for citizenship.

For instance, I just met with a man from Georgia (the country, not the state!) who needed to get Irish citizenship because it is much cheaper to travel back to his home country as an Irish citizen rather than a Georgian. He was very confused by the process, partially because of his halting English, but also because this process is so complicated!

Before someone can apply for citizenship, they must have been living in Ireland for 5 years, or 3 years if they are married to an Irish citizen. They have to show multiple proofs of residences, bank statements, and displays of "good character". The team in the office seems to be frustrated by this process; although they believe they are helping people and doing the right thing, they frequently tell stories of people who "don't really want citizenship" or "treat it like it's nothing".

The Georgian man had a little girl with him. She was absolutely beautiful and very exotic, with giant blue Russian eyes and long dark hair. I couldn't stop staring at her, but was shocked and saddened when she opened her mouth and I saw that her four front teeth were rotting. The baby the man came in with had oxygen tubes around its tiny nose.

I'm slowly learning the process, but right now, all I can think about is how hard the lives of these people must be.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

My Irish Bread and Butter

On Monday, we went on a scavenger hunt through Dublin.

Bill and Suzanne, our program directors, designed a photo-scavenger hunt that took us all over Dublin. We saw St. Patrick's Cathedral, Christ Church, Four Courts, the Custom House, and a variety of landmarks. Catherine and I saw this fancy tailor, Louis Copeland, who got a kick out of our rushed American enthusiasm.

The next night, we traveled to Dalkey Castle, south of Dublin, on the coast, to celebrate Bloomsday. Everyone in Dublin and Ireland is obsessed with James Joyce, who wrote Ulysses and Dubliners. They will bluntly say that those two novels are the greatest novels in modern history. Bloomsday is a celebration of the day that Joyce wrote about in Ulysses, in which he traveled all over Dublin in one day, which took 7 years to write and is very, very thick. Dalkey was beautiful and the play was interesting! Dalkey Castle is from the 11th century and was beautiful too. 

Here's some pictures of everyone, when I force them to get together and smile!

The food is consistently ridiculously amazing. We went to a fabulous Mediterranean restaurant where I got a fruit and ginger scone with orange blossom butter and fresh jam. It was amazing. I'm already planning how to take home a few loaves of brown bread in my suitcase. Dublin butter is also everything you have heard and more.

I also met the people working at my organization! They seem really nice, and it's a fun mix of Lithuanian, Romanian, Armenian and Ghanan people. I'm excited to start working on Monday!

Sunday, June 14, 2015


I'm feeling remarkably better after getting 12 hours of sleep last night! I went to bed at 7:30 and slept until 7. Bliss.

I got up and went for a run around Dublin, traveling from the South Inner City (where we are) to the North side of the River Liffey. The River Liffey separates the city from top to bottom; the South side is very posh and upper-crust, while the North side is known to be more working-class. However, I found a lot of fun shops and beautiful streets on both sides of the river. We live on Leeson Street, which is on the bottom of St. Stephens Green, underneath Trinity College. The Green is so pretty, although the park (like EVERYWHERE in Dublin, especially on a Sunday) does not open until 9 am (grocery stores and shops are 10 or 11 am!)

We got some really good breakfast, where I got the best porridge (oatmeal) of my life, and Ethan got the first Full Irish breakfast of the trip, including blood pudding, which he liked!

Ethan and Reed at breakfast!

A fun box of condiments for my porridge!

Then, we traveled to the Kilmainham Gaol (Jail) in the West for a tour. Puzzling through the bus system was comical, but we eventually got it right. The jail held some of Ireland's most celebrated and famed revolutionaries, who were imprisoned and executed by the British before the Independence of Ireland in 1922, and afterwards the Northern Ireland supporters by the new Republic.

The original jail doors

Original graffiti from prisoners in 1910s, "Beware the Risen People".
Finally, we went to the Irish Museum of Modern Art, which was absolutely beautiful.

Irish Museum of Modern Art

 Tonight we might go to a pub or out to dinner!

JP and Ethan enjoying their first Guinness beers in a pub!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Men in Kilts and No Sleep

Everywhere I look, there are kilts. Old men in kilts. Yikes. Dublin, Day One!

St. Stephens Green Shopping Centre

I got into Dublin at 5:00 am this morning with JP, one of the students in DukeEngage with me. I flew a red-eye, so I got absolutely no sleep. Dublin is 5 hours ahead of Eastern time, so it was really midnight when we were touching down in Ireland.

It was hard to feel sleepy when we were gazing out the window at the green pastures and farms, though. We had a fun cab ride to our apartments with a vivacious man who told us that we absolutely must watch the Scotland-Ireland soccer match tonight. That's why there are men in kilts everywhere.

Our hotel is right next to the Embassy of Malta. As JP said, "I love the Maltans."

However, once we got to our hotel, we discovered that the reception desk didn't open until 8 am. So, we stashed our bags behind the counter and took a sunrise walk through the city. We walked in circles, greeting groggy Dubliners who were likely still out from last night. Finally, it was late enough (7:30) for a little café to be open. We sat down and had a nice breakfast (my body thinks it is 2:30 am???).

St. Stephens Green

After exploring the city some more, we learned that our rooms would not be ready until 3. So, we set off to kill some time. The shops began to open, the streets became busier, and the sun even peeked out a little.

Everything is green, green, green. And the weather wasn't even too bad. It was about 50 degrees in the morning, and felt like late fall, but once the sun came out it was nice!

Maybe I can comment more on the city once I lay down for a few minutes. For now, I'm just blindsided by the kilts.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Finding Myself (Ireland to Provence)

Well. I finished my sophomore year of college!
Instead of feeling accomplished, calm, and sure of myself, I feel as though I am more confused than ever now. At least when I was a freshman, I had a false sense of self-esteem and security, but the two years I spent on a roller coaster at Duke was enough to unbuckle the safety harness and throw me, wildly, chaotically, terrifying, off the tracks.
When I first entered college, I thought I knew what I wanted to do with my life and what values I held. But now I'm not so sure. Every day, I question things I have been taught, morals I have held, and lessons I have learned. I wonder what is important in each moment, and how I should try and live my life.
These are questions that I've been asking myself, and which I hope to start to answer in the next 8 months. 
On Friday, I leave Massachusetts for Dublin, Ireland. 
I'll be working for a non-profit company called New Communities Partnership, which aims to help refugees and migrants gain their citizenship. I am participating in DukeEngage, a Duke program that funds 500 students each year to do service work in different countries and domestically. I am in the Dublin program, with 8 awesome students and two incredible directors. I have absolutely no idea what to expect, but I am looking forward to a really unique experience. I'll be there for two months!
After Ireland, I'll be coming home for three weeks before heading to Aix-en-Provence, France, where I'll be studying abroad until late December.

I don't know what is in store for me these next few months, but I know it is going to change my life forever!

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Hi! I blog at Brunch and Bijoux. Celebrating les belles petites choses in life.
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