30 January 2010

€ = MC [ ]

QI is my new favorite TV show. Most of the shows that I have access to are these almost community access talent shows or, more commonly, tons of American syndicated shows. I have never seen so many Scrubs and King of Queens marathons in my life. So you can imagine why I would be thrilled to discover a show which is essentially a comedy discussion panel that covers trivia. It's hosted by the brilliant (both intellectually and comedically) Stephen Fry and has guests like Emma Thompson and Clive Anderson (yes, the host of Whose Line Is It Anyway?), as well as a ton of new favorite people of mine that I had never heard of before. I wish we had something like it in the US, but it would never be popular enough to last. I don't really have anything insightful to say about television or culture in relation to my new favorite show, but I will mention that you can watch clips of it on YouTube if you want to see what I'm talking about. It's good shit.

Now the other day I was weighing myself on an Irish scale, and there is nothing quite as discombobulating as seeing your weight in stones. For those who don't know (as I didn't before I asked) a stone is 14 pounds. So I stepped on this scale and freaked out, thinking that there was no gravity in Ireland or something. Once you get past that, it's pretty neat to see a working scale tell you that you weigh 1/14 of what you really do, like it's telling you your birth weight. But I feel bad that I still haven't wrapped my head around having an automatic computation of the different measurements here. I know that a kilo is 2.2 lbs, but I still have to stop and do the math when someone tells me a weight rather than having a quick general idea of what that converts to. Same with celsius and fahrenheit, and I always state that things here cost dollars instead of Euros (although I'm very aware of that conversion rate at all times). It's also sad because everything is metric over here, which makes more sense than anything we do in America, but of course the only time we ever use metric systems are in chemistry class. And I've given up trying to understand the nutritional data measurements on food out here. Oh well, I'll just come back to the US a few stones heavier.

24 January 2010

caps lock

So I experienced a few firsts last night.

1. I almost got denied entry into a pub in Ireland.
2. I puked for the first time in Ireland.
3. I met my first gay Irishman in Ireland.

In that order.

On Friday, my American roommate Julia went back to the US, so I'm officially alone in Ireland. Luckily, I have inherited one of her best friends that she made during her year here, Marie. Marie is a fun, out-going Irish lass who willingly accepted the challenge of entertaining me in Ireland (she says that she's going to make me her bitch, which I think is a fair trade). Last night she called me up and told me to meet her and some friends at the Skeff. Since I had spent all of my weekend so far either sleeping or cleaning, I figured it would be a good chance to get something fun in on the weekend. I scarfed down the better half of a pizza (due to an inadvertent 4 hour nap, I had only eaten a bowl of soup that day and knew I'd need more in my stomach if I were going to drink with Irish folk) and headed out.

I was unaware of the strict Irish dress code for weekends. You can wear practically anything you want during the work week, but on Friday and Saturday you need to get fancier. I walked up to the Skeff and the bouncer looked me over and stopped me. I thought he was going to ask me for ID and I was going to be pissed because I obviously didn't bring my passport out with me, but he just pointed to my shoes and said, "Hey buddy." I was confused and just said, "I'm sorry, what?" He heard my American accent and I think took pity on me and said, "Just remember to wear nicer shoes next week."

I got inside and met up with Marie and Co. I grabbed a Smithwicks but halfway through it I started feeling ill. I had no idea what was causing it. I had taken the Irish equivalent of a Benadryl before heading out, as well as that pizza I ate quite quickly, and thought that maybe one of those were having a bad reaction with the beer. My forehead got all sweaty and I excused myself to go outside for some air but before I got there I realized that, nope, I needed to barf instead. So I ran to the toilet and said goodbye to that pizza, allergy medication, and Smithwicks. I felt like such a tourist puking in a pub, especially since when I got out of the stall a bunch of dudes were staring at me like I was a baby who couldn't hold his pint. (I was even more a tourist than I realized because later while walking around Galway I noticed that most Irish don't puke in toilets, they puke on the sidewalk or on the sides of buildings, etc.)

We stayed at that bar for a while, and I got to realize that the Irish have inconsistent taste in music. For every ABBA or Madonna or Katrina and the Waves "Walking on Sunshine" they played, we also got the Macarena and Aqua's "Barbie Girl". Side Note I: I kept saying during "Walking on Sunshine" that they were a one-hit wonder, and Marie's boyfriend Mike kept saying that they had another big song. I just went and looked it up, and I realized that he must be talking about Katrina and the Waves 1997 Eurovision-winning song "Love Shine a Light" which explains why he would be familiar with it but not me. If you decide to YouTube this to hear it, the song isn't that great. I'd recommend checking out her 2008 Dance Remix version instead or the Xenomania Club Remix (it's so goofy!) Side Note II: Americans think that there are a ton of reality/talent shows on our stations, but it's seriously the only thing people watch out here. Today I watched about 20 minutes of The All Ireland Talent Show before having to change the channel because I realized that Ireland might not actually have any talent, and the next station up had Dancing on Ice (in the UK, they don't just make their stars dance, they make them dance on ice! It looks really dangerous.)

Since I had puked and rallied, I started asking Marie how everyone knew each other. She pointed to John and said that he used to work with her at a pub, and he knows Mary and Brian because his boyfriend goes to blah blah blah I didn't hear anything else because I was trying to figure out if I had heard her correctly say that John had a boyfriend and that maybe I had just encountered my first gay person in Ireland. I didn't push it because there is still a bit of a language barrier and I wasn't sure if maybe "boyfriend" is a term used differently over here, and I wasn't even completely sure I had heard her correctly so she might not have even said "boyfriend". I'm very particular with trying to listen for subtle clues in determining if someone is giving me information on someone else's sexuality. A similar thing happened when my mom was talking to me about my cousin and she said that a recent sad situation happened where Ronnie's partner died from a bad reaction to a medication. I knew that Ronnie was not in a law firm, and partner is a weird thing to call a girlfriend, so I assumed she was dropping a hint that he was gay but I had to wait another year before this conversation came up again and my mom explicitly stated that it was the man that he lived with and confirmed he was gay.

A group of us moved on to another pub later that night and Marie asked me what I fancied in the people out that night. I thought that Julia had told Marie I was gay, but now I was realizing that she probably hadn't, so I told her I fancied "your mans" over "your wans". She was like, "Oh, well we'll have to get you to hang out with John and Brian because they're both gay! In fact, they went to a gay bar when they left the Skeff!" Success! Confirmed! This is going to be extremely helpful because I think you really have to rely on other gay people in Ireland to find out what's happening in this town. When I first got here, I decided to use my powers of Internet to find out if there are any gay bars or gay ANYTHING in Galway, and I did not have much luck. Marie had warned me at one point a while ago that the Irish aren't all that technology-friendly-- she said she was the only person she knows with a Facebook account. Even if you look up restaurant websites, they're normally quite rudimentary. So it's not a surprise that when I had been investigating gay bars in Galway, all the links would take me to sites that hadn't been updated since 2006 or made reference to bars that hadn't existed in over 2 years. So I figured I'd just not really experience any Gay Gaelic. But now that might be changing. But if someone wants to make a Big Gay Tour Book for Ireland, there is a desperate need for it.

So that was my first big night out in Ireland without any American assistance! The rest of it was fairly standard-- left the pub, got drunk food (Supermac's was way too busy so we got Chinese food... I got fried rice, the rest of the people got fried rice and chips, which apparently come with EVERYTHING out here).

OK, I just got a weird whiff of cat urine in my bedroom, and I don't think that's a sign of a stroke so I'm going to have to look into what could be causing this.

Also, I'm sorry that I've been negligent on new posts. The road to an inconsistently updated blog is paved with good intentions, I assure you. I'll try to be better, or at least go out more so I have more fodder.

14 January 2010

11 January 2010

Green Week

Things In My Irish Apartment That Aren't In My US Apartment

* Washer/Dryer (in the same machine! The Irish are so efficient!)
* Microwave
* Dishwasher
* Cable TV
* A porch
* Gym (downstairs)
* My own bathroom (and when Julia leaves, 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms to myself, whaaaaat!?!??!)
* A towel heater (a towel holder that is heated and provides you with a HOT towel to dry off with, whaaaaaaaat?!?!?!)

Things Ireland Doesn't Have That the US Does
* Tortilla chips and salsa that aren't Ranch flavored, which the Irish call "Cool" flavored (seriously, they get their entire idea of Mexican food from blue bags of Doritos)
* Blue and green food coloring

10 January 2010

Saving our planet is the thing to do

Day 2.

I was woken up in the middle of the night around 4:50am with a fire alarm going off. It kinda freaked me out. I thought it was just in our house, and as we hadn't been cooking anything in our sleep I was very confused (my powers of deduction were also not at their peak with the just-woken-up factor and the jet lag combo). Julia shouted from her room, "It's just the fire alarm, don't worry!" Unfortunately, I still worried. I wasn't sure if it was just our apartment that was experiencing it or the whole building, and if it was just our apartment then we were definitely waking up the neighbors and they would probably be breaking down our doors and stabbing us any moment. When it stopped (after I hit a bunch of buttons and twisting knobs on random things around the apartment that didn't do anything) I went back to bed. When I talked to Julia this morning, she said this happens anytime someone smokes in the parking garage. Silly Irish!

Our water was turned off today. It seems that the Irish have no idea how to handle temperature that goes below 0 degrees Celsius. It's cute, although not very hygienic. I guess they think their pipes will freeze if the water remains on (no one told them it's opposite). Luckily when we returned from grocery shopping they had turned it back on.

Google Maps for Ireland is not as intuitive as I had hoped.

I have purchased the materials for Princess Cupcakes. I was thinking about posting the pictures as soon as they've been created (you don't "make" Princess Cupcakes, you "create" them... did Michelangelo "make" the Sistine Chapel? Did Leonardo da Vinci "make" the Mona Lisa? Did Donatello "make" the David? Did Raphael "make" the School of Athens?) I brought my camera with me for this purpose, but then realized, the first item for a list that is sure to get much longer...

Things that Tom forgot to bring to Ireland
1. The cord that uploads pictures from my camera to my computer

C'est la vie. They're going to be pretty and you'll just have to accept that as fact without photographic evidence.

I met someone! Well, Julia met someone and I got to reap the benefits! On our way to the grocery store, a girl named Emily was jumping the fence with us (it saves 10 minutes on the walk to the store). We started chatting about the silly Irish turning off our water, and she asked us if we were Americans or Canadians. She's a Fulbright scholar over here studying and will be going back in a year to teach Irish-- the language!-- at a school in California. She spent the past summer on a farm in the north in a town that had like 450 people in it, where the community gets their water from a bog, and the town has one church, one post office and three pubs (plus lots of sheep). Her boyfriend lives here too, working for 3 months at a time to avoid having to get a visa. He apparently is from Boston (small world) and she invited us over for the Patriots game and to watch her introduce her Irish friends to queso dip. Julia and I will probably also try to use this opportunity to introduce the Irish to Princess Cupcakes.


So my goal for this blog is pretty simple. I want to make sure I'm documenting my time here and able to keep my buddies informed of what's going on (blogs serve the same purpose as mass emails but are at least knowingly and admittedly impersonal). However, I need to also make sure that I don't fall victim to updating this blog instead of actually experiencing Ireland. If I start to write a blog analyzing the different kinds of potatoes but haven't written about going to a pub in the past week, feel free to viciously judge me and shame me back into international alcoholism.

So I arrived in Shannon at around 7am this morning, and took a bus over to my new apartment in Galway. The ride was beautiful and treacherous. Ireland has been experiencing abnormally colder temperatures and typically wet weather, resulting in the entire country being covered in a practically cinematic hoar frost (or, as I like to call it, slut snow). As for the flight in, it was boring and uneventful (really Aer Lingus, the best you could offer me was The Ugly Truth and Fame?) but unfortunately not soporific and thus I didn't fall asleep until about noon (which would mean that I finally went to bed at around 7am Boston time). But I will make jet lag my bitch.

First day was a success-- got unpacked, settled, and napped. Also had a great dinner with my roomie-for-2-weeks Julia, which leads me to believe that I'll be eating more oysters in Ireland than I've ever done in the US... but this is good as I've always imagined that living in Europe would be saltier, slipperier, more muscley and zinc-filled than America. I of course also made my first beer here a Guinness, served to me by an Australian.

I want to also take this opportunity to remind everyone who might want to visit Ireland that YOU SHOULD. Especially while I'm here and you have a place to stay. Don't miss this opportunity, fools!

With that, I bid Americans a good afternoon and myself a good night. I need my rest for tomorrow I bring Princess Cupcakes to a new continent.