Wednesday, June 30, 2004

I must apologize for the spelling and grammar errors. I will have a spell check later but I thought it was better to have something up for you to read quickly.

My Trip to Ireland

The planing for this trip began within the first few weeks that I was in Edinburgh. My primary supervisor copied off the call for papers and I told him that I would attend. Well, if you had been reading this blog for a while, I had massive trouble getting money to the conference organizers in the firs place. They had to go to Wales to get my money order paid.

Anyway, I and my friend arrived at Edinburgh airport from Waverly Station with a bit of nervousness. We went through security relitivly quickly. We then went to find our gate before we went back into the duty free/food section of the airport. She was quiet taken with the extremely small laptop computer they had on sale there. She also purchased an extra alarm clock since I was taking her other one with me. We then got a coffee while we wanted since we got there two hours before hand and it took us about 10 minutes to get through everything.

Once we were finished with the coffee we went back to the terminal. We ran into two people from our residence halls and we talked to them for a while. They went off to get some food before the flight. I was getting a bit nervous. This was the first time I had been so nervous about a flight. I was a bit jumpy on the flight from the US but I made. This time I was getting sick to my stomach before the flight even began. It only got worse when we boarded. So to compansate for it, I talked myself through the entire flight proceedure. Now I know exactly how this works for take off and landing for a few reasons. First, I am from Seattle in the days before Microsoft. These sorts of things just filtered through as a consequence for living in an airplane manufacturing town. Second, my father was a flight mechanic so he would talk about it often. Third, I had taken aerospace classes in high school. It must have been rather odd to have someone talk their way through the entire flight proceedure in the seat next to them. We made it just fine in about half an hour.

We disembarked from the plane into the terminal, which was to become a living hell as you will see later on. We walked up to the immigration desk. They asked us how long we were going to be in Ireland and we said five nights. Without a second, glance he stamped us through. I thought it was going to be more rigorous than that. More like Heathrow rather than Edinburgh. So in less than an hour I was in Ireland waiting for some checked baggage.

We went out to wait for a bus to Heuston Station. We got on the bus after waiting about 15 minutes. There were two men in front of us and the older one of them, who looked like the other's father, started saying some rather unsavory things. The younger one old him to "shut up" and good thing he did as his younger companion said. I would not want to have to deal with that on my frist day in Ireland.

The ride took us through the heart of Dublin. It is a city completely under construction. There are seven tall cranes, which are used to build office blocks, that you can see quiet clearly as you enter the city. Otherwise, it looks on the street much like Edinburgh with a few twists. Some of the shops are recognizable but some are completely different. The one thing you will notice first off if you have lived in Edinburgh is the shear number of cars. The Modern Irish are much like the Americans with their love of the car. The sidewalks are very narrow and it is difficult to get around the city because everything is spread out. Unlike Edinburgh, which has fewers cars and more buses. Although the Dublin City Council has made an effort to install bus service so it is pretty good now.

We arrived at Heuston Station and immediately went to purchase train tickets for me to go to Kilkenny the next day. It was pretty simple and was pretty cheap. It was only later that I knew what the cheapness meant. We then made our way to our hotel. When we got there, we discovered that neither of our cards would work to pay the bill. It was rather embarrising. However, the woman behind the counter told us that it was not a problem and that we could figure out the money issue the next day and gave us the keys to our room. That gave me the first indication of the two halves of the Irish heart. In one half, a great kindness and generouscity. In the other half, a feiry passion, which I will discuss more later.

We dropped our stuff off in the room and took a look around in the guide book for a place to eat. We decided that we would go to the tready Temple Bar district which was right down the Liffey River from us. So we took a stroll down the Liffey River. We arrived in Temple Bar not exactly knowing what to expect. We needed up at a sprawling pub called O'Neill's, which we discovered on inspection of the guide was a place that most students and lecturers frequent. A football game was on so we had to search around for a seat. We finally found one in a tucked away corner of the second floor of the pub. That is when I ordered food and my first Guiness in Ireland.

I had always been told that Guiness in Ireland was different than Guiness anywhere else in the world. They were correct. It was like trying it for the first time all over again. It was so smooth that you could just drink it like water but had a slight beer taste that made it quiet interesting. I would highly recommend anyone who ever wanted to have a true Guiness to get on a flight and have some there. It is completely worth it, flight cost and all.

We then went back to the hotel to get some sleep before I left in the morning. The room was quiet nice but you could hear the continual trickling of water in the walls which was annoying but not so much that it interfered with anything. We watched TV for a while then hit the sack (yes we wore sweats because it was cheaper to get a room together than to get two rooms). I awoke the next day and repacked for my trip to Kilkenny.

Getting on the train was the easiest part; staying on the train was the hardest. It was filthy. There was dust everywhere and it did not look like it had been cleaned since it was purchased about twenty years ago. It smelled and it looked like it had not been serviced since it was bought. Anyway it was not crowded so it was nice in that way. The ride was smooth and went without a hitch. The country side as you leave Dublin is beautiful. Rolling hills and fields of horses and sheep and goats. The houses are white and look damn old but nice. They all seemed to be well maintained. Honestly, you have to see it for yourself to get a good appreciation for Ireland's country side.

I arrived at Kilkenny station about two hours after getting on the train. I walked out of the station then over to the taxis in the queue. I told them that I needed to go to St. Keiran's College and they said that I could walk it so they would not drive me there. That seems to be a theme in the British Isles. The same thing happened to me on my arrival to Edinburgh. The only difference is that in Ireland they were kind enough to give me a map and point out how to get there.

So I walked toward the college taking pictures with a disposible camera that I got back in Heuston station. I got lost on the way but I was quickly corrected by the map and made my way to beautiful St. Keiran's College. It is compact but since it has a stone wall all the way around it and the buildings are set in the middle of green and manicured fields. I walked into the front door and rang the front desk since it was locked. She very kindly showed me to the registration desk where everything was in order for my stay. I was then showen where the accomodations were.

I will just say a few words about the accomodations. An email sent to me by the organizers of the conference said that the accomodation was primitive. They were not exagerating in the least. I was looking at a room when I said it would be fine another person who had gotten there before me ran into the room and told me that the hot water tap did not work. So I chose the room across the hall from it. The light cover in the overhead light was cracked and missing bits but worked. The key was something out of the nineteenth century. The bed was a bunk bed but the sheets were only covered for the bottom bed. Anyway, everything else worked fine so it was not so bad.

I went back into town since it was about noon and the conference was not suppost to start until two. I found a cafe near the high street. It was alright until some Spanish couple brought a screaming child into the place. Anyway, I went back to the college and found where the sessions were going to be held then sat down to listen to what these people I had been reading all year had to say.

I overheard someone talking about how his son wanted to get into the computer industry. I could not help myself so I moved up to listen. They acknowledged my presence then I could not help giving a little advice. That is when I noticed his name tag. It was Professor He-Who-Could-Ruin-My-Career. That was a very stupid mistake on my part. I then slunk back to my chair in the back corner of the room.

The conference got off to a good start. The only problem was that it was like being asked to drink from a running fire hose. The amount of pure information was almost too much. It took all of my concentration to assimilate it and try to make connections to other information in my brain. I have yet to even get it all straight in my own mind. There were about three papers for each session by new and old scholars in the field.

After the session, there was an informal gathering with wine before the formal opening. I talked to one older woman who was very nice and trying obviously to start up a converstation. Honestly, I was there to look and not talk. I had already made one bad mistake and I did not want to make another. I chatted with her for a while and a couple of glasses of wine on a now empty stomach.

The fireworks were waiting for me in the formal opening. After a few perfunctory speeches the chairwoman said that they were going to have an information sharing session instead of having boring speeches. They had arial photographs of an area that was suppost to have been a Viking Longphort near Waterford, which we know to be a Viking settlement. Right at first, some people in the crowd started to yell out because this was speculation. Then another eminate Professor got up to talk about the dig as he saw it on the ground. He started to talk about how they were using backhoes and metal detectors to do the archaeology. Unknown, the archaeology people showed up with some people from the NRA (not the National Rifle Association but the National Road Agency). They wanted time to speak and all hell broke loose as people were throwing accusations of being unprofessional and other stuff around the room. The chairwoman had to get on a chair and tell people to shut up. I left after the fourth outburst. It was obvious that nothing scholarily was going to get put across at this meeting. When it all got over, it was 8:30 pm and the chairwoman said that the restaurants close at 9:00 pm so I went to bed hungry and with a headache.

I woke up the next day and went to breakfast. This was the first indication that this college was actually a seminary. The refectory was quiet large and a large statue of the crcifiction on one wall. The breakfast was nice with coffee and tea and cerial. The sessions started at 9 am. Honestly, I cannot recall too much at this point. Although, it was the same as last time, information overload. They had tea time between each session and they were alright. Again, I kept to myself although a couple of people struck up a converstation with me. I tried to stay informal but shallow. I did not want to make waves. We had dinner in the refectory which was alright. Nothing to write about there.

I decided to have a look around for the conference pub to have a couple of drinks. I ended up have three pints with a couple of younger postgrads from Cambridge University. It was rather initmidating. These people have degrees from Universities that I could only dream of attending. So I chatted politely with them for a while then went back to my accomodations. Well, I had three pints and the next morning I felt like crap. I ended up missing the morning's sessions but that was alright and it was expected that I would not make it to all of the sessions. So I walked into the old town and got some asprin but they did not tell me that it was disolvable asprin. I made it to the tea/coffee session before the afternoon sessions so I got a coffee and looked at the package. So I put to tablets into the coffee and it made it fizz and taste all lemony but I needed it. I started to feel better during the afternoon's sessions.

The conference dinner was coming up that night at 7:30 pm so I decided that I needed to take a shower before I went. So I got into the shower area and got undressed. I started the shower then I waited and waited and waited for the water to become even slightly more than glacial freezing. I thought that since the sun had been out all day that the pipes would at least warm the water. I ended up having my breath taken away by my shower. At least I was clean.

I ended up running into people on the way to the dinner. It was held in a very very posh place on the other side of the river from old town. It was all of marble (Kilkenny is known as the city of marble). We sat down for a while until the organizer showed up and herded us to the back of the place into the resaurant area. We had to go through one room which was entirly filled with dressed up women. There were no men in sight. Even the service staff were all women. It was rather creepy. We sat down to a three course meal with all the wine we could drink. I ended up sitting across from a woman from Oxford. Yes, she even had the accent to go with it. So I proceeded to drink as much wine as they kept pouring into the glass and eating all the food they put in front of me. I was a complete pig.

The organizer came by and told us that the place wanted us to move along. In any case, it was time to hit the pub. So we went to the conference pub where I talked to other younger postgrads and had a shot of whyskey. Then I went home to bed. When I got there I was undressing when someone started banging on the door. I started to get dressed so I was at least presentable. They then came around the building and start to bang on my window. I said that I was getting presentable and to wait a moment. I let her in once I had a shirt and some sweats on. I then went to sleep.

I woke up without a hangover, which is impressive since I had at least three bottles of wine and shot of whyskey. I think that I have a much better tolerance for wine and whyskey than I have for beer. Anyway, I went to breakfast only to find out that the medieval sites tour was going to be from 9 am to 6 pm and my train was coming at 2:15 pm. So I had to skip that. I ended up hanging around at a cyber cafe for a while dealing with email and stuff. I then went to the train station to read my book and wait. Well, the train arrived with many people already on it and there about a hundred getting on. Well, because the Irish train system is not computerized, there is no way to know how many people are already on a train so the ticket office will just keep selling tickets to a train that is already full. So it was like a thrid world country train packed to the gills. I ended up standing for two and a half hours while even more people packed on at each stop.

I was very glad to meet my friend at the train station in Dublin. She had told the management that there was a constant leaking sound in our old room so she switched rooms. Then we went to this really good bistro/restaurant very near where we were staying. We then went home to watch trashy TV. The next day we dropped our stuff off at Heuston Station in the secure lock boxes then went to explore Temple Bar. Since she had stayed in Dublin while I was in Kilkenny, she knew where everything was. We ended up seeing Grafton Street and all the buskers there. We also got a pint at O'Neill and we saw the Book of Kells at Trinity College where I ended up doing an impromptu lecture on medieval manuscripts. We also spent some time in St. Stephens Green.

We then walked back up the Liffey, which I had renamed the Sniffy and she named the Wiffy because of the smell. It started to rain, which it had off and on during my stay. Her jacket was not water proof so she was soaked when we got there. We then caught the bus back to the airport. I slept most of the way there (honestly, there is just not that much to see on the bus to and from the airport). We made it through security again very quickly. We were a bit early but that should have been alright. Well, it was not because our flight was delayed twice and we were there for hours. At least it seemed that way to her and I. We sat around until they finally go us on the plane. I was very tired and very bored by this point so it was relief to get on the plane. This flight was much better than my last one.

It was interesting that I felt so much better when I saw Aurthor's Seat from the plane. I thought that only the Space Needle would make me feel that good. In any case, I finally got home and into bed. I will probably write more about my interpretation of my Ireland visit but I am still just getting the information in my head arranged in some sensible way.

posted by Chris  #12:04 PM | 0 comments |