Monday, September 19, 2011

Bath, England

Hello again!! I know you missed me. Or at least missed my sarcastic comments.

Don't lie. I know you’re all just looking for a break from work. Lazies.

Let’s dive right in to topic numero uno, shall we? Thom Is An Asshole. That pretty much sums it up. He offered to take me to Bristol to see some sites, but when the appointed time came (Friday, Sept 9th, 10am), he was a no-show. I texted him. He texted back that his car wouldn’t start, which was believable because it almost didn’t start when we did a pub crawl the first time we got together, so I said okay and busied myself around the B&B.

I texted him again around noon. He said that he had cycled up to the mechanic, purchased some parts, was then trying to fix his car, and that it shouldn’t take too long. I said “Ouch. Good luck!” and that was the last I heard from Thom. I refused to text him for updates anymore. He never texted or e-mailed me back. Therefore, he’s an asshole.

So I never went to Bristol, but I’m contacting a couchsurfing host in Bristol for Sep 30th to try and get a whirlwind tour before I get back on the Ireland-bound plane on Oct 1st. I’ll try and at least get a picture of a real-life Banksy street art piece, and then I’ll send it to a certain someone and be like “HAH, SUCKER! Jealous?!?” He knows who he is - though he probably doesn’t read this blog, actually. That’ll just make it all the sweeter. Teehee.

Topic Two: I Am Officially (in a very unofficial way) An Enchilada Ambassador. I know I can make some damn tasty enchiladas, so every time a host asks for an authentic Texan meal I make enchiladas and call them tex-mex amazingness. Both hosts have adopted the recipe and freaking love them. They’re all “Oh-em-gee-this-is-so-good-is-this-Mexican-please-teach-me-goddess-of-food!!” Right. Just like that. I’m working on the third host now.

Maybe I’ll branch out to something else next time. I love enchiladas and all that, but I should probably learn how to cook other things. You know, things not considered “college bum food”.

Moving on. Brits can’t believe my name isn’t short for something. Seriously, every Brit I come into contact with is like, “So, what’s Misty short for?”

I look at them blankly, “What?”

They begin to look uncomfortable, “Isn’t your name short for something?”

I usually arch my brow in that very patronizing way. You know the look. It disciplines small children and has absolutely no effect on idiots. “What would it be short for?”

They usually say, “I don’t know.”

I end with. “Me neither. My name’s just Misty.”

I know, I’m such a jerk. It’s just too funny to pass up though. Apparently my name is very, very uncommon in Britain. Except for dogs and horses. Which reminds me of a memory from third grade where we had an assignment to see who/what we were named after and I had to tell the class I was named after my grandfather’s horse. I later learned that the horse just happened to be named Misty too, but Dad thought it would be funny to tell me I was named after a horse. I still remember the humiliation . . . *Sigh* Thanks MOM AND DAD.

Anyway. For the last week of my stay with the Barnard-Weston’s, I primarily hung out with Kari, Rob, Finn, Felix, and Claudia. Arun (my age) disappeared as often as she could, and Anna was busy with her own life. They were both very nice and polite, but Arun already had other plans and Anna just wasn’t interested in hanging out with me. It’s cool. I get it.

Kari and I became really close. Or at least I like to think so. She’s a fantastic woman and I’m happy I had the chance to spend time with her. Her meticulous ways, alternative ideas, and exceptional people skills really impressed me. Besides being intelligent and fun, she’s a wonderful mother. She believes in arming her kids with a powerful weapon – knowledge. All of her children are far more mature and independent than other children their age that I know.

Rob became my temporary mentor. He aided me in figuring out what kind of career I want. I’m not saying I figured it out, but he gave me a lot of security and a lot of things to think about. There’s no way you can keep your mind closed to new ideas and ways of thinking while talking to him. He’s brimming with possibilities. If you ever feel completely apathetic toward life, just talk to Rob. He’ll get you excited about something. Honestly, I can’t thank him enough. Besides being an incredible (and ridiculously intelligent) person, he’s also an excellent adviser.

Finn became my best British buddy while I was there. We spent a lot of time chatting. He helped me make enchiladas and tried to teach me the rules of Cricket (a pointless task. Poor guy.) He also taught me an alternative way of throwing a tennis ball via a snapping motion – yeah, it’s fucking weird. But neat. I advised him on the correct pronunciation of words and introduced him to some badass American movies like Lucky Number Sleven and Snatch. Overall we had a great time hanging out. Except for when I had to threaten to beat him down. Eventually I’ll actually do it.

He still mispronounces words. These Brits are hopeless, I swear.

I really feel like I gained a second family. Kari got angry at Thom on my behalf. She also became my surrogate mother when I was wounded. I’ll tell you about that later. Felix tried to pick out men for me to date once he learned that I’m single. Thankfully he’s a badass sportsman, because he’s worthless as a matchmaker. Claudia is freaking adorable. I’m pretty sure she’s going to grow up to have men trailing behind her like lost puppies. She already has a boyfriend wrapped around her little finger and she’s 11. Obviously she has things well in hand.

I’ll stop gushing. On to topic 5: When Misty Stabbed Herself With A Knife Like A Dumbass.

This was during my Enchiladas Take Two excursion. Finn was helping while Felix and Claudia were pretending to help while actually just hanging out. About three quarters of the way through I was cutting avocados to make guacamole. I stabbed the knife into the pit of an avocado and pulled, but the knife popped out sans pit. Felix said, “Let me try!” and walked behind me to get a knife. I said, “Nah, I’ve got it” and stabbed the pit again. It didn’t work. I tried one more time. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Felix reach for the avocado in my hand. Reflexively I turned away so he didn’t get stabbed with the knife. The knife hit the avocado pit, slipped, and went STRAIGHT into my hand. Fail.

I removed the intruding knife and looked at my palm. It immediately started gushing blood. I said, “Oh.” Then I calmly put the knife down, turned, and walked to the sink to begin running water over my wound and grab a wad of paper towels. Felix was busy with the other avocado. Finn is more observant. He said, “What just happened?” I looked over my shoulder, smiled, and said, “Oh, nothing, just a cut.”

Finn walked up and I held up my hand for him to see. Then I realized that blood is all over my hand and arm like some kind of terrible 80s horror movie where vampires and vampire hunters are having a holy battle and a vampire grabs a human and rips some flesh off and . . .

Ok, so it wasn’t that crazy looking, but it was pretty crazy.

Felix noticed and started freaking out. Not really freaking out like he’s afraid or anything, but freaking out because there’s so much blood. Finn helped me collect paper towels, Felix is all “Oh my god oh my god oh my god” and I’m not sure what Claudia was doing. I was smiling and laughing at Felix and trying to calm everyone down.

Kari must have had some kind of supernatural Mommy sense tingling or something because she walked through the kitchen door right then. Between me, Finn, and Kari we got it taken care of. Eventually it stopped bleeding. I wrapped it up tight and carried on with cooking, with the help of Kari and Finn. You know, because I’m a badass. Later Kari wrapped it up in gauze and stuff to keep the pressure on (but mostly to help me remember that my hand was injured and I probably shouldn’t slam it down on door handles to open doors like a dumb blond). Every time someone asked me about it I told them a different story about how I was a street boxer or how I got into an epic knife fight. Awesome conversation starter? Yes.

THE WOUND. After an hour of holding paper towels on it. Yes, it doesn't look like much, but it's deeper than it looks. Promise.

Topic Six: After Being Stuck In Captivity For Days With Brits, A Phone Call Saves My Accent.

Finn, Felix, Claudia, and I were running around the grocery store looking for cooking ingredients. I don’t know why Kari kept letting me go out with them as their “supervisor”, because I really had absolutely no authority in those situations. More often than not we came back with junk food and tiramisu along with the requisite items. Maybe she’s just gearing me up for childbearing.

And yes, I had a lot of tiramisu at their place. And yes, I’m a fatass. You’ll be happy to know that I’m taking steps to reverse this . . . phenomenon.

Anyway, so we were running around the store. Or rather, I was alternating between staring at the ingredients list and looking down aisles like a confused tourist, Finn was asking me what needed to be done, Claudia was grabbing things, asking me if she can have them, and putting them in the basket regardless, and Felix was just grabbing shit and putting it in the basket. Suddenly my phone rang. This is an unusual occurrence. I’m pretty sure I only carry it around so I can say that I have a phone and I’m not completely out of the loop.

I picked up the phone. It was Alicia. She said, “Hi!” and I stopped paying attention to everything else around me. Finn intruded once or twice with questions, but I shoved the grocery list at him and told him to find things. Then I happily trailed along behind him and alternated between excitedly talking to Alicia and asking Finn if I sounded more American now. He said I did. He was probably lying. Salvation in the form of my cousin: I was in my happy place. Eventually I had to get off the phone and take charge again because it was getting late, but I was completely stoked that I had talked to her.

The rest of the week went by pretty quickly. I helped Kari out during the day, went into Bath a few times to meet people and see things, and hung out with the kids at night usually. At one point I met a Polish guy and we went out for drinks and to talk about our travels. He told me to avoid Italy because the Italians are assholes. Nevermind the sites, apparently, because the Italians don’t deserve your tourism. I didn’t tell him that my ancestors were Italian. He also taught me how to say hello and toast in Polish. That’s really all I need to learn, right?

What else to report? I was invited to come back to the Bloomfield House B&B later on in the year. I feel very special – I’ll be the first workawayer to return! I’m going back November 15th – December 1st. I’m pretty excited. I think next time I’ll take some day excursions and visit London and Bristol and the surrounding countryside now that I’ve gotten into comfortably using couchsurfing.

I’ve also realized exactly how much I overpacked and thankfully Kari and Rob let me leave my big bag and extra stuff at their place and gave me a smaller luggage case to bring along on my travels. It really made a difference. My back isn’t screaming in pain anymore.

I left their house satisfied, confident, and a little sad. I’ll miss them, but I have the travel itch again and I want to see more things. Next is the cheesemaker’s. All that will be in the next post.

I'll leave you with some pictures:

The Pig and Fiddle. Cool? Yes.

This journey would not be complete without me making EVEN MORE kitty friends.

My watch on Finn's wrist next to his watch. This shows you that Brits wear fucking huge watches.

Finn holding Claudia up so she can touch the lamp. No, God is NOT anointing Finn with his divine light. That's just a lamp. And a cool camera happenstance.

Here's a typical Bath, England street. Yes, it's way cooler than our streets.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Reawakening

Ok so I’m super sorry I haven’t posted in like …. two weeks. Ahem. I know that you guys are just dying with curiosity about my day to day happenings. I’m sure that you’ve all wanted to call me to make sure that I was still alive and hadn’t been stolen by some crazy couchsurfer or come to nefarious harm via British pretentiousness or attacked by ninjas or something, but you’re all too broke to afford the international calls. Of course.

I’ll write a super long post tomorrow about the following topics:

1. Thom ditched me. He’s an asshole. I don’t really care though, because Kari + Rob + kids taught me about what I missed in not going up with four siblings.

2. I’ve become an enchilada ambassador.

3. “The Big M” by Felix.

4. Trading exposure to Lucky Number Sleven for mad ball-throwing lessons from Finn.

5. Also, I’m now a badass street boxer. Didn’t you know?

6. After being stuck in captivity for days with Brits, a phone call saved my accent.

7. Muesli, Tahini, Courgette

8. Making pizza

9. Christopher Bennett saying I could stay with him. It’s on the interwebs, so now it’s law.

10. My life as a goat girl

11. Plans from here on out. SHIT HAS CHANGED, YO.

See? That’s a long ass post that I’ve been procrastinating about. But I’ll flesh out the topics tomorrow after I do all my work, and hopefully you’ll have something by tomorrow evening (afternoon your time, actually). Have faith, people. I’ll make it as funny as I can.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Lots of kids = no toilet paper?

There I was, sitting in my bed, watching about Brits in the Sahara desert, when my TV suddenly changed the channel. There was an untouched remote beside me.


I picked up the remote and changed the channel back. I set the remote down. The channel changed to some sports network, remote untouched.


I picked up the remote and angrily changed the channel back. Then I ran over to the window of my room and peeked outside. Nobody there. The channel changed back to tennis. I ran to the door and opened it. Claudia was standing outside.

I narrowed my eyes. “Did you change the channel?”

Claudia looked startled. “Nooo….”

I said, “Is this a joke?”

Claudia looked around. “Nooo…”

I lifted my mama’s-about-to-beat-a-child finger. “Are you lying to me?”

Claudia’s eyes got big. “It was Finn! His TV is connected to yours!”

Wtf? Finn lives in the room next door to mine. He’s Kari’s 17 year old.

Claudia whispered, “Do you want me to tell him to stop watching TV?”

I told her, “No, it’s okay. I have my computer.” Then I retreated back inside my room. I heard the hallway door close after Claudia. I decided to go to the bathroom and get ready for bed. I went across the hall (the bathroom is separate, but every bedroom has their own designated bathroom so nobody has to share) and brushed my teeth. I looked around in boredom. Suddenly, I noticed that there’s no toilet paper. I distinctly remember putting a full roll on the back of the toilet earlier that day. I looked around. No toilet paper. I got an idea. I stormed across the hall and knocked on Finn’s door. I heard a murmured inquiry.

I demanded, “Finn! Get out here!”

He opened the door and smiled. I glared. “Finn, did you steal my toilet paper?”

“Oh. Yeah,” he said sheepishly, “I was changing the channels too. Sorry.”

I shook my finger at him, “Boy, you better replace my roll.” He grinned and walked into his parent’s room. Soon he came back out with a roll of toilet paper. He passed it to me and retreated back inside his hole.

These people are serious about making workawayers feel like family.

Diving into

The last few days haven’t been exceedingly eventful, but some interesting things have happened. I woke up late yesterday morning and went down to help Kari clean up after breakfast. It wasn’t difficult and I only worked for about an hour. Afterward I was suckered into throwing a tennis ball for Tully the border collie until he got tired. That took a bit. Thankfully I had my MP3 player. I’ve also gained a completely devoted new friend.

Kari mentioned another workawayer had used to meet people in the area to show her around. I was already signed up for couchsurfing, so I decided to give it a go. I messaged two guys and two girls from the area about meeting up sometime in the next two weeks to get a glimpse of the Bath underground scene. Surprisingly both girls messaged me back saying they were busy and both guys offered to meet me either that day or the next. I asked Kari if couchsurfing was actually some kind of undercover alternative. She said she didn’t think so, but that you never know. Thanks, Kari.

A guy named Thom got back to me first and asked if I wanted to meet him that night. Now, on my profile I mention that I’m short and I’m prone to giving tall people sass. After agreeing that tonight would be great, Thom starts in with the short jokes. Bastard. I gave it right back to him. As you can imagine, we continued this flinging of height-related insults via text for a few hours. We decided to meet at the Bath bus station around 9pm.

The other guy, Colin, replied about an hour later. He offered to show me around via a pub crawl that night or after coffee the next day. I told him I already had plans for that night and said I’d meet him Sunday.

I got ready to go into town and came downstairs to ask for a house key at 8:20pm. I heard oldy American music playing loudly from the kitchen, so I went in to investigate. I find Kari, her daughter Ana (18), her niece Ashley (18), Ana’s friend Kati (18), and Claudia dancing around the kitchen. I look on the island and see a huge bottle of litchi liqueur and several glasses of wine. There are also several pans of food cooking on the stove. Kari and company see me and a round of “Hellooo!!” sounds. Immediately Ana grabs a shot glass, rinses it, fills it with litchi, and hands it to me with a, “Drink this!”

I asked, “What is it?”

Kari replies, “A liqueur Rob and I picked up in France.”

Ooh. French. Naturally, I take the shot. Yup, pretty smooth.

Did I mention I hadn’t had any food in about twelve hours?

Ana passes me a glass of wine. Rob enters shortly thereafter and is treated to the same hospitality, but doesn’t drink. The next twenty minutes vacillates between a classic British dinner party and the dancing kitchen scene from Practical Magic. It was fantastic.

I told Kari and company that I was going into town to meet Thom. Kari told me to stay a little longer so I could wolf down some food, and then she got Rob to take me into town so I didn’t have to walk. They also fed me another glass of wine. I was way less nervous after I left that kitchen.

Rob dropped me off at the bus station a little later and told me to call him if I needed some kneecaps busted and a rescue. I told him I’d definitely send out the alarm if Thom turned out to be a white slaver. Thankfully Thom was brilliant. He showed me the best view of the city from the top of one of Bath’s hills. Then we went to a couple of famous Bath pubs and talked about everything from philosophy and American politics to the hipster movement and the pros and cons of varying heights. Did I mention he’s something like 6’3” and I don’t even come up to his shoulder? Walking next to him was a trial.

Bath at night turned out to be gorgeous except for the young skanks walking around. I literally saw a girl trying to hold down her skirt while she was walking because it was an inch away from baring all her tawdry wares. Can’t fault the architecture though.

Thom dropped me off at the Bloomfield House with the offer to show me some of the more traditional sites on Monday. As a guide he was pretty great. I’m glad I have a local who will show me around!

I went to bed early so I could wake early and help Kari with the breakfast crowd. I spent a good bit of this morning helping with the guests, serving, and cleaning the kitchen. Meanwhile Rob spoke with me about what I wanted to do and his business ventures. He really inspired me. I look forward to talking with him more about business and free trade. I’d give you a sketch of our conversation, but it lasted for over an hour and was very fast paced and varied. I might be able to get hooked up with an internship through him though, and he mentioned a possible letter of recommendation if I decide to go into responsible business management (a degree program in the UK). Either way he’s an influential figure in business here in the UK, and I hope to at least learn a little more from him.

After the kitchen chores were done I played with Tully again. When he was tired I tackled and organized some of Kari’s paperwork for her. She also took me on a round of the rooms to show me what exactly she looks for in a clean and well-made guest room.

Notice the menagerie I’ve adopted along with Kari’s paperwork. Lap provider and bookkeeper? That’s me!

This is Penny. She's an adorable tiny kitten that LOVES cuddling. She's too cute for words.

Kari let me go around 2:30pm, and I went to meet Colin for coffee at 3:30pm. Colin was also a wonderful companion and guide! He’s a postgrad biologist at the University of Bath and we spent a long time talking about his fascinating research into aging. It was refreshing to talk to another biologist again! It made me reminiscent of discussing theories with my old bio buddies Bryan, Nick, Laura, Chris, and Bethany. He’s also from North Ireland and very nerdy. I enjoyed his accent immensely, but his corduroy pants made me giggle.

Colin showed me the Circus, the best Italian ice cream shop in town, and some of the most beautiful parks in the area. We grabbed some ice cream (I had cappuccino flavored) and watched the Bristol Brass Band on the lawn in front of the Circus. He also showed me the Jane Austen shop and recommended a few restaurants to check out. After a few hours of roaming and talking we split with plans to see more of the city later on in the week. He was a fantastic guide.

Tomorrow I think I’ll go visit Bath by myself for a while before meeting up with Thom so I can stop and take pictures without feeling like someone is waiting on me. I know where the Roman Baths are, so I’ll visit those first thing after I get off work tomorrow. Stay tuned for pictures!

Friday, September 2, 2011

First day in Bath, England

Yes, Bath architecture is as beautiful as everyone says it is.

A Baptist church I found
The road I take from the B&B to the city center

I arrived at my destination pretty easily. Surprisingly I didn’t get stopped by border patrol. My bum façade seemed to work too, in that every time I stopped and looked confused on my way to catching a bus or train a British person stopped and asked if I was lost. They were very nice and helpful. I got into Bath in the afternoon. Kari and Rob were in France, but a couple of their five children were in residence. Arun (22) showed me a room I could sleep in, and Claudia (11) talked to me for a bit before I went upstairs to take a nap. Here are some pictures of my accommodations:

Jealous? I know. I’d be jealous of me too. I'll take pictures of the B&B and put them up tomorrow.

I met another workawayer on my way in. He’s an older gentleman named Phillip, and he was very British. Like, John Cleese British. I barely stopped myself from asking him to quote Monty Python at me. We had a nice conversation in the kitchen later. He’s kind of made a career out of workawaying. Sometimes he gets paid and sometimes he doesn’t. He’s a builder. He left today for further travels, so I didn’t really get to know him beyond that one conversation. He was very nice though.

I slept most of yesterday and got up early today. I grabbed my sheets from the guest room I was in and went downstairs to Arun’s room, because she left this morning to go to a festival for the weekend and offered me her bed. Her room is just as large, ornate, and beautiful as the guest room, and it has a bigger window. I’m not going to take any pictures of her room though, ‘cause that would be creepy. Suffice to say it’s amazing.

Also, I took a bath yesterday before my nap. It was excellent. I guess the stories are true.

Around noonish I decided to walk down to the city center and see some things. I had some pizza outside in a café, and I went by the phone store afterward to get a new SIM card so I can make cheaper calls in the UK.

My Ireland phone was locked, so when we switched out the SIM cards it went wonky. The guys at the store were nice and tried to call Vodafone (the carrier I’m using) to see if we could get it unlocked, but they told Alex (the guy helping me) that it wouldn’t work in the UK. I had to buy a new phone, but they discounted the price and gave me a new SIM card for it. I lost my Ireland contact numbers. Thank God for Facebook and e-mail.

After that I wandered off the beaten path. I found a nice park in front of the Bath Abbey and read for a while. Then I wandered through the Abbey. It was so beautiful.

Here's where I sat down and read for a while

The musician behind the Abbey

After that I bought some fudge and sat down in a plaza to listen to a musician. I saw a café nearby that advertised bath buns, so I went inside to look. The bath bun was really only a little bigger than a bagel. My Grandmother has been to Bath, and she said they were huge. I asked the woman if this was the traditional size for a bath bun, and she said yes. Grandma, here’s a picture of the front of the café I saw. Where do I go to see these behemoth bread concoctions?

I roamed around a bit more before getting on a bus and riding back to the B&B. I hung out with the kids some and waited for Kari and Rob to get here. Their 17 year old son Fin came in and joined us.

Kari and Rob showed up. They’re super nice! Both of them are very easy to talk to, and we were laughing together within minutes. I have high hopes for this place. Both of them are into self sustainability and environmental preservation. Rob showed me something called Marmite, which is a yeast extract they spread on bread over here. It’s left over from brewing booze. I looked at the ingredients and made a comment on how it’s very healthy. Rob asked me what I meant. I dipped into my biochemistry memories and explained.

Suddenly we were talking about biochemistry crossing over with business and environmental conservation. It was crazy. He has these amazing theories, and he gave me a book he wrote to look at. I mentioned that his theories make sense and that there’s a lot of scientific evidence for what he was saying. He wants me to check his book out and explain if anything doesn’t make sense science-wise. I’m pretty interested, so I said I’d look at it. Holy crap, I’m actually using my degree. Who’d have thought? Maybe I can be a consultant for social theorists.

Kari, Fin, Claudia, and I had dinner later. They don’t usually eat dinner together because all the kids are old enough to go off and make their own plans. Kari says that it’s pretty relaxed here and to help myself to any food that I want when I’m hungry. I asked her when I should wake up and get to work, and she said that’s purely up to me. I told her I was interested in the business side of things. She already has someone that comes in and cleans the rooms, so I won’t have to do much of that, thank goodness. I’ll illuminate more when I actually start working, but for now it seems that I’ll just be helping out where I can five hours a day and the rest of my time will be spent doing my own thing.

I’m pretty excited. I’ll tell you how tomorrow turns out. Maybe I can go into town and look at more sights. This place is absolutely beautiful!

Last days in Ireland.

I’m sitting in the Cork airport writing this. I haven’t really slept in over twenty-four hours, but I don’t regret it one bit. I’m pretty sure I look kind of like a bum. It’s okay, there are distinctly bum-like backpackers waiting for a flight too, so I don’t feel too conspicuous.

The days leading up to my departure to Bath were pretty crazy. Ciara started school again, so I spent my last few days working largely alone. The night before I left the O’Regans I asked Ciara if I could use their printer to print out documents. I needed to prove to the British border patrol that I’m not coming into their country to steal their jobs and their men. First I had to take screen shots of bank account deposits, family ties in America, and e-mails from the workaway people showing I had a place to stay and was welcome. Then I tried using the O’Regan’s printer, but the thing was broken. I had to fix it, but then we realized that the ink had mostly dried up from lack of use. The O’Regans had another printer, so I installed that for them, but the ink wouldn’t run again. Aoife said that it had full ink cartridges because it was only used once. I asked when that was. She said two years ago. Oh. Right.

Somebody up there really wants to give me severe border-crossing stress.

We couldn’t go into town to buy ink, so we went to a neighbors’ house and they kindly let me use their printer. I was really nervous leading up to that point because of my terrible experience coming into England a few weeks prior. Thankfully everything worked out and I got my documents printed using Debbie and Jack’s printer.

When I was finished I went into the kitchen to join Debbie, Jack, Aoife, Aine, Dowy (11), and Tara’s baby. I was offered a cup of tea (of course) and started listening to the conversation. What I heard shocked me. Debbie was talking about a friend of hers that really needed to go into the hospital. She had a wound in her back that she hadn’t told anyone about, and she was in severe pain. The woman had called Debbie and told her how there was a lot of blood . . . well, it’s gross, and I know that some of you readers will be fascinated with the details while some of you will be completely grossed out. So I’ll skip it and if you want to know the whole story you can e-mail me.

Anyway, about mid-way through her symptoms I blurted out, “That sounds like Clostridium perfringens”.

They all just looked at me. After a second I said, “Oh. Gangrene. It sounds like gangrene. But I haven’t heard of severe gangrene occurring from a wound like that in a developed country. It sounds like it’s entered into her blood stream”

Debbie told me that that was what the doctor had said when her friend had gone in to see him yesterday. I officially used my degree. Boo-ya.

Anyway, we talked about how the woman really needed to go to a hospital, but was refusing because of familial obligations. I don’t know how she’s even still walking around. I tried to stress on them that if she didn’t go into the doctor, there was a good likelihood that she’d go into septic shock. They nodded and agreed, but I never heard what happened to the woman. I really hope she’s okay. I wish I could have talked to her personally.

Aoife and I went back to her place shortly thereafter to wait for my ride. Mike picked me up and I said my goodbyes to Aoife and Teddy. I received big hugs and was sternly told to keep in touch and e-mail when I arrived in Bath safe and sound. I’m going to miss them a lot.

Mike drove me to Leap and I joined up with Jenny and her friend Collette. He transferred me over and the three of us went off to Cork. We had a lovely dinner before running around town and trying to find some flats and a hand bag for me. After a few hours of shopping and goofing off, we went and checked me into the Bru Bar and Hostel.

I glimpsed the real kind of hostel life at that point. I checked in and left my electronics with the auditor to be locked up in a safe. I took my bag up to the room, but when I went in the smell of sweat hit me like a Mack truck. NASTY! The room seriously looked to be the size of a closet, and it had three pairs of bunk beds squeezed into it. There were five other girls in there, and they were speaking French and giggling and looking at me. I set my bag on my appointed bunk and exited as quickly as I could. Sweaty French chicks? Now I know how I lucked out when I came into Ireland that first night. That room was rank.

I joined the ladies again and we left to start my last night in Cork. It was pretty freaking awesome. The Irish know how to party, and they know how to party hard. Thankfully these Irish knew how to party hard and party safe. We stuck together the entire night and looked out for each other. We made a plan that we stuck with.

One point in particular was very memorable for me. We joined and split off from other people multiple times throughout the night, but at one bar in particular it was just the three of us. There was a band playing, and the bar wasn’t particularly crowded, but it was surprisingly nice and clean. Collette and I were sitting at the bar facing the dance floor when a guy came up to me. He was older, bigger, and nearly falling-over drunk. He got really close to me and tried talking to me. I gently told him that I was with someone and that I didn’t want to talk to him. I tried to be as nice as possible. He pressed closer instead of going away. I stood up and told him more forcefully to leave me alone. At this point I was looking behind the bar at the girls working there and trying to signal them to call security. They were too busy to notice me. The bitchier of my two friends noticed and came over to try and make him go away, but he was to the point of belligerent drunkenness. I was starting to get scared. I honest-to-God took off my high heel and waited for him to grab me so I could shove it on him and cause a scene. Who's ready for a bar fight at an instant's notice? This girl.

Out of nowhere this tall blond guy shows up. He’s wearing a tasteful leather jacket, sweater, jeans, and is about six feet of lean muscle. He walked up behind me with a few of his friends and reached around me to touch the guy’s arm. Politely, he said in heavily accented English, “Sir, you are bothering my girlfriend.”

Belligerent drunk says, “She your girlfriend? Why did you leave her alone then?”

I took that opportunity to slip away, grab Jenny, and go retrieve a hammered Collette from the dance floor. I told Collette what was going on and we watched the altercation at the bar. Blondie was taller than Drunkard, and he was up in his face talking at him. There were a couple of larger guys behind Blondie standing there and generally looking muscular. Eventually Drunkard got the idea and left the bar. Blondie turned around, saw me, and came straight for me. I took Collette's hand and waited, trying to think what I should do if this guy decides I owe him something for saving me. However he just came up and asked in broken English if I was okay. He sounded Russian.

I said thanks and oh-my-gosh you're wonderful, etc. The four guys offered to buy us drinks. Blondie tried talking to me, but we couldn't hear anything in the bar. He asked if I wanted to join him outside for a smoke. There was a security guy at the door, so I figured it'd be okay if I talked for a bit.

When I told my father this story later, he said I should have told Blondie, “I only smoke Cubans”. I would have, but Blondie might have thought I was serious. Poor guy has enough problems understanding English already without trying to filter out sarcasm.

So we walked out the front door and I caught the security guy's eye and joked, "I bet you see loads of stuff" to get his attention. The poor guy nodded and looked positively aggrieved. I can only imagine what he sees on a nightly basis. Dirty hookers. Ahem.

I was wary because I expected Viking-man to try to lead me off around a corner or something, but he only led me a few steps away from the security guy and asked my name. We swapped information. His name is Ivan, and he’s a 22 year old Ukrainian sailor who docked with his fellow crew members for a few days of break. They had last been working off the coast of Africa. He was leaving the country the day after next, so he and his friends had decided to go out and have a good time.

I thought Riiiight. I guess I looked skeptical because he busted out his passport and showed me his visas listing his occupation for tons of different countries. This was a serious modern-day Viking-like sailor.

I told him my name and that I’m American and leaving the next day for England. I was wearing a dress, so I was instantly cold. Mid-way through my spiel I crossed my arms, and he immediately took off his jacket and put it around me. Smooth operator. He offered me a cigarette and I told him I didn’t smoke. He said, “Good. Smoking is bad.” Smokers tell me this all the time. It’s like they don’t realize that I know smoking is bad, which is why I don’t smoke.

I honestly expected this guy to start putting the moves on me, and I was all ready to give him the shove off speech. Amazingly he didn’t try to touch me or take liberties. He just wanted to talk. He even seemed earnest and interested and was distressed when he couldn’t communicate as well as he wanted to. I was pleasantly surprised. Despite finding me in a bar, he was trying to treat me like a lady.

We alternated between wandering back inside to join the others and retreating to talk a couple of times. He was very courteous and attentive the entire time, and didn’t try to touch me or push me or anything. It was lovely. Eventually my friends got tired of that bar and wanted to join up with some other friends. Ivan’s buddies were hitting on them and they weren’t looking for romantic company. They came outside to fetch me. I told Ivan I had to go. He asked if I would come back. I said, “Yes.”, though I didn’t really expect to. I gave him a kiss and his jacket. At least I left him with a smile.

We went to another bar and ran into some people Jenny knew. They were part of a band that had just finished playing. Collette was super drunk by this point, so I was keeping close to her. Some hippie band member type came up and asked me to dance. I said, “Sure.” I was still in mind of Ivan’s courtesy. Fool. This guy instantly told me I was gorgeous and moved in to put his hands on me. I told him thanks, but that I had a boyfriend and was just out having a good time with my girls. Then I went back to Collette.

Anyway, one of the guys was really into Jenny, but she’s married so we ran off to the bathroom for a bit. Good thing, because Collette proceeded to worship the porcelain god. Poor thing. We left after that.

So there we are, walking the streets to another place that Jenny knows of, when we pass by a bunch of guys leaning into a car with a bunch of girls in it. I recognize the Viking hair of one of the guys, and drunkenly call out, “Ivan!” Did I mention we were a little sloshed?

Ivan turns around, ditches the chicks without an explanation, and walks over to me with a big smile. Now that’s a nice feeling.

The next few hours were spent walking around with Ivan to a couple of other pubs. Eventually we all had to go to our respective places for the night, though. Jenny’s husband Mike picked us up because Jenny and Collette were in no shape to drive. We dropped Ivan off at his hotel. He asked for my information, so I gave him my name, my Ireland phone number, and my e-mail. I expected him to go off and never contact me. I thought it was nice of him to ask though.

Mike, Jenny, and Collette dropped me off at the Bru. I went in and met Jeff, the nice bartender from the first time I had entered Ireland. I decided to stay up talking to him instead of going up to that smelly hole to sleep. At this point I only had a few hours before I had to get up for my flight anyway, so it seemed like a good idea at the time. Jeff had completed his duties already, so we hung out for a little while and chatted away the next few hours. I ended up falling asleep on the couch for thirty minutes while he went off to set up breakfast.

I woke, got my stuff, changed into sensible clothes, and brushed my hair and teeth in the bathroom. Jeff and I parted ways with a hug and a promise to continue this tradition of communication upon me entering the country again on October 1st. It’s a good feeling knowing I have friends in Ireland.

So now I’m at the airport, looking like a college bum in my Texas A&M University t-shirt and post-party exhaustion and thinking about how I now have a foreign romance story under my belt. I’ll probably never see Ivan again, but I’m glad I met him. He made me feel exceptional. I feel like my time in Ireland was full of amazing experiences and lessons, and I’m thankful that I’ve gained a sort of family and a few really good friends. I know that when I come back to Ireland I have lots of people to visit and several places I can stay if anything goes wrong. It’s pleasant to have that feeling of security and affection.

I can’t wait to see what happens in England!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Aug 23rd - 29th, Part 2

Sometime last week (I don’t remember the day), Donal took me on a walk to the top of one of the highest hills in the area. It took us about an hour of hiking, but the views were breathtaking. Along the way he would stop me and point to some house in the distance and tell me who lives there. It was crazy to see him name all these people off. There was a lot of “that’s my brother’s house there, to the west of that hill” and “I helped build that”.
At the very top I could see the Atlantic, about five miles distant. It was beautiful.

Yes, my panorama feature is awesome.
Here's the view from the top of the hill.

Sunday was all about the Sherkin Island Regatta, which the Kilmacabea rowing club was racing in. I woke up early and mucked out the stalls so I wouldn’t feel guilty for spending the entire day out and about. Donal picked me up around noonish, and then we picked up Sean O’Donovan (26, friend of Donals and also on the rowing team) and Abby (15, on the rowing team). Abby has purple hair and is adorable. The regatta took place on Sherkin Island, which is an island (obviously) outside of Baltimore in Ireland. You can find it pretty easily on Google maps. When we got there Donal and Sean split off to row the boat across. This was after they loaded us down like their personal pack mules with their sweaters, cigarettes, money, and car keys. I wasn’t complaining about the last two. Abby and I stood in line for the ferry to take us across.

Abby and I were talking about different American and Irish slang words when another 15 year old came up to us. She’s part of the rowing club too and a friend of Abby’s. She joined our conversation. Then two more young girls walked up to join us. Suddenly a horde of young girls and even younger boys crowded around us, and I was somehow surrounded by an Irish mob of children. I’m not really sure what happened. There were no parents around. I looked. I was the only adult there, and most of these kids were taller than me. I thought that surely some parents would walk up soon to pay for their kids to get on the ferry. No, we got on the ferry and I paid the guy for me and Abby, and the horde followed us. I led the way to a corner on the top deck. The horde obediently followed. Somehow I had temporarily inherited a brood. Here are some pictures I took while on the ferry:

Here's a picture of the pier at Sherkin Island.

Gap between the mainland and the island.
Abby took a picture of me on the boat. One of my adopted charges is standing next to me. It was windy.
Here's a competing team. They waved at me when they saw me taking a picture, but it didn't turn out very good.
Thankfully when we exited the ferry the horde moved en mass to the appointed Kilmacabea Rowing Club area, and Abby and I were left behind. We met up with Donal and Sean and decided to go for a walk up the island. There was a huge crowd, but once we started walking it thinned out pretty quickly. Here are some pictures:

Some wench passed me as I was taking the picture. Hopefully you can ignore her obnoxious pink presence and enjoy the scenery.

They gave me a Kilmacabea hoodie (a.k.a jumper) to wear for the day!

What used to be a fort on the island.

The island is incredibly beautiful and still somewhat untamed. We walked about a mile in before we turned back to escort Abby back for her race. The next few hours consisted of me talking to one person or another and watching the races.

Donal and Sean went out with two separate groups to race. Donal’s friend Jenny (Canadian) kept me company. Jenny and I became friends pretty quickly by talking about how weird the Irish are. She’s married to Mike, a very Irish friend of Donal’s that raced with him. We went to the edge of the pier to watch Donal and Mike’s race. I kid you not, they were rowing really hard throughout the entire thing, but Donal pulled up his oars to light a cigarette halfway back to the finish line. None of the other rowers seemed to mind.

After Donal and Mike’s race we walked up the road to get away from the crowd. Sean was up next, and he started looking around for a place to change his shorts. We were standing in the middle of the road and away from the crowd, but there were still plenty of people walking by. Amidst loads of laughter from Jenny, Mike, Donal, and myself, Sean decided to walk behind me and then drop his pants and change really quickly into his racing shorts. I didn’t look. I just laughed with everyone else. Donal and Mike were shouting encouragement to Sean, along the lines of “don’t scare all the women away!” and “if I did that, the women would be all over me.” etc. It was crazy. Thankfully Abby had run off to join her friends some time before that.

Also, I’m pretty sure Donal and Sean smoked four packs of cigarettes between the two of them that day. I have never even heard of people smoking as much as the Irish do. These people should all be dead from lung cancer by now. For real. But they insist it’s good for them. I argue, but they just laugh. It’s absolutely ridiculous. I think I’ve smoked at least a pack of cigarettes in the last few days just from chain-smoking. Gah.

Anyway, after all the races were finished Donal, Sean, Mike, Jenny, their kids, Abby, and I went up to the top of the hill to listen to some Irish music and drink at the pub. Obviously Abby didn’t drink. And Mike didn’t think the musician was singing the traditional Irish songs well enough, because he started singing them. Mike has a pretty awesome baritone voice. The musician gave up singing and kept on playing for Mike. It was awesome.

We left Sherkin shortly after and caught the second to last ferry. Mike, Donal, and Sean rowed the boats back. A musician that was playing at another pub got on the ferry and approached us. He apparently knew Jenny. Jenny introduced him as Pauly. He was a little cold toward me until Jenny said that I had recently graduated from college.

Then he seemed to snap to attention. “You just graduated, hey?”

I replied, “Yeah, I graduated a few weeks ago from Texas A&M University.”

“Oh! You’re American! What’s your degree in? What’re ya doin’ here?”

I told him. Then he asked how old I am. I asked, “How old do I look?”

“Well, you look fourteen, but I’d guess around twenty-three?” he says.

Damn. That’s the second time someone has told me that I look like jailbait in this country.

After he learned that I was legal he started hitting on me, but in a very skeazy way. Thankfully the ferry ride didn’t last long. After a particularly blatant come-on I looked at Abby and gestured to the ferry stairs. Thankfully the boat had docked. I replied, “Thanks, nice meeting you!” and led her away. Jenny followed behind us, giggling.

We met the guys and dropped Abby off at her house before meeting Mike, Jenny, Jenny’s friend Frances, and a few of the other rowers at the pub in Leap for dinner and drinks. A great time was had. It was a few hours later before everyone got home again.

I’d just like to add that I’m very grateful to Sean and Donal for sticking with me and taking care of me, especially when our conversation is usually stunted. I ask them all the time to either repeat sentences or slow down their speech, because their accents are so thick when they get around each other that I can hardly understand what they’re saying. They ask me to use smaller words (I had to explain what “tenuous” meant) or explain when I accidentally slip in an American slang word. I'm pretty sure Irish men lack shame.

I spent all of Monday in the arena pulling weeds. At one point I got into the music, so I started head-banging. Teddy and Donal were nearby chopping wood. I looked up after some hardcore air drumming and saw them staring at me.

I took out my headphones and said “What?”

Teddy looked at me funny. “You were head-banging.”

I said, “Yeah, it’s called music appreciation. You guys don’t do that?”

Donal grinned, “We missed that day in school.” Coincidentally, they say that whenever I use a big word or sound particularly educated, too.

I laughed at him. “I was listening to a song that goes ‘99 problems and a bitch ain’t one’. You’d like that one, Donal.” Donal is separated.

Donal blandly replied, “I’m more familiar with the song ‘Life’s a Bitch and I Married One’”.

This kind of conversation occurs constantly around here.