Friday, January 15, 2010

Home is where I am

So I have officially been back in the states for more than 3 weeks. The holidays have come and gone, a new year has begun, I've moved back on campus in Boston, and classes have begun once again.

Returning home this time around was much easier than my return from China. Although I was gone for a much longer period of time, the cultural adjustment of returning to the states from Europe was no problem at all. On top of that, I returned the week of Christmas so I was overwhelmed with family, friends, and the overall good feeling of being where my home is. When my mom drove me down to Boston last weekend she noted how I hadn't sat still or gone a day without plans my entire time being back.

I haven't forgotten about what I've done, learned, or the people I've met- but I have definitely resparked relationships at home that I took for granted before leaving. Other relationships have also grown more distant, but I still have not been home long enough to really tell what is going on there. It's nice being here, regardless of how much fun I had while being way. I took some time on new years eve to look back on this blog and recap on the things I saw, emotions I felt, and people I met.

It's hard to pick a favorite memory from Northern Ireland. Belfast overall was a very cool city that I'm glad I got the chance to experience. It's not the typical city that people would choose to travel too, and I especially felt that as the only Northeastern student who chose to study there. Although the Troubles are "over", the secular tension still remained. This was something I never really experienced at home.
The night before I left for Belfast I did some research on Lonely Planet to see what kind of a place I was headed for. My favorite quote from the website goes as follows:

"Once lumped with Beirut, Baghdad and Bosnia as one the four ‘B’s for travellers to avoid, Belfast has pulled off a remarkable transformation from bombs-and-bullets pariah to hip-hotels-and-hedonism party town."

This was just the kind of place I wanted to go to, and this is exactly what i got.

Although I really enjoyed Belfast, the ability to travel to other places from this location was my favorite part of the trip. Munich, Amsterdam, Scotland, London, Dublin, Newcastle, and Galway were only a short bus or plane ride away. I developed a much bigger appreciation for the size of the United States, and how many drastically distant cultures exist within our own country.

2009 had been one wild ride: Spain, Israel, China, Taiwan, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Germany, England, Scotland. I think I"ll make 2010 about seeing what the good ol' US has to offer.

I've officially been home for 3 weeks and my wanderlust is back.

Monday, December 21, 2009

better late than never

flight outta belfast delayed 4 hours and 5 minutes for "mandatory crew sleep time". lame. now getting into boston around midnight

maybe ill update from the airports in a true profesh blogger fashion. talk soon!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Home is wherever we are if there's love there too

so today was my final day on the emerald isle! very exciting indeed. The time has definitely come for me to go home though. All of my friends here have been slowly leaving over the past three days and now I'm pretty much the only one left. Having it be my last day, you'd expect that I'd be going wild with guinness and wrecking as much European havoc as possible, but it's been pretty low key.

I woke up this morning around 9am after a terrible nights sleep. I am sick here AGAIN. i seriously don't know what it is. I take care of myself pretty well. I sleep enough, eat healthy things, exercise when im feeling good, blah blah blah. But ya, i went to bed last night with a stuffy nose that turned into a sore throat that turned into a sleepless night. booo.

BUT then I looked out my window to see this!
snowstorm in belfast!!! I've been dreading the concept of snow for the past few days because I want my flight tomorrow to go off without a hitch, but there really is nothing like the first snow of the season :) I walked down the road to pick up some orange juice, enjoying the big fat snowflakes. I guess it had started around 2am and it ended around 10- an hour or so after i woke up. We only ended up getting about an inch or two, but that didn't stop the Belfast kiddies from wanting to eat dirt on the snowy pavement.
After taking my sweet time waking up and starting to pack, I headed downtown to do some last minute souvenir shopping/stopped at the library to print my boarding passed.

Yesterday was the last day of the Continental Christmas Market at City Hall so they were tearing it down. :( It was sad to see it go, but also made me feel even more like it was an appropriate time to be heading home.

After exploring downtown a little bit for one last time and buying some gifts for peeps at home, I headed back to pack. this was definitely a tough job. I don't know why I thought it would be okay that one suitcase coming home would be good when my one suitcase coming over was STUFFED. I ended up having to throw away some nonessentials to make room for new beer glasses/gifts/etc. Well worth the trade off.
Look at my new coaster collection :)
Got guys there from Belfast, Dublin, Galway, Derry, London, Amsterdam, Munich, and Glasgow. Ya buddy.
The hardest part was figuring out what to do with all the crap on my desk. I'm kind of a packrack, collecting lots of useless things when I travel that end up cluttering up everything. but! success!

i cracked open my commemorative 250th anniversary Guinness can to celebrate. I had actually intended on bringing it home to keep..forever...but it really wont fit and i dont want to risk having a Guinness can explode in my luggage. So instead it was my job well done celebration beer.
3 months of stuff in one suitcase, a carry on, and a backpack. Nicely done.
Now I'm bored out of my mind. No one is here, I am broke, and it is freezing out. I could go out to a pub but I dont really want to sit in a bar by myself on a rainy Sunday night. I also literally only have the exact change to pay for my bus ticket to the airport tomorrow. Oh well, i've had a good run in Belfast, I don't need a crazy last night to prove anything.

Thursday started the fun around here because everyone had to hand in their final papers for the semester. A bunch of people started leaving on Friday as well so Thursday night was the final big hurrah for everyone. The international students in Grant House threw a big Christmas party. Our original plan was to eat, go to the Grant House party for a bit, and then head to the Stiff Kitten ( a really good club in Belfast which I had never been to). Anna Anna Hannah and I started out with a delicious/unconventional dinner of a Mediterranean olive/artichoke/sundried tomato mix , hummus, a variety of cheeses and french bread/crackers. and wine of course. this meal was surprisingly really filling. yummeee
We were then a little delayed getting to the party because there was some countdown of the best christmas music videos of all time. I wasn't going to leave until I saw Mariah.
After lots of silly Xmas videos, we felt merry and headed off to the party.
But first i'll throw this picture in for good measure. I'm going to miss my little french anna!

The party was a lot of fun. Pretty much all of the Europeans who I'd met over the past few months were there. I guess no huge stories from here. I did some mingling with the Queens rowing team and bought a copy of their lovely holiday fund raiser calendar. oh baby.

or should i say FRYday. "Ulster fries" are basically one of the least appealing meals possible (well, I think). Fried eggs, fried mushrooms, fried sausage, fried bacon, fried potatoes, pancakes, baked beans, and toast. BUT they are Belfast's most prized culinary attraction. So on Friday morning a bunch of us went out to a breakfast place to order some. HOWEVER, I was actually feeling pretty sick on Friday morning and ended up sticking with scrambled eggs and toast. I know. Lame. but oh well. Anyways, here is a picture of Jenn's fry:
And here are some buddies who came along:
Britney! (Tennessee)
from top right clockwise: Mike (LA/goes to school at BC), Julia (Germany), Laura (Belgium), Brittany (Tennessee), Tessa (Holland).

yes yes good fun.
The rest of the afternoon was spent hanging with various Belfast friends before they started heading off over the weekend. Jenn and I spent a few hours just bumming around her apartment, doing the usual- boytalking and singing shakira. We got pretty restless around 3 and decided to head downtown so I could go on the big belfast ferris wheel once before leaving.
check it outttt
good fun :)
Following the wheel we played around the christmas market a little, meeting up with Alex, Mike, Anna, and Anna. The market was in full swing because this was it's last weekend

We tried to find a good pub to stay in, but downtown Belfast was packkeeedddd. The weekend before Christmas is a madhouse. We ended up settling on a pizza place at the mall. Not quite the cute irish pub night we had planned but good fun all the same. The bottle of wine with a dinner deal lead to lots of laughs/close calls of getting kicked out. good times
Jenn knows how to get in Mike's face.

ANYWAYS, so from there we went on to Morrisons- one of Belfast's top pubs for a few drinks. Anna Anna Mike Laura and I then split off from Jenn and Alex to go see Where the Wild Things Are at the the theater nearby. I loved it. That book was a huge part of my childhood, and Jack and I would NOT go to bed without rumpussing first. The movie was kind of depressing though, and I can't even imagine how it was the first time around (originally made as a dark movie but lightened up to keep the kids happy).
Brittany, Sean, Jenn, Anna, and a bunch of others headed out on Saturday morning. Anna (france), Mike, Laura, and I spent a good part of the day down at St. George's Market. Mike had never been so we took our time strolling the stalls and sampling until our stomachs hurt. I bought some niiice aged stanky cheese to bring back. I didn't really consider how that was going to luggage smell but oh well. worth it. Sorry if your christmas present smells like cheese.
Then I went to the gym and tried running again! I've been slowly getting back into it lately because I've been sick. I did a solid three miles but my knee started hurting again. lame. i'm also sick again today so i guess no running for a while AGAIN. ugh.
Last night was pretty relaxed. Anna Mike Hannah and I made dinner then watched Babe cause Anna had never seen it and it was her last night here. She had to be up at 4am for her flight so we didn't do anything too wild.
Then today was today, as talked about earlier.

Oof, I'm at the point in the entry where i am tired of writing so i'll update later with my flight status and whatnot.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Day in the Life

This has been a crazy last couple days. Between getting all the final work done, celebrating, and farewells-there is definitely a lot i could write about. but not right now. this post'll be dedicated to every normal day in Belfast that I never thought was worth writing much about.
SO HERE WE GOOO. welcome to my walking tour from rowan 1 (my glamorous student housing) to the spankin new queens university library.
so here is stop number 1: my building.
I live on the third floor (referred to as the second floor in this foreign land). It is what it is- freshman housing, but I have my own bathroom and a comfy bed so no complaints from this girl.
Next door to my building is the bar for our dorm housing. seriously, if only stetson west had a bar on the first floor. imagine the possibilities....
Next stop! reception! now the tours getting really exciting. this is where i go when I lose my key and get locked out of my room. if you lose your key 20 times a semester they charge you. let's just saying im pushing the limits on that one...two more days to keep that puppy in my sight.
okay, we are now exiting my student accomdation. ooo eeee. This is the fancy shmancy entrance to Elms Village (where i live.) located on beautiful malone road. mm yep.
Now this tour is just gonna get CRAZY. welcome to the spar gas station. roughly 30 second walk down the road from the entrance to Elms. This is where we grocery shop when we're too lazy to go to the real store. They actually have a ton of stuff- vegetables, baking stuff, cheese, milk, etc. told ya this tour was gonna get crazy.
Walking right along...welcome to Grant House. This is the international student housing right down the road from Elms. I don't really remember my reasoning for wanting to live in Elms instead. Whatevs
After this it's smooth sailing right to campus...well, after another 10 minute walk. lalala strolling down Malone road. this is the point where I realize I'm probably going to be late for class

Now we are at this place. I dont really know what it is, but it is SCARY. We live in a pretty nice part of Belfast with lots of big houses, but this one located right on the main road is all cemented up. eeekFisherwick church! This is about the halfway point to campus. Turning right on this road brings me to the gym while going straight heads right to classes and the library. straight we go.
Belfast is big on its club paraphernalia and chalk advertisements. exhibit A:
I've never been to Rain, but I guess according to this it is pretty gay so I'll pass.
Now we are pretty much on campus. This is the post office where I send all of you your postcards and presents. That is the bank that I opened a bank account in and never used ever. And that is some church that I've never paid much attention to. Best tourguide ever.
We can now bang a right into the Botanic Gardens for a scenic shortcut to the library. Sorry about that garbage truck thing.
In the gardens is the Ulster Museum, full of Belfast and county Antrim history. I've heard it's pretty good but I've never been in. Maybe today I'll check it out. probably not.
la de da, walking through the garden
hark! the library (straight on)! While to the left is the big green house in the botanic gardens. I've never been in here either. I actually do wanna check this out though. So pictures from here to come

And there's a lovely field across from the green house where people chill when it's not cold or raining (so like never.)
Now the fun ends. Library time. It's actually a really sweet library, just opened this past summer. There's a restaurant/cafe on the first floor and this scary statue out front. i HATE it. I have seriously had nightmares with this thing in it.
Thennn when I'm done doing my thang at the library, I walk through the campus to go to classes or back home. This is the Lanyon building courtyard. My philosophy lecture was next to this
After finishing all the school stuff, I usually take a different way home (up Lisburn road) to mix things up. This is also where I buy veggies/groceries/etc

Eatwell is the greatest store ever. but expensive :(
The best part of Lisburn road is the view past the shops and houses:
oh hai ireland.
so yep, that is my daily route. Nothing too exciting, but this is my travel jounral so I guess talking about how I get to campus in a foreign country is a legitimate thing to record.

So tomorrow is my last day. oof!
I'll update tomorrow about this past weekend and my packing progress

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Wine and Cheese Christmas

First off- FIVE DAYS LEFT?! how the heck did that happen. I mean, I know I've had a countdown for a while but all of a sudden I feel like the concept of being home is terrifying. Well, maybe terrifying isn't the word, but I just feel like there's so much left to do and see. It's also getting really sad as different friends of mine leave every day as they finish their final classes and papers. I know this isn't the end of anything, of course I'll be back and of course I'll see those who I'm really close to again but still. One week from yesterday I will be sitting in a dentist's chair in Nashua instead of looking out my window at the hills surrounding Belfast.

Everyone keeps asking me if I'm excited to be home, and the short answer is absolutely. I miss certain people more and more every day, and traveling really does take a toll on you. I'm especially excited to be back for the holidays because my family does them really well. I feel like I'd rather bring those certain people from home back here with me though so they can see everything I've been doing for the past 3+ months. This happened when I came back from China too. No matter how many pictures I show or stories I tell, no one can ever relive the experiences, eat the food, meet the people that I did. Even though this is the longest I've been away, I'm glad that I'm prepared for this when I get home. Coming back from China last summer was really tough.

BUT ENOUGH OF THAT! time to highlight some FUN. Last night was the Queen's University Wine and Cheese Society Holiday Gala in the Great Hall. The Great Hall looks like something out of Harry Potter and is in Lanyon building (aka this bad boy on our campus) :

It was brilliant. Free wine reception, 3 course meal, great convos, and then lots of dancing. It was a black tie event, all girls in dresses and men in suits or tuxedos. hot damn.

but OF COURSE, something had to go awry in my attempts to get ready just because I am me. My initial plan to curl my hair was an EPIC fail. I brought my american curling iron over in September but I hadn't tried using it yet. I knew the voltage would be off but I figured worst case scenario would be that I broke the electricity in my building (no big deal.. haha). But NO, it was much much worse. I plugged in the curling iron and it immediately smelled like intense burning in my room. I forget how my curling iron smelled in the US, so I didn't think much of it. I proceeded to curl a bottom strand of hair (THANK GOD BOTTOM). I knew something wasn't right as my room started smelling like burnt hair and the curling iron was making a loud hissing sound. THEN when I tried pulling away the devil beauty appliance, IT TOOK MY HAIR WITH IT, burnt to a crisp. and then the hair continued on to catch FIRE. Sorry for the disgusting picture to follow, but I don't think anyone's charred hair would look any more attractive.

BARF. SO yes. now I have a hot little bald patch/a lifelong fear of curling irons. I had bought a pretty good bottle of wine the other night to celebrate with friends on Thursday when we were all finished with the semester, but this traumatizing experience required a glass (or two) ahead of time.

wahh :( all i can say is, at least i didn't start with bangs. oof. Not to mention, my entire floor smells like burnt hair, which is probably one of the worst smells in the world. I couldn't even eat breakfast this morning because the smell of burnt hair made me nauseous. So..sorry everybody.

BUT, the show must go on. I continued to get ready but with a plan B hair style. Anna Anna Dominika Florant and I met at the Scholars Bar for a quick drink on the way and then arrived at the reception at 7. Everyone was dressed to the nines. Girls wearing floor length gowns and guys in tuxedos. We were also happy that they assigned our group of friends to the same table. :)

Checking out portraits of past university presidents in the Great Hall
anna (france), dominika (germany), anna (sweden), florant (france). smokin.

a haw haw haw. woody banter with wine.time to take seats and await delicious things
cheers! being thankful for the hair that i have on my head that could fit into that ponytail.
course one: bomb split pea soup

they had those goofy Christmas party popper things. mine had a plastic spider in it. sweet.oh yea. and it had a crown.

course TWO: the main meal. turey with cranberries, brussel sprouts, SWEET POTATO mashd potatoes, carrotscheers, prost, salut, skal

course THREE! cheese sampler plate with grapes, celery, and chutney. incredible (oh yes, bottle of Riesling with all)WINE AND CHEESE!

after dinner chit chat. i'm gonna miss these ladiesMerry Christmas

Oh yes, and they hired the DJ from the Stiff Kitten (one of Belfast's best club) for some after dinner dancing. We were definitely the rowdiest ones there, can't always keep it too classy

SO that's that! It was a really fun night. Northeastern really needs to get its act together and allow a wine and cheese club. Such an educational experience.

Soooo yes. this morning i wake up to a room smelling of burnt hair and a minor wine headache. I was assigned to do my final presentation for genetics this morning on the "future challenges facing metagenomics". I had not prepared for it AT ALL. Yes, it was part of the topic of my final paper, but I had no visuals or organized talk ready in the least. I was stressin. I tried to pull together last minute notes this morning and arrived in class just hoping that my ability to public speak would get me through it. Not to mention, all the kids in my class are overachievers and had awesome things prepared. Anyways, the minutes tick away as people give their talks and I just feel terrible about how poorly prepared I am. Everyone in the class knows that I'm the American girl who had a 6 month internship at the Harvard center of genetics so I knew they were looking forward to hearing me talk (maybe also just because my accent is cool). AND THEN, before I know it, the class time is up. The last presentation to go was the person ahead of me in line. The professor lets me off the hook and says he believes that I had something great prepared so I'll get full credit anyway.

There is a god.