The Flight & First Day (26/8/13)

LAX –> Chicago

OH MY GOSH, they had rotating plastic seat covers. What insanity!

OH MY GOSH, they had rotating plastic seat covers. What insanity!

I woke up at 3:30am to a breakfast of instant brown sugar and maple oatmeal and bagel with butter before leaving my temporary home at 4am. We arrived at LAX around 5:45am. I had a minor freak-out because my “airline reservation code” didn’t register. Thankfully just showing my passport to the

people at United, they got it all sorted out. After getting through the TSA, we grabbed a bit to eat, I had the Green Machine. My flight boarded at 7:15am, leaving the LAX at 7:50am. We, my travel companion and I, arrived at the Chicago O’Hare airport at 1:50pm.
We had to travel from the US domestic terminal 2 to the international terminal 5 via an on-site tram. This little girl about 5 years old asked a very interesting question, “Who’s driving it?” The tram as it was two cars long with no attached engine or “control” end as you would in a train.

Chicago –> Dublin
At Chicago O’Hare, we had a full meal, since we didn’t know we’d be fed on the flight to Ireland. Our plane left at 3:50, but we boarded earlier than expected and my companion and I were practically running to the gate. They began boarding AN HOUR before take-off. The Aer Lingus plane was the largest plane I’ve been in, 2 seats next to each window, and 4 seats in between, so 3 sections. There was a baby girl who kept crying because she didn’t want to be

Plane food: the surprisingly delicious dinner.

restrained. By the end of the flight, everyone probably knew her name is Clara. I sat next to a Belgian girl who had visited the US with her father, but was flying back by herself and had a transfer in Dublin.

I found out why international flights are partially so much more expensive: they spoil you. We got TWO meals, plus we had one or two snack sessions (which I slept through), and they offered you coffee or tea during the meals too! On top of that, they give you a pillow, a blanket, a headset for watching few selected FREE tv shows, movies, documentaries, or even just to listen to music! The lavatory in the plane was pretty fancy too. They had REAL SOAP that smelled REALLY good.
Dublin with Luggage
We arrived at Dublin around 5am. Going through customs took FOREVER. The guy had to take a picture of me after looking at my documents. He had to adjust the camera because the guy he previously photographed was something like 6’7”. My companion accidentally asked a cab driver how to get to the bus stop so that we could take the bus to Dublin centre. He suggested that we take the cab and helped

Plane food: the simple, scrumptious breakfast.

us with our things, we got lucky because she brought SOOOO much stuff; it would’ve been a pain to drag it through the streets. As we got into the car, we were immediately taken back because we forgot that the driver’s side is the RIGHT side, not the LEFT, AND they drive on the LEFT side of the road, not the RIGHT. After we left her belongings in the “luggage storage” at the hotel where she was having orientation, we dragged my things across the streets of Dublin. Thank goodness it was only my things. The sidewalks of Cali, if not America, are so smooth you can create artwork on them, they’re often as smooth as the walls. However, the Dublin sidewalks are rough, uneven pavement. On top of that, the roads are sometimes cobblestone, meaning it looks like little island stones in a hardened lake of asphalt. Then, we left my things in the “luggage room” at my hostel and walked off to explore a bit for the day. I should’ve taken a picture of the crosswalk signs, they look practically identical to regular traffic lights, except there’s a silhouette of a person on them.

Dublin Exploration: Part I
There are Starbucks EVERYWHERE. There’s this one street where there’s a Starbucks (where we sat), right across from ANOTHER Starbucks. A few places from home I see in Dublin: TGI Fridays, Hard Rock Café, Subway, and Papa Johns. We walked up and down Grafton Street and found many of the major cell phone carriers’ stores: meteor, O2, Vodafone, 3 mobile. I think I’ll still stick with 3 mobile, since they offer unlimited data AND unlimited text (to any network) along with unlimited weekend calls, as long as you top up to €20. Other companies, right now, only offer ONE unlimited thing (talk, text OR data) and then the rest is charged via your €20 top up. I probably won’t buy another one until I get a job or until I get back to the States. I LOVE the phones they have here, which I haven’t seen in the US. They have the regular sized phones, as we know it (which is GINORMOUS), as well as practical tiny phones, the way I like it. I really liked the size and look of a Samsung Galaxy Mini I saw. Small, practical and a smartphone!
During this exploration period, I realized that my companion is not very good with maps. At one point, we looked REALLY lost, I just needed two more seconds to reorient myself. This older gentleman with grey hair came up to us, took my map and walked with us towards what he thought was the right direction, meanwhile telling us all sorts of random things. Then, he turned around and walked back to the intersection we met him at, and walked down the right direction. Soon enough, he got frustrated with our simple map and INSISTED on buying us a nice map with a street index (think the old Thompson’s guides).
After a lot of walking, a blister popping and lots of limping, I gave up and took a nap in the orientation room where my companion had found our coordinator and they were preparing for the day’s orientation of 9 people going to NUI Galway. After I woke up, I got lost and found my way back to the hostel where I’m staying and took another nap.

Dinner at The Vat House: salad, chicken goujon with garlic mayo and fat chips.

Dublin Exploration: Part II
After my second nap, it was time for me to meet a friend. I had met her online through a Facebook group someone had created for exchange and Erasmus students going to UCD. We had planned to meet up in front of the hostel at 6pm for dinner. She found me pretty easily, probably because I was the only Asian person in sight at the time. We walked around randomly and found places to shop and eat. We ate at The Vat House. We both had some “Chicken Goujons” with some fat chips (fries). I could only eat half of my meal.
I learned, very slowly, that in Ireland, you flag down your waiters. They don’t wait on you. Then, I found out, after we asked for the bill, that “take out boxes” don’t exist. At least not at this place we were eating at, but the waiter was nice enough to offer wrapping it up in foil for me.

Clockwise from the top: Spain, Germany, Germany, France, France, Netherlands, France. Middle: Germany

As we were paying for the meal, my companion and I had a grand discussion about the euro coins. I knew that every country had a different face, but she informed me that there are actually several faces for each country as well, often varying between the denominations. She pulled out a bunch of them and showed me.Then we laid out the different denominations of euros (everything but the 50 cent and 5 cent euro pieces)

It weirds me out that there are denominations in multiples of two (2 cent, 20 cent, €2). I also find it extremely odd that the 1 cent and 2 cent are both copper pieces, with only a SLIGHT size difference. The strangest part is that, I think the euro 2 cent is the same size as the American 1 cent penny. I’ll have to test that out…
After dinner, we went shopping at Tesco, apparently a well-known place to go grocery shopping? Though I have to say, it’s quite small compared to the grocery stores back home. I had to buy some toothpaste because I forgot. Most of the brands were familiar. But, Oral-B makes toothpaste?! That’s what I bought. We’ll see how that goes.

Cereal boxes of familiar brands look TOTALLY different than back home.

Tomorrow starts a new day, when the other three students from my school arrive! Also, I’ll probably go apartment hunting with my German friend.

Things I learned “today”:
• International flights board 1 hour early due to plane size
• International flights feed you
• Ireland license plates are: YY-PL-##### (year made, place bought, random numbers)
• Gypsies, Romani, still exist in Ireland. They’re often homeless, but know how to pickpocket REALLY well, so keep your purse/belongings in FRONT of you, even while you eat or sit somewhere. They’re not Romanians.
• “Luggage storage” in Dublin could be a locked room, or unlocked room. Either way, best way to stay safe is to lock your zippers.
• “Sidewalks” are rarely smooth and wall-like in Europe, driving pavement is worse
• Starbucks rules the world…sort of
• Irish people are REALLY nice when they care to be nice, almost treating you like a family friend would in America
• “Take out boxes” probably don’t exist, if they do, possibly rarely so
• The SMALLEST euro bill is €5
• Euro cents come in multiples of 2, 5 and 10. Then, there’s the €1 and €2 coins.
• Euro cent faces are different by country AND denomination, though there are sometimes overlaps.

Word/Phrase of the day:
“Goujon” – deep-fried breaded strips of fish or chicken (i.e. a chicken tender/finger or a fish stick)

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