The Last Week of September

The display in the UCD Physics Department is simply TOO AWESOME.

The Oddities (23/9/13)

Monday again…lovely. Apparently I wasn’t in my right of mind and ended up getting lost in the Physics department. I went on the second floor of the Physics department only to find this gorgeous display of a telescope or something that looked like it? Along with it were pictures of space. It was pretty sweet.

At night, I decided to go the yoga session hosted by the housing team (ResLife). It was quite interesting, as it was meant for beginners. I felt like I totally didn’t belong. The poses were challenging, but not enough for me to enjoy it. I ended up meeting a girl there though. She admitted that she approached me because she saw that I was Asian, and thought I could speak Chinese. Apparently I forget that I’m Asian sometimes. Anyways, we ended up talking a bit, but not much.

The best part of the day was definitely coming home to my third postcard. I love postcards.

After a long day, I decided to take a break and watch a movie. However, I had been thinking about joining the Musical Society. They posted that they were holding tryouts for their fall play “Into the Woods”. I decided that maybe I should tryout. So instead of a movie, I ended up watching two hours of the musical, all on YouTube.

Putting Myself Out There (24/9/13)

After a whole month of living off of the cash I brought, and my credit card. My bank account was FINALLY opened! Hallelujah! I’d never thought it’d be that difficult, but with the bank delaying declaring my account as active for two weeks, without notifying me of the issue. Then, my account wasn’t actually open – and my card in my hand – until a week after my account was activated. The worst part was waiting a week for my money to get transferred to me because the other party was being a procrastinator. Yay for money issues. At least it was finally resolved.

After finally getting financial situations settled, I went to my first “tutorial”. It’s literally like going to tutoring. A grad student is assigned to be a tutor for several group of students, all part of the same lecture. They literally work out of worksheets that are advised to them to teach from. The odd part is, back home the grad students almost always sit in on the lectures, so they can relate the lecture to what is being reviewed during discussion. However, it doesn’t seem like that happens here, so my “tutor” seemed to know nothing about what is assigned in class or what example the teacher uses in class. It was strange.

When classes were finally over, I bundled up my courage and went to Musical Soc’s tryouts. It lasted two full hours. The first part of the audition, for me, was the dance audition. It was really fun. I definitely miss dancing to choreography. We danced the first few two minutes of “Nicest Kids in Town” from Hairspray. It was the most fun I’ve had in so long. The second part was the acapella piece of my choice and my reading. That didn’t go so well.

Oddly enough, I put myself out into the spotlight later when I went to Jazz Soc. It was nice to see one of my Singaporean friends there. However, it wasn’t too wonderful after I found out what we were doing. The instructor wanted the vocalists to do vocal scat solos without really having ever done it. I had such a hard time being the first one to go each time I had a lot of break down moments. It was nerve-wrecking. Although, I have to admit, it was rather fun.


Irish Gaelic Explorations & Revelations (25/9/13)

Okay, I had never noticed until this day – the 5th day of class – that my cute stats professor has a tick. Okay. He says “okay” almost as much – maybe more – as Californians say “like”. He’d say “okay” before starting every slide or concept, after stating an example, then after he finishes the slide or concept. It was so strange that I couldn’t stop listening for it that whole day during lecture. Okay.

After the day of classes, I was excited to attend my first day of Irish Gaelic lessons hosted by Bord Na Gaeilge. It’s a free course offered by an organization on campus for students and staff alike. It’s totally optional and there are no grades or anything involved. It’s definitely a fun experience, though I probably won’t remember a good deal of it – nor use it – after I leave Ireland. But on the first day of my Irish class, I learned something I did not expect to learn:

So, I used to be really into “languages” constructed so that every letter in the English alphabet represented a certain symbol. For instance, Atlanetean from the Disney movie Atlantis: The Lost Empire, or things like Braille and the Morse Code.

The Common Room Club. Look at how fancy this is! Inside a typical classroom building too! Crazy!

At one point, I picked up Elvish, as created y JRR Tolkien (of course I never got good at it, just like the other “languages” I loved to know about). At the time, I thought it was strange that JRR Tolkien decided to put every vowel above a consonant. I knew Tolkien was a philologist and loved to make his own languages, as he had done for so many of the races in Lord of the Rings. The question was: how in the world do you think to put a vowel as a dot or series of dots above a consonant?!

I found the answer in Irish Gaelic class. Traditional Gaelic is written so that the letter “h” is written as a dot above the previous letter in some cases. I think this is where Tolkien got the idea. Personal opinion of course.

After my Irish Gaelic course, Bord na Gaeilge had prepared a little get-together for us. It was quite nice with lots of snacks and drinks. It was a good way to practice a little and just to get a feel for the community interested in the language. The best part though, was the location of the event. It is held in a fancy staff lounge “for members only” hidden randomly in the most confusing building on UCD campus, the Newman building. The Common Room Club was like a private club, like at hotels or golf courses and things like that. Members pay €55/year to use it. Crazy…but awesome.

Left: the lovely Leica microscopes we get to use for lab. Top right: a cross section of the base of a barley plant where the leaves start forming. Bottom right: a cross section of a root section of a barley plant.

Yay for Microscopes! (26/9/13)

I had my first lab today where we were using compound microscopes. Not just ANY compound microscopes, ones from Leica. It was amazing. Not only that, but I have been without a microscope for so many months, I forgot how amazing the world under a microscope is. I couldn’t help but take pictures again. The awesome-ness of a microscope always reminds me why I love biology in general.

A Trip to Keelings (27/9/13)

My second field trip for a class was quite a surprise and quite informative. We took a trip up to Keelings at St. Margaret’s. They’re a family-run food producer in Ireland. We got to see their greenhouses here. Some of them are very modern, and some of them are VERY old fashioned. It was quite a pleasant experience. At the beginning, we visited their raspberry and strawberries greenhouse. Then, we moved into the (bell) peppers & aubergines (eggplants) greenhouse. I learned there that green bell peppers are actually just a variety of unripe red peppers – at least the ones in their greenhouse – and that aubergines are in the Solanaceae family. After peppers and aubergines, we visited the oldest growing and harvesting sites, the “Spanish tunnels” as they call it. They grow blackberries and strawberries there. The weirdest thing was their giant dumpster. It smelled of fermented strawberries, which pretty much smell like strawberry jam. It was strange to say that for the first time in my life, I could seriously say that a dumpster smelled good – and delicious.

A picture of the nicest greenhouse at Keelings that grows strawberries and raspberries.

I think one of the most interesting things I found out at Keelings though, was that many of the signs were in English and POLISH. Why Polish? Because Keelings, as well as many other companies often hire Polish people. Not due to their ethnicity or anything, but just because there have been a recent abundance of Polish immigrants and they are hard-working people. I found that interesting, it almost reminds me of home and how the Hispanics/Mexicans are immigrants into the States and often are willing to pick up and/or start at the lower paying jobs that require a lot of physical labor – essentially what we consider blue collar workers. I find this societal “hierarchy thing” rather interesting.

Some REAL Italian Carbonara. Yum yum!

After a long day out at Keelings, I came home and my Italian flatmate taught me how to make REAL Italian carbonara. Back in California, I’m used to going to Corner Bakery Café and ordering one of their ever so delicious chicken carbonaras. They are seriously SO good, but also very unhealthy. I knew that carbonaras at home are made with cream and stuff, thus I never tried making it at home and it was a “special night out” food. However, this REAL Italian carbonara blew my mind. It was simple AND delicious, not to mention much healthier than carbonaras made with cream. This REAL Italian carbonara is made with simply egg (for the sauce), and pancetta (essentially rashers/bacon bits) with spaghetti. It was so good for something so simple. I loved it! I think I’ll be making this for years to come.

You like my fancily decorated American pancakes?

A Bit of Home in Ireland (28/9/13)

For the second morning of pancake making, we used baking soda this time. I wasn’t too hungry, but she was, so we made pancakes and I filled by time by decorating my pancake with strawberries and banana pieces. I went a little crazy, but in the end the pancake was still a pancake and it was delicious.

After a delicious breakfast, my Italian flatmate and I took the bus to a place I was recommended to try shopping at: The Blanchardstown Centre. When we first got off the bus stop, I thought that the shopping centre (what they call malls here) was all outdoors because I saw TK Maxx, Lifestyle Sports, 53 Degrees North and 13 other stores were outside. Nope. That’s just a small portion, the rest of it was indoors, as big as a regular shopping mall – with proper levels unlike Dundrum Shopping Centre – like at home. First, we went into TK Maxx. It was AMAZING! It’s the biggest discount clothing store I’ve been into here. Okay, it’s not as big as the Penney’s at Dundrum, but for good stuff, not cheap stuff. I loved it! Not only that, they had a wonderfully large shoes section with the biggest selection at my foot size. Yay! My flatmate and I wandered around the kitchen area for quite a while trying to decide if we wanted to get various kitchen appliances. After we were done oo-ing and aah-ing, we walked along the strip of 16 outdoor stores. We ended up wandering ourselves into Woodie’s and the Home Store and More, which are essentially like Home Depot and Lowe’s back home. It was pretty awesome.

The cutest thing of lunch meat I’ve ever seen, found at the Dunnes Store.

Then, we went indoors and I discovered the BEST thing EVER – so far. There’s an Auntie Anne’s at the shopping centre. I had known this when I was looking up the shopping centre, but I forgot. I was so excited, I just HAD to buy a pretzel. Thankfully, they had a deal where if you got a lemonade AND pretzel it was 5. So of course I did, and I got my Italian roomie to get one as well. Oh, it was so heavenly! After some scrumptious snackage, we went a-hunting for my Yerba Mate. I’ve been dying without my mate. I should’ve been smarter and brought some from home, where we’re closer to South America. Thankfully, I found it at a health shop. It was rather pricey, but I think it’ll be worth it when I need it. Then, we wandered around and oh boy was I excited when I found a Brita filter water bottle at the Dunnes Store. It wasn’t just ANY Brita filter water bottle, it was the newest line called Fill&Go, fresh from Germany (where Brita’s apparently located). It’s so aesthetically appealing, and so much more convenient since we have a little tiny fridge that doesn’t fit much in it, plus I needed a water bottle.

When the day was nearly, we returned home to some delicious foods. I made some more pasta sauce for the week and then some “Asian food” for dinner. I had bought some prawns, or shrimp – I don’t know the difference if there is one, and made shrimp/prawn fried rice and some egg drop soup for dinner with my Italian flatmate. I don’t know if she liked it, but I did…for the most part. I had to improvise a lot with the egg drop soup since I forgot that I needed corn starch (called maize starch here), so I ended up buying some creamy chicken soup stock…thing that had maize starch as the second ingredient. But it was a good way to end a day full of reminders of home.

Things I Learned “Today”

  • I knew people smoked a lot more here, and it’s slightly more acceptable. However, what I didn’t know was that many younger people roll their own cigarettes with filters, rather than buying a pack/box. Why? It’s cheaper. It makes sense, but it’s interesting. Not only that, companies work around that and often sell packs of tobacco with paper and filters included, unlike what I’ve seen in the states.
  • Catered residences are great because they feed you and you don’t have to worry about cooking or buying food. However, it does somewhat interfere with possible club and society events, since you can’t work around “meal time” as easily. Also, you don’t get to explore the joy of cooking.
  • Here, it’s an independent study system. Yeah, it’s like that at home, but they have no set textbook. There’s not department-wide book for a subject or class and the teacher doesn’t follow a specific textbook’s chapters/topics. So learning on your own is much more challenging here.
  • Top: an egg code stamp. Bottom: how to decode an egg code.

    Outside of lectures, there are practicals, tutorials, and labs. Practicals and tutorials are pretty much like discussion sections. The odd thing is, from what I’ve noticed, is that the “tutors” and grad students in charge don’t sit in on your lecture classes, they go off of a worksheet given to them by the professor/instructor. I don’t like this method as much.

  • Midterms and finals here often have “negative marks” like when we took the SATs. You get docked points for selecting the wrong answer. WTF?!
  • DvDs bought in Ireland will not work in America. Irish DvDs are in Region 2, whilst American DvDs are in Region 1. So you’d have to change your “regions” settings to use Irish DvDs.
  • There are these things called courgettes. What are they? Simply zucchinis.
  • Eggs here have a code on EACH egg, telling you if it’s free range, where it is produced in Ireland, its farm ID, and its individual best before date.

Word/Phrase of the Day

  • Waffle – to be indecisive
  • MCQ – abbreviation for multiple choice question (exam)

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