Journeys Out and In

The Beginnings of Self-Improvement (14/10/13)

I have to admit. I’m officially addicted to making my lovely Asian egg drop soup with corn (recipe in a previous post). Not only does it have delicious sweet corn in it, but it’s also nice and thick and warm and cozy! ❤ LOVE IT!

Anyways, aside from drinking lots of soup, and eating lots of pasta, as well as having LOTS of tea and biscuit (or milk and cookie) nights, I do work out. I’m SO glad to be here and to have the opportunity to be able to go to the gym for FREE, and to attend a large number of the classes offered FOR FREE. Love it! Today, I went to a class called “Body Fit Club”. The instructor was pretty fit. It was intense. It was definitely like circuit training all over again, doing various reps, while keeping your cardio up. We did one minute reps of fairly intense exercises, with 10 second breaks in between and water break every 3-4 reps for FIFTY minutes. Intense, but LOVE it!

Vocal group was rather interesting tonight. Our vocal instructor was out, despite it being three weeks from our performance day, no body having learned the second song, and half of us actually comprehending and remembering the first song. Anyways, enough ranting. So, we ended up doing icebreaker games for the first hour, then learning various vocal exercises for the second hour. Yes, people, you need to exercise your vocal chords, they ARE a muscle. Also, singing also works out your face and tongue, so we learned to massage/exercise those too. Awkward stuff.

All in all, a good day. The best part was coming to the realization that I’ve officially learned to step out of a situation I’m in and looking at the bigger picture. A few of you know that I’ve been through a bit the past few weeks, and it’s been difficult for me. I thank you for all the support you have provided me. I’m happy to say that I’ve finally stopped dwelling on the frustration, the difficulties, and the challenges this has posed. I think I’m finally stepping forward, out of that bubble of troubles, and I am officially moving forward and letting it go. I know it’ll be a while before I stop looking back, before I learn from it, but I think I’m off to a good start.

A New Perspective (15/10/13)

A great start to the day, I found out that my article got published in the school newspaper! YAY! My first official publications! I wrote about the science of jealousy. If you want to read it, let me know and I’ll send you the link.

Anyways, random side note, I had bought some crisps (what they call chips here) yesterday when I went grocery shopping. I decided to finally try them for the first time. They were ‘Smoky Bacon’ flavored. WHAT?! It was interesting, I’ll have to say, but not something I’ll buy again anytime soon. Let’s just say if I ever want bacon flavored things, I’d rather it be just real bacon.

I made a stupid decision today, and went to another gym class, right after the intense one from yesterday. However, there was a stark contrast in the instructors. Yesterday’s instructor was a young, fit, personal-trainer built type of guy. Today’s instructor was an older, chubbier guy with a VERY large beer belly that makes you wonder about his credentials.

After the gym, I ran into my Irish friend and the Brazilian, both computer science nerds. I got introduced to the people they were hanging out with and we ended up talking for an hour and a half about SO many random things. One of the girls I met was from China, so she tried conversing with me in Chinese and trying to get me to English words for her in Chinese. It was loads of…craic. Sadly, it ended with the destruction of my lovely, new Brita bottle.

Later that night, I was talking to a girl I had met at an event, and she shone light on a new way of thinking I had never thought of before. She had told me about how she’s never had a boyfriend, she’s only dated people. Yeah, sure, some of you might not think that’s surprising, but to me, coming from a rather conservative background – it’s a little strange. Most people I know at home, if you’re ‘dating’, you’re pretty much considered ‘boyfriend and girlfriend’. You don’t just say you’re ‘seeing someone’, you use the term ‘dating’. I think this might be a new beginning on viewing relationships from here on out, maybe possibly even change how I participate in relationships.

Beauty in the Most Unexpected (16/10/13)

The plant diseases class is typically very boring and I don’t enjoy going to them. Fungus and viruses can only seem so interesting before it creeps you out. I never thought I’d get into plant disease. It’s interesting and all, the biology of it. Then, today happened.

The cleistothecia of Phyllactinia corylea, which causes powdery mildew on hazelnuts.

Today, in class we got to look at some spore-bearing structures of the powdery mildew fungi of various plants called cleistothecia. It was SOO nifty. I never thought plant diseases could be so beautiful. They were GORGEOUS! They’re all from the family Erysiphaceae, though they’re all from different genera. Apparently the way you can identify the species, so says the professor, is by the appendage on the cleistothetica. It’s interesting to see all the different styles that they come in. SO PRETTY! I’d never have imagined that disease-causing things could be so pretty. I just want to make art from them or about them. Hahahaha.

Anyways, after class, I ran into my Italian friend and her Spanish friend. The three of us has a pretty interesting discussion on sexuality and how different it is in the United States and their parts of Europe. It seems that Europeans seem to be much more open about the topic, not just between family and relatives, but with friends, with the public, with anyone. The Spanish girl was saying how in Europe you could just start talking to some stranger, and in within five minutes, you’d both be comfortable discussing sex on a casual basis with no intentions or hesitation. Quite interesting.

After talking about sex and sexuality, I went home to have lunch. A few days ago, I had picked up some prawn cocktail flavored crisps. I was thinking it’d be a strange thing to taste and all, probably being heavily flavored with shrimp…but not on a fry-shaped chip (like Asian shrimp crackers), but on a chip-shaped chip. When I took my first bite, they turned out to be AMAZING. They didn’t really taste like prawns/shrimp per se. Instead, they tasted mostly like the cocktail sauce. It was a very tangy, kick in your mouth kind of thing. I guess if I really had to TRY to relate it to something, it’s like having salsa and tortilla chips; instead of salsa, though, you have cocktail sauce and it’s not as soggy. SO GOOD!

My presentation “Ivy league” outfit.

Language & Looks (17/10/13)

I had my first presentation in Ireland today. I was to do a PowerPoint presentation with my Irish classmates for one of my lab classes. To start off the day right, I decided to dress up for the presentation. Since I could, I tried what I call “the ivy league look”. I put on a dress shirt and put a sweater over it. It was surprisingly comfortable, not to mention I like how I look in it. I think I might start wearing this kind of outfit more…I just need more dress shirts and sweaters.

Anyways, the presentation. It was frustrating and interesting. I had two partners whom I was supposed to work with. We started the presentation PowerPoint a little late, but it was SHOCKING and much they delayed things. At home, I’d usually encounter people who’d delay until a day or two before the presentation, and then we’d do a run through of the whole thing. Nope, not here. We were supposed to meet up a few hours before the presentation to do our first run though. At the time we were supposed to meet up, neither of them arrived for 15-30 minutes. Then, one of the cancels when we should’ve started half an hour ago. During that time, I checked the Google doc Powerpoint. Neither of them had fully finished their sections AND we hadn’t put together an introduction either. It was nerve-wrecking! In the end, the presentation went okay, though we could’ve done a better job with more details. Also, it was strange that notecards are considered SOOOO acceptable here. All the girls in the class, except me, used notecards during their presentation. I mean seriously…WEIRD.

After lab, I talked to the professor about how weird I found it and all, being a natural teacher’s pet since grade school. Somehow or another we ended up talking about how Irish culture is very, very kind to people with kids. If you’re in line for the bathroom or something, almost everyone will let you go in front of them. If you’re on the bus with a child, people will often offer you their seats. So different from the rude culture that is America, or at least the part of Southern California I come from.

It was funny because one of my classmates was telling a story of how his friend was on the bus, and sees a 13-year-old kid’s on the bus. A dwarf comes onto the bus and the kid offers the dwarf his seat. The dwarf gets all offended about how he’s not handicapped and all. A grandmother is in the backseat and she sees this. As she’s getting off, this 90-something-year-old lady kicks the dwarf on her way out. She scolds him for being rude to the little boy and tells him, “I hope Snow White gives you a hard time at home.”

Top: the entrance to St. James’. Bottom left: the front door of the monastery/church. Bottom middle: the round tower next to the church. Bottom right: one of the high crosses around the place.

History in Southeastern Ireland (19/10/13)

FIELD TRIP! YAY! Today, I went with my Discovering Ireland: Landscapes class to three different locations in Ireland. I was happy to find out that many of the UC students were in the class as well. I contact one of them ahead of time and we met up before leaving for the bus and she was my buddy for the day.

Our first stop was a little town called Castledermot in the county of Kildare. It was this tiny, quiet little town. We went to go visit an old monastery/church called St. James’. There were two high crosses there, one of those iconic symbols of Ireland. One of the high crosses was carved with depictions from the Bible. Our professor said that it’s theorized to have been a way for the church to tell illiterate commoners about the stories and parables of the Bible. Then, he also points out how there’s a round tower, which are also very iconic of Irish landscapes. He told us how these are theorized to have been built by kings as a private sanctuary.

The Neolithic tomb…how…exciting…

Our second stop was a Neolithic tomb called Brownshill Portal Tomb in a town called Brownshill or Kernanstown. It was sort of in the middle of nowhere. Supposedly the tomb was created around 3500BC. It has the largest capstone of all the Neolithic tombs, or something like that. I didn’t care much for this location, but I did like the plants I saw there. For one, I saw the Shepard’s purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) for the first time while in Ireland. I was so excited, as it IS one of my favorite weeds in America, though it’s supposedly native here. Also, I found a pink flower of sorts I still have yet to identify – if I can.

Top: Ballymoon Castle, part of my panorama picture. Bottom left: one of the walls where a fireplace and high windows were supposed to be. Bottom middle: windows shaped like a cross, dating the architecture to be around the 13th-14th century. Bottom right: the entrance to the castle where the gate would’ve stood if it was completed.

Then, we took a little break in Carlow. We walked around this shopping center for a while, to have lunch and to just chill before we headed to our last location, Ballymoon Castle in the county of Carlow. Ballymoon is an unfinished building that no one knows what it was made for or anything like that – and there are no records about the place. Based on the architectural designs, though, our professor said that it’s theorized to have been a getaway for some lord and lady and many, many of their guests. The whole time listening to the professor, you couldn’t NOT listen to him keep telling you about the copious amounts of TOILETS there are set into the building plan, just by looking at the walls. He said that he had stayed at the castle as a teenager and he walked the top of the wall and counted a total of 14 toilets to be built into the building. Ridiculous! When we were about to go, I wanted to take a panorama of the whole scenery. The professor took FOREVER to walk back to the bus because he was standing IN FRONT of the castle just talking to some students, and his grad student, for what seemed like forever. In the end, my patience paid off and I got a nice panorama of the place.

When I got home I was exhausted and too lazy to cook. So I just heated some baked beans and had them. Oh My Goodness Gracious, the baked beans here are so good, with that tomato sauce around it and all. I wish we had and abundance of these in America. If that was the case, I’d eat beans more often.

Things I Learned “today”

  • There’s a kind of coat called a “mac”, short for “mackintosh”. It’s apparently a type of coat. A trenchcoat is a TYPE of mackintosh. So, when shopping for a coat, keep “macs” in mind.
  • My Italian flatmate was telling me how much she wanted to be back home this weekend because, apparently, there is a chocolate Festival in Italy, in her city, every year. She’s sad she couldn’t go this year. I hope I can go there one day for the festival AND see her.
  • Jaffa cakes. They’re these amazing British snack thingies. It’s not a biscuit, or a cookie. It’s like a thin layer of cake kinda thing, with a little circle of jam/filling on top (usually orange) and then that side is coated with a layer of chocolate. I wonder how successful I’ll be at trying to make them at home once I return to the states.

Words/Phrase of the Day

  • Like clockwork = anal retentive (They don’t use ‘anal retentive’ here. Apparently they think it’s funny…xD)
  • Wellies (Wellington boots) = rain boots
  • Off licence = liquor store
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