Spring Break Part 1!

Hey parents… sorry I haven’t been completely honest about my whereabouts for this past week. So here was the thing: I am not the greatest at trying to figure out where the future lies ahead for me (changing my major in the middle of sophomore year didn’t help, and then even with a fixed combination my mind is still floating around quite a bit), and this is definitely something that the parents did not greatly enjoy. When I threw the idea of going to Morocco to the parents, they did some research online and found this article about why girls shouldn’t really travel to Morocco. One reason after the other, this turned into a fight for 10 minutes with two very strong headed person who are both unwilling to be convinced by one another, with me crying and being accused of inconsiderate of their feelings of being worried about me (which definitely makes sense and I could relate to, but I also promised to keep in touch and all that, and plus I’m not travelling alone so I don’t see the point why my dad got so mad). But anyways, enough about this nonsense about why I did not tell them about this; important thing is that even I’m still young, dumb and broke, I’m alive and well.

But anyways… this spring break has been an absolute blast. Mohan’s visit continues as we move our ways to Galway on Thursday, going around the wild Atlantic way. Friday, we visited the Burren, and of course.. Cliffs of Moher (as how everyone just kinda needs to). The Burren is a National Park that captures the karst landscape incorporating pavements of glacier-era limesone, which is quite cool. Currently, because Ireland is making its probably third attempt to transition into Spring (and keeps failing), the colors of the landscape is looking a bit yellow-green-ish, but there are a lot of colors like red and brown as well which makes it more unique than the usual greenness that you would see in advertisement photos. I’m definitely hoping to go back there in the summer perhaps just to see how everything has a different kind of outlook in different seasons. And then there are the Cliffs: it was not till a while ago that I realized that one of my favorite bands from middle school, Westlife, is an Irish boy band, and they shot the music video of what’s perhaps their most famous song “My Love” at Cliffs of Moher. The scene of the Horcrux cave in Harry Potter and the Half-Blooded Prince and the music video of Maroon 5’s song “Runaway” was also shot around the roaring waters around the cliffs.

The Burren landscape with roaming animals
Cliffs of Moher: “Over seas to coast to coast, to find the place I love the most, where the fields are green, to see you once again, my love”. Ireland would be the place to be if you’re trying to find fields of green 🙂

We continued our adventures to Connemara National Park the next day. It was a pretty large park, and what is even more astonishing is that one family, the Kylemores, once owned an estate that contained most of Connemara National Park. Connemara is also one of the regions that speaks Irish (Gaelic) predominately, and at one point there was no English on any of the signs at all, which I thought is really interesting.

A blurred view of Kylemore Abbey
A view of Connemara National Park with the Irish black faced sheep (that my friends playfully call the “Irish piglets”

We also passed by two shooting places of Ed Sheeran’s Music Video Galway Girl during our trip. We first passed by O’Connell’s bar, which is the bar that Ed went into at the beginning of the video. Later, during our last night in Galway we went to O’Connor’s Famous Pub, where Ed shot some darts with Saoirse Ronan and pissed off two dudes. There was also a great trad session going on in there that started at 10.

At O’Connor’s Famous Pub; somehow Mohan and I weren’t able to find any dart boards

Our short Galway trip came into an end a lot sooner that I thought, and then it was soon the bittersweet goodbye at the airport till I see her again  in the summer/fall. It was definitely great to catch up with her though, and it was so much fun to see parts of Ireland!

We headed to the airport in the morning, where Mohan has to catch her early flight to Boston and with me catching my flight to Marrakesh and embarking my next journey with Weiheng, Yeng, Annie and Mark to Morocco for five days. This whole trip was really packed because we were trying to do a lot in a short amount of time, and we ended up spending a lot of time on the road. After two meals of McDonalds and several naps, we settled in our hotels at 12AM in the morning. Each of the cities in Morocco has their own specific color, but then a couple that stood out are Casablanca (white), Chefchaouene (blue) and Marrakesh (red).

Waking up to Marrakesh
Marrakesh Menara airport

The next morning, we hoped on a car into the Sahara desert and then Fes. We first drove throught the high atlas region in Morocco. Our driver, Said, were saying that those roads are like the snakes because of how the geographics of Morocco with mountains made it so we need to take a lot of twist and turns before we could get to where we are looking for. The landscape was honestly so different than anything else (the color palette that nature used!) that I’ve ever seen before and the weather was so beautiful.

Altitude 1460m; approximately 4790 feet
Mountain ridges in high atlas region
Blurry Sunset
Traditional Tajine dish with lamb meatballs and an egg; usually it would come with a pointy top lid as well.

We spent our first night in the Sahara desert, where we had what is probably a variation of couscous (couscous has a base of crushed wheat while the dish that we had with had a chicken base) with a veggie stew of zuccini, carrots and eggplants on top, and we had some really amazing bread with tangerines. After that, we heard some Moroccan traditional percussion music and went to see the stars on a sand dune! We also went out of the desert the next morning riding on camels. It was quite the experience; it would be a smooth ride if you have learned to balance yourself in the right way, but would hurt your butt if not (you could definitely see where that is coming from).

I rode a camel called Michael Jackson. At the end, I decided never to ride camels again both because I almost fell when Michael Jackson was dropping me onto the ground and because I thought this was so cruel to all the Michael Jacksons out there…

Traditional drumming in the Sahara desert; the tourist made a circle, and I met a woman from Spain and her daughter; tried to practice some Spanish but I was simply too bad at it
Annie, Karen, Weiheng, Yeng and Mark; this is definitely a personality shot
Learning about photography as we go – I was never aware that my phone is capable of taking a picture like this; all it took was 80 seconds of a still exposure shot and sticking my phone into the sand
When the long exposure didn’t work so well but is still cool before the sunrise (and you could see Yeng’s ghost)
A successful selfie attempt
The leading man and a headshot of Michael Jackson

We were joking how we never left the Sahara desert because we still have sand in our shoes…. I also think that I am going to cut my Spring break adventures here because this blog is already getting way too long. But till next time 🙂

Snow Days, Dublin Tourists and Abbey Theater

Hi all! Little did I know, that the snow days in Ireland actually happened when I woke up to an email about two (then eventually 3, plus the weekend) days of school cancelled with 4 inches of snow outside of my window (Holy Cross students are like what…?) so I actually had time to work on some of this despite brief power and Wi-Fi shortage! It was something else. The snow days were really nice at first, given that I had a lot of work that I needed to do during those days, including applying to a ton of internships that is due at the end of February and my midterms and other forms of evaluation for my classes. I was able to sleep in for a bit, and one of the midterms that I was most worried about ended up being postponed.

But then things changed because I did not think that this snow is actually going to be this severe. On Wednesday (our first day of snow), I started to realize how transportation started to cut back, so I went into centra (our grocery shop on campus) and got some veggies (at the time they only had some salad greens left, not with a lot of other things) and some chicken having in mind that this along with the rice that I have and some leftover takeout will get me through Friday.  Things don’t always go as planned, as always, and I found myself trying to get more food in centra on Thursday, at the time the grocery shop is starting to run out of salad greens and chicken, and Friday, when there are absolutely no green veggies on the shelf, having only sausages left, and almost running out of regular pasta… And you know how grumpy I get when I am hungry. Feeling trapped in our residences and wanting to get out, our friend Mason had the idea of heading out of our rooms and taking snow pictures outside on Friday. And then, we ended up dancing to a song that is really popular in China as of the moment called “the seaweed song” in the snow and the wind (will dm a link if requested)! I also helped building my first ever snowman on Wednesday. Although we have a ton of snow in Worcester, I feel like so many people had grown up with snow around and just got so used to having snow around, and it wasn’t that big of a deal for them anymore. I did not grow up with snow at all, so it was actually quite exciting to have some snowball fights with my friends and to build the snowman!

Our snowman wearing a Irish souvenir hat, a red scarf, and eyes/buttons made from leaves
Swans on campus seems to have it together better than the Irish
One of the pics that didn’t make it to the gram
An okay-ish attempt when doing a close up

So snow days were fun-ish until we ran out of food and we had absolutely no means of transportation to get into the city since Dublin bus stopped operating. On Saturday the snow finally dwindled and Dublin bus was back up and running by noon. Mohan was supposed to fly in Friday night from Boston – up until now I still had no idea how she did it, with storms going on both at the Boston side and at the Dublin side – and she made it, only with sitting in the airplane for two more hours than she was supposed to. We ended up doing a fair bit of travel around Dublin and I felt like I was the tourist again from two months ago!

Mohan shaking hands with what is suposed to be a hand of Alfie Byrne’s at the Little Museum of Dublin

My friend Mark ended up tagging along with us for a bit, and somehow managed to convince Mohan to have half a pint of Guinness (for she’s not that into drinking) after we had some delicious Szechuan food! We also paid a visit to the Little Museum of Dublin (so this is the second tour that I went on in the museum but the tour was given by another guy Sam – giving him a shoutout here since I was too lazy to do it on their website – rather than Ronan, whom I had for the first time.), went to a cafe called Bewley’s on Grafton street (not the one that Ed Sheeran met someone at the side of the bar though), passed around the Dublin Castle, and headed to the Cobblestone to listen to some really great Irish Music (apologize in advance that I didn’t take any pictures, but I will definitely visit there soon in the future because they do give free lessons)!

Blurry pic of baby and her first half pint of Guinness!
After Guinness picture, featuring a huge ton of leftover Szechuan food

Oh how I wished that I could’ve gone to Cork with Mohan but I had classes, and my theater class was going to a play in the Abbey Theater. The play was called “The Unmanageable Sisters”, which is an adoption by Deirdre Kinahan on a play originally written by a Canadian author, Michel Tremblay. A large side to the adoption is that it was made really Irish, and it was really hard to imagine that it is not originally written in that way! It was a really interesting play in so many aspects, because it really was a hilarious play with many twists. The audience was laughing at jokes a lot! And this play only has women in it – which is really uncommon in Irish theater apparently, but I think it might not be only an Irish theater thing. It was also really relatable to nowaday Irish society issues such as how people are coping with the aftermath with the changes in how church power controls the society and about repealing the 8th (which makes abortion illegal in Ireland unless a pregnancy has grave consequences on the mother. It took its place in the Irish constitution at a time when the nation was heavily regulated by Catholicism) mostly. But overall it was a great experience – we got the cheapest tickets but then ended up sitting on some of the best seats because the show wasn’t entirely sold out, and I will definitely recommend going to see a play when you’re in Ireland.

A picture of the set in the Abbey Theater of the play The Unmanageable Sisters by Colin Richmond

I went into Burgh Quay to get my Irish Residence Permit (irp) a while ago, and I finally received my card today (the mailing process is also delayed in the storm). I also went into an appointment for my re-entry visa and it went really well, that I could leave Ireland to travel to a couple of places (I’m definitely hoping to travel in Berlin and Barcelona, and then maybe Iceland and the UK? I just don’t yet, there are so many possibilities)! The weather was also extremely nice today compared to the blizzard that we just had, so Mohan and I decided to walk around Dun Laoghaire for a bit. I’m definitely looking forward to being the traveller and explore this extremely diverse continent. But now, gotta spend the night with Mohan and try to get some work done before we head into spring break!

Dun Laoghaire today