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…and that’s why I love you.

Everyday when I’m at my computer with my curtains half-parted, my eyes meet what has occurred to me to be quite wonderful representation of Dublin in 2010.

The very 21st century architecture of the glass “Chartered Accountants House” meets the roof-tops and front facades of very traditional 19th century Dublin houses with those big, wide doors. Removed from most of the global conflict of the 20th century, Ireland seems to have suddenly skipped ahead, and Dublin, especially, seems to have tried (almost too hard) to become a wildly updated metropolitan city… and in many respects, it has succeeded.

But shiny things have never been where the Irish charm came from, correct? And truth be told, in the areas of Dublin that retain the “old” and “quainter” feel (like Temple Bar area) you don’t find Dublin’s restorative value either.

For me, Dublin is a city, like and unlike many others. And the same formula applies for me now, as ever. When new meets old, when future meets past… and when the sky (due to climate) is so often a very personification of “average”–

the sun breaking through shiny glass and old chimneys and the architectural spaces of absence, sets an orange glow against the green green grass (which you know is greener—not on the other side, but near everybody’s block), you can’t help but feel pure, calm, and white… peaceful alongside a skyline which also sings those colors of the Irish flag.

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Somewhere between my birthday, a Grecian beach, and final exams, I found the part of study abroad that is nearly untranslatable. Among the hilarious escapades, beautiful scenery, plane rides, and deep friendships had, I found it hard to compose my thoughts and keep engaged in this cyber-record of my time here. The record is truly in my memories. Memories–which, given the fact that I will be producing and choreographing an hour-long dance piece in March of 2011 for Columbia University Orchesis’ MaMa Project–will most likely be seen on a stage, rather than a page.

I truly do love writing, but sitting at a computer tapping away at a keyboard does not enliven quite the same electric and experiential kind of expression that dancing does for me. I think that I also mentioned that in my last post—it’s not that I’ve been at a loss for words, but that I’ve been overwhelmed with them–and also that half-moon smiles have won out over my oratorical ego.

Prague

Exempting my March 8th post about trains and the spaces in between (as sites of the most meaning), I have dropped off the blogosphere for an entire eight weeks. These eight weeks felt like a full half-a-year because of the people I was enjoying them with. Here’s a quick run-down of how lucky lucky lucky I have been:

March  1-7

imagine Frankfurt at night, in the rain, an iron bridge, brimming excitement and introductions to mainland Europe

imagine a woman who I knew as a ten-year-old. imagine her gracious and beautiful family and Innsbruck, a city protected by snow-capped mountains, and feeling on top of the world, or a cloud almost

imagine a rosy, also water-divided city, home of Mozart, Salzburg, and a race to the strictly on-time German/Austrian train and thundering on to Vienna, a portable Wine Wednesday

imagine some smoky unappealing bars and a lot of museums, including one that talked of life spirals and looked like Tim Burton had a hand in at the Kunst Haus in Vienna, and a long lovely out-of-place Italian dinner and life talks

imagine a magical, fairytale city with lovely wine bars and cinnamon pretzels and castles, Prague

imagine a historically conscious city, a wonderful young NYU-grad tour guide, and a feeling of belonging similar to New York, that says,  “Come as you are, be among these people”–like the dome of the Reichstag–Berlin

A breath-taking morning in the Austrian Alps

On top of the Brandenburg Gate, the personality of Berlin

March 8-14

imagine back to classes, hello-again to Dublin, the Stag’s Head, and it’s traditional Irish music. imagine laundry and the gym, and re-setting

March 15-21

imagine the happiest birthday in a long time, with muffins at midnight and Columbia and Barnard friends as visitors. Tapas and turning twenty-one

imagine Saint Patrick’s Day in Dublin… not what you’d expect, and a strange and un-Irish parade

imagine a weekend in London, visiting a friend from school and spending hours in the Brick Lane market and wandering from the V&A through Kensington and Notting Hill, Les Miserables on the West End, crazy-talented Jean Val Jean, and realizing that London was lovely, but no New York. Where’s the soul?? Where’s Harlem’s grounded, non-synthetic expressiveness?

Friends Visiting from New York

New Friends from Dublin

A strange St. Patty's parade

March 22-28

imagine planning a friend’s birthday as an all day treasure-hunt when you are in another country giving her clues and seeing Big Ben and finally showing up at 11:30pm to wish her a happy birthday in person

imagine flying to a Mediterranean Spanish destination, experiencing rich culture, going to the beach, walking along a gorgeous harbor and being romanced by the small city, a couple in love, poetic/cinematic experience– Alicante, Spain

Alicante from the Castillo de Santa Barbara

Palm Sunday Parade

March 29- April 4

imagine returning to Dublin, feeling rejuvenated and a teeny bit tanner than everyone else

imagine resetting and laundry and class

April 5- 11

imagine taking off to Zurich, trying to complete a philosophy essay on whether or not universals exist–in transit, seeing the inside of the most expensive airport for hours, and flying closer to the stars to Athens

imagine a ferry ride to an island that looks like heaven and like all the pictures and movies you’ve seen. imagine almost-empty delicious beaches, windmills, a bag of eight free cakes from Starbucks, no less, and roses from passers-by

Flowers and cakes walking back from the beach on Mykonos

April 12-18

imagine staying with a friend who will be excavating in Athens this summer and getting his take on Greek history and the Acropolis and imagine handmade Greek sandals, like Hercules, and endless strawberries and Greek salads

imagine returning to Dublin, prepared for the wildness of Trinity Ball, the largest private concert in Europe–a formal event, no less, and imagine it being just as interesting and unexplainable as everyone had told you

The Acropolis

Trinity Ball 2010

April 19-25

imagine going to Galway, taking a bus through the beautiful mountains and rolling landscape of Connemara, and taking a ferry to an Irish island inhabited by less than 200 people

imagine being in the one pub with an extended family on the island celebrating a christening or some other family gathering and hiking over bog-land to 16th century remains of Cromwell’s Castle with no clear path to follow… adventuring

imagine seeing lots and lots of sheep and green and buying an Irish sweater, listening to Irish writers tell their tales… quintessential Ireland

imagine being back in Dublin, your significant other’s birthday in the home-base pub where the band sings ‘happy birthday’ in the packed place, just for him

arabesque on the highest point of our trek to the castle

Paul and I at the Stag's Head Pub

April 26- May 2

imagine being swamped with work

imagine having an Irish weekend, as tour guide and host to a beautiful Barnard friend studying in Aix en Provence, and singing “Rattlin’ Bog” and stomping among very Irish Dubliners:

Irish Barnard Women

Ho, ro, the rattlin’ bog,
The bog down in the valley-o.
Ho, ro, the rattlin’ bog,
The bog down in the valley-o.

Now in that bog there was a tree,
A rare tree and a rattlin’ tree,
And the tree in the bog,
And the bog down in the valley-o.

Ho, ro, the rattlin’ bog,
The bog down in the valley-o.
Ho, ro, the rattlin’ bog,
The bog down in the valley-o.

Now on that tree there was a branch,
A rare branch and a rattlin’ branch,
And the branch on the tree,
And the tree in the bog,
And the bog down in the valley-o.

imagine having only two weeks left, three more exams, two more visitors, and endless things to see before I leave.

understand that I am so unbelievably grateful to have been able to see so much of the world and to meet life long friends who enrich it that much more. I wish you all Ireland/Dublin–meaning I wish you peace and a slower pace. I wish you all Europe–meaning I wish you history and culture and beauty. And I graciously accept ‘America’–meaning I am looking forward to reconnecting with those I love and care about and Barnard, and dance, and New York, and Massachusetts.

Can you count to ten? Can you let it pass?

No, Brandi, I can’t let it pass. I’ve got to grasp whatever I can remember and let you all know something about the cultural whirlwind I’ve been living in. Ephemera (what a gorgeous word) is the unexpected spice of life, and by definition, impossible to catch and represent. Dance is the “ephemeral art,” and to be honest, I really don’t have much of a taste for reading dance criticism (reviews and such). To me it captures nothing of what makes dance special and real. Pictures and videos don’t come close either, unfortunately. Poetic ramblings on spare sticky notes and on the back of a school notebook page speak more to what dance is for me, at least. Traveling too, is an ephemeral practice. And travel writing is highly personal, being the responses and interests of one person only. So, I won’t go on an on about each city right now–but I need to record something– here are the 6:

Frankfurt, Germany

Innsbruck, Austria

Salzburg, Austria

Vienna, Austria

Prague, Czech Republic

Berlin, Germany

As some of you may know, Brandi Carlile is one of my absolute favorite musicians/recording artists. She’s just chill and smart and young and awesome. All things I aspire to be. Haha. But seriously. I include this video for “Dreams” from her new CD Give Up the Ghost because of the simple percussion background on the verses and throughout the song.

I have long loved songs that have that “train sound” pushing them along a track, keeping your heartbeat going, stretching your mind further and further across landscapes, cityscapes–hundreds of people also listening and moving on the same darting path.

When we arrived in Frankfurt exhausted from essentially skipping sleep the night before our very early flight, we purchased a Eurail pass which allowed us 5 days of travel within Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic. The freedom this pass gave us was wonderful.  We traveled every day of our 8 day journey except for two (one in Vienna and one in Prague). Our bodies switched from college time to even-earlier-than-real-people-time, as we negotiated stressful and varying systems of public transportation in the dark to get to the Hauptbanhof, Main train station, or the Praha hlavní nádraží (as it was called in Prague) for morning train rides. We’d reach our platform between 2 and 8 minutes before the train arrived, hop onto a car, stumble through many automatic pushy doors, and negotiate some kind nesting place for ourselves.

Well, now that we’re up from frantically praying we make the train (we never missed—though we did get off early once–more on that story later), we are running and carrying vagabond parcels (okay, they were perhaps a bit larger than “parcel-sized,” see picture of baby blue at bottom), what do we do? We goof around, give each other nicknames, and list a lot of things that Meg likes–the always classic, “Meg loves eggs” (she likes real ones and Cadbury ones…and we had Kinder eggs with lame toys inside). We sing feel good early 2000s songs, drink expensive bottled water in glass bottles (how annoying?), and then finally nap a little bit.

And throughout these rides I’m glancing out windows at small villages, magnificent mountains, industrial areas, flat land, and dark night. And the lyrics from M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” play over and over.

“Sometimes I think sitting on trains

Every step I get to, I’m clocking that game

Everyone’s a winner, we’re making our fame

Bona fide hustler making my name”

So in sum, the spaces between the places deserve recognition first. As does the idea that Meg, Lauren, and I were tough and fly travelers like M.I.A. and in a dream world of train motion/sound/BEAUTY like Brandi.

Our flight to Frankfurt and from Berlin were good as well… but there’s nothing like a train to pull your footsteps across patches of the planet.

Looking like I'm about to fall backwards because of the L. L. Bean initialed backpack from middle school. (In Salzburg)

I’m baaaaack. Hope you missed me as much as I missed and still miss all of you. Look for posts and pictures from the actual cities we visited in the next few days! My twenty-first birthday is in exactly a week and I have wonderful friends visiting from Columbia/Barnard for the week–which also happens to be Saint Patrick’s Day-Week!

Warm wishes and wishing you all spontaneity (TODAY!),

Caroline

P.S. Happy Birthday Abby! And also Happy International Women’s Day! (Going to a talk on Feminism and Popular Culture in a few hours after Philosophy!)

phen-om-enal

long time, no post. what whirl wind of phen-om-enal women and won-der-ful people

dublin is a city like your snow city

my college is a college like your read-ntense-theory and lib arts jib jab

what fun. mind cycles, brisk walks, music pour in my memories and the knuckles of my hands

something about

wednesday wednesday working hard naptime peace. envelopes me like a melting square of cadbury chocolate

i am me. you are you. she is she. we are we. and thank the goodness for dancing pointing feet

truly in dublin now

abounding positivity? i’ll take it. can i share some? we’ve got some sun for your chilly big streets and cul de sacs

a post-valentine to everyone i love.

a song by mr. a-z

“I bare my windowed self untamed and untrained
Dreams that hardly touch our complexions truest faults
If room enough for both my drowsy spirit shall fall
Bold waves tumble to the season of my heart
You have offended my faith and my trust
Until all is lost into the beauty of the day
Until all is lost
And I think it’s lost

And there’s something in the way you laugh
And it makes me feel like a child
Aspects of life they confuse me
You and your thesis amuse me
After and afternoon with you
And your rich brown eyes
Your lips and dark hair
Elbows and exposed knees tossing towards your ceiling
After an afternoon…”

Cork, of Course!

This past weekend, 95 members of Trinity’s International Society loaded onto two buses set for Cork, Ireland. Armed with sandwiches and surrounded by some pretty frustrating people who decided to drink the whole ride there (the worst of them was a male Columbia grad–sad news bears). Anyway, we made it to Sheila’s Hostel in Cork City and went to a charming and busy pub close by.

Though a good Guinness is a good Guinness, and I am in Ireland, I’ve found that I am particularly fond of the Smithwicks Draught (pronounced “Smithicks”). According to ol’ pal Wikipedia:

“Smithwicks has a ruby red tone with a stable, but slightly thin head. It is produced using hops and special roasted, malted barley. Its texture is smooth and refined, with a bitter and complex finish. Although of lesser fame than Guinness, Smithwicks is often regarded as the ‘local favourite’ amongst Irish pubgoers. In 2004, Diageo PLC began distribution in the USA. Smithwick’s had previously been marketed in Canada with great success.” We’ve also learned that it shows you “know your stuff” if you ask for a Smithwicks with a Guinness head. Quite Nice.

Jameson Distillery

The Irish are known for their alcohols, as you all know, but it has been quite interesting how the selection really doesn’t seem to vary much from pub to pub, city to city. On Sunday of the Cork Trip, we went to the Jameson Factory and took another freezing cold, but informative tour through the old distillery outside of Cork in Midleton, Ireland. I must admit, I still don’t completely understand how they distill whiskey, I’m a little slow in following the chemistry, but I still enjoyed our complimentary glass from from the bar! FYI, it goes wonderfully with ginger ale!

But let’s backtrack a moment. Saturday morning, we went to Blarney Castle, and despite all my goofy brother’s objections, I kissed the stone. I’m waiting on the luck… but I am blogging a bit more, so maybe this is a form of “The gift of gab”? The grounds of the Castle were beautiful and I only wish I had worn a huge parka and double socks and gloves so that we could have seen more of it.

A view of Blarney Castle, snapped by Meg!

We took a tour of Cork Gaol (Jail). It was basically a smaller version of the Kilmainham Gaol, with less political history. In Ireland, especially since the “Celtic Tiger” economic boom of the 1990s into the 2000s, there has been quite a increase in what they often call the “Heritage Industry.” Really, it’s mostly tourism for Americans who want to see where their ancestors lived. But to be honest, I’m really over touring jails. They are pretty depressing!

In between tourist attractions, we had soup at a beautiful tea room/pub combo with rich red prints, heavy curtains, and a dark wood bar. I sipped a delicious, slightly spicy minestrone soup in a big bowl and brought the warmth back into my body. After the jail, we tried to walk around Cork and experience the city, but most shops close by 5 or 6pm, even on Saturdays. Cork City, itself, was pleasant but not particularly inspiring. Their main drag, Patrick St., is basically a newer version of Dublin’s cosmopolitan, retail-centric Grafton Street.

Even if shopping and browsing fails (I really wanted to find a wool sweater), food can always provide the fun. We found a little hole-in-the-wall Indian place and picked up some wine for a picnic on our hostel floor. If you’ve read my previous post, you know that I’m in great company here and that I’ve talked for hours on end each weekend with a number of fantastic people. So ponder, relate, and love we did, before heading out to mingle with the people of Cork one last time.

Sunday morning, however, was the highlight of the trip. After going to the Cobh (heritage) Museum (which explained the history of the Titanic and the Lusitania and the many other ships that departed from Cobh–then Queenstown), we walked through the beautiful seaside town. Nestled among hundreds of colorful houses stacked on the hillside, in that quintessentially European way, was the large, beautiful, yet humble Cobh Cathedral.

Cobh Cathedral

And now I’m back, happily nestled in Dublin, across from my “Chartered Accountants House” friends (or empty always-lit conference rooms as they may be) across the street. I’ve been reading up a storm in here, lots of contemporary plays, performance theory, writings on European society and economics, Shakespeare (loving Richard III), and even Plato. I’ve been hitting the gym that’s attached to my building to maintain my youthful vigor. Ha ha ho ho.  I’ve tried to go to dance class when I can, and I’ve finally handed in my Registration form and am registered here in Ireland with a fancy immigrant card. I feel more settled, but I won’t settle too much. I’m in Europe. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience this world of similarity and difference, yesterday and today, and living and learning.

Slàinte, Dublin.

Slàinte, family, friends, and all.

(this is the word for “Cheers”–pronounced slahn-sha)

a pea in a pod

You know, sometimes when I have a little, or a lot of time to think and move through the built natural/mechanical environment that we call a city, an enormous wave of potentiality washes over and through me. From a sparkle in my mind, it moves through my chest cavity, elatedly touching that space under my lungs, moving downward through my grounded pelvis, then to and through my feet in the city sidewalks.

This may sound cheesy, but talking with Meg and Lauren for hours on end about the nature of relationships, fears, and outlooks on life, among other (often lighter) things, has restored within me a sense of potentiality and an appreciation of myself that I thought I had, but now realize I was out of touch with. It is an empowerment to act on what I believe, and really more than anything, to search for what I believe in as causes and modes of viewing the world, and my place in it.

On Mondays like this, even when I encounter troublesome bureaucracy*, I love the alone time. I’ve begun to feel my energy mixing with the subtle energies of Dublin and feel connected. A romance with a city is a beautiful thing, and Dublin certainly has not been an obvious lover. But it cares enough–and provides the (rare) empty space for personal thought, without distraction. At first, that was a bit disconcerting, but now I’m beginning to appreciate it on these long (less scheduled) weekdays. More than a day and a half of this kind of thing is enough to drive a person mad, I know, so do not fret, I seek and fall into the pleasantest of company the rest of the week long. But this reflective time lets me be. Being is something we all often forget to do (and forget how to do— somehow it isn’t quite like riding a bike–it’s always different). And trust me, being is worth doing. Give it a spin.

*(try spending 6 and half hours off an on at the Garda National Immigration Bureau while trying to get a Philosophy class signed-off on in a department that hasn’t had anyone working in its office since last Tuesday–At least the print-out on the door says they are “sorry for the inconvenience”)

So thanks, Ireland. For letting me be both a sprout on my own, and (more importantly) a pea in a pod. A very fun, smart, intuitive pod at that.


The Cork trip was a lot of fun… more concrete details and pictures and stories to come!