Sunday, November 11, 2012

Busy B

This past week has actually been surprisingly busy, especially since up until now schoolwork has not been a huge part of my life. Last weekend, schoolwork took a backseat again even though my midterms were in a matter of days because I just had to go on a delightful day trip with some friends to Liss Ard, a really cool estate/garden/nature place about a two hour bus ride from Cork. We knew that it was in the general vicinity of a town called Skibbereen (!!!), but other than that we were not too concerned with how we were going to get to the gardens after getting off the bus. In fact, we didn't know which stop was ours, so we kind of guessed by following this girl who looked like she was going to Skibbereen, and shockingly we were actually right. We wandered into the world's coolest secondhand bookstore (well, I haven't seen them all yet, so that is a tentative statement), called the Time Traveller's Bookshop, and browsed there for a good long while before we remembered that we had come to this town with a purpose. Kiah took one for the team and asked the German shop owner for directions and he was actually really helpful and specific, so we found our way there within about half an hour (after stopping for snacks, of course). We spent a good hour and a half-ish exploring the gardens, which were beautiful and nature-y and stuff. After we'd seen about all there was to see, we climbed a wall (wow so dangerous) and headed back to town to a) figure out when the last bus was leaving for Cork, b) re-visit the Time Traveller's Bookshop to make purchases, and c) scavenge for food. Yes, I did buy another old book, and this one is maybe the coolest of all the old books I've purchased so far. I acquired a 1914 edition of Through the Looking-Glass, which has a note on the front page saying, 'To Doris with fond love from Grannie, Xmas 1914'. There is no possible way that I would have NOT made that purchase, especially since it was inexpensive and almost a hundred years old and, well, a book. After we finished up at the bookstore, we wandered across the street to a bar/grill place where I had my first fish and chips experience and then waited for the bus in the comfort of the great indoors. Here, have some pictures of the gardens.

Look at all that nature.

Ooooh, water.

steppin' stones

Feel free to pay me for allowing you to view 
these lovely professional-quality photographs.

happy clouds

crazy tree and bird

clouds turning sinister

oh hey, cows

uh, the clouds are actually becoming a problem

Unfortunately, the weekend ended (as most weekends do) and I had to endure the misery that the academic world calls midterm week. The Irish school system is completely different from everything I'm used to at home and my midterms were all worth 50% of my grade, so it was not a great time in my life. I didn't sleep a ton and I was probably a lot more concerned than necessary about failing by not meeting the different Irish expectations, but the good news is that midterms ended and I am still alive and I actually might have done respectably well. I would add some pictures of my midterms here, but photographing your tests is highly discouraged in Ireland. I am deeply sorry. 

The horror of midterms also brought me to the sudden realization that my time in Ireland is slightly more than halfway done. As unbelievable and annoying as that fact is, it has motivated me to pack the remainder of my time--which is about six weeks, if anyone was wondering--with a ton of Irish experiences. Thus, today I went to the Cork City Gaol with my friend Michelle and it was SO COOL. I'd seen signs for it and really wanted to go, but whenever I mentioned the prospect of going to a historical jail several times before people shot me down for some reason. Anyway, it was used as a jail from 1824 to 1923, but now it's one of Cork's biggest tourist attractions because it's a super awesome historical site. I completely understand why it's so popular because it was probably one of the most unique things I've done here. The original cells and beds and everything are intact, but they added wax figures in absolutely hilarious poses to represent actual prisoners. A lot of people were in for a month or so for public intoxication (ah, Ireland) but there were some sadder cases, like a 9-year-old boy who was in for the seventh time in his life for stealing some bread. Especially during the Famine (around 1845-1852), a lot of people were so desperate for consistent food and a roof over their heads that they'd break the law on purpose because life in jail was much better than life outside for them. A lot of famous Irish Republicans were also imprisoned there while Ireland was still under British rule, so it was really cool to see a concrete bit of that part of Ireland's history since we've talked about it in almost all of my classes. My favorite part of the experience was this one cell that had a bunch of original graffiti (protected from foolish people by a layer of glass), both words and drawings, obviously done by prisoners. Most of them just said a person's name and a place (usually County Cork), but a lot of them were written by the Irish Republicans who stayed there so they were extra historical. I looked really hard to see if anyone had tallied up the days they spent in jail, but apparently that's not a thing people do in real life. 

This is not the jail. This is just Cork being pretty.

Turrets never get old.

Isn't this the funniest thing you've ever seen?!?

This guy was disturbingly lifelike from a distance.

It's really not the swankiest place in the world.

Irish prisoners are really good at art.

This person was a little less good at art, 
but the writing is still cool.


Leave it to Ireland to make jail look beautiful.

I mean, doesn't it look kind of like a castle
from the outside? It's a little misleading.

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