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romaaa!

Despite volcanic ash and transportation strikes, I’ve somehow made it to Rome! I meant to update this as my journey progressed but, to quickly recap, I got to Amsterdam, made it to London without a hitch, got down to Greece, and even though the transportation sector in Athens went on strike today, I somehow made it to Rome only 30 minutes behind schedule! Luckily I’ve been actually writing my travel stories down so it won’t be so hard to recap them all once I actually get to properly update this, but I’ve been having an AMAZING time for the past couple weeks.

I’m in Rome now and will be in Italy until Tuesday and then back to Belfast I go… I keep forgetting that I have an exam to take next week and another the following week, but my marks leading up to exams are pretty good so I’m not too worried. I just need to PASS my classes, right?

I have less than a month until I go home… I’m sort of starting to get into panic mode. On one hand, I’m excited to go back and see all my friends and family. On the other hand, I’m going to miss my friends I’ve met here and, I don’t know, it just won’t be the same. The funny stories and sayings and whatever just won’t be as funny to other people when I retell them. I think it will be a disappointing first week or two when I get back to the states… reverse homesickness? Perhaps.

Oh well, no need to think about this now! Bedtime and then up in the morning to explore Rome with my mom =)

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Haven’t had anything too exciting to update about. I’m really just settling in and actually doing some coursework. My next two assignments aren’t due until March 22 and April 16, respectively, but I’m trying to get a head start so I don’t have to worry about anything for my 2 weeks of Easter break (traveling around Ireland with my mom and sister for a week, then down to Paris for a couple quick days, and onward down to Madrid/Granada). This weekend I’m going down to Cork for the Irish Universities Cross Country Championships… If you take that sentence out about traveling to France and Spain, this paragraph sounds remarkably similar to being at home! School and running.

I have to give a shout out to Sarah’s post [http://www.sarahnoone.com/Sarahs_Travel_Journal/Blog/Entries/2010/2/25_100_british_potatoes.html] that highlights a few of the Northern Irish-oddities. #2 and #3 have stood out to me the most… Especially the tardiness thing. I overslept one day and walked into a lecture a solid 25 minutes late. Without a lecturer flinching. And TWO MORE people came in even after me. So weird. Anyway, check that out if you’re interested. I haven’t really done a recap of things-that-are-weird… but there are plenty.

With that in mind, and because recently a friend was making fun of me for “picking up” an accent, here’s a few things I’ve noticed about how they speak here/what they say:
• Sentences are spoken sort of… like questions? I don’t really know how to describe it. The pitch of their voices sort of go up at the end of their sentences. I catch myself doing this when I’m around a bunch of locals…
• “Rage” is probably one of my favorite slang words. When you go out to a club/to drink, you could say you’re going out to “rage.” Or a playful way to say you’re pissed off or otherwise angry is to say you’re raging. There are more scenarios in which you can use it, but yeah, I like that one. “Gutted” is similar; if something happens that is disappointing then you might say “I’m gutted.” For example, “Ughhh, the rugby-playing midget that beat me in that bar dance off won 2 tickets to see 50 Cent… I’m absolutely gutted.” True story.
• A “cuppa” is tea. “Tea” is food.
• “What’s the craic?” Okay, so craic in general [pronounced crack] is used all the time and I have absolutely no idea how to describe what it means. When you get together with friends, you could say it was “good craic” if it was a good time. But then people will also ask me, “What’s the craic?” and I never know how to respond. This actually happened to me yesterday, and my response was something along the lines of, “Um… uh, nothing?” This isn’t the right answer. I’m still not sure how to respond; I usually just try saying different things each time to see if I get a decent reaction. Or I just don’t answer, haha. I’m awkward sometimes I guess…

So there’s my first installment of weird sayings… I try to make mental notes of them when I hear them, so there will surely be more to come.

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Okay, so I know I’ve been spending a LOT of ‘weekends away,’ but this really WAS a weekend away! Just a chill, relaxed weekend away from anything stressful. Amazing.

So my friend Alex (the one who was wonderful about me coming to NI and picked me up from the airport and is just a sweetie) invited me to come home with her for the weekend. She only lives about an hour from Belfast but is more in mid-Ulster so it’s a bit more in the “country” I suppose. I happily agreed to come away with her for the weekend =)

She picked me up Friday after work so it was already pretty dark by the time we got out to her house. The house itself was super cute and they have a spare bedroom that I stayed in (my own room!) and her parents were so nice and friendly! Her dad went out and picked up Chinese food for all of us (mom, dad, sister, Alex and I) and it was deliiiish. I think I decided that I like the black bean sauce here… Good to know for future Chinese-eating experiences =)

After dinner, we all just hung out in the family room in front of the fireplace and watched TV, and then Alex and her sister and I drove out to her grandparents to say hello. They built this little log cabin by a pond (no beds or anything, just a place to hang out) so they were just sitting out there drinking tea and watching the snow fall. The snow made for a sloppy drive there, but the cabin was sooo cute and her grandparents were adorable… Her grandpa was so cute but so hard of hearing, made me think of my grandpa a bit… We only visited with them for a few minutes to say hello and then we went back to Alex’s, watched The September Issue, and went to bed! End Day 1 of relaxation =)

The next morning, Alex had to work until 1 so I slept in… until 11:30. Solid 11 or so hours of sleep, it was fantastic =) When she got back from work, we decided to go for a drive up the coast and I am SO glad we did! The weather was great and I got my first glimpse of the Giant’s Causeway… Impressive, though there was more walking than I had heard about so I was thankful that it was such a gorgeous day. Pictures to come, of course! We also stopped by the Dunluce Castle after it had “closed” but you could still walk around it so I don’t really feel like I missed out on much. After those two places, we drove up to Portstewart and got dinner at Shenanigans, which was delicious, but we were too full to get dessert so we had to let it digest on our drive back to Alex’s and pick up ice cream to eat while we watched How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days =)

Then, this morning, we got up and went to Alex’s church (her mom and dad play the piano and organ for the services). It was probably the first time I’ve been to church in… I honestly don’t know, years? But one of the songs was the same from when I used to go to sunday school, which I thought was sort of funny… Different denomination, different church, different country, same song! After church, we went back to Alex’s house and some of her family came over for a late lunch (including homemade mashed potatoes and pie!! yummm!) and just hung out until we left later in the day to come back to Belfast. Skyped with my sister and finalized our plans for Scotland, success!

So… great weekend. Totally relaxing and nice to be in a home again =) Finished updating my post about my weekend in London, and I’ll put up pictures from the north coast soon! I actually have homework this week though (gasp!) so that will have to wait =)

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I’m about to start my train/bus/plane journey to London! I’m really excited, got a decent-priced flight through EasyJet and will be staying with a London local until Sunday! She made us a whole itinerary and I am sooooo excited! Lots of stories and pictures to come in a few days!

Bon voyage =)

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dublin and irish indoors!

This is my update to say that I need to properly update…

On Tuesday, I went on a spur-of-the-moment trip to Dublin. Stayed overnight and had a great time walking around the city and touring the Guinness Storehouse. Pictures and full details to come, I promise!

On my way out the door now to catch a ride down to Nenagh in the Republic of Ireland for the Irish University Indoor Championships. Planning on running the 3000 and maybe the 1500… I’ve been running pretty consistently since I’ve been here, but not nearly at the level I was hitting back home and I’ve done no formal speedwork other than some pickups during my runs, so we’ll see how this turns out. If anything, it’ll be a good workout and a chance to get my competitive blood flowing!

Also, a friend sent me a card in the mail and it made my day yesterday =) First time I checked my mail here, and it was nice to actually have something in there waiting for me! I’ve got a stack of postcards myself that are waiting to get written on and sent out… Time to start collecting addresses!

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weekend getaway!

I told you I made it here! See? The Queen and the British flag and everything. Picture to prove it.

Anyway, I walked around the city today with two other American girls and took tons of pictures, but they’re on Facebook and not up to here yet. I’ll work on that next week…

Tomorrow morning I’m catching a bus to Londonderry (aka Derry) to spend Saturday and Sunday roaming around and whatnot. It should be a really interesting city to visit; it was the site of some of the first protests and killings of the Troubles and the main part of the city was actually walled in by the British (I forget how they rationalized it but really they were trying to protect it from protesters and attacks). Should be interesting to be in a different part of Northern Ireland, and I can’t wait for the scenery on the bus ride! Seeeeee you Sunday!

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HOLY SHIT.

Ooookay so I will be on my way to the airport in approximately 10 hours… Woah.

Today has been a blur. No matter how prepared I thought I was for this trip, I am so so so not. I think I still need a few passport-sized photos printed out, actually, but I am so not even thinking about it. Uugggh. My day included going to the doctor, errands, going BACK to the doctor, lunch, more errands, and trying to make sure that I have everything the UK could possibly want in order to let me into the country. I know customs is hyped up and it probably won’t be a big deal at all, but I keep having this vision of me standing in Belfast Harbour with tears streaming down my face and a big angry British man denying me entry into the country because I forgot to bring dental records. No, I don’t need dental records to get a visa… but these are the thoughts going through my head.

The whole TSA thing is stressful, too… More visions of angry men opening my baggage and just throwing my belongings away because they aren’t approved to be on the plane or something. I will feel one hundred times better once I’m in the airport, and ten million times better than that when I open up my apartment and have a HOME.

I’ll post again once I’m settled in and all that… Hopefully with some pictures of my room and nice GREEN nature. Goodbye dreary winter snow… see you next year.

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