Thursday, 24 September 2009

The Luck of the Irish…

September 4, 2009 to September 6, 2009

So not even ten hours after landing in Manchester I am already on my way to Dublin, Ireland. We, Ellen and I, decided that in order to get the most out of Dublin we should try to travel at night, giving us time during the day to actually see the city. So we went to the train station by bus and got on the train that would take us to our ferryboat, the Dublin Swift. On the way by train we ran into a few crazy characters including a couple of guys who obviously had to much to drink as well as a couple of girls in their twenties who were running up and down the aisle of the train screaming their friends name…reminded me of drunk girls running up and down the halls of the fraternity looking for their friend…anyway so like a said, an interesting group of people on the late night train. So we made it to our ferry around 2 A.M., loaded it, and slept until we made it in to Dublin around 6 A.M. After docking and making it through customs, we hit up the ATM at the dock since we had to have Euros now instead of Pounds.The only problem was that the machine only gave us large bills and the bus driver could not break it. So I ran upstairs really quickly to the café and asked the woman there…whom I could hardly understand because she didn’t speak very much English…if she had any change. The only thing she could give me were 25 Euros…in 50-cent pieces. So I trade with her so that we don’t miss the bus and off I go with fifty 50-cent Euro pieces (like carrying around 50 quarters in your pockets). So we make it on the bus and head to the city centre (downtown).

The bus dropped us of right in the city centre and the first thing we did was buy a bus pass for the day. We had researched transportation options and learned that the buses were the way to go. While that is true, it really would have been nice if either of us had any sort of bus transportation experience prior to this. We had no clue how to get from place to place or how to know which bus was going where and not to mention how you know what bus to get on. Also, there are no street signs! Ever once in a while there will be a building with a street name on it but in general there is no way to tell where you are. So for the first 4 hours we were in Dublin, from 6 A.M. to about 10 P.M., we were completely lost. First we caught a bus to the bus station and realized that it was the train station and not the bus station that we had gone to. So instead of getting even more lost along the way, I pulled out my phone from home…thank goodness I have the data plan on it while I’m here…and navigated us back to where our hostel was. Our hostel was literally five minutes from where we were first dropped off. Instead, it took us about two and a half hours to walk from the train station on the outskirts of town back to the city centre to our hostel. Along the walk though we saw a couple of cool places including the Guinness Brewery. The Guinness Brewery was the number one place to visit on my agenda so I though of the whole getting lost thing as a good adventure since we found our first place to go after the hostel! After we got back to the hostel we checked in, met our creepy roommates from the Czech Republic, bought a locker to store our passports and money in, and headed out to explore.

By this time we had grown really hungry since we had already walked several miles on empty stomachs. We looked for a few minutes and found this incredible little café with the best Irish breakfast in town. It was here that I first realized that you usually don’t tip in the UK and that the tax is already in the prices. I found it really hard not to leave a tip but the waiter said that they were already paid over minimum wage anyway so it just wasn’t need. I still felt bad so I still left a little tip. After breakfast we decided to head to the Guinness Brewery. So we set off…in the wrong direction. It wasn’t until a cop walked up to me, a lost student looking at every bus stop along the way, and told me that I was headed in the wrong direction for Guinness. He pointed me in the right direction and we set off once again. Once we got to the bus stop, a nice old man came up and started talking to us about
Show Boat…not really sure why…but he was nice. I did however check myself later to make sure he didn’t rob me in that ten-minute conversation. After the bus ride we got off at the entrance of the Guinness Brewery!

The Guinness Brewery was an amazing part of my weekend in Dublin. Just to learn the history of the company was pretty cool…not to mention that it is the 250th Anniversary year for Guinness so they had a whole set up about “Guinness through the Ages” on the fourth floor. When you first walk in to the brewery you walk in to a room where you buy your ticket to get in, walk through the entrance, and then up a flight of stairs. Once you reach the top of the stairs you walk into the center of the brewery and into this massive, glass-looking shape that goes from where you are standing to the fifth floor glass ceiling. They have designed it to look like a five story tall glass of Guinness including the use of projections on the first three floors to look like the glass is filling up with beer. It was a pretty cool design. And in the floor in the center of that space is the lease for the property of the brewery which Mr. Arthur Guinness signed for 9,000 years…yeah, 9,000. I though that was pretty cool too. Anyway, each floor is dedicated to something different: the first floor the ingredients that go into the Guinness; the second floor shows you all of the machines that help make the Guinness; the third floor shows you advertisements of Guinness over the pass 250 years; the fourth floor is for the 250thAnniversary; & the fifth floor leads you to the glass bar that is on the rooftop of the brewery…it is also where you get your free pint! The glass bar is really cool and has one of the best views of Dublin since it is a 360 degrees circle of windows to look down onto the city. That beer with that view really does make for a good day in Dublin!

After the brewery tour Ellen and I decided to see St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It was 13 euro to take a tour so we chose to just take pictures of the building and the park right next to it. We also saw Dublin Castle a few blocks over, which was a bit of a let down since it looked nothing like a castle but whatever. Once we saw the castle we figured the next step would be lunch since it had been awhile since either of us had eaten. We found a nice little pub right around the corner and I had Fish & Chips and… of course… a Guinness. Can I just say though that my Guinness in Dublin, not three blocks away from the brewery, was more expensive than a Guinness at the Buck in Tulsa! I know, crazy! Anyway, after our fish and chips we walked to Trinity College and walked around a bit just to explore. We then made our way to the Jamison Distillery but decided not to tour it since it was too expensive. After this we decided it was best to go back to the hostel for just a little break. You have to remember that I was still extremely jetlagged since I just arrived the day before and hadn’t been able to sleep that much… not to mentioned that we had already had an exhausting day around the city. So we got on the first bus we could find and headed back to our hostel. As we approached our stop I figured that the bus would go a least one stop closer to our hostel so I didn’t tell Ellen to get off yet…I was really wrong about that. Instead, the bus turned and went in the opposite direction. Not really wanting to cause a fuss, I just turned followed where we were on the map. I figured that the bus ran a loop anyway and that it would have to pass by our stop on the way back into town…once again I was wrong. I followed the bus all the way to the edge of the map and once we left the map of the city, I started to worry a bit. Finally I told Ellen what had happen and while I was laughing about it, she wasn’t. I was about to ask the bus driver what I needed to do when he jumped out of his seat and ran to the top of the bus to collect the fare from someone who jumped on without paying. He didn’t look in the mood for a lost tourist so I went to sit next to a little old lady and asked if she could help me. The bus driver overheard and called me to the front of the bus. When I told him where I wanted to be, he said that I was now at least thirty minutes away, told me to change buses, and pointed me in the right direction of the bus stop. So Ellen and I got out of the bus and found the bus stop in our new location…Finglas, Ireland. Since we weren’t exactly in the busiest area of Ireland, we had to wait a little while for the bus. As our bus approached, Ellen and I grabbed our things to get on and the guy didn’t even stop! Well crap! We’d already been sitting there for thirty minutes and now we had to wait for the next one. Thirty minutes later the next bus finally stops for us and we headed back toward Dublin. Once we got to our stop, we finally made it back to our hostel and I hit the pillow and fell asleep.

The next thing I hear are the two crazy British people barging into our room and talking really loud to each other, not taking into any consideration the fact that Ellen and I were both asleep. They came in and continued to be obnoxious and even proceeded to smoke in the bathroom, leaving cigarette ashes all over the bathroom floor. These people were really classy…and scared me just a little bit. That’s the thing with a hostel. You never really know what crazy person is sleeping in the bed next to you. Ellen got up to get on the computer for a while and I went back to sleep. I literally slept from 7 P.M. until 7 A.M. the next morning. Like I said, I was still very jetlagged and need to sleep. That morning Ellen told me about how rude the British people had been and what all I had slept through. Apparently the couple was yelling at each other for some reason, then yelled at Ellen when she didn’t answer their phone while they were in the bathroom, and they were drug dealers…like I said, they were classy.

That morning Ellen and I got up and left as soon as possible so that we didn’t have to see those people. I had forgotten to pack shampoo and really needed to wash my hair so I improvised: I used the dish soap from the kitchen…at least I smelled like oranges! Look, you gotta do what you gotta do. We ate breakfast at our same little café from the morning before since it was so good and cheap. After breakfast, we waited on the bus station in town to open so that we could figure out which bus would take us back to the ferryboat. Bus 53 is what the lady at the counter said. With that, we left the bus station with a few more hours to enjoy our time in Dublin. We went to Carroll’s, and Irish gift shop, next door. After Carroll’s, Ellen said that we should find our bus stop just to make sure we knew where we had to be and what time we had to be there. We found it just down the street from us but figured that we could do a little walking toward the port and maybe even walk to the ferry dock and save some money…once again in Dublin…wrong. We were walking along the main river that runs through Dublin and decided to cross the river on one of the bridges figuring that we could cross back at the next one…that was the first mistake. You see, when we got to the next bridge, we realized that it was still under construction and that you couldn’t cross it at that time. So we kept walk figuring we could cross at the next one…that was our second mistake. Once we got about a hundred yards from the bridge, we found ourselves blocked by a huge gate and so we had to turn around and head back. That was only a 4-mile mistake! By the time we made it back we decided just to grab a bite to eat and take our bus when the time came. We ate lunch at a modern Chinese buffet…leave it to me to find the Chinese buffet in Dublin! It was a nice little place and while it was different from American styled Chinese food, it was still very good. After lunch we headed to the bus stop and waited. Traffic was so bad though and we started to get worried when the bus was fifteen minutes late. When it finally arrived I jumped on and asked the guy if he was indeed heading to the ferry dock, just to make sure. He said that he wasn’t going anywhere near there and that we would have to get a taxi if we were going to make it there it time. Crap! You mean we even went to the bus station and we still didn’t get this right! So Ellen and I take off in the direction of the port, trying to catch a taxi along the way. Of course it was raining so every taxi that would usually be free was already taken. Finally I found one. Ellen and I jumped in and this little old Irish man took us to the dock. When we arrived and jumped out, he looked at us and said, “Don’t be rushin’. Boats are like women. If you miss one, another one will come along shortly.” I’m cracking up at this as I’m handing him the money for our ride and Ellen is in the back seat just appalled that he would say that. To me, that was probably one of the best moments in Ireland! I also would like to say this: while most people get frustrated when they get lost (Ellen for one), I really enjoy it. I look at it as an adventure and that I’m able to see things that I would have normally not been able to see! Anyway, Ellen and I make it in to check in and realized that the boat hasn’t even made it in from Wales yet. I used that time in the waiting area to write a little bit about my time in Dublin in order to make sure that I didn’t leave anything out.

Finally our boat came in: The Jonathan Swift…don’t judge, I though it was cool. This one was not as posh or chichi (English words for luxurious) as the one we came over on but this one took about two hours less and so it was an even trade. The boat rocked like nothing I had ever seen before and I though I was going to be sick. We hit a couple of really big waves every now and then that sent people flying across the boat and the items from the concessions spilt all over the floor. I was beginning to get really sick so I put my head on the table to try my hardest not the throw up. Thankfully I was still so tried that I fell asleep for the remainder of the journey. Once we got back to the dock in Wales we found our train back to Lancaster and jumped on it. By the time we made our way back to Ellen’s flat, I passes out on the floor so that I could try to catch up on sleep in order to have a productive week back in mainland UK.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

The Beginning of something Great…

September 2, 2009 – September 4, 2009

So it is Wednesday night before I leave for Europe and I finally have everything that I am taking with me spread out across the living room floor of my house. Shoes? Check. Jackets? Check. Computer and chords? Check. Adapters? Check. Dance belt/shoes/clothes…etc? Check. These items and other belongings I packed…ok crammed…away into two suitcases and a backpack . At about 12:30 A.M. I packed the final item into one of my suitcases and zipped it up. Then I heard it. A ripping noise from my bag. I looked down to find that my zipper had broken off of the suitcase! Well crap! Less than four hours to my flight and I had a broken suitcase. As I was on my way to Walmart to get another suitcase I texted Natalie, figured she’d at least think have a good laugh with me about it. I was a little nervous about the whole “Studying Abroad in London” thing already and this wasn’t exactly what I needed only hours away from my flight. I told her that I had broken my suitcase and that I hoped this little incident wouldn’t be a sign of what was going to come in Europe. She texted me back with the best possible comment I could have ever asked from anyone! She said, “Oh man, I’m so sorry. I’m sure it is not a sign. It is like having a horrible dress rehearsal for a great opening night! J”. If you know about theatre I’m sure you’ve heard of this before…it was the perfect thing to say to me at the time. So anyway with my newly found comfort from Nat, I headed back to my house and repacked everything, getting into bed by 3 AM so that I could at least get an hour of sleep before I had to leave for the Memphis Airport.

So I get up the next morning and head to the airport with my parents. Saying goodbye to my parents was a little different for me this time. This goodbye was a lot harder for me knowing that I was going to a place where I literally knew no one and that I wouldn’t have the comfort/support system that I am usually headed to (Tulsa). So we said our goodbyes at around 5 AM and I headed for my gate. It wasn’t a very long flight and an hour later I landed in the Chicago Airport. Awesome! First part of the trip underway! …Now only a ten hour layover and I’ll be one my way…yes, 10 hours. But I could deal with the 10 hour wait since I got such a cheap student deal for flying this way. Do you realize how hard it is to watch 10 hours go by? I mean I tried to do my best to make the time go by faster by texting, walking the entire airport four different times, eating breakfast and lunch, reading through two magazines…and I mean actually reading every single article and not just flipping from here to there…and recharging my phone at one of the outlets and just sitting there watching people go by…still had 3 hours left to go. Anyway right before it was time to go the lady at the gate’s desk announced that there would be an hour delay due to the fact that the air conditioing broke and they were fixing it. I’m glad that they were going to fix it before I got on for the ten hour flight over but that just made my ten hour layover eleven hours. The fixes needed actually took less than expected and everyone was boarded and ready for take off within the hour. The flight over was nice. I mean it wasn’t as long as I remembered from the last time I flew to Europe back in my senior year of high school. On the plane they showed My Life in Ruins (you know, the one that had that girl in it from My Big Fat Greek Wedding) and Momma Mia! (Perfect for a musical theatre major heading to Europe! It reminded me of when Cynthia and I did the song from it in MTP2…good times.) The lady next to me was really nice and we talked after the movies finished. She was from Liverpool but was in the States visiting her son and grandkids. She gave me some great advice for my trip to Lancaster as well as some advice for being in England in general. She really helped calm my nerves about my adventure ahead.

FINALLY LANDED! I was now officially in Europe! I headed out of the gate toward customs, which wasn’t too terrible a wait. When I did get up to the customs attendant she told me that I was probably the most prepared student that she had ever seen come through customs. That was nice to hear since I was really nervous with the whole student visa laws changing almost every week. After customs I headed to baggage claim to get my luggage and a cart to hold it all in. I made my way to the station, bought my student rail card and ticket to Lancaster, found and boarded my train, and was off to Lancaster. Once I made it to Lancaster, I took a bus from the station to Lancaster University where I was going to meet Ellen Gillis. Ellen is an old friend from Briarcrest and we both decided that since we would be studying over here at the same time that it would be really cool to do some of our traveling together. As I arrived at the university and started to get off the bus, a little old man passed me and said “I’m so glad I’m not you at the moment. Oh yeah, good luck with the stairs.” What did he…oh dang it! I literally had to climb up these stairs and I decided to take each one up one at a time since I wouldn’t be able to manage all three together. I met Ellen at “The Venue”, a nice little café in the center of campus. After that we headed to her room where I unloaded some things and changed…since these were the same clothes I had been wearing for almost two days now. After changing we went to the grocery store on campus. Wow! Everything here really is a lot more expensive than back home. But there was one purchase that I didn’t really care how much it cost because I was going to buy it: a four pack of Guinness! Yes! Finally I can buy alcohol legally…not that I had ever in my life drank before…ok moving on. Once we got back from the grocery store we had lunch with a couple of Ellen’s friends from her flat. After lunch it was time for a nap…you know the whole jet lag thing really does hit you quick and sleeping on an airplane and in an airport you just don’t get a nice deep sleep. After I woke up from my nap, it was time to head to Dublin, Ireland!

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Blogging My Time Abroad

Hey everyone,

So I finally broke down & decided to blog about my time in Europe this semester. While most people will be keeping up with me through facebook, I have decided to keep a bit more personal and more detailed blog for my family and friends...and whatever creeper is out there reading this right now.

So a little about my time here in Europe:
I am studying abroad in London at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts. (I have added to the end of this post a little more info on Mountview.) I am studying at Mountview through the IES Abroad Program. While my orientation and classes do not start until September 21, I will be in Europe from September 3 until the middle of December since I came over two weeks early to travel a bit before my course work actually started. While here at Mountview I will be taking ballet barre, ballet, jazz, tap, dance conditioning, voice, sight reading, music theory, acting, actor & the text, voice & movement, and a presentation workshop. I take all of these classes several times a week during this fall semester.

I will try to post as much as possible in my time here. I am excited to let everyone see what I am doing and enjoying while I am here in Europe. I would like to say though that I would like for everyone to remember that the legal drinking age here though is 18...

Talk to you all soon!


A little info on Mountview:

Founded in 1945 by Peter Coxhead, Mountview is an independent college of Higher education, a member of the Conference of Drama Schools (CDS), and full-time courses are accredited by the National Council for Drama Training (NCDT). Mountview is widely acknowledged to be one of Britain’s leading independent drama conservatoires and its students are making their mark in all branches of the profession.
Mountview graduates have recently performed in popular productions in the West End, such as Connie Fisher (The Sound of Music), Hannah Jane Fox (We Will Rock You), and Jon Robyns (Les Miserables). Judy Dench currently serves as the President of Mountview.
Originally situated in Crouch End, North London, Mountview expanded in the 1980s to new teaching spaces – the Sir Ralph Richardson Memorial Studios in Wood Green, North London in the borough of Haringay. The Wood Green Campus has steadily expanded, and the Ralph Richardson Studios (RRMS) is where the training and rehearsal work for Performance, Technical, and Directing students take place.
IES Abroad students are enrolled in the Musical Theatre Program, and participate in the standard second year BA Musical Theatre undergraduate program of study for either a semester or an academic year. The courses are delivered in a highly supportive environment by faculty who are experts in their field. As a student on the Musical Theatre program, you will continually come into contact with practitioners from the industry who not only train by the highest standards, but who also pass on a wealth of experience and advice.