Monday, May 28, 2007

Lip Hair

My weekends start on Thursday whenever I get home from work. It's nice because I always have a 3 day weekend and there's always opportunity to travel. Since it was my first weekend here without jetlag, however, I opted to stay close to the city.

I was not particularly looking forward to work on Thursday. I was tired from the stressful first week and was just ready to take a nap or sleep in. Because of this, I dragged my feet a little on the way into the office and didn't arrive until 9:45, when I'm supposed to be there at 9. The funny thing is, being 10 minutes late for the bus stop and getting there at 8 am instead of 7:50 am, I consequently made myself 45 minutes late. Hm. As soon as I got there I was bombarded with busy work. Thankfully, though, I was also cordially invited to the bi-weekly publisher's meeting in the New Island office. I was eager to go because this kind of thing is most like what I think I want to do with my life. I walked with Mariel, an assistant sales manager at Brookside, up the creaky -- and steep -- stairs to the New Island Office at 10. Along the way, she was filling me in on the usual long winded and hostile meetings that lasted for up to 6 hours at a time. Upon reaching the bay, she, Inka (the production manager), and I prepared for the long haul by getting tea, going to the bathroom, and doing stretches (okay I'm exaggerating). Deidre (the managing editor) then beckoned us into her office to begin the meeting. We were the first there and had our choice of antique wooden chairs that looked like they were from a dining room in the 19th century. Atop an equally antique wooden table, around which we were seated, sat piles of large sheets of paper. Upon further inspection, I realized these were extensive lists of all the books we were coming out with or had just published. It was at least 10 pages long, single spaced, 10 point font. We were about to go through every single book on that list and discuss it in great length. I was glad I had my tea.

After we picked our seats I sat swinging my legs (because they didn't reach the ground from the one I was sitting on) in anticipation. What would it be like? What would I do if I had to pee? Would they ask my opinion? What would I say if they did?

The boss, Edwin, came in next and greeted us all with a big toothy smile. I could see his one silver tooth glinting from the back of his mouth. His smiles make me smile. As we waited for Conor and Tom, who were both grumpy (understatement: Tom was devastated and depressed) because Liverpool had lost the European Cup Finals the night before, giving the title to the (undeserving) Milan, Edwin told us about the furniture in the room. Since the office doubles as his house, a lot of the furniture that isn't officy is his own. It had been his great-grandmother's and we were not allowed to put our cups on it. I placed mine in my lap and opened my eyes and ears to my first publishing meeting.

It went pretty smoothly, as I later found they were usually much longer and everyone was usually more disagreeable, and I didn't utter a sound the entire time. The entire meeting was over my head. Not only had I never read or heard of any of the books they were discussing (I even had to shake my head with shame when they asked if I had read Angela's Ashes), but I didn't fully understand the process or jargon they were using. I didn't want the meeting to last 6 hours, so I kept my questions to myself. Some of the things we covered were pricing and repricing of books, how many of one book to publish, what size the book should be, if it should be hardback or paperback, a few book covers Inka had been working on, a few manuscripts Edwin and Deidre had read, etc. The meeting was from 10-12:40, so it was like being in a class. I spent the entire time watching Edwin's (who was next to me) upper lip hair flutter with his rapid speech (he has a goatee). When someone else spoke, I would look at them. At times I felt as if I was watching a tennis match because most of the conversation was between Deidre, sitting on my left, and Edwin, sitting on my right.

After getting home from work I made myself some disgusting soup and rice, which I ended up discarding and eating cereal and carrot sticks. My flatmate informed me we were going out, so I had about 45 mins to get ready to go. To keep it simple, we went to a familiar pub downtown and stayed very very late. Merry times were had. And so began my weekend.

Monday, May 21, 2007

My First Starbucks

I've missed too many days to try and play catch up with my blog. I have a couple posts as drafts and I'll try to finish them this weekend, but for now I'm just going to start writing about current stuff.

The entire time I've been in Dublin I've been looking for signs of globalization and americanization. What I've noticed so far is that there is a McDonald's and a Burger King (usually side by side) everywhere you turn. A McDonald's is even a 10 minute walk from my flat in my little and very irish suburb. A ten minute walk to feel American again. I have not yet felt this surge of homesickness and culture shock, probably because I don't eat fast food. Something to point out to my Tarantino fan friends, however, is that Ireland, a very european and metric system country, has quarter pounders with cheese vs. the famed myth of the Royale with cheese from Pulp Fiction. I'll investigate further when I go to France...if I ever find myself craving "chips" at 3 in the morning again.

So, although I've seen at least 5 or 6 McDonald's and Burger Kings in my confined explorations of the city, I noticed on Saturday that I had yet to see a Starbucks. It always seems like those would be much more prominent...and even across the street from other starbucks as the joke goes. While shopping at another globalized store, Aldi, on Saturday, my flatmate explained to me that Starbucks had only 2 years ago decided to invest in and sign contracts with Ireland. In fact, the first Irish Starbucks is on the College Campus near my flat.

Fear not, friends, though, because today I found my first in-the-flesh Starbucks. The myth was true, their watery chais and over-priced frappucinos had permeated Dublin culture. I will continue to see this Starbucks everyday on my way to work and continue to see capitalism and globalization at work. What a sight for sore, homesick eyes. :)

After being reassured by my first sighting of Starbucks, I was ready to start my first day at my "work placement" as they call it in Ireland. I am officially an editing and publishing intern for New Island/Brookside. New Island is one of the oldest and most successful irish publishing companies in part created by and now completely run by the jovial Edwin. They mostly market their books within Ireland and the UK, so many people from the U.S., including myself, have never heard of them. They publish a wide variety of titles and everything from start to finish in the publishing process is all done under one roof. Brookside is a sister company to New Island and shares its office space. Brookside is a book distributer that markets and distributes books for publishers including such names as New Island (der), Houton-Miffler, Cambridge University Press, and much more.

After my hour and a half commute to work, which is pretty normal for dublin standards, I arrived at the two story bungalow that houses both New Island and Brookside. The building is made entirely of brick and is very quaint and very Irish. To get to the door, I pushed the latch on an old, wrought-iron fence, and rang the doorbell. Upon entering, although I was on time, I was only the second person there. The irish have a notorious habit of being late to everything. Not because they are lazy, but because they take their time, enjoy life, and don't worry as much about schedules. They still get to work, they still get things done, but on a less stressful and more personal level.

I set up my workstation on an extra table that during my interview had been stacked almost to the ceiling with books upon books upon books. They had graciously been moved to the floor next to the table in order to make room for my workspace. My supervisor and I share the space, my table being about 3 feet away from his desk. The director of Brookside helped me get settled and made the both of us tea. When my supervisor, Mr. Darcy (I'm supposed to call him by his first name, and do to his face, but the opportunity to refer to someone as Mr. Darcy was too good to pass up), arrived, he and Conor began discussing their gripes about the current political status quo. Politics is a very hot subject in Ireland, especially with the elections for their new Prime Minister occurring this Thursday. According to the polls in the newspapers, Ahern, the current Prime Minister, and Bertie's Team will again hold office. This conversation, over tea and coffee in the cramped kitchen, involved much cursing and polite cursing. I'm still trying to get a hang of the play on language.

My first day went very smoothly. I think I owe it to the Starbucks sighting. I did some google hunting first. I then did some inventory in their hallway stacked with books upon books up to the ceiling, but somehow very organized, and then I learned about ISBNs. Read about them Here. and Here. I never knew something so small, on the barcode on the back of books could be so important to publishers. It was a topic of conversation throughout the day and will probably continue to be in the future.

In the afternoon we had a very long meeting about the redesign of the New Island website. I linked to it above. They are in the process of revamping the entire website, and once they found out I had some background in website design they took my opinion very seriously and even called me an "expert." IT skills can take you a long way in almost any field...go figure.

The commute home was very very long. I left work at 5 and got home at 7. I will need to explore better ways of getting home, especially with a laptop on my shoulder and walking for 30 mins. The best part of my commute home is I get to walk through the campus of Trinity College Dublin, an impressive and beautiful enclosed campus.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Kim, I Need Oxygen

My story begins before my actual arrival in Dublin, Ireland because I had quite a long, stressful, and rain-filled journey there.

On my way to the airport my friend Joanne called me to tell me that our flight was apt to be canceled due to the threat of thunderstorms and she had scheduled us both on an earlier flight. I had already left later than planned, so I began to get very stressed out. I called my dad and told him we would be unable to see him before we went to the airport, which made me sad. As I passed through security, I realized the earlier flight would make no difference. The flight kept getting delayed because it was en route from Chicago and flying through the crazy, windy storms there. After we finally got on the plane, the thunderstorms finally reached Detroit and we were stuck on the ground for 2 and a half hours. By the time we got to Chicago we had ten minutes to board our plane to London. After rushing to the London flight, we ended up having to sit on the runway again because of increased air traffic.

The flight was reasonably comfortable. I didn't sleep much, as usual. My dinner consisted of three pieces of lettuce, pot roast, mashed potatoes, peas that were still frozen, a roll, and a brownie for dessert. Everything tasted pretty much the same...spongy and flavorless. I had a convenient tv right on the seat in front of me so I wouldn't have to crane my neck and I could choose between 5 movies. Since it was midnight I chose a chick flick, so I wouldn't feel guilty about sleeping through it. I watched Because I Said So..., a movie I had planned to see at an earlier date but ended up getting in a car accident on the way to the theater. This time the movie was uninterrupted and entirely predictable. Mandy Moore is cute, though. My mom would have loved the movie, probably because Diane Keaton is in it and she says "because I said so" every five minutes.

After the movie, I tried to doze as best I could. All of a sudden I was awoken by screaming. I took off my headphones and looked around frightfully. I saw nothing out of ordinary, most people were sleeping. A flight attendant came on the p/a for the second time, urgently stating: "Is there a physician on board? I need a physician if there is a physician on board. [pause] Kim, I need oxygen." I was taken aback. I thought, is this for real? what's happening? I looked around and could still see nothing wrong, but there were no flight attendants in sight. Five minutes later, the pilot came on the p/a insisting on the earlier request for a physician. I started to panic because I freak out on planes in general, I don't need help from a medical incident. I put my headphones back on and tried to relax. I began to smell vomit and flight attendants were briskly walking throughout the cabin, not letting anyone get up from their seats due to a medical emergency. I stayed calm by playing red hot chili peppers and trying to air drum the songs.

The emergency must not have been all that perilous because after about an hour business went on as usual. I was served breakfast, of which I ate none (yogurt) and we landed at a god awful time in the morning eastern time. At this point, I was on my own for the rest of the journey, as I still had to catch a flight from London to Dublin. All I want to say about this point in my journey is that security restrictions in the UK are strange and really strict. The security guard unpacked everything in my carry on as Germans watched and discussed everything in my bag in german. At least there wasn't anything embarrassing in there.

The flight from London to Dublin is a short one flying from Detroit to Chicago. In this short hour I still managed to get a good nap and make friends with a sweet older British woman with a beautifully sophisticated accent. She sat down next to me and I got a waft of her scent...she smelled of baby powder and lavender soap; it was comforting. She commenced to read some smutty magazines (very popular over here, I know more about British pop stars plastic surgery and trips to the zoo than I ever wanted to) and a romance novel. She and her husband (who was sporting a tweed jacket!) were traveling to Ireland on Holiday and going on a 5 day tour of the countryside. She actually was also a professor of Medieval History at Trinity College (I didn't even know what it was when she talked about it...seems funny now). She told me a lot about Dublin and traveling and asked about my life in the U.S. It was a very pleasant plane ride.

We touched down in Dublin around 2:45 in the afternoon there. I finally arrived at my flat at 4 pm. Oh boy. What a trip.

The Vastness of the Individual

Welcome to my blog. My name is Molly and I am currently a student at MSU. I started this blog in preparation for my trip to Dublin, Ireland in the summer of 2007. I'm traveling to Dublin for an unpaid internship that I acquired through MSU's study abroad program.

I am going to try to update this blog with pictures, stories, poems, commentaries, reviews, anecdotes, dreams, etc as often as possible. Hopefully it will become something more than just a blog for my trip to Dublin and will transform into a space for me to express myself and for my friends and family to keep in touch with me.

This blog is open, so you do not need to be a Blogger member to leave a comment or view it. Feel free to leave me comments or drop me an email in order to keep in touch.


****This entry was created after my arrival in Dublin. The next couple entries will be separated as well according to day or topic, and although they are written on the same day they should be read first to last in order to hear about my trip from arrival until May 20th.