Monday, June 25, 2007

My second author spotting

So last week I got to experience one of the perks of publishing: actually getting a book out there and celebrating! Our company just came out with Irish author Alice Chambers' first book called We are Gold. The book is a humorous book about death and coping with loss (haven't read it yet). We had been talking it up around town for awhile and finally, last wednesday we released it to the world with a couple of good reviews in tote.

The actual Book Launch is usually put on by the publisher, but this one was different because a bookshop was doing the event. That meant that all we had to do was show up and look pretty, but the bookshop got all of the profits from the night. They had previously bought the books from us, though, so it's not like we were missing out on sales.

I arrived at the event and was given the task of taking photos for the website. The launch was in the upper level of a bookshop in downtown Dublin and it was completely packed with those invited to the event. The bookshop was serving free refreshments like orange juice and wine. A few people gave speeches including the editor of New Island, the author, and the author's college professor. It was short and sweet and all the books were sold! I was a bit bummed because I wanted to buy a book and have the author sign it, but I was promised I could get a signed copy later in the summer.

Afterwards the author invited us out for drinks with her family. They bought us rounds and we socialized and it was definitely the swankiest and most glamorous experience I've had in Dublin (or maybe ever), and the entire time I was wearing jeans...oops.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I'm a Modern Girl

Last week my friend Hasib came to visit me. I had just returned from Scotland and my cold/flu was finally subsiding. I was back to work with plenty to do. I was both relieved and sad to find out that the design of the website I had been toiling with the week before had been completed and completely changed in my two day absence. You can view the website Here. This is New Island's website, and they wanted me to do a redesign. Granted I am not a web designer, web author, or designer, but they thought I was fit for the job because I know photoshop pretty well. So I ended up making about a bazillion mockups, all under the critical eye of one employee or another, all to have my designs completely botched. To be fair, I didn't even like the designs they were having me do, but I was still a little irked when I found out my headaches and constant criticism were for nothing. C'est la vie in the workplace, though. Especially in a creative environment such as a publishing company.

So, with work back to being boring, I couldn't wait for Hasib to come and to actually go out and spend time in Dublin for the first time in three weeks. I was so excited for this weekend that I even decided it was finally time to get a haircut, after five months of abstaining from hairdressers. This ended up being a mistake because the cheapest haircut I could find was 45 euro. An interesting thing about Ireland, though, is that if you want to cut the price in half, you can opt out of the shampooing beforehand. I was not keen on this idea, though, and got the full on deal. I was ready for an awesome weekend.

Hasib got here on a Wednesday night. Since his flight was supposed to arrive at 7:30, I didn't think I could make it to the airport in time (yes, it does take me that long to get home!) I emailed him detailed instructions on how to get to the bus stop by my apartment, and then if we could not find each other, how to get to my apartment from there. I went to the bus stop at exactly the right time and began waiting for him. It was a normal Dublin night, if not a little on the warm side, and I enjoyed the fresh air (without rain!) Every time a bus drove by I jumped in excitement and nervousness. After four buses went by with no Hasib, I began to get worried. I began walking up and down the road, thinking I had missed him. By my calculations, he would have gotten on the bus at 8:45 and it was already 9:30. The bus ride is only about 20 minutes from the airport. Then, I got a call from an unknown number, I answered it hoping it was Hasib and it was! He had somehow managed to miss me entirely and get to my apartment. I galloped the usual ten-minute walk home and got back to a very travel worn but alive Hasib. We embraced and I served him a whopping plate of spaghetti I had earlier prepared for him. For the first half hour we could not shut our mouths, trying to vomit out all of our adventures at each other. My flatmates were amused by our rushed excitement and longing for a familiar face. I wasted no time in introducing Hasib to Irish culture. That night I had planned on a bunch of people going out to a local pub. Since all of us had to work the next day, we stayed near the complex and went to a very Irish and very old man pub. I straightaway ordered Hasib a can you go to Ireland and not have a Guinness at least once? The night was very laid back and everyone chatted like old friends. We got a little tipsy and returned home by midnight to get a good night's sleep.

Since I had to work the next day, my flatmate and I gave Hasib a crash course in navigating Dublin. He would be on his own in the city until 5 pm on Thursday until I could collect him at a well-known meeting spot. The next day I could hardly concentrate at work. I was worried about Hasib, I was excited for the evening's plans, and I was excited for what I would get to do at work later that day. One of my jobs is working for Brookside, which is a book distributor. One of the jobs for Michael, my supervisor, is going around to bookshops in Ireland and trying to sell them books straight from the publisher, mainly academic books. On Thursday, Michael was finally bringing me along to one of these meetings. So, I not only got to get out of the office and into the city but I got to learn about what Michael does when he’s not in the office. Although I highly doubt I will ever become a Book Representative, it was interesting to see Michael trying to sell to bookshops. He brings a big folder full of book descriptions and he and the buyer go through the entire thing and Michael explains the book to the buyer at the store and the buyer will then decide whether or not to buy it. What the buyer has to keep in mind is if there is an audience for the book, how many books to purchase, how much room the bookshop has to store the books, etc. After going to two bookshops, one visit successful and the other visit completely unsuccessful (the buyer forgot about the meeting and left the shop) Michael and I got some tea at a cafĂ©. At 5, I headed out to meet Hasib.

After finding an excitable and slightly wet Hasib at Trinity College (it was, of course, raining), we purchased Hasib a bus pass and headed back to my apartment to eat dinner. For Thursday night, I had planned on taking Hasib to go see a live band at a bar. After much deliberation within the group planning on going and after Hasib and I had listened to a lot of horrible home-recordings on Myspace, we decided to go see The Bionic Rats in Temple Bar. You can listen to some of their songs by clicking the link. They are a reggae/ska band. We all met at my friend’s apartment before leaving. One of our friends ended up having a family emergency right before leaving, so our group was split in two and only 6 of us ended up going out. Two of the people were two new EUSA girls from Kansas University. After doing a little bar hopping, we finally ended up at the Bionic Rats show. The music was absolutely perfect. Their sound was amazing and just what we were looking for that night. Hasib, Dave and I all started skanking away (click on the link…it’s hilarious) the night. The two girls that came out were equally as fun and we had a very chill night of dancing.

The next day Hasib and I decided that the one touristy thing we’d really like to do together would be to go and see the Irish Museum of Modern Art: IMMA. Dave decided to come along on our journey and we headed out around 1 pm to try and find the Museum. Since the museum is in a part of town none of us had been to before and we were relying on my map that doesn’t give street names, we obviously got lost. The museum is in a pretty sketchy part of town so we began to get nervous. We were walking down alleyways (due to poor directions from a man in a home improvement store) and past flats with broken glass windows and loud rap music. The people we would pass on the street would stop and stare at us, asking with their eyes “what are you doing here” and we would scurry by trying not to make eye contact. What was odd was that in this very poor neighborhood we walked by an advertisement for a 100 euro Justin Timberlake concert.

We finally found our way to the Museum. It was between 3:30 and 4 by the time we actually got there. The building was very impressive; it was tall and made of large white cement or stone bricks. We started walking in and were stopped in our tracks upon seeing what lay in the courtyard. The cobblestones of the courtyard were scattered with a very unique sculpture garden. Some of the sculptors I recognized because Modern Sculpture is probably my favorite art form. Here are some pictures from walking around the courtyard.

Once inside, we had about an hour before the museum closed. Unfortunately one wing of the museum was closed and we only got to see one exhibit. It was still awesome, though, because the exhibit was almost entirely video installations. We would sit in very dark rooms and watch a ten-minute art piece and then move on to the next room. I unfortunately couldn’t take pictures in the museum, but the memories are awesome and I plan to go back with my journal. Oh, and after leaving, we found this cutie:

After the museum we found our way back to the city centre and did some touristy shopping. As is now customary with Dave and I, we went and got some shwarma…that’s how we do.

Then, we were off to the apartment to begin a crazy night that didn’t end for me until 6:30 am the next day.

I went to Edinburgh..and it rained

I went to Edinburgh, Scotland from June 8-10. I saw a lot of MSU kids there randomly on other trips. Can't escape your small world, you know? Still don't know if Nessy exists, but I have hopes to one day ride her.

Here are some pictures from that trip. Cheers.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Ireland's Sick.

This week has been significantly less eventful than the past two weeks. Last weekend was a bank holiday, so I had a four day weekend. My flatmate and I decided to hop a plane to Belgium and visit the cities Amsterdam in the Netherlands and Brussels in Belgium. I'm in the process of gathering pictures and writing a post about this weekend. It will appear before this post, so have a look either tomorrow or next week.

Because I had such an exciting and spontaneous weekend, I sort of ran myself ragged. I developed a cough when I got back and today I woke up with a mad fever. I could not picture myself on a two hour commute with this fever and I had no cough or cold medicine. I wrote an email to my supervisors saying I was ill and spent the entire day in bed. Well, not the entire day. I got bored of sleeping around 2 and rearranged all the furniture in the house. I also walked to the chemist and got some sweet medicine. This stuff is amazing, I wish they had it in the states.

This weekend I will be going to Edinburgh. Hopefully, I will feel better in the morning. I don't want to spend another day rearranging furniture and watching Friends DVDs. I mean, I'm in Ireland, i can do that any day at home :)


Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Following My Feet To The Mainland

I'm lucky I can open the door and I can walk down the street
I'm lucky I got no place to go so I just follow my feet

--Belle & Sebastian

I thought this quote was a good introduction to a post about a very amazing weekend I had a couple weeks ago when I traveled to Amsterdam, Holland and Brussels, Belgium. Usually when I go on trips they are meticulously planned out, research is done, and I know exactly which sites I want to see which day and how much I can fit in. I think I inherited this planning gene from my dad, who always brings a binder full of itinerary and information when he goes on trips.

I guess my trip to Ireland has been a kind of spur of the moment trip in itself, but there was a certain amount of planning required in order to come. Two weekends ago, Ireland had a Bank Holiday, which is treated much like Memorial Day, not in the intended connotation but the subsequent connotations of traveling, barbeques, and a long weekend. Since our internships do not require us to work on Fridays, this weekend gave us four days off. I had originally planned on going to Belfast, which is the capital of Northern Ireland with a couple girls I had met here. While sitting around the Tuesday night before the Bank Holiday, my flatmate Dave suggested we take a bigger trip...say to...Spain? About 5 people jumped on this idea and we started looking for cheap flights to the mainland.

To make a long story short...we found a ridiculously cheap flight to Brussels, Belgium. Dave then discovered that we could take a train and visit Amsterdam as well. Since it was so spur of the moment, Dave and I were the only ones to actually jump on and book the trip. This was two nights before we were due to leave.

Two days later, before the crack of dawn at exactly 4 am, I was whisked away on a crazy journey to countries of which I knew nothing besides the fact that they were party towns and English was not their primary language. To say the least, I was nervous.

That's what I love about living in Europe. I can do totally spur of the moment things like go to a foreign country and be there in 3 hours.

We got to Brussels at 7 am and found a train that left for the Netherlands. We boarded our train after making a friend in a young man named James who was traveling to Amsterdam from Galway, Ireland. We thought all was good. About an hour and a half into our TGV (translation: very fast train) journey a man came by to check our tickets. He spent a minute looking at them funny and then told us we were on the wrong train and we would have to get off at the next stop. We couldn't believe it...we were somewhere in the Netherlands with no map and we had just been kicked off a train. Somehow, we found our way to the correct train and 3 hours later we arrived in Amsterdam.

My first impression of the city was that it was a complete circus. You've heard the rumor about Amsterdam: anything goes. Well, to an extent it's true, but the rumors does not do this beautiful city justice. Here is a picture I managed to capture that includes everything that is a stereotype of Amsterdam/Holland.

We arrived in Amsterdam for a two day stay with no real plans besides our hostel reservations. Friday night we just wandered and wandered and wandered. I think we lapped the entire city at least twice and saw everything. Amsterdam is just inland from the North Sea and is situated on a series of tributaries and rivers leading up to the Sea. Because of this, the city is basically on a bunch of little islands connected by bridges. It is called the Venice of the North, and boy, it really is. Here is a picture of a canal near our first hostel.

The first night we didn't do much since we had gotten up so early. We ended up crashing around ten, falling asleep to Alien 3 with dutch subtitles.

Saturday we got up and decided the one thing we really wanted to do while in Amsterdam was visit the Van Gogh Museum. We did some more wandering and did some eating of yummy food in outdoor cafes until we finally found it. The exhibit was amazing, it had some really cool Van Goghs including his famous sunflowers, self-portraits, and his bedroom where there is two of everything. Van Gogh is definitely one of my favorite impressionists/post-impressionists. Too bad he had severe depression and epilepsy and ended up killing himself in his prime.

The entire time in Amsterdam besides museum hopping and wandering was consumed by meeting an array of very interesting travelers. One night we met some flamboyantly gay Spaniards who taught us in very broken english and a very cute lipsed spanish about "coffee shops." Another night we joined two haphazard friends and travelers at an outdoor bar, one from Switzerland and one from Russia. We talked about things to do in Amsterdam and where the two had traveled before this trip. The Swiss guy took our email addresses and promised to keep in touch because he loved making international contacts. The Russian guy was very stoic and had a look on his face that looked slightly vampiric. He liked electronica music. On Saturday night we met up with James from Galway (as he is known from here on out) and some of his local friends and they take us on a whirlwind tour of the clubs in Amsterdam. The downside of all of this is that the nightlife in Amsterdam does not start until well after midnight and we did not get home on Saturday until 5:30 in the morning.

The one thing I hated about this city: the redlight district. Remind me to write a post about legal vs. illegal prostitution in the future. Either way, it is a total meat market and heterosexual male-targeted industry. It disgusted me, and the worst thing is that it was more of a tourist trap than an actual redlight district. I saw children walking past the hookers in the windows with their tourism-obsessed parents who were probably blazing up behind their children's backs. Sick.

After we grew tired of our spontaneous adventures in Holland, we packed up our things and turned our gaze to Belgium. This train ride was significantly easier to figure out and we were not kicked off at any point. We made it to Belgium in three hours and arrived at around 4 pm. In calculating our trip, we had not considered that a Sunday night would not be a good night to experience a new city. The city, in parts, was completely dead. We did manage to have a good time, though. Brussels is a beautiful city with an incredible variety of things to do, unlike Amsterdam. We hopped on a bus tour because it was one of the few things open and we wanted to get to know the city without walking. After our bus tour, we asked ourselves, what is there to do in Belgium? The answer? Eat belgian waffles.

After the delicious waffles and too much sugar and chocolate, we stumbled on what Victor Hugo called the most beautiful square in the world. And I'd have to agree. The buildings were even covered in gold. It took my breath away and we spent much of the night marveling at the architecture.

We spent the rest of the night bar hopping and talking to locals. The next morning, we managed to get to the airport after some more random and crazy adventures.

The highlights of my trip: the spontaneity of the entire thing and speaking french
I learned so much about myself from just getting out there and living life. A rich life is built on the experiences you create for yourself and this weekend will be a gem that sticks out in my mind for years to come.

The downsides of my trip: realizing when you have had a little too much alcohol that you don't remember where you live and you are in a city where no one speaks english, the dirtiness, realizing after the fact that you drained your entire bank account...

Hope everyone back home is well,

Monday, June 4, 2007

My Wild Weekend

I'm finally going to post some pics from the last weekend in May. On Saturday, we took a tour of the Wicklow Mountains (read about them Here) called the Wild Wicklow Tour. And boy was in wild...and stunningly gorgeous.

We first went to the Dublin Bay, where we could see the ocean.

Then we went to the mountains.

Nestled in the mountains were some ruins of a church. The spot was called Glendalough and it was breathtakingly haunting. It would have been perfect if it weren't such a tourist trap.

That's it for now!