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September 27, 2009 in dublin, Ex-Patriate Games, spazarific

Amid the whirl of graduate school applications, international moves, apartment hunting and just plain ol’ adjusting to my third international move in as many years, it has failed to hit me until just recently that I am going to be a student again. As such, I must register at school and pose for a Student ID card. My student ID card affords me loads of glorious, glorious discounts – meals, bank accounts, internet service, bus tickets, even haicuts. All discounted, all for me with a magic wave of my card.  After 7 years in the “real world,” I’m really and truly a student again. It’s an odd realization, but not an unpleasant one.

There are surprises around every turn, and I haven’t even begun school yet. For example, I walked through the leaf-shaded campus the other day and stumbled into a student society fair. A band played, jugglers juggled, and a variety of free goodies were being offered at the maze of booths: a bottle of free dishsoap to pay dues for the Drama Club, a somewhat fresh brownie with each Hurling Club membership. Yet another thing I’d forgotten about student life: clubs. One more? Spastic teenagers bursting free from home for the first time. The things you forget in 7 years of letting your brain turn to cheese. Yoga was the group I wanted to join, but in trying to find that booth, I wound up joining the Literary Society as well as the Japanese Club. Apparently, I can get a semester’s worth of classes for 15 euro – unimaginable in Japan. And, yes, I would love a free cup of ocha with that. Mochiron ya.

There are professors, department heads, and fellow students to meet. Soon, I will sit in lectures and bare my vulnerable soul in 3-hour long writing workshops.  I’ll wear blazers, lounge in places where I don’t belong, and kick leaves out of my path as I cross campus on my way to class. My first official day of school is tomorrow but instead of worrying about the aforementioned potentially soul-gutting workshops, I wonder if everyone will take notes on a laptop, if I’ll be the only American there. I also wonder if graduate students are supposed to care about what they wear on the first day. I certainly never cared when I was an undergrad – far bigger a concern was actually getting out of bed in the morning. But things are different this time around.

Whack For My Daddy-O

September 23, 2009 in dublin, Ex-Patriate Games, Ireland, My Funny Irish Friend

Sean has gone down home to Cork today which means I’m free – free! – for the next 24 hours to window shop and snap photos like a tourist. I can troll the Rimmel section at Boots, try on hats at Topshop, browse issues of Glamour UK at Waterstones, and pose next to Molly Malone all I like!! Yippee!! Sorry, Sean, but there are just some things you can’t do with a man around.

The drugstores sell Maybelline and L’Oreal, but not Cover Girl. There is a Boots brand of cosmetics.  Spray-on deodorants appear to be very popular for women as well as for men. I can’t afford any of the lovely clothes or shoes I’m seeing until I find a way to get paid in Euro and it is almost impossible to get a clear picture of Molly Malone since so many people pass by her on the street or plunk themselves at her feet. And all the poor girl wants to do is sell her cockles and mussles, alive alive-o. Give a working girl a chance! ‘Tis a busy life, sweet Molly Malone. Ah, that it is.


We moved in to our new apartment last night. After Sean left for the train station, I began the day by coordinating maintenance men as they fixed and re-fixed the toilet, then plastered up a hole in the wall.

“Welcome to Ireland,” said Sean last night as we discovered the non-flushing toilet and the hole. “Typical Irish standards. Cowboys, the lot of them!”

Regardless, it is a lovely apartment in a lovely brick Victorian Dublin house with white spiral staircases – flooded with light, cozy, and beautifully furnished. A lovely apartment in a lovely house on a lovely street.

Street signs are always written in both English and Irish.  Cars are always cute.


There are trees lining the street and gardens inside the wire fences.


After a day of trolling the college campus and searching for a Mac store – unless any of you know how to reset the password on my computer so I can install broadband – I’m in an internet cafe on Grafton Street. Grafton Street is lined with red bricks, forming a pedestrianized gallery of shops and restaurants stretching from the famous Molly Malone statue to the lush St. Stephen’s Green. When I first arrived in Dublin, the luxurious foliage in St. Stephen’s was all bright Irish green. It has become increasingly blanketed by yellow and red leaves as fall begins.

There is a busker playing Thin Lizzy’s “Whiskey in the Jar” down on the street as I type – a far more welcome companion to my money guzzling internet cafe hour than cigarette smoke and pervy teenage boys reading manga porn. It’s a song I’d never heard until a week ago, when Sean played it for me on his uncle’s stereo. He couldn’t believe I’d never heard it before and neither could I.

Hunched over, my shoulders hurt after a day of dragging my laptop in search of Dublin’s Mac store but I’m happy dreaming of dinner and Rimmel lipstick and the brick houses on the street where I live.

While on the Subject of Children’s Games ….

September 22, 2009 in Ex-Patriate Games, My Funny Irish Friend

Sean is a karate MASTER which means that his biceps are big and fat. This makes them very nice to punch during a spontaneous game of Punch Buggy when a Volkswagen Beetle passes us outside of The National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology.

Sean: Hey! Why did you hit me?

Liv: Punch buggy black – no punch backs!

Sean: It’s not fair that you hit me for no reason.

Liv: There was a reason – punch buggy!

Sean: I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Liv: Punch Buggy! Punch Buggy! Don’t you know the game?

Sean: No. I can’t believe you hit me.

Liv: But … Punch Buggy! Every time a Volkswagen Beetle passes you’re allowed to hit the person next to you as long as you call it first and say what color the car was. It’s like jinx, but with punching!

Sean: If you hit me, I can hit you back, so!

Liv: You can’t! That’s why I said “no punch backs!” It’s part of the game’s sheer brilliance.

Sean: You’re so mean to me.

Your 102-Word Mini Irish Culture Lesson

September 19, 2009 in dublin, Ireland, Mini Irish Culture Lesson

When someone says these words:

Silence in the courtyard, silence in the street
The biggest fool in Ireland is just about to speak
Speak, fool, speak!

… you say nothing, because the “Silence in the Courtyard” game has begun. You are to stay perfectly quiet and if you speak, you are “out.”

Tonight, the biggest fool in Ireland is an American and that American fool is me. When Sean’s little cousin Connor spoke those words at dinner, I thought he was reciting a lovely poem. Before I could figure out why a 5 year-old would have any kind of poetry memorized, I was “out.” Fool me once, Connor.

What Stinks?

September 18, 2009 in "Teaching" English, dublin, Ex-Patriate Games, I'm Learning Japanese ... I Really Think So, Ireland, My Funny Irish Friend

The great thing about apartment hunting with Sean is that we can discuss our thoughts in the relative privacy of the Japanese language. For obvious reasons, this wouldn’t have worked in Japan. And, sure, it could drastically backfire against us. 例えば:

Realtor: And here you have the kitchen. Mind you, it’s part of the living room which is part of the bathroom but that just makes the whole flat that much easier to clean! And yes, it’s a bit far from City Centre and grocery shops and pubs but at least it’s nice and quiet!

Liv: Ah, yes. I see. [to Sean] このビルは気持ち悪いや。なんで臭い?

Sean: そやな?

Realtor: All right, that’s enough, you wankers. No, it wouldn’t be the nicest building and something smells like three day-old fish, sure. But this is the kind of flat you can afford so 黙れ。

Liv and Sean: ….

Realtor: 何見ているか。You’re not the only two people in Ireland who spent two years teaching English at an eikaiwa, like!

So far, so good.

Your 465-Word Mini Irish Culture Lesson

September 15, 2009 in Ex-Patriate Games, Mini Irish Culture Lesson, My Funny Irish Friend, spazarific

Hurling and Gaelic Football are Ireland’s national sports. This suits me just fine, as it means I don’t have to hear a word about basketball, baseball, or American football aside from when my friends back home update their Facebook statuses. Thank you, Expatriate Life, for catering to my lifelong guilt about being totally uninterested in my country’s national pastimes. I’m a bookworm – what do you want from me? Let me shrivel up in my room in peace.

As a foreigner, I have an excellent excuse not to know or care about Irish sports. Perversely, that almost makes me more interested in them. Chalk it up to that bookworm thing again; I love learning new things and without constant pressure from my fellow countrymen to care lest I be considered weird, it’s game on.

Gaelic Football – referred to as “Football,” “Gaelic,” and “Gah” – is thought to have evolved from an ancient Irish ball game called caid. It is played by teams of 15 on a rectangular grass field with H-shaped goals at the end. Players compete to get the round, leather balls through the goals. Highest score wins. To me, this sounds a lot like American Football apart from the shape of the ball, but Sean insists that it’s nothing like bloody American Football. For one, the ball is in continuous play. For two, the players don’t wear protective padding or helmets. Gah, Sean says, is more like soccer, except players can carry the ball.

Image from Wikipedia.

Hurling is Ireland’s other great sport. Before you assume that it’s a disgusting contest played after a great night down the pub, I will explain: Hurling is much like field hockey or lacross – the object is for 15-player teams to get a ball (sliotar) through their respective goals by using a wooden stick (hurley ) to move the ball down a large, rectangular grass field.

File:Hurling sport - Taking a swing.jpg

Image from Wikipedia.

A shot scored over the goalpost’s crossbar earns one point and a goal under the crossbar earns three. Hurling is thought to be one of the world’s fastest team sports, but no protective padding is worn by the players although a plastic helmet/faceguard is recommended. The female version of Hurling is called Camogie . I move to call girl Hurlers “Ghurlers” but no one I’ve suggested it to seems to think this is clever.

Whether or not they’re on official teams, all children play Hurling and Gaelic Football in school. Though Sean is a karate MASTER who enjoys the mayhem of the World Cup, team sports are only the faintest blip on his radar. His mother once told me that when Sean was made to play Gaelic Football as a child, he ran down the field with all his might … away from the other players. That’s just one of the many reasons we’re super friends.

Hi Diddly Dee

September 14, 2009 in My Funny Irish Friend, spazarific

Sean: So next *** *** *** *** *** *** river *** **** basket *** *** Ribena?

Liv: … pardon?

Sean: I said **** **** racket *** *** Marlena, like.

Liv: … what?

Sean: “Hi diddly dee, ho diddly dum, ho ho ho, tra la tra lee tra la!” That’s all you hear when I talk, isn’t it?!

Lost in Conkers

September 14, 2009 in dublin, Ex-Patriate Games

Here over a week now in Ireland. Cups of tea sipped: 50. Rambler Bus Passes bought: 2. Trips into City Centre: 8. Excited peeks at the Christminster campus: 2. Signs seen hysterically manipulating Irish citizens to vote Yes or No on the Lisbon Treaty: countless.

Apartments viewed: 7. Apartments found: 0.

It’s an unsettled time, even if we are exceedingly comfortable while we wait for our new lives to begin. We’re staying in a large, lovely house in an outlying suburb of Dublin with Sean’s aunt, uncle, 3 adorable cousins and their big, sheep-colored dog. It is a beautiful green neighborhood dotted with stately red brick homes. There is a massive park down the road, lined with giant trees and filled with unfamiliar black, white, and blue birds.

Sean and I sometimes take walks through the park after slogging back from fruitless apartment viewings. One day, he showed me a litter of large, cracked spiny green nutshells strewn in the grass. He calls them conkers, says they’re instrumental in the classic Irish children’s game of the same name. Step One: find a whole conker, pierce a hole through it, thread a string through the hole to create a kind of sling shot. Weapon: complete. Step Next: find another kid with another conker sling shot and begin the battle. Fight: whip your string and crack conkers. First one who cracks the other’s conker wins.

Sean’s cousins are little; 10, 8, and 5. They are bundled off to school in the morning and return each afternoon in their standard issue school uniforms, bursting with energy. Every so often, Sean casually reaches over and picks the littlest cousin up by his feet so that he dangles upside down like a hock of prosciutto. This was also Sean’s M.O. when he taught children English in Japan. It is a bit unusual to see him do it to a child whose parents haven’t paid for the privilege.

The children are each allowed an ice cream treat after dinner. I know what a Cornetto is but I’ve never heard of Loop the Loops, Brunches, or Icebergers. Patiently, Sean’s young cousins tell me just what I missed during my dark American upbringing.

This is a Loop the Loop bar:

And this is a Brunch bar:

But an Iceberger is:

Yep. An ice cream sandwich. Please note, the above image is not of an actual HB brand Iceberger. It is, apparently, impossible to find an image of one on the internet. I’d have taken a picture of the one I enjoyed last night but it didn’t last a minute in my hot little hands.

The house is quiet now; the kids have been put to bed and Sean and I are back at the apartment hunt. Perhaps this week the perfect apartment will be ours: affordable, light-filled, close-ish to Christminster, and mold-free.

American English to Irish English Dictionary: Part I

September 11, 2009 in Ex-Patriate Games, Ireland

American English: Don’t you go in there!

Irish English: You’re not to go in there!


American English: Do you want me to call the realtors?

Irish English: Will I ring the lettings agent?


American English: He just graduated from college.

Irish English: He’s just after graduating from university.


American English: Have a nice day!

Irish English: Good luck to ya.


American English: Thanks, man! That’s awesome!

Irish English: Grand. Cheers.


American English: Can I get you anything? No? Okay.

Irish English: Would you like some tea? Oh, go on. Go on, have a cup. Have a cup now. Have some tea. Go on. Go on, sure.

The Train Ride to Dublin … More or Less

September 8, 2009 in Ireland, Looking