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Cadbury Creme Egg on My Face

March 31, 2010 in Ex-Patriate Games, WanderFood

Chocolatey, creamy, luscious: the Cadbury Creme Egg. Available in the United States for a only precious few weeks each pre-Easter season; gone as soon as the last church volunteer peels off his bunny suit. Wrapped in shiny red, yellow, and purple foil. Nibble off the top to reveal the sugary sweet creme inside; die of happiness. In the States, Cadbury Creme Egg commercials feature a plush white rabbit who clucks like a chicken but, thankfully, the egg laying is only implied. These little creme bombs are my very favorite chocolate confection, second only to Kinder Surprise eggs; the latter moving down the list a notch because their toys – once challenging 3-D puzzles of Disney characters – have worsened to stupid-arse stickers or toys a drunk penguin could put together. But Cadbury Creme Eggs? I clucking love them.

Amazeballs alert: In Ireland, Cadbury Creme Eggs are available from January to Easter. That’s 3, sometimes 4 whole months of Cadbury Creme Eggs; full-size and mini, spilling over store displays in every Spar, Centra, and Tesco. Picture my face upon learning this news. Now ask yourself, what happens when an already Cadbury Creme Egg-obsessed Yank has access to her very favorite precious chocolate jewels for 4 whole months? There’s my face again, covered in chocolate like a 3 year-old’s. Somehow, Cadbury Creme Eggs seem to magically leap into my shopping bag each time I head to the store. And just how many Cadbury Creme Eggs can said Cadbury Creme Egg-obsessed Yank eat in 4 months without getting sick of them? Hundreds, I tell you. Hundreds.

This post has been brought to you by WanderFood Wednesday.

St. Quinlan’s

March 28, 2010 in dublin

I live around the corner from St. Quinlan’s music school — a massive Georgian building guarded by a blue vault-shaped wooden door. St. Quinlan’s prohibits the chewing of gum on the premises; is holding a Spring Recital in early May; is taking donations for said recital’s refreshments. There are black wrought iron fittings on the big blue door, like hinges on a pirate chest.

Students are usually on the sidewalk when I pass by. They’re lifting their instrument cases like weights, pushing each other on and off the cement steps, flagging down one of the neighborhood’s many stray cats, calling each other bollocks and wanker. As they giggle, the screeches of tortured violins and flutes float from the windows – the “Ode to Joy” becomes a “Plea for Silence.”

And then, every so often, the music teachers have an epiphany and somehow, the kids get it right. Child-sized instruments up, little fingers ready, and Jesus Christ Superstar follows me home.

Stats Relative

March 26, 2010 in Ex-Patriate Games

Weight

The US: 95 lbs

Japan: 43.2 kg

Ireland: 6 stone 11 lbs

Height

The US: 4’11″

Japan: 149.9 cm

Ireland: 4’11″

Shoe size:

The US: 5

Japan: 22

Ireland: 3

Pants size:

The US: 2

Japan: Large (!)

Ireland: 8

Ethnicity:

The US: Biracial; Hispanic and Italian

Japan: Foreigner

Ireland: American

Guatemala: American

Italy: Italian citizen, but still American

The Color of the Sky:

The US: Blue

Japan: Blue

Ireland: Blue

Lunch at Temple Bar

March 24, 2010 in dublin, Ex-Patriate Games, Looking, Oishii

Audrey Hepburn I ain’t, 5th Avenue this isn’t. It’s Temple Bar; once Dublin’s Jewish ghetto and now a nightlife/tourist hub extraordinaire. At noon on a damp, rainy day there are less tourists than there are commuters. The cobblestone streets are slick, shining softly under the overcast sky. Objective: to enjoy some lunch in the scenic neighborhood; have had pasties on the brain all through my morning workshop.

Hanley’s Cornish Pasties located on Merchant’s Arch; Celtic heritage bakers since 1860. Today’s lunch is a “traditional” pasty – savoury crust, tender hunks of beef, juicy carrots, earthy parsnips and potatoes.


*chomp*

Steaming hot pocket of joy.

Chomp away while staring down narrow stone lanes, pubs named after Hanoverian-era writers, and 5 euro lunch menus for future reference. Watch my reflection in smudged windows; look at pretty things I can’t afford.

This post has been brought to you by WanderFood Wednesday.


Two Women, One Bus

March 23, 2010 in dublin

On the 15A into City Centre, two women are sitting together, chatting gaily. It’s a sunny day. The bus bumps over the Grand Canal, heads up Aungier Street, makes a right on Harcourt Road past The Bleeding Horse pub.

Woman 1: … and then she took them down to Disneyworld in Florida, you know. Sure, they had a good time. But, you know, it’s all so different nowadays. I think our generation was best, I really do.

Woman 2: Dublin’s changed so very much.

Woman 1: Ah, it has. I was one of 11 children, you know. I was always given hand-me-down clothes and it never did me any harm.

Woman 2: To be sure it didn’t.

Woman 1: Seven girls, four boys.

Woman 2: Gracious.

Woman 1: I can’t remember any of us getting individual attention, but it didn’t do us any harm, you know what I mean?

Woman 2: I do. That’s a big family, a-right.

Woman 1: That it was. And we were so frugal; so very frugal. It was great.

The bus slows to a stop on Dawson Street.

Woman 2: Ah, that’ll be me.

Woman 1: Is it?

The woman getting off stands up; turns.

Woman 2: It was very nice to have met you. What’s your name now?

Woman 1: Sinéad.

Woman 2: Is it? Gracious! I’m Sinéad, too.

Sinéad: Take care now.

Sinéad: Thanks a million.

The bus doors swing shut; the bus heads towards Nassau Street.

Green Clovers, Yellow Gardaí, Blue Balloons, Orange Wigs, and a Heck of a Lot of Black Stout

March 18, 2010 in dublin, Ex-Patriate Games, Holidays

Hundreds and hundreds of years ago, there was a dude. He was a British dude. That British dude was captured by Irish bandits when he was a young man, so he spent a long time in Ireland. After his years of enslavement were over, he left and then returned to the Emerald Isle. That delicious colcannon – it brings everyone back. He eventually became a bishop. As bishop, he converted a lot of heathens, using a shamrock as his visual aid to explain the Trinity.

The bishop died. Then he became a saint. Then millions of Irish people were named after him. Then the Irish government sanctioned a religious holiday in his name. Then the holiday became secular. And now I’m smashed between hundreds of people on Dame Street, my eardrums long punctured by ceaseless whistle blasts, waiting for the Dublin St. Patrick’s Day Parade to begin. People are shoving, trying to get a better look at the street, even though we’ve been waiting for a couple of hours and nothing has happened yet.

It’s a Bank Holiday, and there’s a joyous buzz in the air; students off from school, workers off from the office, hugging and drinking and storming the blocked off streets. There are Gardaí everywhere, and paramedics, too. Irish flags wave every few feet.  The good folks from Suas are stationed on every corner, armed with green paint and collection buckets – a shamrock on the cheek for charity.

The parade is taking a while to start, so I people watch, admiring the costumes. Four leaf clover and Irish flag face paint; Irish flag striped clown wigs; green jester hats; shamrock antlers; Irish color feather boas. Hot items: green leprechaun hats with long red leprechaun beards or horned Dublin Viking helmets. Not a “kiss me, I’m Irish” pin in sight. Instead:

I have a decent vantage point near the Olympia, but some other paradegoers across the street hoist themselves up on high window ledges to get a better view.

The parade begins, in a whoop of drums, bagpipes, and dance music:

The last float rolls past at around 2:30, and I head towards Merrion Square, to the St. Patrick’s Day Fair. It is my wish to ride the Ferris Wheel and look all down at the city but the line and the crowds are so profuse I bail, head instead to Temple Bar. The streets of City Centre are still clear, apart from the street sweepers, and I notice several crushed beer bottles on the sidewalk, outside Trinity College.

Crossing empty Dame Street, I spy a trio of boys huddled near a corner. One of them has draped himself in an Irish flag. They make a nice triptych so I take out my camera. As I do, I notice that one of them has his lad out, urinating against a wall. He notices me with my camera before I notice he’s got the bishop in hand, and he waves it at me – a limp salute. I do not take a picture.

In Temple Bar, the earlier joy has given way to complete madness. The crowds are loitering on the streets, streaming in and out of the pubs. Viking helmets bob above the crowd, and orange-faced teenage girls grasp each other: “I love you. I really, really love you.”  Intermittently, loud, unidentified bangs explode and the crowd cheers. Signs advertise Cottage Pie for 2 euro, and Irish mussels, too. I see another man urinating against a corner, again in broad daylight. More smashed bottles, crushed between cobblestones. It’s worth noting that the majority of the revelers are tourists, screaming, clicking photos, and fisting beers. I note, too, that none of this beer is green.

Later, near midnight, I’m in Slattery’s Pub. There’s an Ireland-Wales rugby match on the TV, which nobody seems to be watching. The last call lights blink, and the crowd groans. I’m drinking a Guinness for all of my friends back home who have “St. Patty’s Day in Dublin” on their bucket lists, but I’d rather be eating a heaping plate of corned beef and cabbage. And then I remember that I live in Ireland and can have corned beef and cabbage any ol’ time I want.

Is There Life on Mars?

March 15, 2010 in Ex-Patriate Games, Holidays, Ireland

It’s chilly but sunny on 3/10; the day I turn 30 years old, an age that once seemed as distant as Mars. But here it is, all up in my grill, and after a year of dithering about the looming decade, I’m pleased to see that I haven’t vanished in a puff of smoke and there is indeed life after 30 after all.

We’re driving through The Burren in Co. Clare and the landscape is surreal – rolling hills covered with a baffling mosaic of ashen grey rocks. Tufts of grass poke through at intervals, like fists clawing for air. It’s an alien world, a black-and-white photo of the red planet; a bizarre stepping stone to our destination. The year I turned 29, I created a new birthday tradition – taking inspiring day-trips. Last year, I soaked in an onsen, blanketed by sakura. This year, I climb the Cliffs of Moher.

The cliffs are jagged, corrugated by rough strata, unperturbed by the blue waves crashing at their base, hundreds of meters below. Joy, Diego, and I climb over the sign that reads: “Please do not go beyond this point” and join the other idiots daredevils marching along the edges of the cliffs, ignoring the sheer death drop below. A salty breeze ruffles my hair and all around the air is pure. I stand at the edge and look forward; not at what I don’t have, but what I do, and what I have done.

At age 30, I have – so far – lived in four countries and traveled to 20.

I’ve spoken four languages.

I’ve loved and been loved; maybe more than I deserved.

I’ve sky-dived; climbed an active volcano; dangled over cliffs; white-water rafted; rowed; spelunked; hiked through Thai and Guatemalan jungles; ridden horses; sailed; flown; been attacked by a dog.

I’ve rejected everything I was born into; reached for dreams I made myself.

I’ve achieved two life goals; finally reaching now for the remaining two.

I’ve moved – twice – to places where I knew no one.

I’ve cheated medical odds.

I’ve never smoked a cigarette.

I’ve stood, naked, at an onsen, underneath frosty white cherry blossom trees.

I’ve had Jägermeister thrown in my eye.

I’ve renovated a studio.

I’ve juggled five jobs to pay the rent.

I’ve been pickpocketed and robbed.

I’ve made mistakes.

I’ve done things that scared me.

I’ve used my English degree.

To the future.

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s Off To the Cave We Go

March 14, 2010 in Ex-Patriate Games

Ailwee Cave

The Ailwee Cave is an ancient cave located in the Burren region of Co.  Clare. We stopped there during a road trip last Wednesday. My parents, Diego, and Joy popped in while I took a time-out to get some work done on my mother’s laptop. This is what happens when I let my folks go to a tourist attraction on their own:

Tour guide: Does anybody have any questions?

(crickets)

Tour guide: Really? No questions?

Isa: Yes. What are those bones over there?

Tour guide: Bear bones.

Isa: Can we feed the bears?

Tour guide: No. Any other questions?

Diego: Do you leave these lights on all night?

Tour guide:  No. Anything else?

Roberto: What were the seven dwarves mining for?

Tour guide: Excuse me?

Roberto: You know. Which were the seven dwarves? Hompty, Dompty, Floffy ….

Smart-arses.

How I’ve I missed them.

Ciotóg

March 13, 2010 in Ex-Patriate Games, Ireland, Looking

My family has rented a car – one big enough for the 5 of us and their suitcases. Roberto, my father, is frustrated when he can’t find the keyhole; it takes him a few minutes to realize that it will be on the right hand side, and so will the steering wheel. This is an Irish market car. They drive on the left here in Ireland. There are roundabouts and narrow winding streets, and thin, rectangular street signs nailed to buildings – blink and you’ll miss ‘em.

I’m wringing my hands in the lobby of their hotel when they arrive; my mother, my father, Diego and Joy; all of them in one piece. I’ve lived in left-hand traffic countries for the past three years and though I’m finally getting used to the system, you  couldn’t pay me to drive. But that’s me; I hate driving even when it’s on the right. For his part, my father seems remarkably calm – says the first 15 minutes were “interesting” but after that, it was a piece of cake. I ask Diego for the truth. He is grim.

They’ve rented a GPS to go with their left-side traffic car. They ask me where they should visit while I’m in class. I tell them: “Howth” and they punch “Hote” in the GPS. I tell them, “Malahide Castle,” and they say, “Mally-che?” Molly Malone is similarly dubbed, “Who?” then “Molly May” and, later, ”Molly O’Malley.” They pick me up one day after class and we head to Powerscourt, which my mother calls “Powerscribe” in her facebook status update. My father is particularly proud that he has typed, “Anuscarry” in the GPS.

Roberto helms the wheel for most of the trip. After he misunderstands a few commands and makes a few illegal U-turns, Diego switches the GPS language to my father’s native tongue: “Maybe this will get through to you.” 

Recalculating is recalculando in Spanish.

Sometimes, in Dublin City, we don’t need the GPS at all because I know where we are. This is very exciting to me. I  brag to my family that I’ve learned where to go from riding the bus: “brava,” they say. I stop bragging when I realize that my directions have led us into the bus lanes. Look left, look right; hope there are no Gardaí in sight.

Achoo

March 5, 2010 in dublin, Ex-Patriate Games

And now, after 5-and-a-half days of Aran Island craic, I’m back in Dublin:

 

Or more accurately, here:

 

A-CHOO. Sniff sniff sniff. HONK. Sniff sniff sniff. Cough. Cough. Cough. Really, there’s no better place to be. Trying to get over my flu and get my strength up for the next week, when the Bruce hits town. Make that the Bruce times four – that’s Diego, Joy, and my parents. Usually, when you’re an expat, you have to go to them; sometimes, they come to you. And none of them have been to Ireland before. They’re operating under the popular fallacy that Ireland is a land of eternal thunderstorms, swimming with sheep and clovers, so each time we’ve spoken over the past couple of months, they’ve asked, anxiously, how the weather will be when they’re here. Each phone conversation. As though I can see the forecast months in advance. As though they didn’t believe me the first 10 times. As though I can do something about it. It’ll be almost spring by then, I tell them each time. Sure, I guess it rains on and off but doesn’t it rain back home? I don’t know; it was 2 degrees out today and it hasn’t rained since last week. Man. Pack what you’d usually wear in winter/spring. 

They’ll thank me for my advice. Days will pass, and then the phone will ring again. 
“How will the weather be when we’re there?” they ask. 
What can I say? Bring an umbrella and hope.
And a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.