Saturday, November 22, 2008

"Tree" is a Magic Number

Holy geeze, I can't believe the hassling I get for not writing in my blog for a few days! I guess that's what happens when everyone's used to the every other day routine. Time to get used to the once a week routine - I can only write about job searching so much!

Thursday was job hunting day for Matt and I. We got all dressed up (as dressed up as Matt and I get), printed off copies of our CV's, and walked, and walked, and walked. I've learned one very important thing on this trip so far - Matt should NOT be in charge of directions! He's always confident he knows where he's going (and that's why I trust him), and he always gets to where he wants to be - it just takes ten times longer to get there than it should! We were trying to find a temp agency outside of the city center. It was a far enough walk to begin with, and when we were nearby, we found ourselves walking around in circles and circles trying to find the actual street. We finally arrived, only to have them tell us that it's appointment only and we need to e-mail our CV's first. At least we got some serious resistance training in - the strong winds were blowing us around like crazy!

The weather here really varies every day and throughout the day. It hasn't been as gloomy as I expected, and what they think is cold here is actually pretty comfortable for us. The sun comes out for a bit, then it clouds over. The rain so far has only been mist, so we have yet to get drenched. The temperature is anywhere from 9 - 12 degrees during the day.

People eat a lot of Pringles here. Everywhere you go and everyone you see...Pringles! Matt and I have been surviving mostly on pasta and vegetables - it's a pretty cheap yet delicious meal to eat. When we're eating dinner at 17:00, other people are eating lunch. When we're sleeping, they're eating dinner. We've been treating ourselves all too often with chocolate or banana milk, and Matt surprised me with a tub of ice cream the other day. He sure knows how to win my heart!

Once we got back to the city center from the temp agency on Thursday, I handed out my CV's to some shops and a gallery just down the street from our hostel. I immediately got a call back from the artist who was showing at the gallery. He was impressed with my CV and wanted to meet. I was really giddy at this point, since I had just Googled his name only to discover that he is one of Ireland's most well-known artists. Famous people like Kate Moss, Enya, and Courtney Love own his work. He originally wanted me to work in his gallery on the opposite side of the Ireland but then decided he could use some help in his Dublin space. This all sounds fine and dandy and really exciting, right? Well, no.

I met with the artist on Saturday for what I thought would be a more formal interview, and to discuss wage, hours, etc. When I arrived at the gallery, he immediately handed me a twenty and asked me to fetch him a double espresso from this cafe down the street that he just adores. Oh, and they have fabulous danishes, so I had to get him one of those too. And some mineral water. And I couldn't forget to pick up a roll of scotch tape while I was out. I was pretty livid at this point. Who does this guy think he is? He doesn't know me, I haven't even accepted the job (let alone had an interview), and here I am running around picking up his daily fixes! No thanks. The whole "interview" should have only taken 15 minutes but really it took 2 hours, since his ear seemed to be glued to one of his three cellphones the whole time. Thus, I've decided not to accept the job and the search continues!

Friday was super fun. It had to be - it was Matt's birthday! After switching to our new hostel, we started off the day by buying Matt some interview clothes from a pretty inexpensive department store called Penneys. He got new shoes, a shirt and tie, and dress pants. We've noticed that people get really fancied up here, especially for interviews, so we thought he might as well have one nice outfit. Then we headed to the Guinness Storehouse where we toured the old brewery and enjoyed a fresh pint and beautiful view of Dublin at the top. Guinness is an acquired taste...that I have yet to acquire. I've had a few now, and the one at the Storehouse was definitely the best yet. I might get shot for saying this, but it kind of tastes like cigarette butts, tar, and coffee, all mixed together to make one big glass of creamy goodness. I've become a fan of the Irish cider, Bulmers - it goes down just like apple juice!

St. James Gate Brewery

I guess I should learn how to spell Guinness...

Old school Guinness advertising

"The equipment you see around you, like the building you're standing in, comes from another time, when machines were works of art."

Letting it settle before they top it up. It looks better than it tastes!

The Guinness Gates (this one's for you, Daddio!)

Peter, a Kiwi who works at our hostel front desk, invited us out for a drink with him and his wife and a few other hostel dwellers. We met up with them on a pub patio around dinner time, and about 15 of us from all around the world spent the night drinking and chatting and listening to each other sing and play the guitar. People are so interesting, and talented, and funny, and FUN! An Irish lad had his turn on the guitar, and I wanted so bad for him to sing "Three is a Magic Number." Why, you ask? Here, they don't pronounce the "h" in "th." So really, he would have been singing about "trees." I don't know why this is so funny to me, but it is! Just imagine them saying "thirty three and a third." The best part of the night was when Matt received an Irish happy birthday serenade, especially for him. It was pretty cool.

A good chunk of my day Saturday was spent at my gallery "interview." Matt and I found a little market in the heart of Temple Bar where we enjoyed some crepes (mmm, mine was filled with Nutella and good!) Around 14:00, we met up with Peter, his wife, and Vaughan from our hostel (also a Kiwi) and went to a pub that was packed full with at least 200 people. There were two big rugby games and a soccer game on, and the buzz in there was amazing. I don't know anything about rugby - it was more exciting for me to feel the excitement when everyone cheered than it was to actually watch the games. By the time I get home, I'll be a rugby pro. Matt's already getting the hang of it.

Temple Bar Market


St. Stephens Green Mall

Sunday we arrived back at Kinlay House. We've gotten to know the hostel staff who are absolutely amazing. They invite you out, introduce you to other travelers, and always make you feel welcome. They've also managed to squeeze us in for another two weeks here, which is great. We had to wait around in the kitchen and tv room with our luggage until our rooms were ready in the afternoon. We did lots of laundry in the meantime and man does it feel good to have clean clothes! Hostel life can get pretty dirty. Laundry costs a bloody fortune too - 8 Euros to wash and dry one load!

Today we were on a serious mission to find jobs. I got rid of all of my CV's and applied for more places online. Between Matt and I, we've probably applied to more than 50 places, and we don't hear back from any of them. It's really tough finding work, especially when every other person in this city is here doing the same thing as us. Tomorrow we plan on looking outside of the city center. We're taking the tram to an area called the Docklands and hopefully we have a little more luck. I'm really starting to worry about running out of dough. Any donations toward Alex and Matt's Traveling Fund are greatly appreciated! :)

Matt's stylin' flip flips. He refused to wear them, so now they hold up the window.

We finally have new roomies. A really nice Aussie girl, Clare, who is here doing the same thing as us, and an Italian dude who was making me crazy last night by criticizing my cooking. Figures he'd show up in our room today!

P.S. I finally caved and bought butter!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Who Ya Gonna Call?

I never thought this blog would be such a hit! I'm glad it gives our friends and family something exciting to look forward to from us. Now the pressure's really on to keep it up!

Matt had a busy day planned yesterday. No more site-seeing, but time to get down to business! We started the day off by going to the Immigration Office, basically to register with the government and get an ID card that enables us to stay here for a year. The lineups were ridiculous, so we turned around and left and went back this morning - way earlier to beat the rush. Next stop yesterday was the Social Services Office, where we registered for a PPS (SIN) number. These are all annoying little things that we have to do in order to get a job, flat, and bank account here, and they all take up time waiting in line, waiting for mail, etc. While waiting in line, Matt was reading the local paper and was surprised to see a full page picture of a completely topless and provocative female. Their papers are crazy here. They're very tabloid-y and full of humour that we don't quite understand. After those shenanigans were complete, we headed to Grafton Street to price out mobiles (cellphones). I just heard the big gasp! Yes, it's true! Matt and I are officially cellphone owners. Irish mobiles are way better and cheaper than Canadian ones (not that we REALLY know, but it seems that way at least). It's free for us to accept calls or texts from anyone at anytime, so if you feel like chatting (and paying the price!) give us a ring. These are the exact numbers you have to dial to make an international phone call to us in Ireland:

Alex 011 353 851063288
Matt 011 353 851060909

We've run into a little snag as far as accommodation goes. There are big rugby matches happening on the weekends this month, and hostels are booked solid and well in advance. We didn't realize this until we tried booking for the weekend and it was full. We're still at the same hostel we started at called Kinlay House, but on Friday and Saturday we'll have to lug our bags across the city to stay at a different hostel. That's fine with us, but we've done a lot of research and review reading and price comparing and opinion asking, and the hostel we're currently in seems to be the best one. We're really happy here, so we've been making nice with the front desk staff and I think they'll do their best to get us in for the weeks to come.

Last night, we ate our first Irish meal at the restaurant across the street from our hostel. I got fish and chips and Matt got roast beast. The service sucked, but the food was the best we've had yet!

Europe has seriously screwed up Matt's sleep. He went from going to bed at 3:00am and waking up at noon to going to bed at 9:00pm and waking up at 7:00. I just don't get it! He likes to get up for the free continental breakfast that the hostel offers each morning. Toast, coffee and orange juice - breakfast of champions! This morning was the first time I actually got up in time to get the free breaky. I've been making Matt steal the butter so I can use it on our own toast when I wake up later. Oh, the things you do when you're broke. It's not even that we don't want to buy butter, we just don't want to store it. Fridge space is tight around here, and you never know who's digging into your food (ew!)

Today, after waiting in line for 2 hours to get our ID cards, we went grocery shopping, came back to our hostel, cooked up some tacos for lunch, worked on our CV's, and started job hunting.

I went for a walk tonight to check out other areas of town and to hunt for flip flops for Matt. We've been searching everywhere for flip flops so he has shower/hostel shoes, but go figure, no such thing around here during this time of year. I finally came across a pair in an Irish souvenir shop. They are really green and plastered with cloverleafs - how non-touristy! Oh well, why pretend? We're tourists, darn it, and we're proud of it! I found a new shopping area that's a lot cheaper than Grafton Street. I wandered around some funny discount stores and found their equivalent of a dollar store. Except after the conversion, it's really the 3 dollar store. Boooo! About a block away from the hostel, in the heart of Temple Bar, I stumbled upon an art exhibition opening. I went in and took a look around - it was really cool. I wonder if they're hiring? I then came "home" and re-heated taco fixings for dinner. If there were more leftovers, we'd probably be eating tacos for breakfast too. Enjoy some pictures from my walk...

Christmas on O'Connell Street

The Ha'Penny Bridge over the River Liffey. The River Liffey splits Dublin into two. This bridge, opened in 1816, is accepted as the symbol of Dublin and was the only pedestrian bridge on the Liffey until the new Millenium bridge further up was opened in 2000.

While on my walk, I tried texting the only contact in my phone - Matt. I have a new appreciation for people who can text and walk at the same time.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Dublin Tourists

The past two days I've been a little picture-happy. I went for a walk last night by myself to take some evening shots and to test out my new camera. I thought Thursday nights in Dublin City were crazy - you should see Saturday's! Everyone is out and all dolled up for a night on the town. The action doesn't stop at 2:00am like it does at home. Matt has been woken up from the sounds of the streets at 3:00, 4:00, even 5:00am! Luckily, I sleep like a rock. Here are a few scenes from last night's stroll...

Double decker bus on the move

Traffic in front of the City Hall

Christ Church - Dublin's oldest building

I did wake up to the sound of church bells this morning. Christ Church is a few footsteps from our hostel. Nothing like an hour of bells chiming early Sunday morning! I actually really like hearing it - it's not an annoying chime, but kind of relaxing in a way.

Today me, Matt, and our Moroccan friend Marwane were major Dublin tourists. Marwane's last day in Ireland is Monday - he's going back to Germany where he works - so he's trying see as much as possible before his departure. I'm not going to tell you how crazy Marwane is, only because he's probably going to read this. But he sure is a fun guy to hang out and site-see with! He's taught us about his Muslim culture, he likes to compare women of different cultures (apparently Canadians are now #1 in his books), he likes to make fun of me, and I like to make fun of him! He told me my green pajama pants with apples on them are "catastrophic" and asked "who sold those to you?!" Needless to say, I'm wearing my black track pants to bed tonight. He says some funny things too, like "what's the difference between lawn and grass?" and "he gave her a baby" when he really meant "he got her pregnant." He also corrects Matt on his English, which is interesting when English is his 5th language!

Our first stop was St. Patrick's Cathedral - the largest church in Ireland. By the time we got there, church was in service and we couldn't get in. Being that everything is pretty easy to walk to in the City of Dublin, like tourists, we pulled out our map and decided to walk from the Cathedral to the Kilmainham Gaol (jail). 2.5 miles and one big hill later, we arrived. We had a guided tour of the jail and were told lots of history that I wish I could remember. It was pretty sad and creepy, but also made for some neat photo opportunities. We had been walking and hadn't eaten all day, so we stopped at the store where Marwane made the grossest sandwich with tuna, eggs, chili sauce, and this white fluffy stuff which none of us knew what it was. We took the tram back to the City Center and visited Trinity College to view the Book of Kells. We couldn't take pictures of the book, but the intricacy and artistry was amazing - something you really have to see in person to appreciate. The Trinity College Long Room was really cool too - it holds over 200,000 of the library's oldest books.

St. Patrick's Cathedral

Kilmainham Gaol

Jail corridor with cells on either side

Matt in confinement - where he belongs!

You better believe it! And it tastes nothing like home!

Trinity College courtyard

Marwane breaking the rules, only because he doesn't know what a "lawn" is!

Pretending to be Trinity College students

Can you see us?

Marwane, Matt and I on O'Connell Street

After our tourist trek, the three of us made dinner together back at the hostel, then we watched a horrible "horror" (more like laughable) movie with some other hostel dwellers (one who recognized my WLU hoodie!) It's almost 2:00am, and I'm about to hit the sack. I'm not sure what we're up to tomorrow, but Matt told me earlier that we have a busy day ahead. I wonder what he has planned...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Irish People LOOK Irish

Our second day in Dublin was a blast! Matt and I, being people who don't have cellphones or wear watches or have any way of telling time, woke up 15 minutes before check-out and a half hour before our orientation at USIT. Good thing I brought my French beret - it certainly came in handy to hide some serious bed head. We packed up our bags, rushed downstairs to book two more nights, and relocated to a 6 person co-ed dorm room.

View from our hostel window

Our orientation was great. They threw a lot of information at us about accommodation, jobs, taxes, banking, etc. A cute little Irish girl came in from a temp agency and gave us her spiel, and I think we've decided that's the best way to go. Office jobs pay pretty well here, they are contract positions which allow us to move on and travel easily, the temp agency finds work for us, and it's 9-5 Monday-Friday. I'm not sure that finding a job will be the hard part, but finding a place to live will be. We might be hostel bums our whole time in Dublin!

The weather has been fantastic so far - about 12 degrees every day, grey but no rain...yet. We can walk the streets without a jacket no problem. Garda (police) are everywhere. People (i.e. local bums) like to drink on the streets. We walked past the Garda yesterday who was asking a man to pour out his beer onto the side of the road. As he was pouring it, the Garda says in his cool Irish accent "that's a waste of a good can, isn't it?" They're funny here. There's also security staff in every single store, even the grocery stores. All of the girls here dress up. They wear dresses and skirts with black nylons and tall boots. They wear various different styles of pea coats, with cute hats and scarves. I'm glad I brought my pea coat and beret - now I don't feel like too much of a loser compared to these stylish Europeans.

Realizing how easy it is to blow all of our money, Matt and I started "watching" our spending. We were really proud of ourselves when we bought two nights worth of dinner food at the grocery store for 7.79 Euros - that's 2 Euros per person per meal! But don't be too proud of us, we did some pub hopping and consumed a few pints of Irish beer later that evening, and blew 17 Euros on Chinese food on our way home. Well, we tried.

Since our move into the dorm room, we've met some really cool people. We went to a few pubs with Jake from Wichita, Kansas (yep, his house has been hit by a tornado). The pubs we were in play a lot of North American music. I think it's kinda strange to hear Madonna and Kid Rock in an Irish Pub - let alone an Irish man singing Kid Rock karaoke! There was one Irish band that played the song from from P.S. I Love You - you know, the one the hunky musician sang to woo Hilary Swank? Oooh, that got me excited, I love that movie. When we arrived back at our hostel, we met another roommate, Marwane from Morocco. He's a really interesting guy. Matt and I pretended not to watch him do his daily prayer rituals before bed - we couldn't help it, it was too neat not to watch. He apparently does it 5 times a day. Both Jake and Marwane invited us to do some touristy things with them today, but we didn't go along. We have a year to spend doing that stuff, whereas most other people are only here for a short time and they cram everything in at once. Plus, today we want to focus on job/flat searching and updating our CV's.

Grafton Street

Live entertainment on Grafton Street

Oh, we discovered another area of Dublin yesterday - Grafton Street. We kept saying how much our Mom's would LOVE it! Lots of fancy shopping, beautiful display windows, Christmas lights, and street entertainment. The atmosphere is really cool, but too expensive for our tastes. We also took a stroll through St. Stephens Green Park and I took lots of pictures of coloured doors. Why don't we paint our doors cool colours in Canada?!

I know it's not coloured, but I took this one for my mom!

Today we found a Winners-like store that was packed full of people and good deals. Matt bought a rugby-style hoody at a department store and he's looking quite Irish. There's a huge rugby game in Dublin tonight, Ireland vs. New Zealand. Matt just went to a pub with Marwane to watch the game. I probably should have went! Oh well, I can stay here and update my CV. The game is on tv and Metallica is playing in the background - what more could I ask for?!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

We've Arrived

We finally made it to Dublin! Holy cow - you wouldn't believe it! It's so busy, so old, there is so much character, and so much action! The streets, restaurants and pubs are packed all day long, especially in the area where we're staying called Temple Bar. It's a pretty hip, fun part of the city - never a dull moment, so we're told and so it seems! I want to take a picture of every single building and door and cobblestone street, just because it's so different and beautiful compared to home. But here, it's just normal! How lucky they are...

Before take-off - happy and well rested

The flights were kind of a drag. Matt was happy watching movies most of the time, but I was really tired and couldn't fall asleep for the life of me. The timing of our flight really screwed up our sleeping pattern, and by the time we were in Dublin, we were so zonked and on a serious mission to just find our hostel to lay our heads down for a bit.

2.5 hour stop-over in Paris

First glimpse of the Emerald Isle

My luggage didn't make it from our stop-over in Paris. Matt and I had to cab it back to the airport tonight to pick it up once it arrived. We tried giving the cabby a tip, but he didn't accept it. Maybe they don't tip here, or maybe they just like us Canadians? We haven't figured that out yet, but let's hope both!

It turned out that I pre-booked our hostel for the wrong night. Figures. The luck of the Irish just isn't on my side quite yet! The hostel staff are really friendly, and apparently they can't easily understand what I'm saying. Little do they know that they're the ones speaking funny!

I'm starting to re-think what I packed. My bag is WAY too heavy to lug around these bumpy Dublin streets and up loads of stairs (our hostel is all staircase). I'm already sifting through my bag and deciding what things I should send home. Why didn't I just listen to everyone who told me to pack light?

After our nap once we arrived at our hostel, Matt and I wandered Temple Bar for a place to eat. We circled the place at least three times, still undecided and starving. There is too much to choose from and every place looks so good. We finally decided on some Persian eats - beef, chicken and lamb shish kabobs with salad, cabbage, and four different kinds of sauces, all on a fresh baked pita. It was dee-lish!

Matt's in bed right now for the night. I caught a few more zee's than him on the flight, so I'm good to go for a while. It's midnight here and I'm sitting in the common room where a bunch of Spanish and Aussie folk are drinking the night away. We haven't had the opportunity to strike up real conversation with anyone (we were given a private room, which doesn't help), but hopefully we make some friends soon!

I could really use a shower. I haven't checked the shower situation out yet, but if it's anything like the bathrooms...eek! Luckily, that kinda stuff doesn't bother me too much.

Tomorrow morning we have an orientation at USIT, where they'll give us advice on where to live, how to find a job, how to do our banking, etc. This will probably put me at ease, since I've been a little nervous about the whole job thing since I've gotten here.

Wow, I thought blogging would be a lot harder than it is. I don't consider myself much of a writer, but when so much excitement is happening, I can't help but blab on and on! Let's just see how long I can keep it up...