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Final Farewell

December 19, 2010

Last Day in Galway

December 18, 2010

This morning when I woke up, both of my roommates had already left the apartment for their respective flights. I looked out my window and saw that some snow had stuck overnight, which is unfortunate luck in Ireland because the airports here don’t own snowplows due to how infrequent such weather is. It got me in a pretty glum state, questioning whether I’d be coming home on time or not, but I’m trying to remain optimistic that I will make it home tomorrow regardless of how many delays I face in the meantime.

The first thing on my agenda was to take one last walk down to the bay. The snow put a bit of a damper on the luscious Irish green, but the walk was still as beautiful as ever. Cait joined me in my endeavors for the day and we were able to maintain a fairly nostalgic conversation about what a great semester we’ve had.

We made our way through town for one last stop at the Christmas market in Eyre Square before it closes tomorrow. Saying goodbye to the fudge stand was difficult for my sweet tooth, but saying goodbye to all the calories I will now be saving by not eating hundreds of grams of fudge every day will not.

On the walk back through town towards our apartment complex we saw some carolers, took some photos of the decorated pub windows, and decided to make one final stop at McDonagh’s for a fish & chips lunch.

I’m going to do this a little out of order, because my final trip to Garvey’s deserves to be the true last thing that I document. On our final walk through town tonight we ran into Vince and Florian and took a few pictures of ourselves in the town center, all lit up.

Backtracking to this afternoon: we came back to Donegan and Cait watched me unsuccessfully attempt to pack away my life, so instead we ate some fudge and listened to Christmas music! Around 6:30 I headed back towards Eyre Square for one final trip to Garvey’s. I wanted to make sure that it was the last pub I hit before I left Ireland. I ordered vegetable soup and garlic bread while I was there, which Terry inappropriately kept referring to as “The Last Supper”.

Cait met up with me around 8:15, at which time we proceeded to get spit on by a drunk “friend” of Terry’s (or so he told us) who insisted that he wanted to buy us our last drink in Ireland. I had already told Terry that I wanted the Smithwicks I had ordered to be my last drink, so he poured Smithwicks in a shot glass for me and did the same for Cait with Bulmers, and we all let the man pretend that he had bought us a drink. I took a picture of Terry and the crew behind the bar and then was invited behind the bar so Cait could take a picture of Terry and I. Terry sent me off with the Smithwicks glass that I had drank my last Irish pint out of, a Garvey’s t-shirt, and his email address and home address so that I can keep them all up-to-date with what I’m doing.

I hugged them all goodbye and as I was leaving Terry said “Hey Laura…I’ll see you tomorrow” like he always does, and winked. And then I left, and I cried, and it finally hit me that I am leaving Galway.

Twelve Pints of Christmas

December 15, 2010

FREE AT LAST, FREE AT LAST! Thaaaat’s right I am done with final exams! My last test was a nightmare because I accidentally brought my Guarda-issued Galway photo ID with me instead of my NUIG student ID. Apparently people at NUIG never make mistakes, because they were very unforgiving about it. Just after starting my test the person who walks around and verifies your identity bombarded me with the fact that I had the wrong ID, even though I did have some form of photo ID and made a simple mistake, and made me panic. He made me sit there and fill out paperwork (during the two hours that I was allotted to take my exam, mind you) and told me that I have to go through a whole process with the school now and pay €30 if I want my exam to count. I sat at my desk practically in tears and completely forgot all of the information that I had studied, and had to calm myself down in order to complete the exam. They should have waited until I finished, at least. It was such an unnecessary distraction.

The only reason that I didn’t have my entire wallet with me in the first place was because you aren’t allowed to bring anything in to the testing room, and for my last exam they made me leave it in the hallway outside. Being uncomfortable with the idea of getting my money stolen, I left it home for this test. It turns out that my money is going to be stolen anyway. Fairfield is getting a phone call from me in a few hours time and getting an earful so that I can hopefully get the fee waived.

In order to celebrate the termination of our exams and the final night that we would all be together, since TK left today, we insisted upon implementing a wonderful new Christmas tradition: the 12 Pints of Christmas. Twelve pubs, one pint in each, one night, ultimate epic mayhem. Obviously, the camera needed to make an appearance for this one.

1. The Crane Bar

2. Roisin Dubh

3. Monroe’s Tavern

4. The Quays (pronounced “keys”)

5. The Front Door

6. The Kings Head

7. Tis Coili

8. Taaffes

9. McSwiggins

10. Hole in the Wall

11. The Skeff–I lost everyone and there are physically no pictures. I finished my pint and moved on alone, clearly on a mission to finish, found Vince on the way out, and everyone met up with us at our last stop.

12. Garvey’s Inn!

The twelve pints were a great success and so much fun–definitely a great way to celebrate the termination of school and erase all unneeded information and horrible exam experiences from memory!

One Exam to Go!

December 13, 2010

This morning I woke up to the most beautiful day outside. Blue skies, barely any clouds, snow beginning to melt and drip off the rooftops, and sunshine. It wasn’t too cold out, so I even opened my bedroom window to let some fresh air in here for once.

I wanted to seize the day and go to the markets to walk around, but unfortunately I knew as soon as I woke up that I would never be leaving my apartment today. The last of my final papers was due today at 4:00 PM, and although yesterday I told myself I was going to accomplish half of it, I got a BBM from my dad at around 1 PM telling me that the Metrodome collapsed, and I spent the next four hours on reading about all the day’s matchups. I’ve got myself pretty wrapped up in the idea that “there are more important things to do on a Sunday.” So this morning I woke up, rolled out of bed to get my computer, and tapped away like a busy little beaver for a couple of hours, with 2000 words left to accomplish.

I won’t chalk it up as being my best work, which is unfortunate considering that it counts for 100% of my grade in that class, but it was submitted about 3:30 just in time for my 4PM deadline. The sun has now set and the daylight is done, but its all for the better because I have an exam tomorrow that I need to study pretty diligently for. Once this exam is under my belt, I will have [successfully?] completed all of my scholarly obligations for the semester and will be immediately off to celebrate my last four-or-so days in Galway as a free woman!

Last Sunday at Garvey’s

December 12, 2010

Anybody who knows anything about my semester abroad knows that I spent nearly every Sunday at a little pub in Eyre Square called Garvey’s Inn. Garvey’s is owned by this really awesome guy named Terry, who I boldly told during week one of the football season: “I will be here every Sunday, occasionally on Monday nights, and you will get to know me very well.” I think that I have held true on that promise.

Since that day, I have been referred to by Terry, Robbie, and Mike–the three bartenders who work on Sundays and Monday nights–as the “Queen of Garvey’s” or the “bar favorite”. They each know me by name, have a Smithwicks pouring for me as I walk in the door, and of course know that I am the most avid of Jets fans. Because of the five hour time difference, football games don’t air here until 6:00 PM and 9:15 PM, and the Sunday and Monday night games don’t even kick off until 1:30 AM. This, of course, has never stopped my favorite bartenders in Galway from allowing me to remain in the bar straight through until 5:30 AM on five different occasions, while the Jets have played in night games. Needless to say, on many of those nights I have been the only soldier left standing and I have gotten to know these three wonderful men very well.

Terry used to live in New York and was a New York Jets season ticket holder for eleven years, so we hit it off right off the bat when I walked in sporting my jersey on the first day of the season. He always has the NFL games on the TVs when I walk in, regardless of the other European sports that are conflicting with them. There is also the NFL Sunday Special, which consists of wings, pizza, and a beer for €15. The beer is supposed to be a Miller (psh, American beers), but being the bar favorite and all, Terry lets me bend the rules and order a Smithwicks. He even serves it to me in a stein mug, because its slightly bigger than the Smithwicks pint glass, as can be seen in the picture posted below, and the Queen deserves every drop of beer she can get!

Fortunately Terry travels to New York semi-frequently, and is planning on making a trip over some time between the SuperBowl and St. Patrick’s day this year. He plans to meet up with me and my parents, who he was able to meet during their visit, for some drinks in New York City. I really do hope that he comes.

I can easily say that Garvey’s will be one of the things that I miss the most about Galway. I have spent so much time in that pub and I consider Terry, Robbie, and Mike to be my Irish family. They have been one of the strongest and most consistent aspects of this experience.

It’s so mind-blowing to think that at this time next week I will have landed in JFK and will be watching the Jets game on my own couch, in my own house. It will be so weird not to be able to watch the games with the people that I have grown so accustomed to seeing on a weekly basis. I can pretty solidly assert that Garvey’s will be one of the last places I stop at in Galway before I leave and will most definitely be the first place that I stop when I return again in the future.

The “Bizarro World” of Irish Final Exams

December 8, 2010

According to Wikipedia’s definition of the famous DC Comics, “In the Bizarro world of “Htrae” [Earth spelled backwards], society is ruled by the Bizarro Code which states ‘Us do opposite of all Earthly things’…”. Schooling in Ireland has been “backwards” to us all semester, but never as much as it has become for final exams.

I will backtrack for a brief moment (paragraph) and mention a few things that don’t make sense about NUIG.

  • Students need to wait in line when they register for classes and fill out hard copies of paperwork. I know this isn’t SO weird, but come on–we live in the 21st century people.
  • The highest grade that you can receive on something is a 70. I freaked about this when I got a 68 on my first English paper and only had “Great point!”, “Good!”, etc. written as feedback. I have since talked to Fairfield and discovered that grades 66+ transfer back as an A.
  • Teachers don’t email you when they are canceling class, they just leave signs on the door so that you waste time and soak through your jeans in the pouring rain. (Me? Bitter? Neverrrr!)
  • Classes run from the top of the hour to the top of the next hour. There are 0 minutes between classes if you take them back-to-back.
  • Some final exams or papers are worth 100% of your grade.
  • We attended a mandatory workshop that was worth 10% of our grade where we listened to a marketing professor speak, and were later emailed that we all earned 8 out of 10 points for our participation…even though there was nothing more or less we could have done for full credit.
  • In business classes, all of the work that you do the entire semester is fine and dandy, but doesn’t count unless you get at least a 30 on the final. So basically, even though I have already earned enough points to get a C in the class whether I take the final or not, I get an “F” if I fail the final and none of my other work matters.

Today was my first final exam, my Services Marketing exam. For some reason, the exam was held at LeisureLand, a small indoor theme park located in the next town over from the city of Galway called Salt Hill. It cost €8 for my friend TK and I to take a cab there this morning, because we had no idea where the place was. Why on Earth (or Htrae, really) NUIG has a full campus of empty classrooms that they just opt not to use for final exams is beyond me. I don’t think I will ever understand what is going on in the minds of the administration here.

The exam was structured in essay format: there were five questions and we had to answer three. About an hour prior to the exam we noticed that our teacher had posted two previous exams onto the course page. We glanced over the questions and noticed that they were much more detailed than we had been expecting. We assumed that none of those questions would be repeated and focused on the last-minute details of other topics instead. And, wouldn’t you know, two of the questions were repeated verbatim. Luckily the other three were on topics that I had studied heavily yesterday and brushed up on this morning, so I wrote about those and I think that I did well on the exam.

Another weird rule that they implemented had to do with leaving after we finished. We were allotted two hours to take the exam, but for some reason we were only allowed to leave after the first hour had passed, except during the last half hour. So basically, there was a half hour window where people were allowed to leave…otherwise we had to sit for the full two hours, which is what ended up happening to me.

TK and I decided to walk home after our exam to avoid paying for another cab. We took the bay road all the way from Salt Hill into town. It was pretty cold out, but a beautiful scenic day, so I’m really glad that our exam was so far away because I probably wouldn’t have walked that path again before I left.

In order to reward ourselves for acing our exam, we opted to head to the Christmas market and Garvey’s in lieu of heading straight home. We had some lunch and a couple of pints in celebration, and some Mint Bailey’s Hot Cocoa from the market for the walk home.

P.S. Uncle Andy, I got the Thanksgiving card from the family and totally disagree that I should ween myself off of pints. I know that I am coming home and going to be underage again, but I think that I should in fact drink more pints than I have been in order to make sure I fully appreciated them before I left. No hard feelings though!

As far as finals go I have one exam and one paper down, two exams and two papers to go. My Medieval Irish History paper is due on Friday and I have my Media & Marketing Communications exam on Friday. Then I finish up next week with one Archaeology class’s paper due on Monday and the other’s exam on Tuesday. Tuesday marks my freedom and the beginning of four full days to enjoy Ireland with nothing distracting me in the back of my mind! Except packing. But who cares about packing?

Spending in Italy

December 8, 2010

Italy was my most expensive trip in total, without a doubt, but if its looked at relatively with the length of the trip factored in it is actually not too bad. Especially considering that I entirely finished Christmas and birthday present shopping for my family. Here’s how everything added up:

Round-trip flight from Dublin-Rome: €141.50

Round-trip bus from Galway-Dublin: €22

Round-trip transportation from Rome airport to Rome: €28

Round-trip transportation from Rome to Florence: €74

Metro/bus tickets: €5.20

Taxi rides: €20

Places to sleep (8 nights): €29

Approx. Food and gelato: €200 (This is a total guess, I actually have no idea)

Night life: €22

Souvenirs for myself: €20

Leather coat: €100

Souvenirs and Christmas shopping for others: €186

Entrance to the Vatican museums: €12

Entrance to the Duomo Bell Tower: €6

Fiorentina soccer game: €10

TOTAL: approximately €875.70 OR $1182.20 (assuming conversion €1=$1.35)

I definitely saved a ton of money by staying with friends and only having to spend two nights in a hostel in Rome while my friend Mike couldn’t house me. Also, as far as I know it costs about $1500 alone to fly to Italy from the States, so this is definitely a trip that I’m very happy I was able to pull off for such an affordable price.

For my own mental sanity I split that total by eight and it came out to an average of about $147.78 per day, including traveling and everything. That is somewhere on the low end of what I averaged per day in Germany ($236.10), France, ($187.37), and Spain ($134.35), so I am very satisfied with my trip. And again, I did massive amounts of Christmas shopping–something I didn’t really do anywhere else that I traveled–and bought myself a gorgeous leather coat, so I think that I did very well for a week long Italian vacation!