Saturday, May 26, 2012

Day 1 in Dublin, Ireland

I’m sorry that I haven’t written yet!  My plan to journal consistently is off to a poor start.  So, let me try to catch up... (It should be easier to do on a computer, fortunately.)

Long story short, tour has been fun so far.I’m enjoying every chance to practice my skills as a traveler and I’m exploring whenever I get a chance.  And, of course, we’ve been singing.  Some concerts have been underwhelming, while others have been inspiring.

Let’s back up to Dublin, Ireland...

We arrived in the Dublin airport after an unfortunately long plane ride and very little sleep.  After what seemed like hours, we left the airport and reached our tour buses-- two ritzy vehicles complete with leather seats, charming drivers, and four four-person tables in the back where we could play cards and socialize.  We first drove to a place called Glendalough (pronounced “Glen-duh-lock.”  WHY can’t they spell it how it sounds?)  A natural reserve, Glendalough was a center of Christianity in its early years, and grew from an isolated monastic setting into an important center of culture, religion, and trade in Ireland.  It is a set of verdant rolling hills decorated with lush trees,

(I must stop to mention that my roommate Logan just made a very interesting but unrecognizable comment in his sleep.  Some gibberish language. Bahaha.)

So, verdant rolling hills decorated with lush trees, roaming sheep and gravestones, with a set of ancient buildings (mostly ruins) nestled in the middle.  One building was a well-preserved but tiny stone church.  There was another ruined church up on a hill and a hundred-foot stone tower nearby.  For a pre-Middle Ages community, I thought these were really amazing architectural feats. We had a thirty-minute tour from a young man with shaggy facial hair and a gentle sense of humor.  Taking a walk outside was a much-needed physical relief after ten hours on a plane, the resulting jetlag and lack of sleep, and a nauseating two-hour drive to Glendalough on an incredibly windy, narrow road. 
    Later that afternoon (it felt like dinnertime) we arrived at our Hotel in downtown Dublin called the Wynn, which was a block off of the main drag (McConnell Street?  I can’t remember.)  As everyone trudged up the stairs or waited impatiently for the elevator with their clunky fifty-pound suitcases, I was pleased to jaunt up a few flights of stairs with my one beautiful 15-pound green Kelty backpack.  (Did I mention it’s awesome?)  After settling in, I eagerly went exploring the city streets with a ragtag band of fellow choristers.  We made our way west from our hotel down a busy shopping street, and then turned south towards the river that divides Dublin into northern and southern halves.  With our collective nose in a giant tourist map, our group (David Duba, Sam Jones, Marissa Satern, Kelsi Holmes, and Lili Petsch-Horvath) clumsily made our way across the river to the Temple Bar district of town, named for its most famous bar.  I snapped a few pictures inside the trendy pub while Marissa bought a half-pint of fresh and foamy Guinness from the tap, which she shared with all of us (she didn’t like it much.)  Some of them headed back towards the hotel, but Lili and Kirk Hansen (who ran into us along the way) and I scooted over to Trinity College to see the campus.  We took a few pictures in their beautiful courtyard.  The college campus reminded me of the Hapsburg Palace in Vienna-- very symmetrical and orderly, with cobblestone walkways and well-groomed plants.
    After dinner, many choir members headed to the Temple Bar for a cultural experience-- that is, a pint of Guinness and some live music at a classic Dublin pub.  After claiming a cozy nook along in the maze of rooms within Temple Bar, I purchased my pint of delicious Irish brew.  When I returned to the table, my friend Paul Atkins was there chatting with the wispy red-headed fellow at the next table.  (Before purchasing I had asked this man near my table how much the pint of Guinness would cost me, but he confusedly explained to me what I already knew-- that all the other beers on the menu were shit compared to Guinness, and that I could get no less than a full pint!)  As it turned out, the man was the conductor of the Dublin Philharmonic Orchestra.  Although we thought he was pulling our legs at first, Paul and I were convinced when the man gave us his card and began singing the Firebird Suite when we brought it up in conversation.  (The next morning, Paul told me that he had even found his page on Wikipedia.)  As he smoked, the conductor complained that unlike every European orchestra he had worked with, American orchestras didn’t have beer in the pre-concert dressing rooms, only orange juice.  In his mind, America is “rather puritanical” in terms of substance use, although “they make the best porn.”
    As I was delighted to discover by meeting the conductor (and as I have learned many times before), it never hurts to ask questions or strike up a conversation.  Although it can feel awkward or risky to talk with a stranger, it has only yielded positive results in my experience, whether those be great conversations, a recommendation, or street directions.  It’s always fun, and it improves your social skills and intercultural awareness!

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