I woke up this morning at 8:45 and ate some of my fabulous Fruit and Fibre cereal i purchased yesterday at the Tesco in town. Things here are definitely not as sugary as they are back in the states, but I really do like it. The tour started at 10, so Jessica, my apartment mate from California, and I walked up to the engineering building where we were to meet. Our guide was a UCD student named Dierdre, and she was very nice and helpful. We first introduced ourselves to everyone in our group, and then went to one of the small shops on campus to make change since the bus requires exact change for the fare. It was 1.60 euro one-way. We walked to the Tesco just north of campus, and from there we took the bus up to the main shopping center area on Grafton Street. It was a double decker bus, one of those that reminds me of something from Harry Potter. Dierdre showed us the bus stop where we would need to catch the number 10 bus to come back to campus. We walked down the main city center and entered a sort of shopping mall, where she showed us a couple department-type stores called Dunnes and Argos where we could purchase bed linens, towels, pots, pans, utensils and whatever else we needed. It was comparable to a JCPenney's in America, and the prices were very reasonable. I didn't buy anything there. She then said a few final words and set us free to catch the bus and come back to the campus whenever we were finished shopping and looking.
Like I said, my roommate, Jessica, is from California. She's studying sociology and attends UCSD. My other roommate, Vanessa, is from Germany and is studying business. She didn't go on the tour with us today because she had an orientation program to attend for her particular school. Other people I met on the tour were Heather from California. She goes to UCBerkeley and studies philosophy. This is her last semester. What a way to finish! She's been here since August 26th by herself just exploring and doing all kinds of things. She lives off campus in a house, but none of her roommates have arrived yet, so it's been a lonely time for her. She said that it's not much fun traveling alone, which I can definitely understand. So I look forward to traveling with her. I discovered on the tour that she has a great sense of direction and has a passion for exploring and discovering new things, a lot like I do. Nancy is another girl I met from California. She studies psychology and lives at Blackrock. I'm getting to know a lot of Californians it seems. Francesca is from Florence, Italy, and has some of the longest hair I've ever seen. Mine used to be that long, but it has been a while. Evelyn is from New York state, and she's also studying business and lives in Roebuck. She is supposed to be moving into Roebuck Castle in a couple weeks. So for now she's living in the dorms right next to it until they finish.
We went to St. Stephen's Green, which is a park in Dublin. It was absolutely beautiful. The birds there are like the squirrels at Purdue, domesticated and everywhere you turn. I had a couple gulls fly literally inches from my face as I was walking along the pond. Nothing scares them. There are so many plants and flowers that grow in Ireland. It really is amazing how cool the weather seems, yet there are palm trees growing in the suburbs. I will be anxious to get out into the rural parts and see how everything compares to both the city of Dublin and rural America, as far as plants, flowers, crops, and agriculture in general.
Most of us girls needed to get a phone to be able to use while in Dublin, so we all went to the Meteor store. The three main cellular providers in Ireland, and perhaps all of Europe, are Meteor, Vodafone, and O2. Heather said that the majority of people have Meteor, so that's the one we went with since we would get unlimited free calls and texts to other Meteor customers for 30 days. I bought a 20 euro top off for mine as well, since I know Betheny has Vodafone. Once my 30 days are up, I can still call and text people on Meteor but it will draw from my 20 euro. So if I watch my minutes, I might be able to go two or more months on that 20, otherwise I just buy more minutes. But I must say, it does feel nice to be able to text again and have a phone, even if it isn't touch screen and doesn't have a full keyboard. I'm sure mom and dad will appreciate seeing that I'm not sending over 3000 texts a month...at least not for the next 3.5 months. But I do still use my Samsung for taking pictures and the alarm.
From there we decided to get a little something to eat, so we went to the Citi Bar and Club, which Heather had discovered had really good food and good prices. We sat outside at a couple tables since it seemed to be a nice day, but before we ordered our food it started to rain. We thought we'd go inside rather than risk it turning into a downpour on us while we were trying to eat. So we went inside and pushed a couple tall tables together. I ordered the Traditional Irish Steak and Guinness Pie tapa, which came with salad, fries, and bread for only 3.20 euro. I'd never had Guinness, but I could really taste it in the pie, and I must say it was really good. It has a different taste from the beer in America, and I am really excited to actually drink a pint sometime soon. (Maybe if a certain Derick I know had tried this beer first, he might think differently about drinking beer (lol)). The waitress left us some small chocolate squares as we left, called "New Orleans Chocolat Extra Noir" with 72% cacao. It tasted like dark chocolate and was a nice sort of pick-me-up.
We walked all around Dublin. Heather was essentially our tour guide since she'd spent a few days in the city. We stopped at a local hotel where she'd spent a night, and she said hi to the girl at the front desk with whom she'd made friends. The hotels there are very small from what I could tell in the lobby, and Heather said the room was small, but it was comfortable. That's one thing that I've found over here. The people are all really nice and curious to get to know more about you, and are very welcoming. Some of the Irish students seem to have their groups they prefer to hang out with, but you'll have that no matter where you go. From there, we continued walking and came to the post office, where I bought a book of stamps so I can send home some post cards. Along with the normal stamp that goes in the corner, there is also a "Priority Aerphost" stamp that must be on it in order to go internationally, and I've heard from an Irish student that she sent a postcard to California and it got there in a couple days. So whenever I get around to sending these out, the recipients ought to get them pretty soon and not be reading too terribly old of news. I also picked up several post cards, which were 3 for a euro. The stamps were 10 for 8.20 euro. I'll have to convert this sometime to dollars just out of curiosity and see how it compares to US stamps. Speaking of which, going shopping at the grocery yesterday was different because they sell bananas in euros per kilo, so I was trying to do some mental math and see what it would be in dollars per pound, but I just gave up and got apples and oranges instead.
We ended up walking along the River Liffey and I got to take lots of pictures of the bridges, boats, buildings, statues, a memorial, and some Guinness trucks. We ended by walking through Trinity College, which is a beautiful campus right in downtown Dublin. They are our rivals, so if I have anything bad to say I can say it about them, or at least that's what i was told. The buildings are gorgeous, and the campus is really small. They don't provide accommodation for students as I learned, and the college was built on reclaimed land from the estuary of the River Liffey. From there, it was a short walk back to the bus stop. We were waiting on the number 10, and just across the street there was a House of Names: Know Your Coat of Arms. I made a mental note that it would be an interesting place to stop in sometime and see if there was anything on any of my family.
We took the bus back and arrived at campus around 4pm. Our exchange student orientation began at 4:30, and then there was a barbeque for 5 euro at the main restaurant on campus. It was a lot of food, but there was no drink included. They were an extra 1.50 euro, so I passed after spending so much already earlier in town. I didn't eat my baked potato, so I brought it home and stuck it in the fridge for later.
It's been a long day, and I am once again exhausted. I'm looking forward to "sleeping in" again tomorrow, since the Non-EU Exchange Students Orientation doesn't begin until 10 am. Good night!