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back it up, back it up, back it up March 29, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — courtsbrogno @ 4:21 pm

Oh my. It’s been FOREVER since I last wrote. I think April 2015–a terrible, terrible lapse on my part.

There’s a reason why, but I’ll get to that in some later posts. For now, I want to back the blog up. Since I consider this blog more personal and less about the readers (though I love anyone who reads this blog and truly think I must usually bore you to death) I want to preserve my memories here. So pardon the next few posts, which are purely so that one day when I’m old and can’t remember how to pee, I’ll have an online record of all I did.

I’m backing it up to June 2015 when I went back to Ireland. Why Ireland again, you may wonder. Because I love that damn country, and I would travel back there any day of the week.

 

I once again flew Air Canada Rouge and as you can see from the first few photos, there cheaper prices mean really small, uncomfortable seats. I think I’m a pretty small person, and even I was uncomfortable. But that’s traveling on the cheap.

I met up with a friend that I made last time I was in Ireland, and we vacationed together. I didn’t spend any time in Dublin or Galway since I had already been there, so as soon as he picked me up from the airport we headed to Northern Ireland, aka the UK.

We took the black cab tour, which focuses on the war zones of the IRA. It was actually quite devastating. But I learned a few things:

  1. The people of Northern Ireland do not want to be part of Ireland. A common saying I heard was “queen first, Irish second.” The people of Ireland also do not want the people of Northern Ireland to be part of their country. I have to say, this was so odd to me. I spent most of the day confused, but if both sides seem happy then who am I to judge?
  2. I guess I didn’t realize how new this war was. I met quite a few locals who said things like “Oh, I’ve been to the United States. Connecticut/Alabama/Kentucky” and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how an Irishman ends up in Alabama. But then I learned that thousands of Irish children had been shipped off to the states for safety reasons living with American foster families connected through Catholic or Protestant churches. The locals I met who had been sent to live in the United States until it was safe to return were just a little bit older than me. That was shocking.
  3. Never, except in Northern Ireland, was I asked whether I was Protestant or Catholic. I mean, it felt like that was everyone’s first question after “where are you from?” Answering became tricky so I started going with Buddhist. Below is the Peace Bridge in Derry: an absolute gorgeous town with lots of political people.28
  4. Even after the tour  I was so utterly confused that I bought a history book to read when I got home. At the bookstore when I asked where I could find a good history book, I was honestly asked, “Do you want one that is biased or unbiased?” Ummm…how about unbiased??? How can that even be a question??? But it was an adorable bookstore.29
  5. The last picture is my favorite: “I can’t change the world but I can change the world in me.” If that isn’t capital T, Truth, then I don’t know what is.

 

We went to Giant’s Causeway, which is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. It was cool, I guess. The ocean is spectacular, but I was freezing. Everyone was talking about how hot it was. It was 60 degrees. That’s not hot, people.

We then went to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, which is a famous rope bridge near Ballintoy in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. The bridge links the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede. It spans 20 metres and is 30 metres above the rocks below. Now this was beautiful. I could have lived in the tiny cottage I took a picture of.

 

From there we traveled to Castle Leslie, which was STUNNNG!!! Located in County Monaghan, it is best known for being the wedding site of Paul McCartney’s marriage to Heather Mills. Their marriage might not have lasted, but their wedding was probably spectacular.

After our jaunt in Northern Ireland, we zoomed back to Dublin, caught a flight (RYAN AIR–best deal for flights throughout Europe ever!) to Rome, Italy for a day and then to Sardinia for another day and a half. I know this is unpopular to say, but I did not like Rome at all–except for the food and wine. It was hot, so crowded, and kind of dirty. And I hate to be such an American bad tourist, but that coffee below is a LARGE???? I just don’t understand that. If you want to sit down, have a cup of coffee, and chat with your friends then that conversation will last about 2 minutes. I think I’d like to go back in the off-season. I’m dying to see all the historic places, but that seemed impossible during tourist season.

 

I enjoyed Sardinia much more. It was cooler, less crowded, and a beach resort. We happened to be there during the famous Rally d’Italia Sardegna, which is held on narrow, twisty, sandy and bumpy mountain roads around the town of Alghero. All car companies seem to compete and it was fun to see part of it, but I was especially impressed with the police’s Lamborghini.

 

While we went to many, many beautiful towns in Ireland, Adare was my absolute favorite. They had the thatched roof buildings (although from one of the pics you can see how easy those roofs catch on fire) and just overall, it was adorable.

 

Adare also had the most charming and beautiful church. I mean, it’s a tiny town with an amazing church!

 

Our second to last stop was the town of Dingle, where everyone gets excited to see….wait for it…a dolphin. I guess I’m being a snob because I’m from California and see dolphins all the time, but these Irish folks were over the moon about possibly seeing…one dolphin.

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I finished my trip in Cork, Ireland where I had the privilege of seeing BECK play. I’ve seen Beck a few times before, but this show was my favorite.

 

After a long night at the show, I caught a bus to Dublin, and boarded my no-room-plane home. I miss Ireland every day, but I should probably think of going somewhere else in the future. But maybe not.

 

a slight pause to address some pressing issues at the university i work for April 29, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — courtsbrogno @ 10:37 am

In recent weeks, the faculty at the university I work for has been in an uproar over the amount of administrative bloat and pay compared to faculty salaries. To illustrate this point, I’m borrowing some statistics from a fellow colleague who gathered information from the Sacramento Bee and our own university:

Changes between 2010 and 2014 :

  • Number of Students increased by 10%
  • Tenure(d) faculty decreased by 6%
  • Non-tenure faculty increased by 32%
  • Part-time instructors without benefits increased by 19%
  • High-paid administrators increased by 39%
  • Faculty salaries increased by 3%
  • Student Tuition increased by 41%
  • Total administrative salary burden increased 43%

But one thing that often gets looked over, even in this time of faculty outrage, is the plight of the lecturer (or adjunct as we’re more officially refereed to). As you can see from the above statistics, lectures have increased by 32%, so I think it’s only fair to share some of my views.

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Much has been written lately about the plight of the adjunct, and the poor working conditions of the adjunct university professor are being acknowledged by numerous and reputable news sources, and for good reason. Many adjuncts, also known as “freeway fliers,” teach at multiple schools, don’t have health insurance, have little job security, and make very little money. And some don’t even have an office.

As an adjunct, I don’t fall into those parameters. I’m the lucky adjunct. I teach at two schools, a highly regarded university within the California State University system and a community college. The university is ½ a mile from my home and the community college is six miles away, so my travel time is minimal to say the least. I have some form of job security; after teaching for 10 years at both schools, I have maintained entitlement, a system of guaranteeing me a contract, which also affords me excellent healthcare and other benefits. My job security right now seems good, though during the great recession of 2008, I was laid off every quarter at the university, but rehired at the last minute. For two years. While this caused me much stress, I still retained my job and benefits—others were not so fortunate. At both colleges, I share an office with one colleague. I don’t make great money, but as a single mom of two kids, we manage. We might not own a home—we may never own a home—but my kids have never gone without basic necessities.

Like I said, I am a lucky adjunct. But I’ve recently realized that I’m not really lucky: I’ve just become accustomed to my situation. A colleague recently described it to me like this: an abused person doesn’t usually understand that she’s being abused.

This may seem a bit hyperbolic, but I assure you it’s not. I teach 11 classes a year at the university, which is on the quarter system, and am only considered at .98% yearly work. I’ll never be hired as full-time, let alone tenure-track; In fact, in my department there are only 2 full-time adjuncts, while there are over 35 part-time instructors. And I only have an MA (you might notice how easily the word “only” comes out. I have come to feel that I am “only” good enough, and usually barely that). It’s not that I never wanted to get a PhD, but when I looked at the ROI of getting another degree, the math didn’t add up. Thousands of dollars more for fewer and fewer positions available.

So, I’ve made my way through the university system. Because I teach writing, rhetoric, and critical thinking, my work load is immense. During fall quarter at the university, I had 88 students. Each student writes three out-of-class essays and two in-class essays. That accounts for 440 essays I must grade, write meaningful comments explaining the students’ grades, and return in a timely fashion, usually within two weeks of receiving the essays. This number does not even include the revisions I allow in my classroom because without being able to revise, students don’t always learn how to do write better. This workload also does not include the classes I teach at the community college.

To that end, I consider myself a good teacher. Good enough to win the distinguished lecturer award from the California Faculty Association for the school year 2012-2013. During that time, I still carved out time to participate in several committees and go to conferences in my field. Unlike a tenured-track professor, I was never given release time for my work nor compensated for the conferences I attended.

One the most interesting committees I sat on was the Lecturer Committee. This committee was recently formed by lecturers for lectures: the concerns of the ever-growing body of lecturers within our department made the need that much more prevalent. As is commonly known, the “academic industrial complex” (as some are now referring to higher education) has become a business model, one that includes, among other things, hiring more adjuncts than tenure-track instructors. One peer-reviewed article noted that for the price of one tenure-track position, 4-5 adjuncts could be hired. Slowly at first, and now more rapidly, our department has gone topsy-turvy, with adjuncts outnumbering tenure/tenured track more than 2-1. During the 2013-2014 year, adjuncts taught 57% of all students who passed through our department; tenured/tenure track taught 35% of all department  students. The results are more startling when we looked at 100-level courses—courses usually comprised of freshmen only, though there’s always some sophomores, juniors, or even seniors who takes the class for some reason or another—where adjuncts taught 93% of the students and tenure/tenured track taught 0%. The remaining 7% went to Teaching Assistants.

This seems to make sense at first: why would a tenure/tenured-track instructor teach a 100-level course? They wouldn’t, right? But what’s interesting is when you realize that freshman retention is incredibly important. According to one study, “It is estimated that 40% of college students will leavehigher education without a degree[…]freshman class attrition rates are typically greater than any other academic year and are commonly as high as 20-30%.” And that “the implications of leaving college without a degree are many. Each student that leaves before degree completion costs the college or university thousands of dollars in unrealized tuition, fees, and alumni contributions[…] also frequently economically deleterious to the college dropout [which] often leaves him or her in a position to earn much less over a lifetime of work.” Furthermore, while freshman retention is significantly affected by such things as academic performance, social interactions, a sense of community, some scholars believe that “the primary responsibility for helping students experience a successful freshman year lies with the faculty who teach the freshman courses.”

It is therefore shocking that the academic system–at the university I teach at least–treat their adjuncts so poorly, when most adjuncts go above and beyond their job description to foster meaningful relationships with students and try and find time to give back to the very institution that denies them so much.

For instance, adjuncts are not allowed to participate in shared governance. The rationale from our department is that adjuncts are not encouraged to be part of the university system nor reimbursed for any time because adjuncts don’t know how the university system works, yet without being allowed to participate, how can we learn?

Most of the committees on campus are limited to tenure/tenured track only. Many of the fantastic trainings held on campus are also only for tenure/tenured track. Thus, if an adjunct wants to further his or her pedagogy, he or she must do so outside the university setting. Recently, a colleague of mine wanted to nominate a fellow adjunct for an annual award for faculty promoting diversity, but because her nominee was an adjunct, she wasn’t even considered for the award.

This “separate but equal” mentality in the minds of administrators and tenure/tenured track hurt us all. And the reality is there is nothing equal about the current ways the university treats adjuncts. Along with the fact that thousands of adjuncts don’t have an office, have little to no job security, and can barely afford to live above the poverty line, many adjuncts are missing the simple key ingredient that should be inherent in any job at a university—a place that devotes much of its time spewing such clichéd terms as opportunity, diversity, accountability–and that is respect, especially for the “lowly” adjuncts who are the foundation for much of what the university is built upon.

For years I felt fortunate to be an adjunct, but I no longer believe that. When the lecturer committee sent out an informal and anonymous questionnaire to fellow adjuncts in our department, the number one thing adjuncts wanted was not more pay, time-release for committee work, or better offices. It was respect. As one anonymous colleague noted, “Bridge the gap between lecturers and tenured-track faculty: less isolation…to help us feel less sweat-shop labor-ish.” Another wrote, “I’m interested in what it would take to be recognized as true colleagues among faculty.” These comments bring down the morale of the entire department—adjuncts and tenured track alike—and low morale within a department spreads out, directly affecting the most innocent of the system, the students.

So I’ve made a decision. No more. I will continue to teach because it’s my passion, but my department and the university will not receive one more ounce of my free time and energy. For years I was willing to accept that most of my extra work would be unpaid, but I cannot and will not accept that I don’t deserve respect—not just for the work I’ve given back to the university, but for the simple fact that I teach with passion and for the simpler fact that I am a human being who deserves to be treated with respect.

That is how you lose an adjunct. It might come in many forms—those who leave to pursue more lucrative jobs, those who decide to travel the world, and those, like me, who won’t give back in any way to the university they work for. From afar, it seems like the ivory tower of the CSU system doesn’t affect many people, but when you consider that the CSU system is one of the largest employers in California, this perception may change. Imagine all the intelligent, student-centered adjuncts that leave the system.

What a loss for the universities with adjuncts like me.

 

The drama of a broken elbow April 22, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — courtsbrogno @ 3:07 pm

As a family, we’ve been fortunate enough to avoid any broken bones. I never even broke a bone (except for that one time, junior year in high school, where I “kinda” broke my finger, but it didn’t really hurt and all I cared about was that I got out of P.E. for a month). We also haven’t spent much time in the Emergency Room.–once when Maddie had a concussion and another time when Luke had a fish bone stuck in his throat.

But that all changed a few months ago.

It was a Monday and I was teaching my classes when during my 4-5 class, i noticed Jessie, the woman who picks Luke up from school for me once a week, had called. I stepped out of class and called her back. “Luke fell on his elbow and it wasn’t a bad fall, but he keep crying and I don’t know if he’s faking it because he just wants to go home or if he’s really hurt,” she said. Well, if there’s one thing consistent about Luke it’s that he never cries when he falls down or gets hurt. Yes, he’s a emotional crier. But he’s taken tumbles that make me wince and he gets up just fine. Knowing this I canceled the rest of class and went immediately to get Luke.

As soon as I saw him, I knew we were going to the Emergency Room.

And of course, the emergency room was packed. But they did get us in rather quickly, and as soon as the doctor saw him, he knew he had broken his elbow. An x-ray confirmed this. And as soon as the doctor removed his shirt, I knew it: his elbow was bruised and didn’t even look like an elbow. The doctor was pretty sure he would need surgery as well.

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Luke was in so much pain–expect when they gave him morphine–then he was pain free and hilarious. But they couldn’t send us home with morphine so they sent us home with a referral to an orthopedic surgeon and some other meds (I can’t remember the name).

Sadly, the meds they sent us home with didn’t really help and in fact, made him throw up for about 6 hours. So on top of being in terrible pain, he also threw up. His nights were terrible: he couldn’t get comfortable and every time he moved, his arm hurt (it’s amazing how much we don’t really think about how connected our arms are to everything we do). It was a terrible experience for him, and as his mother, because there was nothing I could do to make him feel better, I felt just as terrible (well, emotionally terrible, not physically).

He spent most of the next few days lying around, uncomfortable while we waited to see the doctor about his surgery:

luke 5The few times he could get up and walk around were short lived:

luke 6

We did get to see the doctor rather quickly and surgery was scheduled the Thursday after it happened (they have to do the surgery quickly as they want the swelling to go down, but not the bones to set).

Luke had no idea what he was in for, so at first he thought the whole per-surgery thing was kind of exciting:

luke 7

The surgery was supposed to last about 1/2 an hour, but instead lasted almost 2 hours. I guess the damage was more extensive then the doctor first thought and Luke needed 2 pins put through his elbow to stabilize the area.

And Luke waking up from recovery was a NIGHTMARE. He’d been put to sleep once before, at about 2 years old, for some dental work, and he woke up pretty violent then. The same thing happened when he woke from this surgery. He was thrashing and screaming and confused and nothing could calm him down.

luke 9

The nurses were incredibly nice and the anesthesiologist came twice to give Luke more meds, but nothing worked. Plus there were other people in recovery and Luke was just ruining their experience. I’m pretty sure that no patient has ever been kicked out of recovery faster than Luke. At first they told us he’d be there for about 2 hours, then they said he needed to drink a box of juice before he could leave just to make sure he didn’t throw it up, but when he wouldn’t stop screaming at the top of his lungs, the nurse told him just to take a sip of juice, waited about 30 seconds, said he didn’t throw it up, and then helped me and Luke’s dad get him dressed in record time, while everyone else worked on our release papers, and then we we’re practically pushed out the door. But, believe me, I don’t blame them one bit.

After the surgery, it was back to square one: not sleeping because of the pain, crying all night, having a difficult time even walking around. All this lasted for about 3 days. It’s a good thing I have a pretty flexible work schedule because i had to take the entire week off work. And while that put me way behind, nothing was more important than being there for Luke.

Finally, about 2 weeks after the surgery, Luke got his cast on:

luke 10

Once the cast was on instead of the splint, his arm was more stabilized and unable to move as much, and so, he could  move and play as usual.

The cast stayed on for 3 weeks and then finally, it came off:

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His elbow is healed and his arm is tiny, but I’m as happy as is he.

Luke finally got to take a full bath without a plastic garbage bag around his arm and he was beyond thrilled:

luke 16Now everything is back to normal and we’re just working on exercising that elbow until it gets straight, and it’s coming along quite well.

But I knock on wood and send out prayers to the universe: “No more broken bones, please. Please, no more broken bones.”

And although I know the chances of Luke breaking another bone are high, I never, ever want to see him go through so much pain again. It broke my heart that there was nothing I could do about it.

The saying–“when you have a child it’s like your heart goes walking around outside your body”–is so true. And the heart breaks more easily when it’s not inside my own chest.

 

2015 is going to be the best year ever…well, soon, soon it will be April 13, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — courtsbrogno @ 11:18 am

2015 came in with a bang. I celebrated with my dear friend, S., and many more friends.new year1

new year 2

And a few days after the new year, took a family hike up Madonna, all the way to the top, to play under the lights shaped as a Christmas Tree:

new year 3

i had great plans for the new year: write everyday on this blog to get my feelings out and to keep up with the few people who actually read this blog, and most importantly, to practice my writing for the summer when I WILL get down to finishing the revisions for one of my novels. I was also going to exercise more and be a kinder neighbor, daughter, friend, mother.

But none of that happened. None. Because of my terrible Winter quarter schedule.

Yes, when school started January 5th or so, I was in for 11 weeks of total hell. My schedule was terrible. I was teaching 5 classes (I at the community college and 4 at the university), which is the same as I always do, but I was basically teaching M-Th 8-8. Yes, I had a break from 5-7pm. but that gave me just enough time to get Luke, run home, feed my children, help Luke with homework, and then rush back to teach from 7-8p.m.

I’m not kidding when I say this schedule completely overwhelmed me. I felt like I was always at my office and always exhausted, and then because Luke broke his elbow (more about that in another post) and I took a week off of work to be home with him, I got so behind in my grading that I still to this day cannot believe I actually caught up.

So for about three months, 2015 wasn’t so great.

But it’s a new quarter and I’m feeling much more balanced, so I’ll be keeping up with my new year’s resolutions: writing more, exercising, catching up on thank you cards, spending more quality time with my kids, and trying to still give love and care to myself.

At least I’m going to try. Really try.

 

Christmas Blitz January 14, 2015

Filed under: family fun — courtsbrogno @ 9:53 am

After getting back from Ireland, I was in full mode Christmas planning. After all, I only had three days to finish up some shopping (fortunately I had already bought 90% of my gifts), wrap everything, clean the house, bake cookies, and do this all while keeping the kids busy and suffering from total jet lag.

This year I had made the decision to go “light” on presents. Last year was such a total overload that I can’t even remember what each kid received. So I really didn’t buy the kids anything but one or two gifts–and things they really wanted or needed. My sister and I made the same decision about the entire family. We all got gifts, but small gifts–nothing that cost too much and something we actually needed.

So everything worked out great. Except my present wrapping. That was just a hot mess.

Christmas Eve we went to my parent’s house for dinner and family time. We ate, talked, tracked Santa, and generally everyone got super annoyed at Luke because he could not contain his enthusiasm for Santa which made him behave like a bat-shit crazy person. Other than that, though, we had a good time.

eve

(First decent family photo in a long time)

cl3(Cate and Luke. Their cuteness kills me.)

ben(Me and baby Ben. He is just so adorable.)

brit(I know I dressed Luke, but I didn’t realize I made him look like a British rock star.)

cookies(Finally getting kicked out of my parent’s house–ahem, I mean going home–and putting out cookies and milk for Santa)

My head hit the pillow and before I knew it, I opened my eyes to Luke’s huge face directly in front of mine, asking “Can I open presents? Is it time? Can I? Can I? Mommy. Mommy. Listen to me.” I looked at my phone and the time was 6:30 am. I have one Christmas rule and that is NO OPENING PRESENTS UNTIL 7 AM. So I told Luke to wait another half hour and I got up, washed my face, brushed my teeth, and made some coffee.

But let me tell you, that 1/2 hour was the longest of my life because Luke kept pestering me for the time (“It’s 6:38, Luke. Now it’s 6:40, Luke. It’s 6:41, Luke”) and having to wake up the ultimate teenage girl, Maddie, who would have slept until 10 if she had her way and even though she had presents waiting for her, grumbled as she tried to get out of bed.

Finally, it was time.

santa(Santa gifts first! Luke got what he wanted:  My Little Ponies and Frozen figurines sets. Maddie got slippers: I swear that’s what she asked for.)

clothes

(How Luke acted every time he opened a gift that contained clothes. The exact opposite of his sister.)

family(The mess of toys and clothes, but most importantly, sharing the morning with family)

fav(Probably Luke’s favorite gift that came from my parents–a 26 foot, 4 car, track that lights up in the dark)

birk(Probably Maddie’s favorite gift–a pair of Birkenstocks. And Lord help me if I swore that Birkenstocks would never cross the threshold of MY house. If this doesn’t prove how much I truly love Maddie, then I don’t know what does)

pins(My favorite gift came from my sister: 2 buttons that read #READ and All you need is BOOKS. I wear them with pride on my denim jacket)

necklace(A good friend also gave me this beautiful necklace that I love, love, love)

cl(Christmas playtime with Cate and Luke–I took them to the movies)

cl2(The they created an entire town from Luke’s new play-doh set.)

I think this was my favorite Christmas yet because we really just enjoyed each other as a family and there wasn’t an over-abundance of toys everywhere. It felt like what the season should be about–playing with new toys/outfits, for sure, but also just hanging around with family and savoring that crazy/loving/anticipatory feeling of Christmas.

 

I left my heart and soul in Ireland January 7, 2015

Filed under: adult fun — courtsbrogno @ 10:51 am

It’s true, I left it all in Ireland. the country captured me. It’s the first country I can say with full authority that “I would live here.” Despite the weather and the rain, the horrible food, and the pale, white people, I would happily live in Ireland because the people are the nicest I’ve ever met, the culture is one of inclusivity, and  there is always something to do for all ages.

So back to my trip. i made it to Galway. I found the right bus, didn’t get lost, and loved this city. My friend, Kelly, lived in Ireland for two years and she lived in Galway. I never understood why she didn’t live in Dublin but now I totally get it. Galway is much more bohemian, more laid back. It’s a much smaller city with less historical sights to visit, but there’s just something there that made it amazing.

hotle

(I stayed at the Eyre Square Hotel, which i solely picked because of the “Eyre” part, which reminded me of Jane Eyre. It was a good choice too. It was right in the middle of Eyre Square, the hub of downtown Galway and the price was within my small budget.)

Galway has beautiful streets and shops and people and because it’s a college town it seems much more liberal and less cosmopolitan than Dublin.

galway

(This was in the middle of Eyre square: A Christmas Market. From what i was told it’s set up by a German company. but they had a ferris wheel, a merry-go-round, and lots of little shops. It was cute, I have to admit.)

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(The main shopping area, pedestrian only. And although there were little mom and pop shops, they also had Prada, Top Shop, and other high priced fancy shops that i didn’t dare go into).

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(I took this picture just because I loved this corner and I would sit at a cafe every morning, having coffee and staring at this building)

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(I loved the old and the new buildings side by side.)

I also took a tour. I know, me. I’m not a tour person, but i really wanted to see the Cliffs of Moher and although i had offers from people I met to take me, i decided it might be more interesting to go on a bus and hear a professional talk about it. I wasn’t disappointed.

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(We first visited the Burren region, which is 125 square miles of limestone landscape on the Western seaboard of Ireland. It was interesting and beautiful, but mostly just rolling green hills with sheep and cows and tons of limestone. the limestone is cool, though, because the Irish use it to make the most beautiful stone walls I’ve ever seen.)

stone wall

(See: beautiful stone walls everywhere. I really, really wish we did something like this in California instead of just using concrete barriers.)

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(The Burren region with beautiful stone walls)

rainbow

(How Irish is this? I saw a rainbow!)

Then we went to Aillwee Cave, which is an underground cavern with bridged chasms and waterfalls. I must say, I really wasn’t that impressed.

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cave 5caves 2

Finally we made it to the Cliffs of Moher and even though it was so windy and cold and rainy, it was beautiful. My pictures do NOT do this place justice.

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(O’Briens tower)

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(I was so interested in who could possibly have lived here–in the past, before it was a tourist attraction–because all I kept thinking while I was there was “The Cliffs of Insanity” from The Princess Bride. This is because the cliffs are so treacherous looking. I wondered how many ships had crashed among them. But then I learned that this was a great fishing area and the Irish used (and still some do) a small bay a few miles up the coast. Regardless, I learned a lot).

There was this great pub across the street from my hotel that I went to every night in Galway and I made a friend who took me in his car to visit the Wild Atlantic Way, which is basically a scenic drive just like our Highway 1. It was gorgeous.

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We also visited some small towns on the Western coast and there’s only one word to describe these towns: bucolic.

town

(A typical town)

thatched

(Houses with THATCHED ROOFS! Adorable)

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(Just a few of the quaint houses)

Finally we visited Dunguaire castle. In the summer you can take tours, but it was closed for the winter, yet it was still beautiful.

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castle 2

And that was my end of Galway. I had such a great time in this city. I can’t recommend it enough.

Then it was another bus ride back to Dublin (that I didn’t get lost or confused by! I’m actually so proud of myself).

I checked into my hotel and was put in the smallest hotel room ever, but it was fine because I was in the Temple Bar area, the price was affordable, and I didn’t spend much time in my hotel anyway.

d small hotel

(Smallest hotel room EVER)

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(But my hotel room did have a cute view)

I spent some time wandering around the city some more:

d river

(The river. This is how the Vikings got into Ireland and defeated them)

The streets were just beautiful. So many little, curvy side-streets and cobblestone paths:

d street 2

d street

Because I already visited most of the “hot spots” in Dublin, I want to focus on the more mundane, but exciting part of Dublin, like the nightlife, which was amazing. Every night, I would wander into a pub and at every pub I saw, there was always someone playing music (American, British, Irish covers) and the best part was that everyone would sing along, and I HAD THE BEST TIME. Here in America, you go to a bar/pub and you meet friends and sit with them and kind of keep to yourself, but in Ireland, everyone is talking to everyone and putting their arms around each other and just singing. It was incredible.

best music

(These two guys were my favorite. they could sing anything from Johnny Cash to Aretha Franklin to Oasis to, of course, Ed Sheeran)

And no matter where I went, I couldn’t escape these two songs, which were sung at least three times at each bar with everyone singing at the top of their lungs:

lilkenny

(I finally tried the beer Kilkenny and LOVED it. hate to admit it, but I liked it more than Guinness)

But even I have to admit that I got tired of beer and for one night I actually had a glass of wine:

d wine

And I actually made it one night to Temple Bar, the most popular and most expensive bar in Ireland. It’s a complete tourist trap, but it was fun:

temple bar

And no matter where I went, almost everyone was wearing an ugly sweater because that’s what you do during Christmas in Ireland. They do this without a hint of irony either.

ugly sweater

And I made some great friends:

friends

And then it was time to go home. And, ohhhh, I didn’t want to. Sure I missed my kids, but I wanted to stay longer. To keep going to pubs and singing. To meet nice and new people. To wander around at my own whim. But, Christmas was coming and I had a plane to catch.

I must say, the Dublin airport has US Precustoms (where you go through US customs in Ireland instead of the US), which I had never done before, and it was a bit confusing, and I had stayed out until 4 am and got to the airport at 6:45 am and was seriously hung over. As proof, this is how I looked:

coming home

But on both flights home, I was in economy plus–only because not enough people bought into these seats, so the airline randomly just puts passengers in them–and it was such a better flight experience. So much more leg room, working TV/Movies. I felt so spoiled.

coming home 2

I got home around 10;30 p.m. on December 22nd, and went immediately to bed. And I was extremely happy to wake up to this:

coming home 3

Until I was bombarded with: “Mommy, I’m hungry. Mommy I want a donut for breakfast. Mommy I want to go to the park. When is Santa coming?” And from Maddie: “Hi Mom. I need to go do this…and can Lily come over tonight? And I have to make sure this gets done….and, and, and..”

Then I knew: VACATION OVER.

 

Cool and confusing, the Irish edition December 19, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — courtsbrogno @ 10:27 am

Since I’ve been “across the pond” (I’ve heard this from numerous people), I’ve noticed some really cool things and then some totally confusing parts of the Irish. Now, I could go on for days about what’s cool and confusing about American, but since I’m here, in Ireland, it only seems appropriate to do this country some justice.
THE COOL:

Every hotel has a power turning switch attached to your room key, so when you leave your room, all the power goes out too. I mean, I guess you could leave the power key in and just take your room key,but the whole idea behind it is just so cool. Think of how much energy the Irish are saving!

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In every hotel room and house/apartment I’ve been in they also have turn off switches for every power outlet. Again,the Irish are saving their country so much money! We should get on this is the states!

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Also, the Irish have–in the cities at least–wifi everywhere. I mean, almost every corner has a “hot spot” which is a wifi connection place. This has been great for me because I can’t use my phone unless hooked up to wifi, but I think it’s pretty beneficial for everyone here. On the other hand, though, I will never complain about my students or Maddie being on the phone a lot because the Irish have us beat. They are on their phones constantly and everywhere. It’s quite unbelievable actually.

THE CONFUSING:

The Irish get free water. As in, no one in Ireland gets a water bill. Which seems cool, right? It’s not like they really have to worry about droughts and saving water. Yet, right now this is a HUGE topic of concern because the government is discussing charging for water because their sewer and waste water systems are out of date (this explains why No one drinks from the tap and why no restaurant/cafe gives out regular water. It’s like I’m in Mexico or something). I can’t tell you how many people have asked me how much my water bill is in the states and then freaks out because they can’t afford to payoff mother bill. I can see both sides of the argument, but hey, they’re getting free wifi everywhere so maybe paying a small portion of a water bill isnt such a bad idea.

The euro is about as dumb as driving on the left side of the road. I mean, so. Many. Coins.

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So in the pic is a 5 euro and a 50 euro– both the same color and size, pretty much. I thought the whole idea of different colored money would be better distinction. But nope, because I’ve had tobe very careful with those 50 euros. The the coins! So they don’t have 1 or 2 euros in paper, so that means if you drop a coin it could be 1c, 2c, 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, 1 euro, or 2 euros. For reals? This is just ridiculous, and it means that if you drop a coin, you don’t keep walking like in the states. You pick that up! You don’t want to just drop 2 euro.

Every sign is in English and Gaelic. But here’s the deal,no one really speaks Gaelic. Theyre taught it in school,but no one actually uses it, so I’ve been told. It’s just a way to hold onto their heritage. So, here’s where I have to give the states so credit. I really thought we were the only country whose citizens really only speak English, compared to most of our European counterparts who speak like 4 languages and in south America as well…and well pretty much everywhere else, but not the Irish. They don’t learn Spanish or hey, even mandarin. Nope, they learn Gaelic, a pretty much dead language.

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This brings me to a touchy subject: the Irish are pretty damn ugly. The pattern seems to go like this: cute babies–>cute kids–>awkward teenagers–> hipster and cute 20s–>terrible and ugly 30s-50s–>adorable old people.

I can’t say anymore. I really feel badly about this but my advice to the Irish would be STOP BREEDING JUST IRISH GENES. MIX IT UP.

Finallly, CCTV. I’ve seen how CCTV is used in all the UK movies and TV shows I’ve seen, but when you see it all around with “CCTV taping 24 hours a day” notices, it feels a little creepy. Like I’m in some kind is surveillance state. Which I am. I guess.

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That’s it for now. I hate to pick on this beautiful country,but hey, I’d do it to the states in a heart beat and probably have a lot worse to say.