Wide Awake in Wonderland

We’re only dancing on this earth for a short while

Another day, another downpour August 18, 2008

All these floods are starting to piss me off.

It’s hassle enough as it is. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that all the arrangements and traveling and lugging o’ the stuff and planning and plain old logistics weren’t utterly exhausting. They say getting there is half the fun. If that’s true, then I’m having -33% fun. Add into that the complications of the Irish weather (and the extreme complications of all the flooding – I’m currently writing from a train bound for Dublin. The journey typically takes 2 hours. Today – due to high flood water on the tracks – it’s taking six), and I’m having -75% fun. The other half had better be pretty darn good to compensate for all this!

Regardless, I’ve settled into the backpacking experience a little better, and am starting to develop a groove. There’s a ‘set’ way I pack my bag now, which makes it easier to get everything in quickly, and to find things in near silence and darkness. The hostel experience is made or ruined by your roommates, so I’m hoping to win a nomination – or at least honorable mention – as hostel roommate of the year. Thus, I always try to create zero disruption those times i share a room with early sleepers– which requires getting to critical items without actually being able to see them.

Meanwhile, I bought a ‘pay as you go’ phone, but no one seems to be able to call it. They don’t actually make phones that place calls and but won’t receive them…do they??? If they do, I’ve bought one. Moreover, whenever I turn the thing on (or it turns itself on, which it’s prone to doing), all sorts of bubbles dance around and spell out the words “Fun Club.” I could be wrong, but it makes me think maybe this is a phone geared toward the pre-school set? In that case, you’d think the opposite would be true: It could receive calls, but it wouldn’t be able to place them. Talking to preschoolers can be entertaining, but you wouldn’t want them calling you all day long, telling knock, knock jokes that they can’t remember the punch line to.

Otherwise, I’m in Dublin. It’s wet. I hear Portugal is having a heat wave, and I CANNOT WAIT…

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Now I know why the ancestors left the old country August 17, 2008

By the Peace Wall (three stories high, and built to keep the Protestants and Catholics separate) in Belfast, Ireland

By the Peace Wall (three stories high, and built to keep the Protestants and Catholics separate) in Belfast, Ireland

Riding through river-deep floodwaters, trying to get to Belfast
Riding through river-deep floodwaters, trying to get to BelfastBy the Peace Wall (three stories high, and built to keep the Protestants and the Catholics away from one another) in Belfast, Ireland.
Where to start? My flight into Belfast was delayed a couple hours, and I kept hearing whispers with the words “torrential” and “flood.” As we’re landing it’s more of the same – rain, clouds, gray, blech.
I get my bag and head out to wait for the city bus. And wait. And wait. And wait. It’s Saturday, so the sign says it comes every half an hour. An hour and fifteen minutes passes…Nada. We hear that the roads are flooded, and perhaps the bus can’t make it? Thus – abandoning all logic that if a fairly tall bus can’t make it, what can? – a few of us band together and hire a taxi. It’s a really nice one, at that, a new black Mercedes. Maybe it has special waterproof powers installed by crafty German engineers?
It didn’t, although we did avert any true tragedy. There are something like five routes into Belfast, and after crossing veritable rivers, but ultimately being turned back each time, we went to attempt the last possible (way out of the way) route. The passengers consisted of me, an Australian, a couple from Belfast, and the driver, also from Belfast. The locals made comments upon seeing lakes (that apparently weren’t lakes the day before) and rushing rivers (ditto) like, “That’s scary.” Although I originally expected to be at the hostel around 5pm, I got there – tired, hungry, cold, and emotionally drained – at 10pm.
Everything was closed, so I had to fix dinner from my emergency rations – powdered lentil soup – and it was every bit as bad as it sounds. I got about 1/4 cup through and could bear no more. Budget travel through Europe could be the hot new diet you’ve been looking for!!!
Speaking of which, I am DYING for a salad. I haven’t seen a healthy looking or desirable vegetable in two weeks. What I wouldn’t do for one of those giant Olive Garden salad bowls (the size intended for the whole table). My kingdom for some iceberg lettuce and Italian dressing…
Anyway, since they owed me one, the Celtic gods smiled and delivered up some glorious sun amidst the rain. I took the Black Taxi political tour, which goes to the Catholic and Protestant sides of town, where you can see the (edited) murals painted by each during The Troubles. Or not. That’s why the ‘edited.’ Apparently what was once a listing of every catholic who died, when, and how old they were, is now an oddball mishmash of pro-Palestinian, pro-Cuba, Picasso’s Guernica, and a whole lot of anti-Bush rhetoric (which is pretty funny.) Regardless, it was a fascinating look into a terrible and somewhat senseless period in Irish history.
Perhaps if you catch me in a different mood, I’ll share my theories on the potential influence of the famous Irish temper. Being the daughter of a full-blooded Irish woman (and  thus, obviously, half-Irish myself), I know of whence I speak! Let’s just say, in the words of Bruce Banner, “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry…”
Tomorrow