Newgrange Megalithic Passage Tomb 3200 BC

My Semester Start-Up Programme has officially come to an end and tomorrow I begin my first classes here at Trinity College. I have decided to let go of my frustrations circulating around Trinity College’s extremely inefficient “system” that isolates each department and makes it hard for us visiting students, who seek cross-disciplinary educations, to end up with a workable schedule. I realized after a few days here that any hopes of confident knowledge accessible via the Internet is just. not. happening. So, I’ve decided to let go. To smile about it. To embrace the fact that to figure out anything, I must walk from department to department. I must set foot inside each building. I must interact with many different people and be re-directed to many different buildings located at opposite ends of the campus. Luckily, my confusion is constantly met by a friendly Irish accent ready to help me and to explain the timetables (the course schedules) to me.

From an anthropological perspective, this isolation and division that sharply exists between each department is striking different from most American universities. Irish students are accepted into their given department as a freshman and every semester they are basically handed a pre-decided course schedule. They are rarely allowed to take courses outside of their major. Schooling is much more rigid here. However, my American counterparts (my suitemates) who have spent the last five months at Trinity, have explained that for the Irish, school is not usually their number one priority. For many Irish students, social activities take precedence. Most of Trinity’s offices close for a mandatory hour and a half lunch break daily. Are we Americans working too much? Would a little more scheduled downtime be a possible solution to Playstation-addicted youths and “Crackberry” syndrome? I’m interested to find out more about the Irish relationship to schooling, something focal in my own life, and re-evaluate my perceptions.

The past week was jam packed with morning lectures on Irish History, Art, and Literature; a literary pub crawl, an outing to the Abbey Theatre to see “The Seafarer,” a field trip to Croke Park (the Gaellic Athletic Association headquarters), a day trip to Drogheda to see Oliver Plunkett’s head and to Newgrange to see the megalithic passage tombs built in 3200 BC. It was quite the week and I have caught up on some much needed rest this weekend!

Croke Park at Sunset

Friday, the program’s final day, was probably my favorite so far. The brilliant tombs at Newgrange are extraordinary and mysterious. Since it pre-dates written history, virtually nothing is known about the people that built this engineered masterpiece or the full extent to its purpose. It is built of stones and giant rocks that have been traced to faraway parts of Ireland – meaning they were transported back to Newgrange, possibly by raft or boat. These were a sophisticated people. The tomb itself is constructed with absolutely no mortar, just strategic arrangement. The large slabs of stone compiling the roof are geometrically ordered to keep out the rain (a must in Ireland) and these construction methods have been perfectly successful for the last 5000 years. Who were these people?!? Honestly! I can barely assemble a dining room table from Ikea, let alone a structure to last 5000 years. I am, of course, slightly mechanically challenged…but that’s getting beyond the point…

Newgrange Tomb Entrance

After returning to Dublin, we stopped for a drink in Dublin’s oldest pub (established in 1198 AD…now, that’s some serious drinking) and then for fish and chips (where I unfortunately ended up dropping half my fish on the sidewalk…a subconscious plea from my body to not ingest all that grease and postpone a premature heart attack? Perhaps…)

Let’s take a minute to talk about nightlife on the weekends here in the Dirty Dublin.

Much to my surprise, the cozy, yellow haze pubs often turn into nightclubs; complete with scantily clad, barelegged Irish ladies. The fashion motto here seems to be; the more “done up” the better. No matter what shape your figure, girls here strut the cobblestones in skin tight dresses that barely cover their skivvies and platform high-heeled shoes, as well as heavily processed hair and a quarter pound of makeup. Despite the frigid temperatures, these tiny dresses are sported over bare legs! BARE LEGS! I think this is the thing that really gets me. As I walk by, in my multi-millimeter thick leggings and my flat boots, I shiver for these poor girls. I guess the exorbitant amount of alcohol keeps them all warm.

I must say, Dublin, you are not working the fashion scene quite like London… You’re not “bending it like Beckham,” if you will. London fashionistas rock the crazy, decade fusing, high heeled soiree and they do it with ease. They are the kings and queens of the fashion circus. Hell, Brick Lane looks like a vintage movie set deployed an atomic bomb. Dublin seems to have a little work to do. I have yet to see anything extremely unique here, although I still need to explore the “hipster” Williamsburg equivalent named Smithfield. The Dublin girls somewhat blend together and seem intensely juxtaposed with the less stylized Irish man.

Booze. I honestly don’t know how Dubliners afford to drink as much as they supposedly do. Especially students? Most beers here cost about 5 euros ($7.50). Shots cost about 8 euros ($12!) Dublin is notoriously an expensive city. Ireland is also infamous for being isolated from the rest of the “continent” and fails to compare their prices, resulting in some of the priciest nightlife and lifestyles in Europe. How do these people do it? Apparently, most Irish students “pre-game” (drink an extremely high quantity of straight liquor) before going out to a pub or a night club. I know this practically makes sense for budgeting students, but I must admit, my romantic ideas of frequent pub carousing are dwindling side by side with my bank account. I can’t keep up!

I’m off to bed for some reading (I picked up a William Trevor novel at Hodges Figgis Bookstore on Dawson Street this lovely sunny Sunday afternoon) before I venture out tomorrow morning for my first classes here at Trinity College! Tomorrow I start off with Sociology of Material Culture, Planet Earth, and the History of Ireland since 1900.

Oh yes, and my favorite spot so far to sip a coffee and read my new book? The Irish Film Institute.

I’ll leave you with a clever expression I came across today…

“Marriages are all happy. It’s having breakfast together that causes all the trouble.” – Irish Saying

Cheers,

Megan

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