Dun Laoghaire, Ireland

That’s not pronounced “Dun Lay-o-gare”. It’s actually “Dun Leary”. Yeah, those Irish names are confusing to pronounce. It was for me.

I woke up around 8 am and got the day started early. Went to explore the northern half of Dublin and found most of the immigrant stores are more concentrated there. Polish, Czech, Chinese, Moldovan, you name it.

Also, Dublin (like most of Europe I’m guessing) has a lot of butcher shops. I wish America had more mom/pop butcher shops, especially in Texas. New York probably has a few. I took a walk in a few of their grocery stores. They don’t have massive stores like Costco or HEB or Walmart around here. It’s mostly small supermarkets. For the most part, they have what American stores have, just different brands, brands I grew up with in Malaysia, which used to be a British colony (Ribena, Schweppes anyone?). I haven’t seen something out of the ordinary yet that completely boggled my mind. Maybe ‘Rhubarb and Ginger jam’ and ‘White/Black pudding’ which really is meat and blood in a sausage form.

I had to find out how to get to Belfast so I took a walk around and had to find the Bus Eiranne office. Some locals were kind enough to point it out to me. I will be there around 7:30 am this morning to take the 2.5 hour ride up to Eire’s rivals.

There are just so many buses here it’s insane. I had to find one to get to Dun Laoghaire but when I finally found the right one, the wait for the bus was too long and it was an 80 minute ride. Instead, I took the D.A.R.T. train and for €4.20, it took me back and forth to Dun Laoghaire in around 20 minutes one way.

Dun Laoghaire is a small coastal town with a breathtaking view. It isn’t famous for anything other than the ports. Not the food nor any particular tourist attraction (according to a police officer whom I spoke too. His accent was damned thick, could hardly understand him). It’s a normal town with working folk and students.

I'm defending Dun Laoghaire!

The Eastern pier was super long. I walked all the way to the lighthouse, enjoying the views and watching ppl take their dogs and kids out for walks. Lots of yachts parked in the water. I was sitting down writing something down when a father exclaimed to his little girl that there was a seal in the waters. I managed to just catch a video of it before it disappeared underwater, probably playing hide and seek with us but picking too good a hiding spot amongst the yachts.

I enjoyed an ice cream cone and a beef + Guinness pie at a local bakery. Both were delicious and the immigrant shopkeeper got an A+++ rating from me for customer service. I decided I was done with people watching for a day and walked back to the train station and head back to Dublin and retire for the night.

Until my roommates woke me up since they had to pack up for their 4 am flight out to London and my other roommate (mr aerospace engineer) ran out of bed and puked onto the bathroom floor, drunk. He’s there right now, sleeping in the bathroom after his second run back there. I’m not planning to use the bathroom tomorrow, just head straight out to Belfast and wash up there.

PICS:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/kksm83/sets/72157623973388031/

Dublin, Ireland

Dublin is a lot colder than I thought it would be. It was cloudy and in the 60’s when I got here. After I landed and got my bag, the first challenge was getting to my hostel without getting ripped off (aka taxis). I managed to find out the bus that would take me to the area my hostel would be.

The street signs in Dublin are terrible. They are located on buildings on the corners of streets and sometimes it’s not even obvious. I was semi-lost for a while but with the help of a few locals, I found my way to the hostel.

I am bunking with 5 other ppl, who coincidentally are Americans too. 4 of them are college students who are backpacking some major cities in Europe. The other was an aerospace engineer who looked a lot like a surfer/stoner guy. He’s from Utah and was traveling Scotland, England, Ireland for a few weeks.

Sometimes I stood in one spot and just observed ppl. Many who walked past me were conversing in foreign European languages. I couldn’t tell what was what but I could tell Dublin had many immigrants who were here trying to make a living, much like immigrants in America. I even managed to run into a few Malaysian students on the tram. They were conversing in Bahasa Malaysia and I recognized it, struck up a conversation with them. Business students at Dublin College. Friendly Malay fellas.

I’m hoping to cover the other half of Dublin tomorrow. Then make my way to the countryside or Belfast, not sure which yet. I’ve heard many great things about the beautiful countryside here. The plane flight as we entered the country showed this as well, it was a spectacular view.

Pictures from Day 1 are here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/kksm83/sets/72157624089739692/

Memories of LA (Part 1)

I never wrote about my time in LA. I had started an entry one time but found it hard to put my thoughts and reflections all together so I deleted the whole thing. I’m going to try again, but it’s going to be simple.

I don’t regret leaving my job, selling my house, packing what I could into my car, and driving off for 22 hours and 1400 miles to LA. It was a great experience and brought me new sights/smells/sounds. Living there for 4 months wasn’t always easy but I did take quite a few memories from it. And the characters, oh boy, the characters I lived with…

I lived in a very very small room (toilet attached but most of us shared a community shower outside. One person at a time though) and paid $650/month. You could pay the same amount for a 1b1b apartment in Texas. It was a dorm style housing area run by a Korean man. It used to be a Christian rehab center for drug addicts. Even then, there were those who still sold/bought drugs there. Anyway, I guess it got shut down and the place turned into a housing complex on busy Venice Blvd. It was in Koreatown but I suppose it shared the same space are Mexicotown.

The first day I got there, I was being shown around by the landlord and some drunk hispanic-looking guy came in and started a huge argument with the landlord, right in front of me, apparently over some broken furniture from the night before. The landlord decided that he had to stop lest a potential renter like me would be scared away.

Over the next few months, on top of job-searching (EE grad, with 3 years experience in the power/energy industry, looking for work in hardware design without any network contacts, does not help), visiting the beaches, eating the foods (oh, the local joints were great), seeing the sights, waking up at 4 am to watch soccer matches at Irish pubs, etc…I got to meet my “dorm” mates.

There’s the most normal guy, a nurse who used to be a doctor in the Phillippines. Nice guy, divorced, played tennis with him a few times.

The drunk guy earlier. He was an Indonesian-born chef who had a number of other various odd jobs previously. He’s an aggressive crazy drunk but when sober, he’s actually a very nice humble guy who liked to share all the food he brings back from the kitchen he works at. Apparently his uncle is a gangster. I could tell he was a bit lonely because he always was looking for a friend to drink/bowl/watch TV with.

The 19 year old kid who came from a juvenile home. He had talent for drawing perverted anime, which he was proud of. His ambition was to be a flash animator but he didn’t have the resources for it. He didn’t have internet, his computer was really ancient, he had no job or no cash. His room smelled terribly funky because he had old food laying around, he was generally a pretty messy guy but he didn’t care.I’d hear reports of food being stolen in the community fridge downstairs and his friends would be accused of it. I tried to become a friend to him, installed animation software and stuff on his PC to play with (I was lucky to have an internet port). One day, my neighbor came knocking on my door and said there was blood on the door of the kid with a note saying he didn’t care anymore for life etc. We tried knocking on his door and asking him to open it but no response. We got worried and called his juvenile home to ask them to send someone. Luckily, he eventually opened the door and he was ok, no wounds or anything. Apparently a cry for attention. But he was a pretty good guy, just dealt a lousy hand growing up.

To be continued…

Final Goodbyes in Dallas

I suck at goodbyes. I’ve been told that when you’re on the road, you say so many goodbyes so often you get good at it. I guess I will be trained in the art of goodbyes in some time.

Played my last pick up soccer game at Brookhaven on Thursday. I had been wanting to get in a decent game so I could leave on a high note. I was frustrated on Tuesday so when Thursday rolled around, instead of thinking about having a good game, I just tried to focus on on having as much fun out there as I could. I scored a decent goal, then later punted a kick off which Jon W. controlled beautifully before turning and scoring a spectacular  goal 5 seconds into our game (one of the best pick up goals I’ve seen ever, and I’ll take that assist), then set one more up later, got some decent crosses, played decent defence…anyway, I was happy to sign off in that manner. Most importantly, got to say goodbye to lots of friends I made there.

Cleared out the apartment on Friday, lots of last-minute packing and moving. I left a broken vacuum, an old broom, some paper towels, toilet paper, some air freshener behind. If hobos broke in, they could set up shop easy. Loaded up Peter’s Navigator, loaded up my car, had a shitload of wings, then came down to my sister’s place to stay the weekend.

Got to watch Chelsea/Liverpool and ManUtd/Sunderland this morning with some friends at The Londoner. Had a blast although the Chelsea result didn’t go our way. But as they say, “Football, bloody hell” and anything could happen in the final week. Said my goodbyes there too and left my old folding soccer goals with Jay, guess it’ll continue to be part of Brookhaven pick up games.

Other than that, I sold my TV and am ready to head back to Austin tomorrow. After that, camping with my buddies and then head off into the unknown.

Oh yeah, here’s my backpack which will be my friend/home the entire trip:

Everything I’ll be carrying with me with fit into that REI Flash 50.

Vaccinations

I’ve already gotten vaccinations a few weeks ago. Hep A, tetanus/polio boosters, yellow fever, and typhoid to complement what I already have been vaccinated for in the past. Will purchase malaria pills in regions that have it, or some ppl have suggested, stay covered up during peak biting hours, take precautions, and if needed, deal with it if you have it. It’s cheaper that way apparently.

Sold most of my stuff, only got a sofa, TV and car left. Other than that, lending some stuff to Lesley/Donnie to put in their home. Storing the rest of my clothes/books/CDs/DVDs/minor things.

Bought stuff for my first aid kit today, gotta be prepared just in case. Going to finish shopping at REI this weekend, gotta get a micro-fleece, some proper socks, sports sandals, and other minor things. Lastly, the backpack. Going to be traveling as light as possible.

Informed a few good friends about the impending trip just now on facebook, having told a few already beforehand. I thought I’d let a few others know, they might wonder what happened to me (maybe).

Other than that, just waiting it out. I am nervous & excited. More nervous. I don’t know what to expect ahead of me. Some ppl might wonder why I want to do this. I’ve wanted to do this since I can remember. On the bucket list, right at the top, I don’t know why it’s up there but it’s one of those things that has a window…you can’t do it when you’re tied down. The timing was right, I was financially ready for it, I’m taking my chance and going for it.