24 July 2011

Adventure filled weekend ...

This weekend has been incredibly long considering that it was only two days! Though if you count the last half of Friday then it is actually two and a half. Friday evening I gave into my food obsession and celebrated Pi approximation day (22/7) with approximations of pie! There was more reason for overeating with friends though - for this weekend I have a guest from Germany staying with me so I must do my best to show her a good time. So after making lots of delicious food that was much appreciated by everyone (though I swear I'm still full), Saturday was spent on Lough Corrib.

We drove out to a friend's place and hopped in a row boat (because he lives on the lake you see and they have that sort of thing, three of them in fact) and off we went out into the lake, which is full of little islands. We took the dog with us and he kept trying to snap and the water splashing up from the oars. Apparently the cat doesn't mind being in the boat either so we were going to take him but then some dogs came running down the road and the cat freaked out and ran away. Of course in it's efforts to get away fast it clawed me to bits and managed to rip a hole in my t-shirt! I really like that t-shirt too. So no cat, just the dog, that had to do us. Did I mention that the sun finally came back out? Sort of that is. It's not hidden by rain, but the sky is not overly blue. Mostly cloudy.

So I think we must have been on the lake for near three hours, and I had a go at rowing! It was great, but I have big blisters on my hands and my muscles are sore! Not just my arms, even my calf muscles and everywhere. We decided to stop on a little island.


It was heavily inhabited by bugs. Loads of little flying insects. Luckily not midges or other things that bite and itch. Although later I was told that the lake is actually full of nasty things like leeches. Luckily I didn't know that before I was walking around in it. The island was very small so it was easy to walk all over it and take lot's of pictures. There were a couple of blue damselflies but they did not want to stay still for the camera, and there was one large dragonfly.

The dog has this weird thing about playing catch - he likes to play with rocks. He goes of and picks up a big rock in his mouth and brings it over to you, then you have to throw it and while he goes after it I think it is unlikely that the rock he picks up is the same one. He doesn't much like the water either so you can't throw the rock or stick very far, otherwise he just stands there in the water looking out to where it landed, looking so sad and pathetic!

The row back was just as much fun as the way there, I don't think I'm very good at it and we were not rowing anywhere near evenly so we went in zig-zags. We tried to see who could row hardest but that ended with my oar popping off of it's metal holder-thingy and me going flying backward with the momentum of it and dropping the oar in the water. It was OK though, it's not like we were going fast enough to lose it! There were so many bugs flying around that at one point somebody realised there were bugs in my hair, and not only were there flies of some sort in my hair (caddisflies I think), but they were mating! I let a photo be taken before freaking out and insisting that all bugs be removed from me. A spider fell on my leg at one point too but I did very well in not jumping or yelling, I just flicked it off, no shrieking at all!

So of course after such a long day a very early night was required, so that today we had some energy left to go to the beach! Of course the brief stint of sunshine had disappeared, but that didn't stop us. It was humid but foggy and when we arrived at Fanore there were loads of people swimming but you could only see about 100 metres into the water. We went for a walk up the beach, which was covered in washed up jellyfish.

The water was cold but not so bad, what was worse was all the jellyfish. It was OK at first but then there were more and more jellyfish; the purple ones are harmless but the brown ones nasty, and I saw two in the water. Every time something touched me I thought I would get stung so I did not stay in long. Now at the end of a long day it is time for a movie, finally getting around to watching Tomorrow When the War Began. It is of course already not as good as the book and it has just begun. That's OK though I have popcorn.

18 July 2011

The Macnas Parade

Despite being the middle of July and the middle of summer the sunshine here in Galway lasted only a day and a half last week - it is bloody cold and now it has started raining again! That awful light misty rain that get's everywhere and leaves you soaked before you know it. On Friday evening I went out to see the new Harry Potter movie and it was raining when we got out of the theatre - I arrived home to find that my mascara is far from waterproof and that I had great dark panda-eyes. Luckily though it did not rain yesterday much because I think that they would not postpone a parade for the sake of a bit of rain here, and I really wanted to see this one. It is a part of the Arts festival and I missed it last year, though I heard from another spectator's comment that this was the best one yet so that's good. It is not just a parade but also a huge dramatic performance with some big idea behind (which I really did not follow at all, but this year I think it was a little abstract), music, a lot of people dancing and acting and some loud fireworks. Macnas means 'joyful abandonment' (so I have just learnt) and has been around for about 25 years. The costumes were really amazing!

Like I said above, I'm not really sure what the story was supposed to be this year - there was a lot of noise and a lot of smoke from the fireworks so it was difficult to listen to anything that the people in the floats were saying. There were some really good drummers, and lot's of people on stilts, those curved bouncy sort. I was of course as near to the road as possible taking photos, as I do, and the stilted people have a bad habit of leaning over and getting so in your face that you worry they will fall down. A lot of the small children seemed to not enjoy it so much, it was a bit loud and scary.

At one point, I think just ahead of these guys on stilts with the animal masks, there were some girls all dressed in silver dancing around. They did an OK job at pretending to do ballet, except that they were clearly trying to dance in synchronisation and one of the girls at the back was so terribly off, the rest of the group would have already landed before she even began her jump or leap. Again though, the costumes were great.

So at some point, between these two floats I think it was, one of the costumed people decided that of all the spectators I was a good one to be picked on. This guy was covered in face make up to make him look all wrinkly and flaky, like his skin was coming off, and he had a big cape on I think. I don't really remember because I did not actually get a good look at him, the first thing I knew was this face coming closer and closer and then instead of backing off this demon-guy spread his cape, grabbed me and dragged me out into the parade. He was really strong too so there was nothing I could do, I struggled futilely but could not get away while random other spectators took photos of me. My own friends did not see in time to get a picture, because next thing you know he lets me go and I rush back to my place, only now I was not so keen to be standing so close to the parade.

The parade was good but it seemed to end very quickly. It ended with another ear-splitting bang and then the crowds began to dissipate. There is another week of the Arts festival but I doubt I will make the most of it seeing as I am not so culturally inclined - I would have liked to see the acrobatics show but it sold out before I even had the chance to consider getting a ticket. I would very much like to get some working helping in the costume department for next year's Macnas parade. For now however I must work a bit harder, I did well this morning and now it is lunchtime, I must try to not procrastinate after lunch seeing as I must meet with the ole' supervisor tomorrow. So I will leave you with the lasting impression of what appears to be a rhino in a wheelchair:

13 July 2011

Sunny Galway (it does happen sometimes)

I guess it is high time to update this even though life is a little dull at the moment so I have no exciting things to say. I will just say less exciting but somewhat funny things instead. Today is hot and sunny. Unfortunately it is Wednesday. I am at work, because I am a good student and do not skive off, although I have spent about 3 hours of today giving zoology museum tours and not doing my actual work. It is difficult to get motivated though when all I want to do is go outside and enjoy the brief sunshine. It is so good today that I even risked wearing a skirt! Of course, I do have spare clothes in my office desk for when the weather suddenly changes or I arrive to work soaked from torrential rain. The google weather forecast tells me that there is a chance of rain today and also every other day. The BBC weather forecast tells me it will start raining by the weekend. This does not bode well, I do not want sunshine while I am at work.

However, seeing as that is what I have, I decided to go off to the library just as an excuse to get outside for a short walk in the sun. As I was reaching one of the entrances, which like the others has an electronic sliding door, three people were walking toward the door from the other side. They reached it before I did, these three people walking side by side, and of course the door opened as it should and they continued walking with barely a pause, not even thinking about it. Which is why they failed to notice that the doors did not open overly wide and one of the blokes on the end did not quite make it through the door. He mostly banged into the door, really loudly, making it shake a lot. Then he just stood there looking a bit confused. Then he began to gesture and say something. These people were Spanish I think so I don't know what was said but I'm pretty sure it would have been along the lines of 'would you look at that, the door did not open'. Finally he stopped just standing there and moved along so that I could continue on my way, only now I had something to laugh about.

So yesterday another funny thing happened to me, which once explained is not actually overly funny but for the beginning at least it is. I was quite pleased to find a letter in my mailbox from the health board, which was hopefully an appointment for a consultation. I opened up to find that yes, it was an appointment letter, only the date said the 2nd of January (which first of all had me a little concerned because I will not be here on that day) but then I saw the year and looked twice and realised that this is surely not my appointment. Since when are you given appointments 12 years in advance? Of course I immediately assumed it must be a mistake, they surely are not giving out appointments for 2024, so I went and called up the hospital. After being told that I am on a waiting list I explained that I had just been given an appointment for 2024, and seeing as this cannot be possible can they tell me when my appointment is? So, then I get the explanation, which makes it much less funny and just another story of the messed up system here with overworked hospitals where a lot of little mistakes are made. So, it turns out that when put on a waiting list the computer system automatically gives you an appointment date in the very far future but this is not really real, you are just on the waiting list. Only somebody printed this out and then somebody else picked it up and must have put it in the outgoing mail box and so I got this letter. It happens sometimes, she told me. On the upside, the very kind secretary on the phone had a look at the waiting list and actually gave me a real appointment, for this year and not in another decade. So you see the explanation really takes the funniness away.

Yesterday I also went to the movies because just like back home it is cheaper to go on a Tuesday. We saw a movie called The Guard and I have no idea if it will be released in NZ because it is an Irish movie and it is very odd to see Galway on the big screen. They make it look a lot cleaner and emptier. They are at least truthful about the rainy state of this county though. And it was a comedy and really quite funny, and had quite a good ending. So if it is released in NZ I do recommend it, then you will see a little of where I live. On Monday as far as I can remember nothing exciting or funny happened but on Sunday I got rained on, and brought a bright pink umbrella, and a square muffin pan. I just couldn't resist the novelty of square muffins and cupcakes. On Satuday I watched the movie Happy Feet which I had never seen before and was quite different to what I expected - it's interesting to see all the ecological save-the-planet overtones that they are putting into children's movies these days. Great idea in my opinion, they should do it more often, in fact they should probably include subliminal messages in all television to encourage people to recycle and boycott large fisheries and stop using so much oil and all that other bad stuff.

But as you can see I am clearly procrastinating and should be working, although now it is 4.30 in the afternoon the day is practically done so I might as well just go home. Work is too hard. I should buy a lotto ticket. And go enjoy the sunshine before it disappears.

06 July 2011

Dreary Galway

So right now I should be working. It is 10 am and only Wednesday, but I am feeling terribly un-motivated already. Which is unfortunate seeing as I have two weeks to make another draft of the paper that I am supposed to be getting published and apparently needs a lot of work and a good spin because my actual work is just not that interesting (so says a certain deprecating, disparaging supervisor whom I hope never comes across such a comment). Not only that but I have a presentation to prepare for my first conference which I am sure will also not be good enough for the aforementioned supervisor, but on the bright side by the time she returns from maternity leave it will be far too late to protest, in fact it will probably be completely forgotten, so I should just not worry too much and say whatever I please. Another significant positive note is that I get to go to Belgium to to some work for a couple of weeks in August. Maybe it will be sunny there. Because it certainly is not here. It was nice-ish on Saturday. That's probabaly it for July. Now it is overcast, which is somehow very de-motivational. Of course if it was sunny I would also rather not be working. So I will get my procrastination out of my system now and then try to get some work done.

The disappointing thing about being back in Galway is the lack of shops. There are of course shops here but not enough and they are too crowded and I have no money to spend anyway so shopping is difficult. But even basic things are so hard to find sometimes. I need headphones which you think would be easy to come by but no, there is very little to choose from. I was making cupcakes last week and they needed to be frosted but you know, there was no icing sugar at the biggest supermarket. Luckily they have it at a smaller one but still, you would think that the only really large supermarket here would have something so obvious as icing sugar. Everything is on sale at the moment but the shops are so crowded and current fashion is a little overated, not to mention overpriced, so I have been sewing instead. Of course there is only one fabric store here, it is not cheap and the selection is vastly limited. So lately I have not been making new clothes but changing old clothes. I fixed two dresses, turned an old skirt into a top and I have a pair of jeans that don't fit but might make a nice skirt. Plus I am teaching friends how to sew because it is the new thing, everyone wants to be doing it. Unfortunately my penchant for clothing is not always a good thing. I probably have too many clothes, seeing as the bottom of one of my drawers broke as I was trying to press my things down enough to make it fit into the dresser.

Wandering through the shopping centre that is near where I live I am continiously surprised by the presence of two new foot-spa clinics - the type that you have maybe seen on the news that involve pools of tiny fish that eat all the dead skin from your feet. What is with all those people, why do they want little fish eating their skin? And there are two of them! In this tiny city with the bare minimum of decent shops there is suddenly a thriving niche for fish pedicures? I must admit, the one thing about Galway is that there are always new businesses starting up, you would think it is a good location for entrepreneurs - loads of new cafes right now. Of course they don't generally last very long. So I wonder how long will the toe-eating fish fad last? Hopefully not too long because it's really quite gross and surely not at all hygenic. Besides, think of the poor fish, what a life!