30 November 2013

Trip to UK and leaving Ireland

Let's start with leaving Ireland because that is what is at the top of my mind right now. I am sitting at the gate waiting and I have a terrible headache, perhaps because of several late nights and perhaps because of smelling too many duty free perfumes. I was going to buy alcohol with the last of my euro but luckily the lady at the till informed me that you can't actually take duty-free alcohol through transit in Abu Dhabi because there is an extra security check just before the gate and all alcohol over 100 mL not purchased in their own airport will get confiscated. How rude is that?!?! Isn't that the point of duty free? I was so pissed off. But now I just have a headache which has turned anger into self-pity. At least I got the mascara I wanted.

My trip to the UK was really good. I was only in London for 24 hours, and this is the third time I've been, but this time I was there visiting a friend so it was a completely different sort of trip. There was food and drink, lots of talking, seeing the dinosaur display at the Natural History Museum and then going to the Winter Wonderland Christmas market and eating too much, and going on a ride that featured being strapped into chairs and swung up into the air and hurtling towards the ground upside down really fast. It was terrifying and I screamed a lot. After we had seen the Christmas markets we walked through the city, visited the really big toy store, and some other shops. But I am no longer used to be a tourist so by the end of they day my feet were killing me. I made it to my next train on time and it was time to go to Wales.

My trip to Wales was much quieter, less footing it through a crowded city and more scenic drives, small town shops and really old castles. I bought lots of little things (I did in London too) but I only had my phone camera with me and the weather was foul so the pictures to remember my first visit to Wales aren't great. On my second day there we went to a spa in a hotel and hung out in the steam and sauna rooms, then had facials. It was really good. There was of course also lots of catching up with friends, the type that involves too much food and drink and late nights talking about stuff. Hopefully I am now tired enough to sleep lots on both plane rides.

Pictures are coming, when I'm back home and have better internet. For now I have about 30 hours of travel to get through.

Quick update from Abu Dhabi - the airport here really sucks! It is so crowded, despite being so new it is not big enough for the number of people they try to put through transit. To get through the security check for the terminal there was a huge line, thousands of people. And at first it seemed like there was a huge line for no reason, there was no sign saying why we were queueing, and some people were skipping the queue so I did too, only to find that the traffic jam was due to people being herded into the security check area and there were guards at the barriers. But I didn't want to go back so I waited till they weren't looking and ducked under a barrier. Luckily I didn't get caught. Going through the security check was easy and fast, didn't even have to take out my laptop or the perfume I'd bought - but just because that got through, it was probably still wise to not chance it with a bottle of booze. That probably would have been stopped. And the only reason they don't let you have it? So you shop at their shops instead, they sell just as much booze as everywhere else. After security it was still crowded, until I made it through duty free and got to the gate. Which isn't open yet and there is nowhere to sit until it is open. Plus people are lining up already. It's all just so stupid, and I am so tired. I hope this next flight is not awful.

26 November 2013

Leaving Ireland

I'm in Dublin airport with 20 minutes to wait until I go to my boarding gate. The last week has been mostly uneventful, except for the fact that I finished my thesis corrections, got my thesis re-printed and properly bound and handed in for the final time. Here's the proof:

I spent the rest of my time trying to spend time with my friends and trying to buy good presents for my dog-sitters. I also watched quite a lot of tv, read a book (The Book Thief) and wandered around Galway for the last time. By the time my next trip to Europe finally rolls around it's unlikely that any of my friends will still be in Galway, so it will be new destinations for me. Though if it were summer and warm I would consider a brief visit.

Now I am at the airport, eating soup for lunch because airport food is so pricey that I couldn't find anything else to match the amount of euro left in my purse. It's not good soup either, it's carrot and orange, and far too orangey. I will have to make up for it by finding something good to eat when I get to London. Hopefully we will find fun things to do to fill in my 24 hours in London, then it is off to Wales, where I have never been before. I will make sure to find some interesting stories to tell, but for right now I need to finish my lunch, go to my gate, and try to fit my laptop and handbag into my small suitcase, because the budget airline here will only let you take on a single item - even though it's the same weight of stuff on the plane and you keep your handbag under your seat and not in the luggage compartments. Once I was holding my book because I had been reading while I waited, and would be reading again when I sat down, and they made me stuff it into my bag, even though I took it straight back out when I got on the plan! What futile bureaucracy is that?!

Anyway, here is a final glimpse of the Claddagh in Galway city, cloudy and grey as usual.

19 November 2013

Introducing Dr Jaimie

This morning was my Viva Voce. I had to nervously defend my thesis for three hours, and despite knowing that it was certain to pass, it was still scary. They asked me unexpected questions, some of which I probably messed up. They did not focus on the places that I thought were weak, but found other new ones instead. At the end they simply tell you that you have been awarded a pass and basically now have your PhD, which is a bit of anticlimax after all those years. I have a few small corrections to make, which I hope to complete in a day, then I need to get it signed off on, print it and hand it in to the university. Finally, in a month or so I will be posted the big certificate itself and I will frame it and put it on my wall. I will probably never look inside my thesis again after it is printed. And that's it, the end of four years.

For the rest of the week I will focus on fixing the few mistakes that the examiners asked to be corrected and then getting the thesis printed and bound. I would quite like to see it bound before I go, take a photo maybe, so that I have proper closure. When I go home I will still have more papers to try and publish but the worst of everything is over. Now the next big step is to find a real job, the sort that uses my brain and knowledge a bit more. But I have time for that, things will move forward eventually. Hopefully before my money runs out though. And despite being on a budget I am turning the last of my trip into a holiday and going over to the UK - luckily that was the plan already because with so few corrections I will have nothing else to do here. It is Tuesday afternoon here so I will be back in Wellington in just under two weeks, ready to get straight back into work so that I don't go bankrupt, and also ready to enjoy some proper sunshine and warm weather, because today it is icy cold here in Galway!

14 November 2013

Back in Galway

In all the ways that count, Galway has not changed at all. It is still cold, grey and wet. It is not even 4 pm and the light is already going, and I am bulked up in layers of clothes. However, it is not as bad as it was when I lived here, so I guess the world just saved the out-of-the-ordinary extremely cold winters for me and then stopped all that nonsense when I left. In Wellington it is mostly sunny and the temperatures are getting higher, but I am missing out. I'm also somewhat bored here, as I still have four days until my viva and I'm not really sure what to do to prepare. It is odd being a student again, sitting around reading things and working on my computer doesn't really feel like work anymore. Back home my flat is probably just fine but my garden might be dying of thirst as it doesn't really get much rain. Cher is at a kennel, a good fancy one out of town, and tomorrow she will be picked up by my brother and hopefully the shared-care plan I made works out otherwise certain dog-sitters will end up rather unhappy. And I hope that someone takes photos to send back to me so that I can stop worrying that she is depressed and pining away.

The problem with being bored in Galway is that I'm quite tempted to go shopping and buy things even though I know I need to be on a budget. I have already started, because I was cold and things were on sale, so I bought a fluffy Christmas jumper and a warm hat with a ridiculously large pom-pom. But I'm so tempted to go out and find another pair of the boots that I used to love before Cher ate them, and to stock up on clothing brands that I know we don't have at home. Plus I like to have lots of choices in what to wear in the morning, and while I think I packed far too many warm jumpers, I definitely didn't pack enough winter dresses/skirts. Plus I need to buy people presents of course, especially those people helping out with Cher. This trip is definitely going to be dangerous for my bank account. To add to all of that, I'm spending the last few days of my trip in the UK, visiting a friend in London first and then another in Wales. In London we might go see a show, and maybe we will go shopping (because I seem to have a bit of a buying-things problem). In Wales I don't know what we'll do but I'm sure it will be fun. Plus I have never been to Wales before so I'll get to see new places.

But for now I will find some way to spend the rest of the afternoon, as I think I have run out of proper focus and motivation for the day. I'm back in my old office, in my old building, and it is very odd to be here.

06 November 2013

Back to Ireland

I leave for Ireland very early Friday morning and the flight is going to be long. I haven't packed yet, I am putting it off just like I have put the whole thing off. I haven't looked at my thesis since I handed it in, and I haven't begun working on the manuscript for the next paper that we are intending to publish. That part is definitely a problem considering that it is supposed to be submitted before my exam on the 19th. The exam is also a pretty big problem, considering that I have no idea if I'm ready for it or not. At least I finally organised what to do with Cher - she will go into a boarding kennel for some of the time, but it is a good one, and she will be looked after by friends for the rest of the time. All in all I will be away for 25 days. I only hope that work stuff isn't too horrible so that I can enjoy seeing my friends that I haven't seen for a year. I even plan on going over to Wales for the first time ever. And doing some shopping to stock up on my favourite brands.

Luckily, I managed to arrange my trip to occur after my birthday. Despite all the stress of having to go back and finish my PhD, I managed to have a good birthday, there was pizza, there was cake (really delicious cake) and there were fireworks. Not really big ones, because they postponed the proper city fireworks till the weekend when I will be gone. So a box of fireworks from the Warehouse, though if I had gone later in the day it probably would have been cheaper, and it was actually the first time I've had home fireworks in years and years, so they seemed pretty good. And that was it, nothing major, another birthday, and luckily it was yesterday and not today because today is horrible, it is so wet and cold that I didn't even take the poor dog for a second walk, and looking out my window earlier I couldn't actually see anything because the clouds were so low around the hill that I live on.

Anyway, I really should make an effort to start packing, so time to go now, and leave you with a picture of a duck waiting patiently at the lights to cross the road: