Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas in Germany

decorating the Christmas tree!
final product

Raclette. aka: the best food ever. It's traditional to eat around Christmas time...it's this special kind of cheese that smells gross, but tastes amazing, and you need the above contraption to heat it up and eat it. You mix it with potatoes, ham, veggies, and even pinapple. Soooo good!
There is soooo much snow here in Germany! I am staying with an exchange student I met in America who is German. She lives about 10 minutes outside of Frankfurt. I have been here six days so far, and it has snowed every single one of those days, most days average a temperature of -5 degrees! The snow is causing problems all throughout Europe. The London airport has even closed down, and so many flights are being cancelled.

However, the snow is very pretty, and I am looking forward to Christmas in a foreign country. The food here is amazing, and Juliane's mother is an excellent cook who keeps me very well fed. haha. Hopefully the roads will be better tomorrow so we can drive someplace and actually see some German things!!!

Monday, November 29, 2010


On some famous bridge next to some famous castle in Rome. haha.
Inside the Pantheon. This was my favorite place I saw in Rome. I learned a lot about it in my art history class this semester and it was so cool to be able to actually see it!
The colosseum by the light of a full moon! Amazing.

So last weekend I got to go to Rome for five days and stay with my old friend Francesca. She is Italian and so I had a 'built in' tour guide and translator with me 24/7. It was really fun to be able to stay with someone that had grown up in Rome because I got to see and do things that most tourists don't get to do when they visit Rome. And we never got lost! haha

The food in Italy, mainly the food prepared by Francesca's parents, was SO GOOD! I ate soooo much wonderful pasta and this amazing pork called porchetta and wonderful fresh mozzarella and pizza and chocolate! I could go on and on for ages about the food :) I can't wait to go back!
I learned so Italian phrases... "Thank you for your hospitality" "Gratzie per avermi ospitata" and "Your cooking is good", "Cucini molto benne" Hopefully my Italian spelling is okay :) I also was taught some of the classic Roman hand gestures (Italians really do 'talk' with their hands!) I also learned that the "ch" in Italian is pronounced like the "k" sound in 'cat', and the "c" is pronounced like the "ch" sound in 'choose'. :)

Anyways, this Thursday, Dec. 2nd, is the last day of the semester! I have two finals that day, and a paper due the next day. UGH! Too much studying for me.

Monday, November 8, 2010

My day up North

Last Saturday, my roommate Paul and I took a day trip to Northern Ireland. Our tour was on the Paddywagon bus where the bus driver sang us Irish songs and even taught us one too!
We saw the Giants Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, Larrybane, and Derry.
We went first to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge (from the Scottish Gaelic Carraig-a-Rade) meaning 'rock in the road'. And now I'll copy what is on the brochure I saved :) "The road is the sea route for Atlantic salmon on their westward journey past Carrick Island. For over 350
years, fishermen have strung a rope bridge 30m above the sea to allow them to access the best places to catch the migrating salmon. Crossed regularly by local fishermen, the bridge now
presents a challenge to thousands of visitors each year who come to enjoy the same views and high thrills." The view from all around the place was so so so beautiful and you could see Scotland in the far off distance!

Scotland is the grey mass
behind the black mass, to the left...

Next stop was the Giant's Causeway, which was breathtaking! And again I will quote to you from the pamphlet I got. haha "The Giant's Causeway is an area of approximently 38,000 columns, the result of ancient volcanic activity 60 million years ago. Most of the columns are hexagonal, although there are also some with 4, 5, 7, and 8 sides. The tallest are about 12 meters (36ft.) high. As well as columns, many of the rocks have been named due to their shapes and their connections to the Giant Finn MacCool. Legend tells the story of how Finn actually created the Causeway and the stones around it as a challenge to his Scottish rival Benandonner."

It was so fun to hop around on all the different shaped rocks. It was raining though which made them very slippery. I don't understand how volcanic activity shaped all those perfectly hexagonal rocks though....

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Cap the reg fee, protect the grant, end the brain drain!

All the streets in the city center were filled with marching students in bright yellow. The cars and buses couldn't use the streets!

Her sign, and the back of mine, says 'I dont wanna be a stripper' haha


Yesterday, Nov 3rd, there was a huge student protest in the streets of the city center in Dublin. The Irish students (along with myself :D) were protesting the raise in fees and the 'brain drain'. The recession is really really bad in Irealnd and they are cutting jobs from the private and pubic sectors, so after people graduate from college there is no work for them so most of the new grads move to Australia or New Zealand.

It was crazy being apart of such a huge march, there was approximently 25,ooo students from all over Ireland. Now I know I'm not Irish so it doesn't affect me, but I know if a protest like this was happening in Cali I would want to be a part of it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

rain rain go away!

It has rained for the past 4 days.....I'm officially worried now......I mean, I knew it was coming, but I still don't like it!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

50 day mark! 4 counties down, 21 more to go!

My how time fly's when your in Ireland! :)

So last weekend's trip was to county Kerry and county Cork. And it was a three day weekend due to a bank holiday, so that was great! Of course they were both beautiful places, full of friendly locals and beautiful scenery. I don't think I could ever get tired of
the scenery here...now the weather, that's a different story! It has started to get way colder, you can see your breath not only in the morning, but all day! I don't think I will like this winter.... (My relatives in Wisconsin, I don't know how you survive it!) But, since the weather has become increasingly worse, it gave me a good excuse to buy some cute new red rain boots! Yay! In Cork this weekend, there was a huge jazz festival going on. This made it impossible to book a room in Cork, so me and Alexia and Jean decided to stay in the neighboring county of Kerry (we stayed in a town called Killarney) and just do one day in Cork. The festival was crazy, the streets were packed with people (too many people for me!) and there were different bands playing on every street corner and in every pub and restaurant too. My favorite that we saw was an Irish Johnny Cash cover band! You could tell they really payed attention to detail, they all wore black, and the fake Johnny had a fake drawl and his talking voice actually sounded like Johnny's!

So this weekend is Halloween, and I'm going to be the American flag and the golden snitch from Harry Potter! For my flag outfit, I have a red and white stripped shirt and a blue skirt that I am somehow going to put stars on. And for the snitch I have a gold dress and I'm somehow going to make wings out of white fabric....if I can find any.... Also, Alexia's family is coming this weekend
to stay in Dublin with her, and I'm excited to meet them, because I will be staying with them for Christmas. Then the first weekend of November Alexia and I are going to county Monaghan to stay with our friend Ethine. And she said her parents are going to take us to Northern Ireland to see Belfast and the Giant's Causeway, and hopefully do some horseback riding! Then for the third week in November I will be in Rome for five days, staying with my old friend Francesca, and after that is Thanksgiving! Can't wait! :)

And today I got a package from home that contained two small paintings I did this summer, as well as very pretty scrapbooking paper and stickers, and a beautiful paper quilt my mom made! So this evening I just got done re-decorating my room and I love it!

It's really starting to feel like 'home' here. My room is cute and cozy, with a zil
lion pictures of my friends and family around me. I know how to take to bus like a pro, I don't forget my bags when I go grocery shopping anymore, I know a good sushi place with Monday night specials,and I know that O'Connell St, and Henry St. are the best places for shopping. :) Overall, life is good.

My new and improved room!

Friday, October 15, 2010

How to talk like an Irish person!

  • American = sidewalk, Irish = footpath
  • American = pants, Irish = trousers
  • American = great/awesome, Irish = grand/brillant
  • American = hey, Irish = hiya
  • American = a good time, Irish = craic
  • American = what's up?, Irish = what's the craic?
  • American = that was so much fun!, Irish = that was deadly craic!
  • American = freeway, Irish = motorway
  • American = thanks, Irish = cheers
  • American = a lot, Irish = loads
  • American = garbage can, Irish = the bin
There are loads more funny Irish sayings, but I can't think of them now, so I'll post more later :)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

County Meath

This weekend's day trip was to Trim castle and Tara in County Meath. (Four counties down!)
Trim Castle is the biggest Anglo-Roman castle in all of Europe. It's construction started in 1176 and took a total of thirty years to complete! It originally started off as just one story, and then as more and more defense of the castle keep became necessary, more stories and walls and moats got added on. Everything in the castle was designed for defense, like all the narrow spiral staircases twist towards the right because that gives the right handed sword fighter the advantage if he so happened to be sword fighting on them. And the people back then all lived, slept and ate in one big common room, they didnt wash themselves or their clothes either so it must have smelled horrible and been freezing too.

And Tara was so fun to be able to go to due to the ties it has with my favorite book, Gone with the Wind :) Although its just a whole lot a grass on a hill, Tara has a lot of meaning to the Irish people. Up until the 12th century it was the place of spirirual and political power for the ancient Celts. Its where the crowned their kings with the help of the stone of destiny, which when touched by the future king was supposed to scream so loud all of Ireland could hear it! Tara is where all the Kings met to perform rituals with the Celtic gods and goddesses as well.

And back in Celtic times they had this one day out of year, July 1st, when no one was allowed to light a fire on or near Tara, plunging the area in complete darkness because Tara is 300 acres. Then when St. Patrick came to Ireland (I forget the year) he came on July 1st and lit the first fire on Tara symbolizing the arrival of Christianity. And from then on he proceeds to teach the Celts about Christianity, using the shamrock to teach them about the holy trinity, and banishing all the snakes :)

This is what Tara looks like from above....
In the middle of the bigger circle is the stone of destiny....

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


So this Saturday two of my flat mates and I took a day trip to Glendalough (pronounced glen-da-lock). It's an hour south of Dublin in county Wicklow, so that makes a grand total of three counties I've been to! :)
So far the weather here has been surprisingly great, not cold or rainy at all. How very un-Irish! But of course it poured on Saturday. Which wasn't too bad, it made everything greener. Glendalough is an old Irish monastary town. Founded by St. Kevin in the 5th century, and later on in the 10th century it became a whole town for monks. They grew crops there, raised livestock, and copied manuscripts and did other monk-ish things. In the town the main church there is the only church that old that still has its roof intact. It has a super tall round tower next to the main church which used to serve as a lookout tower/landmark for those trying to find the place. And by super tall I mean 300 ft! We got a tour of the old town and got to walk around and look at all the cool old celtic cross tombstones. Which I learned about in my Pagan Celts class. The old celtic crosses, you know the cross with the ring....

The ring behind the cross symbolizes the Pagan Celts belief in the 'sun God', they joined it to the cross when they were assimilated into Christianity.

Glendalough means 'glen of two lakes' in Gaelic, and sure enough there are two lakes! My roommates and I hiked to the upped one and the hike was breathtakingly beautiful! So many plants, moss, and overall foliage. It was all bright green in the rain and it was very very pretty. It was so neat to visit this place because I have never seen anything so old before! America is a baby compared to other countries, and I guess I never really experienced that before.
If you look closely you can see the church in front of the tower!

This is a tiny model of what the place looked like way back in the day.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

2nd week

The first time I went grocery shopping in Dublin I was surprised when buying my things to realise that grocery stores here don't provide 'paper or plastic' here for you! You have to bring your own bags or buy them at the grocery store. This will take me a couple trips to get used to....so far I just keep forgetting my bags. However, yesterday I discovered that it will cost me less to have my groceries delivered straight to my front door than to take the bus to get them myself. Sweet.

My friend Alexia and I made it our goal to visit every county in Ireland before she leaves (she is only here for one semester) There are 32 counties....and we've been to two so far! Galway and Dublin. I am also making a list of everywhere else in Europe I want to visit while I'm here: Scottland, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Estonia, Turkey, Thailand, and Greece. Such a long list! Hopefully I can visit most of them :)

Friday, September 17, 2010

1st week of school done.

I survived my first week at UCD! The week went smoothly and I like all my classes....so far. :) I am taking Biology, Intro to Psychology, Pagan Celts, and Art History. The school system is different here, instead of your grade consisting of homework, participation, a midterm and a final, classes here are based primarily on your final. So, I hope I do well on my finals!!!

This weekend Alexia and I are going to tour Dublin and do all the touristy things there are to do here. I'm excited, it is such a beautiful city.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My Address

Justine Toro
5-9-1 Glenomena Residencies
Dublin 4

Monday, September 6, 2010

DUBLIN! Alright, here we go...

So after two six hour flights I finally made it into Dublin around 4:45 in the morning Irish time, around nine p.m. USA time. My wonderful wonderful friend Sean Murphy, an exchange student from ireland to sjsu that I met last semester, met me at the airport to take me to campus and show me around town (or what was town at 5 am!) We had breakfast at a small irish cafe and then began to waste time until I could check in at my apt on campus.
We drove around Dublin a bit, but couldn't see much because it was still dark at this time. So we drove over to campus to walk around a bit but of course, typical Ireland, it was pouring so much we quickly made out way back to the car.

I wonder how long it will take me to get used to it. Whenever we would get into the car after being somewhere I would always walk to the driver's side door, and Sean would be like, 'uuuuhhhhh justine, wrong side....' haha. It will def take some time to get used to.

Next adventure was at the mall since it was nice and dry (mind you this is around 8am, I have never been to a mall that early!) Sean helped me get a phone and comforter there. A lot of the stores there are the same, it looked like it could be a regular American mall. Except there were these cool things there, they were like escalators, but flat! Loved 'em, walked backwards on 'em :)

Now we had sufficiently wasted enough time and I was able to check in. Long story short, checking into my apartment consisted of: huge campus, lots and lots of walking in the rain, super long lines (or queues, pronounced "Q") amounting in hours of waiting, sore arms from hauling all my luggage, and a hungry stomach. However, it was all fun, it was so funny to hear irish accents all around me. They don't say our "th" sound at all, so whenever they say something like three it sounds like tree, or third sounds like turd. Hahahaha. love it. But my check in went without any problems and I got into my room and got my student card.

Then we went to the Irish equivalent of Safeway, called Tesco, where I got hangers, shampoo/condish, some food, toilet paper, and a mug. I am currently in my room listening to Tay Swift and the heavy rain. I unpacked some, hung up some pix and my flag. haha. I will post pictures of things later.....

So far I lovelovelove Dublin. A lot of it is different and strange compared to what I'm used to.....The ambulances are yellow, people drive and walk on the left side, the accents, the brands, the people. I love it all and can't wait to see more of it! ....Good bye for now.....

Slainte! (Gaelic for 'cheers' or 'good health')

p.s. I have yet to meet my suite-mates, cross your fingers for me!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Family send-off in SF

At the Legion of Honor art museum
Sister lovin'
My wonderful family at Fisherman's Wharf
Desperately trying to jam all my stuff into my suitcase. Stupid 50lb. limit!
Squishing all the air out of clothes...

For my last day in the U.S. of A my family and I went to S.F. (since that's where I fly out of) and spent the day there. :) I leave bright and early tomorrow morning at 6 a.m. where I will fly 6 hours to Boston, and another miserable 13 hours to my final destination in Dublin, Ireland!!!!