Good Craic.

When visiting Ireland, it is essential to know the meaning of this expression. No, it’s not what you’re thinking, and I didn’t misspell anything. The noun craic basically means “fun” or “what’s going on”. Expressions such as “It will be good craic” or “What’s the craic for tonight?” are used often. And let me tell you, Derry is good craic.

Up until now in my blog, I have discussed my issues with traveling, as well as information I have learned about my new place of residence. Now it is time for me to let my hair down and talk about all the fun and excitement there is to be had – I mean, it is college for heaven’s sake. I am currently in the UK and, as many of you may know, the legal drinking age here is 18. This is by no means a reason to study here or even study abroad in general. It is just a fact that changes aspects about the college lifestyle. And by that, I mean it brings pubs into the picture.

Here in Ireland, pubs are a huge part of the culture. When walking in the city, you pass pub after pub after pub. There are hundreds of them and they are all packed almost every night of the week. I can only imagine the great economic impact these establishments have on the local economy. (They sure have an impact on the weight of my wallet.) Pubs are not places to drink too much beer and get wasted every night. They are places to gather socially — to catch up with friends and to listen to music together (and a lot of the time, it’s traditional Irish music). When explaining to some American students, an Irish woman actually made a comparison between Irish pubs and American coffee houses. They provide that type of atmosphere. So, it is no surprise that Irish students go to pubs, bars, and clubs 4 to 5 nights out of the week. Not to mention, there’s a uni bar with events every Monday and Thursday. This may seem impossible to an American student with class every day of the week and piles of homework. Here, the style of teaching is much different. Each module (or class) only meets once a week for a few hours and most students only take 3 modules. This allows for loads of free time in which students are expected to do the majority of work independently. It also allows time for us to get dressed up and go out during the week.

During my first weekend here, I had the great fortune of meeting an Irish guy, Tomas, who goes to school with me at Magee (that’s the name of my campus). I became friends with two American girls, Megan from Idaho and Lauren from North Carolina, during our week of orientation. On our first Friday night, we went to a pub where we ran into Tomas… see, a social atmosphere. Since then, he has introduced us to many of his Irish friends who we have been having great fun with. One thing I will always say about Derry after my trip is that the people here are ridiculously nice — so helpful and generous. It feels really nice to be accepted into a group of friends who have known each other since primary school (elementary to us). I definitely have met one of my goals: making friends with Irish students. Here’s a picture of Megan, Me, and Tomas at a club one night:

Through the process of having fun and creating a lifestyle here, sometimes I forget where I am. I have to sit and think a minute: wow, I am in Ireland; I am on a completely different piece of land than the one where I grew up and have lived my whole life. I can’t drive 20 minutes and go see my Ma and Da (Mom and Dad to Irish kids). I suppose this phenomenon is a positive thing; it means I am comfortable here and that it is becoming home. But sometimes the realization that I am not in America anymore slaps me across the face or literally rumbles the ground under my feet. One night this week, I was out shooting pool with some friends, having a normal night, when there was a loud bang and the ground shook. It was a bomb. Yeah, not in Virginia anymore.

The police had found a bomb in the City of Culture office and set it off as a controlled explosion. They barricaded the area so no one was injured. Here is a picture from outside the bar I was in when the explosion went off:

From what I have heard, a car was blown to pieces and the building was pretty damaged. What surprised me was the reaction of my Irish friends. They were so nonchalant about it. The explosion was literally a block away. They just looked out the window of the bar and continued on with our game of pool. Startled, my friend Lauren said, “Why the heck was there a bomb?!” Our Irish friend Brian simply replied, “It’s Derry.”  It makes me realize that, although it may not seem very different here, there are struggles going on that I will probably never face at home.

Fun Fact #5: In Ireland, the solid balls in pool are called “plains”.

Fun Fact #6: Exit signs are little green running men. You see them EVERYWHERE. Here’s a picture:

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