Feb. 13th, 2007

roverandom: (n&s by <lj user=rich_desire>)
29-01-07

Hey there,

So begins another journey to the British Isles and Ireland. Right now I'm at Atlanta International airport waiting for my flight to Dublin (which doesn't leave for over 2hrs). So. I'm here waiting. Just called Nick to let him know I'm all right. I was out all yesterday with serious congestion and sinus pressure. It sucked. I was so drained. Luckily, I was at Nick's house and he was my attentive nurse. So I just rested a lot. Today I'm feeling a lot better, and on the flight to Atlanta I didn't have any sinus pressure. Right now, I'm a little clogged again, but no pressure. That's the worst anyway. I have a lot of time to kill so I may take a nap or well, I want to try to sleep on the plane...but we'll see. I will be very...very tired tomorrow. Hmm...there seems to be a lot of Germans around. I seem to be able to pick up their speech, even when I'm not on the alert. Wow. I'm really tired. Well I'm going to explore now. Bye. I may get to write in this more. Maybe not. Oh -- something weird: this lady on the plane had like a mardi gras mask in her carry on....weird.

01-02-07

Feb. 13th, 2007 03:00 pm
roverandom: (batb l33t by <lj user=proverbial_icon>)
note: the date formats are in the European way...just fyi

All right, well. The last couple days have been interesting to say the least. Traveling when sick is a always a royal bugger. Well, this is my first time being sick when traveling and it sucks. Also my first time alone. It was hell on the 30th, but if I'm to be anywhere by myself, Swansea's the place to do it. Very calm and laid back, plus my BnB looks out to the ocean. I couldn't ask for more. The Beachcomber room was small, but very warm and cozy. In fact, during the day it's very mild in Swansea (though overcast) -- not much colder than Reedley at the moment.
I haven't really explored Swansea, though. Just a small part of the town center. When I walk to the train station in a bit I'll see more. I must try to find a Post Office. Anyway, I'll start with discussing the days prior. Ahem.
The 30th of January: commence day of Hell. So. I got into Dublin at around 7:25am or something like that after only having slept maybe a couple hours on the flight -- at best. I got through customs fine and everything. Luggage got through fine. All well and good, right? Very wrong. I called Nick (I think the dear boy misses me much more than he lets on. I can tell by how professional and non joking his voice was) and my parents to let them know I'd arrived safely, then proceeded to try to get cash out. Commence major problem: I got a message saying "we cannot complete your request at this time." Um. Ok. So I tried it again and got the same message. I went upstairs to try the other atm near the bank of Ireland booth and it still didn't work. So, I went up to the tellers and asked them to try themselves. No luck. They told me to call my bank. Great. Must be some security lock or something, since I'm out of the country. So I call them and explain everything, thinking that I had cleared it up. Nope.
I tried it again and got the same message. The teller lady told me to wait a bit in case there was some delay. I did so. When I tried again, though, I got the same message. I was starting to get really pissed. I called my bank again, and talked to a different person. She said I needed a manual authorization code but I would have to get that from the main Department that didn't open for another couple hours. Commence fidgeted waiting. I hate waiting. I was starting to feel the effects of sleep deprivation. And worry. What if I couldn't get money out? I couldn't leave the airport if I was out of cash. The transport systems don't take cards. So I just sat and also wandered about. There were these really dark (as in, they looked like they were actually from Africa) black children who were were climbing all over the place and talking in a British accent. The one little boy was adorable and liked touching things, mainly strangers. I don't think it's a habit he should cultivate.
Finally, I could call the bank again. Commence stupid teller guy. I explain my situation, with great detail and calmness I might add, and he contacted the Dept. Unfortunately, he told me he could not give me the manual access code. What. No. I don't think so. I said that I needed that and he said the people in the Departments all say I'm clear. It's not their problem at this point. But no cash??? Why???? Then, the stupid guy tried to offer me loan consolidation. What. the. hell. After hearing my predicament, he tries to offer me home loan stuff? I don't think so. Time to re-learn your customer service skills, buddy. Sheesh.
I was totally taken aback by this, because I had been a nice customer and thanked him for his help (which wasn't much I might add). Nice people finish last I suppose.
At that point, I was about to break down. I had to see if there were any other possible transportation methods to Belfast that I could by for by card. I asked the lady at the tourist info booth but she could only let me buy tickets to Dublin City center, and not Belfast. Great. But, I decided that if all else failed, I could get a ticket to the city center, find a different atm, and get cash that way. But that's another round trip fare to pay for. And, by this point, it was near noon. I was completely exhausted (my eye was starting to twitch) and hungry. So I sat down and cried a little. Then, I decided to call my bank again and be extremely firm. This was just unacceptable. I needed some damn cash already!
I got a different person again, but this one actually seemed to know what she was doing. She found out that the problem was with my card not being read right. So she told me to tell the bank tellers to imput the information manually. Finally. Some answers.
However, when I told them to do that, it *still* didn't go through, so it must have been something with their computer system or something....at any rate, there was nothing I could do to get cash. I dare not try to think about how I would make up for the time I lost, but the most amazing thing happened. The girl who was helping me felt immensely sorry for me and so gave me 20 Euro out of her own pocket! Then, she wrote down her address and was like, "just send it back to me when you can." I couldn't believe it. I was just so shocked. But because of her, I was able to get to Belfast. So, I told myself I would remember to send the money back. There are nice people in this world, turns out.

The coach ride to Belfast was interesting, if mainly for the fact that was then that I starting noticing how every car seemed to have a thick layer of dust up to the bottom of the door windows. What is the cause of this, I wonder. Poor paving on the roads? Wind? Bad paint job? I would hate to work at a hand car wash in Ireland. They better tip those people well.
Also, the chair next to me smelt of urine. And I couldn't even smell that well. Oh well. The countryside was beautiful. It was sunny for a good half hour at least.
On the way to Belfast we stopped through Dundalk where there was a big Guinness display that had "It's Guinness Time" in large block letters and then three pints of Guinness with smiley faces in the froth. Kind of disturbing, really.
I got to Belfast, but the tension wasn't over (oh, and at this point I was nodding off, hitting my head on the window at random intervals). The driver (who had something stuck up his arse a little bit) dropped us off in front of the Jurys Hotel, on what appeared to be Victoria street. I had a vague memory which told me that Victoria street was where the train station was, but I had no idea which direction to go. So, I asked a lady who had been riding on the coach with me where to go. When she heard I needed an atm as well, she was like, "here, take my 10 pound note." I protested and she was like, "I'll feel better if you take it." Geez. What's with you Irish people being so damn nice. Enough already.
Yeah that would never happen in L.A. No way. Well, I guess you never know.
Once at the Bus station, it was a quick shot to the airport. I still hadn't eating anything for about 5 or 6 hours. I was pretty much starving. When I went through security, they asked me to open my carry on where the guy looked through every item, in case I was smuggling cocaine or bombs. He was quite bewildered by my ugly doll, Ted. "I don't even want to ask," he said. He was nice, though, for probably having to look through a bunch of people's random shit. And he was pleased by my celtic journal so I think that helped. But man. I waited in that airport so long, and since I wasn't doing anything the extreme sleepiness came back. I went down to the isolated gate early and snoozed on the chair. When we had to walk out to the plane, it was bloody cold. Winds, chill, dark -- the works (except for rain). Oh man. Then when I sat in my seat, I got warm really fast and that wasn't good. The whole flight I thought I would upchuck. That was the low point of the day. I dont' think I've been that exhausted before. But the trip was not over yet. I decided to bite the bullet and get a cab from the cardiff airport to the train station. From there I got a ticket to Swansea, and the ride was about an hour. In swansea, I got another cab to take me to the BnB. I arrived just after 9pm. Thank the good Lord -- I had made it through the transportation day of hell. Never doing that again.
roverandom: (Default)
(Still on the 1st of February)

I have a hard time pinpointing the Welsh accent. It sounds kind of like Yorkshire, or just Northern English accents by the way they stress certain vowels, mainly at the ends of words. And it's very intriguing to me that Welsh is actively spoken today. It's a freakishly hard language. Apparently the sounds change depending on their placement in the sentence. And don't even think about trying to pronounce the words. The ancient Welsh must have considered vowels evil, or at least the alphabetic symbols for them. Geez. But absolutely entrancing to listen to. I found a Welsh tv station while going through the channels on the tv in my room and my mouth was literally hanging open as I watched and listened. So weird. Also, British drama sucks, so when I was done gawking at the strange Welsh speech, I found a channel that was showing Futurama (which I had never seen before but enjoyed). It was nice having a tv and a room to myself. Very nice.
On the 31st, I walked to the university and found the building where I had to meet Stevie. She brought with her Nigel, the poetry tutor, so I could meet him. That was nice. They were both very encouraging and open. The pogram seems great, and if I'm going to write in a place of inspiration and beauty, Swansea is a great spot for it. I hear the Gower Penninsula is spectacular. So yeah, I'm definitely leaning towards Swansea. It would be hard to be away from Nick, though. Very hard. The more I think about it, the more I wonder how it will work. But there's still many more months to be had with him before I would go. So, I shouldn't worry about it right now.
It's been exhilarating to explore new places by myself, but also exhausting, especially in Belfast (where I am right now). I just have to be constantly aware of my surroundings.
[this is when I found out that I had been accepted to the program. I wrote about it already in a previous LJ entry]
For finances, Emily told me that I could get a part time job with a student visa in the UK. So that would work. I'm sure the university has available jobs...
But yeah, I definitely think I could write well in Swansea. The ocean is so beautiful, even if it will be raining there a lot. After going to the uni, I walked back along the beach. It was so pretty. I liked seeing all the old people with their dogs on the beach. Oh yeah, that's another thing. It seems there are only several kinds of breeds acceptable for ownership in Swansea: Australian shepherds, collies, shelties, and the occasional small and shaggy terrier. Very interesting. The old men seem to favor the collies (both border and regular). But anyway, it was a nice walk back despite my feet starting to get blisters. I took some pictures then saw this couple on the beach hugging. Then that made me lonesome so I walked faster and then just chilled out in my room until I wanted to get something to eat.
I ended up eating at the closest pub to the BnB. I have since forgotten the name, but it was close. Therein lay its appeal. The walk to it is very interesting (and to the Tesco, which is further down Oystermouth road). I grew quite familiar with that main street, Oystermouth road. It faces the sea, and should be immediately renamed "accommodation row." It makes perfect sense, of course, why the street is lined with little independent hotels, as Swansea is more or less a beach resort town in the summer, or at least a gateway to the other more "lush" beaches on the Gower Peninsula. They were probably all built at the same time, the city council most likely fearing to run out of accommodation for the bustling tourists. Consequently, according to my proprietor, Richard Baber (a non-native Swansea resident actually), the city council has a small town reluctance to make decisions, so "accommodation row" may have very well been their last hasty decision, and since the scuffle of development have adopted a more cautious approach to city improvements. As such, I noticed several sorry looking "Lynchase" hotels boarded up and vacant for quite some time. They're all very small, these independent places. Maybe 15 rooms each. The Beachcomber Hotel (called a hotel but really a BnB) has 10 rooms, most facing the sea, and has the most cheery exterior that attracts attention, being painted a very bright red. That's a way to bring in business. Plywood windows are not really a good welcome sign for visitors, but I suspect that when the proprietors have to close shop, it's up to the city to fix up the outside. But again, the city council has better things to do like save money on a post office by putting it upstairs of another building. Yeah. I don't know what nitwit cast the deciding vote on that measure but they're very stupid. And mean. I guess handicapped people can't be independent and send their own mail, huh? Richard told me that this proposition gave Swansea and its little old ladies with canes something to riot about, but the city went ahead with this move anyway. Very gutsy for an ocean town.
To get to Tesco, you also have to walk past a big wall on your left on Oystermouth road. I wondered what was hidden behind it, until I saw the sign for "Swansea City Prison" not long after I wondered when the wall would end. Note to Swansea's previous city council: what the hell? Why are you giving convicts views of the ocean?! Prime real estate! Aren't they supposed to be serving a punishment?? Geez.
Regardless, it's a cool building with big beefy front doors that could survive a Viking siege. I suspect it was built in the Victorian era when people were starting to feel generally more humanitarian.
"Oh yes, Roger. Give him 15 lashings but return him to cell 1A where there's a fabulous view of the bay at sunset!"
Frickin Victorians. They were messed up.
After dinner, I just walked to Tesco again to see if they sold alarm clocks. They didn't. So I bought some cereal bars and went back to my room. I watched mindless tv until I was tired and went to sleep. End of day 2 in Wales.

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Rachel

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