Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christmas, the Cotswolds and A Rock and Roll Show

Santa gave me the best Christmas present this year — Sean took the Eurostar up from Paris to visit for Christmas week! I took the week off this year (remember last year's essay madness and my failed attempt to take a break?) While I did have a chance to spend time with my family in Kent last year, which was lovely, this year has been a much less stressful. It did not involve 4 essays and 2 PhD proposals! I took the week off PhD proposals and even off my German course, both of which I'll be back at tomorrow!

Here are the highlights from my fun-filled week: 

The End of the Hunt

First of all ---I have a 6 month contract for a job! It's pending my switch from a Tier 4 student to Tier 5 visa. of course, so cross your fingers that my upcoming short trip to Canada works out well. I'll hear about PhD places mid-January to mid-February, so fingers crossed on that one, too!

Christmas Eve dinner with Catherine

Catherine invited us for a lovely meal to celebrate her daughter Imogen's 7th birthday on Christmas eve. Unfortunately, we didn't take any pictures - but it was an amazing meal! 

Cooking Christmas Dinner with Sean 

  • Wow, did we cook up a feast! A chicken (for Sean), tandoori tofu (for me), Crispy Spinach Pie, Mashed Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes and Green Beans

  • We made CUSTARD. That's right, custard, from scratch. Check out BBC Good Food's recipe here. We used Scotch instead of Cointreau...yum!!

    • The part where Kiara stole  15 of our uncooked gingerbread cookies (which were just about to go into the oven) was definitely the highlight!  Look at that expression of pure guilt!
    Kiara eats 15 uncooked gingerbread cookies
    The Cotswolds
    • Boxing Day was a total disappointment in Oxford, as most stores, colleges and cafes were closed. So, even though Sean has been here for a week, he hasn't seen the inside of a college yet! 
    • So...we rented a car for the day and drove out to Chipping Campden, a town in the Cotswolds. Thanks to the horrible British customer service and processes (at this point, I'm surprised when there IS good service somewhere), it took us TWO HOURS to book a vehicle. The companies varied on their prices, availability, and the type of address verification checks they have to do for foreigners. (Sean was renting the car and they seemed to have difficulty with the fact that a Canadian student studying in France and visiting England wanted a car)
    • Given our customer service disaster, we didn't leave Oxford until after 1 pm, so it was a short (but beautiful) trip. The town of Chipping Campden seems to be dog-friendly, so maybe next time we'll go for the night and bring K along
    We Will Rock You!

    • Aunty Viniti, Uncle Steve, Sunny, Nia,Sonia, Tina and I went to see We Will Rock You — a musical about Queen, set in a futuristic/virtual world where the corporation "GlobalSoft" controlled all music making, instruments were banned, and a group of "rebels" who had dreams of rock songs from a previous life, strove to return "real music" to the world
    • Speaking of instruments, I am planning to start playing the piano again, starting with practicing some of Hanon's exercise scales when I go home for a visit in a couple weeks.
    • By the way, none of us would recommend Mela Indian restaurant, where we ate. Due to its stellar reviews online, I feel the need to mention that the food was okay, but the service was atrocious and slow, even though they supposedly had a pre-theatre menu.
    • It was hilarious! Great singing and dancing, too!  Thanks for the treat, Aunty Viniti and Uncle Steve!

    Photo from: WeWillRockYou.co.uk

    Stay tuned for our New Year's Eve massive celebration! I am usually disappointed by the NYE "hype", but this year, Sean and I have planned a perfect day.  London Victoria's crepe shop for lunch, a modern twist on a ballet, a set NYE dinner at Stef's Italian  and then back to Oxford (missing all the crowds and London traffic) to go to a cocktail bar for drinks in Jericho, Oxford. Stay tuned!

    Saturday, November 23, 2013

    Kiara & The Leaves: A Beautiful Autumn Photoshoot in Oxford!

    Kiara - my beautiful pup!
    One part of being a workaholic in Canada that I miss is the numerous photography classes I took (the grad student budget/potential British salary  just doesn't make that happen). Hoping to remember bits and pieces of courses I've taken, I headed off to the park near my home in Oxford last Sunday to photograph my beautiful pup. 

    Kiara is four years old now, and wow, does she know how to pose! I did get some strange looks from people walking by as I talked to my dog, telling her to pose...hold that pose...smile...look here...you know, maybe like photographers would do for kids. K is much better than a kid, I still hold to that fact ---she's beautiful, caring, cuddly, does not require diapers or crazy feeding schedules or answers to annoying questions or constant babysitting or require me to change my whole life plan and give up my life for her--and she is genuinely one of the best parts of my life. 

    Why not to live in Edmonton, Canada (photo from EIA website)
    The photo to the left is how Edmonton, Canada looked on November 16th, when these photos were taken (official airport photo!) Lucky for us, we live in the UK and can enjoy the beautiful autumn weather all the way into November and beyond. 

    I feel extra lucky to have Kiara with me, today, as last night (very early this morning to be exact), I had the most terrifying scare I've ever had. I fell asleep on the sofa (having spent the last three days and nights almost entirely on my Oxford PhD proposal due at midnight).  Kiara was upstairs. She came downstairs and woke me up around 5am (I thought she had tripped down the stairs). Then - she went flat on her side and started CONVULSING. It was the most frightening ten seconds (15 seconds?) of my life.  She was conscious, but SHAKING uncontrollably and foaming at the mouth and twitching her legs. I petted her to try to calm her down, then thought she might be choking and pried open her mouth, remembering the first aid course I took for Girl Guide leadership and sweeping her mouth for an object (nothing). I rushed to my phone to Google an emergency vet or pet hospital, but before I finished typing she had stopped. She shook her head, barked, looked at me and then acted TOTALLY NORMAL. She cuddled with me in my bed all night and totally didn't understand why I was suddenly sad and crying. Obviously, I didn't sleep a wink.

    Thankfully, it is Saturday today, not Sunday.The vet was open and able to schedule me in last minute for their Botley office. It turns out that sometimes dogs have "fits" and 10 seconds is not a cause for alarm. Some dogs get "ideomatic epilepsy" (which means they don't know where it comes from), but hopefully she doesn't have that. So, I have to watch her carefully, and film it if it happens again,  but since her physical exam was perfect two weeks ago (other than an ear infection and small skin rash), she should be fine. I felt SO happy and relieved after returning from the vet's office today. 

    I'm still a VERY amateur photographer, who only owns a Canon Rebel T1i and three lenses - the original, the portrait lens and the 70-300mm zoom. Clearly, I'm horrible at taking action shots. It's been almost two years since I took a photography course, so bear with me!  

    Anyway, enjoy the thirty best photos I took of the smiling puppy!

    Tuesday, November 19, 2013

    A Brick Lane Graffiti Tour, Vintage Markets, Billy Elliot & A Delightful Day with Old Friends

    Vintage Style photo: Sneha, Sapna & Arjun at Billy Elliot
    Friday was an incredible day with Sneha and Arjun. Sneha was visiting Arjun, who is doing his Masters at Leeds, so they both came down to London for a few days.
     It's always amazing when childhood friends see each other again - friends that you've known since you were five years old.  It's a lovely, conversational combination of old times and new adventures, of old dreams and new aspirations, of old recollections and new memories.

    We met up just after noon (to make the 12:00 noon Alternative London Walking tour we booked). Reason I was late? The Circle Line to Liverpool Street comes every TEN MINUTES from Victoria. TEN MINUTES. And takes almost 30 minutes to get from the centre to the east end.  Now, all of you Edmontonians are all like, uh, hello, that's twice as fast as any mode of transport I've ever heard of, but over here in beautiful London most tube lines come every ONE minute. or TWO minutes. Or, at non-peak hour, THREE minutes. So, my "careful" planning to ensure I left my house in Oxford at 8:45 am and was at Liverpool Station by 11:30, resulting in my arrival at 12:02. 
    Flexible rules...

    Luckily, the guy in charge of the two hour Alternative London Walking Tour (Josh Jevins) was still introducing himself when we arrived. Then, we took an eclectic look at "street art" (ie: graffiti). He pointed out the works of famous street artists (now showing their work in high end art galleries worldwide), like Banksy and ROA. It was freezing cold, so we left half an hour early (Josh was not so happy about that, despite the very generous tip Sneha gave him!). One comment he made bothered me a bit - he said that London opened up immigration in the 70s to re-inhabit derelict areas by providing cheap accommodation to immigrants, hoping they would kickstart the textile industry. Why do they always hate on immigrants here? Oh, and we went for lunch at Dishoom - an Indian restaurant I would definitely recommend! We almost missed that, too - since the front door looks like it, too, is graffiti art! 

    Check out Brick Lane's "street art"! (The last picture I took is my favourite, due to the juxtaposition of the two worlds of London's rich and poor coming together at the site of new retail and residential developments on the edge of Tower Hamlet).

    A ROA Crane (Jevins claims the artist painted it at the request of the Bangladeshi community, as it is a symbol important to their culture)

    Random lego xmas tree (artist unknown)

    Racial Harmony

    Juxtaposition of the rich and poor (The cartoon caption says "We're gonna need a bigger gun, love"

    Vintage Markets

    The best part of Brick Lane is definitely its markets. Especially the GIANT vintage market with many vendors which we almost missed because it's down a flight of stairs. Despite my derelict financial condition (c'mon, job market!!!), I spent 50 quid. What I got for it was wonderful --- a pair of black leather boots, an olive green corduroy coat, a pair of button shaped earrings (those were new) and a warm beige scarf. The funniest part was when we came across a Scouts Canada hat. I would have bought it as a joke, but it was 10 quid!

    Cream Tea

    Sneha and Sapna
    Neither Sneha nor Arjun had had cream tea before (though Sneha marvelled about the scones she had the previous day; much better than Canadian scones!). So, before the show we stopped at a pub that was (luckily) serving cream tea until 6pm. We do have a pic of this on one of the phones (coming soon). I can't seem to remember the name of the pub, though and google is not helping. Mousseau? Something like that...

    Billy Elliot

    Billy Elliot was one of the highlights of the day. It is a beautiful musical full of tap and ballet dancing, well co-ordinated routines, and an engaging plot. Many of you will remember that I DID NOT LIKE Wicked. Yes, I said it.  It lacked plot, the characters were not convincing, and you had to suspend your disbelief much too much. If you want to read my rant about it read the bottom of this post.  Billy Elliot is a must see --- and it's incredible how the lead actor (actors, I'm sure) is about 12 years old and puts on an incredible acting/singing/dancing performance. The story is set at the time in England when Margaret Thatcher was in power and shut down coal mines/unions to privatize them.  It is basically about a young boy whose father works on the coal mines and forces him to take boxing lessons; he discovers dancing lessons at the same community hall and decides he wants to be a ballet dancer (much to his father's horror).

    All in all, a lovely day ---hope to see you again soon, Sneha and Arjun! 

    Sunday, November 10, 2013

    Graduating from an Oxford MSc. - A Solemn, Traditional Convocation (and some fun!)

    Graduating from the University of Oxford on November 9th, 2013 was quite the adventure! Remember Matriculation last year? (It's backwards graduation, in essence - official enrollment at Oxford!) If you thought 10 minutes of Latin was traditional, try 1 hour of Latin and 10 minutes of English!

    Two of the points the Vice Chancellor made that resonated with me were:

    1) "At Oxford, we do not teach you how to think"  --- Oh that's definitely true. In fact, they don't even teach you what to do. At all.  For example, there were not even really clear instructions on what we were supposed to do at the ceremony. (Check out the photo of Dima and I trying to figure out what was happening)

    Dima and Sapna ---confused!!!

    2)  "At some universities, the graduation ceremony is 'festive'. At Oxford, we prefer to have a serious, solemn ceremony" (and something to the effect of solemness = respect)

    Note - I have no idea why  the vice chancellor, and not the chancellor, was present.
    The Sheldonian Theatre

    Here are a few bullets on the ceremony:

    • Yes, it's really in Latin
    • You don't get to hold a scroll, or a faux scroll 
    • Your go on stage with about 30 other people
    • You don't even get to be presented by your name, but after a group of names in which yours is included 
    • You are presented twice - once in your matriculation gowns, which you've had all year, and once again with your specific colour robe (mine was light blue)
    • During your first go at it (in your normal gown), the person at the head of the group holds the Dean of your college's hand and then as a group, you all bow to the centre, to the left and to the right, then to the proctor again. Then the proctor says something in Latin, and you all say  DO FIDEM!  (Take courage!). Then you file out and hurry to get changed into your other gown at the Divinity School building before you're up again
    • Depending on your degree (MSc, BCL, MA, DPhil (Phd), etc.) and your specific area of study, the second presentation seemed to happen differently. A couple of the degrees even got a tap on the head with a book from the vice chancellor (????) and the DPhils all got to shake his hand

    • As an MSc. graduate, the second time is much simpler -you go up in rows of four.  You bow together, and then the chancellor tips his hat off/bows his head to each of the four people individually. Then, you file out.

    Sapna and Anna
    One part of Oxford's system I don't like is that our whole class (24 people) could not even graduate together! At Oxford, you graduate with you college, which is randomly assigned according to a college that accepts your area of study. So...our class of 24 people was split between people graduating on November 8th, November 9th and November 16th. At least most people who left and came back for graduation came for a few days, so I did get a chance to see a few of my classmates again.

    Aunty Viniti and Uncle Steve came down from Kent for the ceremony - thank you for coming!!!  Anna also joined us and we all took a few photos in front of the Sheldonian Theatre. We went to Arzoo for Indian food and then I joined Juliet, her parents and cousins, Dima and Dmitri for dessert at Pizza Express.

    Enjoy the photos!
    Bowing pose! Juliet, Dima, Sultana, Sapna

    Jeff, Dima, Juliet, Sophie, Sapna

    Aunty Viniti, Uncle Steve and Sapna

    Sapna & Aunty Viniti

    Sapna & Uncle Steve

    Anna and Sapna

    All Graduate-d!

    Friday, November 01, 2013

    Halloqueen - Oxford's Annual (Cross) Dress-up Fest!

    Sapna & Anna
    Just a short note about this year's annual HALLOQUEEN party!  Yes, that's right, Oxford's way to celebrate All Hallow's Eve is a cross-dressing spectacular! Brendan, Anna and I spent hours choosing our outfits. I managed to scrape by with top hat and business suit, kind of like Charlin Chaplin minus the cane, but Anna went all out and decided to take a feminist take on Robin Thicke.  For those of you (like me) who hate music videos and don't have a clue who this is....he's a singer (unfortunately half Canadian) who made a sleazy video at MTV's video music awards comments how he knows girls "want it'. Miley Cyrus managed to make his performance even sleazier...google it if you really want to know.

    Brendan and Anna
    Brendan and Sapna
    The best parts of Anna's outfit?   1) The make-shift pinstripe jacket, made from (yup, you are reading this right), a roll of masking tape! and 2) The awesome sign, advocating women's rights, rather than the sleazy Robin Thicke attitude.

    Brendan really put on a show...look how well Anna did his makeup and wig!

    So, while the rest of the world (or most likely North America) is celebrating the night when the words of the living and the dead supposedly cross, Oxford students are cross-dressing. Unfortunately for us, we waited 1.5 hours in the freezing cold (albeit not freezing to Canadian standards), and STILL didn't even get through half the queue to be let into St. Antony's college! The trouble was they sold advance tickets to St. Antony's students and their friends...leaving the rest of us to freeze in the cold. 

    It was an okay night anyway, and we met some people from Hertford College and then spent the rest of the night with Kellogg crowd at a horrible club (I love Oxford's "bops" (parties), but I am WAY too old for Oxford's horrible clubs). Next year I guess we'll find some friends at St. Antony's if we decide to go!

    Happy Belated Halloween!

    Stay tuned for my MSc. graduation post....coming soon!

    Wednesday, October 30, 2013

    Can-American Thanksgiving: A Mid-Autumn Feast in Oxford!

    Halfway between the Canadian (October 11th) and American (November 28th) holidays, Anna and I decided to host a thanksgiving feast for our friends!  That's one holiday you definitely miss out on living in Europe, so we brought back pumpkin pie, apple pie, cranberry sauce and a glorious smorgasbord of other food into our lives.  We spent 12 hours the day before cooking and baking, plus a couple hours confirming recipes with family members, browsing BBC Good Food and scouring the internet - and I have to say, it was a blast!  The apple pie (and its lattice crust), plus the cheesecake were definitely the highlights!

    The event, in Anna's words, was an invitation to celebrate the "e̶r̶a̶d̶i̶c̶a̶t̶i̶o̶n̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶n̶a̶t̶i̶v̶e̶ ̶A̶m̶e̶r̶i̶c̶a̶n̶s̶ friendly cooperation of pilgrims and natives for a̶ ̶c̶o̶u̶n̶t̶r̶y̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶l̶u̶m̶b̶e̶r̶j̶a̶c̶k̶ ̶s̶t̶o̶n̶e̶r̶s̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶a̶ ̶d̶r̶o̶n̶e̶-̶d̶r̶o̶p̶p̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶e̶v̶i̶l̶ ̶s̶u̶p̶e̶r̶p̶o̶w̶e̶r̶ both of these lovely countries!"  (event comic from Explosm.net)

    Our menu (vegetarian, and all homemade of course!) included:   
    • Crispy Spinach Pie
    • Stuffed Butternut Squash (with Quinoa!)
    • Stuffing
    • Sweet Potatoes
    • Broccoli & Cheese Casserole
    • Pumpkin Pie & Whipped Cream
    • Apple Pie & Icecream
    • Anna's secret family cheesecake 
    • Baileys hot chocolate and Baileys lattes
    • Cheese, crackers & grapes plate 
    • And, of course, what Thanksgiving meal could be complete without the classic... delicious...TANDOORI TOFU!

    Check out the photos!
    (From left):  Kat, Martin, Sapna, Brendan

    (From left): Kat, Martin, Anna, Brendan, Ian

    I love having Anna as a roommate - and love the fun times we're creating. Here's to a happy Canadian/American Thanksgiving, to a wonderful life in Oxford and to good times and good luck (and research jobs and PhD places) ahead!

    Friday, September 13, 2013

    Loch Ness, Glencoe & The Highlands - Beautiful Scottish Scenery

    The Scottish Highlands - picture courtesy of Janice!
     Despite our shared hatred of package tours, Janice and I decided to take the Loch Ness Glencoe Highlands day trip as a part of our experience in Scotland. We both knew it was a packaged tour (through Haggis Adventures), yet we were both somehow disappointed by the fact that it was a packaged tour at the end of our day!  The scenery was breathtaking and the historical facts our tour guide spouted as we drove on the six hour journey were fascinating, but the rushed, packaged feeling (and the type of travellers you meet on tourist packages) was not.

    1) The fact that the people we were sitting next to were talking SO LOUDLY we couldn't hear the commentary was incredibly annoying 

    2) The fact that people on the bus got SUPER annoyed/catty/offended when we moved seats to hear better after our first stop (to seats without people's stuff on them, of course). Apparently moving seats "confuses" the tour guide and "causes an issue" for the travellers.  

    3) Everyone seemed to just want to snap a photo and leave. Loch Ness -Check. Glencoe - Check. SERIOUSLY? What happened to enjoying the scenery, hiking, wandering and discovering a place for yourself?  Next time, I'll have a British Driver's License and take a car! (Trust me, I ranted on their feedback form)

    We also discovered the same day that there is (*GASP*) a food Janice doesn't like --- haggis! Janice likes every food I've ever seen her eat (or talked to her about eating ;)

    Here are a few fun historical highlights, followed by a slideshow!

    •  In 1707, James VIII of Scotland became James I of England through a Union of the Crowns
    • 1709 was the last year that a "witch" was hung in the Scottish witchcraft trials, which started in the 1500s
    • We saw Forth Bridge, County of Fife, but it was a bit tricky to snap a picture as we drove by. There was a much more beautiful bridge in the Highlands, but we drove by that one too quickly, too 
    • The Stone of Destiny is a Scottish symbol was taken from the Scottish by the British. Legend has it they gave the Brits a "fake" stone and the real one still resides among an order of the monks (The Knights of St. John) in the Highlands today
    • In 1950, a Scotsman named Ian Hamilton tried to "steal back" the stone from the British and bring it back to Scotland...and broke a piece off in the process! Apparently he had a stonemason friend of his glue back the piece of the stone, but legend has it that before he did so, he wrote something on a piece of paper, and stuck it in the stone. Our tour guides (including ones on the Edinburgh free walking tour and literary pub tours that we also did) disagreed as to what really happened!
    • Ben Nevis is Scotland's tallest mountain, 1344 meters tall
    • Braveheart was NOT actually William Wallace!  Robert the Bruce was the man who really the hero (more on him in my next post!)
    • Gallic and Gaelic are the same thing - the former is the Scottish pronunciation and the latter is the Irish 
    More on the history in my next post on Edinburgh's free walking tour and historical guide. (I'll find a way to arrange all my notes and come up with a shortened version of Scottish historical highlights) For now, enjoy the slideshow and stay tuned!

    Tuesday, September 10, 2013

    Dublin: A City Thriving with History, Language, Culture and Irish Fun

    Dublin was, by far, my favourite part of Janice and my trip within the UK. Ireland has beautiful scenery and Dublin has a charming atmosphere with quaint pubs, cobblestone roads and a unique history. The free walking tour we took that left from our hostel was a beautiful introduction to the history, culture and language of the Irish people. Sadly, our guide, Ashley, kept commenting on the dying Irish language, reminded me of Sheila Murtagh's (2004) dissertation on language attrition, and her study that followed on why, how and when Irish young adults use Irish, their attitudes towards it, and the rate at which they lose their language (and/or gain it back if they try to later).  Ah, I love studying languages and linguistics!

    Here are a few highlights of our historical tour, and also our time spent roaming the city. Although the first night was POURING rain, we did get quite lucky with the rest of our stay and saw some sunshine. 

    • Book of Kells - This exhibit is definitely worth a visit. While we couldn't take pictures of the book itself (an ancient Biblical text), there was so much information about books, Janice (who just completed an Masters in Library Science) and I were in heaven! There was even a video on how they used to make books, way back when they sewed all the pages on animal skin paper and then wrote/painted in them. If they made a mistake, they had to "decorate" around the correction to make it look pretty!
    • Kiara's name - My Black Lab, Kiara, was given her name because it is Irish Gaelic for "little dark haired one" (She was SUPER tiny when I bought her!) I tried as hard as I could to find her name on something in the souvenir shops, but no luck there!
    • Irish Coffee -- Okay, so I've tried Irish coffee in Canada (and in England after coming back), and I have to say, only the Irish can do it well! It's the right kind of whisky, with strong coffee, brown sugar, and topped with a specially poured layer of fresh cream. Sounds a bit strange - but  - yum!
    • O'Reilly's -  This small restaurant is worth a try - delicious food and potatoes more moist than I've ever had them (Janice says the Irish stew is amazing, too). It's in the beautiful Temple Bar area of town. 

    • Street performers - They are really great in Dublin!  Check out the photo of the guy who is "carving" a sand dog. We thought the dog was real (and the man was homeless) from a distance - from across the straight, it looks like a homeless man with his jar of change and a Weinereimer! 

    • Historical Walking Tour - a few top facts from  the 3 hour tour and our trip to Dublin castle (it's a lot of reading, but there are a few surprising facts!) 

      • In 1916, there was an uprising for independence from British rule
      • The British could not break into  Dublin castle...so they took city hall! Suffragettes - feminists of the time - pretended to be captured/damsels in distress to save their city (British soldiers came to their "rescue", only to find that it had been a trap! Well, that trick only worked once, and the next day, they were shot down by the British
      • Poric Pearce, the leader of the rebellion, was dying from a puncture to the lung, but was publicly executed in an "honourable" way (like any killing could be honorable?!) and unfortunately, tied to a chair and shot in the head.
      • 14 years later, in 1937, 26 of 32 counties were empancipated  and became the Republic of Ireland; the remaining 8 are Northern Ireland, part of the UK.
      • The city/government logo at Dublin castle is the same harp that Guiness uses in ts logo, only flipped. (Guiness used the logo first, and then the government asked them if they could use it!
      • In 896 AD, the Vikings came to Ireland, followed by the Normans. Vikings constructed buildings with wood, and Normans with stone, giving the building its unique look
      Lady Justice
      • In 1656 there was a massive fire; the castle had been built with gunpowder in its wall (for safekeeping), causing the entire castle to light up in flames
      • In 1700, the castle was re-done in a more British style, due to its occupation by British forces. Artwork painted on the ceiling and on chandeliers reflects political messages that Ireland (symbolized by a clover) England (a rose)  and Scotland (a thistle )should be one union. This painting is by Renaissance painter Vincenzo Valdre
      • Interestingly, the Lady Justice statue the British built in the castle is not blindfolded, as she traditionally is, and is pointing at the British in the castle, not towards the town, symbolizing the British power over Ireland and their concept of justice at the time.
      • The term "saving face" comes from the times in which high class women wore 
      • "Face screen-  Saving face!"
        wax-based makeup that could easily melt, but the castles were, of course, heated with fire. To "save their face" from being "melted" by the fires, and to thus avoid embarrassment, they would have to stand near "screens" like these
      • Veronica Guerin, an Irish activist against drugs, is a more recent figure that gained attention in the country, due to her efforts to rid drugs from poor n eighbourhoods in  Ireland. Sadly, she was fatally shot in 1994 by a gang.
      • Ireland is traditionally very religious and Catholic, but current trends are slightly moving away form this. Contraception has only been legal since 1986. 
      • Up until 1990, the Magdalen Laundry, an institution to which families sent their unmarried pregnant, raped or "determined unfit" daughters to avoid public shame. They would be trapped in the "laundry", working long hours for free cleaning clothes, and unable to leave until society determined it was okay for them to do so. 1990? How was that legal?!
      • A more recent hot-topic is abortion, which was illegal for any reason in Ireland until very recently. In 2012, a woman asked to terminate her pregnancy because she was miscarrying and  her life was at risk (BBC article here), and was denied the right to do so, which lead to her death.
      • Ireland's first legal abortion took place about one month ago.
    Check out the short (2 minute) Animoto video below for my best shots and short captions of Dublin, including St. Stephen's Green - a beautiful park, historical buildings, and snapshots of the stories above. Enjoy!