First Reflections in Dublin…

29 June 2016
Today I begin the second leg of my journey, to Dublin. I am on my way there right now, and I have been instructed to meet my group at 5 o’clock underneath the Bell Tower at Trinity College. I can tell you more about what we are doing in Dublin as I am there, but what I know so far is that we will be learning a bit about Irish History, focusing on the Easter Rising, as it is the 100th anniversary!
The group is composed of different students from Seattle U and two professors. I have wanted to go to Ireland since as long as I can remember… For years I have said, when folks asked the question, “If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?”, Ireland. I am not sure why… Part of me thinks it’s because I watched a romantic comedy film that takes place in Ireland and I loved it so much that I suddenly longed to be there, but that is so silly!! I’ve decided I must come up with a better reason for wanting to visit, as a movie about an American gal and an Irish lad falling in love is a bit cheesy :).
As it turns out, my mother’s (and my father’s?) side of the family has ancestors from the UK (Insert Brexit joke here ;)) and Ireland from the 19th century, so maybe that can be part of my explanation! However, in all honesty I am just so interested in the place, the people, and the history, aside from my Irish blood. I am so so so excited to share photos of all the rain and green – just like home in Seattle, but even better because, you know, romantic European clichés and all of that good stuff.
I got to sit in one of the emergency exit rows, which means I have the whole row to myself. Just beneath the plane lies a sea of fluffy, white clouds, which look distinctly like cotton. The sky, a light pastel blue, I am excited to see what it will look like underneath the clouds.

30 June 2016
I am here at Trinity college! So far, I absolutely adore this place. The folks here, with their cute and quite endearing accents, are kind and thoughtful. It is a different experience to be in an English speaking foreign country now; a bit less intimidating, but thrilling nonetheless. Today I had a “slice” for lunch, which is a mix between a pot pie and a hot pocket? I know you’re thinking that it sounds disgusting, but wow!! The crust was so flaky, doughy, buttery…Inside was this yummy mushroom and chicken filling. Mm. There was also a bunch of Irish themed chips at the store, of which I purchased “Shamrock and Sour Cream.” Apparently shamrocks taste like onions.
This morning we read poetry together as a group – first, we shared our own poems, and then our professors read a few aloud. It was quite calming and yet I feel antsy to begin writing poetry again. As the poems were being read, I couldn’t help think about how I want to incorporate poetry into a future classroom, because throughout all time this kind of expression has brought depth, meaning, and strength to situations of chaos and calamity. Many of the Poems deal with the Irish and Irish Catholics being oppressed, tortured, ‘Anglicized,’ and more by the Protestant & British leaders, and what is communicated throughout the poetry is a desire for liberation, peace, home. Common threads that tie together cultures and peoples across the globe who have faced a power that does harm to those seen as ‘others’. I am reflecting a lot of the history of this place where folks with the same ‘color status’ as the ‘superior’ ~white~ were seen as inferiors still, for many reasons. If you ever thought ‘if all humans were the same color, then we wouldn’t have inequality/discrimination/racism/etc.,’ sadly a look at Ireland’s past will tell you that skin color is not the problem.
Soon, we are going to Dublin Castle. UPDATE: I went to Dublin castle! Specifically we spent much time in the Chester Beatty Library, which was amazing. There is a special exhibition called “The Qur’anic Text on the Folios Included in lapis and gold: The Story of the Ruzbihan Qur’an.” Let me tell you, I wish I had the vocabulary to describe the details of what was on display – it was mesmerizing, how intricate, detailed, and ornate the pages featured on display were. The library provided magnifying glasses so you could look even closer, and some of the floral patterns were the most precise and small I have ever seen. The exhibition focused on the aspects of the production of the manuscript, and it was fascinating – while I am not Muslim and know very little about the Qur’an or the tenants of Islam, I felt truly captivated by the decoration on the folios. The vivid colors of gold and ultramarine, the perfectly aligned and spaced text of Arabic, the tiny gold specs the size of a pin head that ordained the small black lettering… So beautiful, spiritual, and breathtaking. Later I was in another exhibit on the world religions and was watching a video on the Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca) when a man approached me and asked if I was a reporter (I had a pen and paper in hand). What a funny question to be asked!! He noticed that I had spent quite a bit of time looking at the Islamic exhibitions, and I guess he was curious if I was a journalist or something, as he introduced himself with excitement that he was Muslim and his name Muhammed. It was pretty funny and cute! Needless to say, today was a great day and I am so grateful to be here ~ talk to you soon :)

Dublin Castle has a rich history!
Dublin Castle has a rich history!

This beautiful Celtic green inspires a lot of peace.
This beautiful Celtic green inspires a lot of peace.
From the roof garden of the Chester Beatty Library.
From the roof garden of the Chester Beatty Library.

Brussels, How I Love You.

Brussels has some beautiful parks!
Brussels has some beautiful parks!
Here is a bit of me rambling on about what I’ve observed in Brussels, for all of you who have never been and want to learn more! DISCLAIMER: I am not an accurate source of reference, as I am simply a tourist with two eyes and a heart for adventure! Please enjoy my logos as I figure out how to blog.

It is Saturday, June 25th, 2016 and I am currently in the car on the way to Karlsruhe, Germany for my friend’s family reunion! We have been jamming to 80’s tunes as we drive through the green, lush fields heading south for Deutschland. This is day 8 of my trip, and I soon will be flying to Dublin, Ireland to read and write some poetry. The weather has been beautiful in Brussels, with a few days of rain and plenty of sunshine. Driving down the highway reminds me of Washington, as the lanes are surrounded by tall, green trees…
For breakfast we had Belgian waffles, which are nothing like the ones you can buy anywhere else that isn’t Belgium. They are so sugary and soft, and the dough is so delicious! They are very rich, however, so I’ve only had two this entire week, and that has been enough!
Most of my time here in Brussels has been spent downtown, which is about a 35 minute metro ride away. The metro here is so easy to figure out that I was able to go out by myself without any confusion – while most signs and instructions are in French and Dutch, and all prices are listed in euros, it takes about five minutes to make sense of it. Here in Belgium, you can buy alcohol as young as 16, but they usually don’t ask for an ID, so truthfully as long as you don’t look like a preteen you can buy most kinds of beverages. Myself, Leela, and a good friend went to a large, happening (albeit very sweaty and smelly) bar called “Big” Delirium (as opposed to Little Delirium), and we each got a Delirium red, which is a cherry flavored beer. I am not a beer drinker, or a drinker for that matter, but it wasn’t half bad! I have also been shown around to other popular drinking/hangout spots around the town, and most of them are quite chill and a fun place to meet up with friends from all over town.
We also spent a bit of time in Grand Place, which, while a favorite tourist spot, is also a popular spot for locals. I never learned exactly what the buildings in the place are, but the architecture is gorgeous and especially at night, the lights have a European Romantic aura that is quite exciting to be around the first few times you see it.
I also frequented the parks in the city. The royal park, also known as simply “park” by the locals, used to be the palace garden but is now a public park. Though surrounded by industrial sights, once in the center of the park, the only access you have to the hustle and bustle of downtown is the metro rumbling beneath your feet. The Parc du Cinquantenaire is also a gorgeous space that is centered by an enormous arch and a plaza with a few museums. The parks in Brussels are the most beautiful I have ever encountered – even thinking about all that you can find in Southern California and Seattle, nothing really compares. And even though I enjoy going around the town and seeing the city and culture come to life, my favorite moments of this leg of my trip have been when I’m spending time in the gardens.
Because I stayed with my friends the whole week, I did not have to spend much time or money eating out, so I cannot really comment on the cuisine here. However, the dining and drinking atmospheres are very fun to be a part of. In most restaurants (So I’ve been told) evening meals usually last around two hours, depending on the kind of occasion.
This past week there were two football (Soccer) victories that Belgians were celebrating! Even though we were in a commune pretty far from downtown, you could hear folks screaming, honking horns, and celebrating outside the window for upwards of thirty minutes after the game had ended. The national pride here is quite a sight, as I am sure it is in most countries of this size! Leela and I went onto the metro on my second night here to go meet some friends downtown, and there was a group of lads who were very drunk with face paints, horns and flags, and it was only 6 or so in the evening. One of them went up and down the metro cars blowing the horn and trying to get passengers to say OLÉ!! But most of us just wished he would sit with his friends and save the horn for the streets – it was quite noisy 🙂
In spending so much time with my friend’s family who has lived in Brussels for three years (and done their fair share of research to learn about the community), I have learned much about the culture and ways of this community and also Belgium as a socialist country. On Sunday’s, most places are closed and it is customary for families to have that day as a true day of rest, visiting their loved ones and taking time to relax and enjoy life. The public transport is very good (except when there are strikes- then there is none :)) and there are many many specialty shops – for example, boulangeries, patisseries, charcuteries, etc. that specialize in, say breads, pastries, or meats. This way you have to travel to many stores usually to get all the groceries you need, but it makes for a much more intentional experience that feels special and authentic, at least to me! It is quite different from the Safeways, Targets, and Costcos of the U.S., though I am sure that Belgium has those too.
To wrap up this particular post about my experience in Brussels, I will say that with all of the chaos and violence and hardship that this city has seen recently, it appears that most people believe in going about their days and trying to live without fear. Often, you can see soldiers and policeman posted around the city in frequented areas, looking calm and collected. From what I can see, Brussels is an incredibly strong city and it has been a blessing to be able to visit and see some of the resilience that the community has. There is so much more to say, but I will have to save it for later!!
See you soon!! Brinkley 🙂

Hello world! My European Adventure

Salut 🙂 I am going to be sharing some experiences/reflections that I have while abroad in Europe on this site as sort of a travel blog! The countries I am spending extended lengths of time in are Belgium, Ireland, Poland, and France, specifically in the cities Brussels, Dublin, Galway, Lodz, Kraków, and Aix en Provence. I will be doing some school work, some pilgramaging, and lots of learning – If you would like to keep up with my adventures, feel free to stay tuned 🙂 <3 Brinkley