Beersília

February 21, 2018

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope you are well. It’s been a short but productive few days in Brasilia with not too much to report. I’m nearly finished with the survey and will work with the concierge to make some phone calls today for complicated auto services. Then I’ll go to Rio de Janeiro!

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There’s a great craft beer scene here in Brasilia and I went on a successful mission yesterday afternoon to a different area of town find some bottles of this local beer I’ve been enjoying. I’m very excited to share them with some friends back home.

I’ve been speaking lots of Portuguese. It’s easy (and necessary) to practice here because most people don’t speak any English, so it’s Portuguese or nothing at all. In other places, people will start speaking English if they can once they hear my slow phrases, but here it’s not possible. Everyone has been so patient, encouraging, and helpful in conversation. Also, mobile data has been working well, so if I need to look up a word, google translate is available. Portuguese is my favorite language to hear. I love the particular sounds and melody of it. My ears and brain are feeling very pleased.

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I had an acai bowl at lunch to save room to have the rodizio with all different meats at dinner. I tried many different types of meat including a chicken heart, which I didn’t like, but the rest were good. It was an interesting experiment to have a bite of many different cuts at once as they are all so different. And I learned “medium rare,” “mal passado.”

Love,

Annie

 

 

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Olá novamente! Working in Brasília

February 18, 2018

Dear Family and Friends,

Hello again! Hope you are well. I’m writing from Brasilia, the capital of Brazil. This trip is a short, unexpected survey and I’ll be here and in Rio de Janeiro this week.

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If you’ve been following this blog you may remember that I went to Brazil before, three and a half years ago in the summer of 2014. I am excited head back to one of my favorite cities, Rio, where I will be especially careful due to new security concerns (the military is policing the streets after an increase in violence) and explore this new one, Brasilia.

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The flights went smoothly, maybe even better than average. The flight attendant gave me two vodkas for the price of one on the flight to Miami, I watched Men’s Olympic figure skating at a restaurant during my layover, and then I was switched to the exit row 18 on the flight to Brasilia. 18 is a lucky number, and exit row seats have a lot of room.

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Arrival was also smooth and the hotel is nice. It was about noon after I showered and got ready for the day so I went exploring the monuments. It’s the middle of the winter in Boston, and it was fantastic to walk around in the warmth. I wore a hat and sunscreen on my face, but some other parts got burned.

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I saw a really cool exhibit at the national museum, including some enchanting surrealistic photo realism paintings by Fábio Magalhães (warning: click this to see his site only if you don’t mind a lot of gore) and visited the metropolitan cathedral, the national congress, etc. all along one center strip of this planned city. Many of the monuments and buildings in the city are designed by Oscar Niemeyer. After wandering for a few hours I was getting really tired and ready for a late lunch.

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I ubered (so easy!) to one of the survey malls to eat lunch, drink a delicious lunch beer, and then work in the afternoon. After working, I got a pedicure. I usually try to get nails done or hair wash and dry in different places. This one was great! It’s fascinating how different cultures approach these treatments. This was also a good way to stay up, to kick jet lag in the rear.

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Then I went home, explored the hotel, had a small dinner, and slept so well, for so long. One thing I really like about survey. Without normal pressures of life, I sleep a ton. I woke up a bit confused about the time. All of a sudden, the clocks said two different things. I learned later today was “fall back” a change in daylight savings time. Fortunately, time didn’t really matter today.

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After slowly getting up, I had breakfast at Casa do Pão de Queijo (house of cheese bread – see above) and then went to work in a supermarket and then in the upscale Iguatemi mall. Dinner was at Fogo de Chão, which is convenient because it’s near my hotel) but I wasn’t hungry enough for rodizio so enjoyed the extensive salad bar. I’ll try all the different meats another day. Boa noite!

Love,
Annie


A Man a Plan Turkmenistan

November 27, 2017

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope all is well and Happy Thanksgiving. I spent this past week in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, where my Thanksgiving dinner was Turkish, so not quite turkey, but good enough given the circumstances. Here’s a survey weeks’ worth of posts in one.

Aloha Ashgabat: It took a while to get here, almost 24 hours, but the flights were easy.

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The layover in Frankfurt was eight hours, so I went to the city to walk around. It takes 10 minutes to get there on the S8 or S9. At 6:00am, the area outside the Central train station was shady with interesting characters so I walked quickly to the Main river and had a nice walk there to see the sunrise over the bridges. My favorite thing about the stop was that walk and the sandwiches in every café. I was exhausted by the next flight (to Ashgabat, with just on little stop in Baku) and felt like I was in paradise getting an entire row to myself.

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I passed out for 3 hours. The Ashgabat airport is very modern with white, green, and gold, and very clean, and I soon learned that’s par for the course here, at least for the city centre. The visa and baggage process took a while but was smooth. Driving through the city at night, there are lines and lines of big white buildings with up-lighting on each level.

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There are a lot of neon signs. I wasn’t expecting so much! After checking into the beautiful hotel, I spent some time unpacking and then slept. Next morning at breakfast, a woman sat down near me and made very inquisitive conversation.

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Working in Ashgabat: Monday I started the survey in good time at the largest mall. At lunch, I went to an Indian restaurant in the top floor of the mall where I was the only one (this was also common throughout the week at many restaurants). About ten minutes after I sat down, they put on the Latin channel. I’ve been listening to a lot of salsa lately so that was weird but great.

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After lunch walking toward the grocery store, I bumped into a receptionist from the hotel with whom I had a flirty exchange in the morning. He said he’d go with me around the mall. Okay no problem. It was nice to have the company, though I did get the sense he was checking up on me. “Are you surprised to see me?” (Should I be?) So I took him to a grocery store and showed him what we did. He left after a bit (it’s really boring to watch). At night I went for a walk outside. And that felt very safe because there are guards and cameras everywhere.

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Tuesday I visited the Russian Bazaar, had lunch at a hotel where there is a panoramic restaurant that for some reason doesn’t look onto the heart of the city. My meeting late in the afternoon got postponed to even later in the afternoon so I did homework instead, but I fell asleep doing that so there wasn’t much progress (I’m now in an evening MBA program). Finally after the meeting and dinner, I went for a swim. There’s an awesome pool and spa area with a hammam and sauna, so it was very refreshing. At the pool I met two brothers from Afghanistan who asked me if I was a “sportman.” An athlete! I took it as a compliment.

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On Wednesday I dealt with registering my visa with the State Ministry of Migration and the embassy and worked with a fantastic translator, Bibi. We had two meetings in the morning and went to Turkish lunch together.

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We get along so well. I loved learning about her life and at lunch we talked about management stuff and how to give feedback (which I’m learning in school). In the afternoon, I went to another market. I’m getting comfortable with taking shared taxis. There’s no uber here, every car is a rideshare! Like in Kazakhstan, except this time six years later I’m not too nervous to take them.

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Thursday (Happy Thanksgiving!) I spent the day with Bibi again and nearly finished the survey. We had a delicious shashlik chicken lunch and celebrating thanksgiving together, and in the evening I had a coffee and chocolate scrub at the hotel spa, which made me feel a lot like a brownie.

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Friday was the last day. I tied up some loose survey ends and then went for a walk on the Walk of Health. There are two walks of health, one 30km that each citizen is supposed to do each year, and then a shorter one for 8km.

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My original plan was to do the longer walk (why not?) but due to linguistic barriers I ended up on the 8km path. This was a good idea because the afternoon was so rainy. The path is very well defined with fake animals all around. The path was Not a loop, so I had to catch a taxi back into Ashgabat from outside the city. With the found time, I ate delicious Turkish food and went to get a manicure. Then I packed up and left for my flight at 1:00am.

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Now, I’m in Brussels! I was blessed this weekend to have a great friend show me all around the city, and now I’m working out of my company’s Brussels office for the next few days before flying home.

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Love,

Annie

 


Sláinte!

May 20, 2017

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope you are well! Sláinte (pronounced like “slawntcha”) means cheers in Irish, or Gaelic. I’m heading home tomorrow. Today I worked, had a bento box at a Japanese restaurant for lunch, and in the late afternoon got a manicure and massage :)! Feeling really good. For dinner I tried Irish stew, which is also great. It has lamb with potatoes and vegetables.

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Though I always want to explore more, I’m excited to go home after two weeks. It feels like I’ve been on the road a while because I’ve done a ton and learned a lot. It’s been a great reminder of the ups and downs that happen on survey and how exhausting (and rewarding) the work can be. Now I also have a better, fresher understanding of where we can make the data collection more efficient. All great.

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Thanks for reading. Until next time!

Love,
Annie


Work and Guinness

May 19, 2017

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope you are well. Today was a good working day in Dublin. I had an early morning meeting and then worked in hotels and supermarkets the rest of the day.

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After work I went to the Guinness Storehouse because it’s a thing to do. There’s a Jameson distillery in Dublin as well, but I’ve had enough of whisky distilleries.

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At Guinness, it’s a huge operation. It’s a lesson in brewing the beer and the history of Guinness where you go up and up, and each floor has something new, and ends with a drink at the rooftop bar. Then you walk out through the merchandise. Great model.

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It was cool, but I wasn’t having so much fun because I had a hard time relaxing and enjoying because of the heavy crowds, and was carrying around a heavy laptop bag. Should have expected this on a late Friday afternoon but was still was in a very irritable mood. But then I drank the pint that was included in the cost of admission, then everything turned really awesome all of a sudden.

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After that I walked around Dublin 2 area, had a much-craved burger for dinner (it happens sometimes!) and a nice glass of red wine, and walked home. All in all, a pretty good day! Happy Friday.

Love, Annie


Sligo, Sliabh Liag, Northern Ireland, and Dublin!

May 18, 2017

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope all is well, happy Thursday, and hello from Dublin! My hotel is in a good location, and though it’s not a luxury hotel, it’s very well suited to business people with clean, practical rooms, fast internet, and long high top tables in the lobby with outlets that are so well suited for working. High tops are my fave. Here is the River Liffey that runs through Dublin:

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Here’s what’s been going on the past few days. I’ll work backwards. Today was incredibly productive. I sat down for breakfast at 8, started working, and before I knew it, it was after 4. I barely moved. I was in the survey zone, making calls, doing internet research, really killing it, and I also managed to answer a few normal work emails. I am no longer nervous or overwhelmed about the amount of work in front of me here.

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I left my hotel and wandered over to the restaurant through Trinity College campus. The library, which is apparently super, was closed for a book launch, so I’ll visit another time. I ate dinner at The Pigs Ear, which was phenomenal. I had a scallop appetizer and then short ribs. The short ribs dish was so decadent. I also has a glass of delicious light red wine from Cotes du Rhone that was recommended, read my philosophy book, thought up some new rhymes and made myself laugh, and thought about the Social Contract.

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Starting today, I feel like I’ve finally hit the “survey stride” point in the trip (the second through fourth week were always the easiest) so now I’m a little sad it’s almost over. But it will be nice to get back. Yesterday was also productive. I had meetings all morning between the meetings I had quiche, my favorite food, and salad and Matcha tea from a super healthy modern food places in the techie expat area, and then worked all afternoon from a different hotel. In the evening I walked around the city centre, made a reservation at The Pigs Ear, and ate dinner at a place called The Farm, where I had Fish Pie, which I didn’t completely realize was anything other than a joke from the Beatles song Penny Lane. Turns out it’s cooked salmon and mashed potatoes, baked with cheese on top, and a specialty at The Farm. Really good!

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Then I went to meet my friend Angela, who was also in Dublin, but went to the wrong Slattery’s bar! Oops. It was okay though, I had an after dinner drink and chatted with the bartender and an Irish army officer, who had traveled a bit as well and was pretty excited about the Giro d’Italia bike race that was on tv. We talked about politics, of course. Here, people ask me all about Trump and what it’s like in America. In other recent travels after the election, It’s come up less.

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Tuesday, I began in Sligo and ended in Dublin. It was a day of work, travel and fun. I got up super early, finished work, and drove up to the Bushmills distillery in Northern Ireland, a detour on my way to Dublin. The distillery tour was great. After Auchentoshan and Bushmills, I now have an excellent understanding of how whisky is made. On the tour there were some older guys taking a morning off from their golf trip. I noticed I gained their respect and interest after explaining to the group why Bourbon barrels from the US, one of the types of barrels used at Bushmills, are so popular for ageing whisky. One reason is that they give a delicious flavor and color to the spirit, and another is because they are inexpensive due not due to low quality but due to high supply.

WP_20170516_009Bourbon barrels cannot be reused so distilleries in Kentucky sell them off more frequently than, for instance, sherry wineries in Spain might sell their barrels. It also helps to explain why the whiskies aged in sherry barrels or French wine barrels are often more expensive. So I chatted with these guys, one pair of brothers and their friend all from Seattle. One of the brothers is apparently a famous NFL referee who has done the last 4 Superbowls 🙂 And the other brother traveled all his life for work. Cool! So we discussed travelling, work, and Bill Belichick. I only had a tiny taste of whisky there because I was driving, but got to pick up some bottles you can only get from the distillery.

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Then I went to Giant’s Causeway, which is also in Bushmills, Ireland, on the coast about 6 minutes away from the distillery. Giant’s causeway is the outcropping of pentagon-shaped rocks on the coastline. It’s pretty wild. There’s a walking route that takes you up a cliff and wow, it’s so beautiful. I also lucked out with the afternoon weather.

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Then I drove to Dublin airport, dropped off the car, and taxi’d to the hotel. The driver was called John F Kennedy and he was cool! I walked around, had a Guinness (it’s good – I’d never actually had one before), learned how in Ireland you have to let the Guinness settle and then the bartender tops it up. Then had okay tapas for dinner.

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On Monday I went to meetings all morning and it was very productive. Later in the afternoon, I visited Sliabh Liag (pronounced like “Sleeve League”). Since it gets dark so late in Ireland right now, it’s possible to do awesome things even if you start late. Great! I was interested in a gin distillery there (rounding out an education on spirits) and got a tour and explanation of how to make gin from a company that wasn’t even in production yet because of working out tax stuff! I learned if want to make gin, you need juniper berries.

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On the drive there I stopped at a roadside restaurant/bar to use the toilet, having consumed a lot of water and coffee. I was in and out and the owner of the restaurant said to me “you have a hard time relaxing, don’t you?” Yes. So then he said, just sit back and relax. And we sat together outside at some tables, chatted, and appreciated the scenery for 15 minutes. Then I was on my way.

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They said there would be cliffs at Sliabh Liag. They weren’t kidding. These may have been more amazing than the Cliffs of Moher and hardly anyone there. I walked up a huge cliff face and it was soo windy at the top. In jeans and the silk shirt I had worn for work, I was not expecting such a hike! But it was okay. There were sheep grazing around the cliffs area and I stepped in so many sheep poops, but cleaned my shoes after.

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I drove back and ate fish and chips for dinner in the town of Killybegs, and felt very at home in the small maritime town. Back at the hotel I had planned an early night in, but then I went down to collect laundry at reception, visited the bar to get a bottle of sparkling water, and somehow that turned into a few glasses of whisky and interesting discussion with an adorable younger bartender and a pretty drunk businessman who seemed to have some interesting stories, but wasn’t able to tell them properly. The last pic is Killybegs.

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I’m very excited for another working day in Dublin tomorrow!

Love, Annie


Limerick and the Cliffs of Moher!

May 14, 2017

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope all is well. Happy Mother’s day to the mothers reading this. Today was a fantastic day. I woke up early, but not too early (sometimes I get very aggressive about waking up early and didn’t want to go crazy today) to set out on a journey to the Cliffs of Moher and then Limerick.

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After a nice breakfast, I left the hotel at around quarter to 8 and arrived at the Cliffs of Moher just after 10. The drive was fabulous. The car is fun to drive and there were winding roads and beautiful scenery along the way. There were no big freeways on this leg.

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There are main thoroughfares, and every so often you slow down because there’s a town. At one point, a storm came through and it poured, then got sunny again. The cliffs were awesome as you can see from the pictures. The jumping pic is real!

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After spending an hour and a half walking around the cliffs, I drove to Limerick, to visit the headquarters of Limerick poetry because i love it. I had a nice lunch of fish and chips and cider, and walked around towards the “Limerick Writer’s Center” but when I got there saw nothing.

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I went to the Frank McCourt museum nearby (the Author of Angela’s Ashes). I saw Frank McCourt speak at my high school many years ago and read the book around that time. I’ll need to revisit the book because I was undoubtedly too young to understand everything. The museum is within Frank’s old school.

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In the museum I met the owner and founder, Una, an artist who knew Frank McCourt. I let her know that I had actually come to Limerick to learn more about poetry and rhymes! She recited some Limericks she knew, and I recited some of my own and she liked them!

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And then she called up the head of the Limerick Writers Association and I was able to speak with him a bit about Limericks. 🙂 I asked his advice, what’s the most important thing to think about if you are writing one… ssoooooo cool. He said that for a good limerick most important parts are the rhyme scheme, the wordplay, topicality, and funniness. Mostly, it has to be funny. By inductive reasoning, I believe Irish people value humour quite a bit. BTW that tent below in Limerick looks like a mini Khan Shatyr (the big tent in Astana).

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Then I chilled with this woman for a while and she took me on a tour of the museum. We ended up having a long discussion about languages and cultural terms, then politics, then religious extremism. I explained the American Electoral College, and why Hasidim wear those curls around their face.

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Una taught me more things about Irish culture, so between last night and today, wow. The word Flahulach, “flaw-ho-loch” is describes someone who throws around money, maybe buys everyone a drink at the bar! “Tight” means “mean” or stingy, not a spender.

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She also said that people in Ireland use Gaelic words in everyday speech. like if they want milk at the store, the Gaelic word for Milk might come out. That guy is flahulach! It’s kind of like the way we may use Yiddish words in every speech “stop kvetching.”

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That was all very special. then I drove another 2.5 hours back to Sligo, did some admin/housekeeping things, and had a nice dinner of beet soup (wonder if it will make everything a beautiful purple like those Trader Joes chips 🙂 : ) and chicken and vegetables. Tomorrow will be a day of work!

Here is one Limerick I wrote about Auchentoshan distillery. A Distillery called Auchentoshan / Has a great staff and marvelous potion / This Lowland supplier / Amended my tire / And set a fun Tuesday in Motion! Its not that funny, so I’ll do better to enter one into any limerick contests.

Love, Anniee


Grimsby and Hello Ireland!

May 13, 2017

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope you are having a nice weekend! Wednesday I finished work in Newcastle, and in the afternoon drove to the next location, Grimsby, UK. It’s approximately three hours’ drive from Newcastle with an extremely different vibe. Grimsby is a smaller town with many people working at the refineries and the windfarms nearby. There are a TON of windfarms in northern UK and Scotland. I walked around the first evening around 7pm.

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Everything was closed and the few people walking around seemed very odd, unpredictable, pretty sickly. It was a little disconcerting. I visited a cocktail bar and was told not to take pictures of this ugly pace because it would break my camera! I ate dinner at an Indian restaurant, which was awesome, for the food and the cool employees. I ended up eating there the next two nights as well.

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Everything is inexpensive in Gimsby. I pay more for my small apartment in Boston than it costs for any of the rental properties here, including even luxury detached houses. On Thursday and Friday I worked. On Thursday afternoon I visited Cleethorps, which is the next town over and has a bit more going on, and a beach, which was under construction (?). Other than that, not much to report. I started a new book about Philosophy, was really productive work-wise, and wrote some raps and poetry.

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Also, it’s important to note that the people in Grimsby are really nice and welcoming, and the people observed on the first night weren’t a good representation. Now it’s Saturday and things have gotten way more exciting. I woke up at 4:15am, drove 1.5 hours to Leeds Bradford Airport for an 8:30am flight (in retrospect, booking the flight from Leeds was impractical and kind of silly… it looked closer to Grimsby on a map, even with driving directions, than it is in reality. Now I have the empirical evidence to really know that, so great… though… is it possible to really know anything? ugh, new philosophy book).

I said goodbye to the Ford Kuga, which I think got its flat tire back because the pressure alert came on again, and took a flight to Dublin. At Leeds airport someone pinned me as American and was like, “is it true, in America, they have burgers This Big??” with his hands like around an American football. So I said, “Bigger!” Ha.

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In Dublin I picked up a new rental car, and they gave me a white hatchback-kind of suv BMW as my “compact car.” Awesome! I made it a point to be extra charming and hilarious at the rental car desk, and to put on some subtle lip color before. It makes a difference. In line I met some businessmen who were super psyched to be starting a two-week guys golf trip all over the Ireland coast. They gave me the idea to go to Galway and the Cliffs of Moher, which I’ll visit tomorrow.

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I was thinking of going to Belfast for lunch and chill before heading to Sligo, but decided to drive straight across to Sligo instead. It was a really fun drive — the car is smooth and fast with a far superior sound system AND a built-in nav system, which is really easy to use.

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The hotel in Sligo is great, and my room is huge! Larger than my apartment. At check-in, they let me know about an event tonight, stand-up comedian Tommy Tiernan! I had no idea who that was but love standup so got a ticket.

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I got ready to go for a hike but then it started pouring so I drove to Rosses Point, and walked around in the rain. It was beautiful even in the rain, and then it got sunny! And then pouring again. So I had a coffee at a nearby hotel and walked around some more, then back to the hotel for cocktails and dinner and Tommy Tiernan, who, it turns out, is a pretty big deal, and hilarious, and a great performer.

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There was no assigned seating and I had a seat in the fourth row centre so was able to really observe his motions and way of working the stage. I feel so lucky to have seen this show! What a lesson in Irish culture, and about the reputation of Sligo county!: I’m driving in a cool car, NOT a “sweet ride” because in Ireland if you say “ride,” that means sex. If someone offers you a ride, you can say “i’ll take a lift,” unless, of course, you want the ride. Also, if a man is erect, that’s called a “horn.” I was also surprised that religious reputations, catholic v. protestant, play a role in daily life and assumptions about people’s personalities.

Love, Annie

 


Northumbria and Scotland

May 10, 2017

Hi Family and Friends,

Monday and Tuesday were nice. Monday I started work early and had a meeting in the afternoon. Then I went for a drive to Alnwick castle, which is in some Harry Potter movies. I took the coastal road back, which was beautiful.

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It’s one benefit to having a GPS, you can kind of “wander” and see where the road goes, yet it still calculates the route back. At one point I got out of the car to get fresh air and had a private beach! For dinner I ate at a restaurant specializing in muscles.

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Today I took a day trip to Scotland. I woke up at 5:45 and was on the road by 6:30 because the first stop was the Auchentoshan distillery, which is just west of Glasgow. Even with the GPS I got lost so I couldn’t make the 10am tour. Fortunately there was another at 11.

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I was in a tour with a family from France with an adult and his older parents. The parents didn’t speak English and kept speaking to me in French as if I understood. I had to keep telling her (unfortunately) I had no idea what she was saying, but i got the sentiments from body language. I told them aside from hello, goodbye, please, etc, I only know one word “travallier” which means “to work.” It’s kind of true and they thought that was moderately funny. The tire pressure gauge on my rental car was on, but I had decided to ignore it because it wasn’t “red” it was just “yellow.” But one of the staff members at Auchentoshan noticed I had a flat tire and they had a great tire pump that plugged into the 12 volt socket in the car so they helped me fix it. The staff there was so nice.

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For lunch I visited the West End neighborhood of Glasgow to a restaurant that came recommended by the distillery guide. It was a special meats place so I had a hanger steak which isn’t something I would normally order but was very delicious and extra exciting because I had literally eaten just peanuts for breakfast.

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Then I drove to Edinburgh, which is about an hour away. By the time I got there it was almost just after 3 pm. I put an hour and a half on the parking meter and started wandering. It was a lucky day and lucky parking space. I had no idea Edinburgh was so cool. Everyone was outside hanging out in the sun below the great buildings. I could appreciate the beauty of the situation but to be honest I felt terribly lonely and sad walking around there. It was an instance I would have liked to share.

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Then I started the drive back. There was some traffic getting out of Edinburgh but not terrible. I started to feel better when the roads became empty, and winding up and down the hills. With the kind of tight turns that are very thrilling and you want to take fast. And “blind summits” of hills that if you take fast, it’s super thrilling because you’re not sure what’s past it, maybe the car will fly away. I’ve felt this skiing. The bulk of the drive on the first leg was major highway but the drive back was all windy roads. The border of Scotland and England was especially cool. Driving today was a big loop. Total distance was just over 350 miles or 560 km. That was pretty aggressive — not as much as the 500 mi (800 km) trip between Klaipeda/Riga/Kaunas last may,  but up there.

For dinner I ate at a different Indian restaurant from the one on Sunday. Now, back to work.

Love, Annie


Hello UK

May 7, 2017

Dear Family and Friends,

Hello again. It’s the first day of a two week survey in the UK and Ireland. I don’t survey very often anymore so this is an exciting opportunity to discover new places and also to take a break from the normal routine. After a difficult and busy past three weeks I am exhausted in every way so this will be short.

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The flights on Saturday were uneventful but felt long, I spilled a lot of sparkling water on myself and then there was a three hour layover in Dublin. On the first flight I saw Allied, which was great because movies about wartime are my favorite, especially WWII, and this one has Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard.  Then watched La La Land and cried pretty much the entire time. I’ll blame that on the difference in air pressure in flight…

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There was a three hour layover in Dublin during which I found a space to lie down for a little at the airport, in a circular nook carved into the wall with padding on it. When I got to Newcastle I moved very slowly and methodically. I picked up a rental car which has the steering wheel on the right side for lefthand driving. The hardest part is parking or turning left when there’s not much space because it’s difficult to tell how far the car goes out to the left and I don’t want to make scratches.

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I have a good hotel room and there was an upgrade. I arrived at around 14:30, unpacked, and walked around first down the river then up to some of the churches. I observed some spaces that had a very European feel with grand buildings, some places that were “normal” and dirty, some places with ruins and overgrown grass that looked like what you might see after things start growing back in a nuclear wasteland, and some with a lot of little packets for drugs, which I recognize from my time in Hartford.

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I walked into a bar to have a small beer, and ended up meeting two guys around my age who became new friends. They had really thick “Geordie” accents (Geordie is the name for people from around Tyneside — which means from around here here). At first it was hard to understand what was being said and after that it was interesting to discover cultural differences despite the same language. Still plenty of laughing. So that turned into a few half pints and a “pickleback” which is a shot of bourbon chased with a shot of pickle juice. It’s not a joke. It’s also not terrible.

Then I went out for Indian food. now I’d like to sleep 🙂

Hope you have a great week.

Love, Annie