So You Want to Get an MFA in Poetry?

Apart from the robotic voice and sync issues, I’d say this satirical cartoon is pretty darn educational. My favorite part?

“I believe reading too much will damage my inner artist.”

“Seriously, didn’t you go to college?”

“I do not want to be influenced by outside forces. I want my writing to be an expression of my heart.”

“I’m not sure that’s how it works.”

“You wouldn’t know how it works. You’re not an artist. I must be free to create.”

Reality bites. And I think this applies to any MFA, not just in poetry, for that matter.

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An Open Letter to ABC

Dear ABC Network,

I would like to thank you for creating The Bachelor to show America, and the world, what true love is. I am heartened that in the midst of all the negative media about love and sex, we have a show here that emphasizes trust, sacrifice and compromise as sacred values in a relationship. That love means rappelling down a 400-feet mountain or riding the scariest rollercoaster in Six Flags. That love means climbing up the Golden Gate Bridge or plunging into a freezing lake in a bathing suit. The ability to trust the bachelor (and the producers) with one’s life is the hallmark of the perfect partner. I am convinced that these values should be passed on to the next generation and for generations after. In fact, I am so inspired by your show that I asked my husband to submerge himself in our bathtub filled with ice water to prove his love for me. As you can see, your show has indeed greatly impacted lives such as myself.

Also, I love how realistic The Bachelor is (then again, of course it is. It is a reality TV show!). Never mind that the twenty-five women were cooped up in the house during the two months of filming with no access to television, books, magazine or music. Never mind that the women were discouraged from talking about any topics outside of The Bachelor for the entire time they were there. These were just minor technicalities that had to be executed to ensure that the producers had the women’s fullest attention. Imagine what kind of mischief the women might be up to if they were exposed to such distractions. I wish to let you know that I fully support your treatment of these contestants, and applaud you for your foresight to contain them in a single space with no interactions with the outside world. Anyway, what is a little sacrifice in the name of love, right?

I would also like to take this opportunity to encourage you to continue your good work and ignore the naysayers. To those who doubted the success and authenticity of The Bachelor just because none of the bachelors in the past 17 seasons had successfully made it to the wedding altar, I say, “Ditch their viewership!” Is it your fault that their relationship couldn’t last beyond the show? Of course not! The fact that they got engaged after knowing each other for only two months is irrelevant. True love can happen anytime, anywhere.

So keep up the good work, ABC. The Bachelor is one of the best, if not the best show on national television and I look forward with high hopes of yet another rewarding new season.

Your forever fan,
Jinny

Beautiful Ireland (and why I think you should go there)!

To be honest, when Renyi first told me that his next conference was going to be in Ireland, I wasn’t exactly ecstatic. My first reaction was: what’s in Ireland? I could count the number of people I know who had been there with half a hand. I had no clue about the country, and had even thought of not joining him on this trip.

Boy would I have kicked myself if I had done that!

Ireland turned out to be one of the best holidays the husband and I had. The weather was a little too erratic and wet for my liking, but even that couldn’t dampen our fun. We were only there for a couple of weeks so we decided to just concentrate on two cities: Dublin and Galway. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to see the rest next time. Here’s some highlights of our trip, and reasons why I think Ireland should be on your places-to-visit list (at least in summer. I’m guessing winter would be awfully cold)!

The Sights

Kylemore Abbey at Connemara.

Kylemore Abbey at Connemara.

Renyi and I seldom utilize tour buses on our holidays, but because we weren’t familiar with Ireland and we weren’t driving, we decided to engage them in Galway city to the Connemara and Cong, and the Cliffs of Moher and Burren. It was a good choice cos the roads were long and winding and I’m pretty sure there were some areas even the GPS wouldn’t be able to get a signal.

Connemara is probably our favorite place in terms of scenary in Galway. Besides the obvious abbey we got to see (above), the road trip was just filled with beautiful lakes, green plains, moutains and castles.

A close-up of the abbey.

A close-up of the abbey.

Near the Victorian walled garden at Connemara.

Near the Victorian walled garden at Connemara.

The calm waters at Connemara.

The calm waters at Connemara.

At the Ross Errilly Friary.

At the Ross Errilly Friary, a medieval monastic site .

Our second favorite place at Galway is probably the Aran Islands. For that, we had to take a bus and a ferry, but it was well worth it. There are three islands that make up the Aran Islands group and for just a day trip, we only had time for one, so we picked the biggest one: Inishmore. The Aran islands are a little more backward than their Irish counterparts, and that is what makes the place attractive. People flock there to see traditional Irish life. To explore the island, Renyi and I rented bicycles.

We are kinda rusty at biking, but we tried, haha!

We were kinda rusty at biking but we tried, haha!

The stones are used to demarcate their property.

Dry stone walls — they are built without any mortar! Amazing!

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If you don’t wanna bike, you can ride on one of these.

Cycling along the coast was probably the most fun — before it started pouring. But that’s irish weather for you, as one man told us as we returned our bicycles drenched from head to toe.

Burren was another place we loved, and to get there, we took the tour bus. It was packaged together with the Cliffs of Moher sights, but by the time we went up to the cliffs, we experienced freak weather and it was so foggy, we literally couldn’t see a thing from the cliffs. It was just fog. Couldn’t see the ocean beneath which was a real bummer. That was probably the low point on this trip — to sit on the bus till your ass hurts but not able to see the view!! bahh.

Well, I managed to see a foggy castle.

Well, at least we managed to see something.

But apart from the disappointment at the cliffs, Burren (which means great rock) was beautiful!

The hubs having a ball of time at the Poulnabrone dolmen, the Burren.

The hubs having a ball of time at the Poulnabrone dolmen, the Burren.

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At Dublin, we stayed at one of the worst hotels ever. The walls were so paper thin that every night, we were woken up by screams and groans along our doorway. No kidding. So it was so wonderful when we took a day trip to Howth Village. It was just so peaceful and scenic that it quickly became our number one favorite spot in Dublin, and we visited there twice in a week. Renyi said if he knew how nice it was, he would have booked a couple of night’s stay there.

At Howth Village, Dublin.

At Howth Village, Dublin.

The first time we were there, we trekked for three hours up the cliffs.

Halfway to the summit!

Halfway to the summit!

Of course, it was pretty darn cool to see this.

Of course, it was pretty darn cool to see this.

The both times we were there, the weather was perfect. Sunny skies, cool winds — I only have fond memories for this place!

We also took a day out to visit the Malahide Castle in Dublin. The castle was smaller and not as nice as I had expected, so I wouldn’t say it is a must-see. The large garden, on the other hand, was pretty neat.

Not big enough, you say?

Not big enough, you say?

Little hubs and the big tree.

Little hubs and the big tree.

On the whole, Galway and Dublin were beautiful in their own way. Galway’s town was a lot more scenic compared to Dublin, but after one week, I was ready to leave and go to the city.

A common sight in Galway city.

A common sight in Galway.

The Food

Food is one of the reasons I travel and Ireland surprised me with what she could offer! I had one of the best culinary experiences in Europe while I was there! Even better than Sweden and Switzerland. The dishes were not fancy but the use of quality ingredients really elevate the taste from ordinary to super yummy! The seafood were so fresh! Everywhere we went, restaurants would emphasize that they use Irish produce (beef, lamb, sausages, butter). They are really proud of their products and I can see why! Even Burger King’s Angus Beef had a sticker that said they used Irish beef only.

Here are some of the memorable dishes!

Bangers and Mash.

Bangers and Mash.

Irish Lamb Stew.

Irish Lamb Stew.

Tomato-based seafood chowder (the more common ones we saw were the white, cream-based kind) but this was the best we had after trying like 5-7 different seafood chowders.

Tomato-based seafood chowder. At Pier Restaurant, Inishmore.

The more common seafood chowders we saw were white and cream-based but this was the best we had after trying like 5-7 different seafood chowders. The soda bread you see at the side is an Irish specialty.

Fish and chips. Ate so much of these.

Fish and chips. Ate so much of this.

Mussels in white wine sauce. If no one was watching, I'd have licked the plate clean.

Mussels in white wine sauce. If no one was watching, I’d have licked the plate clean. At Pier Restaurant, Inishmore.

Seriously, the best oysters I've had.

Seriously, the best oysters I’ve had. At Oscars Seafood Restaurant, Galway.

Typical Irish breakfast.  At Mocha Beans, Galway.

Typical Irish breakfast. At Mocha Beans, Galway.

Mocha Beans served the best soda bread I’d tried on this trip.

Monkfish Puttenesca. At House, Howth Village. They served pretty good oysters too!

Monkfish Puttenesca. At House, Howth Village. They served pretty good oysters too!

Warm goat tart with caramelized onions and balsamic glaze.

Warm goat tart with caramelized onions and balsamic reduction.

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Steak at Vina Mara.

We chanced upon this jewel of a place on the day they were having a deal of 10 Euros for every main course. It was more than 50 per cent off. What a steal!

Pear tart at Gourmet Tart & Co., Galway

Pear tart at Gourmet Tart & Co., Galway

We tried this the day before we left Galway and I wished I knew about it sooner! I thought I’d be able to eat it again when I was in Dublin but turned out it didn’t have a store there! -_-“

Chocolate cake that oozes chocolate sauce in every layer...

Chocolate cake that oozes chocolate sauce in every layer…

Suffice to say, I am more than thrilled with the food in Ireland!

The People

My third reason for loving Ireland is that the people there are so, so friendly — especially at Galway! Everywhere we went, people greeted us with a smile — from the coach driver to the waitress at the restaurant. No one seemed particularly stressed out or angry.

At Howth village, Renyi and I bought some fish and chips and brought it to the park to eat. There weren’t many benches left so we asked to share it with this gentleman. He was around 60, had a head full of white hair and was dressed in a smart suit. He gladly agreed and before we could sit down, he quickly warned us about possible wet bird droppings on the bench. He began telling us that he accidentally sat on some, and before we could say anything, he quickly took out a tissue paper and started wiping the bench for us, just to make sure it was clean. When he was done, he smiled at us cheerfully and said that it was now safe for us to sit.

How nice was that!!!

I was kind of flabbergasted and Renyi and I thanked him profusely. He sat with us for a short while, looking over some documents in his bag, before standing up and bidding us goodbye.

The Museums

I had the opportunity to visit two museums, but without Renyi because he had to be at the conference on both days. The Book of Kells and The Long Room at the Trinity College were nice, but the Writer’s Museum was even better! I had difficulty finding the Writer’s Museum because it was inconspicuously located between two buildings, and it was small. Like, 4 little rooms as exhibits kind of small. When I first went in, I was a little disappointed by its size. But as I walked through the exhibits, each display was choked full with interesting tidbits and details about Ireland’s long history of famous writers. I was floored. Jonathan Swift (author of Gulliver’s Travels) was probably my favorite showcase, followed by Oscar Wilde. This is a must-see for any writer!

The Long Room at Trinity College, Dublin.

The Long Room at Trinity College, Dublin.

What can I say? Ireland was full of wonderful surprises and it was a much needed break for Renyi and me. For those who are interested to visit Ireland, feel free to let me know if you need tips on how to move around (especially without a car), etc.