New York City

Curing a dose of homesickness

Over the last couple of months I begun to have a real bad case of homesickness. While a flight home was out of the question, a flight to NYC was more within my reach. Everyone I know in San Francisco I  only know as long as I have been here myself, however, in New York there are a lot more ties to home. I am very lucky that the company I work for has an office in NYC and was very accommodating in letting me work from their NY offices to facilitate my 12 day trip.

Highline, NYC

I stayed with Maria, one of my very good friends from secondary school. We must have only been with each other a little over an hour when I noticed her ‘tunnel’ ear piercing. Without thinking I said in disgust ‘what is that?’, she immediately turned around and laughed, followed by an ‘I’ve missed you’. Similar to me she moved to NY without knowing anyone. We have both become so accustom to people filtering the truth or being too polite to say what they really think.

During my first week I met up with an old friend from Irish college. At one point in the evening he started to roll a cigarette, a habit he has had on and off for years. Me being me, not so discretely said, ‘you’re not at that again’. He quickly told me off. It was so refreshing to spend time with people who told you exactly what they were thinking without it being put through a filter.

Friends Abroad

The day before I left NY the question was asked ‘do you still feel homesick?’. My answer at the time was of course as sarcastic as ever, but truthfully on reflection those 12 days away spent with friends and family was exactly what I needed. One of my biggest fears when moving abroad was that I would lose touch with those at home. This trip amongst other things has taught me how blest I am to have some really great friendships, that no matter the length of time between when we see each other, things always fall right back into place.

Today I am 9 months in the US of A, something I cannot believe. Time has flown by and continues to do so. One of my closest friends is coming to visit in just 5 weeks!! When she originally booked her flights it felt like it was forever away (fabulous use of the english language there) and now it is just around the corner.  That looming visit will be an adventure of its own…

Taking some time out

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A Jam-Packed Weekend In Seattle

I recently took a much needed vacation to Seattle over memorial weekend. My cousin recently joked that my life is just one long vacation… I think she failed to remember I also work Monday to Friday.

Flights from San Francisco worked out at $220 which was very reasonable considering the long weekend. We found a very central AirBnB located in Capitol Hill, which is about a 40 minute walk from Pike Market and the Space Needle. The biggest cost of the weekend was transport. We decided to be extremely lazy and get Uber’s most places and unfortunately ‘UberPool’ is not yet a thing in Seattle.

Here are my top 6 highlights from the weekend and things I highly recommend you do if you ever find yourself in Seattle:

Chihuly Garden & Glass 

Chihuly Garden & Glass

I am not a big fan of museums or guided tours but the Chihuly Garden & Glass museum is in a league of its own. The glass pieces are amazing!! I found myself looking at them and just wondering HOW. The museum offers short free guided tours in particular rooms which provides you with a better insight on Chihuly’s work.

You can buy a ticket for the museum and the space needle in a bundle, saving around $5. Buying the bundle online allows you to skip the lines and is more convenient. The picture below is one of my favorite pictures from the trip. At first glance the green glass piece looks like a normal tree, only at closer inspection do you realize it is glass.

Chihuly Garden & Glass

Knee High Stocking 

We found this little cocktail bar by chance. We originally had planned on going to Neddle & Thread an up-class cocktail bar, however, it was closed! Knee High Stocking is located on a very small corner, in order to gain access you must ring a bell where a host will come out and ask for your reservation. It is a very cosy bar, with a certain charm. When we arrived I was a little peckish, and ordered a portion of bread pudding. It was delicious, I would go back just for the bread pudding! Don’t worry they also have a large drinks menu :)

To be guaranteed a table you must have a booking, so be sure to text +1-(206)-979-7049 your reservation before you arrive.

Japanese Gardens  

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The day we went to the Japanese Garden’s was a very dull day, however, our timing could not have been better. Admission to the gardens is $6 and a free guided tour of the gardens commenced just as we arrived. The garden is very peaceful and very nice to stroll around. During the tour there was an opportunity to feed some of the fish and turtles. The garden is meant to be beautiful in the Autumn and I can see why.

Gas Works Park   

Gas Works Park

We ventured to Gas Works Park on our last day as the sun decided to make an appearance. This is a public park on the site of the former Seattle Gas Light Company gasification plant. It is the strangest parks in Seattle and there is discussion that is could be among the strangest in the world. It has also been used as a setting for various films.

Throughout the trip I found it very difficult to see the picturesque Seattle skyline which is shown during the opening credits of Grey’s Anatomy and on many postcards. However, from Gas Works Park there is an incredible view of the city. This is were the picturesque skyline can be found!

Pike Place Market 

Pike Market

Before going to Seattle I heard many mixed reviews about Pike Place Market. Some said it was a must and others said not to expect much. My opinion, it is well and truly what it says on the tin… a famers market.

What I liked about the market is that instead of being built up you go down to access other levels as the foundation is built on a hill. There is some cute little stores. We went into one particular book shop where the shop keeper seemed to be the main attraction. Be careful as when you walk in the main entrance there is a fish stall where the staff can often be seen throwing fresh fish around, something not to be missed.

Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room

Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room

The first ever Starbuck’s is located in Seattle down by Pike Market, but realistically once you’ve been to one Starbuck’s you’ve been in them all…except this one! Straight away from the outside you can tell the ‘Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room‘ is going to be a completely different experience.

For those who actually drink coffee (unlike me) this will be your heaven.

Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room

Learning to slow down & speak a little slower

A little about life

Growing up performing in front of large groups of people never seemed to phase me. Music was one of the subjects I chose for my leaving cert for which I sung. In preparation for our practical the school organized a mini concert for younger years and the odd family members to attend. I remember loving the rush before stepping out on the stage and the relief after singing the last note. I often get the same rush when giving a presentation or making a speech.

I vividly remember a couple of weeks before starting my final year in college I was asked to give a presentation to incoming first years about the society I was involved with. For anyone who knows DCU it was in T101, a large lecture hall with tiered seating. The lecturer politely made an introduction followed by one of my peers kicking off the presentation. A few moments later he turned to me signaling that I was to take over. I stood there for a very painful 30 seconds before looking blankly at him to continue. I walked out of the lecture hall swearing that I would never let that happen again.

In the summer of 2013 I was lucky enough to get a one on one coaching session from Barbara Moynihan, MD of On Your Feet. By the end of the summer I was able to confidently give a 17 minute speech to a professional judging panel with 4 other society members.

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I believe in my line of work it is important to be able to confidently present in front of your peers, colleagues, clients and strangers. I have found the more passionate or excited I am about something the quicker I talk, even my parents have difficulty understanding me at times. I am working on a really exciting project in work at the moment and get quite excited when bringing the team up to date. One member of the team tends to smile and nod, then if I ask a follow up question his reply without fail is ‘I’m sorry I couldn’t understand you’. For this reason I recently enrolled in Toastmasters. This is a global public speaking organization. The club I joined is small, with the recent attendance being between eight and twelve people.

The club runs for one hour every Tuesday night. There was a once off membership fee of $20 and then to enroll until September it was $30. The structure remains the same weekly, however, the roles change round depending on who volunteers. You have the toastmaster who leads the session, a person presenting the word of the day and another presenting the joke of the day. There is an opportunity for two people to present their prepared speeches and an opportunity for short 2 minute unprepared speeches. During the second half of the session we hear feedback on the prepared speeches, members vote on the best unprepared speech and we also hear from grammarian about how many filler words the speakers used.

I have volunteered to do a prepared presentation the first week in June. I am looking forward to that feeling I use to be so familiar with, the rush of excitement, that sigh of relief when it is all over and the sense of accomplishment. I hope this is the start of many more (hopefully successful) presentations, improving throughout the process and maybe in not so long that certain team member will be able to understand me, even through my excitement.

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#BeMyYes

#BeMyYes

On Saturday the 9th of May, members of the Irish community in San Francisco gathered together to encourage those back home to use their vote in the upcoming referendum. It is estimated that there are over 1 million Irish citizens living abroad. That is 1 million Irish people that can not vote in the upcoming marriage referendum. The #BeMyYes campaign was launched at the start of May encouraging people in Ireland to ‘be the voice of those who cannot be heard’.

#BeMyYes

With this in mind, on Saturday a group of us gathered together beside the picturesque Golden Gate Bridge to take a photograph encouraging our loved ones at home to get out and vote. The turn out was fantastic and we even managed to convince some Scottish/Australian tourists to hold some letters for us. As mentioned on Saturday, ‘it doesn’t take a lot to show up’, the real credit goes to Adel for organizing such a successful event and putting together the short video below.

Be My Yes

After the main photo a handful of us made our way to The Castro, one of the first gay districts in the United States. This is where we took one of my favorite photographs of the day, at the rainbow flag cross roads. We waited for the lights and then in order of height quickly ran halfway across the road and posed for a quick photograph. I have to say this Saturday was one of my best days in San Francisco to date.

It has been difficult watching all the campaigning being done in Ireland from abroad. It has been inspiring seeing people of all generations stand together in the hope that their voice is heard. One of the best stories I read online is to do with a secondary close to my home in Dublin. ‘No’ posters were placed outside the school grounds and students responded by painting a rainbow on the ground at the school gates. Now bare in mind the voting age in Ireland is 18 years old which means over 80% of the students are unable to vote, however, they are aware of what is happening and want their voices to be heard.

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I was also delighted to see Dublin City University revised their exam timetable so students can be at home to vote. They are also proudly flying the Rainbow LGBT Flag on the main campus building. Another reason why all students past and present should be proud to be associated with a university standing strong and leading the way once again.

Here is a short video that pretty much sums up our day on Saturday. Please go to your local polling station on the 22nd of May and be our yes! <3

From the dance studio to the GAA pitch

Dance

I remember the day I walked into my very first ballet class, excited and hopeful that this would be the same class my neighbor and childhood best friend attended. Our teacher Marie Cole walked around the room with her remote gently tapping our knees when our first position was over turned. I remember drawing an imaginary line on the floor, pretending it was a tightrope, and playfully fell over, as I prepared for our performance in the National Concert Hall.

I remember the day I arrived to class upset over homework, Ms Cole took my hand, thinking I was upset due to my friend missing our weekly class and lead me to my place. I remained with the ‘Irish Ballet School’ throughout primary school, secondary school and during my first couple of years in university.  Weekly classes became bi-weekly and increased further before the occasional performances.

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I contemplated joining a dance class when I first moved over, while also looking for other opportunities. To my father’s delighted I found a GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) club to join, Clan Na Gael. My friends back home find this concept hilarious… and tbh so do I!

Growing up sports were just not my thing. Now don’t get me wrong, I know plenty of people that dance and take part in competitive sports, I was just never that girl! However, in my opinion there is no better time than now to change that. So much has changed over the last year so why not give this a shot!

I have to admit I have not been as dedicated as I would like to be, but I plan on changing that. We train twice a week and have the odd match on the weekend against the only other ladies team in SF.

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I love the feeling of accomplishment after training, the fitness aspect of it and the community the club offers. The only thing that has been holding me back is the feeling I get during training… It reminds me of when I returned to dancing after being out with a knee injury. Everyone had learnt a new dance for an upcoming performance. I had sat in on some of the rehearsals to avoid falling behind, but watching and actually dancing are two very different things. My first class back I messed up the steps and found myself getting extremely frustrated. At training I feel like I am reliving that dance class, over and over again. I know with time and practice I will improve (I really can’t get any worse) and I am determined not to give up! Sure I’ve already been told I have the ‘spin’ defense move down ;)

The Age of Adaline

Adaline

Last Thursday I went to see ‘The Age of Adaline’ a story of a women born in 1908, who was in a car accident in 1935, and as a result cannot age. Adaline played by the beautiful Blake Lively is a movie a would highly recommend going to see.

Having only previously seen Blake star in popular the television series ‘Gossip Girl’ this was a much welcomed change of scenery. The one and only similarity between ‘The Age of Adaline’ and ‘Gossip Girl’ was Blake’s stylish outfits and ever changing hairstyles.

A big bonus was that some scenes are set in San Francisco showing new and old footage of the city and how things have changed over the years. It is always nice to watch a movie/television show and be able to relate to the setting.

‘The Age of Adaline’ is currently out in cinema’s in the U.S. and is hitting cinema’s in Ireland on the 8th of May.

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My Enactus Experience: What’s it all about?!?

Students of Ireland’s top universities are busy preparing for this years National competition, competing to represent Enactus Ireland in this years World Cup in South Africa. In 2013, myself and five other students from Dublin City University (DCU) represented Enactus Ireland in Mexico for the 2013 World Cup.

Following the competition I was asked to write a guest blog for Enactus Ireland on my experience of Enactus. I recently came across my blog post and with minor changes I have decided to share it here.

Good luck to everyone in this years competition!

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I got involved with Enactus in my final year of university and I can honestly say it was one of my best and most rewarding experiences in university. People often ask me ‘What is Enactus?’ or ‘What’s so great about it?’ both questions I struggle to answer, however, in a few words I will try! Enactus for me is, students from across the world seeing situations that need to be changed, these students realise they have the power to make a difference! I have always enjoyed helping other people and Enactus gave me the opportunity to continue helping others.

I initially got involved as a dance teacher for one of DCU’s projects, HeadstARTS. HeadstARTS is an organization that enables and empowers people with intellectual disabilities through the arts. I really didn’t understand the impact this project was having on our member’s lives and to be honest I still don’t think I do. We enabled and empowered, similar to all Enactus projects! Our member’s lives were changed and we gave them a creative outlet in the arts.

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I am proud to say I went on to represent DCU at both the Irish National Competition and Enactus World Cup in Mexico. The whole experience feels like a dream and trying to explain it to others is close to impossible. I was astonished to see how students from all corners of the earth shared the same passion and excitement for helping other people as myself and team. The joyous atmosphere was contagious. Everyone dressed up in their traditional clothes, music was blaring, people were dancing and exchanging gifts from their native countries. We even taught the Egyptians a few ‘one, two, threes’!

Because of Enactus I have learnt that I am not alone in wanting to make a difference in the world and anything we may do alone or together will make a difference. As Mother Teresa said “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples”. Enactus has also given me the opportunity to meet some inspiring and wonderful business leaders.

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Although my college journey has come to an end I hope my Enactus journey has not! If the opportunity arose I would love to be a judge not only in Ireland’s National competition but also in the World’s. I have been so inspired with what I have seen this year, Enactus students see opportunities to make the world a better place and instead of overlooking the problems, they make it their mission.

If I could give one bit of advice to students, business leaders and companies, it would be… get involved! You will not be disappointed!