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Rachel’s Travel Diary

Monday, 01 May 2006

Location: Cork, Ireland

MapMy roommates have been quite the experience so far. Remember that at any one time I can have six of them, and they tend to rotate in and out fairly often because some of them are only here for a few weeks at the language school. Usually they tend to be between 20-30 years of age, although a few have been older.

Group 1:
Me
Nuria from Spain
Zhulima from Spain
Jacquin from France
Mystery Boy

This initial group was absolutely wonderful. Nuria and Zhulima are two of the nicest girls I've met in Europe, and Jacquin is possibly the quietest guy I've ever met. They all went to sleep at normal times (i.e. no parties) and cleaned up their kitchen mess fantastically well. Mystery Boy was supposedly from Hungary, but I never met him because he was never around and moved out not long after I got there.

The break-up of Group 1:
Nuria goes home.
Zhulima finds a cheaper apartment in Cork but we still see each other sometimes when we got out on Friday or Saturday nights.
Jacquin goes home.
Mystery Boy goes home.

Group 2:
Me
Hamad from Saudi Arabia
Mats from Sweden.
Attila from Hungary
Roger from Norway
Norbert from Poland
Romain from France ("As in the lettuce??" asks Bekah.)

Sometimes I think that God has a bizarre sense of humor, because why else would I have ended up with SIX guys for roommates?! Was it not enough that I grew up with two brothers?? Roger, who is a 50-something-year old dad who wanted to improve his English while one of his daughters is studying in the U.S., found great delight in referring to me as their mother. If I was their mother, I would have made sure that a few of the boys knew how to WIPE OFF THE TABLE WHEN THEY WERE DONE EATING. Seriously, I just don't get it. Is it difficult??? Sponge. Soap. Water. Table with crumbs. Aaaand swipe swipe, the table is gleaming and Rachel doesn't have to sit in your mess.

Hamad. He's a piece of work. He comes from a wealthy family in the capital of Saudi Arabia and his dad has three wives. He's the most immature 20-year-old I have ever met, thanks to being pampered by money and three mothers for his entire life. Loud music at night, doors slamming at night, a complete inability to clean up after himself... if there's an annoying habit that a roommate can possess, I promise you that Hamad has it. He also drinks like a fish and smokes like a chimney. This kid is no practicing Muslim (for those of you who aren't academic geeks like I am when it comes to theology, practicing Muslims don't drink or smoke).

When I first met Hamad, it was Ash Wednesday, and, we Catholics being the strange people that we are, I had ashes on my forehead because I'd just been to Mass. Hamad wanted to know what it was for, and why other people around the city had it, too. It shouldn't be surprising that it's nearly impossible to explain the particulars of one denomination of Christianity to a Muslim completely unfamiliar with the basic tenets of Christianity plus REALLY bad English.

On this first meeting, Hamad also wanted to know, and I quote, "Is Bush your king?" Umm, no, hello, DEMOCRACY? I tried to explain what it meant to have a president that you vote for, plus other levels of government that also have power. Again, he didn't get it - I think his cultural background played an even bigger part in his lack of understanding than his language ability did. But let me tell you, I find the fact that someone doesn't comprehend the basic principle of voting REALLY disturbing. Yes, I know, he can't vote in his country, but to not even know about it??? My next adventure will be called: Rachel, Civics Teacher/Envoy to the Middle East.

Hamad ALSO wanted to know why I had no plans to visit Saudi Arabia. I tried to explain that it wasn't the safest place for an American to be right now. All of a sudden his face lit up and he proclaimed, "Ah, yes, I know now! Last year, we had crazy person running around." *Makes chopping motion at his neck* "He gone now. Okay for you now." Yes, Hamad, I'm sure that the "crazy person" chopping off heads in your country was a mere anomaly. No one else in Saudi Arabia has gotten sucked into radical Islam. I'm sorry, but the mere fact that so many of the 9-11 terrorists were from Saudi Arabia speaks for itself - there is a seriously deranged element that has worked its way into Muslim culture, and Saudi Arabia is prime breeding ground for it. No, Hamad, Rachel is not going to Saudi Arabia. No interest whatsoever.

Roger, Norbert, Attila, Mats, and Romain are all really decent guys and pretty good roommates.

Although I must mention this particular stunning and amusing moment with Romain. I was in the kitchen, about to go out for the night. Romain, sitting on the couch with a bunch of his friends, looks up and says, "Ray-shel. Yoo loook vair-ee pret-eee tonight." *pause* "What happened?" Thanks, Romain. *poof* The image of the suave Frenchman goes up in smoke. Hopefully we can attribute this comment to the fact that your English is fairly poor. However, I would also like to add that the fact that I normally look like crap is not my fault - it's the Irish weather. While I've never been able to claim status as a victim of any sorts in perpetually victimized American society (sometimes we really are a nation of babies, looking to place blame on anyone/anything else but our own inability to be strong enough to rise above our problems), I am proud that I can now claim to be a Victim of Irish Wind & Rain. Good thing I had Romain to point out that I was being victimized. The support group meets once a week on Tuesdays. Indoors.

The break-up of Group 2:
Mats stays. He's a PhD student doing something or other in Cork.
Hamad and his annoying habits stay. He wants to study in America next. For the sanity of my country, I hope his visa gets rejected. If that sounds mean, then I welcome you to come to Cork and experience what it's like to be a roommate of Hamad.
Attila goes home.
Roger goes home.
Norbert goes home.
Romain goes home.

Group 3:
me
Mats
Hamad
Vanessa from Spain
Emiliano (spelling?) from Switzerland
Barbara from Italy
Sabina from Germany

I am eternally grateful for the reintroduction of more estrogen into the apartment.

Vanessa, Barbara, and Sabina are all fabulous.

Emiliano is an arrogant 23-year-old who has an unfortunate case of Only Child Syndrome and is a classic Angry European. That is, he finds it very easy to work himself into a lather about what he perceives as the failings of American policy. "Why do you feel that you have to be involved with everything?" he asks. Right back at ya, kid - why does Switzerland feel the intense need to never commit itself to ANYTHING, even in black & white wars like WWII when people were being slaughtered like cattle RIGHT NEXT DOOR? I have little patience for Emiliano because it's impossible to have a rational discussion with him about foreign policy because all he can do is get angry about it. No facts, all emotions.

Mats, at least, I've had some decent conversations with about America. This is probably because Mats has studied abroad in the U.S. before, so he has a more balanced perspective of America (don't let the cultural elitests fool you - many Europeans can have just as narrow views as some Americans do). Mats is willing to acknowledge that there's good and bad with America and good and bad with Europe, and I have a lot of respect for that. It's the mark of someone who really is well-traveled. My favorite conversation with him so far has been the one about how the U.S. takes the ball and runs with it, never bothering to give a second look back, while Europe never even touches the ball, preferring to sit there and whine and complain incessantly. My second favorite conversation with him was on the U.N. and how useful it has thus far proved itself to be (did you catch the sarcasm there?).

But anyway - I digress.

The break-up of Group 3:
Mats stays.
Hamad stays.
Vanessa stays.
Emiliano moves to another apartment upstairs because he can't sleep at night because lucky him, his room is right next to Hamad's room.
Barbara goes home.
Sabina goes home.

Group 4:
me
Mats
Hamad
Vanessa
Luca (spellng?) from Italy

Luca seems nice enough so far, although I hardly know him because he's only been around for a few days. I'm sure that we'll also be getting two new roommates sometime this week - wouldn't want a peaceful apartment for too long! I'll be sure to update you when it happens. : ) Because I know you care deeply!

And that should about cover the roommate section. Next up: the JOB.