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I'm Jeff Couturier—a designer, developer, and illustrator based in Chicago. I also make comics, point cameras at things and travel a lot, usually while listening to punk rock. I write about those things (and others) here.

Going Nomad: Ireland, Part 4

To read from the beginning, here's part 1. Or skip back to parts 2 and 3.

Pulled Into a Street Performance

One morning on a crazy-busy King Street these acrobatic brosephs were busking, about to high jump over two girls they pulled from the crowd. They said they needed "the tallest guy" and, to my surprise, saw my head poking up in the back and pulled me in. Within a few seconds I was standing next to the two girls as the acrobats hyped up the crowd. They told us to try to touch our toes (which the girls did easily, I on the other hand can make it down to a couple of inches above my ankles), then one of them took a running leap over us all. He easily cleared all three of us with a height and distance I'd expect from am Olympian. It was impressive.

It was a blast, and they were really nice, talented guys.

Parks

I also took a bike ride to the Irish National War Memorial Park. It's full of big open green spaces, fountains, gardens, walking paths, and is all very well used. The park feels huge, but is completely dwarfed by the colossal Phoenix Park that's just across the River Liffey to the North.

Trinity College

I also took a walk through the campus of Trinity College. It was founded in 1592 and is one of the seven ancient universities, so it's loaded with history and architecture. My two photos here don't do it justice, and if you're in the city Trinity is definitely worth your time.

Farewell Dublin

After just over two weeks, it was time to say goodbye to Dublin. Out of the seemingly countless cities I've seen in 11 countries, Dublin is definitely one of my favorites. There was so much more I saw that I haven't written about here, like more cafes, pubs, kind people, and really impressive street art (I'll be writing a separate post on this soon: graffiti of Dublin).

I look forward to coming back, but now it's time to take a train to Galway, on Ireland's West coast.

Coming up next: Rainy but beautiful Galway, touring the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher, the North Atlantic, and did I mention rain? Because, rain. So much rain. And even later: I move on to Glasgow, Scotland. Then Berlin, then Prague.

To get updates, subscribe to the RSS feed. And for more photos, check out my Instagram feed.

Paris, Beirut, safety and fear.

Last night there was horror in Paris and Beirut.

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Today then is full of reflection. I'm so grateful for my friends and family. So grateful that we have each other, that we're safe. Grateful that we are here at all.

This morning over coffee and cereal at the bed & breakfast, a very nice Australian woman and I talked about travel, learning about the world, safety, and of course Paris and Beirut. When the subject of traveling to Paris came up, she was rather against it. "I don't think it's a good idea, not now."

The wonderful host of the B&B in this quiet, little Irish town 800 miles from Paris, gasped when I told her I was heading on to Glasgow and Berlin. "Oh my, be safe. They're not like here."

I will be safe. Though I will not live in fear.

I travel so much in order to see and learn. And the more I do it, the more I wish everyone would, could, see more of the world. It erases abstract concepts of "others" and humanizes the blurry preconceptions we have of distant people we've never met. It shows us that there is kindness and hospitality and human beauty everywhere. It teaches us that there isn't that much to fear.

"You and I are quite grotesquely lucky to be here..."
"The here and now is all we have, an inspiration to make the most of it."

- Richard Dawkins

Here in little Galway, I sit in a pub where Sky News is showing cell phone footage of the Paris attacks. And I am grotesquely lucky to be here, warm and comfortable. I intend to make the most of it as I move on.

Be safe, but not fearful.
Tell your family & friends you love them.
Make the most of it.

Going Nomad: Ireland, Part 3

To read from the beginning, here's part 1.

In my last post (part 2), I left off just before telling you about Halloween in Dublin...

I was told "not many people celebrate Halloween in Ireland," which I thought was odd for the country where Halloween was born. While it isn't as pervasive as in the United States, the holiday presence in Dublin was obvious. The big difference is that it was tasteful. Meaning, every storefront was not overflowing with crappy decorations and disposable junk for sale. It was refreshing, to say the least, and makes me think Christmas here might actually be nice. I saw a handful of people (mostly in their 20's) dressed in costumes for parties on Friday the 30th, but the real festivities were of course on Saturday the 31st. And rather than every pub trying to make a huge deal out of Halloween, it felt more like one in three were advertising some kind of low-key holiday themed night.

The most unexpected thing wasn't the Halloween parties though. It was the fires.

After biking all over the city Saturday, I was riding back to the guest house and decided to take a turn off the main street. And here's why biking in new cities is good: About two blocks in I rounded a corner to hear kids yelling and a lot of banging, then saw a massive bonfire pyre being constructed in a playground lot.

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Kids, from age 7 to 17, were stacking all manner of burnable stuff on to a 2 storey tall pyramid of doors, tires, shipping palettes, random planks and debris, and even massive billboards that I watched a mob of 10 year-olds rip from the alley wall. These little firebugs had the balls to yell "trick or treat!" at the Garda (police) that slowly rolled past. They didn't give one single shit about cars or cops.

They were on a mission. Apparently the kids had been collecting this stuff for months, hiding it away from the Garda who frequently confiscated all or most of it. They told me it was tradition, and that this was one of hundreds just in Dublin alone.

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I stuck around for about an hour, until about 6pm, before learning they wouldn't light it up for another 2-3 hours. Bummer. I really wanted to see this thing go up, but biked on back to the guest house.

I went back out again around 10pm, and the Halloween bar crowd was out in full-force. Plenty of people were in costume and many of the pubs had costumed people spilling out into the sidewalk, either just smoking or waiting to get in. And something that I don't see in the USA, there were lots of fireworks. The sky was constantly lit up with exploding flowers and, thanks to all the giant bonfires, the whole city smelled like a campfire. After walking a bit, I took a cab to Thomas House pub, a rad bar I found while digging around on Twitter. This place was twelve kinds of awesome, with great music and the perfect mix of comic books and punk rock.

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After hanging out at Thomas House for a while, it was time to make my way back to the guest house for a good night's sleep.

Coming up next: I join street performers, see the lovely Irish National War Memorial Park, and leave Dublin for the West coast of Ireland.

Read on for Part 4...

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