News alert (I know, I'm repeating myself, but I can't help it)SMKDJ WON FIRST and THIRD at
the HELP LAW OLYMPIAD 2006 !!!!!!
Pwnage la DJ this year. Rawr. Pn Lee sure damn happy one.
I wrote this article for theStar but I sent it in late so I don't know whether it's coming out one.
A free trip to Ireland for two, a seven day stint at one of the most happening cities in Europe, and a chance to meet the winner of the world's most lucrative literary award not too bad a reward for listening to my mother and staying up late to write an essay on the extended competition deadline itself!
Winning the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for Young Malaysians 2006 came as an absolute surprise to me. I was already more than satisfied to be short listed. Before, I never really thought of myself as a writer; but now, I found confidence to explore a new, exciting field of study. Nevertheless, I was nothing less than thrilled when I won: my mom and I were going to the emerald green isle of Eire!
We arrived on Sunday, 11 June. The first thing I liked about Ireland was its weather; its cool, rejuvenating, I-can-hardly-break-a-sweat-even-if-I-run weather. Oh, how I relished the wonderful, perfect breeze bringing life back into my tired, jet-lagged frame. I instantly knew that I was going to like the place.
We were taken to the posh Morrison Hotel, where we were to reside for our entire trip. This centrally-located four-star hotel overlooks the River Liffey, which runs through the heart of Dublin City, or Atha Cliath in Irish.
River Liffey (a bit the dirty one. can see green mold, hehe)
Atha Cliath is a pleasant-sized city; not too big, not too small. Home to about 1.2 million residents, it is the capital of Ireland. A lot of its buildings still retain their original facades, and the city is a fusion of romantic cobblestone streets and Georgian and Edwardian architecture. I believe that there is a cap on a Dublin building's height at four or five storeys there aren't any skyscrapers in Dublin! This policy preserves the city's cultural and historical atmosphere ancient structures with their flying buttresses, soaring steeples and Romanesque columns seem more prominent this way.
(Look reeeally carefully and you'll see that the streets are strewn with cigarette butts. Dublin is as dirty as Malaysia, but it doesn't feel that way, because of the perfect weather and breeeeeeze.)
Georgian architecture (think red red red brick)
Tourism and immigration have given Dublin a very metropolitan, multicultural feel. Mom and I tried to guess of what ethnicity people we met on the streets were (Chinese, Japanese, Italian, French, Polish!), with varying degrees of success.
One thing about Dublin: it is an extremely walkable city. Everyone walked everywhere! There were traffic lights and pedestrian crossings at almost every junction, and even the waiting periods at these intersections were soothingly short. The perfect weather definitely made it easy I couldn't resist going out for a stroll in such conditions. (It never once rained when we were there Mom claimed that we brought the sun over from Malaysia!) Truly, the best way to explore Dublin is on foot.
Four/five storey cap for buildings.
I met the other Young Writers John Raithel and mom from Rhode Island, and Britta Bell and dad from Connecticut. John had won for a story he wrote entitled Perimeters, and Britta, a poem called Keeping My Father. We trotted over to Trinity College Dublin for a walking tour and an exhibition of the famous Book of Kells.
Trinity College Dublin
Trinity College Dublin
The Book of Kells is an ornate, colourfully illustrated medieval manuscript produced by Celtic monks. Intricate artwork and stunningly complex decorations interweave with lavish calligraphy to create an awe-inspiring, breathtaking, almost sacred sight, even to the casual observer. Striking hues of green, red, purple, gold, pink and blue belie their true age. In the days when paints were painfully expensive and hard to obtain, surely the monks didn't spare any expense in its creation: pigments were acquired from all over Europe; the extraordinarily costly semi-precious blue lapis lazuli was imported from Afghanistan!
We then went over to the IMPAC Office to have an enjoyable, light, getting-to-know-you session with the illustrious Judging Panel for the International Literary Award. (They wouldn't tell us who won!)
Did you know that no less than four Irishmen have won the Nobel Prize for Literature, namely William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckett, and Seamus Heaney? Not forgetting giants Oscar Wilde and James Joyce, Ireland has contributed remarkably, disproportionately to world literature. And for this Irish literary heritage, the world's richest book prize the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award is held there.
Poet, Dramatist, Wit: Oscar Wilde lived here
Dublin Coat of Arms. But check out the irony: Flaming castles and obendientia in Dublin.
John, Britta, Me
It was there, in Dublin City Hall, where we were among the selected few to learn, first-hand, that Colm Toibin had won the award and the 100,000 Euros for his tour-de-force, The Master. He is the first Irishman to win the award since its conception.
John, Britta, Colm Toibin, Me
Actually I won lah.
Later, Mom and I went on a walking tour of the city, where we visited, among other Dublin landmarks, the all-imposing Dublin Castle, historic Temple Bar, refreshing St. Stephen's Green, and a few ornate, antique churches. We would also attend the celebration dinner for Colm Toibin, where we would eat our hearts out and receive complimentary autographed copies of the winning book!
Mom and I, Christchurch Cathedral Dublin
I like the pic mah.
The Young Writers and their parents were escorted to the IMPAC Office to meet the newly crowned Colm Toibin. It was very nice to get to know him personally; Colm was very humble, very down-to-earth. We congratulated and chatted with him about what it meant to be a writer, and about his experiences as one. His advice: take note of anything that motivates, touches, enrages, discourages, inspires, frightens you. Anything at all for it is from your personal experience that you draw from when you write.
Rubbish!!! Mala = Bag in Irish.
The Four Courts
Next, Judge Eugene Sullivan, the chair of the Judging Panel and former Chief Judge of the US Court of Appeals, took us on a tour of the Irish Supreme Court the Four Courts. There we witnessed a civil hearing, saw some dangerous criminals in handcuffs, talked to an Irish judge, and took in some legal trivia from our affable guide. Did you know that toilets in courtrooms have a form of ultraviolet lighting to make it next to impossible for people to locate their veins, thus deterring them from committing suicide in the heat of legal action? Now you do!
Today was a free day. Mom and I went on a bus tour to the south of Dublin, where we saw dramatic changes in scenery from the flat, sandy beaches to the East and the alternating green hills and rocky mountains to the West.
We went to Powerscourt Gardens, which is this gigantic, hauntingly beautiful, aristocratic estate to the southwest of Dublin. Its main mansion is said to be based on Versailles, albeit on a much smaller scale. Here we could see endless miles of evergreen forest stretching into the misty horizon. There were also the vast seas of emerald plains for which Eire is so famous for, and that very site was where the movie Braveheart was filmed! C'est magnifique!
Powerscourt Gardens, like Versaille, no?
Powerscourt Gardens: Braveheart filmed here! (Like golf course only)
Sculpture by some Italian sculptor
Powerscourt Gardens Central Lake
Japanese Gardens at Powerscourt
Look REEEEAAAALLY CAREFULLY (Very funny one!)
Inspired by a pepper shaker.
The entire delegation went to a couple of readings held for the Dublin Writer's Festival where we listened to several accomplished, internationally-acclaimed novelists and poets present an eclectic selection of their work.
The harp: a symbol of Ireland
That afternoon was also quite an experience, catching the World Cup live from a hotel room in Europe!
The nights I had were reserved for hanging out with John and Britta chatting and joking, alternating between school, life, politics, other deep stuff, and nothing much in particular. I had my first pint of Guinness. It wasn't bad, but comparatively, it's staggeringly thicker than other beers. Surprisingly, even in Guinness' birthplace, beer was quite expensive: 4 Euro for a pint (500 ml)!
Statue of Guinness founder in St Stephen's Green!!!
We left the next day for London.
I wish to thank IMPAC for making this trip so enjoyable for me and my mom. Thank you so much for your flexibility and generosity. Also, another huge thank you to the IMPAC staff in Dublin: Linda and Tana for taking care of us so well, and Chris and Gorpin for taking us out so often to make sure that we'd get at least one good meal a day!
All in all, my trip to Ireland was immensely fulfilling. I definitely see myself going back again. Now, if only they'd change the age limit next year
LONDON PICTURES WILL COME NEXT! :D