by Nora Daly (Temple University)
I'VE BEEN TRAVELING all of my life. I flew across the country on my own to visit my aunt when I was seven; being away from home is nothing new to me. It has only been within this trip to Armagh that I have found the homesickness that I have eluded for so many of my travels.
Now that we are rounding out our third week I can regrettably say that I am counting down the days till I go home, next Saturday. I miss the warmth of the hot sun and the simple feeling of a summer night, hearing crickets outside my window, or even the rustle of the great oak’s leaves as a soft breeze blows through its branches. I miss my parents, my brothers, my dog and most of all my bed, the simplest pleasure I look forward to experiencing upon my return home; a soft, crisp bed made just for me. Nothing in the world would make me happier than to be surrounded by my own four walls, in my own bed, and feeling the sensation of a true August.
Although I am having fun with the group and hanging out with some truly interesting and entertaining personalities, I am certainly feeling the strains of being abroad. This past weekend I traveled to the Giant’s Causeway with some of my family that live in Galway. Not only did it help alleviate some of the anxiety that has been hovering over me these past few weeks, but it was a wonderful time to take amazing pictures and really take in the sights of coastal Ireland.
Virtually standing on the edge of the world I was overcome by a sensation of feeling small in the world. There I could look off the rugged cliffs of the Bushmill region and see nothing but the vastness of the ocean allowing me to see why history’s earliest explorers wearily toed the line of a “flat” world. In a place visited by so many tourists everyday for years and years it was a remarkable thing to imagine how the Giant’s Causeway could look so pristine and ultimately untouched. In all of its thousands of years in existence these pillars of hardened lava have stayed locked in a frozen frame of time, in a way of purity and visual intrigue, drawing all that view it close to touch, climb and listen to its extensive body as foamy waves crash against it.
Seeing this part of the world has left a great image in my mind as one of the secret corners of this earth; an untapped jewel and one of the most unforgettable scenes in my memory.
by Nora Daly (Temple University)
by Brigid Carey (Gonzaga University)
MISERY LOVES COMPANY. I wouldn't classify anyone here as "miserable," but I think it's how we've all bonded essentially. I'm definitely not miserable, but there is a certain sadness that comes with being out of your element or comfort zone. It's taxing, and I believe that everyone here has felt the effects. One can faintly hear a sigh of "I can't wait to go home," and slowly the consenting murmurs will follow. I'll admit it: I'm very excited to go home, if not just to see my dog!
I adore this experience and I feel that it is vital for all citizens of the world to immerse themselves in another culture. Not only to learn about people other than yourself, to widen your horizons and expand your mind, but also to appreciate your own culture; for its successes and failures. Is it shallow to admit that I feel a deep connection with my material objects at home? Not my high-tech, state of the art toys that "improve" my life, but rather my bed, my kitchen, hell... even my bathroom. My bathroom where I know ever inch and quirk hidden in those pipes; where I can produce the perfect shower temperature by easing the faucet a little hotter, a little cooler... oh yeah, that's it!
All of these little luxuries that we are privileged and blessed with at home are taken for granted because we are focused on if we have the newest Mac, or the latest Ipod gadget, or if "Mommy will get me that new BMW for my sweet sixteen," exampled in every MTV show. In the end, I don't miss any of those things. Correction: If I HAD any of those things, I don't believe I would miss them. Rather, I miss my family, my friends, and my Home. That small space selected out of the universe that I can deem my own. That is what I miss most. Not an admirable confession, I'll admit. To each their own.
by Laura McKean-Peraza (Randolph-Macon Woman's College)
I'VE ENCOUNTERED SO MANY different feelings that I am beginning to feel like I’m back on the balance beam testing my limits. Fear, learning my limits (in cross-cultural conversation), and thoughts about time have completely dominated my mind for the past few days. I won’t bother with a description of my recent nightmares, featuring lions getting into our dormitory, but otherwise I seem to be concerned with soaking up experience and making sure I take advantage of opportunities that are only available for a short time.
Friday night was very chilly, and photography professor George, film professor Dustin, students Andrew, Christine, Meg, and I were all drawn to Kelly’s bar to warm up and to listen to traditional Irish music. As soon as we walked into the bar, a group of five natives of Armagh ranging in age from 25 to 60 years old pulled us into their booth as affectionately and eagerly as if they’d finally found their long lost children. For a second I thought someone in our group must have known one of these people from a previous encounter – but no, none of us knew any of them. Orla, a friendly Irish woman in her mid-forties, literally lured us into the booth with her eager handshake and made us feel really comfortable. Meg and Andrew were pulled and squeezed into the center of the half-circle booth and began deep conversation immediately with Orla and the others. Of course, having learned that it seems to be the nature of the Irish to be kind, the rest of us also sat right down and began chatting. We lost all sense of time and simply enjoyed the conversation, even during difficult moments, and the music.
For some reason an older man sitting next to Orla felt the need to begin a routine of insulting Dustin (about what?) and then shaking his hands to apologize – he must have repeated this sequence about seven times during the three hours that we were there. As he spoke energetically with his hands, he nearly hit Christine in the face several times, and Orla kept apologizing for that. But we knew he had gone beyond his tolerance for alcohol, and we did not take either the insults or the hand-waving personally.
Then, a little person came up to the table, someone who knew the Armagh residents with us, and we were appalled at the way the older man teased him. We don’t know the history there, but no history really seems like an acceptable excuse for teasing.
We all got talking about interesting topics, and although the initial encounter seemed completely friendly, the conversation drifted into difficult issues at times. Some of the Armagh residents were angry when we started taking pictures of each other in the bar, about our using our cameras. Even though we were only photographing each other, and we explained that we certainly wouldn’t photograph them too without their permission beforehand, they remained upset. We began to think that one fellow, who spent two solid hours pouting and debating the camera issue, must be in the IRA. One issue that we get slammed with almost every time we have a close encounter with an Irish person is George W. Bush. We have all learned to sit quietly and patiently as they pour out their explosive feelings on this pressing issue to American listeners. After the older man made his speech about the damage Bush is doing, I asked “What makes you feel the need to say such things to us, other than the fact that we’re Americans?” He didn’t have much of a response. I wasn’t surprised. Most of them feel that Bush is doing great harm around the world, and talking to the only Americans they have handy may seem like a chance to figure out why this can be happening and their only way to get the message into America that the rest of the world is very upset. Still, it frustrates me greatly when some people pour out such feelings with out knowing the beliefs and feelings of the people they’re talking to. They might find out that more and more Americans are beginning to agree with them.
Christine, sitting between me and one of the people concerned about Bush, whispered to me, “It isn’t your environment that makes an experience, it’s the feelings you get during the experience.” I kept thinking about this over the next 24 hours, in different states of mind – happy, sad, depressed – and realized how important it is to function slowly enough to become aware of the feelings we experience. All of us at Kelly’s were so interested in talking to these kind, sometimes troubled, and always fascinating people that we were completely unaware of the time, and it was really nice to be able to focus on our feelings and the experience itself, and not on the time. I’ve lived in America for for 22 years and in Armagh for only 2 weeks, but these lessons about time are the most significant I’ve ever learned. Americans are so busy that we are obsessed with time. We work all the time, and we worry about schedules like the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland who is always late for a very important date. Here the Irish are not nearly as worried, and they consider time spent with family and friends to be the top priority, just as important as work is to Americans.
The music didn’t begin until an hour or so after we got there, but it was terrific. There were a flute player, a performer on the Uillean (elbow) pipes, a drummer, and a fiddler. Even though there are some differences in the music, hearing Irish music soon made me miss competing in Scottish highland dancing. There are similarities and shared songs –jigs, hornpipes, and reels -- that make me want to whip out a jig or hornpipe. These are character dances, developed in the theater in the 1800s, but they eventually became ritualized and technically difficult highland dances. The Sailor’s hornpipe imitates the work of a sailor in the British navy. Irish music is also similar to Scottish country dance music. I asked the musicians if they took requests and decided to ask them to do “Marie’s wedding.” The “Marie” is also spelled “Mairi,” “Mairie,” and “Mhari,” in Gaelic, and it seems that it is claimed to be both a traditional Irish song and a traditional Scottish song from the island of Lewis. Who knows where it really started? It was wonderful to hear the song again.
My trip to Armagh is unlike any other trip I’ve ever made. Irish culture has given me new lenses – slow down, stop and listen to people, notice your own responses, experience a place, and listen to the music. This trip has taught me some of the most important things I could learn in a lifetime. To live life, we need to stop a bit, slow down, see it, enjoy it, and listen to it. Carpe diem.
by Andrew Harrington (Temple University)
THIS PAST FRIDAY I went up to Ballintoy, a small little town on the northern coast of Ireland consisting of one main road and two pubs. It was most likely one of those towns that was developed around a pub. We came into town in the late afternoon hours, and as we arrived and greeted the owner, she informed us that since I didn’t make a prior arrangement, I’d be staying in the dorm style apartment with a team of football players. Kyle took great amusement in this, much to my chagrin. No sooner we dropped off our gear, we went off in search of the pubs in town.
The bar we found was a sort of strange place filled with a bunch of old guys watching football on a small television and a large dining room resembling a forties era ballroom, with seventies style carpeting. We found that there was no ATM in sight, and when we asked to use credit cards to purchase our grub and brews, one old, gnarly looking woman replied, “Oh, we’ve got one upstairs somewhere, I think”, she seemed to be implying that they’d have to drag out the instruction manual and push the dust off the machine before they could use it.
Since Alex and I were going to be leaving early Saturday morning, we decided we would split off from Kyle, Darcy and the two Cait’s, and trek to find the Giant’s Causeway. We took a taxi west along the coastal route, and as we pulled up to the town of Bushmills, it was starting to rain. We told the guy to pick us up in a little over an hour, which he didn’t seem to understand. He seemed to think you could spend all night there, and I assume he thought Alex and I would turn on the romance on those wet, cold, hexagon shaped rocks.
We braved the rain and cold wind, and tumbled down a winding hill to the rock field next to the ocean. Despite the tourists scrambling over the rocks with umbrellas and little whining kids, it was a beautiful scene. The cloudy, rainy weather added a daunting character to the rocks. I didn’t mind being cold, and when Alex and I returned to the top of the hill, we had some wine and chips. A nice finish to a good day.
by Charlotte Levins (Temple University)
GROWING UP, and to this day, I have always been fascinated with ghost stories. When my mom allowed me to choose the picture I would like to have hanging over my bed when I was eight years old, I chose an engraving of the town, Sleepy Hollow. For obvious reasons, I would force my Aunt to do her “goblin” voice and tell me stories about the banshee. However, I grew up and went to University and thought little more of ghosts.
Roisin is a girl from Armagh who I have had the pleasure of meeting. She joined our team and chose to write her story on the Green Lady, who haunts Vicar’s Lane. I will not get into the Lady’s story, for that is Roisin’s job. However, my job was to photograph the Green Lady. Now I like ghost stories, but I am completely freaked out when I have to stalk one alone.
Luckily George, Sarah, Kyle, and Cindy came with me to go ghost hunting. We set up the camera to catch enough light, and George suggested that Sarah move around with flapping arms while he flashed light on her face. I told Sarah to let down her hair and look “mad crazy.”
I wound up laughing uncontrollably, and I have a loud, loud laugh. It did not take long for the neighbor to peer out the door and question why we were there.
“There is no ghost; you are wasting your time,” she said. “I suggest you get your facts straight.” Meanwhile, a man moaned “Mo0o0o0o” and floated by underneath a white sheet and black wig.
Although the white-haired woman seemed annoyed at first that Americans had disrupted her peace, she did not go back inside. She remained out in the cold and chatted with us for over an hour and a half, until almost midnight. At one point, she even asked her recently hospitalized dog to come out and say hello, though he could not climb down the stairs.
I was listening to the woman speak, but I could not stop glancing over at the Green Lady’s window that was boarded up for almost 100 years. Cindy took a picture of the window and showed it to me later. She claimed that she could see a ghost, dressed in Victorian clothing, staring out the window at us. However, I just see squiggly lines from an ancient windowpane. Even so, I would never walk by that house alone at night.
by Felicia Chapman (Gonzaga University)
MISSING THE COMFORTS OF HOME, I was excited to spend the day shopping at a mall (a large structure filled with stores, rather than a large patch of grass in the centre of Armagh) and going to a movie. I boarded a Greyhound-esqe bus to Newry, and driving past sheep and horses, I notice the large, solitary trees, heavy with leaves and branches, standing alone in green farmers’ fields. They seem out of place, yet remain untouched. The deep Irish connection to the lands extends to the trees growing in the middle of crop fields.
Arriving in Newry, I arrived in a juxtaposed town, separated by a river. The older town is filled with traditional brick warehouses, cobblestones and political sayings painted on the walls of businesses. The modern town is across a stone bridge covered narrow black body of water, filled with rapids and shopping carts. Only in Ireland have I seen shopping carts in the water… lying on their sides, rusting, they are such a strange and distracting site.
Across the river, I am beckoned by the Subway, the first of two malls, and the promise of a Marks and Spencer. Walking through the mall doors, I am greeted by vending machines, sale signs and beckoning kiosks. It was very much like home.
Shopping without regard to the currency exchange, I begin to wonder how much money I have spent as my arms grow heavy with bags and souvenirs. Did I buy something in every shop? It is easy to become unaware of the flowing money, when the ATM machines spit out so little. A 100£ is a small amount of bills, weightless yet necessary, whereas the equivalent $200.00 makes my pocket heavy with guilt and responsibility.
The movie theatres, the goal of my trip, beckon with posters and a neon board announcing show times. It is hard to believe that I am not in Canada. Boarding the escalator I get increasing anxious, readying for inflated ticket prices, sticky floors and hot buttered popcorn. I found none of that. After purchasing tickets to Hairspray, I notice the quaint store fronts adjacent to the theatres. Painted blue and white, with detailed roof peaks, they remind me of a European town of the past, as they offer moviegoers speciality ice cream and coffees.
At the popcorn stand, I realize that the popcorn is not hot, fresh or buttered. There is salty and there is sweet. I am encouraged to try each one. Choosing “sweet”, I head to the movie, and stepping through the doors into a traditional and well maintained theatre with plush, high backed chairs. Had the movie theatres once been a spot to see the drama and artistry that Ireland is famous for?
The movie was over much quicker than I had hoped, and as expected, it was a much needed reminder of home. Revelling in the experience more than the film, I head to Burger King for a meal that fits my budget. I realize that I needed only this one day to remind me of home, and the few days I have remaining here in Armagh. Has the time really passed so quickly? Did I get the most out of every moment? I hope I have, yet I cannot tell from the blur that is my memory, perhaps I will only know when I have returned home…
by Christine Slomski (Gonzaga Univeristy)
I FEEL GRUMPY TODAY. It’s the stress of getting everything done and planning to get away from here this weekend. It’s August and I feel cold and I feel cramped, like there’s no place of my own, in this hostel.
Over the past few days I’ve made a generalization: Irish are welcoming and talkative when they’re engaged in conversation, but left to walk amongst them in the streets and shop alongside them in the supermarkets, well I do not find them friendly. They do not make eye contact or move to let you move past them. I was at Sainsbury’s today (supermarket) and when I was paying for groceries the clerk didn’t look up to say hello, smile at me or converse with me. I felt invisible. In back of me, just as I handed my money to the clerk, a woman was already putting her groceries on the counter and I felt pushed out of the way. Customer service here is not a priority, I can tell. The people here like to talk about themselves and their history, not as much about you. In America, or at least on the West Coast, there is a lot of emphasis on getting to know the other person, on listening. I feel there is a desire to hear and to learn.
Last Friday night something happened that bothered me, and for the rest of the night small instances of the first experience kept jumping out at me. I was leaving Red Ned’s (a local pub) with a few girls and as I was opening the outside door to leave, a young man of about 20 rushed in from outside right past me, followed by his friends. I stood there stunned and tried to stare him down. Do men here not understand the phrase “ladies first?” I felt very annoyed. It’s just so expected, so normal for the men in America to put women first. That’s part of our culture, granted it does not happen 100% of the time, but nonetheless it is sort of a cultural standard. So from that point on that evening I noticed how much the men here are not as aware of the women in terms of manners and politeness. Men pushed past me at a local dance club later that night, not making eye contact or anything. They aren’t purposely rude but they ARE NOT GENTLEMEN. I think they could learn a few things from those chivalrous Southern boys in the US.
Oh, yeah, what’s up with all those striped, long-sleeved, collared shirts? Men in the US may be manicured and more glamorous, but at least they have some outward individuality in their dress sense. What I have seen and only seen so far is: long-sleeved, striped, collard shirts; plaid, short-sleeved, collard shirts; and rugby jackets and jerseys. On Friday evening I saw two men with the same striped shirt. It’s THAT bad. Unfortunately I don’t have a picture for this blog… I think you’d be amused.
Looking forward to customer service (which I won’t take for granted as much anymore) and distinctively different looking men, little over one week to go…..
by Lauren Hicks (Gonzaga University)
LET'S TAKE A MOMENT and be perfectly honest. No matter how many introductory e-mails or informative letters a person receives, no one can be properly prepared for... rain.
I had heard the tales of rain drops the size of boulders and never-ending torrents that cover the country like sheets. Pish-posh- it's just a bit of an exaggeration. Oooh, my rain-filled soul is having quite a hearty laugh. When it first started, I got lost in my leprechaun, misty, four-leaf-clover idea of Ireland. So quaint, and so fresh. Three hours later, it was still coming down-- hard. I could feel my excitement begin to wane. I was thanking my lucky stars that I had brought the heavy-duty waterproof jacket. Whoever invented the oversized hood deserves my first million.
At the moment, flip-flops have lost my affection. It had been a tragic separation, but one that is necessary for well-being.
One thing that was pointed out by a fellow American student-- locals never seem to look wet. While I resembled something like a wet dog, they all must have magic bubbles to protect them from the elements. That should be the story told round the world. Pots of gold and rainbows are old news; magic bubbles that battle the rain warriors are far more appealing. Even the ground obeys the bubble-- the hems of pants were still dry, but my lack of defense was apparent in the fact that my jeans were water-soaked up to my knees!
So yes, I may be able to understand an Irish accent better, know which local beers appeal to my thirst, how to dodge cars that zip around corners quicker than a roller coaster and that curse words don't always qualify for a penalty during the local football game.
Oh yes-- these are small tid-bits of knowledge learned during my time here, but there is one question: where does one find the magic, mystical and mysteriously alluring rain bubble?
by Janine Quarles (Bennett College)
I CAN GET DOWN with the idea of revolution. Here in Northern Ireland paramilitary groups like the IRA and the INLA (Irish Nationalist Liberation Army) were rebelling in the name of civil rights, defending the Catholic minority groups. The British government usually responded with more violence, resulting in death, people being placed in jail, and hundreds of people being injured. But when you examine the circumstances from the viewpoint of the oppressed, taking up arms and demanding your civil rights doesn’t seem so far fetched.
The IRA kind of reminds me of the Black Panther Party. In 1966, the Black Panther Party for Self Defense was founded in Oakland, California, just a few years before the enlistment into the IRA went up, due to attacks on Catholics who were participating in peaceful protests. The Black Panther Party “practiced militant self-defense of minority communities against the U.S. government, and fought to establish revolutionary socialism through mass organizing and community based programs. The party was one of the first organizations in U.S. history to militantly struggle for ethnic minority and working class emancipation — a party whose agenda was the revolutionary establishment of real economic, social, and political equality across gender and color lines.” Like the IRA, the Panther’s sought “freedom” for the black community in America, saying that black people wouldn’t be free until they were able to determine their own destiny. The IRA and the Provisional IRA—a break away group formed during the time of the troubles, and supported by the Sinn Fein party—was formed during 1969 with the “stated aim to remove the British from Northern Ireland, protecting Catholics from loyalists sectarian attacks.”
Both of these groups have been labeled as terrorists by some federal organizations but when you really look at what they were about it included protecting these minority groups, and resisting governments that they felt didn’t have their best interest. And there is evidence in both cases that during these time periods, the American government and the British government did not see Blacks and Catholics as equals.
I see the pros and the cons to armed resistance. But most importantly I see the logic: armed resistance can be used as both a threat to this form of totalitarianism, a method of protection from governmental attacks, and a form of protest and rebellion against discrimination. I’m sure there are many people in Northern Ireland who are grateful for the protection from the IRA. The things you don’t here about are the programs and efforts put forth by these groups to actually benefit the communities they were defending. For example, the BPP instituted food pantries, free health clinic programs, free clothing programs and other entities that were beneficial to the Black community. The IRA has policed areas that the British wouldn’t and constantly fought for the freedom of Irish people, and the unification of the country of Ireland. They have been martyrs for a group that has been at battle with Protestant Britain for nearly a thousand years.
I wouldn’t say that I condone violence, but I do believe at some point people have to take matters into their own hands, by any means necessary. I don’t believe any group of people should be subject to a biased government; and if peace doesn’t work out, alternative methods should take place in order to get your point across. For years, different parts of the world have gone to war for some sort of liberation or fight for the rights that they deserve as human beings. It’s somewhat unfortunate that people had to die, and blood had to be shed in order for progress towards liberation to be made. But I, personally, would rather die for a cause and at the hope that the next generation would benefit from my fight, than to live and never have seen true equality and freedom.
by Cate Oliver (Gonzaga University)
I FIND IT SO HARD TO BELIEVE that it has been less than two weeks since we arrived here in Armagh. Maybe it is because we all live in such close proximity to each other, or the face that we spend all of our time together, but I just feel that everyone in the program has really bonded. Sitting in the study room with everyone last night, talking and laughing, telling stories, and sharing experiences, I realized that everyone was just so real. There was no shyness, or uncomfortable silences, it was just us, students and professors alike, having a great time and enjoying our short time here in Armagh.
I think that the fact that the Irish are so accepting and accommodating to our group is one of the main reasons that we have all accepted each other and bonded so easily.
I think that the kindness of the Irish was very well depicted this weekend when we attended the Flaghd. Upon arriving I was a little surprised at the atmosphere of the festival. I was expecting to see traditional, colourful Irish dancing costumes prancing in the streets to the upbeat tunes of pipes, banjos and drums. I had my dancing shoes tied tightly and I was ready to shake it up and down the streets, with a little liquid influence of course. Instead though we pulled up to a large parking lot with children secluding themselves in corners concentrating deeply on whatever performance they were preparing and a school type building with a sign stating the cost of admissions. Slightly disappointed and not prepared to be cooped up inside of a school building, a few of us hit the town and decided to see what the scene was in a few of the local pubs.
My disappointment quickly disappeared upon our entrance to the first pub. There was a crowd of people all clapping in unison to a catchy Irish tune blaring through the speakers, and cheering on two individuals having somewhat of a dance-off in the middle of the bar. As soon as our group spotted an empty table and plopped down in the corner there was an Irish man plopped down next to us introducing himself and shaking our hands. The kindness of the Irish, combined with their ability to talk for hours, never ceases to amaze me. The rest of the day pretty much followed this pattern, sitting at a bar and making new friends. Besides having no cultural bias for us Americans, I was also pretty shocked at the fact that there was no age bias either. The majority of the people that we were conversing with at the bar where at least 45, but they talked to us as if we were peers, and even invited us to stay at their house. That was something that I really appreciated. I feel that if we were in the U.S. that would be seen as inappropriate, and that they wouldn’t have given us the time of day. I guess that’s the beauty of our current situation though, the cultural differences that have made me feel more at home than I do in America.