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3 posts from March 2013


Go West, young man

by Maureen Quinlan

Ireland is a very popular destination for study abroad studentsNicolle Maureen. The reasons can be obvious, it is a  first world English speaking country, it is part of the European Union, and its stereotypes can be appealing. For me there was no other option simply because of my heritage, deep-seeded desire to visit this country and my natural ability to fit in with the locals. But I had three programs to choose from. I eventually landed on the CIEE program because of its location at Dublin City University, class options and core program that is  integrated into our experience. As a part of this core program, we take two field trips to other parts of the country. This past week we took our first trip. We headed west and saw an important and sad part of Irish history.

The Western shore of Ireland suffered most greatly from the Great Famine years. Its population either emigrated or died, leaving the culture, land and people of Western Ireland destitute for many years. As part of our trip we visited many different aspects of the Famine. Our first stop was the Strokestown Park, a mansion built by a landlord of the area in the 17th century. The house showed the lifestyle of the richer folk of the area and the stark gap in equality between the British landlords and the cottier farmers of the land.

SwinfordOur next stop was Hennigan Heritage Centre just outside Swinford. My great-grandmother on my father’s side was born in Swinford, so seeing the small town felt like returning to my roots. The heritage centre was a small glimpse into what life was like for the poor farmers of the area. A very small three room house with a central room with a peet-burning stove, one small bed, storage and artifacts of the past showed that life was much simpler then. We also learned of customs of knitting, shoemaking, poitín (bootleg whiskey) and the school. It was like walking back in time.

Two things from Tom Hennigan’s farm stuck with me. He said that even during the worst years of Famine monument
poverty in Ireland, love always flourished. It was all the people had left. There is always love in the world even amidst the worst conditions of life. The other piece of information that stayed with me is the saying many natives would say when announcing where they were from. “County Mayo, God help us.” This sums up the devastation suffered by County Mayo and much of Western Ireland. It was also important to me to understand the environment my great-grandmother escaped from and the place my family came from.

We stayed in the cute coastal town of Westport, and it was nice to have a hotel room. The next day we climbed to the first stop of the St. Patrick pilgrimage on Croagh Patrick, a large peak just outCroagh patrickside of Westport. In June, many people try to climb the peak barefoot as a pilgrimage. The day we arrived in Westport the snowy top was visible, but the day we climbed the base of the peak, the entire mountain was obscured by fog.

We also visited the National Famine Monument, which commemorates the thousands of souls lost on the coffin ships en route to America or Canada. Our next stop was Achill Island. The vistas were spectacular, as you will see from my pictures, but the wind was atrocious. I  felt like I was going to blow right off the cliffs into the sea. We also visited an abandoned village, believed to have been desserted during the Famine years due to lack of food and resources in the area. It was a piece of history preserved in stone and grass.

Learning about the Famine is Deserted villageone thing, but seeing the different aspects endured by the people of the time made it much more real. It was fascinating to see a part of history not often mentioned in American history classrooms.

The trip ended by heading to Galway the short way, since inclement weather prevented us from taking the scenic route. One of the cutest parts of the trip was seeing the sheep and lambs dotting the landscape. What is more quintessential Ireland than sheep on the green rolling hills?


Dublin, exploring and Gaelic Football

By Maureen QuinlanNational Museum of Ireland, Archeology Kildare Street

Sorry for the drought in posts. I am finally better. After battling a nasty cold for two weeks and lots of sleep later, I am back to normal. Just goes to show, new places and new germs hate my immune system.

Last weekend, we explored some of the National Museums of Ireland. At the Museum or Archeology we saw a few bodies that were found in bogs preserved unlike other bodies. It was pretty incredible. At the Museum of Natural History we saw a lot of taxidermy animals from Ireland and the rest of the world. At the National Photographic Archive, we browsed photos of Ireland’s history. And we found a great food market.

Also this weekend I attendedCroke park wide a Gaelic football match at Croke Park in Dublin. The match was between Dublin, the boys in blue, and County Mayo. It was a really cool experience. Croke Park has a capacity of 82,000 people. While it wasn’t anywhere near capacity on the chilly March evening we went, it was still very impressive to see such a large stadium. Though the surprising thing to me was the fact that you can’t drink alcohol in the seats, very much unlike America where beer vendors bring the drinks right to you.

Gaelic football is exclusively Irish. It is a mix between rugby and soccer. Players are extremely athletic as they run back and forth down a huge field throwing, Match kicking, carrying, dribbling and passing a soccer-sized ball. Three points are gained by kicking a goal in the net, like in soccer. One point is gained by kicking or throwing the ball between the goal posts above the net. I went into the game not knowing a single thing about the sport, but caught on pretty quickly. I did have a lot of questions about rules, but it was simple enough to know when something good happened. The Irish are great sports as they cheered for both teams when they scored regardless of who they were rooting for. Another fun thing about Gaelic football was the fights. Much like hockey, fights would break out when players got into rumbles over the ball. Despite the contact and rough sport, these players wore little to no protection in terms of helmets or padding.Students at the match

It was great to see a game in the stadium and feel like a part of the fans of Dublin.

Sorry for the stream of consciousness this time around. It’s been a while since I’ve blogged and I had a lot to catch up on.





Soaking it all in

by Maureen QuinlanHa'penny

I have now been in Dublin for one week officially (longer now but it was one week at time of writing :). It already feels like I’ve been here for years. I can keep saying that, but it will never cease to be true.

The last week was like a fabulous vacation in Dublin. I felt like I should do everything I had the opportunity for. But knowing I’m going to be here for the next four months allowed me to pace myself. It is a funny dynamic to be in a new place, to miss the places you came from and to look ahead to what comes next.

Temple bar

Last Friday, we took a bus tour of the city where I took a good majority of my touristy photos. We saw the important landmarks in the city and scoped out the sites we hope to visit in the coming weekends. Besides the wind and rain on the top of an open double decker bus, it was a pretty good time. We then walked around Dublin discovering new streets. We stopped at the ultimate tourist trap, Temple Bar, which is also an area in Dublin. It is like Little Italy in New York, or the Back Bay of Boston. It is just a section of the city. But also in the Temple Bar area is the actual Temple Bar, a pub with a crazy nightlife scene where no Irish people ever go. We just stopped for the iconic picture.

The next day we went to Causey Farm, a working farm that doubles as a tourist attraction. It was an hour northwest of Dublin in Meath, Ireland. We also lucked out with the weather. It was the first day we have been here that it didn’t rain. The sun shone and the sky stayed blue all day. But the grass was very muddy and moist making my rain boots the wisest shoe choice I’ve ever made.

The farm was full of traditional activities like making Irish soda bread, known as brown bread here, learning the basics of the Irish sport hurling, riding a tractor, learning to play the Celtic drum (called a Bodhran - and pronounced Bow-raun) and some dancing. My favorite part, however, was the bog.Bodhran

A bog is a biome in Ireland where the ground contains no oxygen. It looks like mud, but it is much  deeper and darker. Bogs are made of moss which can be cut out of the ground, dried out and burned for fuel. It is also like quicksand. A few of us in rain boots decided we would jump around in the bog. It is recommended we take off our shoes and socks, but not wanting to get my feet dirty, I went into the bog in my plaid wellies. It was a strange sensation. The mud would suck me down and suction around my shoes. It was extremely difficult to pull my feet out. One of my friends even got stuck in the bog. It was a funny sight, and an even funnier experience.

Stuck in a bogThere is probably nothing more Irish than getting stuck in a bog. I can check that off my bucket list.