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3 posts from April 2013

04/25/2013

Marathon Monday

by Maureen Quinlan

I am originally from Colorado and go to school in Boston. I am studying abroad in Ireland. I am a girl of many places, places that have become a part of my life and soul, places that have become close to my heart, places that whether I like it or not, changed me.

When I first moved to Boston in 2010, I was jolted by the differences between this historical and urban city and the land of my home. But in three years, I would come to love its cobblestone streets, old buildings, eclectic neighborhoods and most of all its resilient people. I never thought I would fall in love with Boston as much as I did.

When I was thinking about things to blog about this week, I never thought tragedy would be one of them. But the disembodying experience I felt in the wake of news about my second home, my many friends that are still there, and the struggle I felt to be in the moment in Dublin was one of guilt and reflection.

Marathon Monday in Boston is a special day. To me it always marks the beginning of warmer, lighter, longer days, a rising summer and smiles of pride. It is great fun in the midst of a celebratory atmosphere. I was a little sad that I would be missing the festivities in Boston this year, but I had to keep reminding myself that I am in Ireland. It just so happened that student race day, a day when college students in Dublin head to the horse races in their finest attire, fell on Marathon Monday. I was excited to bare my legs for the first time in months, wear a classy dress, sit in the sun, have a few drinks with friends and watch the races. It felt almost like being in Boston. The circumstances were different, but the atmosphere the same.

It was a time to have fun and embrace one of the best excuses to study abroad. How strange it was then to receive the news of what had happened in the place I had wanted to be that day. A friend received a news alert on her phone on our way home from the races, and we didn’t think much of it. But something hit the pit of my stomach that told me it wasn’t “no big deal.”

Now my second home, the one I chose to love and grow in, was experiencing something. It is not something you would wish onto any city, person or group of people, no matter how strong and resilient they are. Upon opening my homepage, Boston.com, and my Facebook, I was flooded with the feeling of chaos Boston must have been feeling in those moments. Even though I was sitting at another university nearly 3,000 miles away from my home university, I felt as if I was in the disaster zone. We can thank modern technology and social media for that. I read status after status that my friends were safe. I was relieved, but that didn’t make it better. I was also chatting with my local friends about our impending plans for a night out. I was living two very different lives that didn’t feel like they meshed. My Boston identity was grieving and struggling to understand the events that had just occurred. My Ireland identity was ready for more exploration.

As I tried to shake off the feeling of not being where I needed to be, I was surrounded by the news of the day. Every club and pub we entered had TV screens showing endless loop footage of the finish line, conflicting statements about explosions and a rising injured toll. It was impossible to escape, but that’s not just because of the questions from Irish people who knew we were American and the visual reminders. It was and is because Boston is and will forever be in my heart. A place and its people don’t leave you that easily.

So much of me wanted to be in Boston that day, and the days following. My best friend who is still living there described the experience in the streets after the Boston Police caught the suspect as one of the best moments of her life. She said that she has never loved Boston more. That is something I will never be able to share with the people who were there that day. As much as I wanted to be and as much as it affected me, it will never change the fact that I was in Dublin when it happened. As much as I felt it in spirit will never change the fact that I did not feel those blasts, experience the fear and mayhem, or celebrate in the streets. I will never know what it was like to feel the eeriness of a locked-down ghost town. I will never know what it was like to take a collective sigh of relief.

I will know what it was like to stay up until 2 a.m. watching the news on my computer. I will know what it was like to read tweet after tweet updating me from across an ocean. I will know what it was like to shed tears at reading the news. I will always remember the confliction I felt at being in my third home when my second home was reeling from a surreal week of events.

I plan to return to Boston and expect that it will be its same self. The memories will fade, the massive headlines will shrink, the people will try to eradicate the fear they are now feeling, but Boston will always be the place that I grew to love.

And as I go forward in this study abroad experience, I will remember that a place is not just a point on a map with intersecting streets, it is a place that can define you, it can link you to so much in life, it can place itself in your heart and never leave.

04/11/2013

True North

by Maureen Quinlan

“Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.” Albert Einstein said this.
I think it is an appropriate quote to begin my post about my trip to Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland, for those who don’t know, is not a part of the Republic of Ireland, but rather the United Kingdom. It has had a long and tumultuous history of violence, contested space, feuding religions and politics. It is a place of interesting contradictions, subtle differences and a divided people. It is a place of two stories that need telling.

Bobby sandsThis trip helped to shed some light on the reality and meaning of the situation in Northern Ireland. Beginning in the late 1960s and continuing until the late 1990s, Northern Ireland was entrenched in a period known as the Troubles. The events of the Troubles, the people’s feelings about the events and the history that influenced a nation is painted and stained throughout Belfast and Derry, the two places we visited. And I mean that quite literally. The murals, the peace wall and the language in these towns create a clear picture of the conflict suffered by so many.

 

The beginning of the conflict goes as far back as the 1600s when Britain colonized Ireland for use of Garden the land. With so many people in Northern Ireland that identified as British, when the Republic of Ireland claimed independence, the North wished to remain part of Britain’s kingdom. And that is putting it simply. What resulted was a stark divide between the people who identified as Unionist, Loyalist, British Protestants and those who identified as Nationalist, Republican, Irish Catholics. And saying the Unionists should just “go back where they came from” is like saying Americans should go back where they came from. It will never be that simple.

The Troubles were full of violent raids, bombings, retaliation, attacks and responses between British troops, Unionists, Nationalists, and the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Peace walls were created to ease tensions between the two groups. The walls, meant to be a temporary structure, still remain today. This brings us to our first stop on our tour of Belfast.

Wall viewWe made our way to West Belfast where the wall is most prominent. To an outsider, it seems polarizing and strange, but to the residents of Belfast it is normal and comforting. We walked along the Nationalist side of the wall first seeing the different murals that sympathized with the Nationalist narrative, including many dedicated to the political prisoners and hunger strikers of the Troubles. The presence of Irish flags despite being in the UK and the effort to maintain Celtic traditions was very evident on the Nationalist side. We then passed through No Man’s Land where the gates meet and are closed at 6 p.m. every evening. We then walked along Shankill Road, the Unionist side where UK flags and historical murals Shankilldedicated to English history were more prominent. Seeing the difference in perspectives gave me a better understanding of the conflict.

On our second day of the trip, we ventured to Derry or Londonderry (Derry to Catholics and Londonderry to Protestants). The Catholic side of Derry is known as the Bogside. It was in the Bogside that Bloody Sunday on Jan. 30, 1972, occurred. Bloody Sunday involved a march of peaceful civil rights protestors. The British soldiers at the dividing line between sections attacked the marchers unprovoked. They killed 13 men that day, many of them were teenagers, and injured several more. Our group walked the path of the events and stood in the Derry and the bogsidevery sites that many of those men died.

There is now a museum commemorating the events of that day where family members of the victims work. A soundtrack of the day’s noises plays on repeat, different artifacts of the day are displayed in cases and video footage of the volatile scenes plays on screens.

Also in Derry, we visited the Apprentice Boys, a Protestant group that celebrates the siege of 1689, an event that prevented a feared Catholic rule from taking hold.

As you can probably tell from my perspective of the trip, it is clear that the Nationalist narrative of Mural the conflict is told with more bravado, information and sensation. CIEE also has a program in Belfast for students. We participated in a seminar and dialogue with these students to discuss the American view of Northern Ireland’s issues. This was eye-opening in the sense that I never realized the biased way in which I view this period in Ireland’s history. As an American, an outsider, I would hope I could see both sides of the story, but that was indeed hard to do. In a survey of the group of 30 students, 90 percent of us said we felt more comfortable and welcomed on the Nationalist side of the wall. Perhaps it was because we came from Dublin where Irish nationalism is intrinsic in the social fabric. Or maybe it was my own personal background of being Catholic and Irish-American. Whatever the reasons, it made me more aware of the way I view situations with my own filters.

Seeing the walls, the murals and hearing from people who lived through the Troubles and the students who are studying in Belfast made the Troubles not just an event in a history book, but a reality. My understanding of the events became so much deeper because of the places we saw. I never knew history could come so alive, especially when it is still forming.

Group

True North

by Maureen Quinlan

“Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.” Albert Einstein said this. Derry and the bogside
I think it is an appropriate quote to begin my post about my trip to Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland, for those who don’t know, is not a part of the Republic of Ireland, but rather the United Kingdom. It has had a long and tumultuous history of violence, contested space, feuding religions and politics. It is a place of interesting contradictions, subtle differences and a divided people. It is a place of two stories that need telling.

Bobby sands
This trip helped to shed some light on the reality and meaning of the situation in Northern Ireland. Beginning in the late 1960s and continuing until the late 1990s, Northern Ireland was entrenched in a period known as the Troubles. The events of the Troubles, the people’s feelings about the events and the history that influenced a nation is painted and stained throughout Belfast and Derry, the two places we visited. And I mean that quite literally. The murals, the peace wall and the language in these towns create a clear picture of the conflict suffered by so many.

The beginning of the conflict goes as far back as the 1600s when Britain colonized Ireland for use of Bobby sands the land. With so many people in Northern Ireland that identified as British, when the Republic of Ireland claimed independence, the North wished to remain part of Britain’s kingdom. And that is putting it simply. What resulted was a stark divide between the people who identified as Unionist, Loyalist, British Protestants and those who identified as Nationalist, Republican, Irish Catholics. And saying the Unionists should just “go back where they came from” is like saying Americans should go back where they came from. It will never be that simple.

The Troubles were full of violent raids, bombings, retaliation, attacks and responses between British troops, Unionists, Nationalists, and the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Peace walls were created to ease tensions between the two groups. The walls, meant to be a temporary structure, still remain today. This brings us to our first stop on our tour of Belfast.

We made our way to West Belfast where the wall is most prominent. To an outsider, it seems polarizing and strange, but to the residents of Belfast it is normal and comforting. We walked along the Nationalist side of the wall first seeing the different murals that sympathized with the Nationalist narrative, including many dedicated to the political prisoners and hunger strikers of the Troubles. The presence of Irish flags despite being in the UK and the effort to maintain Celtic traditions was very evident on the Nationalist side. We then passed through No Man’s Land where the gates meet and are closed at 6 p.m. every evening. We then walked along Shankill Road, the Unionist side where UK flags and historical murals dedicated to English history were more prominent. Seeing the difference in perspectives gave me a better understanding of the conflict.

On our second day of the trip, we ventured to Derry or Londonderry (Derry to Catholics and Londonderry to Protestants). The Catholic side of Derry is known as the Bogside. It was in the Bogside that Bloody Sunday on Jan. 30, 1972, occurred. Bloody Sunday involved a march of peaceful civil rights protestors. The British soldiers at the dividing line between sections attacked the marchers unprovoked. They killed 13 men that day, many of them were teenagers, and injured several more. Our group walked the path of the events and stood in the very sites that many of those men died.

There is now a museum commemorating the events of that day where family members of the victims work. A soundtrack of the day’s noises plays on repeat, different artifacts of the day are displayed in cases and video footage of the volatile scenes plays on screens.

Also in Derry, we visited the Apprentice Boys, a Protestant group that celebrates the siege of 1689, an event that prevented a feared Catholic rule from taking hold.

As you can probably tell from my perspective of the trip, it is clear that the Nationalist narrative of the conflict is told with more bravado, information and sensation. CIEE also has a program in Belfast for students. We participated in a seminar and dialogue with these students to discuss the American view of Northern Ireland’s issues. This was eye-opening in the sense that I never realized the biased way in which I view this period in Ireland’s history. As an American, an outsider, I would hope I could see both sides of the story, but that was indeed hard to do. In a survey of the group of 30 students, 90 percent of us said we felt more comfortable and welcomed on the Nationalist side of the wall. Perhaps it was because we came from Dublin where Irish nationalism is intrinsic in the social fabric. Or maybe it was my own personal background of being Catholic and Irish-American. Whatever the reasons, it made me more aware of the way I view situations with my own filters.

Seeing the walls, the murals and hearing from people who lived through the Troubles and the students who are studying in Belfast made the Troubles not just an event in a history book, but a reality. My understanding of the events became so much deeper because of the places we saw. I never knew history could come so alive, especially when it is still forming.