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10/23/2014

West of Ireland Adventure by Eleanor Franklin

This past week I had the pleasure of joining my fellow CIEE program students and our director, Martin, on a trip to the West of Ireland. Our goal was to experience a different side of Irish life as we are now well acquainted with the hustle and bustle of big city life in Dublin. We departed early Wednesday morning in a spacious coach bus (perfect for snoozing!). Our first stop was the Strokestown House in Co. Mayo. I was really excited to visit Co. mayo because this is where the Fitzgibbons (the Irish side of my family) is from. I was hoping to feel some kind of connection to the country as my relatives had been from there. The Strokestown House was basically a house that a wealthy family owned for hundreds of years. It was a large estate with many rooms and land surrounding it. The house was sold with all of the family artifacts and belongings still inside of it. The current owner of the house now has it open for tours as it serves historical significance to the land and gives information about the upper-class life. The house was very creepy and spooky. I really wanted to see ghosts in there or have a paranormal experience! Our guide walked us through the home room by room and discussed differences in lifestyles that this family held compared to the poor Irish families that farmed the surrounding land. The most interesting thing I found about this house was that the family hated seeing “the hep” and servants in the gardens or walking on the grounds that they built an underground tunnel for servants to use so they would not disturb the views of the landscape.

Our next stop was Tom Hennigan’s Heritage Farm. Tom was a lovely man who had lived on the homestead up until the 1970’s. This was a real example of rural farm life. Tom discussed how the Famine (Starvation, he called it) had affected his family and the families who lived like him in the rural countryside. He also talked extensively about Irish superstitions while building the family cottage. Did you know that many cottages have a horse’s skull buried below the floor and mummified cats int eh walls? I found these stories fascinating.

That night we stayed in Westport is a wonderful hotel! We got a three course dinner and then a bit of fun exploring some pubs in town.

The next morning we started off for Croagh Patrick, a place where many Catholics perform a pilgrimage up the side of a mountain. I did not feel particularly connected to this place as a place of religion but the scenery of the West coast of Ireland was breathtaking and I found myself getting a bit “national geographic” with my photography. Our next stop was along the Achill Islands. This place was AMAZING! So beautiful. In some ways it wasn’t a new sight for me as I have been spoiled with a lifetime of Oregon coastal views. We stopped a couple times along the sides of cliffs. Our final destination was to a deserted village on the island. Martin asked if we knew how to date a house (like tell how old it was), and I responded that you have to phone it’s parents and ask permission first, then take them out on a Friday night. Get it? Get it? Wow, I am hilarious. But seriously, some faerie spirits were alive and well in that deserted village. So were the sheep.

Westport for one more night. The CIEE crew all decided to go out for karaoke but were dismayed to find that the one “lip and disco” bar was closed on Thursday nights. So we opted for a different pub.

On our last morning together as a group we drove into the city of Galway. From there, some of us departed to go back to Dublin and some stayed in Galway to explore more. 

I loved having the opportunity to travel west. It was nice to be out in nature for most of our 3 day journey and to see another side of life in Ireland.

 

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Houses along the river in Galway.

 

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Coastline on the Achill Islands

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 Tom Hennigan's cottage

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Deserted village

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 Achill Islands.

04/07/2014

Beginning in Ireland

022214_0470by Emily, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

The beginning of this experience has been a whirlwind! Since packing and getting on a plane h, it’s been an adventure! It was go, go, go after we landed, which was a blessing and a curse. With a packed schedule the first few days in Dublin, there wasn’t a lot of time to think (or be homesick). However, with jetlag kicking in, it was exhausting trying to keep up and take in the novel culture. An important lesson comes from this though: because you’re in a new place and using your energy just to keep up with the daily grind, you’ll feel tired, a lot. But try as much as possible to not use that as an excuse!! You’re only here for a semester, so take full advantage! Grab some coffee, sneak in a catnap, but go out and explore these new places!!

    021014_0016        I would say one of the hardest things to get acclimated to is meeting new people; it’s always hard to be the new kid and fit in with the locals. I think it’s one of the most valuable pieces to the puzzle though. It’s nice going through a program like CIEE because you know you’re going with other students from the U.S. who will be in the same situation as you. With that, don’t be afraid to venture off on your own either! It’s great to mingle and interact with the locals – a necessity actually – but go to the city on your own, take a walk around your neighborhood, get lost! I always feel closer to a place after I’ve been lost in its streets.

            I quickly learned that when in Ireland you do need to budget!! But I luckily have amazing parents who told me to take advantage of the opportunities while I’m here. And that’s the best advice. Be smart about your spending, set up a budget, but don’t count coins. If there is something that you really want to do or somewhere you really want to go, then do it.

            One of the biggest shocks was the education system. It’s nothing like the universities in the U.S. I love my classes (I’m taking all Communication courses), but it’s almost all independent studying with little to no structure. Reading is your responsibility, and there won’t be quizzes or even unit tests to make sure you’re up to speed. Almost all of my courses have either one or two major assignments or just one test at the end of the semester. Staying on top of your schoolwork is obviously very important, but it’s a bit tricky to get used to.

Some of the highlights of February were:

Baking bread, dancing, and singing during a day trip to Causey Farm

W021514_0181The trip through the country to the Cliffs of Moher – gorgeous!!

The cliff-walk from Bray to Greystones

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11/27/2013

Remembering the West

by Amy Rubenstein Dsc_00271

One of our field trips moved out of the metropolis and into the country--a country not bigger than many US states and smaller than quite a few--becomes a thousand times more beautiful. I left Dublin for the mountains, bogs and ocean of western Ireland. This trip is one of two that CIEE takes with its students every semester. My entire program came along for the trip. It’s defined as a ‘field trip’ by CIEE but I can tell you absolutely that not a single one of my elementary school field trips were like this – people could take a pointer or two from CIEE Dublin.

Dsc_0018We started the trip by piling onto a bus at what felt like the crack of dawn, but was really 9 am, and began to make our way to Westport County in Mayo. As twenty-somethings who have made a hobby out of cursing the inventor of the alarm clock, the group wasted no time in getting comfortable. Bus seats became beds, backpacks became pillows, jackets became blankets and the intermittent fun-fact lectures by Martin via intercom became the most relaxing of lullabies. While surrounded by closed eyes, I watched a country roll by with mine.

There is really nothing that can accurately describe the beauty of this place. This isn’t saying that Dsc_0087
there aren’t beautiful views in the US—I have seen many and left a far larger portion of them unvisited. But what I've seen here is different... I think it is the continuity of these views that has left me the most breath taken. You don't have to enter a national park or drive along a coast to see it, because the beauty is everywhere. You move twenty minutes outside of the city and it's there, and it’s not dotted with suburbs or interchanges or office buildings or billboards. Certainly, those things do exist in Ireland, but to see a landscape so interrupted by people, and yet so obviously utilized by people, is something amazing. You can look out your window and feel like you’re looking into someone's backyard and across the entire country all at the same time. And it is as you’ve heard it—green on green on green, with more sheep than people. It is crazy beautiful and I haven't taken a single picture yet that has translated the awe that I experienced simply driving on an Irish highway.  If I could apply the scenery to my life like you do a background to a phone or computer, I would in a heartbeat--as soon I chose which view was the most impressive.


Dsc_0005Despite seeing so much, in less time than it takes to drive from Columbus to Cincinnati, we were at our first stop of the trip: Strokestown House and the Irish Famine Museum. Both of these are located at Strokestown Park, where the restored mansion shows how the upper lived and the museum shows how the lower suffered. The entire estate was sold in the late ‘70s when the last of the family moved out, but the house and most of the land was preserved due to its historical importance. Speaking of that...I would absolutely love to tell you all about that historical importance, but as it’s been over a month since I took the tour I have to admit the details are no longer with me. Nevertheless, the house was impressive. It is furnished with the same furniture that was used up until the family moved out. We toured through the sitting room, the master and mistress' bedchambers, a children’s study and playroom, the dining hall, and the kitchen. It was strange to see some of the items in each place, having been used to taking tours of such estates in the States. In the US, houses like these are the estates of our early presidents or other historical figures. They're all in the country's early history. Here, while the estate began in the 17th century, it was lived in by the same family through most of the 1970s. There doesn't seem to be as big of a time gap between history and present in Ireland, which I think has contributed to the people here showing more appreciation of how the two are linked. 

Our next stop of the trip was the more memorable of the day: Hennigan’s Heritage Center. Here we Group-image met Tom Hennigan, who is quite possibly the most interesting man alive. He greeted each of us with a strong  handshake and a gracious welcome, clad in a bright orange shirt and brown corduroy bell-bottoms and all around seeming like a man who had just stepped out of a time machine. About a minute after sitting down in the thatched cottage that was his childhood home, I began to think that a more accurate description is that he is the time machine.

 

The first thing he said after we crowded the cottage's small entry room was, “I was born in that bed right there.” My first thought was, "Surely Dsc_0016
not the bed that I'm sitting directly in front of…surely not." (It was.) The cottage boasts three rooms—one for the children, one for the kitchen/parents/sitting room, and one added on for grandma. There was no electricity or running water. There was a potbelly stove. There was a side of bacon hanging from the ceiling, which Tom made sure to point out was real and 100% edible with the proper preparation. He pointed to the basin he bathed in throughout his early life. Where the milk was placed after it was collected each morning. Where the family stored certain small valuables. He did what I'm sure most educators think is impossible--just by talking, he quieted a room full of young people from the "ADD generation" and brought them to attention for the  duration of his speeches. It is impossible to write here all of what was said and learned in the two hours we spent in that room.

We sat there listening to him speak of how he grew up and I am positive I am not the only one who Dsc_0021 likened it to elementary school lectures on pilgrim life in the New World--except that, that was centuries ago and this was only a few decades. His was a completely waste-less existence. Animal fat soap, reused bath water, meals from his own family’s land, meat cured and buried for preservation. All of this while the rest of the world was buying radios and then TVs; refrigerators and then microwaves. His carbon footprint must have been as close to zero as a human can be.

Tom now lives right next door, in a house he constructed for his own family. The Hennigan farm is still a functioning farm, and Tom still very much holds on to as much of his early life as can be expected in this modern age. It is quite clear he misses living so purely, and doesn’t understand an entire world which condemns or just forgets this way of life.

After homemade scones and jam with tea, the group bid farewell to the Hennigans and continued to Westport, where we stayed for the next two nights.

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.

03/27/2013

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?

03/08/2013

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.

 

 

 

03/01/2013

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.

Hurling2
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.

02/21/2013

First Impressions

by Maureen Quinlan Grafton

Two days in and I feel like I’ve been here for years. Not that I feel comfortable yet, but just that I’ve done and seen so much it feels like no human being could do that much stuff in 48 hours. Here are some of my first impressions from my first two days in Dublin, Ireland.

Landing in Ireland was mostly how I imagined. I saw sweeping very green landscapes. But not until I was quite close to the ground because of the overcast skies and foggy clouds. It was overcast, cold and misty walking out of the airport. The day continued like that. But that brings me to my first impression: the weather.

ChristchurchThey can tell you about the weather, but you don’t know Irish climate until you experience it. It is completely erratic, which you would think I’m used to being from Colorado where it can go from shorts and flip-flops weather in the morning to blizzard conditions in the afternoon. But this was something entirely different. It was cold, pleasant, cloudy, sunny in spots and rainy all day. It never really decided what it wanted to be. The one thing that has been consistent is the wind. I have given up on my hair because the wind just whips it around. Today in the city centre, I think we saw some of the worst weather we will see. It was a decent rain storm as we were doing a walking tour.

But with all that rain comes my second impression: the green. It is true that the grass is greener in Sheep Ireland. It is electric the way the grass glows with such a bright green. Coming from a very dry and brown Colorado in January, it was odd to see such healthy vegetation in the middle of winter.

The other thing I love about all the fresh grass is the way it makes the air smell. Maybe it’s the mixture of rain, the nearby ocean and the grass that combine, but the aroma of Ireland is so wonderful. Who knew you could love the smell of a place?

My room is a single room in a suite with four other people. We share the kitchen and lounge area and all have our own rooms and bathrooms. The one suite mate I met was a boy who either had a very thick Irish accent or didn’t speak English because we barely understood each other. But he seemed nice.

Spire
Everyone seems nice even though it is blatantly obvious that my group and I are Americans. We don’t know how to pay in a restaurant, we bombarded a phone shop to buy pay as you go phones and we take silly tourist photos. As my program director said, “No amount of red hair or names like Maureen will disguise you as Irish.” There is something in the way we walk or dress or our attitudes that instantly label us as American.

But that is what we are. We are Americans who hope to become like locals in Dublin. It is a fun and fine city where I suspect I will have a grand time. I look forward to all the memories I will make. I’ve already made some great ones.

Like I said before, anything could happen.

Erin go Bragh!