Thursday, June 3, 2010

Final Week!

Ok, time for catchup on what we have been doing since about a week ago :-)

After going to Belfast, we had a full day in Dublin to explore. We revisited some great places like the National Museum (which we were not actually able to take pictures in), but also got to see some great new sites. For instance, the Jack Yeats gallery at the National Art Gallery was amazing. Jack Yeats is the brother of W.B. Yeats and is one of the country's most famous
modern painters. I really enjoyed seeing his work because most of the paintings in the display was of the West and places we had been to around Kerry. Yeats really captures the "spirit" of Ireland with his vivid brushstrokes and colors that even I could identify with.

After the National Gallery, we went to the Natural History Museum, which is often termed a "museum within a museum" because it has not been altered since it was created during the Victorian Era. All of the animals are stuffed and sitting in cases, just as they would have been "back in the day." It does feel a lot like going back in time, but we seemed to amuse ourselves just fine. Once, I touched a walrus before noticing the "do not touch sign." It was really gross to the touch!

And now you know why I really came to Ireland. Believe it.
On Saturday night, we were so exhausted from our capers that we did not go out "pubbing," but actually stayed in to do homework and watch Pride and Prejudice. It was great to kick back!

On Sunday, we went to see a great tour of places in Dublin that were affected by the 1916 Rising, when a group of Irishmen (and some women) attempted to overthrow British rule. Unfortunately, while the original rising was supposed to have thousands, a large portion dropped out because the 22,000 guns they were supposed to acquire sunk when the British found out about the rising. However, a group of brave souls decided to continue forward. Although they did not beat the British, they put up a great fight and are commemorate everywhere today.

On Tuesday, we went to see Kilmainham jail, where the main leaders of the 1916 Uprising were kept before they were executed. Eamonn de Valera, the future President of the Irish state, was actually kept there after the rising, although he was not killed (duh) because he was an American citizen, as well (on his mother's side).

This is us having tea in the jail!! Tee hee, couldn't resist documenting it :-)
These are the cells that many of the prisoners from the 1916 Easter Rising were kept before their execution. It is the location where many men had to say goodbye to their wives-- very sad stories.
Later that evening, we went to see Arcadia by Tom Stoppard at the Gate Theatre on the North Side. It was an amazing play, and I hope to go see it again with my parents!

On Wednesday, we did a Joyce Tour of the city. James Joyce, the greatest modernist writer of all time (according to Professor Conner) wrote his books Dubliners and Ulysses about the streets of Dublin, where he grew up.

This is the door of #7 Eccles Street-- the most famous address in modernist literature because it is the door that belongs to Leopold Bloom in the book Ulysses. The actual #7 Eccles Street has ceased to exist, but they did save this door before knocking down the house. We went through the city, to the Joyce Center, and to a few of the houses where he lived in order to see "Joyce's Dublin." It was a great opportunity to get out of the main stream tourist part of Dublin, and see the working class world that Joyce describes in his novels.

Yesterday, we went to the original buildings that the University of Dublin used when it first began.
This is the chapel at the Newman University Church, named after the first headmaster at the University of Dublin.
This is not only significant because it is where James Joyce went to school, but it was also the first Catholic university in Ireland, allowing Irish students to get a Catholic education within the country. Later, we went to see The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde (who was Irish) at the Gaity Theatre.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Belfast Day 2!

The second day in Belfast was completely different than the day we spent on the coast! On Friday, we took a bus around the city to see the political murals. The first mural was done in 1908 of King Billy (William of Orange), which is symbolic of the Protestant rule he established that lasted for 200 years. The murals began in prisons as part of art classes, and eventually evolved into the political messages throughout Dublin that they are today. They denote border territory (Protestant and Catholic) and also memorialize leaders from the different sides that died fighting. While most of the murals are specifically about Ireland, some of them bridge themes about international violence. There are also "gardens of remembrance" around some of the murals and are used for peaceful memorials.

This mural is one in a series along an entire wall in Belfast. It is for a taxi service generally run by political prisoners (usually IRA members) who could not find work after getting out of prison. Apparently they also give city tours... The service was started during "the Troubles" when people needed transportation, but buses and other vehicles were being stolen and used as block-offs by IRA members. Where normal taxis were too expensive for the average person going to work, especially in the areas of the fighting, the black taxi service offered a reduced rate for people to get places.

This is a mural about violence aimed at innocent bystanders. Here, the artist uses the example of desegregating the schools in Arkansas to also depict discrimination against Romanian immigrants to Ireland and then Protestant violence against a Catholic girls' school (Ardoyne) to depict history repeating itself.

The tour guide told us a story during the bus ride about a muralist who was actually shot by police while painting a mural. Although it was fairly obvious that the man was a painter, the officer claimed that he thought he was using a gun. This story reminded me a lot about themes we have studied with Irish literature, especially the value of words towards political change. Seamus Heaney actually writes about his pen feeling "snug as a gun" in his hand as he writes, as words can have the same potential to incite violence and/or change.

This banner commemorates one of the first hunger strikes that political prisoners held for laws established making political activists treated the same as political prisoners. The woman in the middle is the personified Ireland, and Bobby Sands was a leader of the IRA and also the first striker to die. He actually won a political seat while he was in prison because people wanted to show their support for his Ireland.

Most of the areas that we went through are still extremely segregated. For instance, Falls Road, is 99% Catholic and St. Dominic's Grammar School, which trains teachers, actually only sends those teachers to Catholic Schools today. We also went through areas termed "Catholic ghettos" - places that the government apportioned for Catholics to stop violence- which at the time were considered lower class, but safer than mixed areas. Areas like these were also gerrymandered to continue the oppression of Catholics in Northern Ireland.

The men in this mural lived in the same neighborhood and Jim Bryson was actually shot in the back by another IRA member. These men were famous not only for leading the movement, but also for "hijacking for the poor" - meaning that they were modern day Robin Hoods.

As I have mentioned before, the entire city is streaked with multiple layers of "the Belfast Wall" or the "Peace Wall" (seemingly ironic) which was built to prevent sectarian violence. Since there was a murder the day that we were there, you can decide how effective it was. It is a very tangible mark of violence and segregation used in places like Gaza and Berlin, and there are murals depicting the symbolism behind the idea.

King William of Orange. We also visited a Protestant area in Belfast, which showed a different point of view in the murals. Protestants were most afraid at the time of home (Catholic) rule in Ireland (probably because the Catholics were oppressed for so long). However, it also reminds us that the Protestants have effectively been in Ireland for 300 years, making their side somewhat legitimate in wanting to keep the country the way that it was. During World War I, there was a rift in the country even among those who wanted home rule because some believed that the best way to get independence would be to fight for England, while others believed the best way would be to refuse. This is just to say that this fighting over the best "Ireland" has been debated even before the 1970s, when violence began.
The picture above is of Oliver Cromwell, the symbol of tyrannical Protestant rule in Ireland. Cromwell is the reason why most of the old Catholic churches we saw in Kerry mainly consisted of ruins. Lovely guy.

The Red Hand is a symbol of the Provence of Ulster, when King O'Neill apparently cut off his hand to fling it to shore in a race to make sure that he would win. What you should know is that the word "ulster" is generally a synonym for Protestant in this day and age because of the Ulster areas of land in what is now Northern Ireland and the North of Ireland that were mainly Protestant and against home rule. Thus, the fact that O'Neill was the king there shows his devotion and a symbol for the Protestants that fought for their cause.

This is a refreshing mural we saw later, calling for peace.

After the tour, we really needed to relax because we definitely were not anticipating something so personal, raw and frankly current even today. So, we went to a "culture fair" (read: tourist trap) to drown our sorrows (and spend the rest of our pounds, since they don't do us any good in Dublin).

Upon arriving in Dublin, we got fish and chips at the oldest fish and chips "takeaway" place in the city- Burdocks. It was a peaceful ending to a very somber day. To also end this blog post a positive note, dinner was delicious.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Belfast Day 1!

This weekend, we went to Belfast to see the highlights of Northern Ireland, since we are not able to spend an extensive amount of time there. Although there is a fairly intangible borderline, the country itself did feel different. The most obvious change is that they use pounds (rather than Euros) there. Also, most of the city is partitioned off by fences built to stem the violence. They must not work that well because right after we left the area, a murder occurred in one of the areas we visited murals in.

The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge was our first stop in Belfast. The rope bridge was built three

hundred years ago to connect a small island to the mainland for fishers of salmon. Apparently, the salmon in the spot were so plentiful that the bridge was a necessary for fishermen to get to that specific area. It was still a working salmon site until 2007, when they closed it down because of high tourism, as well as overfishing of salmon. Until recently, the bridge was much less stable and a person had to go on each individual step rather than walking on a completely fenced in, somewhat invincible bridge like it is today. From the walk, you can also see Scotland. Although we were given a more extensive history from the place, I am told that it was very confused and so will not perpetuate what we were told! One of my favorite parts of the Carrick-a-Rede tour was how much the weather changed from moment to moment. When we got there, it was sunny, but by the time we left, it had rained and cleared up again within an hour. I am going to miss the weather here.

From Carrick-a-Rede, we went to the Giant’s Causeway. According to the handy tour book I bought for three pounds, the Giant’s Causeway is “a natural pavement of huge rocks projecting into the Atlantic Ocean on Ireland’s north coast formed about 60 million y

ears ago by volcanic eruptions followed by lava cooling to form a hard rock called basalt” and is regular in shape because “when able to cool slowly and evenly, this type of lava forms columns with regular sides.” It also links Ireland with Scotland, and apparently was caused by a giant, Fionn Machuil.

The picture of me standing on weirdly-shaped rocks is of the basalt that cooled prematurely, forcing it to crack and then form these right angles that you see. Most of these columns have five or six sides. According to the legend, Fionn Machuil, once a high king of Ireland (and also apparently a giant) wanted a Scottish giant named Benandonner to come and fight him, so he built the stones in the picture. When Finn actually saw the giant coming across, however, he got worried and his wife dressed him up as a baby and put him in a giant-sized cradle. The Scottish giant retreated upon seeing the cradle with the logic that if the baby were almost as big as himself that Finn, the father, would rip him to shreds. Thus, the giant ran

away and pulled up most of the stones that connected Ireland to Scotland on his way out.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Welcome to Dublin (ok, again)!

Hello from the other side of Ireland! Last Sunday, we packed up and left Kerry behind. Sadly, we also left Kimber and Dorothy behind, and personally I have missed them a lot here!!!! Since coming, we have been on a major day trip, a Dublin city trip, a play, and have had five hours of traditional class outside of the adventures. Needless to say, it has been quite a week :-)

We started the day with a class about child abuse in schools for impoverished children that we not closed down until the '70s. Of course, a very light topic and a great way to start the day- ha ha. The joke is not about the pseudo-orphanages because unfortunately that is true (the joke was about the light material). It was actually a great lecture to start getting into James Joyce because he writes about the lower classes of Dublin. In fact, in Dubliners, which we are reading for class, there is a similar story with implications that the boys who go to such schools concur with the research of our lecturer.
Next, we stopped at Dublin Castle, which I have written about before. It is definitely not the most beautiful place we have ever been, but still a great place to go to see Ireland "as it was." I could not capture it in a picture, but we also took a tour underneath the castle to see the original viking structure that built the castle now. It was really knocked down and forgotten, so the excavation discovered one of the original bridges that would let boats through the moat and one of the original corners of the castle. It was awesome. Also on this tour, we learned where the word "dublin" originates from. Apparently, there used to be a small, dark body of water in front of the castle when it was originally built in the 13th century. In Irish "small pool" is called "duv lin," which is what people took to calling the city.
This is the only remaining original tower of the castle before it
was essentially dismantled and redone. It was actually only redone in the 18th, meaning that its "new" restoration is about the same age as the United States. Crazy!
We took a short bus ride around town to get acquainted, and made another stop at St.
Patrick's Cathedral. This is a picture of all of the flags, helmets and spears that belonged to the original "Knights of St. Patrick" that still stay at the main altar. No, I did not take a picture during a mass- the priest in the picture was practicing with the girls' choir there.
After a hard days' work, a few of us went to get dinner, as we were meeting up with Professor Conner for the official city pub crawl. We stopped in to a great sushi restaurant. to other people who live in the Midwest: we really need to acquire an ocean or something because cheap, delicious seafood is seriously lacking in Missouri!!
On the pub crawl, we went to four different pubs and learned a lot about Irish literature... of course... Anyway, this is a very classy
picture of Eleanor and I at a picture of James Joyce, which is located at the "Davy Byrnes" pup, where we ended. If you read Joyce's Ulysses, you will understand that reference. As I have never read Ulysses, I cannot 100% explain it. However, we have been reading Joyce in class lately (his short stories Dubliners and A Portrait of an Artist As a Young Man for next week, if you're interested), and I can't wait to read it.
Tuesday, we had a full field trip day to some of the oldest holy sites in Ireland. We began at Bru na Boinne, which contains passage tombs at Newgrange, Dowth and Knowth (all different sites). The tombs date back to 4000 B.C. and were spectacular, although I will admit that they did all look very similar to me. We went to one passage tomb site at Knowth, which is hard to explain, but hopefully the link in this sentence will work well. One of the really cool parts of the community is the way that the mounds and holy sites were used over and over for different purposes. For instance, they were first built as passage tombs(the picture to the left is the pathway to the passage tomb, which we couldn't enter), but later communities built small towns or structures that needed protection (like houses of important leaders) on top of the burial mounds as a form of support. There are
three different main time periods that used the land before they were re-discovered in the 1960s and excavated. Today, we went to the National Museum and saw a few of the artifacts discovered in the excavation.
The picture to the right is actually one of the smaller mounds in the community.

This is a view from the top of the mound, where important people frequently lived (even though it was above a passage tomb). With a view like this, I would want to live here, too!
Next, we went to the Hill of Tara, which is the oldest and most holy spot in Ireland (in many people's opinions) because it was used by the original high kings. There are many legends that also take place at Tara, such as the legend of Diarmid and Grainne. I have actually referenced this before with Fionn Machuil, who was the king of the fairies in the legend. Diarmid was a man, and Grainne was a fairy who fell in love with him but was betrothed to Fionn, who eventually attacked Diarmid and let him die essentially. You should look up the long version, as it is worth reading! The point is that many of these legends and myths take place at Tara because of its holy quality. It also is supposedly one of the places that St.
Patrick went to in order to convert the High Kings of Ireland to Christianity. There are many other burial passage tombs there to indicate its age, as well. This is not a great picture of Tara because it is so huge, but also because most of the mounds that used to denote holy places have been worn down over the years. However, if you click here,you should be able to see the different indentations well. Tara is actually as of yet fairly unexcavated, which is why there are still some mounds, but also why they do not know a lot about all of the religious activity that took place here.
Our penultimate stop of the day was to Trim Castle, where the movie Braveheart was mostly filmed. Isn't it true that the movie takes place in Scotland? Why yes, it is. However, according to Aunt Sally, you get better tax benefits in
Ireland, so they chose Trim Castle, an authentic really old castle (12th Century), as the best place to film the movie. The picture on the left is of the castle and the picture on the right is the view from the castle.
We concluded the day trip with a visit to Monaster
boice, which has been a holy monastery site since it was founded by St. Buite in the 6th Century. There, the largest high crosses of Ireland may be found. Professor Conner wrote a really great article about these crosses, but I will have to get his permission before sharing the link. Basically, they have really great and intricate carvings that show how Ireland's religion is also very tied to its Celtic culture, with pictures of scripture that also incorporate Irish culture and acknowledge the ties to the "old Ireland" that Christianity somewhat effectively replaced, or edited.
Today, we went to an amazing exhibit on W.B. Yeats at the National Library. I did not take any pictures, but did buy some postcards to put in a scrapbook. This was followed by a visit to the National Museum, in which we saw the Tara Brooch and learned a great basis for Viking Studies. Also, no pictures. We then went to a play at the Abbey Theatre (which was partly founded by Yeats) called Bookworms and then trekked to the oldest pub in Ireland, the Brazen Head. Yes, the picture I have chosen to post for the beginning paragraph of this post is the one of us at the pub. C'est la vie!

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Blasket Islands!

Ok, our last stop in Kerry, and possibly my favorite stop on the entire trip was our voyage to the Blasket Islands. In order to read and really understand the Blaskets, you should read The IslandMan by Tomas O'Crohan (pronounced in Irish "O-Creehan). The back story is that the Blasket Islands make up seven remote islands off of the coast of Dingle, where we have been before. They were one of the last places where the traditional Irish language was spoken, but also one of the last places that relied on fishing and basic self-sufficient methods to get by. However, in 1953, there were very few people left on the Great Blasket (where most people lived), and the islanders were essentially forced to leave the island for the mainland because they did not have access to medical care or any form of education for any new children. Since then, the island has not been home to anyone but sheep, but the village itself is still there and extremely amazing. Going to the Great Blasket felt like visiting a ghost village because the remains were there, but it was so empty that it felt like we were invading on someone else's memory. That of course is not going to stop me from writing about it, ha ha :-)

The picture here is our first view of the island. If you look carefully, you can see the remains of the houses.

Our guide was not from the Blaskets originally, but grew up nearby as a boy, and frequently went to the island before everyone left to hear their stories and find the secrets of the island. He seems old, but walked much faster than we did. He seemed the epitome of what I would have expected an islander to be like- he used the old tongue of Irish and spoke carefully and in a way that felt like it was from another century or world from us. This is a picture of us about two feet away from a cliff he didn't want me to fall off of.

We stopped in the homes of many of the islanders that were in the book, and then their municipal buildings, like the school. I hope my professor never reads this blog, because they all looked about the same to me! The difference is that they were all built by hand, including the house of O'Crohan himself, who wrote the book about the Blaskets. Some of the houses dated back before the famine. In fact, the potato famine did not affect the islanders much at all because they were fortunate enough to have a shipwreck occur that held them through. I guess one advantage of being completely shut off from the world and poor already is that famines didn't seem like that big of an impact :-)

Danny, our guide, read to us in Irish and in English, as he was fluent in both. It was magical to hear the words that authors wrote about the Blaskets in their native language as we sat in their houses.

This is a picture of a small ravine we walked into next to the ocean, where there was a small well the islanders typically used for fresh water.

More ruins of the old village. Hard to believe it was self-sustaining from this picture!

We walked around 2/3rds of the island, and the view was amazing. It was so rugged and free that it was hard to believe that people actually lived on it for hundreds of years before having to evacuate.

This is Dorothy and I right next to their "harbor" about to leave on a tiny boat that held about 8 people. It was such an amazing day!!!

PS. I swear on my honor that the picture above this caption is of two seals peaking their heads above the water to say hi to us :-) This may seem silly, but there were hundreds of seals on the beach when we first got on the island. I have NEVER seen so many in my life!!! Of course, they swam away before anyone could get close enough for a substantial picture...