Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Discovering Ireland

Rolling green pastures dotted with sheep, crumbling castles, narrow brick roads, and rustic pubs. These are just a few ideas that come to mind when I think of the island of Ireland. Before this trip, I never gave much thought to the country, though I always thought it would be a cool place to visit. In high school, I had a friend with strong Irish roots. She always talked about wanting to take a trip, and sophomore year she did. After hearing about how beautiful the countryside was, and how much fun she had, I decided that I wanted to visit the country as well. What inspired you to take this trip? Was it something specific, or did something or someone motivate you?

I decided at a young age that I wanted the travel as much as possible throughout my life. However, I never really looked into the places I’ve been, the opportunities just arose. When I found out I had a chance to visit Dublin, I knew I had to continue my journey as a traveler. Before class, though, I didn’t think too much about what the island would look like. I had seen pictures online and in magazines of the rolling plains and Cliffs of Mohr, but I know that pictures never truly capture the true beauty. After the first couple class readings, I started to gain a better understanding of the countryside, and after reading Legend of Knockmany, I looked up pictures of the Giant's Causeway, but that’s about as much information I had about the scenery.

During my trip to Europe, I stayed in Hanau, Germany. Hanau is a little town just east of Frankfurt, with very narrow streets and multi-story buildings built very close together. This is what I assumed that Ireland would look like, and from the pictures I have seen online, this still rings true. I have also discovered that the architecture is very similar.  

Ireland: The Pre-Screening

Far and Away
My vision of Ireland has been shaped almost entirely by film. And it all started when I was 13.

At the time I had no idea what the Irish Land War was -
I just knew that these two amazing actors with exotic accents were off on an adventure to the new world - but with age comes knowledge.

In 1893, the time in which the movie was set, Ireland was in the midst of a long period of civil unrest. England had been attempting to control and contain Ireland for over two centuries and by the late 19th century the Irish had had enough. The people wanted to own the land that they labored on and to profit from that labor accordingly. But as it stood, the English were keeping any profit and charging the Irish rent on the land to boot. I understand now why Tom Cruise's character was so captivated and driven by the "free land" that was being handed out just across the ocean. Perhaps it's time I rewatch that movie...

I’ve seen many films about Ireland and the Irish since, and here is what they've told me:

  • The Irish won't back down. (Gangs of New York)
  • The scenery will be either a gritty, weathered city or beautiful, rolling countryside - there is no in-between.

Will the Irish and Ireland be anything like the people and places I’ve seen on screen all my life? I hope so. But preferably with fewer weapons.

What about you? Have you seen any good Irish-themed movies lately?

Ireland First Impressions

When I signed up for this study abroad experience, I wasn't sure what I was expecting to experience in Ireland. I originally thought that I would see many different small towns and sheep roaming around on hills. I never expected to be in a big city and see such amazing history while in this trip. Before this class, I had no idea what this trip had in store for me. I am very excited to see all the landmarks that we have talked about in class. 

Ireland Expectation

When I signed up for this trip, I started doing some research to see what Dublin and Derry had in store for me. I quickly realized how much Ireland had to offer. I am looking forward to visiting the Guinness Factory. I have heard that the view from the bar is breath taking. Since I am Catholic, I also want to see a few different churches and go to a church service while I am visiting. 

In "A Legend of Knockmany", it discusses Giants Causeway. This will be an amazing site to see! I really like how this landmark is connected to the old folktale. This class has shown me many different things to be excited to see during our two week trip. I am excited to go and experience Ireland for myself! I am interested in what my other classmates are most excited to see in Ireland as well. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

It's Not All Leprechauns and Green Beer

Like many people, when I thought of Ireland I thought of St. Patrick's Day, leprechauns, four leaf clovers and green beer. Much to my demise these Irish example are all false.

Throughout my course at IUSB - Everybody's Irish, I've learned some facts about what makes the Irish so special and it does not include leprechauns and green beer. Many of you may not realize that the country of Ireland was under the control of the British for 800 years before claiming their independence in 1921-1922. The people of this beloved country endured a massacre, battles, famine revolutions, rebellion, and discrimination laws known as Penal Laws. The country of Northern Ireland (6 most northern counties) remain under the control for the UK. 

Map Ireland and Northern Ireland 
According to readings I've read throughout this course, such as "Condy Cullen and the Gauger" and "A Legend of Knockmany" the Irish may be tricky, cunning and conniving folk. The readings I have mentioned are folk tales but seem to give a slight interpretation on how the people of Ireland are percieved. These two folk tales describe tricks and schemes the Irish people have pulled off in order to get the upper hand on an unwelcoming situation. Even though these tricks and schemes worked out for the Irish in the long run, what do you think would have happened if their conniving plans did not work out? Would they have tried to sweet talk their way out of the predicament or would they have retreated and confessed their wrong doing?

Although, these two readings could have been thought to depict hospitality. The sister of the giant Oonagh suggested inviting a stranger giant into her home for a snack before ever knowing the details on why her sister needed a distraction. It seemed like a natural thing for her to do. In the story of Condy Cullen, after the guager thinks he has out smarted and out witted Condy Cullen he invites him to have dinner with his wife and daughter. Though the circumstances in each situation were different the same evidence of hospitality was depicted. If you have read these two stories, which character trait do you think best represents the Irish? Hospitable or conniving?

*evidence from other readings and scholarly source welcome.

What does it mean to be Irish?

On the first day of this class, " 'Everybody's Irish': Uncovering Plastic Paddys and 'Real' Irishmen", we looked at these two pictures and easily determined which was the "Plastic Paddy":

Plastic Paddy
Plastic Paddy

Real Irishman

The green beer definitely gives the fake Irishman away! But, of course, truthfully the other picture is only one of many examples of a real Irishman--a concept that has changed over the years and differs by age, gender, part of Ireland, and many other factors.

For both the Irish and outsiders like us (as Americans), what it means to be Irish is influenced by media, history, literature, and personal experiences, and may never have an exact definition.

Yet we can begin to explore this idea through seeing what characteristics are commonly ascribed to the Irish (wit, deceit, hospitality/friendliness, loyalty, etc.), comparing them in insider and outsider accounts, and finding out how our own opinions and experiences also contribute to our understanding of modern Irish identity.

My thoughts have certainly evolved as I began growing up on Irish music and fairytales to seeing Ireland as a tourist after high school, then as a study abroad student from Notre Dame--home of the Fighting Irish, then living there for 5 years while completing my PhD at UCD, and finally visiting many times over the years after marrying a Leitrim man with 8 brothers and sisters.

As I help lead this inaugural IU South Bend study abroad trip to Dublin and Derry in just a few weeks, I look forward to hearing all about your first impressions of the Irish and seeing how they change as we read more about Ireland and see it up close. I'll be sharing my reflections along the way too, but this will mostly be a student space for sharing your thoughts about Ireland and the Irish.

With this in mind, let's get the conversation started--in a comment quickly explain what you're most looking forward to seeing/doing in Ireland and what you're thinking about doing on your free days. Feel free to ask any trip related questions here too.

Here's to a great trip...Slainte!