Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Ireland Study Abroad Experience

One of the first Irish readings we read before leaving to Ireland was an excerpt from “The Poor Scholar,” Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry, which is based on (or at least influenced by) William Carleton’s personal experiences in Ireland.

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Picture from "The Poor Scholar"

 A powerful statement helping define the Irish identity is when the famous Irish author Carleton wrote, “An Irishman will make you laugh at his joke, while the object of that joke is wrapped up from you in the profoundest mystery, and you will consequently make the concession to a certain point of his character, which has been really obtained by a faculty you had no penetration to discover, or, rather, which he had too much sagacity to exhibit. Of course, as soon as your back is turned, the broad grim is on him, and one of his cheeks is stuck out two inches beyond the other, because his tongue is in it-at your stupidity, simplicity, or folly.” (Carleton, 260-261).

 We all took a weekend to describe what this phrase meant. To me, this defines the Irish as being coy, and left me the impression that the Irish would be deceitfully fake. There was an underlying theme that pointed out others to be the butt-end of their jokes and to yank on and make fun of these others in subtle and keen ways. Although this is an impressive feat for people that I initially thought were under-educated in comparison to others, the Irish culture blew my expectations away almost as soon as I landed.

The vast historical knowledge the Irish have predates the United States. Some of history is well known among Irishmen while other have different variations of stories (due to different upbringings and different perspectives from the past and present tensions of catholic and protestant.) An example I can think of that fits the above quote to the explanation of the formation of Giant’s Causeway. Science has explained this natural phenomena being formed by lava. A bus driver in Dublin had told our professor of how he would tell tourists that scientists were all wrong about this formation. He would proceed to tell visitors the tales of the legendary Fionn MacCool (FinnMcCool) as solely responsible and not the preposterous molten lava. Although he was kidding, he was persuasive and funny. 

Pictured is myself on Giant's Causeway

True Irishmen hold heart to the incredible history of their lands and that is what makes America different from Ireland. Here, in the states, people are so eager to conform to change. Everything and everyone are always moving so fast to update and pave new roads and paths without being conscious of what lies underneath. The Irish are a proud community that may fight as brothers and sisters at times (between the Republic and the North,) but their faith and voice carry themselves through even the most adverse moments. The “Fighting Irish” has only stood for Notre Dame to me, but after visiting Ireland I now understand the name.

Irish flag flying outside Kilmainham Gaol

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