Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Derry and Dublin Journey: A Retrospective

Last Thursday I was in a pub enjoying a pint of Guinness while talking to a local from Bogside. How did the subject change from the queen attending of the horse races to Bloody Sunday? I don't remember, but I do know that I didn't ask. And it didn't take long. The topic of the Troubles felt a heartbeat away each day we were in the Derry.

"I was 11 years old on Bloody Sunday. Our house at the time was directly across the street from the church where those 13 coffins were lined up side by side. When the reporters came to ask my mother if they could use our house she said, "Yes. Yes I want the world to see what has happened here. As much as I want a united Ireland I don't want to lose a boy over it. And I don't want a mother on the other side to lose a boy either..."

The previous day we had gone on a walking tour to view the murals which depicted the Troubles. I wondered how the people that lived there felt about groups of strangers walking through their neighborhood every day. I felt like I was intruding on something incredibly personal, but perhaps many of the residents felt just like this gentleman’s mother: let the world know.

Maybe it was because we spent most of our time (when not on a bus) in tours and lectures, but everyone we met was incredibly knowledgeable about Ireland’s history and very open to sharing it. As Robert Bell noted in “Document B”: “After the labours of the day they never sat looking at each other in sulky silence; the aged would smoke one after another out of the same pipe, and entertain each other with stories...”

Today’s Irish undeniably continue their long history of bards and storytellers, but for the most part it would appear that they have replaced their pipes with pints.

The entire study abroad experience has been…exhausting. I know you were expecting something else, right? Exciting! Life-changing! Experience of a life time! After a lot of sleep I may pull out those words, but not just yet.

Dublin was an amazing city – the storefronts and cathedrals were amazing and breathtaking (respectively). The presence of so much dark oak in a world of sheet-rock and Ikea furniture was a welcome sight and feel. But Dublin also made me a bit sad. (A wee bit?) We had discussed its globalization in B-399, but I had thought that for the most part that would be contained to the Docklands. I was wrong.

So much of what we heard while riding, walking, and stumbling from site to site while in Dublin felt very familiar. The same variety of languages and accents, and the same music. That was hard. One of the things I had most looked forward to was immersing myself in Irish music. Everyone, including the street performers, seemed to prefer pop music. And not the current kind…

But still, the vast majority of the city is unchanged, and I hope it remains that way.

I believe that the biggest challenge to studying abroad is finding a way to see the city as anything but a “tourist trap” when you are constantly being led through tours. Travelling in a large group is incredibly isolating because there is no reason to interact with strangers or the environment around you.

I feel like my most “I'm not in Indiana anymore” experiences actually happened when I doing the things I do at home every day. The cultural differences were definitely more prominent and enjoyable when talking to local people that shared my interests.

They also happened when trying to get directions...

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