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Cross-Cultural Program: Ireland and Northern Ireland 2001
Group Journal Nov 9-17

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  Orientation Sept 4-10 MP Sept 11-17 MP Sept 18-24 MP ** Sept 25-Oct 7 MP **
  Oct 8-16 MP Oct 17-24 MP Oct 25-31 MP Nov 1-8 MP Nov 9-17 MP **
  Nov 18-Dec 4 MP (MP is the journal's "More Pictures" page, ** is a bonus page)

Friday, November 9, 2001

We said goodbye to Belfast this cool, grey morning and boarded the bus for Dublin. As we left St. Clement's, we reflected on the lovely goodbye that Father Seamus had given us that morning at breakfast, wishing us safe travel and God's richest blessings. We also waved a fond farewell to Margaret, who runs the office there, and the cooks/custodial ladies as they stood at the door waving us out of sight. There were some lovely people at St. Clement's!

After a brief grocery stop, we drove on through the snow flurries - yes, snow! - towards Dublin. This was the coldest it had been yet; in fact, yesterday morning, there was a lot of sleet and there were also a few snow flurries.

We lunched at the Monasterboice Inn, a traditional older restaurant just over the Irish border in Monasterboice. Among the favorites of the day were beef with Yorkshire pudding, fish and chips, and mashed carrots and swedes (turnip-like vegetables, but sweeter). Well maybe that last one wasn't exactly a favorite! There is also a wonderful monastery ruin there, but we had no time to stop and tour it. Next trip...

We arrived in Dublin just in time to launch Phil Blount and Clay Showalter at the bus station. They were headed out to Bolton Abbey to stay overnight with the monks there, learning about contemporary monastic life for their independent projects. After dropping them at the station, we next unloaded at Kinlay House, the hostel for the next two weeks. This is right in the heart of town, so everything's within walking distance.

Mary Cleary, our coordinator for Dublin, met us and handed out maps, pamphlets, and general information. She also answered any questions we had about Dublin life, and then we were free for the evening to explore!



Saturday, November 10, 2001

Most of the group spent at least part of the day riding around town on an open-top double-decker bus, seeing the city. This was a great way to travel because our tickets entitled us to get on and off at any point in the tour, see the sights, and then re-board the bus to the next destination. As Dublin gets a bit spread out, we saved our feet doing this!

Some of the highlights were St. Patrick's Cathedral, Phoenix Park - a huge forest park (bigger than Central Park in New York) filled with deer, also containing the home of the President of Ireland and the American ambassador, as well as the Dublin Zoo (interesting that they're all there together, isn't it?) - the Guinness Brewery (not that any of us went in there!), Christ Church Cathedral (and its lovely bells - right next to the hostel), Trinity College and the Book of Kells (more on that another day) and Dublin Castle. This trip also enabled us to see where the museums and other points of interest for another day were located.

The remainder of the day was free and was spent looking around town, shopping and locating the vitals...payphones, Internet cafes and Burger King.



Sunday, November 11, 2001

This morning we visited St. Patrick's Church (Catholic), a small parish church in the suburb of Ringsend. It was a good 30-minute walk there, but we arrived in time to hear a brief talk about Catholicism, given to us by Father Gerry Corcoran, a friend of Anne's. As we were attending Mass at noon, we didn't have time to ask all the questions we could have about what it means to be Catholic, but Father Gerry gave us an idea of some of the differences between Catholic and Protestant beliefs.

For many of us at home, this is Veterans' Day; here in Ireland and Great Britain, it's known as Remembrance Day. A large
Father Gerry explains Catholocism to the group
Father Gerry explains Catholicism to the group
number of people would show their support of veterans and their memory of those fallen in wars by wearing a red paper poppy flower on their lapels. This symbol comes from World War I and is a reminder of the poppies in the fields at Flanders. One is given a poppy after donating money to the veterans' charity.

In Northern Ireland, when we saw the poppies, we were informed that only Protestants wore them, and the Catholics found them insulting, considering them to be British symbols. In fact, Ireland lost many men in this war, something that the Catholics seem to have forgotten. Here in the Republic, everyone wears the poppies, regardless of their religious beliefs. This is just another example of the politics with which everyday people are living in the North. (I wore my poppy in honor of my uncle, James Palmer (still living!), who flew bombing missions over Europe during World War II.)

Since the day was free following Mass, Gloria, Clay Showalter and Anne had decided to attend Evensong at St. Patrick's Cathedral; we thought (and rightly so) that the music would be especially good. This cathedral is a
St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin
St. Patrick's Cathedral
beautiful Church of Ireland (Anglican) church, built in the early 13th century. It is said that St. Patrick baptized converts at a well that once existed in the park next to the church. Because of this, a church has stood on this spot since the 5th century. Of course, for St. Patrick to have done all the things that are said of him, he would have to have been cloned or have been able to fly!

What we didn't realize about Evensong was that it was a special service to mark Remembrance Day. When we arrived, we got some of the last remaining seats, sneaking in just before the President of Ireland processed ceremoniously to her seat. Gloria and I (Anne) were seated far back on one of the side aisles in the transept (the cross-section at the front) but couldn't really see well. Clay was behind us a few rows back. After Gloria struck up a conversation with the woman sitting next to her, the woman grabbed the usher, explained that we were "two American girls come for the service" and made him get us better seats. We ended up in the fourth row directly across from the President! Needless to say, we could see and hear almost everything then; unfortunately we didn't get to take Clay with us.

The service was very moving. Ambassadors from many countries, including the United States, placed paper poppy wreaths at the memorial honoring those fallen in battle. A lovely verse was read: "They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old, Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, We will remember them." Hymns were sung and prayers for the dead and the living were said. No matter how we as individuals felt about the futility or necessity of war, this was a beautiful way to honor those who died defending their country.



Monday, November 12, 2001

We're in Dublin! Woohoo! We've been here for a couple of days and it's been fun exploring a new city. There are tons of interesting shops and restaurants to keep us entertained during our free time and it's nice to be so close to everything. Today is Monday and after a long fun weekend it sure feels like a Monday. We started off with a lecture on ancient Celtic history from Stephen Harrison. I really enjoyed the lecture because I'm a huge fan of ancient history, especially Celtic history, and Mr. Harrison really knew what he was talking about.

During lunch I helped some of the Celebration Committee pick a nice place to have our Thanksgiving banquet. I'm glad we're going to do something special on that day because this is my first Thanksgiving away from home. I'm sure we'll all have a blast and enjoy celebrating Thanksgiving together. After our break we went back for class with Anne and Gloria. Anne talked with us about The Wall Reader, a short story about murals and graffiti in Belfast and their effect on a young family. We also did some catching up on little things we needed to do as a group.

Afterwards, a group of us girls went out and experienced two of the many interesting restaurants in Dublin for dinner. We fist went to a vegetarian café called Fresh and had yummy sandwiches and homemade soup. Then Melissa Webb, Erica Passmore and I stopped at a café called Lemon that only serves crepes and shared a great lemon and honey crepe for desert. Well, that was my Monday in Dublin. I hope everyone at home is well and happy.
--Jess Walter

Stephen Harrison is a lecturer at Trinity College here in Dublin; this was a very interesting lecture about the origin of the Celts and the confusion over who exactly they were. One of the things he said was that the Irish consider themselves to be Celtic because they have a Celtic language, but that's the only evidence they have...there's no historical or archeological evidence to support this claim. The term "Celtic Christianity" is also misleading, although Christianity did come to Ireland about 400 A.D. Stephen also spoke about the development of the monastery in Ireland. Since the Romans never made it to Ireland there were no real roads or towns, so when monasteries were built, towns grew up around them. The earliest monasteries were built close to Irish political sites, near a king or chieftain. This was a fascinating lecture, but there's too much for us to put on the website... ask one of us about it when we get home!



Tuesday, November 13, 2001

For some of us, today was one of the days we had been looking forward to since orientation. This morning, we walked briskly down the street to Trinity College and after waiting for several minutes we were ushered into the Book of Kells museum. In the first room, there are all kinds of displays about the Book of Kells. The room is dimly lit, with just enough light to see each display. One can see how the book binding was done, how the script was written, what minerals were used for coloring, different designs and symbols... and the list goes on and on. Once you finish in this room, you are allowed into the back room, where the actual Book of Kells is. The pamphlet you receive describes the Book of Kells as "a lavishly decorated copy, in Latin, of the four Gospels." That's a pretty decent description, but it cannot show you the intricate hand painted designs on each page. What struck me is the dedication of the monks to the Word of God and their willingness to spend basically their entire lives writing it down. Amazing.
--Tonya Watson

The Book of Kells was probably begun early in the 9th century by the monks of Iona, an island off the west coast of Scotland. The monks of Iona moved to Kells (County Meath) in 806 A.D. after a raid by Vikings left 68 monks dead. It has resided in the Trinity College Library since 1661.

When you leave the room where the Book of Kells is kept, you exit through the Long Room of the Trinity College Library. This room, which is approximately 195 feet long, houses 200,000 of the Library's oldest books as well as Ireland's oldest harp.

In the evening, half of the group attended three short plays by Irish playwrights at the Gate Theatre. These plays were White Horses by Neil Jordan, Come on Over by Conor McPherson, and The Yalta Game by Brian Friel (who also wrote Dancing at Lughnasa). They were very different from each other; the second of the plays, Come on Over, was done by two actors, a man and a woman, sitting in chairs with bags over their heads. Fascinating theatre, and a play which left many in the group asking questions, which must have been what the playwright and director had in mind all along. Katherine McCormack, whom many of us recognized as Mel Gibson's love interest in the film Braveheart, acted in White Horses, and Ciarán Hinds (Jane Austen fans would have seen him in the film Persuasion) was in The Yalta Game. It was an evening of good theatre and most of us really enjoyed it.



Wednesday, November 14, 2001

After a free morning to catch up on assignments or sleep in, we met at Leinster House for our tour of the Dáil, the Irish Parliament. We were greeted by Jim O'Keefe, the Opposition Spokesman on Foreign Affairs. He had just returned from Afghanistan and we were under the impression that we would be able to ask him questions about the situation there, but time was short and he was more interested in talking to us about the meeting to begin shortly in the Dáil.

The Dáil (pronounced doil) would be comparable to our House of Representatives, with the Seanad (shah-nud) functioning like our Senate. The Taoiseach (pronounced tee-shuck) is the equivalent of Britain's Prime minister and the President is primarily an honorary role, although her signature is required for legislation to become law. Anyway, we were allowed to observe the Taoiseach addressing members of the Dáil. There were only about 10 people in the huge chamber, which seemed strange to us. When we asked about this, we were informed that the representatives also sit on a lot of committees and most of them were in other meetings at the time.

We were then given a tour of the building. This building was once a private residence until purchased by the Royal Dublin Society; in 1922 it was decided it would do nicely to house the government. The ceiling, walls and doors of the Seanad room were decorated by Wedgewood, makers of the delicate blue and white porcelain china, in the 1700's. They are done in that same style and the room is amazingly ornate and beautiful. The building also houses a flag flown by the Irish Regiment during our Civil War; President Kennedy presented it to Ireland in the 1960's upon his visit there. Despite the mostly inaudible voice of our guide, we still enjoyed the tour and our experience at Parliament.

Following that tour, the second half of our group attended the theatre. Last night's group hadn't given away much of the plots and staging, except to talk about the second play being done in bags, so it was an interesting evening for this group as well.



Thursday, November 15, 2001

Today we took a bus trip out to Tara, then to Newgrange. Tara Na Rí, or Tara of the Kings, was the cultural, political, and spiritual center of Pre-Christian Ireland. It also served as the seat of the high kings of Ireland until their demise in 1014. While we were there,
Several of the group surround a stone at Tara
Several of the group surround a stone at Tara
it was extremely foggy - so bad, in fact that we could barely make out one mound from the top of another one.

From there, we traveled to Newgrange, an ancient burial site. Newgrange is a large mound with a smallish burial chamber inside. The chamber is situated so that at dawn of the winter solstice (approximately December 21), the chamber illuminates with direct sunlight. The chamber can hold about 25 people at a time and it has beautiful carvings inside and in front of it.
--Drew Roynon

Tramping through the mist at Tara made one think that the ancient kings could come striding over the hill at any minute. One of the sites was home to the Lialh Fáil, or Stone of Destiny. The legend says that when a man was chosen to be High King, he had to ride his chariot past this stone, striking it with one of the chariot wheels. If he missed or was killed in the attempt, he wasn't the right King after all. If we looked closely at the Stone, we could almost see the chariot wheel marks...

Newgrange, an ancient passage-tomb
Newgrange, an ancient passage-tomb
Newgrange was very awe-inspiring. The guide waited until we were all the way into the burial chamber, about 330 feet in, before she told us that 200,000 tons of stone and earth were above our heads! This tomb was built around 3200 B.C. and uses stones from as far away as Wicklow, a town about 30 miles south of Dublin. The effort it must have taken to bring those stones by boat is mind-boggling. They estimate it took close to 70 years to build, so most who worked on the tomb would have never seen it completed; the average life span was 25-30 years.



Friday, November 16, 2001

FREE DAY!! Some chose to go to museums and galleries today, since many are closed on Mondays, which is the day next week we have free for those visits. Shopping was also on the list, as were sightseeing, walking and who knows what else.



Saturday, November 17, 2001

One way to start your Saturday is with a 3-hour lecture on Irish history. Since we hadn't done that so far this semester, we decided today would be the day. We welcomed back Stephen Harrison, who did his best to condense what he said was a "full semester, 3 classes a week" class into 3 hours. It's easy to tell he really loves history, although his field these days is archeology. He said he'd spent most of the week at a dig where they are constructing new motorway.

Stephen's lecture was concerning recent history, 1900-present. He spoke at length about the Easter Monday Uprising of 1916. The rebels were people who wanted to be free of England's rule all together. They were opponents of Home Rule, which was England letting Ireland govern the minor areas, such as schools, roadwork and city planning, while England still had charge of finance, defense and foreign policy.

The Irish Volunteers (IV) and the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) banded together to lead the rebellion, planned for the day
Christchurch Cathedral at sunset
Christchurch Cathedral at sunset
after Easter, when the government offices would be closed and the town quiet. The leader of the IV, Eoin MacNeill, was against the rebellion, knew it would fail, and he tried to cancel it. This led to confusion about whether it was on or off, and only 1,000 men turned up instead of the expected 3,000. The rebellion lasted until the following Saturday, when there was an unconditional surrender; the people who suffered most were the civilians, with 220 dead and 600 wounded. Since they'd been against the rebellion from the start, this led to some hard feelings. They wanted to lynch the leaders of the rebels; downtown had been destroyed and so many were dead.

What changed their minds was the way the British reacted following the rebellion; they began to execute the captured leaders. They decided intimidation was the best way to keep this from happening again, so, following closed military trials where the leaders were convicted of treason against the British crown, they shot a few men each day. James Conolly, an extreme Marxist, had been wounded and had to be tied to a chair to face the firing squad. There were a total of 107 condemned to death, but the British government stopped the military from executing the last 97 and their sentences were commuted.

The 1916 uprising became a symbol of those who followed after, even though it didn't accomplish its purpose. Those executed became heroes, "icons of Irish Nationalism" (Harrison).

Well, there's much more from this lecture, but we realize it doesn't necessarily interest everyone! Although there was a LOT to cover, Stephen made it very interesting and it was a good way to spend our rainy morning. The tea and biscuit breaks helped a lot, too, as did the knowledge that the rest of the day was free to do whatever we wanted!



More pictures now!
More Pictures...


HomeJournalsLinksWebteamMapsOld Site
  Orientation Sept 4-10 MP Sept 11-17 MP Sept 18-24 MP ** Sept 25-Oct 7 MP **
  Oct 8-16 MP Oct 17-24 MP Oct 25-31 MP Nov 1-8 MP Nov 9-17 MP **
  Nov 18-Dec 4 MP (MP is the journal's "More Pictures" page, ** is a bonus page)