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Cross-Cultural Program: Ireland and Northern Ireland 2001
Group Journal Sept 18-24

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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)

Tuesday, September 18, 2001

This morning's lecture was by a young Catholic writer named Chris, who spends his days writing and his evenings being a doorman at DaVinci's Hotel. He has recently published a novel about young people coming of age during the Troubles. Chris told us what it was like to grow up in the Catholic neighborhood of Creggan during a time when gun battles and bombs were a common occurrence in his street.
Irish coast at Carrick-A-Rede
The Irish Coast
This was a fascinating, although disturbing, lecture for us... some in our group had not truly realized how close to home the fighting was for Derry residents. It was chilling to hear how punishment beatings were carried out and how easily a young man could be arrested and detained simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Chris was a very matter-of-fact speaker, simply telling us about his youth before the cease-fire. This was one of the most powerful lectures we've had to date.

In the afternoon, we continued our language and dance lessons. We have now progressed to asking and giving directions (let's hope we're never dependent on our Irish for this, however!), telling people where we're from ("Cá as tú?" "Is as Meirceá mé!"... this is one of the few conversations that's pronounced approximately as it's spelled...) and counting to 20. We are also becoming quite good at the six dances we've learned; the barn-dance heritage of many of us has come in handy here.

The day ended with another lesson on tin whistle at St. Anne's Primary School. The Waterside class surprised Gearald, our teacher, by learning a special piece; this inspired the Cityside class to go one further and try to learn a difficult jig for next week's lesson. (Will they make it? Read next week...) Gearald is very patient and a fun instructor; he's also a native Irish speaker, so we're trying to pick up little phrases from him as well. So far, our favorite command (not from him!) seems to be "Be ciúin!" (Be quiet!)... supposedly only the leaders are allowed to use this to the students, but...



Wednesday, September 19, 2001

Today's journey took us to two interesting places. Our first stop was the town of Bellaghy, an area that has been inhabited for nearly 9000 years. Here we visited Bellaghy Bawn, an old plantation house that has been restored to serve as a museum honoring one of Ireland's most famous
Seamus Heaney Museum
Seamus Heaney Museum
poets, Seamus Heaney. Our guide, Deborah Logan, was very knowledgeable and helpful; she even served us clotted cream on scones that her mother had made at 7:00 a.m. that morning!

The house itself dates from the 1600's, built when settlers from England and Scotland came over to farm the land and defend it from the "savage" Irish.
Dressed to impress at the Flight of the Earls
Different costumes at Flight of the Earls
It doesn't resemble the houses we Americans might think of as plantations but is a fortress-like structure with towers and stone walls surrounding it. It even has its own ghost; she was a maid who killed herself because of unwanted attentions from the master of the plantation, and her shoes are said to clack across the boards of the Tower Room as she paces the floors.

Seamus Heaney has been writing since the mid-sixties and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995. Some of his poetry speaks of the Bellaghy area, where he spent his boyhood, and of family, friends, tragedy and nature. We were able to see a lovely video of Heaney talking about his youth, walking through the local countryside and reciting his poetry.

From there we went on to Draperstown, where we visited an exhibit entitled "The Flight of the Earls". This museum starts its story in 1594 with the rebellion of the four Northern Irish earls against England and Elizabeth I and covers the history leading up to the flight of these nobles to Europe in 1607. The museum's curator, Frank Casey, also provided costumes for some of our group, who then illustrated the various nobles and their family members, soldiers and servants involved in the rebellion. (We're fairly sure the men of the 17th century wore tights under their trousers, however!) The exhibit, with its video presentations, maps and documents, was a fascinating view into the past.

In the evening Terry Boyle came to speak to us about some of the poetry of Northern Ireland. Two of the poems we read, "Desertmartin" (Tom Paulin), and "H-Block Shuttle" (Rita Ann Higgins) were stark commentaries on the Troubles; a great contrast was Yeats' poem "The Lake Isle of Innisfree", speaking of the poet's love for a peaceful life in the country. Terry's comments were very insightful and there was some good group discussion about these poems. (We also appreciate Terry's organization of soccer games for the students!)



Thursday, September 20, 2001

Today was a favorite for many of us. We began the morning by
Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge
Rope bridge at Carrick-a-Rede
loading up the bus and driving northeast to the Antrim Coast. This area of the province is full of winding roads and beautiful ocean views, and the weather was gorgeous - 70's and sunny, unheard of for September! Our first stop was the Carrick-a Rede Rope Bridge. To reach the actual bridge, you have a 20-minute walk down to the cliff edge; then, if you're brave enough, you can walk across a 65-foot bridge made of planks and wire, strung above an 80-foot deep chasm over the sea.
Irish coast
Irish Coast near Carrick-a-Rede
This takes you to a small island that has a small salmon fishery on it. The views are spectacular and it provided each of us with a wonderful opportunity to have some quiet time away from the group.

Next we traveled about 10 miles west to the Giant's Causeway. Legend has it that the giant Finn MacCool began the causeway as a path across the sea to see his girlfriend giant, who lived on the Scottish island of Staffa, where similar formations are found. In actuality these formations were caused by volcanic lava 61 million years ago and by the Ice Age 15,000 years ago. What is so amazing is the mathematical precision with which the
Dunluce Castle
Dunluce Castle
columns seem to have been formed; most are hexagonal but some have more or fewer sides and most measure about 12 inches across. It's a fantastic sight to see nearly 37,000 basalt columns spread out along the ocean's edge.

Our final stop of the day was Dunluce Castle, perched precariously on a cliff edge overlooking the sea. First built in the Middle Ages, the castle changed hands quite a few times over the centuries. In 1588 it was armed with 3 cannons from the wreck of the Girona, a ship from the Spanish Armada ship. The house inside the castle walls was built by Randall MacDonnell for his wife Catherine,
Dunluce Castle
Dunluce Castle
who hated the sound of the sea. When the kitchen fell into the stormy ocean during a feast one night, taking several servants with it, Catherine decided she'd had enough, and Randall built her a house elsewhere. The remaining ruins of the house satisfied many of the group's longing to see a "real castle", and most explored the caves leading to the sea which tunnel beneath the castle. This was voted another great day!

In the evening, several of the group went with Anne and Gloria to hear the Ulster Orchestra and the Ulster Youth Choir. The new Millennium Forum, a wonderful theatre, has opened since we have been here in Derry, and its acoustics provided us with a lovely concert. We were impressed with the quality of the choir, which has only rehearsed three weeks over the past three years, according to the conductor. With Copland, Fauré, Rutter and Poulenc on the program, it was a nice way to end a lovely day.



Friday, September 21, 2001

Visits to various local organizations made up today's schedule. The group was divided between the Derry Peace and Reconciliation Group, the Oakgrove Integrated Primary School (Protestant and Catholic students in one school), the Travellers (we know them as gypsies in the States),
Dunluce Castle
Another view of Dunluce Castle
and the Derry Women's Centre. Each of these organizations is doing its part to promote peace, reconciliation, justice, or healing in the Derry area. Students listened to talks by the members of these groups and were able to ask questions about each group. For some, this was made more interesting by the fact that the accents of the people speaking were very difficult to understand! They will be presenting their findings in class next week.

A free afternoon was followed by an evening concert by choirs, bands and orchestras from the area. The theme was Pathways of Praise, and the concert gave those in our group who attended a chance to sing and listen to hymns and choruses led by these different ensembles.



Saturday, September 22, 2001

This is a day we won't soon forget! We loaded up the bus to head out for the west coast of Donegal and the cliffs of Slieve League. Our bus was not the most luxurious, and the shocks had seen better days, so many Tigger-like bounces were made by those sitting in the rear of the bus as we went over the bumpy roads. We stopped for lunch at the Dunlewey
Hey look, we're on the beach
A beach west of Slieve League
Centre, which lies in Glenveagh National Park in the Derryveagh Mountains. This centre houses a weaver's cottage and a boat tour of the lough, which many of us took. We heard the local legends and saw the picturesque remains of the Church of Ireland that closed down during the last century. Some of us even used our Irish to thank the boat pilot...we don't think we convinced him we were Irish, though. We also enjoyed the gift shop, especially since the exchange rate is better for Irish punts than for the British sterling used in Northern Ireland.

After lunch, we went on towards Slieve League. Not having
Playing cards on the bus can be a little frustrating...
On the bus
exact directions, however - Irish roads can be very confusing, especially when they turn to all-Irish language road signs in the west of Donegal! - we did a little wandering before finally coming to some cliffs on the western side of Slieve League. There was an antique car rally in the car park there, so we enjoyed looking at the cars...a little bonus for the day. There was also a stunning view of the ocean, even though it wasn't the place we'd intended to go - the eastern side of the cliffs has the most breathtaking views - the ones you see in photos. Those who were willing to climb down the steep staircase (through the sheep droppings) to the beach got great photos of the cliffs behind us as well as a chance to wade in the sea...not as cold
More Irish coastline
The Irish Coast
as we'd expected. Coming back up the stairs barefoot was a challenge (remember the sheep?), but we made it back to the bus. Having come this far, we decided to go on looking for the western cliffs, which were "just around the corner". Thirty minutes later we found the sign for the cliffs, only to discover that no buses were allowed up that road! At this point, we were already very late and tired, so we gave up and bounced back to Derry. Although there were some bright spots in the day, we decided it had been an exercise in tolerance and patience for most of us!



Sunday, September 23, 2001

This was free for the group... some attended church, others got some much-needed sleep, and some studied or read. There were some brave men among us who experimented with cricket and a few others played football (soccer)... another beautiful day for weather.



Monday, September 24, 2001

We had our final history lecture with Peter Pyne this morning. He reviewed some of the lecture he'd given us last week, covering
And more Irish coastline
The Irish Coast near Carrick-a-Rede
the reign of James II, before continuing on through the 1700's, up to the present day. It's much easier to see why the present-day Troubles exist when you look back over the centuries to their actual beginnings. Many outside of Ireland believe that the current problems started in the late 1960's, but the roots go much deeper, back hundreds of years. Just look at the Penal Laws of 1695, forbidding Catholics and Presbyterians to buy or sell land, vote, or pursue an education (and there
Sarah, Megan R. and Lorin at Dunluce Castle
were many other restrictions as well). Three out of four Irish were Catholic at this time, so you imagine the discontent and anger these laws caused. This is only one example of the political coals that were smoldering over the years. Peter's lectures were very helpful in enabling us to understand current events.

In the afternoon, the group was free to study, send e-mails or pursue other interests. Our soccer players met up with Terry at 2:30 for another match.




It's time for some more pictures!
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)