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Cross-Cultural Program: Ireland and Northern Ireland 2001
Group Journal Oct 8-16

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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)


Monday, October 8, 2001

This was the morning we left for our overnight visit to the Aran Islands. We said goodbye to Galway, and climbed onto the bus for the ferry. Unfortunately, due to a road accident blocking traffic, we were very late; however, since we made up a large portion of the ferry passengers, they'd waited for us and we were off around 10:30 a.m. The ferry was comfortable, and there were probably close to a hundred passengers aboard. We were the only group with copious amounts of luggage, as we'd found nowhere in
Ooooh... Sunrise on the Aran Islands
Aran Sunrise
Galway to leave our big bags. The ferrymen were very nice about helping us heave the luggage on and off the ferry, though. The sea was calm, the sun was shining and the day was warm... it was a beautiful forty-five minute journey across to Inis Mór (Inishmore in English)

Inishmore is the largest of the three Aran Islands, the other islands being Inishmaan and Inisheer. It is eight miles long and two miles wide, with harsh landscapes and amazing coastal views. When the first people settled on these islands, before the time of Christ, they began to create fields for farming; this was done by layering sand and seaweed over the sheets of rock. As everything was hauled by hand, this took years to create farmable soil. This still continues today. Farming, fishing and tourism are the main occupations of the islanders. The Aran Islands are famous for the sweaters knitted here. The weather is cold and windy much of the year, and these thick, cabled wool jumpers (as they're called here) keep out the chill. The men of the Aran Islands who go to sea never learn to swim, even to this day... we spoke to a minibus driver who said he'd "fished for twenty years, never swam a stroke!". For this reason, the jumpers are knit in various designs so that a body washed ashore could be identified by the patterns in the clothing.

We left our bags at the hostel and rented bicycles to explore the island. Destinations included Na Seacht dTeampaill (the Seven Churches) and Dún Aonghasa (Dun Aengus). The bicycle seats were not the best for the bumpy roads, but we persevered! The Seven Churches is a monastic settlement dedicated to St. Brecan. These buildings date from the 9th to the 15th centuries; some are probably domestic structures rather than sites of worship. It is a peaceful site, with Celtic crosses standing over the graves which nestle between the ruins of the buildings. There are three Bronze or Iron Age stone forts on Inishmore, and one stone fort that dates from the pre-Christian era. Dun Aengus is probably the most spectacular of these; a promontory fort built on a rocky hilltop overlooking the sea, it has no wall at the cliff's edge. The 300-foot cliff is enough protection against invasion! Like the Cliffs of Moher, some of our group found the edge to be very enticing, causing Anne and Gloria to look away and shudder.

The evening found most of the group together again at our hostel, which is known for its vegetarian cuisine. We had a marvelous buffet, served by the snippy, yet talented, chef, and a free evening to relax. A few small groups headed out into the darkness to walk along the narrow roads and watch for shooting stars. Since there are few streetlights on the island, the sky was brilliant with stars... a wonderful end to a peaceful day.



Tuesday, October 9, 2001

We moved on today, leaving the Aran Islands to go to Limerick. Again we were blessed with a smooth, beautiful sea for our ferry ride (Thank you, Lord, from those of us on Dramamine!), and we loaded the bus and set off. We arrived and settled into Finnegan's Hostel for our stay.

Finnegan's was in an old Georgian building, in which you could still see some of the ornate woodwork and solid design. Unfortunately the windows seemed as old as the building, and one of them managed to break as Adam Nolley was closing it, slicing a cut in his hand that required 14 stitches. Anne, Ryan Beachy, Phil Blount and Erica Passmore all accompanied Adam to the emergency room at 11:30 p.m., waiting while he was examined and stitched. We arrived back at the hostel again around 1:45 a.m., answered frantic questions and went on to bed. Here's the story in Adam's own words...

The other day I got it into my head to see how good the healthcare system of Ireland is. It was the evening of the first day we were here inLimerick and it was getting kind of cold in the room at the hostel where we're staying. So like the smart person I am I decided to close the window. This window is a large, almost floor to ceiling, double hung window. The top half was down a bit and was being held up with a 2x4 braced between the bottom half and one of the slats that divides the panes of the top half. I pushed up on the window with my left hand, not expecting it to be terribly heavy. Much to my surprise, it was, and the 2x4 proceeded to dislodge itself and the top half of the window very quickly descended to its preferred resting place. Unfortunately for my hand, it was caught between one of the slats and the bottom half of the window and the pane above that slat shattered and the glass cut my hand rather deeply. With Megan Rayborn's help I managed to get up the stairs to the bathroom and start running cold water over my hand. Thankfully, Ryan, who is a certified EMT, had just gotten back to the hostel. He looked at it and agreed that I would need to get stitches. So with much assistance I got down the stairs and into a cab and to the hospital where they gave me 14 stitches. (Here's a picture of Adam's hand as of the 22nd... it's not bad but not for the faint of heart).

(We also found out that Finnegan's was an ideal home for bedbugs, and quite a few of the group made new little friends and donated blood to the cause. Fortunately they seem to have stayed behind when we traveled on!)



Wednesday, October 10, 2001

Greetings, family and friends, from the best Ireland Cross Cultural group ever! Today we went on a tour of the city of Limerick. If you take a look at your map you will find County Limerick on the west coast between Counties Clare and Cork.

King John's Castle
King John's Castle
first stop on our tour was St. Mary's Cathedral, which just happens to be the oldest existing church in Ireland. Our tour guide filled our heads with a plethora of historical information. We also walked around the outside of King John's Castle, which sits on the River Shannon.
Graveyard at St. Mary's Cathedral
Graveyard at St. Mary's

After a lunch break we went on the Angela's Ashes book tour. This book, written by Frank McCourt, was previously read by the group. Erica Passmore said, "It was very powerful to see the actual areas where the book took place. It made the characters and story much more real." Mandi Dagen added "I'm glad we don't pour our excretions in a gutter in the middle of the street." I shared both of these ladies' sentiments and personally enjoyed having visuals added to the story, since I am a visual learner. Joel Daly was so inspired by the tour that he went to the Angela's Ashes museum in his free time. "I found the museum to be fun and informative, and the tour guide was very nice," Joel reported. Although our stay in Limerick was short, it was a memorable experience.
--Melissa Webb



Thursday, October 11, 2001

While in Limerick, we took a day trip to Bunratty Castle in County Clare and spent the morning touring the castle and walking the
Us at Bunratty Castle
The Group at Bunratty Castle
grounds. Bunratty Castle was built in 1425 and is the most complete and restored castle from medieval Ireland. Inside the castle are authentic furnishings from all over Europe. Rooms such as the Great Hall and the Earl's Chamber look as they would have nearly 600 years ago.
Enjoying some delicious food at the banquet
Enjoying the banquet
The castle is surrounded by a folk park that contains homes and cottages typical of rural life in Ireland around the turn of the century. The folk park also has a reconstructed 19th century Irish street with shops and a post office.

Later that evening we attended a banquet at the castle. We were entertained by traditional songs sung by the Bunratty entertainers. Our whole group had fun being lords and ladies while we were served food authentic to a medieval feast with only our daggers to use as utensils. It was an enjoyable day and personally one of my favorite events so far on this trip.
--Phil Blount



Friday, October 12, 2001

Last fall when the list for the Ireland Cross Cultural was posted, I was excited to find my name among those going. However, after I looked over the other names,
We're happy to be here... except for Ellen maybe...
Students on the grounds of Bunratty
my excitement waned as I realized I barely recognized the majority of them. Numerous meetings and one week of intense orientation later found twenty-seven students on their way to Ireland. Since then, we have spent countless hours laughing, yelling, playing, encouraging, singing, and talking amongst ourselves. The transition from individual strangers to a collective group seemed complete when we arrived in Limerick. You see, the past five weeks had been spent in homestays in Londonderry and Galway, and any interaction beyond structured activities required methodical planning. Once we arrived in Limerick, we were back together in a hostel and close to the heart of a city. While we enjoyed touring the city and taking in the sights, the chance to be back together outweighed the novelty surrounding us. We still have a long way to go, but this group has become the highlight of the trip in so many ways.



Saturday, October 13, 2001

If this is Saturday, it must be Cork! We boarded the bus bright and early, relatively speaking, and journeyed towards the city of Cork. On the way we stopped at Blarney Castle, home of the famous Stone of that name. The castle is in ruins and little remains except the keep, built in 1446 by Dermot McCarthy.

With narrow, winding stairways (wonderful for defense, terrible for tourists), 15th-century tower house looms over the valley atop a hill. The Blarney Stone
The infamous Blarney Castle
Blarney Castle
itself, said to give one the gift of eloquence when it is kissed, is at the very top of the battlements and is set into the wall. In order to actually kiss the stone, you are grabbed by the feet and suspended backwards under the parapet. Most of the group did this - even the ones who already have enough blarney in their systems - despite the warning of the locals that the guards do nasty things on the Stone when no one's around!

The castle has the most extensive grounds of any that we've toured so far, and it was a nice sunny afternoon to wander around, looking in the cave, crossing the bridge over the stream and searching through the fairy glade for the Little People
The Rock Close gardens of Blarney
Garden on the grounds of Blarney
(none of whom were out except one very short American tourist who didn't count).

The area also houses the mother of all gift shops, the Blarney Woolen Mills. This was a shopping arcade with two stories, chock full of every imaginable souvenir one could want from Ireland. Several of us had to have our fingers pried off of the doorframes when it was time for the bus to leave.

We arrived in Cork and found our hostel - much better than Finnegan's! - and set off in various directions to explore. We're always looking for Internet access, as most of you know from waiting for us to write to you, but no luck was had there. Dinner was everyone for him or herself, and the free evening time was filled with activities like Megan Popp's haircutting salon opening for business in the guys' room and watching TV in the lounge.



Sunday, October 14, 2001

From Cork we traveled back to Galway to stay overnight before journeying on to Corrymeela. The day was spent on the bus, in the rain, trying to nap, read, catch up on assignments which were due soon, and wondering "how much longer till we get there? ?". We got to Kinlay House, the hostel right in downtown Galway, in time to settle in before the evening meal. A few people had been able to leave luggage at their Galway host families' houses, so they set off to pick that up. The rest of the evening was spent as a guys' night out for most of the men, and the majority of the women watched "Pretty in Pink" together. Everyone was looking forward to getting to Corrymeela the next day, where we have two weeks together.



Monday, October 15, 2001

Back to Northern Ireland! We loaded up the bus again and set off for the Antrim Coast. The weather was a bit better, which tends to brighten our outlook, since we're out in it so much. We stopped for lunch at Yeats' Tavern outside Sligo, a place we enjoyed the last time... has it already been two weeks since we
Ultimate Frisbee!
Ultimate Frisbee at Corrymeela
were here?

We pulled in to the Corrymeela car park in the late afternoon and were greeted by Luke Mullet. Many in our group know Luke, and it's good to see a face from home. We found our rooms, in a section of the centre known as the Village, had a look at the gorgeous scenery and devoured our evening meal. Devotions were held later in the evening in the Croi (cree) and we got to sing together, something many of us enjoy.
The so-called push-up/sit-up club
The "push-up/sit-up club"

What a wonderful feeling to arrive at Corrymeela! I'm pretty sure we were all ready to take a break from city life for a while. We were greeted with smiles, a warm room with a fireplace, tea and biscuits, and clean beds, not to mention Luke Mullet, a familiar face from EMU who's volunteering here for a year. Corrymeela is located in Ballycastle, a tiny town of about 4,000 on the northern coast. The size of the town means we have to sacrifice a few things like daily Internet access and city nightlife, but in return we gain an incredible view of the sea, smog-free air, and lots of rest and relaxation. Another reason Corrymeela is such a blessing is because it marks the halfway point of our trip. Even among all the exciting hustle and bustle in the cities we've visited, a few of us have found time to figure out when we will be exactly halfway through our trip (noon on Friday the 19th). After a week of unpacking, packing, loading the bus, unloading the bus and starting the cycle again, two weeks here at Corrymeela sound like heaven!
--Mandi Dagen



Tuesday, October 16, 2001

Bunratty Castle
Bunratty Castle
evaluation and exams began today. We spent the morning reporting on the village studies which were done in the South. There will be a paper written by each group comparing the villages in the North and the South. The afternoon was a discussion time about the Culture Shock text, whether the stereotypes in the book were accurate or not. We also evaluated the various work groups that we'd formed back at the beginning of the semester and decided on any changes to be made for the remainder of the trip. Most people chose to stay in their groups. In the evening the semester as a whole (so far) was evaluated, and suggestions were made for changes in possible future cross-culturals as well as observations about the positive aspects of this trip.



There must be some more pictures around here somehwere
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)