Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ireland

I apologize for not continuing to update this blog while I finished my interim course.  I’ll do my best to recreate my experiences now, complete with pictures (check back to the posts from London and Wales for photos and more details). 
We spent the whole day traveling to Derry, Northern Ireland on Wednesday, the 28th of May.  Our first leg was a train from Llandudno to Holyhead, where we took the ferry across the Irish Sea to Dublin.  We had initially planned to spend that night in Dublin, but finding adequate lodging proved impossible, so instead our group was met at the port by a coach and a driver named Seamus.  Our bus was actually decorated with an 8-year-old’s rendition of a Dutch Windmill (I guess it won some contest, so it was displayed on the side of this minibus), but it was comforting for some of the Dutch-er girls in our group, and funny for all of us.  Here we were in Ireland, and our bus - which was named Gus, by the way - had a painting of a windmill on it.  Dutchness simply permeates our world.

We rode five hours with Seamus and Gus, crossing into Northern Ireland around 9 pm.  The town we were staying in, Derry, was a highly contested area in the recent unrest in Northern Ireland.  In fact, we watched the film “Bloody Sunday” in preparation for going, because the story that the documentary-style film is about took place in Derry.  As we drove north in Ireland, all the signs pointed us to “Derry,” but as soon as we entered Northern Ireland we followed signs to “Londonderry,” the English name for the town.  While in (London)Derry, we learned a lot about the struggles that continue, albeit mostly violence-free, today.  I think most of us felt like England was something of a bully, but that could be because we mostly heard the Irish side of the story.  People were surprisingly open and willing to talk about the issues, but of course our informants were a bit biased.
We had minimal class time while in Northern Ireland because our assignment was just to talk to local people to get as much of the history from them as we could.  We were also given about an hour-long lecture to give us a more straightforward version of the history, but most of our time was free to interact with the Irish.  This meant that we could also travel around the area a little bit, and on Thursday Julia, Alissa, and I took a train and a bus to the Giant’s Causeway on the northern coast.  It’s a striking land form: hexagonal blocks of rock surrounded by scalloped cliffs plunging into the sea.

Most of our time was dedicated to pursuing an understanding of the political and historical story of Northern Ireland.  I was mostly uninformed on the subject before visiting, and I’m glad to say that I could have an intelligent discussion of the issues now.

Posted by Emily MacLeod on 06/17 at 11:23 AM
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