Archive | November, 2014

A Look Back Into the Past – Glasnevin Cemetery

30 Nov

Last Friday on 21 November I had a co-curricular trip to Glasnevin Cemetery, the largest denominational cemetery in Ireland with an estimated 1.5 million burials.  Before the cemetery was established in 1832, Irish Catholics had no place to bury the dead, as the Penal Laws placed heavy restrictions on the public performances of Catholic services.  As a result, it became the norm for Catholics to conduct a limited version of their own funeral services in Protestant churchyards or graveyards.  On 21 February 1832, Glasnevin Cemetery opened to the public.  Daniel O’Connell established this burial ground so that both Irish Catholics and Protestants could give their dead a dignified burial.  Touring around Glasnevin Cemetery enhanced my knowledge of Irish history as we stood over the tombs of Irish revolutionaries and learned about their contribution to history from our tour guide.  Tombstones of different sizes and designs were planted next to each other.  Our tour guide brought us to the tombs of noteworthy individuals such as Michael Collins, Eamon de Valera, and Daniel O’Connell.  Walking into the crypt of Daniel O’Connell and touching his tomb through a portal cut into the stone was surreal.  Seeing the way his children were buried made me quite confused as their tombs laid in a corner stacked on top of each other, almost as if there was a lack of room in the crypt.  The room was ornately decorated, with mosaic patterns embellishing the walls.  However, there was a stark contrast in one area of the wall, as one side appeared more tarnished than the other.  Our tour guide noted that the walls had to be restored after an attempted bombing of O’Connell’s tomb in the 1970s.  The words “My body to Ireland, My heart to Rome, My soul to God” were also on the wall.  This was O’Connell’s dying wish, as he became ill on a pilgrimage to Rome.  Being able to visit Glasnevin Cemetery and learning about the lives of various individuals supplemented what I’ve learned in Irish Life and Cultures and gave me a better understanding of how present-day Ireland came to be.

– Christine Lee

When a land splits into two

28 Nov

I didn’t realize I was in Northern Ireland until I took out my phone. The top left corner where writes my carrier has a small “UK” sign added to it. We were standing on the other side of the divided land, where the Troubles hasn`t gone far enough to relieve the citizens from the pain. On the bus, I thought, this may be the closest I can get to a war.

What I can never forget was a wall, a huge thick concrete wall in Belfast that separates two religions in the city: Catholics and Protestants. They are also referred to as Nationalists and Unionists; they considered themselves Irish and British, respectively. Yet the picture of the wall is still haunting me. Why do things like this still exists? Isn’t it uncivilized? To live in peace, the government needs a wall to keep the two sides from being too close to avoid conflicts, and at the same time, it keeps them from interacting with, understanding, and forgiving each other. When a child is growing up all the way at one side of the wall, wouldn’t he unconsciously reckon the other side as a different world and not communicable every time he see this giant concrete object? And the wall which is like a mountain to a child`s eyes, wouldn’t he think it unbreakable?

But then I saw the drawings and signs on it, the miracle. There are sentences in every language; the ones who leave their notes are ordinary people, they may not use fancy words, yet the work they`ve done stroke me on site. It`s the world`s wishes. People from every corner of the world are shouting at that concrete monster in silence: “Peace! Peace!!” How could anybody ignore?

When the people who has actually been through this war standing in front of me, telling his stories, I realize that war is never far from us. But it is the worst thing one can ever experience. No one is safe. The winning side and the losing side—nobody wins when they both suffered. Even when you`re sleeping under your own roof, you will be afraid that a bomb may explode at your doorstep. It`s a physical and mental torture. China was in civil war decades ago. And it has been in chaos, when trust has fallen apart, and the only way they survive is to follow the rules and make the “emperor” happy. That is also something I don`t dare to imagine. Maybe that`s why the world wants peace. Because the ones who have been through wars will never wants them again. And in 20 years, I hope the walls standing in Belfast will fall like the Berlin wall.

Xiyue(Diana) Lizhao

Weekend in Cork

28 Nov
This past weekend I traveled to Cork, Ireland with a small number of my Northeastern classmates. It was a voluntary trip that we could chose to sign up for if we wished. When I was leaving to come to Ireland, my Nanny whom is from Ireland said to me “make sure you kiss the Blarney Stone!” I always kept this in the back of my mind and when the opportunity for this trip came along I jumped on it. The first thing we did on our trip was go straight to Blarney Castle and I went straight to the stone without hesitation. this is when an elder man instructed me on what to do when kissing the stone. I had to lay down and grab the whole poles above my head and trust him with my life as i stretched my head down into a gap between wall and floor and touched my lips to a stone. While this may not be one of Ireland’s smartest traditions, it did help me feel like I’m properly visited Ireland’s tourist attractions. After I kissed the stone, I walked away and remarked to my friend next to me that I was ready to go home. However I am glad that we did stay the night in Cork and visited the village of Cobh the next day. I had no idea what we would be doing in Cobh and was pleasantly surprised to hear what Cobh was known for. 
From 1848 to 1950, over 6 million adults and children emigrated from Ireland – over 2.5 million departed from Cobh. My Great-Grandmother left Ireland during that time and it meant a lot to me to be able to visit the last place she was in Ireland. I wasn’t able to meet her but i still felt connected to her and my ancestry. During my time in Ireland, I have felt very connected to the past generations of my family and am glad that I have been able to visit the places where they lived and grew up. I look forward to bringing my family members from the United States to Ireland in the future so that I can share all the amazing things that I have done and seen.
I am glad that I decided to take the journey to Cork and Cobh. I now feel pride with what I have accomplished and visited during my time in Ireland and look forward to sharing my experiences with my family and friends when I travel back home to the United States.
Tori Sullivan

Croke Park

28 Nov

I have never been a true sports fan but I must admit that visiting Croke Park or Páirc an Chrócaigh last Friday was a memorable experience that I thoroughly enjoyed. Home of the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association), this stadium has a haunting historical past dating back to 1920. During the Irish War of Independence in which the Irish Nationalists fought against the British, there was a tragic event known as Bloody Sunday on 21 November 1920 in Dublin. On this violent day, there were many killings throughout the city to total 31 deaths, 14 of which took place in Croke Park itself. Michael Hogan, a Gaelic football player participating in a match that evening, was one of the victims shot while on the field. The “Hogan Stand” was named after him in memory of his membership in the GAA and involvement at Croke Park.

To think that Croke Park was the location of such tragedy less than 100 years ago is unsettling and disheartening in many aspects. However, to see its growth in the past few years, along with the many games, concerts, and other events within the stadium, is uplifting. The stadium has come a long way from where it was during Bloody Sunday, and the history within makes it much more interesting. One of the reasons why I respect the stadium and association’s attribution to Gaelic sports is because it is a very neutral area. For example, on the tour we learned that the changing rooms for the home and visitor teams are completely identical because there isn’t technically any one “home” team- Croke Park is the home for each of the counties in Ireland. It is a place where Gaelic sport players can come to play in neutral grounds to demonstrate their talents against other players across Ireland. Unlike professional sports, the players on the teams are amateurs representing their county with pride and honor. They don’t play for the money but rather for the pure enjoyment they receive while on the field. There is little hatred that exists in the stadium as the fans join together to celebrate their Irish backgrounds by supporting the players. When I was standing there, looking out onto the field, I could imagine the unity that the stadium creates through the many games. My perspective on the sports world has altered due to my visit to Croke Park.

— Prachi Gupta

I May of Gotten The Gift of the Gab

28 Nov

A few weeks ago, I got the pleasure of spending the weekend with my parents. (I’m sincere, I promise!) Visiting me was the first time either of them had been in Ireland, well Europe for that matter, and I was determined to show them a good time. I must have spent an hour at least bothering the two of them about where they would like to go or what they would like to see and each time they replied, “I don’t care, we’re here to see you!” So, I settled it for them. The next morning it was off to Cork to see the infamous Blarney Stone. After taking the train to Cork, something we’d never done together, we managed to get ourselves out to the quaint little town of Blarney. If there ever was a village to fit the Irish stereotype, it was Blarney. It’s a gorgeous little town filled with family owned shops and pubs and beautiful, lush green grass. After walking through the town a bit, we finally headed into the castle grounds to see what all the fuss was about.

Blarney Castle took my breath away. The castle grounds were just gorgeous with flowers, bushes, and trees of magnificent colors and shapes. The grass was a beautiful vibrant green, perfectly manicured. There was even a rushing stream through the path with water so clear you could see each individual stone that made up the bed. Not to mention the lovely castle that sprung up magnificently from the landscape. I knew in an instant that it was the perfect place to bring my parents, Blarney encompassed all the magic and beauty I have experienced thus far in Ireland. As we walked up to the castle, I could see my parents taking it all in, surely amazed at the sights. We climbed the to the top of the castle, clambering up the narrow staircase, which is something my dad still loves to talk about. When we got to the top, we found even better views of the sounds along with a little old man sitting next to a black mat laid on the floor of the roof of the castle. Low and behold, to kiss the Blarney Stone, we had to sit on that mat and, with the help of that old man, bend backwards over the side of the castle low enough to kiss the lowest stone on the outer facade. What’s even crazier is that I got both of my relatively unadventurous parents to kiss the stone, not that either of them need the gift of the gab… After our adventure at the castle, we spent what seemed like years in the wool market, as my mom likes to shop about as much as she likes to talk, and got some fish and chips at a local pub. Before we knew it, the whole day was behind us.

I never would have thought my two, quite average American parents would find their way to Blarney Castle in the wonderful island of Ireland, but I am sure happy they did. As I continue to travel around Ireland, I continue to revel in it’s beauty. Though it reminds me a lot of home, the Green Mountain State of Vermont, there is something bit more beautiful about a foreign land. It almost seems whimsical, like I’m on the verge of discovering something magical that only exists on the Emerald Isle. I’ve learned a lot about the truth of Ireland, disregarding all the stereotypes I was brought up with before I came to live here, but there may be some truth behind the whimsical air that seems to attach itself to everything associated with the country. I can’t help but feel it every time I visit the countryside…

The Unexpected Similarities: USA vs Ireland Football Game

28 Nov

Last Tuesday, Northeastern gave us the opportunity to go see the USA vs. Ireland soccer game. During this game, we finally got to see both American spirit and Irish spirit to come together and form an unusual experience. Even though the American cheering squad was obviously at a disadvantage, I was amazed to see how many Americans attended the game (most likely students who are abroad at the moment). Americans have always been known for their die hard nationalism, no matter how dumb they may sound at the time (‘Murica), but I was surprised with how intense the Irish fans were about their corresponding team.  However, my surprise didn’t originate from some personal pre-existing stereotype of the Irish football fans, it’s simply that I didn’t expect them to value a form of entertainment to reflect as a part of their culture. Similarly to the USA’s football, baseball, and basketball, the Irish strongly associate their sports team with their national and cultural pride. For example, depending on their location, both the Americans and Irish typically cheer on their nearby sports team whether it is Leinster or California. I saw a similar instance for the major Hurling final that had occurred in the beginning weeks that I was in Dublin. It had never occurred to me that the Irish had such pride in these sports, very similarly to the pride that Americans have for our American football and Super Bowls. As I thought about it a little more, I started to understand why our professors had taken so much time into describing the GAA and other sports affiliates when discussing cultural aspects of Ireland. Even though we may be different in size and culture, I found a small comfort in being able to relate Ireland and the US at the football/soccer game.

Kissing the Stone

28 Nov

This past weekend some of my classmates and I traveled south of Dublin to the second largest city in the Republic of Ireland, Cork. Cork is in the south west of Ireland in the province of Munster. It is know for being the home of the Blarney Stone and many people argue that it is the best city in Ireland and should be the capital over Dublin.

At 8:30 on Saturday morning we all jumped on a bus and started to make our way down. 3 hours later we arrived in Blarney. Blarney is about a 15-minute drive outside the city of Cork. It is a quaint town that is home to the Blarney Castle and the Blarney stone. When we got off the bus, naturally, we ran off to kiss the stone and obtain the gift of gab.

I climbed the windy stairs up the castle with 4 of my friends to the top of the castle to kiss the stone while stopping to explore the many hidden rooms along the way. It was interesting to see and read about the medieval architecture and defense mechanisms that they used to deter unwanted visitors. Some things that they did to keep people away were use holes in the ceilings to poor boiling water and throw rocks at the invaders. It was fascinating to be able to see how much life has changed over the past centuries, and it made me think about my life today and all of the things that we are fortunate enough to have that people didn’t have back then.

This trip made me think about all the amazing things that I have been able to see and do during my time here in Ireland. It made me think about how fortunate I am to be able to have this experience. Most people will never get to walk the Cliffs of Moher, explore the Aryan Islands, hear first hand stories about the tragedies that took place in Northern Ireland during the troubles, and kiss the Blarney Stone. During the past four months in Ireland, I have faced some of he most amazing things and I am so incredibly grateful to have had this incredible opportunity.

-Katharine Brandow