Archive | April, 2015

Dancing; slow and fast

17 Apr

Dance slow, dance fast

hand in hand

at once with all there is and all there’s been.

Feet placed, head lifted, feet flying and

all at once we take

our turn being led by and leading the world.

Dance well, dance quick

head up, wits and eyes and finger’s tips alert.

Alert to speak, alert to glance, alert to catch.

Alert to touch, alert to balance. Alert to fall,

to crash, to death. Alert to life. Life

to live. A dance to dance slow and fast

and when lost in place and lost in time

to twirl

and twirl

and twirl.

I’ve found my time here to be akin to a dance of sorts. I don’t really have any idea how to dance in any physical or artistic way – for clarification – but I can’t help but feel that I’ve learned something of the art in my time abroad.

I take the hand of my life abroad gently, tentatively at first. I let it lead. Guiding me through this country which is loved so well. To the Head of Howthe, to Galway Bay, and to the theatres of Dublin. Not passively, I follow its lead through these spaces and times. I take what I can from the dance. When to let the spark of excitement ignite – to dance fast – and jump with glee at the beauty appealing to some innate quintessence carried by both myself and the landscapes I dance through. When to sit, patient, and listen – to dance slow – to the experiences of those – as in Derry – who love their home but remember the tragedies which befell it only too well. When to become lost in a moment of music and vibrancy – to dance like a madman – and, well, dance like a madman at the Rosin Dubh or the Workman’s Club.

As tourists we play amateur ethnographers. We would be fools, however, to think that any bit of culture that we experience can be taken away from their place of rest. The time I spent in Belfast – for example – can only serve as a memory which will only dance with me long enough to feel the essence of the history present there; to feel the lives of others for only the briefest instance. Forever sitting in my mind as flashes of incomplete insight.

Some brief thoughts on complex concepts,
Until next time,
Greg Geraldo


The Morality of Translation and “The Blind”

17 Apr

Writers grapple with many difficult questions in their profession. Writers of poetry and prose, story and song all have similar mountains to navigate when creating their narratives. How do I engage a reader of my novel or the audience of my play? The same stories of love, trial, rivalry; of war, spite, and revenge, all have been told before. One of the questions I’ve found the most difficult to answer is whether or not my protagonist will be defeated. Will he or she die? If he does, will it be on his terms? Will she have earned the sleep of the just? Will she compromise her morals? We have to choose whether to let our young opponent win the chess match. Do they learn more from their mistakes in the face of defeat or will they benefit more by the encouragement engendered by success?

It was this stream of thoughts that brought me to question the morality of translation. In the chess match offered above, the more skilled of the partners has the choice of winning or losing and every time he navigates the implications of either option. He, like a writer, has the opportunity to create a reality for someone else. This is where the dilemma exists.

A conversation between two speakers; one French, the other Russian. Between the two is a translator, fluent in the native tongue of each conversationalist. As the conversation persists, the translator must relay as accurately as possible the words, the inflection, the idiom of each speaker. However talented our translator may be, there will undoubtedly be words in French without an equivalent in Russian. This, again, is where the dilemma exists. The translator must choose new words with new connotations to continue the conversation. The final decision on what words to use lies upon the translator alone. This discontinuity can be benign in small-talk or crippling in negotiation.

I began to think of a larger metaphor for this, some story that could be told to engage an audience and explore the morality of such translations. I came first to a love-story. A writer and his partner, afoot in the world. The partner is blind of sight and the writer relates the world to her with poignant, descriptive poetry. This, a direct metaphor for translating the world to another. The writer would be honest but eloquent. He would, in any case, truthfully relate the image to his partner no matter the beauty or disgust of the scene. He would stick to his moral code of honesty. He would be devout, that is, until the end. In the end of the story, he would fail. He would be presented with something to translate for his partner and it would be the ultimate test of his resolve. Perhaps before their execution, they are presented with a grotesquely horrific image of the world. The writer would choose beauty to translate over the reality. He would lie to her. He would be defeated.

This idea was floated in and out of my mind for a few of my weeks here in Dublin. Every now and again, I would explore some other possibility or aspect of it. It remained dormant for a while. Then I read Sean O’ Casey. Juno and the Paycock presents to us the world of Captain Boyle whose world is constantly being penetrated by the outside world. He manages the intrusions with pure denial. In his monologue and actions, he assumes control over his own life, where in reality he has none. In his denial, he affects his family around him; he perpetuates his delusions of grandeur and ignorance within his family. He translates the world for those around him.

Light bulb moment.

I started writing again, this time with new characters. A father and a daughter this time. The father a translator for his blind daughter. They are somewhere in Irish history, but where? After visiting Belfast, it came more clearly. Hearing accounts from Ex-Political Prisoners of children being killed and of families hiding in their homes for fear of being killed for their religious or political persuasion, I knew that the family would be living through the Troubles. More precisely, in the early 1970s in a Catholic neighborhood in Belfast, near the beginning of the more intense violence.

The father character, Frank, would be loosely based on O’ Casey’s Captain Boyle. He would provide benign explanation for the horrors occurring outside to his young daughter whose blindness holds the truth as a secret. Maggie, the daughter, accepts her father’s stories for truth. She is our insight into the Irish mentality of non-action, of preferring a narrative rather than reality. This idea comes from the romantic poetry written by Yeats and other poets about the West of Ireland and of the beauty and quality of experience of life there. We know from Irish history that the West is often neglected politically and has experienced intense poverty and oppression yet this is ignored in preference for poetic verse.

Another character is essential. He is a son, Sean (named after Sean O’ Casey himself.) Sean is fed-up with his fathers lies and is reaching a breaking point. He reminds us of the Irish mentality of building resentment and finally exploding without much ground to stand without the context of history. We’ve seen this in the current Water Charge protests around the country and in the 1798 and 1916 uprisings by Irish nationalists against British rule. Sean is arrogant and angry and loud, but aware and human.

A rehearsed reading of my one-act play, entitled The Blind, was performed exceptionally by fellow Lewis & Clark students on the last day of classes in the Black Box theatre at Dublin Business School.

This play served as a culmination of what I’ve learned of Irish Life and Culture; of art and history. Attached is a Word file containing The Blind.

Cheers for now,
Greg Geraldo

Oldcroghan Man

15 Apr

The first exhibit I looked at when we went to the National Museum was the Kingship & Sacrifice exhibit. In this exhibit there are four bodies dating back to the Early Iron Age that were found in bogs at various points throughout the years. One common thread to each discovery was that it occurred during peat cutting in the bogs. The bodies are preserved to varying degrees. Some were deteriorated upon discovery, others deteriorated as time passed, but the organs in some are excellently preserved.

20150327_153648The most interesting – and disturbing – of these bodies is the Oldcroghan Man. The remains were discovered in May 2003. The remains consist only of the torso. The head and lower body were severed either as part of the attack that killed him, or after. The body was dated to around 362 to 175 BC. The man is believed to have been over 25 years old when he died. The location of the body was at the border of two territories: Tuath Cruachain and Tuath na Cille.

It is believed that the Oldcroghan Man was in a position of high status in the society he lived in. His torso was well preserved by the bog so researchers could tell that his hands had not been exposed to heavy manual labor during his lifetime. The Oldcroghan Man was not the only body believed to belong to a high status individual discovered in the bogs. One injury suggests that the attacker(s) may have felt threatened by this man’s position in society. An ancient Irish tradition to exhibit submission was sucking a king’s nipples. However, the nipples of the Oldcroghan Man were cut off his body. He would have been unable to participate and therefore would not have been able to be a king. Much of the injuries to the Oldcroghan Man were probably meant to be symbolic as much as lethal.

When I went on a tour to Glendalough, the tour guide mentioned discoveries in the bogs. He told the group that the bogs were not a good place to hide bodies, because it allowed for movement, so whatever was buried in the bogs would not necessarily remain in the same location. However, regarding the bodies displayed in the National Museum, the bogs at least allowed for decent preservation so we can learn more about the past.

-Jami Bunton

Walled, Up

3 Apr

My hometown, Philadelphia, is well known for its murals and mural program; however, the friendly and (dare I say) sanitized mural art at home cannot even begin to compare to what I saw in Belfast and Derry.

Belfast is perhaps the most politically charged city in European history, save for the former East/West Berlin. Even today, nearly 20 years after the official end of the Troubles, there is a palpable tension permeating the air on either side of the “Peace” Wall. This, of course, was exacerbated by the fact that we were on a trip to learn about the lasting tensions from the Troubles.

The murals stood out to me, though, among all that we learned two weeks ago. The row on the Catholic side, standing in solidarity with other human rights’ violations around the world while commemorating those who fell in Northern Ireland, particular those who died in the Hunger Strike. The mural dedicated to the crisis in Syria particularly is memorable—it, to my mind, is indicative of the community’s global political awareness and great capacity for compassion. The Protestant murals seemed (to my biased/Catholic mind) to be more intimidating and even occasionally violent, but they appear to be based in the same nationalist passion that fires the Catholic community; they merely see themselves as part of a different nation.

The murals in Derry, particularly the wall of Free Derry, were equally poignant in their activism and political power. However, nothing I saw in the North of Ireland compared to the experience of the Annette McGavigan mural. Annette’s mural drove home, beyond anything else we learned, the true and lasting effect of the Troubles: the death of bystanders, whose only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time. When our tour guide, Garvin, relayed the story of her father visiting the mural every day to talk to his daughter, I found tears streaming down my face—the memory of the story alone makes me tear up. It can be easy to get caught up in ideology, but Annette forces us to remember that behind every thought, action, and manifesto are human beings: some old, some young, and all simply seeking to live their best lives. When conflict and ideology impede the ability to live, it is time to reevaluate the ideologies that began the conflict in the first place. Or, in the more succinct words of a signature on the Peace Wall in Belfast:

2015-03-13 13.22.29

–Casey Berner

Looking Back on Belfast and Derry

2 Apr

As my time here in Ireland nears a close, I find myself looking back on all of the immeasurable experiences I have had. And while there have been the touristy posts of the land, the modern museums and the beer factories, what I have found most incredible is the story of persistence found in Belfast and Derry.

While visiting Northern Ireland for one short weekend, I was overwhelmed by the history of two cities. First in Belfast, I learned about the area’s wartimes from two tour guides, one Protestant and one Catholic. Having grown up immersed in The Northern Ireland Conflict, which took place from the 1960s and is said to have ended with the Good Friday agreement in 1998, these two men were passionate about their involvement. The first being Protestant, this man was clear in distinguishing his separation from England. Many listeners were even more fascinated by the second guide, who stated that he had been imprisoned for killing a man during The Troubles. This was not uncommon, as according to CAIN, between 1969 and 2001, “3,531 were killed as a result of the conflict,” (Sutton Index of Deaths). And while the conflicts were said to be put to an end in 1998, clearly, as this statistic notes, this political and religious battle continued to tare Ireland apart years later, and great tension still exists today.

Another tragic story is that of Derry. Known in particular for “Bloody Sunday,” this 1972 peaceful march against England and unlawful imprisonment by Derry citizens left 26 unarmed civilians shot and 14 dead, killed by British soldiers. After hearing accounts from family members of those killed, it is clear that there is no moving on from this day. While both experiences, those in Belfast and Derry, were heartbreaking, I do not regret visiting these spots, as they illustrate the perseverance of this nation, while also highlighting that much more needs to be done to help these people reach prosperity and freedom.

– Kate Nichols

“Sutton Index of Deaths: Year of the death”Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN). Retrieved 1 April 2015.


1 Apr

I’d always planned on traveling but when explaining my decision to study abroad I consistently led with “I want to LIVE in another country.” At the time it wasn’t easy to articulate what that meant exactly. I wanted to not be tourist somewhere that wasn’t in the same region of the country I’ve lived in my entire life so far and probably will live in for the rest of my life. I wanted to really understand the culture, but that was just a vague thought. I wanted those “new eyes” all those romantic travel quotes were talking about. So as a girl who’d never flown nor been to Canada, which is basically my backyard, I applied for a passport, packed up and placed my life on hold while I spend three months in another world.

Well, after my trip to the North, while sitting in my Irish Life and Cultures class listening to Allan talk about “The Plough and the Stars” and how the Irish finally saw themselves in the rebellion (and didn’t like it) I had a realization. I have actually accomplished what I set out to do by living in another country. After months of this Irish Life crash course and a powerful trip to the North, along with daily interactions, I actually feel like I understand the entirety of the Irish psyche in such a complex way that I couldn’t exactly put it into words- which is exactly what I wanted. I didn’t want something I could’ve just read off a page, I wanted a true understanding. And I’ve definitely gained “new eyes” from the view from across the pond.

The Cross of Church, State and Cong

1 Apr

While I was searching around the National Museum, I stumbled upon a dark room with a bright box at the end of the hall. The contents within was one of the most beautiful crosses I had ever seen, every bit of it magnificently gleaming, covered in designs and animal carvings that were evident of careful handwork. An oak masterpiece dressed in sheets of bronze, intertwined with streams of silver, with points of deep blue stone inlaid within the cross made up this artifact. It was the Cross of Cong I was seeing, within the Treasury Exhibition, the most exquisite example of medieval Irish art form. Naturally I saw many crosses in my tour of the museum, smaller, larger, darker, brighter, a natural part of the religious Irish history.

On further inquiry, I found the multitude of other crosses in the museum didn’t hold the same historical context of this cross. The Cross of Cong is referred to in Irish as “an Bacall Buidhe” which translates into “the yellow staff”. This description of it adequately fits its history and cultural origins. It was first presented to Tairdelbach Ua Chonchobair (Turlough O’Conor), king of Connacht and high king of Ireland, by Pope Callistus II in A.D. 1123. This allowed O’Conor to assert that the Pope recognised him as the official king of Ireland, it put an end to the vicious fight for lordship of Ireland. In doing this, O’Conor could present himself as a supporter of the church and cleverly extract support from the Church for the benefit of his own political aspirations. This is one of the first times recorded in Irish history of the connection formed between the Church and State, a pattern that would repeat itself countlessly through Irish history, even in current day events. It is one of the last surviving artifacts of the Irish Medieval Church, it reflects Viking and Romanesque styles and was influenced by how Irish craftsmen were drawn to new artistic styles. There is a tradition presented with this cross that goes deeper than just being a gift, it is a symbol of the origins of the intermingling between the interests of religion and that of politics, being a reflection of each other in the laws and social trends.