Apologies for the delay in my posts. We wrapped up in Bundoran, headed to Dublin and then I was off to London for a second leg of my trip. Before I leave my Ireland blog, I must write about our day trip to the Giant's Causeway and the city of Derry or Londonderry. Both of these spots were very different. One was a geological and mythical landscape and their other a city grappling with the aftermath of The Troubles -- Northern Ireland's and the Irish Republic's conflicts over access and identity.
The Giant's Causeway
The about three hour trek to the Giant's Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was slightly clouded in when we arrived but as the morning heated up the fog burned off to reveal a beautiful coastline. We had a lovely tour guide named Megan that shared information about the geological significance of the hexagon shaped rock formations, the iron deposits as well as the mythical story of Finn McCool, the Celtic giant that wanted to fight with the Scottish giant named, Benadonner. For the entire mythical tale, click on the YouTube video below.
The People's Gallery -- Derry Mural art
After the Giant's Causeway we continued on into Northern Ireland to see the mural art depicting 1972's Bloody Sunday, the memorial art of innocent victims of The Troubles and the new art recognizing the many peace agreements attempts that started in September 1992. The murals cover the sides of government housing that are populated with the minority population, Catholics and other Irish Republic supporters. Many of the murals are dark and share the violent stories of fighting for equal access to jobs, housing and recognition of the Irish identity. We were privileged to meet the mural artists as they were touching up a nearby mural -- note the first photo in the gallery above. The Kelly brothers and Kevin Hanlon have traveled the world to paint and share their story about the murals. More information about them is available in the link below.
Walking around the area known as Bogside and hearing from the mural artists it became increasingly clear that much of the conflict regarding The Troubles dealt with civil rights issues. Although there is peace today and no violence has been committed since the peace agreement orchestrated by President Bill Clinton, there is an obvious sense that the two sides of the city, Derry (Irish populated) and Londonderry (English) are very different. The quality of life on the Derry side shoddy--spaces are cramped and the quality of life a little grungier. While the Londonderry side contains greater commercial properties, like malls and retail spaces, the area is brighter and cleaner. There is greater care given to keeping this section pristine while the Bogside, no doubt whom pay the same taxes, does not have the same level of care. Note in the lower photos the following images: the Peace Bridge, the Guild Hall (depicting Londonderry's history in stained glass), the red, white and blue of the curbs (Union Jack colors) and views from the city's walls.
The morning was filled with building my reading list byway of Niamh, our tour lecturer on The Troubles between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, and Mary Mulvey an ecotourism advocate. These lectures are integral to understanding the places that we visit as well as the historical signifiance and context of many points of interest. The guest speaker, Mary Mulvey, has a long history of working with many Irish communities, businesses and county councils to create viable, sustainable and culturally significant ecotourism ventures. Both lectures were engaging and deepened my perceptions of Irish history and its future economic prospects.
Tomorrow's journey will include a visit to Derry or Londonderry (both are acceptable names) and the mural art that depicts The Troubles and the slowly growing peace and reconciliation of the two countries. The murals are massive (about forty feet tall) and serve as objects of art to document memorials, points of conflict and the transition to peace. The video above contains examples from a couple of years ago. I will post updated murals in my next post.
Learning about this history of The Troubles has taken on new meaning since much of my exposure came from creative film renderings like The Wind that Shakes the Barley and The Boxer. Although these films were made by Irishmen, the backstory is always vital to understanding the sentiments exhibited in these films. Niamh's lecture helped to provide this very necessary backstory. The slides of her presentation not only clarified these historical points but also gave a vantage point concerning the motivations of the many uprisings throughout Irish history including the pivotal 1916 Easter Rising and its revolutionizing outcome -- the execution of its leaders at Kilmainham Gaol/Jail.
Horse Riding along the Donegal Coast
For the afternoon a small group of us decided to go horseback riding instead of kayaking or a ropes course. We were not disappointed, it was a beautiful afternoon spent riding along the coast in the sand dunes of Donegal Bay. The Donegal Equestrian Center was equipped with beautiful Irish horses. My horse was named Misty and she was a small filly that was curious and not a fast mover.
As we rode along the coast and viewed the bay, Mullaghmore (a distance castle), and the wildlife--flora, fauna and animals including cows, others horses and wild hares jumping across the pastures it was great to see the area from the vantage point of horseback. The sand dunes were filled with windflowers not commonly found along the coastal walking paths.
It had been several years since I've been on the back of a horse and this was another one of those lucky encounters in Ireland when things came together in order for us to have this unique experience of horse riding along a waterfront.
The coastal town of Bundoran is enigmatic of any small town that has a high and low season. As we enter into the summer months there are signs that this town is slowly coming to life through the clamor for restaurant seating and general street congestion of a once sleepy seaside town.
A group of us went on a morning coastal walk to explore the tide pools, rock formations and sea cliffs exposing the green, blue Atlantic waters.
On the three-mile trek we encountered a monument to King Lir (see button below for more information), algae and small amounts of dulse in the tide pools, and ragged sea cliffs that are reminiscence of the east side of Oahu like Makapu'u.
Ancient and modern Irish do not commonly eat algae even though it is plentiful along the shoreline. Slowly this practice is growing in addition to finding new ways to use the algae---spa treatments, food products and biomass for biofuel. Many of the fossils embedded in the rocks are polyps or feather fans and small shells.
One of the many surprising experiences of my visit to Ireland has been the heritage locations managed by the Office of Public Works (OPW). These government offices commandingly handle the education for tours with highly trained and passionate guides. So far my visits to Donegal Castle, Knowth Passagetombs and Kilmainham Gaol/Jail were amazing and some of the best tour I've had to a heritage or cultural site.
The other governing system that has been impressive are the mandates and grants offered by the European Union (EU) to encourage Ireland and other EU countries to clean up longstanding environmental issues like sewage, erosion and preservation of natural resources. I wonder how Hawai'i's cultural sites could be better handled with a stronger infrastructure of support and outreach.
Today we ventured to Sligo to experience the areas that inspired much of William Butler Yeats' poetry. A group of us lunched at the Yeats Memorial Building where his younger sisters, Lily and Lolly, handed his corresponances and managed his publications. These women were amazing entrepreneurs and artists of their time. Both learned the ins and outs and eventually managed a printing press, and perpetuated the local crafting practicing of spinning wool and knitting. Unfortunately William and his younger brother John (Jack), a painter, are highlighted predominantly in the building but the sisters are represented only in the cafe. The feminist reading of this space would not go over very well.
One of beautiful elements of the cafe are the displays of Yeats' poetry. Shown predominantly is "The Stolen Child" poem about children dying during the Great Famine (Gorta Mor in Gaelic) and being taken away by fairies. This poem explained their deaths and how the children were taken through the falls of Glencar, a beautiful waterfall seen below in the photos.
A day spent on W.B. Yeats would not have been complete without a visit to Drumcliff, the site of his burial. Yeats chose this graveyard and church because it sits at the foot of Benbulben, a majestic green tabletop mountain.
This small monastery off the main road to Sligo is very busy with coaches, tourists and sheep which never seem to be without green grass to chomp on. Despite the noise and chatter, looking up at Benbulben is as a peaceful place anyone could hope for to be in repose.
The small village of Glencolmcille replicates 18th, 19th and 20th century Irish village homes. Many of these homes depict the jobs commonly found in these times: fisherman, yarn spinner, and pub/grocer--traditional one-stop shop included legal work as well. These cozy homes were drafty and showed the simplicity of life during these times. Displayed across the walls were religious figures like St. Patrick and the Cross of St. Brigid a wicker or straw cross-like figure. To find out more about St. Brigid click on the last photo in the gallery above.
Sliabn Liag -- the Tallest SeaCliffs in europe
The 1.5 miles hike to the summit of Sliabn Liag resulted in drenched and frigid people but the view and landscape was well worth any momentary chill to the bone. Like the Cliffs of Dover in England and Cliffs of Morh down south near Galway, sea cliffs offer majestic and formidable vantage points. The cliffs today were truly awe-some. Not only did the clouds roll in to provide an ethereal and fairylike environment but the accompanying sheep were not bad company either.
Irish Lecture with Donnchadh O'Baoill
The morning started with a lecture from Donnchadh O'Baoill a Gaelic speaker and scholar. His lecture covered the vast history of the Gaelic language, the movement of the Irish to America in the 19th century because of the Great Famine and the deep, place-based connections of Gaelic to Hawaiian as a language and worldview. Frankly his hour-long lecture could have gone on for most of the day with his historical and linguistically references. Here's a fun one: the Celtic god of the sun is called Lugh and is pronounced "lun" and the word for fort is done pronounced similarly in Gaelic and English. Thus, the jolly olde town of London is really a Celtic name meaning the sun god's fort.
Mr. O'Baoill also shared how many Gaelic town and land features are named for the descriptive or mythological connections. Similarly in Hawai'i place names like Kapahulu and Le`ahi conjure up not only physical characters of the place but also the viability of land.
Lastly, he expressed the importance of the continued teaching of Gaelic in schools, mainly in the primary schools which would be equivalent to first through third grades. These grades handle all instruction in Gaelic as a means of establishing a foundation of the language for young children and then it is up to them. Another important element of this language learning is that signs all over Ireland appear both in English and Gaelic. Often times the Gaelic is given preference to the English (see the example below). There is a strong movement to establish speaking communities outside of northwest Ireland, the most predominantly Gaelic speaking counties, so that younger generations are able to converse and the language develops more of a stronghold.
The examples of this language integration is admirable and makes me think about Hawaiian immersion schools and how many school aged children are not taught in both state official languages of `Olelo Hawai'i and English...
(apologies for the lack of kahako as I'm typing on my iPad)
After a morning trip to South West College to learn about cutting edge sustainability practices and design, the group ventured out of Northern Ireland to an area called Cavan Burren. There are not many ways to describe this surreal place. Pictures nor my descriptions will never do it justice but I hope that it will provide some sort of representation of this amazing place.
To start, this area was forgotten and relatively unknown until two friends, Seamus O hUltachain and Grainne O'Connor, starting walking and exploring through the forests of Cavan. What they discovered over years of pondering and wandering was a Neolithic settlement complete with altars, walls, glacial limestones and fossils. Much of the landscape is covered in bogs so the ground shifts frequently either falling trees or opening up water holes filled with algae and primordial mud. Walking through the forest feels a lot like walking on a mattress or spongey floor. The trees are immensely tall and absorb much of the wind that beats through this valley system. Covering the forest floor are patches of primrose, shamrocks and moss. The space itself is a lot like walking through the Ohia forests of Volcano or Tantalus early in the morning.
Photos include: 19th century walls, Neolithic altar (broken), cave, plaque, sedge, trees, and berries similar to ohelo.
There are few places this ancient or preserved in Hawai'i so being able to experience an ecological system like Cavan Burren makes me feel very lucky.
Our day was spent learning about the integration of Christian ideolotry and symbols into pagan practices. These photos represent the pagan practice of tying gifts, in the form of ribbons, necklaces and pieces of fabric, onto a Wishing Tree (photo on the right). This tree communicated with the Otherworld. Right across from the tree is the altar to St. Patrick (photo on the left). This altar is where Christians prayer for many of the same reasons as the Wishing Tree.
When the Christians arrived in Ireland they handled their missionistic tendencies differently. Instead of abolideration of native religion and practices, as is common throughout the world, the Christians integrated pagan and Celtic symbols and practices into their systems of worship. While acknowledging the pagan practices, they also utilized the same sacred spaces further deepening the connection of place and practice for early Irish people. To this day, this is why many Irish citizens are deeply connected to land and belief.
Donegal Castle was next on the agenda. This space represents the loss of Irish control over their sovereignty and the changes under Brisith rule. The original Donegal Castle stands as the tall structure on the right with the fortress-like appearance. This was the original home of the O'Donnell family (Irish lords) and eventually the Brooke family who build onto the castle the Jacobian Manor that appears on the left. Much of the castle has been restored except for the roof of the manor house, but this is in the works. Many of these heritage sites we have visited are managed by the Office of Public Works (OPW). I will report more on this amazing government program for restoring and educating the public about historical cultural sites in a later post.
Many elements of the castle beyond it's manor addition were meant to be political messages for visitors and members of the household. The sandstone fireplace that appears in the slideshow is filled with Scottish and English motifs that were indicative of family orders and recognizable symbols of the time.
Overall the pace of the trip has been high speed with lots of see and think about. The connections of Ireland to Hawai'i are uncanny. From the belief systems and later means of control of the native people, the histories and understandings of these places and people are striking a deep chord for many of us.
Today was all about the bus or coach as it is commonly called in Ireland. Much like our Roberts Hawai'i busses that move from the crowded and compact Waikiki, our coach left the cramped and narrow streets of Dublin for the countryside this morning. The seven (7) hour trek would take us through several Irish counties, a stretch of Northern Ireland and eventually arriving in our temporary home of Bundoran in County Donegal.
Our first stop was in the County Meath to visit the prehistoric structures known as Passageways. These consist of three above ground burial chambers used by the ancient settlers of this area. Both amazing in size and mystical qualities, after forty (40) years of archeological study still little is known about the art and purpose of these structures.
The visit to prehistoric Ireland was followed by a visit to the modern day border of the the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland. The physical and formidable borders for these countries no longer stand as a divider but a symbol of peace and reconciliation. At the place of the once heavily weaponized British Army's border stop now stands a metal sculpture of a man and woman embracing. The female figure is draped in a pre-Christian garb and a naked many bearing a shield of protection and a down facing sword symbolizing the end of battle. These figures stand above a marble pedestal engraved with the phrase, "Peace for All."
After over six (6) hours on the bus through the lush and animal-spotted hills, we arrived in Bundoran to a gracious welcoming and dinner in a lovely pub called Mcgarrigles for bangers and mash--a regional specialty throughout the UK and Ireland. The sausages or bangers often times represent the local pork farmers special seasoning and consistency/texture of grinding of their pork. These were smooth in texture and had a hint taste of fennel. Super ono! The mash was delicious and the accompanying brown gravy was not the usual salty brown sauce many pubs serve but a light and savory sauce that married beautifully with the bottle of Cabernet from Chile we split at our table. Not a bad night spent with old and new friends.
We were all happy to return either to the pub or our cozy beds after a very full day.
Spent the day touring the City Center on a hop-on hop-off bus. The ease of movement I found when I was last here in 2010 has been clogged with massive tram construction across many surface streets. Dublin is a mess of rerouted traffic and coned off promenades which has resulted in congestion for both cars and pedestrians. One of the elements that is not lost in this chaos of movement is the cheer of the Irish people. Whether it was the gracious cabby, the playful bus driver or ever humble tour guide, the folk of Ireland truly know the importance of kindness to strangers. They are a testament to "don't sweat the small stuff" perspective. I suppose after 800 years of British oppression, a famine and massive economic troubles they know something about surviving. We all could use a reminder of that perspective from time to time.
The day also included a walking tour of the Old Jameson Distillery to learn about it's manufacturing from malting through maturing and then followed by a tasting. Thumbs up! Most of the day was spent touring the city of which included the iconic Guinness Gate (and many merry merrymakers) and a picturesque St Patrick's Cathedral.
Map of Northside Dublin.
Let's get this started! Some of my favorite parts of a trip are waiting at a gate either leaving or heading to Hawai'i. There are the tourists and business folk but it's the families and elderly couples that are my favorite. You get to hear the excitement of travel and the nervousness of people that don't really do this travel thing very well. It's a shared experience that if you're lucky enough to afford travel for pleasure and/or learning, shows all sorts of characters and situations. As my gate slowly fills up with my fellow airplane mates, I bid my home a fond farewell and look forward to seeing her next month with a refreshed perspective. A hui hou Hawai'i nei.