Ward ’14: A Little more Irish History

Darius Ward ’14 – Near the conclusion of the immersion trip, each student in my group was encouraged to visit one of several locations and blog about the experience afterwards. So where did I decide to go? Yep, you got it: another museum. I was not really sure where I wanted to visit initially. However a few of the local Dubliners mentioned the national history museum with a decent amount of admiration for the place.

Word-of-mouth really is a good way to attract tourists because the increasing amounts of positive feedback that I heard from the people on the street heightened my curiosity about what is actually inside of the museum. When you first enter the museum, it appears to be a gift shop or an apparel store. I distinctly remember thinking “oh yeah, this is going to be really exciting.” Sarcasm aside, the museum’s rich cultural aesthetic began to unravel immediately after I passed through the doorway exiting the gift shop area.

The three displays showing the bog bodies were the most intriguing aspect of the museum to me. Each display shows the remains of an individual that lived in the Irish swamplands during the Iron Age, hence the name “bog bodies.” I actually found the bodies on accident because they are kept in their own secluded area behind a small wall. I saw the partially disturbed, yet excited expression on people’s faces as the left from behind each of the curved walls. My curiosity brought on more excitement than I had anticipated. At the center of the first room I saw a small rust-colored figure that was clearly human remains. At this point I knew exactly what was going through the minds of the people leaving the small areas containing the bog bodies. I could not help but think “this is a little weird, yet I want to see more.”

So I decided to actually see more of what the museum offered pertaining to the bog people. I read a sign on the wall outside of the second bog body display. The description of him said that he was murdered by a sharp object during the Iron Age, which is evident by  the stab wounds that are still visible on the head. What I saw at the center of the room was shocking: the remains of only half of a body.  Another thing about this particular body is that you could still distinctively see the facial features of a young man with red hair. It was not clear how the museum managed to keep the bodies so intact.

After viewing the bog bodies, I walked upstairs to a section titled “Ancient Egypt.” The displays were neat, but nothing beyond my expectations for Ancient Egyptian displays in a museum. The next area that I visited was called “Viking Ireland.” It offered more of the Medieval theme that I had originally anticipated when I first heard about the museum. Two of the coolest things that I saw on display in the “Viking Ireland” section of the museum were the Medieval warrior attire/weaponry and the altar crosses. The attire was basically just a wiry metal shawl and a pointed helmet. The crosses were all different seeing that they came from many different places. For example, one of them was imported from France whereas the one directly next to it was from Italy. I just saw the various crosses as a reminder of how some countries can influence the culture of other countries, although this time only involved importing crosses into Ireland. I enjoyed the museum thoroughly, so there is no doubt that it was time well spent.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Bog Bodies Stirs Anleitner’s Interest

Jon Anleitner ’14 – During our last day in Ireland, we were faced with the task of picking at least one place Dublin to write about. I wanted to go somewhere that was not only going to be educational, but a site that would offer a unique perspective into history. Darius 14’ and I finally decided to go to the National Museum of Ireland to see some extraordinary remains of history. While there, we saw a display of the Bog Bodies, which featured two Iron Age bodies, Old Croghan Man and Clonycavan Man. These bodies were preserved in the bogs of Ireland and date back 2,300 years until their discovery in 2003.

The Bog bodies were so fascinating to see because of how well preserved they were. As I was looking at them, I could still see the creases and veins in the hands of the Bog bodies. The face of one of the Iron Age humans still held facial features that showed how the man looked when he was alive. Scholars suggest that these men were high status individuals who were wealthy and held power. Another theory proposes that these preserved human beings were sacrificed to the gods to ensure that there would be a good harvest the following season.

Ireland’s most contemporary poet, Seamus Heaney, wrote a number of poems inspired by bog bodies. It is sad that he died a couple of days ago, but his inspiration for writing poems of the bog bodies shows the significance they had in his writing. I enjoyed the exhibition of the Bog bodies, and I suggest to anyone who wishes to visit Ireland to go see them.

As I was flying back to America from Ireland, I thought about some of the conversations that I had with the locals. One man that I talked with asked me what are some of the major issues in America. I thought, well, racism still exists, but it is not as bad as it used to be. I told him that in the United States, we are becoming more open about what people can do and have. In response, the man told me that in Ireland, racism is not a problem there but religion is. He continued and stated that there is still religious conflict between Protestants and Catholics. Before he said this, I thought that religious conflict in Europe did not exist like it did many years ago. It was hard for me to understand the religious tension that still exists in Ireland because I have never felt discriminated against for my beliefs. While I was heading back to the States, not only did I gain more of an appreciation for my culture, but also the pleasure that we have to practice our beliefs without religious intolerance.

I am blessed to be a citizen of the United of the States and student of Wabash College. I hope that every Wabash student gets to go on at least one immersion trip before their career ends at Wabash. I think it is very important to the Liberal Arts education that Wabash students go explore another country to see how different it can be in other places. I have had the pleasure of visiting Ireland, and I look forward to seeing some other great countries around the globe!

Posted in Ireland Immersion | Comments Off

Aguilar ’15 Theatre Caps Amazing Week

Emiliano Aguilar ’15  – As our week abroad drew to a close, the other students and I were given an opportunity to choose our own learning experience in Dublin on Saturday. With half a day ahead of us, we had plenty of time to fill with different activities around the city.

Earlier in the day, I had toured the Dublin Writer’s museum. Of course, the museum included sections on James Joyce, who we had learned quite a bit about already, but it also featured sections on other authors linked to the city. I found a very interesting section on George Bernard Shaw and his theater productions, including his links to a famous theater in Dublin named the Abbey Theatre.

I had already decided to attend a play at the Abbey later that night, and luckily it was one of Shaw’s own plays: Major Barbara. It was neat to roam the museum and see the handwritten notes of Shaw when I would be seeing his work brought to life by experts a few hours later.

Professors Lamberton and Szczeszak-Brewer joined me that night for the Saturday night production. Other than Wabash plays, I had never been to the theater before that night, and Professor Lamberton warned me that the Abbey would “ruin me for other theater.”

She wasn’t wrong; from the very start, the cast and crew of Major Barbara put on a show worth remembering. The play explores poverty, religion, and charity, all which play major roles in the James Joyce pieces that we have read and will read this upcoming semester. In fact, the character of Barbara has a personal moral debate that is very similar to a debate that Stephen Dedalus has in Joyce’s The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

The Abbey itself can be an imposing building; the Theatre started in 1904 in Dublin, and has been active ever since, playing host to some of Ireland’s most famous playwrights and writers. Though the original building burned down some 60 years ago, the current location is still impressive. Modern pillars and walls of glass dominate the front of the prestigious Theatre, and it is located in the very heart of Dublin.

In the end, I feel blessed to have spent my free Saturday in Dublin at the Abbey. Walking through the doors was like paying a visit to some of Dublin’s greatest literary history, and everything about the play was professional. My only regret is a small one: they don’t allow pictures in the Abbey, so I couldn’t take a snapshot to bring home and admire in the years to come.

Posted in Ireland Immersion | Comments Off

Anleitner ’14: Immersion Illustrates Differences

Jon Anleitner ’14 - As an American citizen with no abroad experience,  it is hard to distinguish between your culture and one from another country such as Ireland. Some Americans think that they don’t come from America because their ancestors didn’t. During my time here, I felt very American. I began to truly understand what it is to be an American because I became more aware of how my culture is different from other cultures such as the Irish one. One of the biggest characteristics that differentiates the American culture from the Irish culture is that the dialects are different. Everywhere that I have been,  there are people who speak differently and talk in a manner that I am not familiar with.

During my stay in the Aran islands, I noticed that some people were speaking in the Irish language, which was interesting because the Irish language is an ancient language that only a few people can speak today. In addition, the music, the foods, and the architecture in Ireland are different from what I have seen in the United States. In Galway,  I had the pleasure of eating Hagis, which is fried lamb meat that is popular in Ireland. The texture of the meat was gooey and soft but very good at the same time. The buildings in Ireland are smaller in comparison to the ones in the States. Everything seemed to be condensed together in a way that made me feel like a smurf in a village. The history of Ireland has also helped me gain an appreciation for the Irish culture and the nation itself. We learned about the roots of Ireland and one of their famous writers, James Joyce.

While in Dublin, we had the pleasure of visiting the James Joyce house from the story “The Dead”. It was nice to see the window in the house that is on the cover of my edition The Dubliners, and is a large part of the story.  In “The Dead”, Gabriel sees Gretta (Gabriel’s wife) by the window and is filled with desire for her. He observes her stature and beauty in the midst of the shadows. Long story short, he did not get what he wanted that night because Gretta was reminiscing over her ex-boyfriend, but he managed to make it through the night while he sees the snowflakes fall on the window of his hotel room. We also went to the basement of the house, which is below the Liffey River that runs through Dublin. While down there, my colleagues and I got to see an old print stamper that was used many years ago. It is always nice to see old machines because it gives you an idea of how much technology has advanced over the years.

My experience with my colleagues and professors has been unique in a way that I believe I wouldn’t have had at any other college and/or university. I plan to continue to immerse myself in the Irish culture and to enjoy the rest of my time here while we learn more about James Joyce. I hope other students also have the pleasure to enjoy the experience that have had here in Dublin.

Posted in Literature in Ireland | Comments Off

Aguilar ’15 Taken by Irish Stories

Emiliano Aguilar ’15 – The trip is nothing like what I expected! I have never traveled outside my own country and just expected Ireland to be another country like the United States and the rest of the Western world.

Our final day in the rustic beauty of Inis Mor was filled with exploring the rocky hillsides of green grass and endless stone fences.  Before departing on a ferry for Galway, we were allowed to explore this wonderful landscape one last time. As I sat on the ferry, preparing for the inevitable motion sickness, I started thinking about the Aran islands in context to the immersion trip. Joyce’s work stresses a rejection of the past. He favors a “cosmopolitan Ireland” as opposed to the “primitive Ireland” we explored on the island. During our summer reading, we encountered a protagonist  in “The Dead” named Gabriel. Much of his conversation with fellow academic Miss Ivors centers around what she perceives as  his rejection of his own native culture. Like my peer Ryan Horner discusses, Joyce studies should not just focus on Dublin, but Joyce’s portrayals of the less refined “Irishness” seen in the west.

Upon arriving back to the mainland on Ireland, we took a bus to Galway and visited some sites around the city. Most notably and relevant to the course we saw the childhood home of Nora Barnacle, James Joyce’s wife. While outside the museum, which was closed due to austerity cuts removing funding from many public institutions like museums and libraries, Prof. Brewer gave a lecture on Nora’s childhood, events that influenced her relationship with Joyce and his works. However, the greatest part of the trip was approaching as we made our way via train to Dublin.

Our arrival to Dublin began with an amazing tour by the energetic and knowledgable guide. He himself was a university student, who toured us around Dublin. Much of his knowledge  revolved around the strong currents of political and religious conflict in Irish history. As he shared his stories, some humorous and even more tragic stories, I was enthralled in his ability to tell stories. He referred to events bluntly such as the comic history and jokes behind the amazing parliament building and the Irish parliament, which voted to abolish itself. He was knowledgable about sources of English imperialism and  gave us the history behind Dublin Castle and the Easter rebellion of 1916.Thanks to  his strong amount of energy in his storytelling, I am anxious to begin exploring the large city and witnessing the legacy of centuries of the conflicts throughout the city.

Posted in Ireland Immersion | Comments Off

Students Embrace Joyce, Ireland Culture

Ryan Horner ’15 – If you’re ever blessed with the opportunity to travel anywhere in Ireland, you can expect two things: plenty of talk about Guinness, and a full exposure to Irish pride. For a class studying Irish author James Joyce, the discussions of his work often turn into conversations about “Irishness” and whether or not certain things are more Irish than others.

Class biking earlier this week at Inishmore

In a way, this “Irishness” concept is similar to a sense of “Hoosierness” back home in Indiana.  Activities that have a greater connection to Indiana’s history have a positive connotation to Indiana natives, like basketball or the Indy 500.

The argument could be made that Dublin is the only city worth visiting for Joyce studies, since his books take place there.  However, that is a vastly oversimplified view. In both Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man and “The Dead,” Joyce’s characters are faced with tensions between the old Irish tradition/nationalism and a desire to figure life out for themselves. This nationalism is related to “the west” by a character in “The Dead” including areas like Galway, where Joyce’s wife is from, far from urban Dublin.

Our first day of this immersion trip was spent on Inishmore, an island off the west coast of Ireland. The island is remote; the population of the town is about 900, the size of our own college at home. The land is fairly rugged and filled with ancient ruins; it seems as if you’ve stepped back into another age.

Using bikes rented on the island, our class traveled yesterday to the northeastern corner of the island to visit the ruins of Dun Aengus. The island and ruins are a window into Ireland’s past, and due to the Irish tendency of nationalism that Joyce was not fond of, they are a wonderful opportunity to judge for yourself whether or not Joyce was on target when he critiqued nationalism.

The ruins of Dun Aengus date from over 500 years before Christ. We walked up a long slope dotted with stone walls before coming to the outside defenses of the fort, which are thick walls and buttresses of rock. The site was also a spot for religious ceremonies, before part of the land underneath fell away into the sea, leaving a sheer cliff. We stayed away from the dangerous edge for the most part, but the view was too good to pass up. Along with the ruins of churches, it was neat to see parts of the history behind Ireland’s fabled religious tradition.

In a large way, places like Inishmore and Galway represent a constant fear or opposition in Joyce’s works.  In the last scene of “The Dead” Gabriel decides that he must go west, back to the start, where his wife grew up. In the same manner, we went back to the start of Irish culture, where the natives still speak Irish, play traditional music, and live a life deeply connected to Ireland’s origins. The best parts were our interactions with the local townspeople: hearing them speak Irish, or explain the ruins, or elaborate on their way of life in one of the oldest sections of Ireland.

Posted in Ireland Immersion | Comments Off

Wren ’14 Experiences Locals in Rainforest

Luke Wren ’14 - We are in Tarapoto now, our last place we stay until we go back to the States. It is a city in the selva (jungle/rain forest). Today was a long but eventful day. We traveled to Cerich Sacha which was a very nice village with very welcoming people. When we arrived we had to walk across a stream via stones, and then up to a building with big open doors and cement walls. From the outside it looked very plain and like all the other places we have worked, but the sound coming from inside was all but plain. There was music and talking, it sounded like a party was going on, and when I walked inside there were at least 100 Peruvians of all ages and sizes (mostly small). There was an old man playing a flute and drum and people welcome us with big smiles.

At that point I knew this was unlike any place we have been before. The people were excited to meet us and were thankful for us being there to help them. They all stared (which we are used to as ‘Greengos’) but it was in a different way, there were smiles, waves, and thanks expressed on the locals faces. Shortly after we arrived and the supplies were carried over there was a ceremony for us. They had dancers and music and after, the male leaders of the village spoke one after another expressing their thanks. Dr. Wetzel spoke as well saying how we are very thankful for the opportunity to help and learn from one another.

Dr. Wetzel concluded his speech by pulling out a red and white hand woven belt, that was given to him from the same tribe two years ago. He said that the belt represented the bond that we have shared and continued to share to this day. This was a very fitting statement because it did feel as if we had a connection with this group. The kids and parents brought us freshly chopped coconuts so a drinkable size hole was exposed. They were delicious. After the coconuts we were offered some “homemade” adult beverages. These were served in half a coconut shell. One is called “masato” and you don’t want to know how they make it, but I’ll tell you anyways. Most of the time women will chew yucca (or something similar) into a pulp and then spit it out. The enzymes in the spit aid in the fermentation producing the alcoholic properties. I will never complain about any drink again. The other was a sugar cane drink. I don’t know how they made it and I didn’t ask.

Today I worked with Weston Kitley and checked people for lice. Surprisingly there were far fewer people with lice then I expected. After the campaign closed for the day me and some other Wabash men played futbol with the kids. They were very good and made us look silly at times.

Although I am very tired and want to go to bed I still can’t help but talk about the way we were perceived in this village. I have never experienced anything like it. The music, the atmosphere, the kisses from old ladies all were great, but there was a sense of unity that crossed the language, social, and cultural barriers. I will always remember the look on the old ladies face who walked up to Dr. Wetzel thanked him, gave him a gift and told him to pray for her because the next time he comes back to the village she won’t be there. The gift was a different colored belt. To me it was as if she was handing over the reins, allowing the younger generations to step up and lead as she placed it over his head.  It was a site I will never forget, but I hope it isn’t the last either.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off