To be a Traveler

Over the past couple of weeks, I have experienced two very exciting trips. The first was to Doolin (right outside of Galway) where I travelled alone for the first time! The second was with my two Holy Cross friends up to Northern Ireland – a place we could not have visited merely a decade ago.

I could easily spend this entire post writing about the murals in Belfast, but I really do believe the city has more to offer than its dark past. So, instead, I posted the murals I found significant at the bottom, and wrote instead about the two lessons both cities taught me about travelling. Enjoy, and I hope my lessons correspondingly convey the beauty of each city!

LESSON ONE: Travelling solo does not correspond with being alone for multiple days on end; travelling with friends does not justify being anti-social

When I boarded the bus in Cork to depart for Doolin alone, I was anxious as I anticipated how I would feel happy and excited for the next two days without my friends. Yes, I did have to embrace alone time, but I also was not by myself all weekend.  I learned that when travelling solo, I had to enjoy time alone, while also being completely open and ready to socialize. In any given moment, a stranger, who I could share great memories with, might enter my life. If I had not been  open and friendly, I could have missed a moment to connect with the stranger. Yet, as I was in Doolin, I could not remain in standby mode, anxiously waiting for the next person to talk to. Had I not embraced alone time, 40% of my trip would have been wasted yearning for something else. By the end of my weekend, I had become confident in my ability to embrace alone time while also embracing every stranger as a potential friend.

Three women (2 from Spain, 1 from France) who went from strangers to hiking buddies within seconds
A pic from my bike ride on the Aran Island Inis Mor. I experienced minor culture shock as I was the ONLY PERSON biking down the street. Instead of cars, there were seals accompanying me.

A week later in Belfast with my friends, I considered how open I was to strangers when I was travelling alone. I realized that when you are with your friends, it is easy to be so caught up with your group, that you forget to be open and friendly to every stranger that passes through. As I continue to travel, I aim to find the balance between enjoying abroad experiences with my friends, while also embracing every moment as an opportunity to befriend somebody completely different.

LESSON TWO: Behind all of the main tourist sights, communities always offer a deeper way for you to connect. 

First things first… it is hard to connect with places that are overly touristy. Sure, they are a great experiences; however, you’ve seen the best of the best pictures already. Plus, there are always way too many people around to enjoy. Here are my tourist-esque pictures with more significant pics to come! 

Giant’s Causeway… a MAJOR tourist attraction in Northern Ireland. So many tourists visit that within 5 years, they are going to have to put grates over the rocks to protect them.
Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge: another major tourist sight and something Game of Throne fans will likely recognize!
As you can probably guess: the Cliffs of Moher. Super beautiful, but you must do the full 20k walk to escape the massive amounts of tourists.

 

Beneath the main tourist attractions, very community has someway for you to connect more deeply with it it. In Doolin, it was the Aran Island where I biked the ancient streets completely alone. In Belfast, it was the murals that allowed me to connect with its troublesome history. I also loved Culture Night as well as the Victorian market that led me to experience the bright future the city seeks. 

The view overlooking the smallest Aran Island, Isin Mor showing pre-historic architecture
My 2 HC friends and I talking with a former IRA member who was in prison with Bobby Sands during the hunger strikes. He shared lots of stories. My favorite: IRA members used cigarette filter paper to pass notes to America… in return Irish Americans would send financial support back to Ireland.
Me signing the Peace Wall that separates Catholic from Protestant communities. Yes, it is still standing, and yes it is only only during certain times of day. ***Que American politics and ‘the Donald*** **History shows common threads, I guess**
Best cafe ever!! You only pay how much you think it was worth! Even better than the prices was the cafe’s fun decor.

If nothing else, Doolin and Belfast made me realize that I can feel exhilarated 85% of the time while I am abroad… it is just a matter of embracing every opportunity to explore new culture, embrace new people and to step outside of my comfort zone. Here is to chasing thrills in the best way possible!

(More pics below of the murals in Belfast! They truly do capture and past and the present of the city. I hope they speak to you especially given today’s modern conflicts.)

Bobby Sands mural from the Hunger Strikes; found in Irish neighborhood, Falls. Fun fact: Bernie Sanders was the only American politician to write to Margaret Thatcher about the terror Bobby was enduring.
A mural found in Shankill (the Protestant neighborhood in Belfast) that depicts how kids would wake up many mornings to their home being destroyed and their parent telling them to stay away from their old friend.
Another mural found in Shankill showing the guns that watched everybody during the years of troubles. No matter where you stand in relation to the guns, it looks like they are pointing at you.
A very positive mural found in Falls (Catholic community) about Belfast’s future.
Found in Falls; representative of Ireland taking Palestinians’ side in the war.
Mural of strong civil rights leaders who influenced Irish Catholics in their fight for rights; found in Falls
A beautiful mural about climate change; found in Falls
Words of wisdom; found in Falls
My favorite!! More words of wisdom; found in Falls
Found in Belfast city outside of a college pub; embracing culture and a bright future

 

 

Mood: A Kid on Christmas Day

I had the most enchanting weekend… maybe… EVER.

My Holy Cross friends and I travelled to Dingle on the West Coast of Ireland for two days. Simply put: 10/10 would recommend.

The first sight I saw upon arriving in Dingle was a dressed up donkey!! As an Eeyore-enthusiast, this donkey instantaneously stole my heart.

But I knew the weekend was bound to be especially grand when we casually saw a REAL LIFE dolphin on a hike through the cliffs. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of the dolphin; however, I do have pics from the cliffs overlooking where the dolphin was swimming.

What made the day even better? A quick, spontaneous swim in the harbor. Yes, the water was very cold, but once again, 10/10 would still recommend.

Proof that we did indeed go into the very cold water.
Cold, but still smiling!! 🙂

As we made our ways back towards town, we stopped multiple times to socialize with Irish animals. I’m ashamed at how pathetic we must have looked to locals as we excitedly talked to the animals that they see hundreds of every day.

Our night ended strong as we watched world famous Irish step dancers in the local pub, and slept well with 40 strangers in a hostel.

Sunday morning, I wanted everyone to be up and going by 8. Contrary to my wishes, everyone was finally ready by 10:30. As the saying goes, ya win some, ya lose most. Nonetheless, we wasted no time.  We spontaneously decided to rent a bike from a cheap shop in town, so we could easily explore the Dingle Peninsula.

Biking along the Dingle Peninsula reminded me of what Christmas felt like when I was in elementary school. Between the fresh air, magnificent views, animals lining the streets and endorphins pumping through my body; I simply did not want the afternoon to end.

As I dreaded our perfect bike ride ending, it dawned on me that this can be the first of many enchanting weekend like this. Nothing we did was completely out of the ordinary, nor did it cost a lot of money. In that respect, here is to seizing every opportunity to swim spontaneously and to enjoy perfect bike rides. That said, this weekend also prompted me to reflect on life for an extra minute. It pushed me to be mindful. To consider the fact that as I felt totally at peace with myself and nature, ordinary civilians in countries near and far were fearing for their basic safety. I have not figured out how to handle the juxtaposition that comes with realizing this. What I will say is this: if you feel completely safe right now, I really hope you take a moment to say thank you to the Man upstairs and consider how you can make this Earth’s gems more accessible to everybody. Peace and blessings, friends 🙂

Made a horse friend!! Peep the views she gets to look at everyday as she grazes!

 

Dingle Peninsula Views!

 

More Dingle Peninsula views!

Vibes’n’Times

Hello from week 3 in Ireland! I could not feel happier or more comfortable than I do in Cork right now.  I have had so much fun ~doing me~ but also continue to truly value this time abroad as an exceptional opportunity to learn and contextualize our world.

So first and foremost: here is the fun stuff! To begin… a clip of the amazing music I listen to regularly!

Next: here are pics from sunset walks. My friend Joe and I frequent a hill that overlooks the city.

Patrick’s Hill overlooking Cork City
Cork Lough (aka the pond)

I’ve also have enjoyed reasing everyday and meditating jogs around the city.

As I’ve been living the GOOD LIFE, I’ve also had the the opportunity to learn about Ireland’s history and how it fits into the country’s modern day politics. Though I love the books, sunsets, music and runs – I maintain passionate about understanding the race, class and gender norms here, and how they fit into the jigsaw of a world we live in.

So for those of you who are interested in history and politics, here is my insight to date:

So far, I have travelled to five different places throughout Ireland. Each city/town has given me goosebumps for both its breathtaking views and it’s enriching history. There is a clear paradox though; the prettier the landscape, the more difficulties local Irish people faced during the famine. The lucious green fields with marshes interdispersed throughout them made potatoe crops the easiest and most accessible crop for Irish people to grow during the 1800s. In fact, about two thirds of the Irish population lived on this potato diet while the elite had access to other foods, so it was these farmers that faced massive difficulties come the potato blight. Here are some pictures that demonstrate this troubling paradox:

Some of the land in Killarney that potato blight covered in 1845.
The Muckross House. The Herbert family lived in the house and were the elite who owned Killarney. They were said to be progressive landlords during the 1850s; however, they still lived off the rent of farmers who could not afford any of their bills.
Taken from the top of Torc Mountain in Killarney. It looks over the land that Irish farmers rented for years as well as the Muckross House.

I love learning about Ireland’s history and having many of my ancestors experiences revealed. At the same time, I suspect I will be battling this paradox a lot during the next two semesters. As I get to be a tourist in areas majorly dependent on the tourist industry that have also been burdened by some of my ancestors (not native to the Irish or Tanzania area), I am pushed to think about my roots in a nuanced way.

However, this very same history also helps me understand Ireland’s social politics today.

These breathtaking day trips have brouvht Ireland’s history to life. Whether it be the fields that potato blight filled years ago, an elite’s mansion or beautiful monuments in Dublin city – I have been exposed to the many sides of Ireland’s history. And as I have experienced each of these pieces of history, I am filled with a sense of pride for Ireland. They have overcome their unfortunate struggles and built a a country that I could not be happier to be a part of.

So how does this history and the trial and errors they faced shape modern day politics?

In a lot of ways, Ireland feels very progressive compared to Holy Cross. Pride flags line the streets and hang in small businesses’ windows. Locals have their fun shaming confederates in America, and bars seem to be integrated.

That being said, from a couple disturbing interactions with locals, I understand that as with the rest of the world… life isn’t quite that simple here. I hate to generalize; however, many of my interactions have outwardly displayed the safety and security that white men hold here compared to others. That being said, I remain hopeful as I continue to learn about others’ role in shaping Ireland.

I will most certainly expand my insight over the next couple weeks as I get involved with grassroots initiatives on campus. Specifically, here’s what I look forward to learning more about: 1. How has homogeneity shaped modern day politics? 2. The Middle East’s conflicts are clearly more relevant here than in Boston; what Is the general attitude towards immigrants? 3. How does Ireland’s history of oppression make the country more or less inclusive? 4. How will their way forward compare to America’s way forward?

Here are a few more pics relevant to Ireland’s history! Thanks for reading, and stay tuned if you want to learn more! Cheers!

A statue of Irish emigrants in front of Cobh Harbor. After 1847, “coffin ships” started transporting emigrants to Quebec and America to help them escape from the famine. In fact, within a few years, there were more Irish people outside of Ireland than within.
Cobh with its massive Catholic cathedral in the back.
Taken on the cliffs of Howth. In 1914, the Irish manage to sneak guns through Howth harbor for the nationalist Bachelor’s Walk massacre in 1914. The Brits killed a woman whose son was their soldier — the Irish took advantage of the opportunity to shame the British troops.
Michael Collins’ monument. He is well known for leading Ireland’s fight for independence.
Part of Michael Collins’ monument – if you look closely you will see a bullet in the woman’s arm from the Easter Rising! This rising in 1916 is said to have gained Ireland’s independence.

 

It’s a Charming Life!

University College of Cork

I arrived in Cork last week, and am very happy! In the midst of settling in, I have been moved by how charming this small city truly is. The history and  new lifestyle could not be more exciting to me; here are my four highlights:

  1. Small shops and markets line the streets here. Plus, all of the food is fresh and nutritious. This lifestyle would surely be luxurious in the US, but is completely normal here. Not to mention, street performers sit on every corner… and they’re actually good! Needless to say, I think I’ll stay!
  2. The police (called The Garda) are unarmed here! The Irish people have their fun shaming the American police system. Learning this kicked off my mission to better understand race relations with a more global perspective.
  3. Pubs are fun and also very charming (as I’m sure you can imagine). A couple fun facts: One pint of the local brew equates to a loaf of bread! Also apparently it’s slightly appalling to locals when women drink pints. Due to this norm, when the Obamas visited, they handed Barrack a pint, but Michelle a glass. Do I conform to gender norms orrrrrrr……
  4. Learning about Ireland’s history has been key to truly valuing my new home. The massive cathedrals in town are not only beautiful, but give insight to the religious feuds that have shaped Irish history and their modern day politics. The frequent rain and grey skies have also become significantly less annoying now that I understand the same rain and cool weather shaped the agriculture practices that led to the potato famine. I’ll spare you history lectures; however, I am simply captivated by the ways that history  is braided into everyday life here!

Pics are below with captions. Stay tuned; I plan to travel around Ireland to learn more about its history and politics over the next couple weeks. Cheers!

Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral: The Protestant Cathedral in the city. Spark note version of my Irish History class: the Protestants were responsible for the oppression of the the Irish Catholic during the 17th and 18th century. Today there are very few Protestants left in Ireland… most fled when the British left and they couldn’t find worthy spouses!

The River Lee: this river runs through Cork and is surrounded by small shops and markets. I’ve been advised NOT to swim in the river, but it is very tempting! FUN FACT: the river runs UNDERNEATH the city!

 

Onward!

The anticipation has been building. After 80 hour work weeks, piles of paperwork and hours of planning, the time has finally come for me to embark on the beginning of my yearlong adventure.

Customers at work keep asking me if I’m excited. The truth: It’s not that I’m not excited… life just feels surreal right now. What does living in a new country entail? What will it be like to be in a whole new country with my two best friends (shout out to Joe and Chris) and complete independence? What will living in two completely different communities be like? Is this year one of those times in my life that will transform me? Will it transform my friendships? Who will I spend my time with? What will I do during my free time? What will I learn from the new people around me? What adventures will leave me in awe?

I think back to when I was beginning my first year at Holy Cross. I never would have imagined the people and experiences waiting for me on The Hill. And as I reflect on my first day at Holy Cross, I know that just like two years ago, I have no idea what awaits for me this semester. Despite questions buzzing through my head, I am confidently ready. I’ve earned all my money, my budget is set and my bags are packed. It is time to step away from obsessively planning for this trip and embrace the unknown. Realizing that I have no idea what the world has in store for me is difficult to grasp. However, here’s to embracing the surreal and always living in the moment; I refuse to miss a thing.

Onward!