Tuesday & Wednesday, September 4 & 5, 2001
Wednesday actually began Tuesday and just kept going. We said our good-byes,
many of them tearful, as we left the EMU
campus around 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday. The drive to Dulles began with very
high spirits, despite the tears, but we soon relaxed enough for many to
sleep through the whole drive. Check-in went smoothly, and we boarded
our plane on time. Forty-five minutes later we finally took off. The flight
passed pleasantly enough and we landed at London's Heathrow Airport around
7:15 a.m. Remember those forty-five minutes? They would have been helpful
as we jogged through the airport, customs ("Oh, the flight attendant said
we didn't NEED those forms... everybody out of line and grab a pen...!")
and made our next flight with a leisurely five minutes to spare before
they closed the door.
|More of the Irish Countryside
We arrived in Belfast around 10:00 a.m. on a rainy cool Wednesday morning...
SO green! We were met at the airport by Dr. Mervyn Love from the University
of Ulster, who has arranged much of our semester here. (You'll hear
his name throughout these journals.) The drive to Derry took about 90
minutes, during which most of us slept again, and here we were in Derry!
We checked into the International Youth Hostel, then some explored the
town while others slept. Our day concluded with a meal together at Thran
Maggie's, a restaurant in the nearby Craft Village, and then to bed.
Thursday, September 6, 2001
We began our (somewhat fuzzy) day meeting for class at Magee
College, where we'll have classroom space during our stay in
Derry. Mervyn spoke about some of the things we could expect to see, hear
and do while in Derry. He also underscored the safety and security measures
that Anne and Gloria had spoken about during orientation.
|Socializing at Magee
After class and lunch in the college cafeteria (Love those chips! That's
fries to you US folks...) we took a walking tour of Derry. The city
grew up around a monastery founded in 546 by St. Columba. He called
the place Doire (oak grove) which was later anglicized as Derry. This
tour was fascinating, as Derry has some of the best-preserved city walls
in Europe; they stand 26 feet tall and are up to 30 feet thick in some
places. Built in 1618 to defend the city from Gaelic chieftains, the
walls have never been breached. They've been restored so that it's possible
to walk the entire way around the old city, about a mile. There are
some fantastic views of the city from the walls.
Just beyond the walls lies the Bogside, the Catholic area of the city.
One of the most famous murals in Northern Ireland announces that "You
are now entering free Derry."
There are many gripping murals in this neighborhood which depict the struggle
for a united Ireland.
|Mural in a Catholic neighborhood
|"Free Derry" Mural
Our day ended with some much-desired free time for everyone to do some
exploring of his or her own.
Friday, September 7, 2001
A bus tour of Derry and the surrounding countryside was the first thing
for today. As we were still jetlagged, it was a little difficult to muster
enthusiasm at first, but we soon got interested in the history and scenery.
Our trip took us through the city up
into the Waterside, the Protestant area where some students will be staying
with host families. From the hill we were able to see the layout of the
city below. We then headed out to Culmore on the River Foyle, which flows
through Derry. This was the site where a boom was built across the river
in 1689 to prevent invasion. It was another cool, misty day, and the river
even had a few whitecaps!
|Group at Grianán of Aileach
| Grianán of Aileach
Back on the bus to head out over the border into the Irish Republic to
visit a very special site. Donegal's most impressive monument is Grianán
of Aileach, a circular stone structure measuring 77 feet in diameter.
Probably built as a pagan temple around 400 B.C., it is thought to have
been a site of worship for hundreds of years before. Later Christians
claimed the site and it became a royal residence until it was damaged
in the 12th century. The view is amazing, as you can see from the photos,
and the wind was intense...we worried some of our more slender women would
be blown off the walls!
It was agreed by many that "this was the best thing we've done so far!"
Back to the city to begin our cultural lessons at the Verbal
Arts Centre. We started with Irish language... "Dia duit!"
("Hello"... sounds like gee-uh didge... go figure) and then
progressed to Irish
dance. The low ceiling didn't prevent some of us from getting airborne
on the crossover steps! After all this work, the free evening was greatly
|People taking pictures
Saturday, September 8, 2001
This was a free day.
It was spent exploring more of the city,
|Grianán of Aileach
getting Internet access at the local library or the Internet café,
shopping, sleeping and doing assignments... remember those? Anne took
17 people out to Drumahoe, a suburb of Derry, to see a football (soccer)
game. After initial difficulty finding the right bus, we got there in
plenty of time and were even greeted by the directors of the home team,
Institute. They were thrilled to see us and welcomed us over the loudspeaker
before the game! The brisk winds (when Anne says to dress warmly...) inspired
a few people to buy team scarves and most of us drank hot tea or coffee
throughout the game. Unfortunately, although they stayed warmer by running
around, the team didn't fare so well and lost to Armagh City 1-0. It was
all lots of fun, though, at least for us! That evening many of us sampled
the local music in various locations around the hostel.
Peace statue in downtown Derry
Sunday, September 9, 2001
We divided into two groups for church this morning. Those who would have
Protestant host families during our Derry visit went to St. Eustace Cathedral
for Mass and the others with Catholic hosts attended service at St.
Columb's Cathedral. The Mass lasted a brief thirty minutes. The Church
of Ireland (Anglican) folks didn't zip through as quickly, however. As
it was not only Holy Communion Sunday but Confirmation Sunday as well,
service was a whopping two hours long. The bishop actually personally
apologized to us for the length of the service... guess he thought we
Americans couldn't take it! There were a few heads bowed in prolonged
prayer during Communion...
|St. Coloumb's Cathedral
After this, the afternoon was spent in various pursuits. Many were
doing their reading assignments in preparation for Monday morning class...
others slept, wrote journals, or called home. In the evening, the Celebration
committee (with help from other interested people) planned, shopped for
and cooked a delicious spaghetti meal with salad, bread and dessert...
all for less than two pounds sterling per person! It was great to sit
down together. After dinner a sizeable group had their first cinema experience...
we liked those sofa seats with no arm down the middle!
|A Celtic Cross
Monday, September 10, 2001
This morning's class was a lecture by Peter Pyne, a local history professor.
He began with Ireland's earliest known history and progressed up through
the 1600's. We learned many interesting facts about early Ireland.
Did you know... The earliest settlement discovered in Ireland dates from
7000B.C... There are no snakes in Ireland because the land bridges to
Britain were flooded before the snakes could get there from southern Europe
after the last Ice Age (sorry, St. Patrick...)... Romans never invaded
Ireland, so the Irish didn't get the benefit of having the Latin language,
roads, or the Roman judicial system... Half the people of Finland have
Irish genes due to Vikings invading Ireland and taking slaves home...
The term "outside the Pale" comes from those who lived outside the English-controlled
area around Dublin in the 12th and 13th centuries... We learned a lot
today and can't wait for tomorrow's lecture! A few hardy souls checked
out the gym at Magee College and joined up so they could play basketball
while we're here.
|Bloody Sunday Memorial
The rest of the day was used to catch up on reading assignments, run
errands, check e-mail and relax. A brisk game of Mafia (I have no idea...)
and some biscuits (cookies) ended the evening.