So here I am, chilling after a weekend adventure to the gorgeous Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry and taking my exhausting midterm exams yesterday afternoon. The trip to Dingle was AWESOME. I would have to say that the highlight was sharing a very small hostel room with just a few other girls. It really wasn’t that bad, nothing to complain about or anything, although I have to admit it was just a little tight. Oh wait, did I mention I shared the room with 11 other girls?! Oh man, it was so cramped and just absolutely ridiculous, since no one else had to be in such a small room with so many people, but honestly, we were never in there except to sleep. Plus, it was a perfect bonding experience, since we all thought it was so hilarious! Dingle was 5 hours away from Galway, so on our way there we stopped and checked out the Blarney Castle and the cute little village next to it. The rest of our weekend in Dingle was spent riding on a huge bus through the roads on the mountains, stopping every once and a while and saying hi to the sheep, running around the breathtaking beaches and grassy hills, and visiting old archeological sites. My residential director, Dermott (he’s great! He always helps out everyone in ISA who has any problems- he even planned out my entire 10 day trip for when my family comes to Ireland when the program ends!) said that the sheep would run away from you if you tried to approach them. My two friends and I decided to try it anyway, and we ended up befriending a remarkably old sheep who we named Remington O’Hare! We also spent time roaming the tiny town of Dingle, which is a sea town right on the water. It was a wonderful adventure, but once we got back we had to cram for exams!
My exams were for History and Music, and although my professors prepared us well, I was totally drained once I had finished the two of them. They took 3 hours total, and the setup reminded me a lot of Advanced Placement tests I took in high school. Although the style of teaching here is different than what I’m used to at SeattleU, I have been learning a lot in both of my classes. We’ve covered thousands of years in Irish History, so I’m still feeling a little overwhelmed with dates and keeping everything together. But I’ve been thinking a lot recently about something that comes up literally every History class, and that’s the Irish Roman Catholic vs. English Protestant conflict. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, basically England was in control of Ireland for pretty much forever, but all of the Irish natives were Roman Catholics by the time the Protestant English Crown began taking much more interest in affairs in Ireland. The English Crown tried for years to convert the Catholics to the Anglican religion (the church that initially separated from the Roman Catholic Church), and after countless attempts, they were ultimately unsuccessful. As a Protestant, it has been really hard to hear and read about all of the unjust policies the Crown created for conversion, especially hearing about how whenever the Irish rebelled, the Crown would send soliders over to murder the rebels as well as innocent women and children. I wrote about one of these brutal conquests for one of my History essays on the exam. My professor shared a very personal story one class to explain how the divisions between Irish Catholics and Protestants are still present to this day. He grew up in Belfast in Northern Ireland, which is primarily inhabited by Protestants. He said that when he was a teenager, he was harassed on a city bus by fellow Catholic teenagers who mistook him for a Protestant. They stopped beating him up once he recited the Hail Mary prayer word for word, proving to them that he was actually Catholic. He said that in Ireland, your religious identity is your political identity. It basically defines who you are, even if you aren’t particularly interested in actually practicing the religion you identity as. Needless to say, it’s extremely difficult to hear about such terrible division between different groups of people. It’s a topic I’m definitely interested in, and I’m really glad I have the opportunity Irish history in Ireland, rather than in the States. It would definitely be a different experience.
So anyways, I have a long day of class tomorrow, along with a Sean-nos (Irish for “traditional”) singing workshop for my music class! Hopefully I don’t embarrass myself with my atrocious singing…