To all my readers and fans,
Sorry that I have disappointed you! I just have not found the time or motivation to update my blog. I’m always super tired after school and my internship and then on the weekends, I’m a traveling woman. I know, it’s a hard life but someone needs to live it. I promise to update my blog way more during this second half of my study abroad adventures. I swear. Ok so now, I need to majorly get everyone up to speed on my life.
This week is our midterm week, but instead of being all stressed out and not sleeping, I’m traveling throughout Europe and don’t have any classes. I do have a good amount of papers to write and presentations to work on … but that’s secondary to exploring.
On Saturday, several of the people in our program went to a traditional Irish farm, which was surprisingly really fun. It’s not that I thought it would be lame or nothing, but going on a farm is pretty uncharacteristic of me. Well, that’s what most people would think. Yes, I, Alyssa Goldman – a self-proclaimed low-scale JAP—played hurling, milked a cow, Irish soda bread, walked in the bog and walked on stones, did an Irish jig, played the Irish drum and pet some pupperz. Ok, the last two things aren’t really shocking and maybe the fact that I walked barefoot into mud isn’t either since I’m actually grosser than most girls, but you get my point. I wasn’t being a diva. See, I can be out of my element.
Then from Sunday to Tuesday, Carrie, Joan and I had a crammed in as much of Scotland as humanly possible. Our flight was at 6:50 a.m., and I literally did not sleep because I went to bed at around 1:30 a.m. and awoke at 4 a.m. But, none of us were grouchy, just excited that we were going to another country and being independent and shiz. We arrived in Glasgow and almost immediately got on a train to Edinburgh – Scotland’s second largest city, but most historical and tourist-friendly one. Once we were there, we did not stop walking, which is a good thing since I’ve been eating lots of delicious of food. We climbed the 287 steps to the top of The Scott Monument and explored the Edinburgh Castle, which had 25 different sections, lots of stairs and was huge. Anyways, we first went to the National War Museum, which of course, was really interesting, but I was not really invested in learning about it. I joked around with my friend Carrie that if we were alive back in the day we would totes be queens and princesses, and be pampered betches with lots of jewels, clothes and people waiting on us hand and foot. I also said that I was studying peace and glamour, instead of what I’m actually studying – peace and conflict.
We went on a tour of seriously, all of Scotland. We went all over the highlands, which was filled the most magnificent waterfalls, the Urquhart Castle (which is known for the Loch Ness Monster) and went on a boat tour. As I said, our days were jam packed.
On our final day, we visited the Glasgow Museum of Modern Art and then decided to go to the airport just a wee bit early for our 5:45 p.m. flight. Little did we know, we would be at the airport for seven hours because our flight was cancelled and then delayed until 9:45 p.m. It wasn’t too bad. We had a chance to do some homework and received a voucher to get some food. Plus, we were in Scotland so there’s no room for complaints.
Last week, I was in Dublin for about eight hours. I was such a world traveller. I spent Wednesday through Sunday in Northern Ireland to see the impact of ‘The Troubles’ (what I’ve been learning about this whole semester) and have some nonacademic fun. So for those of you who don’t know about ‘The Troubles’ here is a very simplistic summary of it. Basically, the country was split 48 to 52 percent – the 48 percent being the Catholics and the 52 percent being the Protestants. Most of the Catholics were nationalists/republicans meaning they wanted a united Ireland while most of Protestants were loyalists/unionists and wanted Northern Ireland to be a part of the United Kingdom. Yes, you read that right, Northern Ireland is not a part of Ireland; it is in the United Kingdom. I was confused at first, too. Anyways, lots of fighting ensued between loyalist and republican paramilitaries as well as with the British Army and police force. ‘The Troubles’ officially lasted from 1969-1999. So, we had the chance to tour the most notorious loyalist and republican areas with former paramilitary members from both sides.
Just to explain to you how intense the experience was, we sat down with an ex-loyalist paramilitary member who was in jail for 10 years. I asked him what he had done to get into jail and he explained how he was born into the conflict and he felt he did not have choice. But then, I asked him the question again, and he told us he shot/murdered a guy. And then he said, “Does that answer your question?” This normally doesn’t happen to me, but I had no idea what to say. I was sitting one seat away from what some may call a killer, others may consider a political prisoner and some consider a hero. It was unreal to be that close to the conflict, and it made it more tangible. The experience of being in Belfast, the center of the conflict, was an emotional one. The city is divided into different sections: one block will be a loyalist area and is marked the unionist flag while the block right next to it marks a republican area by an Irish flag. A 44 ft. “peace wall” separates the Catholic and Protestant areas. After ‘The Troubles,’ the wall has only gotten higher. I’m not sure how much the wall separates peace, but I got to write a message on it, and it read: “Conflict and war is not worth the many and precious lives lost. Love thy neighbor as thyself. Hopefully, one day peace will be possible.”
Our tour guide from the republican side, an ex-paramilitary member, took us to the Catholic part of a cemetery, and we went to the graveyards of former paramilitary members who were our guide’s comrades. He spoke of the hardships they overcame together and got a bit choked up at the site. He then took us outside a Catholic all-girls school, which is next to a protestant area, and loyalists would riot outside of it, yell at these young girls and throw homemade bombs at them. This story made everyone tear up. Just thinking about children having to suffer from this conflict was just upsetting and proved that it didn’t matter who you were – you were somehow dragged into the conflict.
During the nonacademic part of the trip, we visited the oldest whiskey distillery in the world. Thankfully, I hate whiskey. Anyways, just to show you how confusing Northern Ireland is, the whiskey brand had two different advertisements geared toward those who think Northern Ireland is a part of the Republic or considered to be Ulster territory. This confusion over whether or not Northern Irish citizens are Irish or British, weighs heavy on today’s youth and is why many of them join paramilitary organizations. Yes, this is still happening today! Overall, this trip was a life-changing experience.
I will be leaving for Germany on Friday and promise to blog about it! So come back to visit soon!