June 1st, 2016
Today went to visit the Navy base in Cobh. When we arrived we were greeted by commander Roberts. He took us upstairs to their conference room for some tea and coffee. We talked about numerous things such as gun control and politics. This trip has really opened my eyes about how much people actually keep up with what is going on in America. He then sets us up with one of his officers for a tour of “Fox Island”, which is the Naval Base for Ireland. We got to see one of their battle ships which was awesome! We got to see where all their ammunition is stored, as well as, simulators of their equipment. We then went to the dining room where they served us a complimentary delicious steak and salad lunch. We then wandered around Cobh for a while until it was time to go back to Cork for dinner.
May 12th, 2016
This morning we had breakfast in the hotel around 8:30AM. We then got ready for a tour at the Queens University. It is an extremely old university (1848). There was an extreme number of inventors that thrived from the Queens University. We then walked to the city hall at noon to further out knowledge of Belfast’s past political conflicts. We then went to a bar known as the “Perch”. It was a rooftop open area with a bar. It had a lot of colorful flowers. After a few hours of conversing we got ready to meet with our air coach at the hotel. As well as our tour guide of the “peace wall”. We drove beyond the downtown Belfast area. To the “suburbs”, and unfortunately there were no good stories. Ireland has terrible relations with the Republics and Unionists. There were terrible shootings and tragedies at almost every corner. We got to see the differences of both sides because only one street separate’s them. They literally put a “Peace Wall” dividing the two reducing the amount of crime. Whenever there are problems the police close the gates. People were commonly wrongfully detained in prison (Belfast Prison). This was an extremely interesting day.
May 14th, 2016: Coorymeela
We woke up and went to breakfast at 8:30 am on the dot because they really prefer everyone to be on time since it runs like a community. After breakfast we started our many activities for the day. We went outside in the front and saw a puzzle drawn by chalk on the ground. We had to work together by one-at-a-time trying to navigate the correct path through the puzzle. It was fun and a good communication builder. After reflecting on the use and importance of teamwork, we went to the backyard. For this activity we had to figure out how to guide a ball through a zig-zagged puzzle which we each held a part of. There was then a tea break, but we decided to play with the rugby ball for a little instead. Our next activity was a great learning lesson. In the chapel we each played a trading game with one another that ultimately ended up segregating us into social classes by our own choices. It showed us how power can consume us, because the “first-class people” made selfish decisions. My favorite part after this was visiting the Irish Sea. It was breathtaking and we got to explore all around the beach and rocks. After dinner we reflected on our time here by creating a web of yarn based on each of our experiences here. We then had a bonfire which was a lot of fun. We ended the night playing pool and foosball in the playroom, and having my favorite…toast and cocoa. I loved Coorymeela and ended up appreciating it more than I expected to.
May 13th, 2016: Belfast & Coorymeela
After breakfast and many laughs the following morning, we headed to the Titanic museum. It was cool getting to learn about the ship being built in the exact area we were exploring. The museum was even in an abstract shape of the ship, which felt like an awesome memorial for it. Our next stop was Storemont, which is one of the government buildings in Northern Ireland. After an educational tour learning about the politics and relations to the Queen we explored on our own for a little then headed to our next destination. As we were approaching Ballycastle (the town Coorymeela is in), we started to see more mountains and the Irish Sea. The scenery was beautiful and more country than city. When we all arrived none of us were sure what to expect because it seemed more like a retreat. We were greeted by Ellis and Annalena who was to be our guide during our stay. We arrived right at dinner time, and had a community dinner and helped clean up afterwards. We had a peaceful night and all hung out without Wi-Fi, which was different but I did not mind it. I was a little uncomfortable the first night but I was ready to give it a chance in the morning.
Hannah, attendee of the faculty-led Ireland and Northern Ireland Co-Cultural Experience program during the Summer of 2016, submitted the following blog posts as a documentation of her time abroad. These will be uploaded in a three-part series.
May 12th, 2016: Belfast
We all woke up and ate a buffet breakfast at our hotel. After breakfast we went on a tour of Queen’s University. It was a beautiful campus with a lot of rich history. We learned how their cost of education is much more affordable and a priority to their people versus ours. There are only two universities in Northern Ireland, Queen’s University and Ulster University. After that we went on a guided tour of Belfast given by Richard Meeley, who was a past convict during the Troubles. He was such a nice guy and had a passion for what he believed in, and was also very informative. We saw the murals drawn by different people expressing the sides they stood for, Unionist or Revolutionist. The Catholics and Protestants have been at war for so long and the bombings and violence has been almost never-ending. We visited each side of town and saw the effects of years of violence. One crazy thing was seeing the huge wall that divided the two sides to help reduce violence. Many of the people are praying for peace, but most never actually see it happening. It was an eye-opening experience, and almost every local discusses the conflict. After the tour we took Richard to the Botanic Inn pub for a pint and to hear more of his stories. Later, we had another nice dinner at Robinson pub and then went out on the town for our first night. We got to meet many locals and it was a great day!