Monday, September 12, 2011

Fulbright Orientation & 9/11 Ceremony

Yet again, apologizes for the following lengthy, picture loaded post. There is just so much to cover from the weekend! Mom and I headed out early in the dark rainy morning on Thursday to catch our 7AM train to Dublin. We were greeted just outside our door by the sweetest little dog who I of course immediately wanted to take home and keep forever - and maybe he sensed this because he walked us all the way to the train station, leading most of the way like he was guiding us through town and knew our destination.
It was sad to say goodbye to him when he dropped us at the front of the station and longingly watched us walk to our platform with his big puppy dog eyes :(
The train ride was peaceful as usual, with a cuppa tea and some music.
When we got into Dublin, Mom and I trekked to our hotel and checked in, then made our way to Trinity for her first Fulbright meeting. Most of the morning was meet and greet and some presentations by Fulbright and some speakers from the U.S. Embassy. 
In the afternoon we headed out on a walking tour of Dublin and hit most of the locations I had seen previously, but it was so interesting hearing more stories and history to go along with the the beautiful sights. 
We got to go inside the Irish Parliament House (which is now a branch of Bank of Ireland) but one of the rooms was just locked and never changed when the bank bought the building, and we got to go in and see it - Beautiful!
Then we went to City Hall and saw the elaborate tile floor with the Dublin coat of arms and beautiful dome ceiling. 
Thursday night we had dinner and a show with the group of Fulbright-ers at our hotel. 
There was wonderful traditional Irish music...
And dancing! The footwork in Irish dance is incredible, the show was very clearly geared toward tourists, but still fun and exciting!
On Friday morning we left Dublin to head for Newgrange. It was so amazing to see and go inside a structure that is 5,000 years old! 
The carvings on the stones outside (and some inside) were incredible. 
There is a "roof-box" (the top opening) above the entrance that perfectly aligns with the rising sun on the Winter Solstice. On December 19-23 for 17 minutes a narrow beam of light comes into the chamber floor (depending on weather conditions of course). 
It's amazing to me how dedicated these people were. They worked so hard and for so long to build this structure and it is still unknown to us today its full meaning, we know there were body remains found in the chamber, but many believe it was much more than just a passage tomb. The significance of the Winter Solstice to them is also unknown to us, but clearly it was very meaningful.

The area around Newgrange was beautiful also, perfectly green countryside.
After our tour of Newgrange, we hopped back on a bus and headed to the National University of Ireland Maynooth where we would stay for the Irish language immersion portion of the orientation.
NUI Maynooth has a BEAUTIFUL campus!
The left wing of this building was where our room was!
St. Patrick's College Maynooth is connected to NUI and they have a beautiful cathedral that we got to see in our short tour of Maynooth. 
I love all the beautiful stained glass and every little detail that was put into this cathedral. The woodwork on the pews were carved with different plants and flowers to represent nature giving thanks to God.

Another highlight of our campus tour was Russell Library. 
We were buzzed in and brought up a narrow flight of stairs to this amazing hidden gem of a library. Bright sunlight was gleaming in, bouncing off the amazing woodwork and accentuating row after row of ancient books. The rich aroma of old books create an atmosphere words cannot describe. 
The sweet little librarian was so passionate about her work, I could have spent days listening to her go on  and on about the manuscripts and archives she gently flipped through with her pristine white gloves.
Can't say enough about how beautiful this campus is. Second oldest in Ireland after Trinity. 

On Saturday we had some lessons in Irish language and it was actually really quite enjoyable, but so difficult! 
That afternoon we headed out to a Gaeltacht (Irish speaking region) and had a lesson in Irish dance! This was equal parts amazing/challenging/hilarious. The woman teaching us told grand stories about dancing all night and into the morning. When some people were struggling with the steps and kept on asking what they were doing wrong she had a great message about the way dance is taught. She said that she never tells her students they are wrong, even when they are going into competition. There is no need to even have "wrong" in their vocabulary, it only holds them back in fear of not getting it right. If they don't know the concept of wrong movement, they only have room for right. 
 She taught mostly in Gaelic which I thought would be very hard to understand, but movement is movement and it was simple enough to follow along. I actually found that putting movement with the words we learned earlier helped them make more sense in my brain.

After our dance lesson, we headed to Trim to eat dinner at the Trim Castle Hotel. It was a beautiful hotel directly across from the Trim Castel.
 And the food was great! I had a potato herb & smoked gubeen terrine as a first course which was delicious.
Then I had a vegetarian lasagna that was unlike any other lasagna I had before, but delicious and much lighter than expected
 Then for dessert I had the dark chocolate and sesame cake which had an interesting texture because of the sesame seeds, a much lighter feeling than it appears, and also delicious!
 A sleepy bus back to Maynooth, a good nights sleep, then Sunday morning a bus back to Dublin.

I was honored to be included in an invitation from Ambassador Rooney to attend a 9/11 ceremony Reflection and Peace. The President, Mary McAleese gave a very comforting speech that was eloquently presented. Edna Kenny TD, and the Ambassador's wife Mrs. Rooney read poems by Seamus Heaney and Billy Collins, as slides of artwork done by those affected by 9/11 were projected. The Irish Chamber Orchestra played beautiful music including an arrangement with spoken text of the Moore poem The Last Rose of Summer.
Ambassador Rooney 

President Mary McAleese

Ms. Patricia Rooney reciting The Names by Billy Collins with art work (art therapy!) projected

The Irish Chamber Orchestra

There were reflections by NYPD Lt.William Cosgrove with Mr. Michael O'Rourke, Mr. Thomas O'Rourke both Fire Fighter 1st grade and Mr. Dan Daly, Battalion Cheif FDNY
And a performance by The Soul Steps Dance Troupe of NYC - Stepping in Remembrance: The Beat Goes On. A moving piece with step and spoken word that they will also perform in NYC later this November. 
I am so honored to have been a part of such a wonderful moving remembrance ceremony. It is amazing how supportive and compassionate the Irish have been in my short time here so far. Their respect and hospitality for Americans was amplified in their 9/11 ceremony. 

1 comment:

  1. I could not have said it all any better, and I am so lucky to have Amelia here to share these experiences with.