Sunday, February 27, 2011

Pamela Louderback, Day 105-106 (wrap-up)

Today began with my last opportunity (in a long time) for a traditional Irish breakfast.  I will probably miss the black currant jam on soda bread the most.  After securing a luggage cart in the hotel foyer, I made the 500 feet trek to the airport lobby.  It took quite some time to check in and my bags were so heavy I had to pay extra fees.  Strange, since I hadn't purchased much during my stay save about a dozen books -- guess that's where the weight came from. 

The flight was delayed three hours because the plane that was slated for our flight had to turn back soon after departing the States and return to Canada.  Seems a passenger onboard had a medical emergency.  The delay provided me with the opportunity to shop for more books!  Unfortunately, the delay caused me (and just about everyone else on the plane) to miss the connecting flight(s) once we landed in Newark.  This required us to spend the night (courtesy of Continental) at the Radisson Inn Airport hotel. 

Most of the passengers were from Belfast, so on our shuttle bus trip from the airport to the hotel, it seemed as if I were still in Belfast if I just closed my eyes and forgot where I was.  (I must confess, I did do just that more than a few times).  I found early on in my tenure in the U.K. that Belfast, the city and its people, suited me quite well.  Inside of a week, I found that instead of feeling like a "stranger in a strange land", I felt as if I had finally come home after being gone for many years.  The weather -- the people -- everything -- seemed more comfortable, more familiar, more "real" than many places I had been/lived over the years.  So, I found myself closing my eyes one last time, pushing the reality that I was on a shuttle bus -- (in of all places Newark New Jersey) -- out of my head.

Once we arrived at the Radisson, I lent my phone to several Belfasters so they could call relatives regarding the updated flight plans.  Some of their final destinations included Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Orlando -- all of them "vacation hot spots".  We spent some time in the hotel lobby while I dispensed tips, tricks and helpful information on how to navigate the U.S. as well as sharing some great spots/attractions available given their final destinations.  It was almost as if I were a pseudo-tour guide to this crazy muti-city tour of the States.

In the morning, my $12 voucher covered a breakfast of two eggs, one piece of toast, a small serving of mushrooms, and hot tea.  There was just enough left over for a tip!  I took the shuttle back to the airport for my flight to Houston, and then on to Tulsa.  All in all, it took most of the day to fly from Newark to Tulsa with lay-over time included.  Although my body is back in Tulsa, my heart still remains in Belfast.     

Pamela Louderback, Day 103-104 (wrap-up)

The day began with another hearty breakfast at the hotel.  Since my train didn't leave until 11:00, I had a leisurely time of eating followed by packing.  I have to say that the stay was excellent and the staff extremely helpful and friendly -- it is an efficiently run establishment that I would recommend to anyone!

The rest of the day was spent traveling -- taking a train from Swansea to Bridgend, and another train from Bridgend to Rhoose Station, followed by the shuttle bus from Rhoose Station to the Cardif International Airport Holiday Inn.  All in all, the process took about three hours.  On the train ride from Bridgend to Rhoose Station, I met a lovely Scottish gentleman who was in Wales taking driving lessons.  We shared family photos (on our iPhones) and talked about the similarities and differences of what the process is to acquire a driver's license in both the U.S. and the U.K.

Once I arrived at the Holiday Inn, I ordered food and spent the remainder of the day in my room reading newspapers and watching the television.  Interestingly, Tulsa made their newspapers (as well as Dallas and Oklahoma City) -- with a page two spread on the blizzard-like weather from "Snow-maggedon" I.

The next day, I got a shuttle from the hotel to the airport for my flight back to Belfast via the Belfast City airport.  The winds were extremely harsh coming into Belfast which made for quite an exciting (and bumpy) last fifteen minutes of the flight.  When we landed, almost everyone in the airplane clapped heartily.  I'd have to say that it was the choppiest flight I'd ever encountered -- and I've been on much smaller planes in some pretty hairy weather before.  To make matters even more interesting, we had to circle a bit before landing.  Seems the Queen (and her husband) was visiting Belfast and had just landed a bit earlier at the Belfast City airport and to insure her safety, the security was at a higher level. 

I decided it would be much easier to stay at the Belfast International Airport hotel for my flight in the morning so I took a taxi to my apartment, packed up everything, and handed in my office and apartment keys to Queen's University staff.  Then, I took a taxi (30 minute's drive) to the Belfast International Airport hotel.  Upon entering the reception, I heard Christmas music blaring from the restaurant area.  Belfast had endured their blizzard-like weather as well (earlier in the season) and a rescheduled Christmas party was taking place.  I orderd some soup and a side of champs and joined the party!  I figured -- what a perfect way to end my wonderful 3 1/2 months' stay in Belfast.            

Pamela Louderback, Day 102 (wrap-up)

My day started with a hearty breakfast at The White House Hotel bed and breakfast which consisted of fresh fruit (the best pears I have ever tasted in my life!), cereals, nuts, yoghurt, fresh fruit juices, as well as the traditional eggs and bacon with all the trimmings (full English breakfast) and an added delightful side of traditionally oak smoked kippers from Abergavenney.  All of their food (bacon, cockles, and eggs) are fresh and free-range and are supplied from local Gover farms. 

I took a taxi to the Swansea University campus for my pre-arranged rendezvous with Angela Jones at 11:00 a.m.  Angela gave me a tour of the recently renovated International Development offices before we met up with Dr. Joy Porter, one of Swansea University's Native American specialists.  Angela, Joy, and I engaged in a lively conversation of the University, the American Studies program, American Indian issues, and language revitalization initiatives for a variety of indigenous peoples over lunch.  Since Angela had a previous engagement, Joy walked me over to the Keir Hardie Room 250 for my 1:00 guest lecture on assimilationist education policies.

After figuring out the technology, (with a bit of help from their IT folks), my lecture went off without a hitch.  There was a group of approximately fifteen people comprised of students, faculty, and administrators.  Jon Roper was even able to attend!  Given his ties to NSU, I was glad to see him take time out of his busy schedule to sit in.  Throughout the lecture, I entertained a variety of questions and there was also a Q & A portion at the end of the presentation.  All combined, the process took approximately 2 1/2 hours, although it seemed much shorter in duration.  The number and intellectual level of questions were a pleasant surprise to me; I was glad to see so many people interested in the topic.  Afterwards, two students stayed behind to engage in further discussion.  Joy walked me part of the way back to the International Development office, and, before leaving me, discussed possible grant ideas on Welsh language revitalization.  I am hopeful that this will provide me another opportunity in the near future to continue my research.

On my walk back to Angela's office, two other students who had attended the lecture stopped me to further discuss and ask additional questions regarding the lecture.  I was extremely impressed, given that it was raining pretty hard and neither students had umbrellas!  So there we stood, all bunched under my little umbrella discussing education policy and indigenous language revitalization for a good fifteen minutes.  I made my way to Angela's office before leaving campus to give my regards to her and thank her for such wonderful hospitality.  To my surprise, she invited me to dinner so that I could meet with an individual who was well placed in Welsh politics and language revitalization research.  I took a taxi back to the hotel to freshen up and Angela picked me up a couple of hours later.  We spent a lovely evening driving down the Gower coast to her house and on to the Carvery at the corner pub across from her house.  Angela, Pat, and I ate well into the evening and finished our talk over drinks in the pub.  It was a perfect ending to the delightful two days I had experienced in Swansea. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

Pamela Louderback, Day 101

My trip from Belfast City airport to Cardiff International Airport went well.  After arriving, I had just enough time to change my Bank of Ireland pounds before catching the shuttle bus to Rhoose station where I got the train to Bridgend.   Once at Bridgend, I had an hours wait before the train to Swansea arrived.  The train was delayed about twenty minutes due to mechanical issues (soon after leaving Paddington Station earlier in the day).  After arriving in Swansea, a short taxi drive brought me to the White House Hotel, a bed and breakfast near City Centre.  The White House is ideally situated for the bustling city centre of Swansea with its many atrractions, for the picturesque village of Mumbles, the gateway to the Gower.  Their brochure claims they pride themselves in a high standards of customer care paying attention to the smallest detail.  I would soon discover this to be true in a variety of ways.  My host - Mike Jones (no relation to Angela) helped me with information from timetables to tidetables and shopping to island hopping (situated only 2 minutes walk from the Uplands shopping centre that has banks, Internet cafes, restaurants, gift shops, and a late night supermarket. 

Angela Jones picked me up around 6:45 to join Professors Jon Roper and David Terry-Anderson at a Middle Eastern restaurant as it enjoys an excellent reputation.  I had a plate of kebabs (chicken, lamb, vegetable) with rice and carrots which was quite tasty.  We talked about a variety of topics ranging from Brad Henry (and his visit to Swansea), our research and administrative interests, and a bit of the history behind and charm of Swansea and its people.  We made an early night of it, wrapping up around 9:30 p.m.

Upon returning to The White House, I had planned to revise my Powerpoint slides a bit but had difficulties gaining Internet access on my laptop.  The proprieter, as well as a couple of boarders, attempted several times to hook my laptop up to the B & B's Internet service, without success.  After trying several things for about an hour, we all gave up and called it a night.  I have found that the Welsh are very helpful and service-oriented; this is yet one more example of service excellence!    

Pamela Louderback, Day 100

I had stayed up a bit late the evening prior putting together some interview questions for Gabrielle at St. Mary's University College, so I decided to sleep in.  My appointment was set for 11:00, and I had originally intended to take a black taxi tour of the Falls Road, as St. Mary's is on the Falls Road, but after hitting the snooze three times, I ended up scratching the "tour" idea for more sleep. 

Gabrielle and I spent a good amount of time talking about the history and origin of the Irish Medium program at St. Mary's as well as current course requirements, etc... at their teacher education programs.  We also discussed  the possibilities of reciprocal opportunities for NSU students International Study Abroad at St. Mary's with Paul Anthony.  Hopefully, in the near future, we will be back to St. Mary's with a group of NSU students ready to learn more of Ireland and educational policies.

After meeting with both Gabrielle and Paul, I took a taxi to Shaw's Road to interview Sean Mac Aindreasa in his home.  The interview went rather well and I found it quite an honor to be invited to Sean's house.  The taxi driver was very sweet and protective toward me when we pulled up to Sean's house.  Outside were three guys putting in a new sidewalk, and the taxi driver made me stay in the taxi while he went up to the house to inquire about whether it was the right address.  Turns out, it was Sean's nephews working on the walkway -- another good example of how the community pulls together to help each other. 

Pamela Louderback, Day 99

Yesterday, prior to dropping me off at my apartment, Eileen invited me to lunch.  Although I had been feeling a bit unwell, I decided it would be another wonderful opportunity to visit with Eileen about Belfast as well as learn more about her Fulbright adventures in Ann Arbor.  Thankfully, it was a lovely day for a walk.  Several days of walking in "wet" weather had not been helpful to my already "flu-like" symptoms. 

Lunch was a treat!  Eileen had made baked chicken, stuffed mushrooms, roasted potatos, turnip and carrot medley, and stuffing.  Not only was the food spectacular, but the company was very enjoyable.  Katheryn, Eileen's daughter was present; Charles, Eileen's eldest son, also joined us - about twenty minutes into the meal.  We engaged in lively discussion on a variety of topics, both personal and professional, and before I knew it, two hours had gone by.  I still had a few last minute scripting/outlining for my presentation and Eileen was expecting company later that afternoon, so we parted ways. 

The rest of the day was spent working on my presentation and packing for my trip to Wales.  I also did a bit of deep cleaning to the apartment to prepare for my eventual departure of Ireland.

Pamela Louderback, Day 98

Today was another splendid surprise that was a grand day out courtesy of Eileen, my Fulbright buddy.  We began our journey with Eileen picking me up at the apartment for an early start of 9:00 a.m.  Our destination was the Seacourt Print Workshop.  Seacourt is an artist print studio in Bangor catering to anyone with an interest in printmaking, from the beginner to the professional artist.  Bangor is about thirty minutes away from Belfast.  The exhibition currently on display was a 3D exhibition of a variety of medium (paper, textiles, glass, etc.).  Eileen is familiar with one of the artists and was keen on checking out the piece, as well as the permanent gallery of F. E. McWilliams, world renowned sculptor from Bangor. 

What I found to be of most import was the fact that education has been an essential aspect of Seacourt's activities since its inception. Its original premises were within a teachers' college and public classes in all techniques are still offered on a regular basis. Partnership programmes (residencies) with the South Eastern Regional College and local secondary schools allow students to work alongside professional artists. Targeted outreach for groups in health and community settings is also an important part of our educational strand.

However, we didn't make it to Seacourt as quickly as anticipated -- as we took the wrong road and ended up in Armagh.  (which actually worked out really well in the end).  By taking advantage of our mishap, our wrong turn provided an opportunity to visit the St. Patrick's Cathedral Armagh.  Scaffolding enveloped the exterior of the Church but the interior was relatively free of any refurbishing tools (and people).  Eileen and I were the only visitors that morning, and the caretaker was also present. 

Saint Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral stands on the hill from which the City of Armagh derives its name – Ard Macha; the hill of Macha. Less than half a mile away, on the adjoining hill, is our sister St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cathedral. (we did a "drive-by" of the Roman Catholic Cathedral)

According to the website, in recent years many visitors have returned again to Armagh, the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland, most likely in part to the fact that both Cathedrals are part of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board’s St Patrick’s Signature Trail. 

The Metropolitan Cathedral of St Patrick, Armagh, is set on a hill from which the name of the city derives – Ard Macha – the Height of Macha. Macha, a legendary pre-christian tribal princess – some say goddess – is also linked with the nearby Emain Macha, a major ritual site occupied from late Neolithic/early Bronze Age times which is regarded as having been the ancient royal centre of Iron Age Ulster. Emain Macha is associated with the epic Ulster cycle known as the Tain bo Cuailnge whose doomed hero figure is Cuchulain, the ‘Hound of Ulster’, and which features also the King of Ulster Conchobhar MacNessa, his adversary Queen Macbeth of Connaught, Conail Cernach, the Red Branch knights and the Boy Troop of Ulster.

After the ritual destruction of the sanctuary at Emain it is likely that the nearby hill of Ard Macha became the centre of the Ulaid (the local tribal group that gave its name to Ulster). It is this hilltop enclosure which St Patrick acquired and within which he built his first ‘Great Stone Church’. St Patrick’s earliest church in Armagh was probably ‘Templum na Ferta’, the Church of the Relics on a site close to Scotch Street, below the Hill of Armagh.

There were relics along the interior walls of the church, many encased in displaly cases, from the area.  My favorite items were 3,000 year old carved statues that someone had recently uncovered while digging in their back yard garden area.  Of course, the tie to St. Patrick is quite interesting -- it is on this same site that today’s Cathedral stands where St. Patrick decreed that the Great Church at Armagh should be the premier church in Ireland.  From the fifth century of the Christian era, the hill acquired a new significance with the arrival in Armagh of St Patrick. Patrick, as a boy, had spent some years as a slave in Ireland. He managed to escape and return to his family in Britain. After a time, Patrick claimed to have had a vision in which a man called Victoricus implored him to return to Ireland. Accordingly, he prepared himself for ordination and eventually, as a bishop, began his ministry in Ireland in, according to tradition, 432.

In his travels throughout the country, Patrick eventually reached Armagh where, following some hard negotiating with a local Chieftain, Daire, he was given his desired site on the hill of Armagh. In what is believed to be the year 445, he built his church. Whether or not the building was of stone, as the Irish name Damhliag Mor implies, is uncertain but there certainly was a great stone church at Armagh in the ninth century according to the Annals of Ireland.

All in all, it was a great day of historical and modern-day discovery as well as another opportunity to immerse myself in the areas culture, arts, and education.