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Dubh Lin

Well, after a year of hoping, wishing, praying, and planning I have at long last made it to Ireland.  Currently in the capital city of Dublin, I am finishing my day as most of you are just getting off work.

It’s quite strange to be in a city where everyone speaks English, and yet everything is still so foreign. Despite the common language I question how well i can actually communicate with people.  I mostly get strange looks when i talk so I have refrained from doing so too much today since I am already rather sensitve and tired after a long journey.

John Mannion, a historian on Irish immigration in Canada, wrote this about early Irish immigrants:

Once the Irish peasant had left his native townland, he said farewell to kin and neighbours and to almost everything that was customary and familiar. For the first time, perhaps, he faced the world virtually alone, as a stranger. To his eyes the novelty of the move must have appeared overwhelming.  (John Mannion, Irish Settlements in Eastern Canada, 1974)
In a very very small way, I think i can relate.  Although I have travelled lots, this is my first time travellign in a foreign country alone. I don’t think i anticipated how overwhelming it would all see..for the first time facing the world alone, as a stranger.

Despite the initial experience at Dublin airport (not the friendly place I imagined), everyone has been helpful so far. I had my first day at Trinity College where I passed through the groves of tourists and into the Berkley Library with my very own TCD student card.  The head librarian was particularly lovely. She went out of her way to give me a tour, collect material, and provide me with direction to every place I would ever want to go.

Although my accomplishments today only involved staying awake and getting the basic of TC library use, my suspicions were confirmed. Most of the primary sources I need are scattered around Ireland at local history site (archives, libraries, museums, etc.).  I didn’t imagine there were any sources Trinity College didn’t have as it contains over 4 millions books. Copyright laws automatically give them a copy of every book published in England. I understood today why you need a master’s degree to become a Libarian! I can’t imagine having to catalog and organize all those collections!  In fact, only about 20% of Trinity’s sources are on the shelves for public access–the  rest are stockpiled or electronic.

I suppose some people are wondering (and the rare few maybe even interested) in what I am actually studying here in Ireland.  Well, this is all research for my classes at St. Stephen’s University and eventual Masters thesis.  Specifically, while I am here, I am focusing a research paper called “Cultural Transfer and the Irish Immigration Narrative in New Brunswick.”  Of course  i am looking at Irish settlement in all the Maritimes, but often New Brunswick (saint john and st. andrews) was an entry point for irish immgrants.

Here is a short excerpt from my project proposal which i am using as an outline which may give you an idea of exactly what i am doing way over here across the Atlanti:

The Irish Diaspora is a compelling field of study in both Canada and Ireland. With the help of the Ireland Canada University Foundation, I plan to explore in depth the historical phenomenon of cultural transfer and the Irish immigration narrative in New Brunswick and Maritime Canada. Through the study of the Irish exodus and the eventual settlement of Irish Catholics in New Brunswick (1765-1850), Atlantic Canada as a whole will gain a clearer understanding of the Irish contribution to Canadian identity.  This work will provide a detailed case study of early Irish settlement communities in the province of New Brunswick (particularly the Miramichi and Saint John regions) to determine what cultural traits and traditions were both left behind in the “Old World” and which were kept in particular “New World” settlements.  To achieve this research objective, a thorough analysis of the cultural transfer of early Irish communities is essential. I plan to uncover the ideals of these early immigrants, how their expectations were met (or not met), how the economic and social status of the Catholic immigrants in particular affected their migration and settlement choices, which folk traditions were kept and which were lost, and finally how fully appreciating the Irish Diaspora in the Maritime Provinces will help preserve Irish culture and enhance Canada’s Irish identity.

The Irish Catholic settlement communities in New Brunswick remained unassimilated longer than other regions of immigration in the region.  They still retain a vibrant Irish identity.  As such, these communities can be used as a case study for both Irish and Canadian scholars alike.  However, to be credible, this research initiative must have access to significant sources contained in the archives and libraries of Dublin; sources such as emigration and ship records, censuses, newspapers, and periodicals, as well as immigration and folk literature and related first-hand accounts. The Irish people in New Brunswick have much to offer both Canada and Ireland, but cultural transfer and the Irish immigration narrative needs deliberate attention and investment. As one scholar of Irish Diaspora Studies put it, “If Irish Diaspora Studies – and, indeed, Irish Studies – is to be anything more than a ragbag of predilections then we must make good scholarship our first aim.” (Patrick O’Sullivan, University of Bradford, 1997)

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Le Update

It’s saturday morning and I am sitting in my livingroom staring out my bay window at very green trees.  I think that summer has finally come.  I still feel the need to pinch myself because I dreamt of this moment all winter long and was starting to believe it would never come.  I don’t know about you, but this past winter felt so very long.  In some ways it was like I took a deep breath in November– the way you do when you are about to get a needle in your arm–and didn’t let it out until i saw the first buds on the maple trees, sometime in early May.  Six months is a long time to go without breathing.

But i am alive and i am well, and i have been told i am so very neglectful of my blog!  I have been waiting for something grand to report but it turns out that changes in life are mostly gradual–seldom happening all at once.

My roommate moved out last month and I have decided to move into an apartment just upstairs at the end of summer.  It’s nicer but a bit smaller which will be great because I have decided that I would like to live alone for awhile.  This is my attempt to bring some sort of balance into my own life. I can be a social butterfly and a people pleaser and if I don’t force myself into contemplation it may never happen–a tragic thing as those moments are among my most treasured. I am also hoping to start my Master’s thesis in the fall so I will need all the help i can get to concentrate!

In other news I started gardening. I don’t consider myself of the domestic sort and have never grown a thing in my life but I am actually enjoying the process.  It is a test of patience.  I like to see immediate results and I am not good at waiting but  I think there is lesson in this.  The more time and space and attention i give the vegetables, the better they grow.  If I am patient and responsible, i will see the reward of my efforts.  We are not used to waiting for things in our culture. We are not used to bearing the responsibility of producing that which we need to sustain our lives. We are only used to consuming it.  But there is this strange freedom and ownership that comes along with knowing that I CAN do it–that we all have that ability because we were meant to be connected to our land. I think the more we are connected and actively working with the land, the less we are inclined to abuse it.  But that is a blog for another time…

ON IRELAND…

I promised to keep everyone updated on my plans to go to Ireland.  The short story is that i still have not heard news from the research grant I applied for.  They said it could be as late as the end of June when i would find out…i was just hoping it wouldn’t take so long!!  But I am making plans to go either way. The grant will determine how long I can actually stay (probably 5 or 6 weeks if i get it, but only 3 if i don’t).  I have done a great job at compartmentalizing it all so far, but as the departure date draws nearer (2nd weeks of july, hopefully) the more anxious I am getting about it all.  I worked so very hard on the proposal and in many ways it is like the seeds i planted in my garden. It is a small action that represents a bigger hope.  For me this is more than just a trip, it’s part of a bigger dream.  Perhaps the only dream that is fully mine that I have ever dared to pursue independently–therefore, in many ways, it is like I am on the line, not just  a cool opportunity.

But I have had overwhelming encouragement and support which I will honestly say has been the only that has gotten me this far. I am so inclined to doubt myself and lose confidence so quickly.  People’s prayers and support have been like the wind that keeps me in the air. I am reminded daily that I can do nothing well when i am fully alone. I need people to help me “grow” my dreams, and I need to help others do the same.  I am learning that the things I deem worthy are valid and I have a right and a responsibility to pursue them.

So, despite the fact that I was overcome with anxiety last night and unable to sleep thinking about logistics and how I am going to make this possible if I don’t get the grant, i am stating with confidence that i WILL  go. Someway, somehow, I will be in Ireland a month from now.

If you are DYING to help me I could use all the prayer and encouragement i can get. If you want to donate, I actually have found a way you can do this and get a tax receipt.  You can donate to an education fund for me through  a non-profit organization within St. Stephen’s University  called “St. Stephen Association for Christian Education” (SSACE). Anything received for me will go toward this trip.  Unfortunately you cannot be an immediate family member (no parents or siblings…sorry mom!).   Make cheques out to SSACE (with my name in the memo) and sent to: SSACE; 8 main st.; st. stephen, NB; E3L 3E2….

or you can call toll free to donate: 1.888.call.ssu.   FYI this can be done for any student at SSU, in case anyone out there is interested! It is registered in both canada and the US as well for all you americans 😉

Well, thanks for following along in my journey and pushing me to share my life with you on this blog (i am still stunned that people want to read about my life).  I hope you, too, are enjoying these new summer days!

My New Relationship

confed-bridge-view.jpg

So I think I’m falling in love. Not sure, but it’s the only thing I can equate my feelings to at this point so I’m just going to go with it.

It all started about two and a half months ago. It was innocent at first and very unfamiliar–often overwhelming–and mostly I wanted to bolt. But I didn’t. And now here I am and I can’t believe that this is my life because I never expected to feel this way. I want to give my all my spare time to this new strange relationship. Suddenly it’s like everything has purpose again…

You see, I just started a Masters degree.

It was like jumping into cold water with my eyes closed. I tried my hardest to see what was down there and look around to make sure it was the right decision but there was no way to tell except to take the plunge. But once I dove in I found that the water was warm and full of life and that was more of a shock than the cold sting of the ocean in December.

I am studying Maritime Celtic history and literature. I know there’s no one out there who can really understand this, but I love it. I am particularly focusing on the poverty of the Irish and Highlanders as they arrived here and how that has since influenced our culture. My topic keeps getting more and more interesting and the more I learn the more interested I become.

I never ever expected to fall in love with my homeland. In fact, I spent most of my time growing up expecting to leave it. But it’s like there is something I just can’t get away from and it’s scary because now I know I might not ever be able to leave. I find myself driving around and wondering what things were like here 100 years ago…or hear a maritime accent and instead of being embarrassed I beam with pride. I look at the run down houses and the struggles people here face everyday and feel compassion and empathy…but never pity. How could I? This is where I come from. And the more I understand and uncover the buried treasure of my land, the more my heart softens. It’s like blinders have been taken off my eyes and I can see what was always right in front of my face.

How crazy do I sound? I drive around and just silently take it all in–the land, the architecture, the people-because there are no words to describe the way I feel. I am the luckiest girl I know. I have a place where I come from, a heritage, and I am part of what I see as a great story. It’s like we’re in the middle of it all, only part way through, so no one else knows how amazing the story is going to turn out but somehow I got a glimpse. The past, the present, the future all connected…and I get to live it. The only feeling I have ever felt that can compare that of falling in love…only without the fear that it won’t work out because it’s all already finished.

I don’t expect you to understand. I know that I may stand alone in this, but that’s o.k. I just wanted to share this new relationship and tell someone that I have never felt so whole.

And yes I love studying local history, literature, and language and I thought I should share that with the world. If that makes me crazy, well I guess I can deal with that.


Good Advice

"Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things"

Currently reading…

"'Tis" by Frank McCourt

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