I often get travel anxiety. Wait, anxiety is a strong word. I get this uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach days before I know I am going to get on a plane. On the other hand, I love to travel. There is so much to see in the world and even more to learn about so I rarely give up a travel opportunity. I simply go to the local drug store, do a quick calculation of the length of each flight, and purchase double the amount of gravel required for the trip to and from. Always double because you never know what might happen!
My most recent international trip took me to Ireland. Perhaps many of you saw the daily photo’s I posted on Instagram, and by default Facebook. I have never been much of a history nerd but Ireland provoked a new interest for me; history is fascinating and I think critical to my understanding of others and myself. I spent each day soaking in the history of Ireland. Let me start with perhaps the most basic but something I was not aware of. Ireland is an Island of its own and is split between Europe and Britain. As soon as you pass this imaginary line while traveling North the currency changes from Euros to Pounds and accents change while the forty shades of green remain.
As I landed in Ireland I felt like my body was taken over with excitement. I was nervous about this trip, more so than most others. It was the first time I would leave North America since my travels to Dar es Salaam (Shemine In Dar). I knew the impact on me would be lighter but it still had my mind wandering with what another international trip may bring to light for me. Who knew it was an interest in history. Immediately after arriving at the hotel my friend and I (we met at the airport) ventured into the city centre. As we walked around we found ourselves at Trinity College, one of the eldest institutes in Europe. Trinity College housed the Book of Kells, this amazing library. Each pillar of the library had a statue of a renowned philosopher but more exciting was the way in which the long hall was decorated by thousands and thousands of books. I found my happy place!
A couple days into the trip, we traveled to Belfast, Northern Ireland. I was fascinated by the concept of the Peace Wall. About a year ago the Peace Wall was introduced to me during one of my classes by a peer. The Child and Youth department at Grant MacEwan University goes on a trip with their students every year to Ireland and each student has the opportunity to sign the Peace Wall. Since then I have been curious about what signing the Peace Wall means; I learnt it means many things. I got stuck on the fact that perhaps by signing the wall I was giving meaning to the wall that I was not sure I agreed with. I wonder about who is reading the wall, is the wall that is dividing Catholics and Protestants solely for tourist purposes now in 2015 and thus an income generating attraction, what message and to whom am I sending, and so forth. So, instead of signing the Peace Wall I opted to sit curiously in front of it to ponder. I was surprised that the walls gates still closed every evening at 8pm blocking entry to the other side.
During this trip we were also introduced to the International Wall. My guess is that it is less talked about as it was not advertised on the pamphlet nor did my peer ever speak of this wall. It is about three hundred meters south of the Peace Wall and is decorated with murals representing the challenges faced across the globe. Most recently added was a mural welcoming Syrian refugees to Ireland. If there was a wall that I wanted to sign I think it would be this one. For a state that appears to be at conflict still (the Catholics and Protestants) to be aware of and publicly display the challenges others faces truly showcases the peoples care for humanity, at least in my eyes.
Following the historical tour, which included a stop at the Titanic Museum, we traveled outside of Belfast to hike the Northern Causeway Coast. I have been on many hikes but this hike had me in awe. As we walked along the upper edge of the ridge you saw the forty-shades of green Ireland is known for behind you, in front was the ocean, and below was a grassy cliff edge that we would eventually walk down towards to continue the hike back to the starting. As you walk the lower edge of the causeway you cross over a pier like section that was naturally created by volcano action. Thinking about heading to Dunluce Castle following our hike was the cherry on top. A now-ruined medieval castle perched on the edge of North Antrim coastline is the site of many movies. The trip up to Northern Ireland was perhaps the most fascinating thirteen hours I have spent in months.
While the rest of my days in Ireland were filled with mini adventures here and there, I remained mostly focused on the conference that originally took me to Dublin Ireland. The Reconceptualizing Early Childhood Education (RECE) conference was dominated by individuals in the early childhood field, which makes sense. I felt like the odd ball in the crowd as my field of study and practice is not within early childhood, yet I found many points of connection. I attended interested talks regarding early childhood care and education as well as presented some of my own work on spirituality and childhood. While presenting was great, it is always a good experience, meeting scholars from across the globe who are interested in my research was even more exciting. I had even read the works of some of these individuals that turned to me and said, “I am excited to read your dissertation”. Although it puts a new level of positive pressure on my research it also gave me the little push I needed to get back to Victoria BC and start reading and writing again. So, dear RECE friends, if you are reading this, thank you!
I could recount many other points of interest but I will end, at least for today, with a trip we took on our last day in Dublin Ireland. My friend and I ventured to the Ireland Jail, Kilmainham Gaol. This jail housed many children, women and man. The jail was run under three main rules: supervision, silence, and separation. Under the panoptic prison many individuals who were executed and jailed during the final years of the Irish famine (1845-1850) inspired the war of independence in Ireland (1919-1921).
Much of the tour was filled with sad stories of children as young as five years of age being imprisoned with women and men. Of men being executed for demanding their human rights be met and of individuals stories; those who lived out their lives in their cells including on individual who married his wife mere minutes before his execution. When I learnt that the original Italian Job movie was filled in the extended panoptic quarters I felt an odd sense of joy. To know that something so public defied the rules governing Kilmainham Gaol just years before was almost reassuring that living a life under constant supervision, separation, and silence was not life.
Now, two weeks later, I continue to think about my trip to Ireland. To think about how much history I am unaware of and the impact that it has on others and my life leaves me with a keen desire to learn more. So, if you have an interesting part of the world you think I should explore in order to learn more about the world we live in please do let me know. The travel bug within me has officially been unleashed, although my bank account feels otherwise. Until my next trip I will enjoy sleeping in my own bed.