Deep Thoughts With Shmee Shmee; A Memoir.
Now that the program is over I feel like I was in a coma for a month and had one big bizarre dream set in Ireland with multiple celebrity cameos. Now, I find myself doing the same thing as I did before I left, like nothing ever happened (which is eating more than the serving size of oatmeal raisin cookies). I did so many great things it’s hard to even process that all of it was real. I met Will Forte and talked about my future for gosh sakes.
I also met a lot of celebrities in the Irish Dance world. Dr. John Cullinane is an accomplished author and also the life chair of the An Coimisiun Le Rincí Gaelacha, or Irish Dance commission. I have contact info for a few people who have been on Riverdance or Lord of the Dance as well. I’m really excited to go back to dance class and tell everyone about my experience abroad! I’m sure they’ll love to see the plaque I got in Falcarragh!
This trip definitely exceeded my expectations. However, I wish I didn’t have any expectations to begin with. I feel like as a college-age girl your view of Ireland tends to be a bit romanticized. Movies like “Once” and “P.s I Love You” inspire hope that you’ll meet a nice Irish lad and he’ll write songs for you and you’ll get married and get a duel citizenship and everything will be rainbows and butterflies. But that’s not reality. Reality is waking up and smelling sheep crap.
I don’t think the trip would’ve been as fun without all the locals who generously welcomed us into their community. The last Tuesday we were in Letterkenny all of us went to our favorite place, McGinley’s, for trivia night. Trivia in Ireland is very difficult because…well it’s Irish. Fortunately, the bartender “Gaga”, and a local musician, Joe, kept coming up to us and giving us the answers, because they knew we had NO idea.
Another local, Conor, even offered to drive us from Glenveagh park back to Letterkenny. Conor taught me many phrases in Gaelic so now I can seem even more pretentious to my friends and family. Go raibh maith agat! Tá tú go hiontach!
This was the trip of a lifetime and I know I’ll be back to see more of Ireland someday. (And maybe then I’ll find my husband)
Irish Dancing, Screenwriting and Good Craic
My screenwriting partner Anna and I chose to write about Irish dancing
for our documentary project. I was hesitant at first because although
I LOVE to dance, I didn’t know anything about Irish dancing. Luckily,
my partner Anna is a wealth of knowledge on the subject because she is
an Irish dancer in the States. Throughout our project, we talked with
many different people and I learned about an art form that I have come
to cherish and respect.
The first part of our project took us to Falcarragh, which is in West
Donegal. We went to a Sean Nos (old style) workshop led by Joe Norton. During the workshop, I tried my best to keep up but, having no experience, I ended up mostly taking pictures and trying not to embarrass myself (I still ended up embarrassing myself). After the workshop there was a competition. There was a man playing the accordion and the irish flute and pretty much the whole town was huddled in the small visitor’s center. They spoke Irish the whole time but were extremely welcoming to our presence and we felt the deep sense of community. Anna competed in the competition and ended up winning a beginner’s prize. We talked about this experience in our project and discussed the traditions of Sean Nos dancing and the differences between that style and what we typically perceived Irish dancing to be.
Dance competition in Falcarragh
Next, we journeyed to Tory Island where we participated in a Ceili night. We ended up talking to a man who did “brush dancing” (a traditional style of dancing with a broom). His name is John and is a self-described ladies man (who also hadn’t slept in about 3 days). Once he sobered up the next day, we interviewed him about his background. He talked to us about his schooling and how he learned the dance. He said people on the island learn a style of dance and then they adapt it to for form their own unique way of dancing. He said he might recognize a dance on the mainland but it will be completely different than what he has seen on Tory. He was a very interesting and entertaining person. He was a contrast to the other people we talked to about Irish dance.
Ceili night on Tory Island
We ended up interviewing two women that came from a similar background and both are Irish dancers. One women, Alison, chose to go to school and become a primary school teacher and own her own dance studio. The other, Fiona, decided to pursue Irish dancing as a career and she went on to dance in Lord of the Dance. It was extremely interesting talking to both women because they had completely opposite viewpoints about the future of Irish dancing. Alison was worried about the future and thought the pageantry, Americanization and showiness of competitions was taking away from the traditional roots of the dance. The other woman, Fiona, was extremely hopeful about the future and said that Irish dancing has never been bigger or more globalized. She was honored that there are Irish dancing schools around the globe and people are being inspired by the dance. The two women were necessary interviews to make our documentary complete.
Overall, I really enjoyed working on this project. I didn’t know what to think going into it because I have never written a script. I ended up learning a lot from Anna, Frederick and the people we interviewed. I wouldn’t change the experiences we had for anything. The documentary project completely immersed us in Irish culture and led us into situations and adventures that we wouldn’t have otherwise pursed.
I still can’t believe the experience is over. Words cannot express how important these past 6 weeks have been to me. It was truly life changing. I am so appreciative of everyone I got to know. The group made being a Teaching Assistant a fun job instead of a stressful job. We supported each other and had a meaningful and fun experience. I feel so grateful and I miss it already!
Starting this final blog post was one of those things where there were so many good memories to write about I couldn’t think of a single one. Pathetically referring back to my iPhoto album of Ireland, I came across a picture of all of us laughing at Erin. I knew instantly I had to start the blog with expressing my care for for all the people I spent the last six weeks with. I had no idea I’d be coming out of this trip with a whole new set of amazing people that I luckily get to call my friends, and I thank you for that.
Eating a breakfast dinner
Aside from that, the past 6 weeks have been such an exciting adventure, and one to never forget! The new things I have learned and the people I have met, including the Ireland locals, have been more than a pleasure. I truly never expected to leave so depressed, but I wouldn’t want to have it any other way. Getting to know all the local bands and supporting them at their gigs was too much fun. I always enjoyed the excuse and reasoning of going to the bar every night as a “business occasion”. Being someone so in love with music I couldn’t phantom the heavy influence of the musical culture in Donegal. And for that I want to raise my children there. Haha um seriously though. Donegal was the most perfect place to have gone to study and I’m officially completely obsessed with it. The people, the sheep, the bars, the accents, the music, the ocean, the farms, the ice cream, the beer, the festivals and the RCC were all good craic! I think I may even miss the 700 mile walk from the Ballyraine halls to uptown… slash no I won’t.
700 mile walk to the apartments.
At the In Their Thousands EP launch. Local Donegal band.
Experiencing all kinds of different cities that Ireland has to offer, including Derry, Galway and Dublin was a lot of fun. Derry, you were a bit depressing but learning about the troubles was interesting and glad you have come to peace, for the most part. Galway, you gave me the worst sunburn of my life but I forgive you because I had a lot of fun walking up and down the crowded streets and sitting on the beach. Also seeing all the films in the Film Fleadh was a good time! Dublin, even though I was caught in a torrential downpour and shunned from a bar that I was of age to get into I still had a lot of fun. Touring the town on a double-decker bus was interesting and witnessing Rikkel’s hangover was hilarious. The shopping was good and the food was delish! I have so many memories for all the cities and can’t wait to hopefully visit them again. Ireland you were good to me, but now it’s time for a reality check and a diet! I MISS YOU ALREADY!
The Craic was Grand.
I’m going to keep my farewell short and sweet, just like the last six weeks were.
I have no words to describe the last six weeks. I’m honestly speechless. Everything I did on the trip was so unexpected; my breath was taken away a countless number of times. I had no idea I was going to enjoy so many different foods. I had no idea I’d meet amazing locals and form lasting connections. I had no idea I would form great friendships with the 16 people I started my trip with.
Before the trip I told myself that my motto for the six weeks, would be “Yes.” I planned to say yes to every experience offered to me. Because I mean why say no? By saying yes I was able to taste the deliciousness of Garlic Mayo, which I probably the best creation ever invented. I discovered that Guinness is a pretty great tasting beer. I was able to discover new music, and make friends with the local bands. I was given the chance to explore other areas of Donegal with local girls, and really experience a real Irish town. I stayed up until the sun rose my last night in Letterkenny, with new friends, because I said yes. I danced every night I had the chance, with no worries of falling on my face. I even jumped off of a high dive into the ocean while in Galway. My yes mantra undoubtedly made my trip the ultimate experience.
Looking back on the trip and my life before the trip, I’ve realized I’ve probably missed out on so many amazing experiences by saying no. By simply saying yes I became more and more confident as the weeks went on. I have no regrets, and isn’t that what life is really about?
These six weeks in Ireland really made me think about life in a different way. I was able to conquer so many fears. And I must say that I would not have been able to do it without the amazing sixteen people that were on my trip. We all supported each other in so many ways. It sure did make saying yes a lot less scary. Now I feel refreshed and ready to say yes to the next experience to come my way.
Understanding their Troubles
Throughout the trip in Ireland, I think our entire group has come to appreciate a new understanding of the Troubles in Ireland. For those who do not know, the Troubles was a period of conflict in Ireland and especially Northern Ireland from the 1960s until the late 1990s. Many of these issues arose from poverty and an equal rights movements. In the 1960s, Catholics in Northern Ireland did not have the same basic rights as other citizens of the country. Alongside the fact that the country was still torn on being a part of the United Kingdom. The majority of these conflicts were terrorist-like attacks from the I.R.A. or Ireland Republican Army, a group that was a sort of militia or gang. The IRA would attack UK policemen, protestants, and innocent civilians throughout the years. On the other side of things, the UK government prevented civil rights marches and would not penalize soldiers who had shot protesters.
This is still a very modern issue for all of Ireland. The last 15 years have been quiet for most part, but the Troubles is something that many adults have vivid memories of. We learned about the Troubles in a multitude of ways on the trips. First, we watched a documentary about The Battle of Bogside, which was one of the first big events of The Troubles. During this time, a few blocks of the town Londonderry were declared as “Free Derry” and part of the Republic of Ireland.
Secondly, we were able to visit the town of Derry, a town twenty minutes away from Letterkenny in Northern Ireland. Derry was and still is a hotspot for The Troubles. The Battle of the Bogside and Bloody Sunday both occurred there. In Derry we were able to visit the Bogside and went through the Tower Museum. Also on the trip we visited the Nerve Centre, a multi-media center that helped to create multiple documentaries on the Troubles in Derry. Through these documentaries our group was able to get a historical understanding of the conflicts.
Later on we saw a documentary from a visiting filmmaker that had personally dealt with the Troubles as a young child. She showed a documentary based in modern day Derry about women putting on a play as a way of therapy with their experiences during the Troubles. Through this documentary we were able to understand the conflicts and their affect socially on the community.
In the last week we saw two very powerful films. They were Bloody Sunday and Omagh. Bloody Sunday followed an event in the very early years of the Troubles in the 1960s and Omagh followed an IRA attack six months after a peace treaty was signed. These narrative films recreated the action of the events on the screen quite dramatically. We had learned the history, met people that were affected, but to finally see the events unfold in front of our eyes really put the whole conflict and pain into perspective.
There were many positives to this trip, but really understanding the problems that this country and it’s citizens has gone through has helped all of us appreciate the peaceful and happier Ireland today.
Slán go fóill (Goodbye for now)
When I attended the informational meeting for Screenwriting in Ireland on October 31, 2012, I was going because I knew I wanted to study abroad in college and Screenwriting and Ireland seemed like the perfect combination. As soon as Frederick gave his presentation I was hooked. Now, 10 months later, after 6 weeks studying Screenwriting in Ireland, I know my feelings of excitement and longing to go were justified and worth it. This trip was incredible and I can’t believe it’s already over.
Before coming to Ireland, the most foreign place I had been to was the Canadian side of the Niagara Falls - or perhaps Chinatown in New York City because honestly, that was more exotic than the tidbit of Canada I saw. I’m so glad my first experience abroad was in Ireland, and in Donegal specifically. As I am currently sitting in beautiful but crowded Killarney, County Kerry writing this, I can tell you that when people say Donegal is just as beautiful as the touristy parts of Ireland, they are right. Living in Letterkenny for 6 weeks, being completely immersed in the beauty of the country and witnessing the friendliness of the people was a once in a lifetime experience (though I hope I can one day have that experience again because it’s so special).
Where else could you go and have a random bagpipe band just show up and starting playing outside of your apartment?
On Saturday when we said goodbye to Ballyraine and to Letterkenny, I shared on Facebook:
Screenwriting in Ireland is now complete, but fortunately my time in Ireland is not. I’m so sad that this study abroad trip has ended; I had such an amazing time working, writing, and going crazy with everyone in our group. Even the not so great parts (mice, Galway homeless men, being attacked multiple times by P.J. and David, all of my bumps, bruises, & blisters) were memorable and the REALLY great parts have been some of the best of my life. Saying goodbye to Letterkenny today is going to be really hard, but I’m very excited to meet my family today for a week of touring Ireland and London! One more week ‘til Skyline, and it’s going to be a great one!
I don’t know how else to put it. I’m so grateful I was able to come on this trip. Thank you to Frederick for creating this program and accepting me into tit and thank you to my parents for making it possible for me to attend. Thank you Beth for being an awesome TA and becoming a great friend. And thank you to the other 15 members of my Irish OU family for helping make this trip so life changing.
We could still be patriotic on the Fourth of July! McGinley’s gave us free pizza and these hats!
A special thank you to the people Letterkenny for being so welcoming and making our stay so homey. I wouldn’t live in Letterkenny full time, but for 6 weeks it was a great place to stay. The RCC, Earagail Arts Festival, McGinley’s Pub, Gaga, Vincent, Jeremy, Gary, Moira, Conor, and Paul all hold a special place in my heart (as does Ballyraine, but that’s more of a love/hate relationship).
Flexible Comedy was just one of the amazing events we had the privilege to volunteer at for the Earagail Arts Festival.
Volunteering for the festival also got me into the JOSH RITTER CONCERT! After missing Mumford & Sons in Dublin while in Galway, I was extremely happy about this.
We were so fortunate to travel to some incredible places. Though I never made it to Glenveagh National Park, my treks to Falcarragh, Tory Island, Galway, Derry (many times), and Dublin just put this whole trip over the top amazing. Going out with Moira, Paul, and Conor in Falcarragh and eating cheesy bread at Moira’s house at 3 a.m. was one of my favorite parts of the whole trip. Tory Island was like stepping back in time and I’m really glad I decided to go. Galway is my favorite city and if I ever had the chance to live there, I would.
My new favorite spot in the world - sitting on the very edge of Tory Island.
I’m so grateful I got to spend so much time in Derry and learn so much about the Nerve Centre. If you read my post, “A Royal Pain in my Derry-aire” you know that the creation of my documentary script did not go smoothly - it actually got worse after the completion of that blog post, but even though my assignment struggled, my admiration and appreciation for the Nerve Centre has just grown the more I learned. And even though some of my tradition Irish relatives might scoff, I would live in Derry given the chance as well. It’s a great city of culture (hence it being named the UK City of Culture 2013) with rich and complicated history, a great spirit, and a strong willingness to better itself for the sake of its name and its people.
During our trip to Dublin, Halle, Rikkel, Beth, and I visited St. Stephen’s Green and attempted some fashion. I think we succeeded.
This is Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s picture hanging in Whelan’s pub in Dublin, where “P.S. I Love You” filmed.
My narrative script assignment went much smoother than my documentary assignment. I adapted the short story “Angels” by Eddie Stack. Originally an 11-page story, my screenplay ended up being 25 pages. Granted, scripts have much less description and the formatting results in less words per page, but my screenplay still transformed the written story into something of my own that I am proud of.
Before this summer, I had never written a documentary or narrative script. I’m a journalism major, so I had done interviews and journalism packages, but the documentary script is very different. And on the narrative side, I have written stories, but never a script. I really appreciate the chance to do both here because it reaffirmed my passion for writing creatively and also gave me hope that I can somehow merge both journalism and screenwriting (shout out to the filmmakers we’ve met who’ve done both - namely Derek O’Conner and John Peto).
So grateful for these lovely ladies
Luckily, I am one of the few of us who aren’t back in the States quite yet. I’m in Ireland until tomorrow with my family and then we are going to London for 3 days (Harry Potter Studio Tour here I come!) before returning to Cincinnati for 2 weeks until school starts up again.
Before and after packing to leave Ballyraine for the last time.
Honestly, though I wouldn’t change this trip one bit, I am excited to be going soon. I miss my friends and family, Skyline Chili, and 3G connection. I can’t believe I’ll already be back in Athens in 2 1/2 weeks!! After my plane departs for America, I know I’m going to want it to turn around immediately, so I’ll be holding onto my excitement for being back at OU seeing all my bobcat friends again, especially the ones I’ve made on this trip.
Goodbye Ballyraine. It’s been real. It’s been fun. And at times, it’s been real fun.
I know I’ll be back someday; I’m not quite finished with Ireland. But until that day, when my bank account (which I basically drained coming here) is filled enough to afford it, goodbye Ireland. Goodbye Irish sheep and Irish pubs and Irish accents. I’ll miss you terribly. Thank you for being so good to me Ireland, go raibh maith agat.
For the past seven weeks I have been travelling abroad. I was excited for it all to happen. Amsterdam, Paris, London, Dublin, Letterkenny, Derry, Galway and others too. I haven’t travelled that much in such a short time period in my entire life. And it’s all over.
I am still in Dublin at the time being, but heading to the States in the morning where I can drive, understand people, (for the most part), not have things regionally blocked on my computer, and see the people I have missed this entire time. I don’t have to have my entire life packed up in a suitcase and backpack. I don’t have to wash my clothes in the sink and I don’t have to hang dry them.
I have been ready to go home for a bit now, missing my parents, playing sports with my friends, driving on the country roads blasting music. I essentially got bored with the monotony on living in a small town, just like sometimes I do in Athens. But as soon as I land in the U.S., I will want to go back. Not many people have this opportunity that I have been so graciously awarded to have. I met a ton of people, grew relationships with them and others on this trip. For that I am beyond thankful to those who have given me this opportunity: Frederick, OU, and of course my parents.
I am really just at a lost for words. I know in my head what I want to say, but the trouble to get it on this screen is hard to overcome. Maybe it’s the emotions, maybe I really am just a terrible writer. I am going to miss this all. I am going to look back fondly on the memories I have made on this trip and know this will never happen to me again.
When I get back I will see my Mom, with tears streaming down her face, and my Dad with a slight smile on my face. Hugs will be given and I’ll be relieved to see them. But I know that on the drive back to my house I will look out the window thinking back to this time and smile, realizing I just had the time of my life.
I can’t believe that the trip has come to an end. It seems so recent that we were all moving in to Ballyraine. I feel like we all got really lucky with each other. I was nervous before coming on the trip since I didn’t know anyone here before but things really worked out. I really enjoyed getting to know everyone. It’s a strange thought to go from living with a group of people, interacting with them every day to all going your (relatively) separate directions. I hope that we keep connected.
Writing the scripts has been an interesting experience. I really lucked out with my partner. I don’t know what I would have done without PJ. He was great and even when things got a little stressful towards the end, I think we had fun.
Since we are actually trying to produce our documentary, it’s still not really over. I learned a lot about cameras and video making from PJ while we were interviewing and filming. Even though it was more work, I think it will definitely be worth it.
I wasn’t expecting the “going by the seat of your pants” scheduling that went on. One of our interviewees told us that he was going out of town later the day that we finally got ahold of him. From the time we hung up the call to the time we were meeting him was 30 minutes. I was still in my jim jams and my camera battery wasn’t charged. We frantically got ready and went off to interview someone with virtually no preparation. Since we were very crunched for time, PJ got shots of our location while I conducted the Frankenstein’s monster of interviews. I set up the tripod and realized that I couldn’t hold the microphone close enough to him while standing where he was supposed to be looking. So, for the majority of the interview he is looking at a tree branch while I stand to the side of him scrambling to come up with questions. PJ finished before us so the ending is better but overall, not our strongest work. Even with all of that, we definitely got some good footage.
Overall, I think the project was a success but it was the cultural emersion that really made this a memorable experience.