Was it for this?

News has been swirling around the recent revelation that the grounds of one of Ireland’s many “mother-and-baby homes” contains a tremendous number of unceremoniously buried children.  This home was run by a Roman Catholic Church sect called the Bon Secours nuns; it is located in Tuam, Co Galway.  The story has gone viral, with the usual bad information and overstated statistics — but one thing we can all be certain of is that those children died neglected and unhappy at the hands of the church in collusion with the State.  We can only hope this revelation opens a thorough investigation by the Gardaí, and more than that, a wider dialogue about the role the church plays in the laws of the Republic of Ireland and the lives of her wonderful people.

Today I found this poem by a young man called Stephen Murphy.  He speaks so eloquently, so movingly, about the historic price paid by the people of Ireland.

 

— Cindy

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Catching Up

It has been a long time since I have written here on the blog.  Though often on the way to work I think of things I would like to post, they leave my head before I get anywhere near a computer.

It amazes me that even after almost two years of looking at it the bay is still magical.  It is always changing color and mood, often within a few minutes.

The new job is keeping me busy and allowing us to stay in Ireland.  It is not the most exciting place to work, but my coworkers are nice people.  We have gone out after work on occasion; the conversations over the lunch table range far and wide and are always entertaining.

I’m not riding the bicycle as much as I should.  Skyler and Josh (my daughter and her boyfriend) are visiting so we have been exploring the local environs, mostly by bus, bike and shank’s mare.

We recently took the bus to the Galway Crystal factory and then walked out to the Roscam round tower, church and graveyard.

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Roscam graveyard, church and round tower

We visited Merlin woods – no sign of the historic English magician though.

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Merlin Park Castle from the woods

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Skyler and Josh at Merlin Park Castle

We did our standard Saturday marketing where people have always marketed in Galway.

Galway market

We walked out to Seaweed Point on one of the hottest days of the year and we rode bicycles to Upper Dangan on another.

We’ve eaten good food in several restaurants and walked the prom a number of times.

Yesterday we swam in the bay and built sand sculptures.

SmallSandSculpture

So that brings you up to date.  I’ll try to stay in touch more often.

— Claude

Dublin in March

Earlier this week we found ourselves with the opportunity to spend a bit of an extended weekend in Dublin.  On Thursday we hopped the express bus for the city with smiles on our faces and arrived to a storm of freezing temps, blasting rain and whipping wind!  The hotel I had booked is behind the O2 stadium but the bus dropped us at least 4 blocks too far west, so there we were stuck walking through the storm to the hotel.  The wind took Claude’s hat and plopped it right into the middle of the street so we had to wait for traffic to clear in order for him to bolt out into the road and recover it.  By that time it was soaking wet – good thing I had an extra stocking cap on hand!  From there the weekend could only get better.

For this stay I chose the Gibson Hotel, themed after the guitar.  It’s ultra-modern with all the amenities I wanted including being situated at the terminus of the Luas tram line for ease of travel into the city.  While I’m not very impressed with their bar and food service – I had to deliberately make my presence known each time I went in – I did get a delicious and reasonably priced cosmo.  Otherwise it was a comfortable and fairly clean place with very helpful staff.

Friday’s weather was not much better, as a matter of fact it was colder than the evening before and still raining profusely.  I tried to purchase a Luas ticket from the machine at the stop but it broke in the middle of the process and gave my money back.  At that moment the rain got much harder and began to become hail.  I thought something I can’t repeat here and walked right over to the taxi waiting outside the hotel, jumped in and asked the driver to take me to the National Museum of Ireland: Decorative Arts and History.  He didn’t know which museum I was referring to so I had to use the typical Irish method of road direction and tell him what it was near.  As we drove we had conversation about the job situation in Ireland and I found out that he had a master’s degree in public administration from a university in Poland but driving cabs in Ireland was a better paying job!  He got me as close as he could to the front of the museum and apologized for me having to walk through the rain, but I told him it was no big deal because, “I’m from Galway!”

The museum is housed in an old army barracks and is built in the shape of a large rectangle with a big courtyard in the middle.  The public part of the museum is housed on 4 floors with many different galleries holding all types of items; the exhibitions include Irish silver, coins, curator’s choice, fashion, furniture, soldiers, jewelry.  The variety of items and rooms is quite fascinating!  I took a ton of pictures and ran the camera battery down.  I put them all together in a Flickr set for your perusal.

I was going to go visit the Leprechaun Museum too but I had walked all over the first museum and the weather was so miserable that I really didn’t feel like slogging through it to stand around for much longer.  Finally managed to purchase a Luas ticket from the machine and went back to the hotel where I ordered a sandwich and a soda in the bar and finished the book I was reading (The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry), then looked up restaurants for the evening meal, went up to our room, relaxed in front of the tube and had a small nap.

Being in the capital I decided that we had to take advantage of the variety of restaurants.  Since Claude rarely gets vegetarian choices beyond the standard veggie burger, curry or pasta dish, I chose to look up the vegetarian restaurants in the city center and found three – Cornucopia, Govinda’s and Delhi O’Deli.  I just thought the name was so clever that I chose Delhi O’Deli.  We took the tram into the heart of the city and wandered around until we found the restaurant.  It’s a little hole-in-the-wall diner with a very friendly owner and absolutely delicious Indian food.  Claude’s keen eye had spotted a Parisian bakery as we passed by on the way to the restaurant so we doubled back after the meal and stopped by for a lovely dessert.  We are definitely going to visit both places again.

On Saturday Claude asked me what I wanted to do so I said I wanted to see the Old Library at Trinity College.  We managed to purchase all day tickets for the tram from those infernal machines and headed over to the college.  We walked around Parliament Square for a bit, took a few pictures.  There’s a cool spinning sculpture outside the Berkeley Library, a large golden ball with cutouts (I got a couple pictures of it) that I tried to catch on video but my camera battery gave up the ghost.  We went inside the old library building, then realized that in order to see the library itself we would have to pay the admission price of €9 each because the Book of Kells is housed in this building.   Between the place being jammed with tourists and discussion of the fact that we will be visiting the building with Claude’s parents later this year, we decided to save the money and go somewhere else.  But not before buying a cool book on forgotten Irish words.

And since we were in the area, I chose to take Claude to Cornucopia for lunch.  The food was beautiful and so delicious.  They have a fantastic selection of dishes and a queue practically out the door at lunchtime.  This place will also be on our re-visit list.

In order to explore the city further we got on the red tram line and just rode it to the end.  Dublin takes up a lot of space and the little suburbs vary widely, some scruffy looking, overrun with graffiti, some pristine and beautiful.  Along the way we noticed a young man and his friend walking along a path — I saw a boy wearing a down vest with no sleeves and naked arms; Claude saw that the young man was walking a goat!  Later on, after the tram had stopped at the terminus and the driver came out to switch to the other end of the train, he asked us, “Did ye see the lad walking the goat?”  I laughed so hard.  The menfolk saw the strange creature, the mother in me saw the boy risking exposure illness!

When we got back to the city we hopped on the other tram, the green line, and rode it out to the terminus and back.  Again we saw a wide variety of suburbs.  At one point a woman got on the tram with a baby in a gigantic pram and a little one of about 2 dragging his tiny bicycle.  The kid kept making adorable observations all the way in to the city.

By the time we finished with all our walking and riding we were pretty much set to head home.  We went back to the hotel and retrieved our bag, I grabbed a snack and a cosmo at the bar, and we managed to catch our bus home.  During the ride we swore we smelled the skunky odor of some fine weed but couldn’t figure out how someone was managing to get high on the bus without the smoke or getting busted by the driver.  It was wild.  Got home and stopped at a bar we had not yet visited which was located right by our bus stop, had some yummy burgers and watched a little rugby – Leinster beat Glasgow! – and caught the bus home.  After freezing our butts off in Dublin for 2 days Galway was practically balmy.  A nice walk by the sea before getting home was simply lovely.

Dublin is a great place to visit, for sure, but Galway is most definitely home.

— Cindy

Slowly emerging from the dark ages

abortion lawsSo far most, if not all, of our blog posts have been about happy things, or light-hearted observations of our experiences in the last year plus of living in Galway, Ireland.  And for the most part, it has been an overwhelmingly positive and uplifting experience.  But there are deeper observations to be made – I’m going to go out on a limb and make them.

As some of you readers may know, in late October of this year a young woman of Indian descent died needlessly at University Hospital Galway while miscarrying her pregnancy.  She and her husband wanted that baby, had planned for it.  Even through the extreme pain she was suffering she knew that she was not going to be able to carry to term.  With a heart that was breaking in two she begged the doctors and nurses to help her by inducing labor.  She was told “this is a Catholic country.”  In other words, the church has so hamstrung the laws of this nation that they were not legally allowed to terminate the pregnancy as long as there was a fetal heartbeat.  She suffered the pain and humiliation of this miscarriage for 5 days before the fetus’ heart stopped.  By then she was septicemic.  Before she passed away from the infection that ravaged her system, she did point out to the staff that she was neither Irish nor Catholic.

Ireland has been taken to task on many occasions by European Union rights groups for their draconian laws and generally Catholic stance on human rights, particularly in the cases of gay rights and of abortion.  (Same-sex sexual activity has only been decriminalised since 1993.)  The Irish Constitution was amended in 1983 to ban abortion constitutionally, backed strongly by Catholic influence.  This fact amazes and stuns me.  In 1984 a 15-year-old girl named Anne Lovett and her newborn son died alone and freezing after Anne gave birth in a church yard precisely because of the stifling attitude of her religious upbringing.  In 1992 the Irish Supreme Court ruled in the X Case, which allowed for abortion in the case of risk to the mother’s life including risk of suicide.  The problem with the ruling is it is in direct opposition to the Eighth Amendment, and worse, to the Offences Against the Persons Act of 1861 – yes, you read that right, a law written in the 19th Century which is still in effect today – which makes it illegal to use drugs or instruments to cause an abortion.  The Irish Parliament has REFUSED to legislate on these issues for over 30 years now.

The Catholic church would have women believe that their lives are never at risk from pregnancy.  The government sees no problem if women choose to travel to another country to obtain abortion services.  Most private physicians will perform follow-up treatment for women who have done so.  So no one seems to understand why Irish women are so angry about Savita’s death.  The church has no intention of assisting women who can’t afford to travel, so they’re resorting to purchasing abortifacients over the internet – the import of which is also illegal.  The utter hypocrisy of not allowing babies who are still-born or die upon birth without being baptised to be buried in consecrated graveyards doesn’t seem to faze the church at all.

I’m not a religious person, neither Claude nor I are, really.  We have our individual views about it.  He tends toward the Buddhist way of thinking, I tend toward the agnostic.  No matter how you define it, we are definitely not advocates of the Catholic vision of the world.

At this point a number of EU rights groups are calling for sweeping change to these ancient laws.  Ireland is out of step with all of Europe in this regard and does not, in my opinion, deserve to hold the EU Presidency next year until its laws come in line with the rest of the Union.  The anti-choice groups are pulling out all the stops, pressuring their local politicians to not allow women the right to a safe, clean abortion in Ireland.  Women are once again being held hostage to their gender by the Catholics.

The Irish people have some fairly archaic attitudes when it comes to being open with one another, talking about sexuality and differences, speaking of uncomfortable subjects and history.  They use euphemisms to describe horrors of their history.  They have a similar stiff-upper-lip style to the British.  They call periods of anarchy in their history “the Troubles,”  like it’s a touch of the flu or sluggish bowels.  People die and they’re labeled as “the tragic.”  It’s all so … very.

— Cindy

Irish calendar

A while ago Claude made the observation that seasons in Ireland begin and end on a different calendar than the seasons we are used to in North America.  In the states the seasons begin on the equinox or solstice, depending on which season you’re addressing.  But in Ireland they begin and end according to the Gaelic Calendar, which states that the seasons encompass these cycles: November, December, January are winter; February, March, April are spring; May, June, July are summer; August, September, October are autumn.

Strangely enough – well, to me, at least – the seasons do seem to follow this schedule.  Granted my observations are purely empirical, and then based on just one year’s worth of experience, but still…   Amazing how those ancient Celts knew their stuff way back when.

Additionally, per the Gaelic Calendar, today is the first day of the new Celtic year.  Happy Celtic New Year!

— Cindy

The Computer & Communications Museum of Ireland in Galway’s Global Village

As I spoke of previously, the Volvo Ocean Race finale came to Galway and took over the entire world – or at least every part of the city that affected us.  As part of the university’s participation, there was a space featuring courses relevant to the local area and the Innovation Pavilion housing the Computer & Communications Museum of Ireland.

The curator of the museum is an amazing man called Brendan Smith.  Typically the museum lives in a small room on the second floor of the DERI building off campus.  But during the Global Village it occupied a space that was about ten times larger than the usual space.  It features communications from the very beginning with small carved tablets through to modern-day hand-held electronic tablets (of approximately the same size!).  The computers featured are mostly from the UK and Ireland, along with a display of electronic devices made or facilitated by companies based in Ireland and Galway in specific.  The museum contains an incredible display that does not get nearly as much attention – or space – as it deserves.

So a call went out for volunteers to staff the museum while it was occupying the space in the Global Village.  A combination of my desire to see the Global Village up close along with my relentless inability to turn down a tempting volunteer opportunity and a need to keep my mind occupied before the girls arrived for our vacation meant that I went ahead and committed to several shifts at the museum.

Turns out it was a very good decision – I had so much fun!  I met a several people wanting to donate their old equipment and people who had fond memories of the old computer systems being displayed.  A number of people expressed wonder at how recent the computer revolution really is in terms of time.  The kids really loved the old Nintendo, Atari and other classic video games that were set up.  (At one point my daughter had to show one little kid just exactly what a floppy disk was and where to insert it!)  The telegraph machine was also very popular.  I met several people associated with DERI and spoke with interesting people of all ages and from all walks of life.

Your hosts as their Star Trek alter egos

Another display included in the pavilion was a large character board painted to look like Lt. Uhura and Mr. Spock with the heads cut out so people could stick their heads through and have their picture taken.  Don’t ask me why DERI would have such a thing, but it was a lot of fun and offered a great deal of amusement to the public.  While I was manning this display I was engaged by a handsome young man who it turns out was an occupational therapist born in Nigeria and currently living in Ennis who asked me if I was a geek… to which I responded, “Since before you were born, young man!” He told me he was a Voyager geek who had never seen an episode of the original Star Trek (say what?!). I expressed my surprise and we talked about the virtues of all the Trek incarnations.  He told me someone had given him the entire original series on DVD for Christmas but he still had not watched any of it.  After some fast talking I think I convinced him to go home and watching those DVDs!

I missed the visit by President Michael D. Higgins but was on shift when the word came down that the Taoiseach (the Prime Minister of Ireland, pronounced tea-shock) Mr. Enda Kenny was going to visit the museum.  The volunteers ran around prepping things, picking up trash, and just generally muttering amongst ourselves for over an hour before he finally showed up.  Claude was hanging around waiting for me to get finished but stuck it out while we waited for the Taoiseach.  Once Mr. Kenny finally entered the tent, Claude’s was one of the first hands he shook.  Brendan went into teacher mode and began taking Mr. Kenny around, showing him the displays and explaining things.  All during the visit the Taoiseach was shaking hands and answering questions, listening to what people had to say.  At the end of his visit there was a photo op with the volunteers and I got my chance to shake hands with the leader of Ireland.  Very cool.

Our girls arrived on the 6th of July and we spent the rest of Ocean Race week taking them around the city – with a visit to the Computer & Communications Museum of Ireland included. The exposure the museum got during that time has been potentially very beneficial. An email from Brendan imparted this information: “Sean Sherlock Minister of Research & Innovation said he was committed to securing funds for its long-term development; City Hall officials said they wanted it to become a major tourist attraction for Galway.” Here’s hoping it comes true!

– Cindy

Women in Technology History

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An overview on the first day of the exhibition

Made in Ireland