Student Blogs

From Country Life to Holiday Hype

November 26th, 2016 adchri18

Long time no see, everyone! First of all, I’d like to apologize for my lack of activity in the last month. I actually had the unfortunate luck of being hit by a car on Halloween afternoon, and while I did not have any immediate injuries I took the week off from classes just as a precaution. A week later I fell dangerously ill and had to be taken to the emergency room. The brain injury that I had received from the accident — small as it was — triggered a delayed reaction in my pituitary gland that caused my sodium levels to drop to a level so low that it made me very sick. Thankfully, one of the doctors at University Hospital Galway specializes in these types of injuries, and she knew exactly how to treat it. I stayed in the hospital for a week under the close watch and care of wonderful doctors and nurses, and I was officially discharged after that week with a clear MRI and normal test results. I will be taking medication and seeing the doctor for the next few weeks to make sure everything remains stable, but my health has essentially (and miraculously) returned to normal. My mother flew in from home and my boyfriend flew in from Germany to see me after it happened, and for that I am incredibly fortunate! I am also extremely lucky to have had the help and support of my friends and family, as well as of NUIG and Holy Cross facilitating my transition through classes and finals in the coming weeks. I was even given the option to come back to Holy Cross next semester if I should so choose. I do intend on staying in Galway next semester as planned, but it is truly a blessing to know that I have such a wonderful support system behind me. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers!

 
Now, on to the rest of the blog post!

 

An Educational Experience

Not long after my last post, I went on a trip with my Exploring Indigenous Arts Class to the National Museum of Ireland: Country Life in County Mayo. There we learned the history of how people lived in rural Ireland in the 20th century through the house items they made and the festivals they held. We even got to see a timeline of how Irish life was portrayed in film and professional photographs compared to what life was actually like at the time — it wasn’t all red hair and cute sheep! In fact, it was so much more.

Handmade baskets made from several different types of wood and brushes

Handmade baskets made from several different types of wood and brushes

 

A representation of children's clothing in Ireland in the early 20th century

Children’s clothing in Ireland in the early 20th century

 

Dolls made from straw depicting masked performers called

Dolls made from straw depicting masked performers called “Mummers”, who staged shows around Christmastime

 

A bouquet of paper flowers made by a traveler woman in Ireland in 1994

A bouquet of paper flowers made by a traveler woman in Ireland in 1994

 

While in the museum we learned how to make harvest knots like these, which were traditionally given as gifts from teenage boys to girls they fancied at harvest dances. If a girl kept a knot, she was more likely to marry the boy who gave it to her!

While in the museum we learned how to make harvest knots like these, which were traditionally given as gifts from teenage boys to girls they fancied at harvest dances. If a girl kept a knot, she was more likely to marry the boy who gave it to her!

 

After our tour of the museum we got to hear from a guest lecturer about how the Irish celebrated holidays like Halloween, Christmas, and Easter. They also have a tradition of making crosses out of straw or brush on the first day of February, which is known as St. Bridgid’s Day, in order to invoke her blessings and protection in the coming year. It was a real treat to see the number of household items and artifacts and the cultural significance behind them, and you can learn more about the museum here.

 

A Fascinating (And Slightly Terrifying) Halloween Experience

What I didn’t realize before coming here is that the Irish really like to celebrate Halloween. October 31st is also considered a bank holiday Ireland, so we didn’t even have class that day! The weekend before Halloween, a performance company known as Macnas put on their annual parade which this year was called “Savage Grace”. On their website, they described it as “a restless ballad, a deliriously dark and delicious waltz between love and loss”, filled with “[f]oreboding rhythms and musical laments, packaged in rhyme and riddle, [that] herald the arrival of Baba Yaga, a formidable figure defined only by her striking ambiguity”. Quite frankly, I’ve never seen anything like it: the performers all wore elaborate costumes, masks, and makeup, and the parade floats were much more intricate and complicated than any I had ever seen in a parade before.  Some of the younger children around us were frightened by some of the characters and floats!  Feel free to check out Macnas here and take a look at the highlights of the parade below!

 

A Holy Cross Thanksgiving Experience

Once Halloween was over, Christmas decorations went up almost immediately. It was a little confusing at first, considering November had only just started, but then it hit me – Christmas is the only major holiday after Halloween because Thanksgiving simply doesn’t exist here. We weren’t able to go home for Thanksgiving, but our advisor Kathleen was gracious enough to treat us to dinner Thursday evening at Brasserie on the Corner, a popular restaurant and bar here in Galway. The Irish might not be huge fans of turkey, but we were certainly fans of the huge meal we had; I had a personal pot of steamed mussels as an appetizer with stuffed chicken as my entrée, which were simply delightful. Needless to say, it was a wonderful occasion to get together.

The Holy Cross gang about to have Thanksgiving dinner! (photo courtesy of Kathleen O'Connell)

The Holy Cross gang about to have Thanksgiving dinner! (photo courtesy of Kathleen O’Connell)

 

Speaking of wonderful occasions, I hope you’re just as excited as I am to hear about the next holiday we’ve been celebrating here.

 

A Spectacular Christmas Experience

Galway is known for their annual Christmas market, which I’m told has been growing bigger and bigger every year. This year it started on November 18th and lasts until December 22nd, and is held in Eyre Square in the center of town. Not only does it boast of a variety of handmade ornaments, toys, trinkets, and treats, but it also features a giant Ferris wheel that will run for the entire month the market is in town! I’ve yet to get to the top of it myself, but when you can see it all the way from your apartment it’s hard not to be tempted by it! The Christmas market is one of my favorite things I’ve seen in Galway so far, and I hope I’ll be able to find an equivalent of it at home next year. For now, I am thoroughly enjoying the abundance of decorations, food, and Christmas cheer!

A small portion of the Christmas market, which included a Ferris wheel and a carousel!  The sign on the arch says

A small portion of the Christmas market, which included a Ferris wheel and a carousel! The sign on the arch says “Merry Christmas” in Irish

 

A gingerbread house on the lawn of Eyre Square!

A gingerbread house on the lawn of Eyre Square!

Some of many wonderful decorations in Eyre Square

Some of many wonderful decorations in Eyre Square

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It can get quite busy here on a weekend!

It can get quite busy here on a weekend!

 

Looks just as jolly at night as well!

Looks just as jolly at night as well!

 
A New Theatrical Experience

And if that didn’t satisfy your need for all things Christmas, I hope this next video will help. A little over a month ago I stumbled upon a local theatre group known as The Theatre Room Galway (check out their website here!), which hosts several small productions performed by local actors and directors in local venues. Their most recent project was known as “Skype Monologues”, in which a selection of monologues was broadcast to individuals all over the world via an internet call on Skype. I was selected to direct an original monologue titled “Deer Santa” – in the monologue, a young girl has a Skype call with Santa Claus in lieu of writing a traditional letter to him. This was my first time directing a piece, and it was a bit of a challenge since the audition and rehearsal period took place during the time I was recovering from the accident. Thankfully, both the writer and actress I worked with were very accommodating, and it was a great pleasure being able to take part in this project! On the date of the performance, we performed this monologue for three different Skype callers, and we also recorded it live on Facebook. You can view all of the performances on the group’s Facebook page, and you can view “Deer Santa” right here.

 

What’s Next

Classes for this semester at NUIG officially ended yesterday. Monday is the start of our week-long study period, followed by two weeks of final exams. Most of my classes require final papers in lieu of written exams, so I will only be sitting for one exam this semester, but I still have a lot of work to do between now and the end of exams. Thankfully my professors have been extremely helpful with giving me enough time to complete my final assignments after the accident, and I am confident that I will be able to complete them in the time allotted.
In the meantime, next Tuesday I will be leaving on a trip to Germany to visit my boyfriend Aaron for a few days before the stress of finals week kicks in. It’ll be a very long day of travel there and back, but at least I will have plenty of time to work on my papers and still enjoy my visit! Rest assured, I will travel safely and take lots of pictures, and I hope that once finals are over I will be able to take even more trips abroad!

 
I’ll leave you now with a few more of my favorite street performances I’ve recorded in the last few weeks:

 
Enjoy the holidays and take care, everyone!

 
Cheers,
Ali

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