In Anthropology, professors and academics talk about the necessity of becoming a part of the community that you study. Integration is key. The Anthropologists’ first mission is to create relationships and friendships with their “subjects” (a term I always disliked because it reduces people to objects)… But there’s no workshop or lesson on how to extract themselves from your new friendships. I was overwhelmed by the friendships and closeness I felt with my coworkers at Glencree. It’s been a difficult transition back to Dutch life, so much so that I didn’t unpack my bags for a week. Now that I’m settled in and feel a little bit more centered in my research, I’ve been able to look back on my summer with a clear head and heart. Here’s my recap of the summer.
As previously mentioned, my mission in Ireland was to study the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, it’s role in the reconciliation process and how it strives to rebuild relationships in Northern Ireland. Consequently, I traveled to Northern Ireland frequently to understand what the state of relationships are between the Catholic/Nationalist/Republican community and the Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist community in Northern Ireland. I traveled to Belfast as often as possible to interview former combatants and members of the reconciliation system in Northern Ireland. I learned so many lessons about peace, conflict, research, professionalism, office dynamics, and myself. I was blown away by my experiences at Glencree, the lifelong friends that I made and the lessons that I learned about conflict and reconciliation. The people who work at Glencree too were truly the kindest, most thoughtful and considerate co-workers that I could have asked for. It’s strange, the first day I came back I felt weird sleeping in my bed knowing that Pat, the Caretaker, wasn’t in the same building. I had become so reassured by the knowledge that if anything happened, I wasn’t alone. Pat was there, and he felt like family. I felt incredibly safe and supported in this community and have made strong connections which will last for a long time. I know that someday I will return to Glencree in some capacity or another.
I cannot recommend Ireland enough. Everyone was so kind and generous, the landscape and natural beauty are diverse and breath-taking, and the culture is jovial and filled with good conversation over a Guinness. I love Glencree, the people who work there and the Glencree Valley. I can’t believe that I lived in a 200-year-old barracks! History (maybe especially because of my research project) just seemed to come alive everywhere I went. In Ireland, you can drive down the highway and see a castle standing out in the distance! In Greystones, 45 mins away from Glencree, there were these ruins in the middle of a field 5 mins away from my friend’s house. I toured the Dublin Castle and visited the base of the Powder Tower, I stood where the moat used to be, and I touched stones placed by the Anglo-Normans 800 years ago. It was magical. So many people would laugh at me during these nerdy moments, but for someone from North America where the buildings and architecture are still so new, 800-year-old castles are very impressive to me!
I also took a week off to road trip Northern Ireland. Sjoerd and I first drove to Northern Ireland and experienced the Causeway Coast. Then all the up to the most northern point of Ireland at Malin’s Head in Donegall, which coincidentally was a Star Wars film site! Then we went back down south to county Kerry where we camped on the Dingle peninsula. I completely fell in love with Kerry! The mountains were unlike the other mountains around the country, they have this wave shape to them so it feels like the land crests where it meets the sea. In Dingle we also went to Dunmore Head, which is the most eastern point of Europe and, you guessed it, another Star Wars film site! (Look it up! Both in the movie Star Wars – The Last Jedi).
And of course, I can’t close this blog post about Ireland without mentioning my Irish family, the Kiernan-Crampton’s. From the first time you invited me over for dinner, I felt at home. I miss petting Piper in the kitchen and watching movies in the lounge. I know we jokingly called it Kastle Kiernan, but to me it was a castle when I desperately needed a homey feeling. Thank you for all of your kindness and hospitality. For those who don’t know the Crampton kids, they are all incredibly talented in their own respects. Check out Claudia’s thought-provoking poetry and Dylan’s catchy new music co-produced with his brother Elliott, you’ll be glad that you did.
I was lucky to have lived in Ireland during one of the sunniest and warmest summers ever with record breaking heat! I miss Ireland dearly, but I know that I’ll be back. There’s still Galway and Cork and Sligo left to see… and of course I must go back and visit Glencree, my home away from home, and Kastle Kiernan, my home away from Glencree. Thank you to everyone who made my fieldwork this summer so unforgettable.
As you say in Ireland, mind yourself.
More photos from Ireland!