Thursday, May 22, 2014

First Days in Dingle

We arrived in Dingle Sunday afternoon.  It was warm and sunny so we all walked down to the marina to look at Dingle Bay.  The bay was very blue and is circled by green hills and mountains.  There were some small boats docked at the marina, but most of them looked like recreational sailboats and not fishing boats.  Dingle used to have a huge fishing industry, but since Ireland’s entry into the EU, Dingle lost a lot of its fishing rights to France and Spain.

That evening we made a spaghetti dinner together and ate outside at picnic tables.  It was a nice end to the day.  After dinner I was pretty tired and was in bed by 8:30p.m.

Diseart Institute

On Monday we had our first day of class.  The classes were on the history of the EU and international criminal tribunals.  Classes are held at a former convent turned cultural center.  My roommates and I ate a well-priced lunch at a little café across the street.  I didn’t really know my roommates prior to the trip, but I have enjoyed getting to know them.  In the afternoon we had a talk by a local man about the general history of Ireland and the area.  We learned about the Irish sports of Gaelic football and hurling.  We also learned a little bit about the Irish language.  The Dingle area is a stronghold of the Irish language.  Many children here learn to speak Irish and English at home.  In other areas of Ireland children only learn Irish at school and never really speak it like a native.  The man who gave the talk had even been recorded for the Rosetta stone for Irish. 

After class my roommates and I walked around the town for a bit and we ran into many more tourists than Irish people.  Dingle’s economy is highly dependent on tourism.  The shops are not tacky, but are clearly geared to tourists.  Being in Dingle has been a sort of quasi-abroad experience for me.  In some ways I barely feel like I’m abroad.  This probably has to do with the fact that I am traveling with a group of Americans in a country where everyone speaks English.  Everything here feels very familiar and tidy compared to my other international experiences.  I am enjoying the natural beauty of the area, hearing Irish, and learning about the area, but I hope I can get away from some of the touristy parts of the area.

On Tuesday we had classes in the morning and then had a bus tour of the area with an older local man named T.P..  T.P. seems to know just about everything and everyone in the area.  He pointed out the ruins or ring forts, told stories about movies shot in the area, and let us know that there are a lot of vacant houses for rent.  Ireland has a big bust in the late 2000s.  In Dingle the real estate bubble burst and property that had sold for $8 million dropped to $1 million.

Blasket Islands

Our first stop was a lookout to see the Blasket Islands.  The Blasket Islands are off the west coast of Ireland.  Fishers inhabited the islands until 1953 when they were forced to abandon it.  The islands are important to the Irish because their inhabitants were key to the revitalization of the Irish language.  Many of the islanders wrote or told stories in Irish.  These writings were then used to promote the language through out the country. 

Coum Dhíneol

Next we walked down the cliffs to a beach called Coum Dhíneol.  We were lucky and had a very nice day for the tour.  It was warm enough that we all took off our shoes and went walking in the sand.  The water was cold, but the sun made it nice. 

 Old Church

Then we stopped off at a cultural center to learn about the Blaskets.  We finished the tour by walking in the rain to see a 1,300 year old church.  It is a small stone structure made with no mortar and 3-4ft. wide stones.  It is the only one of its kind in the area to still have its stone roof intact. 

Wednesday I went to see the new Wes Anderson movie and got my first Irish Guinness and fish and chips.  The group went out later that evening and got to hear some live Irish music.

Today we climbed up a mountain.  I will be very sore.

view of Dingle from the mountain 

Friday we have the afternoon I am going to Killarney with some girls from the group.  Saturday we will come back and may join the group in a fish fry.  Sunday I may rent bicycles or get a boat ride over to the Blaskets.

We don’t have Internet at the cottages, so I likely won’t be able to update again for a few days.  Hope everyone is doing well.

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