Leaving the United States for Belfast, Northern Ireland elicited an excitement for encountering what was to be new, but also for what was to be old. The history of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland runs so deep that I felt as though I was traveling in time; accessing a deep history the United States does not have. There is no comparison between the stories of vikings and medieval times with that of the 18th century United States of America. This history implements a deeper pride in the people that is evident when you talk with them and share the contrast of where you are from. They are excited to share their favorite places and things to do with you in order to create the full experience for the new traveller. It is these accounts of the past that reflect the same method of communication that has lasted so long throughout history; storytelling. From the second you share with someone that you are visiting from the United States they wish to tell you all they can to ensure you have the best experience, and, in return, go and share positive stories of the area. While media played a key role in our curriculum and documenting the cities with videos and photographs, it is the storytelling and basic communication that stood out the most.
The greatest part of the trip was the people that I encountered in all parts of the countries. For lunch one afternoon we decided to go into Aether and Echo, a local pub, where we were immediately greeted by members of the local band that would be playing during our meal. It is an every Sunday event where the locals gather to watch the band perform, enjoy a drink and catch up with friends. A local and and his dog sat at the bar and shared with us that this event to him, and his dog, is their church. Others told us of another music location, The Empire Belfast, where we eventually would go to see Angel Olsen play. During this concert we met a group of Belfast locals who took us under their wing for the evening, showing us their favorite food spots, pubs and bars in the area. This day was full of locals taking pride in their town and wanting to share what they love, and in return I have my own experiences that make me want to buy everyone a ticket to Belfast as soon as possible.
My sister has a friend from University of Michigan who went to a work training in Belfast two years ago and during her time there she fell in love with an Irishman, got married and made arrangements to move abroad. I was able to meet up with her for some drinks, to hear about her story from a more relatable perspective. Having fallen in love with the city myself, I wondered what it was like for a Midwestern American girl to make a new life for herself in Northern Ireland. She opened my eyes up to the commonalities between Belfast and the Midwest. She explained how her transition was so easy because the people have the Midwestern hospitality and kindness that we have grown up with all our lives. I wondered why I was connecting so well with the city, and turns out the reason why was under my nose the entire time; because in some weird way the people made it feel like home. We eventually met up with her husband and friends and I was able to witness the sharing of cultures that she is able to experience everyday. A strength of their relationship is truly the ability to share with each other their own culture, childhood and stories. While this would seem to be a weakness in a relationship, it is a point of intrigue, excitement and never ending possibilities of exploration.
When we left Belfast we jumped onto a Shamrocker bus and began our three day journey through the country side and coast line of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The shift from a city, staying at a hotel with wifi to a bus, staying at hostels with weak wifis, if they had one at all. It was a humbling experience, yet one that served as a challenge for my a group of media students. Our phones served no use to us, yet that did not prevent our connection with the people around us, nor did it inhibit the stories we were able to absorb from our Irish tour guide. What stood out during this time was the raw beauty of sharing old folklore, music and history while being, almost, stripped all together of the technology that runs the new age of communication we know all too well. Once again we were thrown into the never ending history of the land and people that existed way before we barged into the hostel, large suitcases in hand, wondering what the wifi password is.
Ireland and Northern Ireland are in no way behind in the realm of communication and media, but rather offer an interesting element to modern day media. During our tours of old, weathered down castles and beautiful tree-lined roads, we learned that these are also sought after locations for popular television shows such as Game of Thrones. The history and unique landscape that Ireland has to offer, presents a unique way for them to continue to contribute to the world of media. While the show may be fictional, it is the real depth, beauty and history of the castles that inspire these new stories to be created in settings that have a true story themselves. It is a realness that new media and design can’t quite mimic.
My entire life I have dreamt of the day I would be able to walk on the Irish countryside, sit in a pub with locals, but never did I realize how these two countries would spark such an appreciation for the history and basic level of communication that is sometimes lost in a country that does not share a similar pride in stories, myths, language and people. I sometimes wish I could trap these memories and people in a post or photograph, but it is the stories I was told and can now share that make the experience as valuable as it was. I was in awe at how if you just take the time to talk to people, they are willing to share all their favorite spots which could lead you to an unforgettable concert experience. I can now appreciate how sharing quirks of culture and language can create a stronger connection between people than I could have ever imagined I would not only hear about but be able to witness. The story of these two countries create a unique landscape for more stories to be created off of them and, actually, created on them. As I continue in my media career I will always be reminded of the experiences I had while in Ireland and Northern Ireland. I have been taught that stories are the key to all films and media productions, yet it is when you are sitting in the midst of the story that you appreciate just how true that is. Nothing about my trip would serve as true if I stripped it away of the people and memories that have made it the journey that it was. I go forward with new stories learned, more to hear, and all to share.