There is no shortage of cliff walks and hill hikes in Ireland. One of my recent adventures took me to Blessington, in the Wicklow mountains, where I trudged across sloping golden hillsides covered with tufts of coarse grass and the rare solitary tree. Each time I approached what seemed would be the last hilltop, anticipating a spectacular panoramic view, yet another hill emerged on the horizon. I hiked on and on through a drenching storm and strong gales. Eventually the expansive views of the hills were overtaken by dense clouds and torrents of rain so that all I could see were my immediate surroundings. And for me, it’s in that type of moment – when you’ve come a long way and you’re by yourself and you’re drenched and you can’t see farther than a few meters – that so much can become so clear. I’m in Ireland, I thought.
Yes, I’m in Ireland. This realization seems a little late, I know – six months into my year here – but I have finally found my step over here, finally settled into a rhythm. I’m challenged and excited by my studies. I play music with folks at Trinity and I bask in music sessions at a favorite local pub. There are usually a few dinner gatherings at my place each week. I’ve traveled to Sweden and Denmark, hosted visitors from the States and the UK, and I’m continuing to participate in the Finglas oral history project. I went on a nice long retreat with the Trinity yoga society. And despite my apprehension and a few false starts, I’ve finally started cycling.
Growing up in New Hampshire, I certainly knew how to ride a bike. And Peterborough has its obstacles: lots of trees, a mountain, some lakes…but they all stay relatively still. In Dublin, of course, nothing stays still. After the first few harrowing outings, I learned how to share the lane with buses (not get wedged into the curb) and avoid darting cabs. Now it’s exhilarating, even liberating, to hop on my bike and get where I need to go so quickly. Some friends and I are planning a cycling/camping adventure in Wales.
In addition to yoga and capoeira, I’ve been taking advantage of other Dublin offerings. I was lucky enough to get into a Theater of the Oppressed (TO) workshop, something I have been trying to do for a while. Devised by Augusto Boal, TO engages the creative energies of drama exercises to facilitate dialogue and collaborative learning. We wound our way down the well-worn floorboards of a spacious artists’ collective and filled a tiny room where, for a full day, we explored the dynamics of oppression through role-playing games crafted to enable social and political analysis. TO is closely related to the work of Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, a pioneer in the area of critical pedagogy and popular education. The workshop was especially exciting for me since I am beginning to focus aspects of my dissertation research on Freire’s work.
At the end of this month I’ll travel to The Hague and Amsterdam as part of my program’s Ethics in International Affairs module. We will visit the International Criminal Court and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Living in Dublin makes traveling easy, but I’m always excited to get back to the cobblestones, library nooks, and bus lanes I’m beginning to know so well.