Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Studying abroad is an incredible opportunity. I am so grateful for the ability to be here, and for the support and sacrifice on the part of friends and family.

The prospect of leaving home for five weeks was very difficult. Not just leaving home, but a husband and daughter. This is a corporeal severing that worsens with time.

Also, I miss my old kitties. Silly, I know, with as much complaining about them as I have done.

Living with other people is not the easiest in the best of times, but when they leave piles of hair in the shower drain and dirty dishes in the sink, the tension it creates is frustrating to say the least. This is not the place I want to deal with problems and have an altercation.

My classes have required viewing some films which are not the lightest of subjects. In "The Wind that Shakes the Barley", a film I have seen before, a boy is beaten and killed for not speaking his name in English, a man's fingernails are pulled out for not revealing the names of others in the Irish resistance to the Black and Tans. There are executions, of a young Irish boy be fellow Irishmen, and of a landlord. It is wrenching, but also an important film that portrays the complicated split within Irish society when it came to accepting the Treaty of 1921. It's well-written and well-acted, and it does a fantastic job of contrasting the difficulties and the struggles of the time.

The next week was lighter fare, with "Into the West", about two boys leaving the slums of Dublin for the west, where there mother is buried and their father doesn't want to face his past. It's moving, and wonderfully not violent.

Then there was last week. "Hunger" is an award-winning film portraying the imprisonment and hunger strike of Bobby Sands, the young Belfast man who died after 66 days of hunger strike in prison in Northern Ireland. His objective was to be given political status, which he was not given. Instead, he was labeled a criminal. Again, an important but nonetheless wrenching topic. The film is vivid in its portrayal of the beatings, filth, and brutality of life in prison. It goes on to show Bobby's body breaking down from the strike. It was at this point that I physically could not watch anymore. I saw the actor's face, and I saw my brother in the hospital, suffering from leukemia. No one questioned why I was crying, sitting there silently looking down. The film would make anyone cry. You should see it. But it's hard to watch.

And then there was Yahoo. Every time I logged into my email, I first had to face several pieces of bad news. A toddler died while locked in an overheated car; a puppy barely survived torture and being set on fire by cruel kids, and the story goes on that this follows a kitten being tortured in previous weeks.

It easily got to be overwhelming.

"One's suffering disappears when one lets oneself go, when one yields - even to sadness." ----- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Southern Mail, 1929. (Translated from French by Curtis Cate.)

I yielded to sadness, and felt better after.

This week is better. The puppy lived, now receiving care and doting. I think the kitten lived, too. I choose to believe that it did, anyway. The weather has cooled, so hopefully negligent parents will escape accidental murder for the time being.

The history of Ireland is violent and harsh, but so is much of history. It's also a beautiful place, and there are so many encounters with friendly people that have gone a long way to soothe an abraded soul.

There was the nice man in Ballina who told me about his family, about fishing, and how he had spent 40 years living in Spain and helping tourists. We spent a few pleasant minutes chatting beside the river Moy during a bit of a shower. There are the students here who I am slowly getting to know, but have been very nice and keep asking me to go places with them, even though I often turn them down. (I need more sleep than they do, and more time to study and write.) There is this lively city full of art, films, and performances to attend. Creativity abounds. The professors with the program are fantastic, and interested in their students lives outside of class.

For these, I am grateful. But there is another facet to this story.

I would like you to meet Irish Kitty:

She/he is enjoying her/his perch on the roof of her/his house, which is located on campus, strangely. I met Irish Kitty when she/he came to be pet as I was walking by. (For the sake of argument, let's call her a "her".) I gladly acquiesced because, kitty-love! I also met her people, who told me Irish Kitty is crazy. I think Irish Kitty is not crazy, but is merely misunderstood. Anyway, she likes me to pet her and that's good enough for me. Me and Irish Kitty, we are tight.

I would be ecstatic if the shower was clean and the dishes were done, but as the saying goes: you can't have everything. I have a cat to pet. Good 'nough.

No comments: