Was told by someone I need to find smurf candy for them. I have yet to be able to find the candy but I found a few of these guys scattered throughout the city while wandering.
Today we were truly blessed to be able to be in the company of the Bibeanna of the Dingle Peninsula, as well as a few of the Men of Ventry. The Bibeanna are a group of elderly woman who grew up in the rural country side of Ireland and lived lives of hard work on the farms of their families or husbands. The Men of Ventry are the dying class of family owned farmers that are struggling to keep up the tradition of locally owned farms. This collection of wonderful folk have seen the world transform around them. From being able to recollect the stories of the great Irish Famine of 1879 as witnessed by their parents, to now communicating with their grandchildren over cellphones and Skype. They truly have a unique and wonderful perspective on the world and how things have changed, for the better and for the worse.
We viewed 3 segments from a series that covered the stories of these two groups of individuals. The first segment covered these Irish farmers and the issues they have faced with the implementation of modern technology. Innovations in farming technology have vastly saved farmers on costs and time to do tasks such as gathering hay, but at the same time have come at a great cost. A job that would normally take 20 men an entire week to do can now be performed and completed more efficiently by a single man in about a days time. This as well as the increase demand for independence and the draw of the big city has caused the amount of farmers to decrease drastically. The women are leaving to, as very few want to stick around to be a working farm wife anymore, so these hard-working decent men no longer even have the option to find someone to call a wife. This means that in just a few short years Ireland is going to face issues with its farming communities and I assume corporations are going to have to start coming in and taking over these small traditional family farms, much like the current agricultural community in the United States.
The two segments covering the Bibeanna talked about the myths and ghost stories they grew up with as children as well as the premise of fixed (arranged) marriages. Though we often view arranged marriages in a very negative light, their interviews and conversations showed it under a very different light. Sure not all the marriages were good or even healthy, but the majority of them were happy and deeply in love couples. The thing about living on a farm is that there is no opportunity for serious strife as the couple is constantly working together. They must wake up early in the mornings to attend to the animals, work long days in the fields, have lunch and dinner together, and go to bed together to repeat it all the next day. Often they would also be in a house with half a dozen other family members which made true privacy a rarity. Due to constant exposure, appreciation of the hard work of the spouse, and the general caring attitude of the Irish, though love might not exist before marriage it is often gained and remains stronger than we see in modern American marriages.
After the screening of all these intriguing clips we were lucky enough to be able to attend lunch and tea with all these wonderful people with the intention to be able to just talk ask questions and learn from them. After eating from the marvelous collection of food it seemed like open discussion was about to start so I snuck my way out to go to the bathroom before so I wouldn’t be distracted while listening and inquiring into their stories. On my way to the bathroom I became engaged in conversation with an eccentric old man named Michael. He was married to one of the Bibeannas and also a local beekeeper. We proceeded to talk for the next hour about every issue under the sun. From religious fundamentalists, American and Irish Politics, ties that he had in America, and so much more. One common theme that ran throughout our entire conversation was that concept that systems seem to work perfectly as long as humans don’t get involved. This was most evident while talking about religious fundamentalists. Though Michael declared himself religious he believed that religion had spoiled the world of God and had become quite corrupt. All these different sects preaching love and killing and discounting all others who had the wrong type of love. This was a first hand account of how drastically religion has changed in modern Ireland.
In recent polls over 90% of the Republic of Ireland declares themselves to be Catholic. Interestingly though only 72% actually believed in God. Irish society for the last few hundred years has always revolved around religion and the church. It use to have the highest rate of church attendance in all of Europe at a whopping 85% back in the 80s. This number, though still realtively high, has taken a huge drop down to 60% if not lower. In addition to this it seems that many Irish attend church not for any divine reason but for the social aspect, its part of the heritage and culture. I believe what me and Michael talked about is one of the key points in understanding this large reduction in support of the church here in Ireland. With a corrupt organization located in Rome, the Magdalene Laundries, The Irish Industrial Schools, and the numerous child sex scandals perpetuating throughout the church, it’s no wonder people have lost their faith in the church. The Irish people who were so ingrained with the church, so trusting, got hit hard by these revelations. Spirituality has moved to a far more independent form, instead of relying on the creeds of old white men. Talking with Michael just showed how much Ireland has changed in modern times. Socially, economically, religiously, politically, Ireland is on the brink of finding a new identity for itself. It will be interesting to see what comes out of this.
After finally breaking away from this engaging conversation and finally making it to the bathroom I finally made it back to the Bibeannas and their stories. I arrived just in time to be serenaded by a select few of them singing songs in the old Sean-nos tradition of music. These long songs often tell sorrowful tales of the simple lives of Irish villagers and common folk. Though the songs are full of woe they sound absolutely beautiful and often quite lively despite their content. Poetry was also read by the daughter of one of the Bibeannas, one of Ireland’s premier poets who I had the pleasure of talking to while in my intense kitchen conversation. Our very own Marie, recited poems and sang in French which was quite lovely to hear. We closed the night with the men of the group telling hilarious tales of the shenanigans of their youth. It was a very irish day, with everyone laughing, singing, eating good food, and having a grand ol time. This place feels like home, no matter where you actually make berth.
Just some photos from today.