Tellus: (tel’us), n. 1. [Latin] earth, soil, and the land; a country; the world. 2. a collection of Willamette University student’s insights, stories, photos and thoughts from their experiences studying abroad.

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What a CRAZY month. I really enjoy writing these travel posts but things have literally never been more busy, and unfortunately stressful. There’s been some shit going down within the program, but it’s finally getting resolved, and I’m doing this to remember some good moments throughout this month, so here’s a condensed version.

First of all I just have to say that it’s been a very long time since I’ve felt so happy with a group of people, the friends around me are my foundation, and countless moments with them make me appreciate them infinitely as people. I’m super grateful to be able to spend the time I have here with them, and I’m so glad we have each other when shit hits the fan.

Last I wrote I had seen Cillian Murphy at my uni (still freaking out) the day before my birthday, which kicked off an awesome birthday weekend! We got a full Irish breakfast on Saturday for my bday, went around the market on Shop St, and later all gathered at my place for a little party before getting drinks and bowling. Honestly I can’t remember what I did on Sunday but I remember the whole weekend was lots of fun haha

By that point all of our seminars and lectures had begun, so class really got going. I’ve already had several papers, presentations, and books to read just in this month. I’m taking a seminar on death in the contemporary novel, which while interesting, could be so much better. Sadly the teacher has a very narrow view of death, and all the books she picks reflects that. We’ve read Pure by Andrew Miller and I’m currently reading Everyman by Philip Roth, which is slightly based on the morality play. I’m bracing myself for the wave of SEVEN final papers all due within a couple weeks… But I’ve been going to zumba and salsa classes during the week, which are a good distraction. I’m still surprised by how much I enjoy salsa, I pick up the steps pretty easily and, especially when I have a good partner, I can kick some dancefloor butttt

Anyway, the weekend after my birthday we went to Northern Ireland! Our trip didn’t include the Giant’s Causeway, which is pretty much the only thing I NEED to see in all of Ireland, but I’ll make it there on my own at some point. So as we traveled we stopped at Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery, which has over 60 of Ireland’s oldest tombs. The grounds were gorgeous, you could look out to other mountain ranges far away and be able to spot tomb markers from where we were. There was also a huge hill/mound not far off that’s said to be the tomb of Queen Maeve, and there was definitely something magical about it. It was incredibly windy and cold though, so that tour was yet another added to the list of tours that ended in us wanting to collapse. But there was a pony there. He was pretty cute.

We stopped in Sligo for about an hour, then continued to Co. Derry where we got to stay in a hotel!!! That is a big deal!!! We were glad we experienced staying in an uncomfortable and sketchy hostel so we could truly appreciate this one-time experience. We had to pay for the meals there, but at breakfast it was basically buffet style so we gorged while we could and stashed the rest in our purses hahaha. They had a pool and gym there, but it wasn’t heated so I just hung out with people around it later that night. We ended up befriending the nice pool bar guy, who was pretty young and chatted with us about a lot of things, mostly country-specific stuff. He wants to move to Boston actually, because he hates living there. We asked about going to Belfast the next day, and he gave us some valuable insight. As someone who grew up around there in neighborhoods that were still highly segregated by religion (which almost equates to political position), he said that they will have us believe that after all the civil war and riots there is now peace. There is not. Tensions are still quite high, and people, police, etc are still being shot and killed as a result. We knew to stay aware as we went about our touring the next day.

Thankfully we didn’t spend too much time out on our own, because we had a guided bus tour. We picked up our guide and he narrated as we went. We stopped to walk around various historical towers, castles, docks, etc. We also got to sign our names on one of the many murals on the Peace Wall. The Titanic was actually built in Belfast, and at the docks where it was made were the Titanic Studios where they film Game of Thrones!! They don’t allow tours inside, but it was kinda crazy to know that stars from the show had walked in that area, which is so industrial and very different from the world of GoT. By noon we were at the Parliament Building (Stormont), where an official tour guide from it took us around. He said something like “watch out for this one!” when I answered that my relatives were from County Mayo. Maybe we’re known rebels or something. Beware.

A few of us walked around the Belfast City Center, which is kind of like the Grove at home, a giant shopping area. That felt safer and more insular, as everywhere else we were had spikes and armoring. We finally made up our minds on where to get dinner, then managed to go to the top of the center to the lookout over all of Belfast. Some pretty good pictures were taken with the cityscape, and then we went back to the hotel.

The next day we did a walking tour of the town Derry, which had closed itself off to the world when there was all the fighting happening. There were murals everywhere of the riots, of people who had fought, of people who had died. If I remember right, one mural showed a little girl, who was the first victim claimed by the riots. We walked along the Derry City Wall, which was how they shut themselves away, and from there we could look out and see the tiny, gorgeous city tucked into this corner of the world. Wind and hail be damned, it was worth it to see a rainbow arcing over the jampacked houses and cemetery for the split second that it lived.

On our way back to Galway we stopped at a beautiful little cemetery in Drumcliffe where W.B. Yeats is (maybe) buried. I spent every second I could walking around the muddy grass, trying to read the moss-grown engravings, and leaning in close to say hello to the blooming snow drops. I wish we spent more time in places with less grandeur and history, and with more nature.

This is quite long isn’t it? The second half of February will be continued in another post. It’s 3 am, so I’ll say goodnight~

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