Thursday, March 14, 2013

Ireland - Wednesday

Dr. Faulkner has been traveling with our students and faculty in Ireland. This is his latest blog:

        The main reason for providing international study opportunities to our students, staff and faculty  is to help develop intercultural competency.  The definition of intercultural competency that we are using for this trip is from Byram (1977). The definition is  "Knowledge of others; knowledge of self; skills to interpret and relate; skills to discover and/or interact; valuing others' values, beliefs, and behaviors, and revitalizing one's self."  This doesn't always happen in classroom or in a formal instructional event.  It often happens by getting out to visit cultural sites.

        A short coach ride brought us to the town of Kilkenny.  The country side is beautiful and it is obvious why this is the Emerald Isle.  Having been in constant agricultural use for many centuries, the landscape is a series of fields and pastures.  While some fences are present, the old hedge-rows divide the parcels.  With agriculture one of the top two drivers of the Irish economy, the farming way of life creates a close tie to the land.

        Coming from Tennessee, it is painfully obvious that there are no major forests, at least in this part of Ireland.  We saw some tree farms but they were small pine plots and not the mixed mesophytic and deciduous forests we have in our part of the world.  The land is very flat with a few uplands equivalent to our ridges.

        In Kilkenny we visited Kilkenny Castle, the ancestral home of the Butler family.  Built in 1219, the castle was purchased in 1391 by James , the 3rd Earl of Ormond, the first of the 600 year ownership by the Butlers.  The Butlers ceased to live there in 1935 and the castle fell in to extreme disrepair.  The family presented the castle and grounds to the people of Kilkenny in 1967 for a token payment of 50 pounds.  The Office of Public Works has done a near miraculous job of restoring the castle.

        The visit emphasized how the history of Ireland has shaped it's culture.   Heritage is paramount and explains why Gaelic is spoken and a required subject in schools even though it is spoken no where else in the world.  Yesterday at Presentation school we met three girls that are part of the Gaelic debate team and they are on their way to the national competitions.  Today was a great day for developing intercultural competency.  

       Part of the joys of these kind of trips are the moments of serendipity when we encounter interesting persons.  In the afternoon, Dean Espey met and talked with an Irish economist that has done work in helping to restore the economies of many former Soviet block countries and helped them gain entry into the European Union.  He has some interesting ideas about rebuilding economies and I would love to be able to arrange to have him visit us at Vol State.

        In the evening, we visited Monk's Pub.  We were able to hear traditional Irish music.  Our ensemble performed separately and also joined in for a "jam" session with the the locals.  Pubs are the center of much of Irish social life and another good opportunity for learning about the culture.

1 comment:

  1. I am enjoying your posts from the Emerald Isle. Of all the places I have visited, Ireland is my favorite. Living vicariously through you this week. :-)