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Monday, June 1st, 2009

“A million a decade! – Of human wrecks corpses lying in fever sheds- corpses huddled on foundering decks, and shroudless dead on their rocky beds; nerve and muscle, and heart and brain, lost to Ireland – lost in vain.”

Inscribed in one of the entrance columns to Skibbereen Cemetery, this quote refers to the more than 9,000 famine victims buried in a plot that is not even half the size of a football field. This dehumanization commands the attention of us visitors, not only in it’s simplicity (a plot of grass), but also in it’s mystique, as we are forced to comprehend such loss. Remote and hidden, the cemetery is located on the side of a highway; not exactly a prime location to recognize one of the most important events in all of Irish history. It is evident that the people of this area do not wish to flaunt and expose what was such a painful part of their lives. In fact, until recently, the town chose to leave the site unmarked. However, upon our arrival this year, we were promptly greeted by a series of commemorative plaques and newly restored, or replaced, tomb stones.

While the cemetery serves as a mass grave for the lives that were lost during the famine, it previously served as, and is still serving as, a working cemetery. Over the years, family of famine victims who were buried in Skibbereen have been lain beside their loved ones as recently as 2009. We actually stumbled upon a hand made tombstone of a thirteen year old boy named PJ. It is made of concrete with beads embedded in the borders, and a decorative cross which was probably a family talisman, on the top. The script is clearly handwritten. Next to to it is a much more elegant and recent tombstone, which was obviously manufactured, and is black with printed white writing. This one recognizes the boy again and his family who died later. Both tombstones are surrounded by a curb that match the new tombstone.

Another tombstone that we noticed was one that covered three generations of a family, including six infant children. We also saw a memorial for Archbishop Dennis E. Hurley, whose parents lived in Skibbereen. The plaque on the memorial commemorated him for his promotion of justice and freedom and the abolition of apartheid in South Africa. Of course Skibbereen also meets the expectations of any normal cemetery; there are great amounts of holy water, flowers, crosses, pictures and cards.

Ultimately, the group is now able to put the famine into a better perspective. Standing before such sublimity made us realize that our friends and family could have been amongst those 9,000 unfortunate souls, and for most of the people in Ireland, they are.

Written by Group B – Shannon, Mike, Danielle, Jenny, Miriam, Chris & Dan

First LONG day of travel.

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

Our first day of travel is about to come to a close. We have been in transit since 1:00p.m. on May 20th till now, May 21st at 5:37 p.m. (Irish time) and are just taking care of a few little odds and ends before we gather together for dinner.

So far things have gone very well. The trip to JFK went smoothly and the flight to Shannon airport went well. We had a short 45 minute delay, but it helped once we got to Ireland as we started our day here at about 7:00 a.m. Irish time.

We traveled to see the Cliffs of Moher as well and a number of other sightseeing stops until we finally made it to Galway where we will be spending the night.

While we have had spots of rain, the weather as a whole has been brilliant! The student have been excited and energized despite the number of hours we have been traveling.

Our driver, Rory O’Connor, has once again come through with a great coach equipped with tables that the students have taken to sitting around to play games as we drive the narrow Irish roads.

We have been able to keep in good communications through our Twitter posts and have just recently posted a gallery of images from our travels so far.

Look for more updates as we continue. Again, thanks to Rory, we have a broadband modem card that should provide us with Internet access from any locations, though we will be putting that to the test when we enter Northern Ireland (UK).

Keep checking back as we post more content here, to Twitter, Flickr and our YouTube channel.