Stepping off the plane at Shannon, I could feel the cool, moist breeze painting my face as a smile crept around the corners of my mouth. I had been looking forward to this trip for months and I was finally here. Upon setting my feet down for the first time on Irish soil, I could tell that I was in for an experience of a lifetime, but what would transpire during the following two weeks would be a journey that I will never forget. Very soon, I realized that I did not pack as well as I should have. I expected Irish summers to be hot and I received in return a wet, cold, Rhode Island type of weather that I had been wishing to escape since I was finished with my finals. At one point during the first few days of the trip, a man stated the “since we had been here, a heat wave had taken over the countryside” and it was only 85 degrees out…. shocked I exclaimed “What?!?” promptly regretting the amount of shorts and tank tops that I had packed along with the research safari hat which I was unable to show off. At the Connemara cultural center, we learned that “it rains about 250 days out of the year here” which plays a key role into the type of landscape that Ireland has.
Made up of vast, beautiful grasslands that are trotted upon by various kinds of livestock, Ireland is home to some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. With the amount of rain that Ireland receives each year, a lot of the land is made up of bogs. Once shoveled, the bog turns into a substance that is called turf or peat. The dug-up turf is then burned to be used for cooking and heating up homes. The bogs can also act as a preservative. At the cultural center, we were told that “the bogs can preserve human bodies for longer than a hundred years” and we were even showed an example of the bone tissue that had been infused into the muscle, creating an eerily bendy matter.
Agriculture is clearly a massive aspect of Irish life. About halfway through the trip, we visited a sheep farm where we were able to witness the amazing display of a border collie herding in a pack of sheep for them to then be hand sheared. It was quite a sight to witness, as the shepherd was able to handle the animal with grace without causing them any harm. We then walked down to a fjord, which is a glaciated valley surrounded by great big mountains. At the shore, was a mussel farm, which takes in “about 80 tons of mussels per year.” The farmer only takes in a certain amount of mussels each year so that he does not have a negative effect on the ecosystem, which goes to show how the Irish respect their habitat and have no interest in seeing it change.