Wednesday, March 16, 2011

East Meets Barry West: An Irishman's Adventures in Bulgaria

A Happy St. Patrick's Day to all!

In the States, St. Patrick's Day is a big celebration. Everyone wears green, eats corned beef and cabbage, and has a drink in his honor. It is the day when everyone is Irish. All over the country, there are parades celebrating the Saint, with the largest taking place in New York City. (check out those bagpipes!)

The Irish are proud of their heritage and keep it alive in a faraway land, even though it's been many years since the mass migration caused by the Potato Famine.

The Potato Famine occurred in Ireland during the 1840's. Most of Ireland was owned by British landlords, who used tenant farmers to work the fields. These farmers subsisted on potatoes and milk, as they were very poor. Potatoes were easy to grow, and a small plot fed an entire family.

When a blight hit the potatoes in 1845, many Irish people starved to death. Those healthy enough to emigrate left the country, mostly to the United States.

The Irish in the United States, at first, had a difficult time economically, taking the lowest paying jobs. They suffered from discrimination, mainly because they were Catholics in a mostly Prostestant country. Eventually, they prospered, and became prominent in the professions. Many became involved in politics, the most famous example is former president John F. Kennedy.

Today's post is not about politics, however, but about the connection between Ireland and Bulgaria via an excerpt from a romantic comedy (a.k.a. "chick flick"). The protagonist is a young man from Ireland, Barry, who is searching for adventure and sexy women while on vacation in Bulgaria. He loses his clothes on the bus to Varna, and gets involved with the Bulgarian Mafia, some local people, and a British woman looking for her sister. You can see the entire movie on YouTube.

This excerpt is the cultural exchange part of the film. The villagers teach Barry a Bulgarian song, and Barry responds with an Irish tune. Everybody has gotten happily drunk on rakia and joins in the sing-along.

By the way, if you like bagpipes, check out my post on the Bagpipe and Bulgarian folk music:

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