Sunday, 19 August 2007


THE ARMAGH PROJECT 2007 drew to a close on Thursday August 16th with a final presentation of the work so-far completed and a sneak preview of the still-in-progress website, The presentation, held upstairs at the Amma Centre, was attended by students, faculty, and various members of the community.

Director Andy Ciofalo started off the proceedings with some opening remarks, piling thanks on the Amma Centre, the Armagh City Hostel, and the welcoming locals. "From my point of view," Ciofalo said, "This has been an excellent program."

Irish culture professor Margaret McAliskey, described by Ciofalo as the Project's "umbilical cord to the soul of Ireland", agreed. "You've been an outstanding group," she said, addressing the class. "Every morning I'd drive by the hostel and see you all there coming out."

"It's going to be very sad to see you all go," she said, choking back a tear.

Next the teachers of various modules spoke. Photo prof George Miller was pleased at how the students had taken to snapping their shots: "You guys were out there shooting all the time," he said, "Which I appreciated."

No less enthusiastic were writing profs Judy Dobler and Tom Petner.

"I came late, but I discovered all kinds of interesting stories," Dobler said. "Road bowling, Cloud Cukoo, the Green Lady..."

Petner concurred, adding that he had been sending out photos taken by students to subscribers of his e-mail newsletter, viewed by thousands of colleges. "They were stunned by your photos," Petner said.

The event was rounded out by a showing of a number of the videos shot, as well as the web pages in progress.

"I'm really glad that I did this program," Oklahoma student Sarah Turner said after the crowd had watched her movie, a spooky drama on local ghost hauntings. "I'm really lucky and I feel really fortunate to have had the chance to come here. I've learned a lot about myself and others."

Similar testimonials were received from the community.

"I've been struck by the commitment of the students," local priest Fr Kevin said. "After all-- you are on summer holiday!"

A delegation of astronomers from the Armagh Observatory also turned up after a chance viewing online of some of the videos.

"We've watched the Armagh Observatory video 100 times," Romanian astronomer Miruna Popescu said with a smile. The team at the observatory liked it so much, she added, they incorporated it into their website.

"What an exciting programme-- we're delighted," said Armagh City councillor Sylvia McRoberts, enthusiastic about the benefits such a program can bring. "We appreciate your positive approach to showing Armagh, and you have demonstrated there is a lot happening here. You've been wonderful ambassadors."

Her partner, fellow councillor Thomas O'Hanlon, agreed. "I hope you's come back," he grinned.

The festivity continued later that night at Guildernew's bar, where program director Ciofalo treated the students to a night out, featuring cider, chicken goujons, and mayonnaise, with a musical backing courtesy of "DJ Chill".

But all good things must come to a close, and on Saturday morning the group left Armagh, sharing cabs to Belfast airport, doing last minute airport gift-shop shopping, and ascending into the dark clouds on their way back to the United States.

We at the Armagh Examiner would like to thank everyone-- readers, contributers, students, faculty, and 'Armaghnians' alike, and especially the Amma Centre, without which this project would not have been possible.

See you again next year!

Wednesday, 15 August 2007


AMID THE ELATION of being finished with projects, Temple University student Chrissy Doughty brought her classmates down to earth with a stern call to arms against a messy environment.

The warning, issued Wednesday afternoon in the hostel kitchen, was aimed at students whom Doughty felt had been abusing the cooking facilities and leaving a mess behind.

"It's disgusting," Doughty said. "It's too messy. I normally keep things pretty clean, but this is disgusting."

She gestured to a large cast iron pot containing the slimy brown remnants of a traditional stew cooked by hostel employee "DJ Chill" and which he left out overnight to rot.

Computer lab tech and New Kids on the Block fan Darcy Caputo took Doughty's message to heart, and immediately began clearing the communal refrigerator of its vile contents.

"Who left all this to rot and fester?" Caputo asked as he pulled bottle after bottle of thick, rancid milk from the soggy bowels of the silver fridge.

Student Laura McKean-Peraza wrinkled her nose as she held up a bottle of milk that had expired on July 28th-- over two weeks ago.

Some milk had hardened and congealed; others had separated into curds and whey. One bottle of milk, described by a passerby as "botulistic" had swollen so that it could no longer stand up. Another had turned a repulsive shade of yellow.

"Who buys this milk, drinks a sip, and leaves it to sit for weeks?" Caputo cried.

"I don't drink milk," Doughty replied, "And this makes me sick. It's really disgusting."

Among the other items dragged out of the wet, moist depths of the fridge were a bag of soggy, wilted, brown salad greens; various pots of foul, drippy yogurt; a single slice of sweaty ham, and other unidentifiable scum-covered objects. But the most prevalent abandoned groceries were bottles of thick, glutinous milk, some with chunks.

Student Kyle Saadeh eyed the collection of drippy milk bottles and then looked over at Darcy.

"I'll give you $1,000 to chug all that," he told Darcy, nodding towards the stinking display.

"$1,500," Caputo replied, upping the ante.

There was a moment of silence as the pair stared at the rank mess, and they both shook their heads.

"I'll tell you one thing, though," Caputo noted. "It's got to be rich in calcium."

THAT TIME is on us once again. The culmination of four weeks of photographing, writing, and filming is here as students bring their pieces together to form cohesive web pages documenting Armagh. They finish one by one, exhausted by the effort, but joyous at its completion.

"I finished yesterday," Gonzaga student Christine Slomski said, treating herself to a piece of chocolate as a reward. "It's nice. It's a sweet feeling."

Student Alex Cavallo, fresh out bed at 1pm and relaxing in a pair of powder blue hospital scrubs was enjoying being finished as well.

"I feel like a great weight has been lifted off of me," she said. "I thought the web design part would be hard 'cause I'd never done it-- but it wasn't. And now I'm finished."

There remain a few students left with a bit of work left on their projects. Student Sarah Turner sat in the hostel lounge, awaiting her appointment to finish it up.

"My appointment's at two," she said, "And then I'll be done. It's gonna be nice."

Downstairs in the kitchen, Florida native Megan McGovern rifled through the communal ramen box in search of lunch, feeling peckish now that her project was complete. "I rented some videos to celebrate," she said, holding a package of "Top Ramen Oodles of Noodles" in one hand and an early 90s Robin Williams comedy in the other.

The project website,, will be up soon.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007


IT'S AN INDISPUTABLE FACT that Armagh Project students are noted for their incredible intelligence, often compared to supercomputers. They are frequently good-looking, too, as well as being witty, cultured, and with class that puts royalty to shame. But life isn't all smarts, good looks, and attitude. A few students among the bunch harbor a secret. An unknown, even dangerous talent: extraordinarily flexibility.

Their limbs seem to defy all the laws of nature as these students bend and twist themselves into pretzel-like contortions, laughing merrily as their stomach-churning performances have classmates looking away in disgust. Their bones seem to be made of rubber; their muscles and tendons display a startling range of movement unseen in mere mortals. Today we focus on these students: their hopes, their fears, their bendy arms.

"I was bored one day," Chrissy Doughty tells me, picking at her dinner. "I was just sitting there in class." Doughty's boredom was to lead her into realms rarely explored by ordinary humans. She pulled at her fingers. She pulled them up towards her hand. And they kept going. And going. A few seconds later, Doughty had pulled her finger all the way to the back of her hand. Demonstrating her talent Monday night, she showed no sign of pain.

Is there something wrong with her bones?

"I don't think so," the tow-headed moppet replied. "But maybe I'm Elasta-Girl."

Has she ever used her extraordinary talent to stop a crime, perhaps?

"Yes," she replies smugly. She refuses to disclose which, however.

A table away sits Gonzaga student Megan McGovern. Like Doughty, she harbors a dark secret, one that she traces back to a childhood accident that left her arms as bendy as a bowlful of jelly.

"I was riding my bike," McGovern explained. "My shoe was untied, and I was too lazy to tie it-- I rode anyways. Two houses down, while pedaling, the whole bike tipped, and I broke my arm in seven places. It never healed properly."

She raises her well-toned arms in the air above her, bending them in an uncanny manner.

But if she only broke one arm, how is it that both arms can bend? On being asked, a look of confusion crossed McGovern's normally serene face. She shrugged and went back to her dinner.

Fellow Gonzagan Brigid Carey knows only too well what life is like as a member of this secret club. In Carey's case, she found herself licking places few dare to dream of in her search for the ultimate bendy high.

"I can lick my own elbow," the demure football fan smiled, extending her moist tongue to her elbow and licking heartily. "It's supposed to be impossible, but I can do it. They say 75% of people who hear about it try it-- and they all fail. I first read about it in my daily planner in 7th grade, and I too had to try it. It was easy!"

Her classmates gasped and she spread saliva across her elbow with a cheeky grin.

Not to be outdone, your own faithful editor lept to the occasion, combining two in one: McGovern's arm bend and Carey's elbow-lick. He waited for the applause to die down before returning to his goat-cheese pizza.

With all these hidden talents around, how do ordinary students feel-- those whose arms stop bending at the regular place; those whose wet tongues wag furiously short of the elbow? Are students vigorously stretching regularly, tugging on arms and legs in an attempt to "bend it like Doughty"?

"No-- I'm fine," grad student Meg Carey told me with a shudder. "I like my body to be normal. I don't want to be a freak."

Monday, 13 August 2007


CLOTHES LAUNDERING IN NORTHERN IRELAND can be a bit of a hassle. Between white plastic bags from the Squeaky Clean laundrette and a neverending line at the hostel washer, it's enough to drive anyone crazy.

"The first two weeks, I was hurting," student Chrissy Doughty told me. "I felt grimy!"

But for the residents of Northern Ireland themselves, cleaning clothes isn't hard enough. The Armagh Examiner has learned of a new clothes laundering practice in the region that takes the simple act of cleaning one's garments to new extremes of complication and hardship.

It seems locals are queueing up to take a ferry to Stranraer, Scotland to do their ironing atop the craggy peaks of the Scottish shore. One apparently gathers up one's dirty laundry and takes it to Scotland to clean. Swedish ferry line Stena offers a £105 ($212) outing which their promotional literature claims "combines the thrill of an extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well pressed shirt". The ferry departs from Belfast at 7:35am, returning at midnight-- offering residents of Northern Ireland the entire day to launder their clothes anywhere they want: "[l]akes, castles, mountains, forests... You decide!" the brochure helpfully explains. "[E]xperience freedom like never before!"

Armagh Project students, however, were not so enthusiastic about the idea.

"Are they on acid?" screamed Gonzaga student Brigid Carey.

"It sounds pretty wacky," agreed Temple student Andrew Harrington. "I have no experience in rock-climbing, and I don't usually iron my clothes anyway."

Student Sarah Turner was similarly unmoved. "I wouldn't go," she said. "I hate ironing."

Perfectly-coiffed photo prof George Miller, however, seemed eager at the chance to iron his way through his wardrobe, excited especially if there was a chance to compete.

"Is it a competition?" he chirped breathlessly. "I'm in!"

Does Miller consider himself especially talented at ironing?

"Ohhhhhhhh yeah," he nodded. "Put me on a rock and I'll kick some butt ironing."

Wednesday, 8 August 2007


IT'S A COOL, OVERCAST DAY in Armagh, but upstairs in the Amma Centre computer lab, a damp, humid atmosphere reigns as students sweat over their projects. Students mutter, hum, and swear under their breath as they struggle against looming deadlines. But amidst the mush-mouthed North American voices, a lilting local accent finds its way to one's tired ears.

It is none other than Roisin Kelly, Armagh local and pinch-hitter in the much-lauded Armagh Project Team Four. But how did an Armagh City girl find her way to an American program and a table full of foreigners?

"The woman at reception [in the Amma Centre] is a friend of my family," she explained. "And I heard that Team Four was a person short-- so I came to fill the gap."

And fill the gap she did. Her fellow team members say they can't imagine anyone else in her place, much less a run-of-the-mill American.

"She's helped us so much in getting around and with the facts," team member Cate Oliver said.

"She's great-- one of the gang," agreed Charlotte Levins, noting that Kelly was invaluable in explaining the cultural mores of the area. "She told us what to add, and what was sensitive and to stay away from," Levins continued. "She told us what it was like growing up here, and she also showed us where the cool places are."

Despite bringing such strengths to the team, Kelly remains modest and insists that it's really all new to her.

"Although it's interesting," she said, "It's something I've never done before. It's pretty challenging, and I do sometimes feel like a fish out of water."

But being a local among foreigners can be eye-opening, she notes. "I've seen Armagh in a new light," she said. "There are so many things that [my team] find interesting that I take for granted."

What's it like working with Americans?

"They're slightly conspicuous," Kelly laughs. "A bit obvious."

And what does she make of this project coming to Armagh, of all places?

"That's the mystery," she said. "I can't quite work that one out."

Tuesday, 7 August 2007


TEMPERS WERE RUNNING HIGH and accusations were flying after an argument broke out at Zio's Italian Restaurant when Gonzaga University student Brigid Carey accused fellow Spokanite and computer lab tech Darcy Caputo of wearing a shaggy wig in a promotional video.

The video, shot on location in Italy by director Dan Garrity, is an 8-minute-long promo reel for the Cagli Project, sister program to the Armagh Project. Caputo makes a brief cameo as an Italian Don Juan, flirting with vivacious video host Annie Carey-- Brigid's sister.

Brigid Carey charges that Caputo, these days sporting well-oiled close-cropped hair, was wearing a long wig during his scenes in the film. "It just looked really funny," she explained.

The two entered into a lively debate fueled by red wine as they sat across from each other upstairs at Zio's.

Carey claimed she got the idea it was a wig from Caputo himself. She charged that Caputo did not directly claim to be wearing a wig in the video, but had a "shrug and a smirk" attitude towards life that led her to question the authenticity of the long, lush hair on display in the film.

Carey, no stranger to courting controversy after repeatedly claiming to be related to pop star Mariah Carey, viewed the video on popular website You Tube, where it is still openly available. Caputo believes that Carey simply "jumped to conclusions" when confronted with his thick, flowing mane in the movie.

The debate remained unresolved at the end of dinner, with both sides still sticking to their stories. But some had fears for Carey's sanity following the contentious charges fired by each of the parties.

"She was up all night, worried, angry, and confused," Brigid's sister and roommate Meg Carey, also a student, told me, making veiled allusions to her sister's mental health, which she described as precarious. "She'll go into old age worrying about this. There won't be any end to it."

A HEARTY WELCOME was extended over dinner Monday to our two newly-arrived faculty members: Judy Dobler, copyediter, and Cindy Bonfini-Hotlosz, web design.

"White wine" was Dobler's response to being asked how she was feeling after her flight. "I'm a little discombobulated," she said, by way of explanation. "It's a little weird to come from Omaha, Nebraska, to Northern Ireland. But I'm excited."

At the next table over, Bonfini-Hotlosz displayed her incredible stamina-- after her transatlatic flight and the trip from Belfast to Armagh, she immediately taught a two-hour class on web design and went right to dinner.

"It's in my blood," she said. "Strong Irish stock, with a dash of Italian."

What does she look forward to most here in Armagh? "My goal is engaging the public. And that's what we'll do," she said.

Monday, 6 August 2007


A LITTLE RAIN couldn't stop these hardy scholars. Despite a weekend of nonstop torrential downpours and heavy winds, defiant students braved the elements to enjoy a few days off and travel far and wide throughout the northern climes of these emerald isles.

Students Lauren Hicks and Chrissy Doughty took a long and tortuous trip across the choppy Irish Sea to Scotland in search of the fabled city of Glasgow. They laughed when asked if it was difficult to reach.

"We took a bus to a shuttle to a ferry to a bus to a train to get to Glasgow," Hicks explained. "Just getting there was the biggest adventure of them all."

"We took just about every mode of transportation possible to get there," nodded Chrissy Doughty. "Oh, except rocket. Or plane. Or hot air balloon. Or horse. Or bicycle. Or horse and buggy. Or camel. Or rickshaw. Yeah, it was good."

"Glasgow was beautiful and bustling," though, Hicks assured. "We went to the first frat house in Glasgow, only now it's a dance club."

"The problem was no-one in Scotland knew how to dance," Doughty sighed. "They don't know how here, either. Maybe in the whole U.K.!"

"But who's stereotyping?" added Hicks sheepishly.

Gonzaga student Cate Oliver, meanwhile, stayed in Northern Ireland, venturing up to the barren, windswept northern coast in search of the Giant's Causeway. The Causeway, a series of bewitching basalt columns formed in the mists of time, gave rise to ancient myths that the giant volcanic stones were the work of a terrible giant.

"It was amazing, besides the rain," Oliver recounted. "It rained the whole time until we got on the bus. It was slippery out there on the rocks-- I saw a few people eat it."

Did Oliver get a glimpse of the horrible stomping giant?

"I did," she said. "I shook his hand."

What did the mythical warrior look like? Was he bedecked in green, growling fiercely, tossing rocks about and letting loose terrible oaths?

"Actually," Oliver smiled, "He looked kinda like Darcy," referring to popular computer lab tech Darcy Caputo.

Caputo, suspiciously clad in green and towering over his computer, dismissed the whole thing, snorting "There is no giant."
by CHRISTINE SLOMSKI, special to the Armagh Examiner

MAYO IS A BIG DEAL in Ireland. In fact, it's a staple ingredient, and my take so far is that the Irish can't get enough of it. Here mayonnaise is served as dressing on salads, with burgers, on sandwiches (not just a dab, but as an essential ingredient), as dip with chips (fries), and with eggs. There's no escaping the stuff. I was walking through Sainsbury's one day and was awe-stricken by the amount of shelf space that this creamy wonder takes up.