About an hour and twenty minutes north of Belfast, Northern Ireland, is a natural phenomenon comprising some 40,000 basalt columns that are mainly hexagonal. They are located together at the shoreline. There are two theories as to how this site was formed: one is scientific and the other is Irish Folklore. Eleanor Killough, the Learning and Visitor Experience Manager at the Giant’s Causeway National Trust, explains the scientific theory: “The Giant’s Causeway is the aftermath of volcanic crashing, burning and cooling. An epic 60-million-year-old legacy to lava. Over 40,000 basalt columns. Interlocked. It’s no wonder this place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because beyond the mind boggling beauty, the Causeway is our portal into Earth’s most ancient past.” My favorite? Of course the legend of Finn McCool (also known as Fionn Mac Cumhaill or Fionn Mac Cool)! Here’s how it goes: “ Once upon a time, there was a mythological Irish giant called Finn McCool who got himself into a spot of trouble with a high-tempered Scottish giant called Benandonner who had made a claim for Finn’s island of Ireland. Enraged at Bennandonnar’s claim to Ireland, the giant Finn McCool starts angrily throwing boulders into the sea off the Antrim coastline in Northern Ireland. Inspired by the way they fell into the water, Finn decided to use his boulders to make a bridge or a causeway – a Giant’s Causeway – all the way to Scotland’s Isla of Staffa. Using his causeway to Scotland, he could challenge his rival to a proper duel over the fate of Ireland. In a mythical world where size dictates winners and losers, Finn realises he has underestimated his enemy – Benandonner is giant even for a giant! Brute force won’t work on him – so Finn quickly returns to Ireland via his Giant Causeway and decides the best way to beat Benandonner is to con him. Leaving the Giant’s Causeway for Benandonner to find, Finn McCool’s wife disguises him as a baby. When his rival arrives, he finds Finn’s wife, Sadhbh, tending her enormous baby giant. Realising that if Finn’s child was this big, Finn himself must be huge! The Scottish giant Benandonnar hurries away, retreating back to Scotland with his tail between his legs. As he hurries home, he frantically tears away bits of the causeway, severing all ties between Scotland and Ireland to prevent Fionn McCool following him as he retreats to the Fingal’s Cave on the Isla of Staffa. ” That is how the legend of how the Giant’s Causeway was born. Amazing right?! Which story do you believe?!
Let’s first define poor because it is a complex word. We can rank countries by various economic and developmental factors, but should remember this does not define a person, a family, or a community. This post’s reference to poor is based on the economic factor of gross national income (GNI) which includes all the income earned by a country's residents, businesses, and earnings from foreign sources. By ranking the top 25 poorest countries in the world , USA Today determined that several African countries have some of the lowest GNI per capita. There were only three countries on that list that were not located in Africa: Solomon Islands, Afghanistan, and Haiti. While billions of dollars are spent in foreign aid from the Europe Commision, USA, UK, Canada, and China, we have to wonder how the aid affects their economy. Some are even calling an end to African Aid. Firoze Manji, a Kenyan activist, and Pablo Yanguas, a consultant on aid effectiveness, debate stopping the West from giving aid to Africa. Manji highlights the exploitation of African countries and claims “aid uses public funds to subsidize and encourage the implementation of neoliberal policies [privatization of public domains] that have resulted in growing impoverishment of the majority, and the obscene accumulation of wealth by national elites who are among its main beneficiaries.” Yanguas responds by arguing “the removal of foreign aid from the equation will do nothing to prevent future exploitation.” He also acknowledges that “foreign aid is a very flawed tool, but one that is suited to the grey areas of development challenges. It works incrementally: testing, searching, making plenty of mistakes along the way, but also building unexpected coalitions, and planting the seeds of change.” This debate was very interesting to read and brings us to another point: the unfair treatment of Africa and how that has affected their economy. The exploitation of Africa began with the horrific idea to acquire enslaved people and the export them to a new country. It continued with colonisation in the 19th century when African colonies were placed under European control, and into the 20th century when the US, Russia, and China took a special interest in African countries in the 1960s for their natural resources. Africa is the richest continent in terms of natural resources. Exploitation of poorer countries in the 21st century is far more complex coming in the form of foreign aid. For example, billions of dollars were raised after the 2010 earthquake that destroyed Haiti. Isabeau Doucet, a freelance journalist working in Port-au Prince, Haiti, reporting to NPR , explains “[Haiti’s] reconstruction, like almost everything else in that country, has been privatized, outsourced, or taken over by foreign NGOs [Nongovernmental organizations]. On the tragedy's one-year anniversary, it's become clear that perhaps the only positive aspect of the past twelve months has been the exposure of the failures of the NGO aid system, and the international community's long-standing use of the country as a laboratory for cashing in on disaster -- both of which have been wrecking havoc on this country since long before the earthquake.” So why is this all important? It is to emphasize why Africa has the poorest countries in the world. It is a direct result of centuries of exploitation through colonization and international politics. With less foreign aid and more tourism, we are putting money directly into the local businesses and supporting their economy. Aid dependency is counter effective by steering away from countries independently financing their economic development. As a solution, tourism is one of the main sources of economic growth and job creation. We are seeing this today, as the pandemic continues, the travel industry continues to suffer. Africa has a unique history to learn about, beautiful scenery, and there are several local tour companies that are waiting to show you around! Most tourists go on safari or climb Kilimanjaro, but there are several other reasons to visit. There are over 3000 tribes and cultures, vibrant cities, tropical beaches, and several types of African cuisine to try. Leaving this post without acknowledging the benefits of foreign aid would seem misleading. Foreign aid for humanitarian reasons and to promote the conditions for peace and stability is the ultimate goal. Offering money while taking advantage the poorer countries is performative. Firoze Manji summarizes this type of performance from NGOs as them having a savior complex and thinks that the solution to help Africa is solidarity. Bringing the tools and resources countries need, while listening to local communities, is the only effective way to work together in order to make that positive change.
From the park you are also able to visit several New Jersey beauties and depart on ferries to Ellis Island or downtown manhattan. The Empty Sky Memorial is a “memorial dedicated to New Jersey’s 749 innocent loved ones who were violently and senselessly murdered [on September 11, 2001] at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in Shanksville, PA. This memorial reflects the legacies of those whose lives were lost, that their unfulfilled dreams and hopes may result in a better future for society.” This beautiful memorial is between another memorial of steel that once held up the World Trade Center and the view of downtown manhattan. As you step in between these two parallel stainless steel walls, its vanishing point is directed toward Ground Zero. As a tribute to the Twin Towers, the length of each wall is exactly equal to one side of the former World Trade Center Towers as the height of the wall reflects proportion of the former buildings if they were lying on their side. It is a site you have to visit to understand - photos alone cannot do it justice. Also located near the park is an unused train station. Originally chartered in 1838, the Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal started as a train station. With the increase of traffic in 1889 it turned into 12 tracks and 6 platforms for ferry slips. With a second wave of increased traffic at the Immigration Station on Ellis Island in 1892, traffic increased dramatically. “Two-thirds of these courageous newcomers, welcomed by the Statue of Liberty and processed on Ellis Island, started their new lives via the CRRNJ Terminal, settling in New Jersey or traveling on to other states.” There are no tracks today - it is reported CRNJ sold them when they went bankrupt in 1967. However, due to the history of how many families went through Ellis Island and settled in New Jersey, there are several staffers who are determined to preserve the site. At the station you can now buy tickets to go to Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty National Monument. After your adventures around the park you can find a beautiful place to eat near the 9/11 memorial and train station. Liberty House is a restaurant and event site located right on the Hudson River. At this restaurant you can find a large checkers set, outdoor seating, a beautiful interior, but the most memorable is the view. There is a spectacular view of downtown manhattan. Among the skyline, the most popular you will find is the One World Trade Center. This state park is filled with history and memorable views. I recommend adding it to your list of places to visit in New Jersey and New York!