Thursday, March 26, 2009
Thursday, March 19, 2009
The recent tension in the country made us pause, especially since there was talk of a missing 300lb bomb in Derry, some small riots, and the fact that "bloody Sunday" (yes, the U2 song was written about it) happened in Derry. It is a mainly Catholic town and the center of many of the "civil rights" movements of the troubles. But after contacting a local Derry resident who didn't feel there was any real threat and memorizing the names of streets to avoid we decided we had to go. When will I be in Ireland for St Patricks day again; it was an event not to miss!!
I did ask myself, if I were to get into trouble, and my family was contacted, would it be a "what was she thinking?!" type moment for them? I decided you would all understand that rumors and "what if fears" should not be the basis for missing out on an adventure.
I am oh so glad I went. My earlier comment about St Patricks Day not really being celebrated here was incorrect, as my information came from Protestant Irish. The Catholic Irish DO celebrate St Patrick's day in a MAJOR way. They are all out of school and every woman man and child in Derry were dressed from hairspray to toenails in Orange, Green and White. THey had leprachaun costumes and St Patrick ( think green pope) get ups. We went to a parade, saw some Irish dancing, and watched the masses as we did the tourist ventures.
There were signs of strife in the graffitti on some walls and paint smeared on churches. That was the extent of the conflict that we saw.
The city itself again has a facinating history and story, but too much to write here. It was surreal to go to museums dedicated to a conflict that was still taking place.
We had a fabulous time visiting the pubs that night, where we spent several hours elbowing for space ( let alone a pint) in a throng of celebrating Irish. Chatting didn't work as loud music, hundreds of people in a space made for 25 and thick accents made the conversations short with lots of shrugging and nodding.
We rode the train back to Ballycastle early the next morning grinning in our green tiaras, as a St Patrick's day in Ireland was truly had.
Several have asked when I return to the states, it will be the 11th of April. I can't believe my time here is almost up! I know every day has been fully lived, and yet it seems too incomplete to be nearing the end.
Thank you for all the emails and comments, It makes my day to hear snipets of life at home and know you are checking in on me!
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
In case the news hasn't reached the US, for the first time in 10 years two British soldiers were shot and killed here in Ireland. The group taking responsibility are an extremist group off shoot of the IRA. It happened on Friday in a county about 20 mins from here. On Sunday a police officer was shot 10mins from there, by another extremist off shoot, of the IRA. The original IRA involved in the troubles whom now runs 1/2 the government, has been VERY against these shootings.
If you are interested look up the town name where the shooting occurred, it is a town the government built and put both Catholics and Protestants in together ( government housing makes up 60% of the homes). It has no history, no roots creating a very fascinating dynamic.
Some small riots have broken out, but most of the country and leaders are united in seeking peace. It does make the reality of the work and this place more real. I have had really enlightening conversations with the LTV's who are from countries that have unrest and conflict as well, like El Salvador and Sri Lanka about the similarities and their experiences.
On the more positive end I had the greatest night in a pub! 3 of the volunteers and I went to a local pub ( one of the 5 oldest in Ireland). The Guinness here is incredible, it is smooth and tasty. We talked up the bartender who showed us how to Irish dance and much later sang us some Irish ballads, with the Irish group that was playing. They were a collection of locals who had a pint, joined in with their instruments and then moved on, it created a constant flow of people and Irish music. I ended up talking to the owner for quite some time. The bar had been in his family since the 1600's! I asked him what has changed since he took over, he said he had to allow women in the bar! and having beer on tap. He showed me a beer he bottled in 60's when they use to bottle the beer from the barrel at his bar. It was great to hear his stories and opinions of Obama ( every one wants to talk about Obama here!!!!!).
Being here while the conflict is occurring makes all that I have learned so relevant, and meeting locals and being in a real pub was a taste of Ireland at its heart; good resiliant people.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Its not one of those top ten must see cities everyone is dying to travel to. Actually I think its one of those places people specifically avoid traveling to.
I had a ride and it was on the way to Corrymeela, and thus I decided to spend the night there and see the "tourist attractions".
The pride and joy of the city that millions are being poured into to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of is....... the Titanic. It was built in Belfast, and one of the great accomplishments of the city. If one gingerly mentions the fact that its most famous for sinking, the response is "it was floating when it left here". Oh what resilient people, they have to take pride where they can get it I guess.
The political murals is the other large tourist attraction. These date way back and are all over Ireland, but the ones in Belfast are the most famous. I was lucky enough to be shown the murals by the christian renewal centre's director and his wife, who were raised in Belfast. It was fascinating to hear the history of how 5 years ago it wouldn't of been safe for him to drive down some streets, and share how the town was divided, and the shame in the hatred displayed in the murals.
He showed me the "peace line", which is a humongous wall that runs along the divide. It has lasted longer than the Berlin wall. They still shut and lock the gates at night, both sides agreed it is still necessary.
I spent the night in a hostel, walked the hostel mascot dog in the botanical garden, ( I'm sure summer does wonders for the landscape), wandered around the university district and finally had a cup of GOOD coffee!!
I saw the oldest pub ( the third main tourist attraction) on my walk to the bus station the next morning and the newly renovated city hall, with a huge Ferris wheel set up for the titanic celebration ( 2012).
As it was my first city to conquer alone I was surprised to find it wasn't at all threatening and quite enjoyable to wonder around in silence without an agenda.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Ahem-the list of the events of last two weeks:
A group of 20somethings came to CRC for a weekend of connection. Connecting with God and each other. I was able to pray and be a part of their services, spending time getting to know them. It was neat to be able to see what was similar in their lives and interactions to the US ( the boys constantly jump on, jostle and joke with each other, and make a drum out of anything - makes me miss my brothers-, same worship songs, worries and questions) and what was different ( how they pray, their slang, everyone lives at home until they marry)
I climbed one of their Mourne mountains- Slieve Martin. It was all that you hope for from a rugged Irish countryside. I could see the ocean on two sides, I forget i'm on a island, even though there are many palm trees ( no really!).
Spent the week reading, praying,walking, being alone and with the lovely 65/70 somethings getting beaten badly at scrabble, cleaning and praying.
28 men recovering from drug addiction came for the weekend for seminar of sorts. I mostly served tea, smiled, washed dishes, set tables and smiled some more. Of course I was dieing to know their lives stories, but I only heard second hand. There were several intense moments I witnessed, such as a leader of the IRA, realizing the speaker used to be a high ranking orange man, and both wanting forgiveness from each other, crying, embracing; both huge tattooed, worn hard men. Everyone was in tears. The other was listening to them all sing praise songs. a melody of male voices who embody what it means to be saved, and in such celebration of it... I really haven't wrapped my mind around watching that... it seemed too intimate to just be in the same room.
My last couple of days I spent walking and cleaning. I walked to the memorial for the man that burned the white house down, it looks exactly like the Washington memorial in DC. The guy was born in Rostrover. I thought it was quite funny; its very well maintained.
So those are my list of run on sentences of the happenings; although it doesn't capture my own experience in the slightest.
Then there was Belfast...
Monday, March 2, 2009
I Highly recommend anyone who has a spare 2 weeks to 3 months come and volunteer here, the serenity and graciousness of the people, place, and the scenery will renew all souls. and they need help!!! they are 6 of the most vivacious 70 years olds I have ever met, but they are always looking for help.
I spent the weekend serving and cleaning up after a group of 28 recovering drug addicts from a group home down south. It was an honor, and eye opening experience. More on that later.
I am off to belfast, spending the night and then on to Ballycastle to Correymeela.
LOve to you all !