Sunday, August 28, 2011
Saturday- Iverstown to Belfast, NI
Salvation! Internet has been located. Here is what I wrote last night.
It is Saturday night at 11:14 pm Irish time, and I don’t know when I’ll be going home. I’m sitting here waiting, hoping, and praying we will be told our (air)ship is coming to take us across the Atlantic. I feel much like Hugh must have if he left from Derry and sat on the docks for days or even weeks before his ship came in. Of course I know my final destination, he had no idea. The hurricane has us stuck in Ireland. One might think how fortunate we are, but school starts Monday and there will be children looking for their teacher. The word now is we are leaving Friday or Sunday of next week. One of the students has referred to it as “the Hugh Cummiskey experience.”
Today I saw my first “Orangemen.” The summer is marching time in N. Ireland. Loyalist groups put on their dark suits, bowler hats, and sashes and march with bands and loud bass drums through different towns and neighborhoods. The purpose is to remember William of Orange who defeated the Catholics thus beginning the English presence in Ireland. I had read and seen films of the Orangemen, but never witnessed any myself. It was all very sterile to view it from my chair at home, but to watch them strut along the road made me ask myself how I would feel if I experienced this every summer.
When we arrived in Belfast we took a Black Cab tour. They go on both sides of the city describing the political and religious strife that has haunted this beautiful city for centuries. They refer to it as “the troubles.” Again, I’ve read enough Irish history and seen enough documentaries to think I knew the situation. I didn’t, and I still don't. Our guide, Paul, drove us around pointing out the murals of the Loyalists who maintain they have the right to be here and rule. And the Catholic side who maintain they are the original settlers of this place. Throughout both sides these murals speak far more than mere words. Have a look.
At one point Paul dropped us off in a very heavy Loyalist section. There were dozens and dozens of Union Jacks flying on flagpoles, bannered across streets, painted on walls, and the Red Hand of Ulster displayed as a sign of Loyalist presence. I wanted to leave. I’m sure these are good and wonderful people who work hard and just want to raise their families, but the tension in the air made it more than I could take.
We met up with Colm, Eileen, and the students at Kelly’s Pub where there was a session going on. The music, the atmosphere, and the company was the complete opposite of the earlier experience. I think it demonstrated the real spirit of the people here.