Today we woke up at 7 and were instantly greeted by the rain. We were faced with minor difficulties at the train station, difficulties that were resolved once Jim politely asked an elderly woman, who was searching ancestry.com of all things, to allow us to to use the only available computer so that we could book our tickets. The two hour ride to Belfast was my first experience riding on a train. Along the way, my eyes met the beautiful Irish countryside and, for a short time, were captivated by the roaring waves of the Irish sea as they pounded against the shoreline. The weather was colder than anticipated. We went to meet and interview Full Court Peace, a basketball team made-up of Catholics and Protestants, all of whom are brought together through the love of the game. Every person I met was genuine and kind. I interviewed several people as the players dashed back and forth across the court. We left the gymnasium shortly after putting "all hands in" as if we were part of the team. They thanked us, but it was them I wanted to thank. I wanted to thank them for inspiring me.
Dr. Bill, Carol, Alex, Jim and I continued with our Black Taxi Tour as it drove around the rainy city, stopping at some of the troubled spots in Belfast. I learned that Belfast is much different than Dublin. You hear stories of Protestants beating Catholics, simply because of their faith, and you hear the history and hurt of a city that, to this day, is divided by a wall that has outlived the Berlin Wall. Around the neighborhoods surrounding the wall things are quiet, eerie and, well, depressing. The walls are covered with graffiti and political paintings. One was a painting of George W. Bush that read, "America's Greatest Failure."
The conflict here amazes me. What amazes me more is how little I knew or understood about this country, this city and its history before this trip. I want to continue to travel and learn the history and culture and conflict that occurs outside my comfort zone and the familiarity of the United States. I want to hear the stories of other nations struggles and continue to be inspired and educated by people like those who we interviewed today. In Belfast, people are still getting attacked because of their faith. But I do wish I could have heard from more Protestants, instead of mostly Catholics.
We ended our adventure at a pub, where I ordered delicious lamb. Losing track of time, and the distance to the train station, we hurried from wrong station to taxi and made it on the train just in time. Our Black Taxi Tour driver said it would take us five minutes to get from the pub to the train station by foot. Au contraire. I've learned that what the Irish says will take five minutes to walk to, in reality, takes twenty minutes, if not much, much more.
On the ride back to Dublin everyone slept, except me. I stared out the window and soaked in the green beauty outside. Because I knew it would be a long time, if ever again, that my eyes would meet the countryside of Ireland. The rain was still pouring as we arrived home. We decided to walk to our bus stop. With umbrella in hand we made our way through the city, my jeans soaking up the water on the sidewalks. I didn't mind. Walking through Dublin in the rain was a bit magical, if you apologize the cheesiness, but it's true. I couldn't hold back smiling, all the way from the train station, to the quick stop at the donut stand- freshly made, sugarcoated donuts straight from the oven that melted on your tongue, delicious- to the bus stop, and safely back in my warm hotel room. But now was the time to get back to work. I grabbed a hot coffee from the bar downstairs (which was the strongest, most delicious cup of coffee I'd ever tasted) and I was then ready to focus on writing my article. Tomorrow will be my last day in this wonderful city and oh how I shall miss Ireland.