Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Tale of Two Cities?

While everyone else seems to have adjusted to the time difference, I've been waking up at 5am for the past two days. Great. Since the sun doesn't set here until 9:30pm or so, it is very easy to lose track of time and stay up late. Then, sunrise at 5am awakens me with its gloriously bright rays, which (especially after a night out in Belfast) I do not necessarily appreciate. However, the brilliant early morning sunshine has been indicative of beautiful weather for the past few days. We all came prepared for the monsoon season/Ice Age and have been pleasantly surprised to enjoy jeans/t-shirt weather thus far. Yesterday, Mike and I took a wee jaunt to the longest Belfast peace wall, which separates the nationalist Springfield Road and the unionist Shankhill Road. Clearly this peace wall attracts visitors/tourists from all over and while I was first reluctant to whip our my camera lest it betray my foreigner status, I quickly relented. As we moved down the mile-long wall, Mike and I wondered how much of the amazingly colorful graffiti was done by people who live in the area. Although we can't say for sure, I would like to believe that most of it is.
Here are some of my favorites:

Now those are tourists... =)
This doggy is very small compared to the dogs we've seen around Belfast -- some of them are huge, especially considering that most yards are quite small.
(Mike is capturing a note scribbled on the wall.) I'm wary of the notes that talk about bringing peace to Belfast. There are a lot of people here who have been working for years to promote and sustain a peace that is still quite tenuous, but comes from within Belfast. Peace is a struggle, something each person has to work towards on a daily basis. Great work has been done and people are beginning to talk to each other. Many of our community partners facilitate conversations between Loyalist and Republican ex-paramilitaries -- people who literally used to kill each other. There is hope.

But above all these colorful murals is a 30-foot high wall -- a reminder that Belfast still remains a city divided and not at peace. The director of Healing Through Remembering reminded us yesterday that ignoring the past is not the way to heal. HTR firmly believes that forgetting can be as detrimental to the healing process as it is difficult.

On Monday, we begin work. But much of our work has already begun -- we have started to understand (albeit in small ways) what challenges still face the communities in Belfast.


  1. Thanks for posting the photos! I'm actually quite a fan of graffiti art, so this was definitely an interesting post for me! Hope you get over your jet lag, soon! :)

  2. btw- you said that there's a wall still above the graffiti walls... Does that mean that the city still needs to separate certain people from one another... and that you might not venture to the other side? or.. is it just symbolic? :/

  3. Yes, there is definitely segregation all over the city. Allegedly, it is more segregated than downtown Chicago (the most segregated US city).

    Walls separate Catholic and Protestant areas. As a local, you would not really cross over into another neighborhood and if you did, people would be skeptical and wary of your presence.

    As visitors, we can move a bit more fluidly throughout because we stick out everywhere =)

    Places along these walls where there is a way to cross into another neighborhood were prime locations for violence during the Troubles, often called "flashpoints."

    Also, if you are from here you can tell within 2-3 seconds if someone is Catholic or Protestant, by the way someone talks, what sports team they support, by where they live, or even by their pronunication of certain sounds.