Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood...

As Mike and I waited for the 8:57 bus (which never came) this morning, we were amused by the observation that it was another uncharacteristically sunny day in Belfast. During the 2-day DukeEngage Academy prior to our departure, our director Robin had asked us what we were most curious/worried about – I believe two-thirds of the group had voiced concerns about the rain. This fear was not unfounded – Robin had warned us that it could be quite cold and/or wet even during the summer in Northern Ireland and since we have been here, a countless number of people have commented on what great weather we were enjoying. To this point, my rain boots have remained idly stationed in the closet, except for the day they were donned by Sean when he ventured into a stinging-nettle-filled marshland to retrieve the lost soccer ball. Recap: today was a beautiful day, but the bus was late.

The next bus finally arrived, allowing us to catch our connecting train and make it to our Conflicts of Interest course. Mike and I have been attending this weekly course, which is run for a women’s group in a Protestant/Loyalist estate of Lisburn. For the first hour, the tutor focuses on specific conflicts in different time periods and regions (e.g. Northern Ireland, the Balkans, etc.) and engages the women (+ Mike) in a discussion about the topic and especially how it relates to our own situations/lives. The second hour is led by a guest speaker – not necessarily an “expert,” but usually someone who has a unique experience with the conflict/violence in N. Ireland. This set-up might not seem too revolutionary, but it has yielded some thought-provoking questions for all and these women have a forum in which they can talk openly about issues of their community and country. Many of the women in the group have young children and would not be able to engage in courses like this without the childcare that is provided by Colin SureStart at the Centre.

With the rest of the afternoon off, I moseyed over to South Belfast, passing Queen’s University and joining Ama (our coordinator, a Duke History PhD student) for lunch at The Barking Dog. Truthfully, this restaurant is simply BRILLIANT. Last Sunday, I tried their Fisherman’s Pie, which was slightly different (and yes, I think better) than the one I had at Robinson’s. Sean, who also indulged in the Pie, described it as “more like a collage, where each ingredient spoke for itself,” referring to the distinct chunks of fish (scallops, salmon, shrimp, etc.) and vegetables underneath the fluffy potato covering. Today, I tried the chicken & avocado wrap, which came highly recommended, and absolutely had to finish with dessert: passionfruit cheesecake & chocolate ice cream. Mmmmhmmm! (Mommy, this was almost better than mango cheesecake in Hawaii…)

After lunch, I wandered through the Botanic Gardens, including one of the greenhouses called the Palm House. It was a beautiful, humid oasis of all sorts of foliage! I proceeded to film a mini- guided tour on my camera, which I will upload to Facebook soon. The rest of the afternoon was filled with reading on a park bench, browsing in a small bookstore, and walking back to city centre. I invested in a copy of Brave New World – not sure why I didn’t own it before, but now I can reread it in Belfast!

I hope this gives you a better sense of the sorts of things we are doing while we are here in Northern Ireland. I feel a bit more acclimated and less like a tourist/visitor every day – somebody even asked me for directions yesterday and was surprised when I started speaking that I was American! Mission accomplished.


  1. enjoy the beautiful weather while you have it! you never know whats in store in that area :)

    AHHH! when i went to England last summer for the backpacking excursion, we had about 12 out of 14 BEAUTIFUL days.. completely against what we expected. And then the last day almost seemed to be trying desperately to fix England's image and it PELTED rain at us. Probably the hardest rain I have ever felt in my entire life. I couldnt see anything more than 2 feet in front of me, and we scrunched up our hoods so just the eyes stuck out, and then looked down... and you were STILL pelted with rain that bounced off the ground and up into your face.

    xx miss you!

  2. Hahahaa! That sounds like a LOT of pelting -- ouch!

    Speaking of England and Northern Ireland and traveling -- I've been looking for a buddy who might like to travel somewhere (seriously, anywhere) during Christmas break. Wouldn't have to be for all of it. I think we would be an awesome travelling pair, so think about it!

    miss you too!

  3. oooo!!!!! that sounds like a fabulous idea! we can talk about it this fall :)