Friday, July 17, 2009

Last week: FAIL!

So, I pretty much haven't posted anything during our final week here, and here it is, my last night in Belfast. BUT, it's not entirely my fault-I didn't have internet access for the first three days and this entire week we've been running everywhere (sometimes literally, running). I've got a few pictures but we fried our camera battery on Wednesday (yay international outlets) so no pictures of Dublin or Newcastle save what's on my iPhone and I haven't figured out how to get them from point a to point b here's some other ones.

On Sunday morning we went to worship at St. Anne's, the mainstay Anglican congregation in Belfast. It has been a long time since I've enjoyed a service this "high-church" but I really did enjoy it. A great Dean gave a wonderful message and we met lots of friendly people who shared the history of their church. It also spoke very highly of the attitude towards church in this community-a beautifully ornate church which could easily seat 4-500 only had about 45 attenders.

This is a shot from behind the altar looking down through the sanctuary. The reflection in the cross is the stained glass window that was original to the original parish.

A shot of the outside of St. Anne's.

After church we had an amazing lunch and then went to Crumlin Road Gaol (Jail). While this was a major place during the 30 years of troubles, almost nothing was mentioned about this-they are working on restoring it to its "victorian" days when the Prison began. I didn't get any shots that were all that interesting so I won't post any, but it was an interesting experience knowing what we did about the place and basically having this important part of history be intentionally left out. We were told that persons who spent time in prison during the troubles (both from the IRA and the UDA) will come back and do tours with their families bragging about the "glory days".

That evening we went to one of the many bonfires around the city. I need to make very clear that my posting of these pictures is not a political statement either way. I'm fairly confident that the majority of persons attending these celebrations aren't die-hard Unionists or anything-a lot of people use it as an excuse to get drunk and light things on fire-but there was still a very strong anti-nationalist (Catholic side of things) air about the whole thing-flags, graffiti, and these crazy unionist songs. In any case, this is the one time of year that security is beefed up across the board and in my opinion, if something's going to be insighted, it will be around the 12th of July... anyhow, here's a smattering of pictures.
It was dark and so this isn't a great picture, but hopefully this'll give you an idea of scale. The structure itself was easily 50 feet tall and was covered with anti-IRA signs, Sinn Fein poliltical posters, and tri-colors which would all be burned. Many of the structures (though not this one) also include tires but some areas (like Derry) don't allow tires to be burned.

A picture of the tower on fire. It was insanely hot. We were standing probably 50 yards away from the tower and had to move because of the heat. Once again, not making any type of political statement through the posting of these pictures, simply trying to document the experience...

It was a really interesting night, to say the least. The next morning we got up early to head towards our professor's neck of the woods-Enniskillen. We had breakfast at an Orange Order lodge (something we were told most Protestants wouldn't choose to do-and yes this group is protestant) and saw a July 12th parade in the town of Lisbellaw. This parade was a flagrant example of civil religion-the Orange Order, a "protestant" group, marches every year in rememberance of the Battle of Boyne. So each lodge marches with their particular band-either a flute band, percussion, silver (brass), or pipes (bagpipes). They each carry a banner with their lodge's information on it and most have a picture of either William of Orange or the Bible with the queen's crown on top of it. We did hear some great music, though!

The one-room school house where our professor (Dr. William Abraham) got his beginnings! Starting at the age of 3, if I remember?

One of the Orange Lodges marching.
I've got one more round of pictures to post...but honestly not sure if I'll get to it tonight, seeing as I have to pack :) We shall see, though! Thanks for following along on our trip! It has been great and hopefully some more reflection will follow-I certainly have a lot of processing (and required journaling!) to do!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Friday and Saturday

We have had a ridiculously busy, but extremely fun, two days. Friday morning was our last day in the classroom and before we started we got a tour of the Wesley Historical Society which is housed in the basement of Edgehill Theological Seminary.

To all my nerdy Methodist friends: guess who's hair this is? That's right, Charles Wesley. One thing I guess Bridwell DOESN'T have...

In the afternoon we went to the Saint Patrick Centre which details the life of St. Patrick. It is also very close to the church where he is supposedly buried.

The stone placed over his grave. It simply says, "Patrick".

We ended the day at "The Old Inn". A lot of great history to this place but also a very renowned restaurant and hotel-one of only two hotel/restaurants in Northern Ireland to receive the "double rosette" rating, and they've done so for the past 10 years. We had a wonderful meal here-the second-best I've ever had in my life (although the absolutely best soup ever!).

It's hard to tell because it was dark, but they have a thatched roof! While many great writers have stayed here, the one I absolutely remember is C.S. Lewis who enjoyed a honeymoon here with his wife Joy.

On Saturday we left in the morning and visited three sites. The first was a waterfall (called "Waterfoot) next to a great little cafe/hotel where we had tea and scones. The pictures don't do it justice but here's one anyway:

Then we headed to the Giant's Causeway. I have a ridiculous amount of pictures from there but it is an amazing geographical feature. There is also a great legend about how it was formed.

They think that this is all the result of a volcanic eruption though aren't sure why everything has settled into these hexagonal shapes and columns. It really is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.

From there we headed to Derry (Londonderry, depending on who you ask and their political affiliation!). There seemed to be a LOT more tension here surrounding the sectarian issues-and a stronger IRA presence (this is a much more Catholic area). We saw another peace wall and walked the walls of Derry (look it up on wikipedia or something-I don't have enough time to explain the historical significance but it is an amazing city with an amazing history).

Here is a shot of a section of the walled city with Derry in the background.

An example of graffiti that was all over. This was on a garbage can on the walls-don't know if you can tell or not but there is a crest on the other side of the city-very British. Hence the tension.

This morning we are headed to services at St. Anne's, an Anglican (Church of Ireland) church. Afterwards, we are having a Sunday Feast and headed to tour Crumlin Road prison. then this evening, the festivities begin for the 12th of July (a Protestant celebration, celebrated heavily by the Orange Order). we'll see what we can safely observe!!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Days 3 and 4, and maybe 5...

The last few days have really been spent in the classroom but we've taken a few outings on the side and seen some great stuff. I will probably post more "thoughtful" stuff later on our discussions-some really thought provoking stuff-but for now, here's the "lighter" side of Northern Ireland!

We are staying across the street from the Botanic Gardens. I have too many pictures of all the flowers but here's a fun one from the "jungle house". Ginormous leaf!

These are the rose gardens. They were so colorful and beautiful and the landscaping was wonderful-almost labrynth-like.

This is Edgehill Theological College (Queens University), the local Methodist "training institute" for those entering the parish in Ireland. This is where our classes have been held.

The City Hall in Belfast. I don't know if you can tell in this picture or not, but there's a statue of the Queen of England out front and the Union Jack flying at the top-a sure sign of British rule.

A random huge ceramic fish at the waterfront (the same bay where the Titanic was buillt!) so we decided to treat it like Texans....
Lots more fun pictures, may have to wait for facebook for those...but all in all things have been going "swimmingly". Tomorrow we head to Derry (or Londonderry, depending on who you ask!) and to see the Giant's Causeway. Loads more pictures, I'm sure! Tata for now, peace to you all!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Ireland, days 1 and 2

Alright, so we've already experienced a lot. I will try to condense it as much as possible (I have already taken close to 200 pictures...) and my mind is absolutely swimming with not just the culture I am being immersed into but the discussions we've been having in the academic setting, as well. I'll start with a few pics from our first day, which included a tour of the area of Belfast we are staying in (south side, on Queens University campus).

Queens University-it is Graduation week (that's right, week, one to two ceremonies a day). So things are a little crazy around here but it means the food in the dining hall is extra good I suppose!

We visited Clonard Monastery (Catholic) which is working very strongly on reconciliation issues between Protestants and Catholics. The monastery is located right in the middle between a large Catholic community and a large Protestant community. The wall that you see above (complete with barbed wire) is part of a 27-mile system of "peace line" dividing the two communities.

This is a memorial on Bombay Street which was the site of a major riot. This is in a Catholic neighborhood (they are fighting for independence from Britain). Notice the wall in the background-another section of "peace line".

This is the site of a terrorist bombing in 1993. The man who set off the bomb spent 7-9 years in jail (can't remember exactly) but was released as part of an amnesty agreement and now once again walks the streets of this neighborhood.

This is one of many huge bonfires that will be lit the night before the 12th of July, a major celebration around here for Protestants (specifically commemorative for the Orange Order). Youth spend all year collecting pallets (and many include tires) and the government gives out prizes for fires that are well kept. This battle commemorates the decisive battle in 1690 between William Orange and King James-which determined that the monarchy ultimately remained Protestant, and that the Queen now represented the Church of England in this. Hopefully I'll be able to post some pics of these bonfires after the 11th!

This is an example of the types of murals that are all over the city. Both the Protestants and Catholics have murals which commemorate fallen comrades, depict certain battles or struggles, or show support for important individuals in the history of their cause. It's really a very honest and blatant expression throughout the city of the history of these strugggles. This one, in the Falls Rd (Catholic) area, depicts a history of events. To understand how polarized this struggle is, the bottom right panel reads "Eire, War; United Kingdom, Peace" (Eire-Ireland).

My first Guinness-Enough said! Except that, I am proud to say that my first Guinness was "from the source".

I will try to post as often as possible-perhaps I will try to do some actual "blogging" with thoughts and things on my mind from our discussions with people here (tomorrow we meet with an ex-paramilitary) but I wanted a way to share some of our journey so far! Jon and I are having a great time!

The Beginning!

I decided to start a blog as I've been wanting to for awhile now and I decided that would be the easiest way to share my experiences and pictures from Ireland over the next two weeks. Unfortunately I woke up too late to do much this morning but hopefully by this evening I will be able to post some pictures and explanations about all we have been learning in the two days we have been here!!