Sunday, September 19, 2010

How are you settling in?

That has been the most common question that I have received this past week... And I have not been entirely sure how to answer it.
Part of me says, heck yes! And the other part of me still feels like a visitor to a foreign country.

This past week is rather a blur right now, but with another week just around the corner, I feel ready.
Quick update of the past few days:
Thursday afternoon, I helped out with the youth director for EBM with a Scripture Union at a local primary school.
First off, let me explain that schools here, while public, are nonetheless affiliated with Protestantism/ Catholicism. It's (relatively) no big deal for God to be discussed in schools, albeit often with the emphasis of "it's ok if you don't believe in God."
Anyway, we had 27 kids from a p6 class (equivalent to American 5th grade). And it was a bit nuts. The four of us adults in the room provided basic crowd control for the hour - from stopping kids from pig-piling on top of one another to stopping kids from beating each other up. It was rather chaotic. We introduced the bible story of the day (the New Testament story of the friends lowering their sick friend through a roof to see Jesus) through a dvd. And amazingly enough, the kids were silent for the three minutes of the film. Pretty cool.
I had most of the day off on on Friday, so I took the time to purchase a new pair of shoes (nicer-looking black dress shoes that can stand up to the test of walking the 2+ miles roundtrip to EBM), got some quality hang-out time with another flatmate, and mentally prepared myself for Friday Fusion (youth club) that night.
We had been told to expect 20-40 kids... There are 52 kids there between the ages of 4 and 12. Luckily we had about 15 adult volunteers to oversee everyone. We split them into an older bunch and a younger bunch and from there they alternated playing games and having snacks/ discussion time of what they would like to do this year.
It was an awesome time; it's a great group of kids. Best moment was as I was walking home, some of the younger kids who were being driven home by their parents waved to me from their car and yelled good night. Cool that they recognized me!
I then took a cab into City Centre to catch up with some other YAVs and attend a Johnny Flynn concert (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Flynn) which was happening at a local pub. It was the most silent concert I have ever been too... If you were to say something in a normal speaking voice, 20 people would turn around and glare. It was rather bizarre. We couldn't figure out if this is a Norn Iron culture-thing, but I'm wanting to go to another concert now and see if it's the same.
After the concert, we headed home pretty early because on Saturday, we hiked Slieve Donard (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slieve_Donard) with one of the other YAV's churches.
It was pretty epic.
Luckily, one of the church members is also a boyscout leader, so he had a large supply of tough waterproof jackets and pants. We probably would not have survived the hike otherwise.
It was a 2.5 hour climb to the top. All uphill. The first 30 minutes was basic hiking uphill through the woods. Then the next 45 minutes was hiking uphill through the valley. The next 30 minutes was climbing steep rock stairs. The then the last 45 minutes was climbing up even steeper rock stairs/ rocky path/ grassy-rock combination to the very summit. Throughout most of the way, it was raining in some capacity. We were up into the clouds basically once we left the timberline. Then it just got wetter, windier, and colder. Luckily the last 45 minutes, we were climbing along a wall on the downwind side. The wall lessened the chance of us getting blown off the mountain and also cut some of the windchill. Visibility was about 15 feet at the top, but according to Wikipedia, the view is quite beautiful. The trip down took 2 hours. My legs were quite relieved to be going downhill. :)
Surprisingly, my body survived the 4.5 hour hike. And members of the church were waiting at the bottom with tea, soup, and sandwiches. I had brought my warmest hat, gloves, and socks so during the climb, I was really only cold when we stopped for a period of time at the base before the summit and at the summit. But the tea and soup were still very much appreciated!
We then proceeded to come home, grab some food (kebabs!) from a local restaurant, and spend the evening watching Love Actually (purchased for 1 pound at one of the EBM thrift stores.)
Saturday was an excellent day off!
This morning, I attended church and taught the p-1 Sunday school class. Due to EBM meeting in the community center, all of the Sunday Schools meet in one classroom, so it was a little chaotic this morning, especially as it was my first time sitting in/ teaching Sunday School here.
I ended up having 3 kids: a 3, 4, and 5 year old. The age/maturity range was rather wide, and despite teaching them the story of Deborah from Judges (who the heck designs Sunday School material around Old Testament stories of warfare), it turned out to be a good time talking about leadership, who is a leader, how does God call us to lead, and ultimately a game of Simon Says. :)

So how am I settling in?
I will start with the negative:
I miss having a washing machine that can do a full load in 30 minutes. (Allowing 2 hours to wash a load of clothes is killing me.)
In the pouring rain, having to haul groceries home is not the most pleasant activity. (Especially with having to shop on a budget, it's economically advisable to shop at a large grocery store... which is conveniently about a mile away)
I still don't exactly know what the year is going to entail. Hopefully this week will continue to provide some clarity.
I have been feeling the culture gap in many ways. I never know if people understand what I am saying, especially when communicating with kids. (Please note, tag = chasies. And you are not "it", you are "on.") Those little differences make playing games hard, but it's a simple example of how even though I speak the same "language," there is a vocabulary gap. And that's even before the accent-difference is taken into account.
On the positive side though:
I think I am starting to get a better understanding of East Belfast.
I have liked everyone that I have met at EBM so far.
I have really enjoyed the time spent with my YAV group.
I really enjoyed working with all of the kids, meeting people of all ages, and overall getting to know a wide range of people from East Belfast this past week. I am excited for another week!

There is so much about my time so far in Belfast that I just can't describe to you in words. There is a lot of pain and suffering that is under the surface, from the legacy of the Troubles but even more so problems specific to inner East Belfast. Hopefully, in time, I will begin to be able to express to you what I have seen and heard.
But for now,
In grace and in peace.

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