Saturday, September 11, 2010

Oh Belfast, my city, my city!

To begin on a lighter note: I have seen a shocking number of people with my hair color so far during my time in Belfast. It’s actually really nice. Strawberry-blondes unite! Not sure how Ireland’s policy on redheads compares to Scotland (where they like to boast about their history of burning red heads at the stake), but hopefully it’s a more accepting policy. Haha.

The past two days were whirlwinds as usual, no surprise there. The ball last night was FANTASTIC. With the help of my flatmates with my hair and jewelry, I was set to attend the ball. The two best parts of the evening were the food and the people. (Haha, that sentence makes it sounds like they were one and the same; they were not.) The dinner was extravagant – cheesy baps (aka rolls), cream of vegetable soup, turkey with ham, potatoes, and broccoli, and a meringue cake with chocolate and caramel toppings. My metabolism is having a hard time keeping up with me in Northern Ireland.

[The evening was emceed by a Norn Iron celebrity (for the life of my I can’t remember who he was or why he was famous), and it included a fundraiser auction on various donated items.]

The people were the best part hands down. There was a wide age range of people in attendance. (There was a kids table that thankfully I was not put at.) I sat at a table with four other really interesting couples, including Mark and his wife. I re-met and met many people throughout the evening; everyone looked wonderful in their formal wear! (No one was as excited as the younger children who for most this was their first ball.) One of the people at my table though was the brother of David Ervine, Apparently David’s funeral was held at EBM back in 2007, and Wikipedia confirmed what I was told about it – that an extremely wide range of Norn Iron political leaders were in attendance. Hopefully in the next year, I will get to have tea with David’s brother, who is a schoolteacher but seems to know a good deal about the politics of Norn Iron. EBM never ceases to amaze me.

The evening concluded with dancing to music provided by rather an eclectic cover band. The dance floor was taken up by females age 10 to 50, while most of the older couples were quite wary. It was quite an enjoyable time though for everyone regardless of age, and it was a lot of fun getting to see the wide range of people with connections to EBM.

Today was a sports-filled day! This morning we walked into City Centre and headed in to St George’s market again. I broke off from the group to do a bit of exploring on my own (I am not a fan of window shopping without a purpose, especially as most of the vendors were the same as last Saturday’s). I ended up soaking up the sun outside of City Hall, which was just what I needed! The full group, including the guys, then assembled at City Hall and we headed for another lunch at Boojums, the Mexican restaurant we visited last Saturday. It was again a delicious taste of America. After wandering through a wonderful charity used bookstore and getting caught in a torrential downpour, we caught the bus out to North Belfast and attended a Crusaders Football Club match. It was quite an experience as expected!

We have been walking a fine line so far in Belfast. It’s not that there are parts of Belfast where we could not go, but it’s more of whether we would be welcome. (Does that make sense?) Luckily for the match today, we had two Belfastians with us to provide us with the confidence to feel like we relatively belonged there. (One of the flatmates had been heavily warned against going to local football matches without someone from that area inviting us, so we at least had an in to get into this match. West Side Story should have been based in Belfast.)

Anyway, after the game (Crusaders won!), we hung out at the guys’ apartment until I got picked up to go to a Belfast Giants hockey match! Two observations from that game: it was about the same level of play as the Canadian minor league match I attended last March, please note that there were no fights during either of those games. The second observation is that there was A LOT of free food given out during this game – including subway sandwiches being launched from a giant sub bazooka, free cookies, free pizzas, and more. Blackberry was another supporter of the hockey team. I had my fingers crossed that they would begin handing out the phones. Alas, to no avail.

The Giants did win, particularly following an exciting third period. Having attended a local football game and ice hockey game, that just leaves attending an Ulster Rugby match to complete the trifecta of local sports. (I do want to see more local football matches, particularly Glentoran FC which is based in East Belfast. Fingers crossed someone from EBM offers to go with me, lol.)

It’s been an exciting two days as I continue to dip my toes into Belfast’s culture. It’s hard to believe how much the world has changed over the past 9 years, and I am excited to see how my world changes during this next year. In peace and grace.

p.s. This was brought to my attention by another YAV as I was writing this blog. The three male YAVs live and work in North Belfast, so please keep all of us YAVs in your prayers! (One of the YAVs works in a center not far from where that happened.) The incident doesn’t sound at all like it was random, but it’s a good reminder of why we are here. We have the ability to leave in a year’s time, but many of the residents of Belfast do not have that luxury.

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