Wednesday, September 1, 2010


I actually forgot to say that this morning. Though, I think my flat's goal has it on the calendar for next month to remind each other. (All the Norn Iron YAVs stared at me this afternoon when I asked them if they had said it.) Apparently the superstition originated in Britain. And since we're here...

(Have no idea what I am talking about? Wikipedia will guide you:

So today, we began our orientation to Belfast. We visited a bunch of sites where Belfast YAVs are working, including two Presbyterian churches. Several observations of Belfast Presbyterian churches/ what I have learned about the Presbyterian Church in Ireland:

- most have intense steel bars over their windows; many utilize barbed wire in their exterior decorating

- Presbyterian churches are suffering member decline in many ways similar to the PC(USA), primarily changing demographics of the surrounding neighborhood (here it’s neighborhoods going Protestant to Catholic), but also aging congregations, youth disenchanted with the church, etc.

- Elders in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland serve FOR LIFE. (Supreme Court Justice style)

- The PCI is basically a lay-led church. Most Pres. Churches employ one minister and maybe a part time property manager. All youth, secretarial duties, and other functions of the church are lay led. Different from PC(USA) with large church staffs!

- Not sure if this is PCI-wide, but I know of at least two session meetings that met tonight. Perhaps the trend is Wednesday and not Tuesday night as in the states. (Threw me for a loop for awhile as I kept thinking that today was Tuesday as Doug had a session meeting, haha.) Sounds like session meetings can be just as long in Norn Ireland though.

Food-wise, here is my first full day of Norn Irish food:

Breakfast: dried raspberry crunch cereal, irish soda bread (toasted with butter), MILK

Lunch: quiche lorraine, salad with tomatoes

Dinner: Elaine Baker’s version of a semi-Irish stew, some dessert concoction involving raspberries, lots of sugar, whipped cream, and both yogurt and greek yogurt.

All of the above was delicious.

During our site visits, Doug was there to translate. And by translate, remind the Norn Irish speakers that they were talking too fast/ using phrases we were not familiar with. We learned about the girl guides, indoor bowling (similar to lawn bowling, not ten pin bowling), that crèche refers to a nursery, that “crack” means to have a good time/ “crack cocaine” refers to the drug, and overall, the Northern Irish like to talk really, really, really fast.

Really interesting point of the day came when we met with the director of a trauma center in Belfast. It came out during his spiel that he in fact lost his wife and father-in-law (both innocent bystanders) during a bombing in ’93. What a conflict.

I should have taken my religion and ethics class after this year of volunteering. I would have written excellent essays about how we often define ourselves against who we are not and also about forgiveness/how do we forgive. (One Norn Irish pastor was observing today how youth don’t know what makes them Protestant, but they know they aren’t Catholic.) Oh goodness.

It was sweet hearing how various organizations and churches are doing their part in striving for interactions between the two sides.

Still, I am living mostly in my American bubble as I hang out with the five other YAVS and the Bakers for the next week. I am off to visit the East Belfast Mission tomorrow; hooray! The bubble will be burst next week as I start working at EBM. (I am excited to work with Norn Irish youth!)

Just to give you a brief view of my interactions with Belfast so far. The street I live on is off a street that is just off a major street. We are on the East end of Belfast which is primarily Protestant. From my flat, it will be about a mile down the major street to walk to work. The guys’ flat is in North Belfast. That area is both Protestant and Catholic with Protestant streets and Catholic streets often bordering, intersecting, and alternating. But even at the street level, there is segregation.

I have really enjoyed hanging out with the YAVs so far, and I am looking forward to more adventures! Over the next few days, we will visit all of our sites, city centre, and head out of Belfast for a long hike.

It’s been sunny both yesterday and today, but by no means warm. By St. Louis/ Williamsburg standards, it has felt like chilly fall. Ironically, the comment was made today that this is the week of summer Norn Iron has been waiting for all summer. If this is summer, it’s going to be an interesting fall and winter. Woohoo! But, enjoying the sunshine while it’s with us.

We do have an electric water heater for the shower. Haha, when Doug told us this, Adrienne, one of the Belfast YAVs became really concerned as last week, we had heard a former YAV talk about how she would daily electrocute herself on her Peruvian shower’s electric water heater. I reassured Adrienne though that I’m sure that somewhere the British require electric water heaters to be fully grounded. It has proven true so far…

Hopefully you are enjoying the daily posts. At this point, they will be this frequent at least until I get into the daily routine, then they will become bi-weekly/ weekly as I give you highlights from my life. Love to all!

In grace and peace. :)


  1. Of course! Rabbit rabbit day! I remember that from childhood. Still working on long-term internet access.

  2. Thanks Miriam for sharing your adventures with us. We think of you everyday. Have fun. They are lucky to have you.