Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Less than 12 hours

With less than 12 hours left in Northern Ireland, this is my last posting from Belfast. (I will be putting up a few more upon my return home, including some pictures!)

This past week has been brilliant.
There has been a special visit by a certain YAV who had been serving in Kenya, there were lots of delicious goodbye meals with wonderful people, and the weather cooperated for my last few trips to the North Coast, the Mournes, and Cave Hill.

My departure brings mixed emotions that I can best sum up as this:
I am satisfied that my year as a volunteer has come to a successful completion, I am excited to drive again, I am sad to leave all of the wonderful friends that I have made in Belfast, I am so looking forward to catching up with everyone in the U.S., but I am also conscious that I am not the same person I was when I left for my YAV year.
What a crazy, wonderful, and slightly overwhelming place to be in.

But for now, as surreal as it is to type this, in grace and peace,
a northern ireland yav-alumnus.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Rainy and grey

Well, the weather here is like something out of a Hemingway novel.
It's cold. It's rainy. Lots of goodbyes are being said.
Emotional wringing of my soul.

However, as Annie reminds us, the sun will come out tomorrow. (Well, maybe not in Northern Ireland, but it sounds like it's sunny throughout most of the U.S.)

Last week was really interesting. I went to one of the 12th July parades and visited Galway with two people from EBM (Aran Islands! Cliffs of Moher!). Pictures to be posted, I promise.

This week is full of lasts: last Friendship Circle outing, last Sunday morning service, last gathering of the YAVs, last hiking trip into the Mournes, last dinners with lots of people.
But there is a lot of happiness in those occasions.
It's been a great year with the wonderful people of East Belfast Mission, great memories have been made with the YAVs, and so many great discussions/reflections/lessons that have been had and learned during this time in Belfast.
Words in this blog really can't capture the effect that this year has had on me...
But I am getting excited to see you all very shortly.

Just wanted to touch base with you all in a short post.
Stay tuned for pictures and more stories in the next few days.
In grace and peace. :)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Final Month!!!!

Ahhhhh, so hard to believe that it is the start of my final month in Northern Ireland.

June was absolutely wonderful and flew by so quickly.
From Mama Foltz visiting to the YAV retreat on Iona to traveling to New Orleans for the Fund for Theological Education conference, what a full month.
All of my regular activities around EBM have wrapped up for the year. July is very much the travel month for people in Belfast. (Vacations are timed to get out of town during the parade season.)

Speaking of parade season, I saw my first parade in Belfast last night.
It was one of the early 12th parades... in memory of the WWI battle, the Battle of the Somme.
The parade passed by on the street off of which we live and was definitely a unique experience.
Orange orders from all over Belfast and other cities in Northern Ireland were out marching in full glory - from uniforms to pipe and drum bands to colorful orange banners.
Definitely a taste of what to expect on the 12th coming up...

For those of you in need of a history lesson, let me recap the significance of the 12th:

William of Orange (yes, of William & Mary fame) fought the Catholic James II at the Battle of the Boyne on July 1st 1690.
Due to James II's Catholic faith, parliament had invited William to take the throne... Not entirely random as his wife, Mary II, was the daughter of James II.
And you thought you had family problems.
Well, the Battle of the Boyne pitted James II's Irish supporters (and some French support) against the Protestant supporters of William.
William won the day, and in effect, ensured British control of Ireland for the next couple hundred years.
So, Orange orders (similar in practice to Masonic Lodges/ Elk Lodges/ name any male-dominated orders lodges) were first formed in 1796 and are extremely pro-Unionist (aka pro-British).

So, while the battle of the Boyne took place on July 1st in the Julian calendar, it is now celebrated today by the dates of the Gregorian calendar - July 11th into the 12th.
Not sure what the 12th has in store this year, but from the bonfires currently being constructed (many of them having large quantities of tires) and the recent skirmishes suggest that it could be a really interesting day.

In the meantime, I am trying to enjoy my last moments in Belfast and make the most of continuing opportunities to reflect on how to bring peace to a divided society.
It was really interesting to hear Irish President Mary McAleese's thoughts on the matter when she came to visit EBM last week. Yes, I did get to shake her hand!!!
She actually grew up in Belfast, and her husband grew up in Short Strand, the Catholic neighborhood of East Belfast.
She is an extremely intelligent speaker, and it was great for all members of the community represented (from paramilitary leaders to community workers) to hear the reminder that while there is much work to be done, there is hope.

In peace and grace.