I switched to a truncated feed because my posts over here are really long. I wanted to spare the f-lists of those of you subscribed to the lj feed. Well, either the feed or lj decided to freak out and repost a bunch of really old posts-- I'm sorry about that. This is partially a test-post to make sure it doesn't happen again. If it does, or if partial feeds are annoying people, let me know and I'll switch back to full feeds.
Saturday, September 8, 2007
Friday, September 7, 2007
My first costume for this project is a Robe a Polonaise-- a style of dress popular during the 1770s-- the 'Georgian period,' or the time of the American Revolution. Examples can be found here, here, and here.
What was going on in the Quaker World during the 1770s: Many American Quakers, especially the followers of John Woolman, were engaged in the struggle against slavery. As such, many Friends avoided slave-dependent goods such as cotton and indigo (the most common blue dye at the time). Quakers of this period built their clothes to last, believing it ostentatious to throw away perfectly good clothing when the fashions changed. They'd make high-quality garments and wear them until they wore out-- hence the myth that they were intentionally behind the fashions.
Right now, I've got my pieces up on my dress form for fit adjustments:
The Character It's Made For: My vision of the woman who would wear this dress is that she was upper middle-class, and so had access to the latest in fashion and the best in fabric. She had this dress made sometime around 1775, and chose a polonaise specifically because it would help her achieve the popular silhouette of the era without resorting to a hoop skirt or 'pocket panniers,' which she viewed as ostentatious. The rich brocade of her skirt (not pictured) speaks to her wealth, but it's the same color as her overdress-- an elegant brown that doesn't call undue attention to itself.
A Few Notes:
The Fabric: Since fit adjustments are done inside-out, you actually don't see much of the right side of the fabric. It's a slightly lighter shade of brown and not at all shiny. The fabric itself is an old ultrasuede/microfiber that's been kicking around in my closet for years. It looks and drapes like a silk or silk-blend-- exactly the kind of fabric a wealthy Quaker of the day would make her wardrobe out of.
The Shape: With all the pleats, darts, and tailoring on this dress, hanging it inside-out doesn't give a very good indication of how it will look. All of the shaping done to make the dress poof out in the back is currently making it poof in. Also, the neckline hasn't been cut yet. The white line in the pictures gives a good idea of where it will fall.
About Those Darts: I'm actually making my polonaise from an 1870s pattern-- it's a hundred years out of the time it's meant to portray. The darts and princess seams are anachronistic to the Revolutionary War period. From the example pictures linked above, you can see the conical silhouette fashionable during the 1770s period. Since my rib cage hasn't been deformed by years of corsetry and I don't have stays that will help me fake it, a 1770s polonaise would look pretty weird on me--it would bunch and wrinkle. Rather than make a completely inaccurate garment, I chose to make one that's accurate to the Victorian era--my period of specialty-- so that I can re-use it after this project is finished. In the meantime, it will be dressed up with eighteenth century touches that will help hide this underlying discrepancy.
I'll be posting more pictures as the dress progresses. I may re-use it even within the presentation, bringing it out for both the 1770s and, re-dressed, for the 1870s. I haven't worked out what other pieces I'll be making for the presentation, but I want to do at least one man's outfit as well-- possibly two, depending on time and resources. I'll be staying away from the Quaker 'quietist' period, because this project is about the ways they used their clothes in their struggles to change the world-- not how they used them to set themselves apart.
I'm doing an independent study this semester on the history of Quaker dress-- specifically, Quakers and Social Change: A History in Costume. Quakers of the past, much like Quakers today, shopped with their consciences, and avoided contributing to industries that committed human rights abuses, or otherwise supported practices inconsistent with Quaker principles. I'll be documenting this tendency through extant documents and photographs, and also creating examples of Quaker clothing from various periods in history. In so doing, I hope to dispel some of the 'plain dress myths' popular among modern Quakers (we all looked like puritans, we didn't wear buckles or buttons, we only wore grey or black, we intentionally stayed a decade behind the fashions of the day, etc) and to demonstrate how much modern-day Quakers have in common with the Quakers of the past.
I've started working on the costume examples already. Tomorrow I'll have progress pictures of my first one: a brown polonaise for the American Revolutionary War period. For now, I just wanted to explain what's going on so that I can refer back to this post later when posting progress pictures and other research. Don't expect much by way of citation in the costume progress posts-- I'm simply not that organized. When I'm done with the written portion of the project, I'll post chunks of it, along with the bibliography. But do watch this space for costume nerding over the coming weeks, because there will be a lot of it.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
It's common practice among unprogrammed Friends in my part of the world to set aside time at the end of weekly services during which people can ask the meeting to 'hold them (or a loved one) in the light,' which is Quaker-jargon for 'pray for them.' Most of these requests are exactly the sort you would expect. They're for people who are seriously ill or going through difficult times. Occasionally they're for strangers a Friend encountered only in passing.
But recently, I've noticed a trend that rather disturbs me. Some people are using that time to simply vent about people they're upset with. They usually start by asking Friends to hold them and another person in the light, because they're engaged in a conflict. But then they go on to describe the conflict in a way that makes it painfully clear that they are not holding the other party in the light at all. The unspoken meaning behind their words is "I'm angry at this person, and I want you to join me in passing judgement on them."
I used to dismiss this sort of thing as a mild annoyance and try my best to hold the requester in the light. But the more I think about it, the more my feelings shift from annoyance to concern.
I think of the story of Jesus and the adulterous woman: "Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone," he said. It's a story--one that was apparantly added to the bible sometime during the middle ages, actually-- that gives the same message that Jesus spelled out quite clearly in the Lord's Prayer when he said "Forgive us our transgressions as we forgive those who sin against us." It's a quid-ro-quo: to be forgiven, we must ourselves forgive.
Perhaps these Friends are struggling to do that, and it's merely not coming out in their words. Or perhaps they believe that by going through the motions of asking for prayers, they're fulfilling their religious obligations on the issue. But when they make these back-handed requests for prayers, it feels like they're asking the Meeting, through silence, to condone behavior that's directly contrary to Quaker teachings. Like they're seeking our silent approval; a group of people who will say 'well, of course you're in the right in this conflict.' And Quakerism is not a faith about 'going through the motions.' It's a faith about being accountable to the divine guidance of God.
As I labor with this issue in my own heart, I find myself struggling to discern God's will for me in this issue. I know in my heart that if I were repeatedly doing something inconsistant with my witness, I would want my faith community to bring that to my attention-- if they could do so in a spirit of love and concern and not in judgement. But is it my place to raise this concern with them? Can I do so in a spirit of love and concern, or am I myself passing unfair judgements?
These are issues I'm seeking clarity on. If this message I have for them is indeed ministry from God, then I pray for the courage to give it, and the grace to do so in a manner that is consistant with Christ's teachings of forgiveness and love. If this is nothing more than an unfounded concern of mine, I pray for the wisdom to recognize that, and the grace to let it go.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Northern Ireland has made an incredible amount of progress over the last few years, but they still have a handful of ongoing issues to resolve. One of those issues is parades.
There are long-running social organizations in Northern Ireland, such as the Orange Order and the Ancient order of the Hibernians, whose membership is rooted entirely in either the Protestant or the Catholic community. During Marching Season, which is set to begin fairly soon, some of these organizations participate in parades through their local communities and into large urban centres. The Orangemen are especially known for this.
The marchers insist that these parades are just a celebration and an expression of their cultural heritage. But when the march route takes them through neighborhoods where many or all of the residents belong to the other cultural tradition, it can cause tension. Certain unkind words can get exchanged. Also certain unkind bricks, bottles, and paintballs.
To prevent this sort of secterian trouble, all parades--routes, numbers, decorations, etc-- have to be cleared by the Northern Ireland Parades Commission. One of their cheif tasks is arbitrating disputes between marching organizations and neighborhood associations.
Now, as Northern Ireland gears up for another marching season, marchers and neighborhoods are at the negotiating tables again. A longstanding conflict in Drumcree is about to go to mediation, where there's a chance the various parties can come to an agreement without the Parades Commission having to arbitrate.
Would that we could be so concilatory on this side of the pond. Washington DC's annual FolkLife festival begins today, and Northern Ireland is one of the three focuses of this year's festivities. Dancers, cooks, artisans and historians from all over Ulster have been invited across the pond to share their culture and traditions with the residents and visitors of our nation's capital.
Among the visitors are representetives from the Orange Order, who are going to be running a display. Congressman Eliot Engel of New York objects. He wrote a letter to the Smithsonian (the event's sponsor) asking them to ban the Orangemen because they're 'well known for violently anti-Catholic rhetoric and actions.'
Now, I hold no illusions about the Orangemen. I'm not one of those people who holds them entirely blameless for the problems that have happened during their marches. I know they're not merely victims of big, mean, Brit-hating Nationalists who are trying to oppress their cultural expression. But neither do I believe that they're all loyalist paramilitaries in disguise who are trying to chase the Catholic population out of Ulster.
Banning them from the folklife festival would only help to enforce Irish America's preconceptions about Northern Ireland-- that the nationalists are Always Right and the unionists are Always Wrong, and that the Republic of Ireland has a manifest destiny to control the entire island.
The Smithsonian seems to be ignoring Engel's objection. Good for them. I believe they should give the Orangemen a chance to show DC what they do and why they do it. Let them engage in--gasp!--dialogue. The ocean between America and Northern Ireland has allowed a great many uninformed opinions about the Irish Question to flourish here. The militant/pro-IRA rhetoric faded somewhat in the wake of 9/11, but people so distant from the violence and strife the conflict has bred have no business romanticizing it.
If the point of the Folklife festival is education, then it's absolutely imperetive that the Orangemen, Ulster-Scots, and unionism as a whole be represented. Irish/Nationalist and Gaelic traditions are deeply rooted into Irish American culture. We stand to learn a lot more from those in Northern Ireland whose stories we don't hear than we do from those whose stories we've allowed to inform our biases.
I'm going to go to the celtic music concerts. I'm going to go watch the Gaelic Football display, stop by the Irish Language table, and watch the textiles artist embroider an Irish dance costume. But I also intend to make a point of visiting the Orange Order's display and check out the Rugby demonstration. The Smithsonian Institution is bringing this even to us for free, and I mean to take full advantage of all it has to offer.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
I've been neglecting this space since the end of my Northern Ireland adventure; mostly because I know the vast majority of my miniscule readership picked up this feed because they wanted to hear about NI, and, well, I'm back.
But I feel like I can still make use of this space. It feels flat-out wierd to post religious thoughts of any substantce on my livejournal, and the vast majority of my lj readers aren't interested in international politics. I could see this space becoming a replacement for my 'outlook' filter on LJ-- a place to discuss my faith journey, my ongoing studies in intercommunity conflict, and how the two relate. I could use it to reflect on international news concerning Northern Ireland and other areas of interest to peace research.
I don't know how many people would actually be interested in reading that sort of thing, but I'm also not sure it matters. It seems to me that if I want to write it, there's nothing wrong with just writing it for myself. Since I vastly prefer typing to writing by hand, a blog is a very convenient way to keep things organized. And since there's nothing about what I'm planning to write that I would mind other people seeing, I see no reason not to keep it public, so that on the off chance that someone is interested, they can see it.
Perhaps that is, as one friend described blogs with little to no readership, shouting pompously into the void. But this isn't livejournal, where mutual readership is expected and people are reluctant to unsubscribe from journals they're not reading for fear of hurting someone's feelings or causing drama. If people don't want to read A Speaking Life now that I'm home from Northern Ireland, I' not going to take it personally. It's a blog with a fairly narrow focus that's not likely to draw a large number of readers.
So, to anyone who's still picking up this feed: I'm going to start using this space again. If you're interested in international conflict, peace research, and the faith journey of a Christian Quaker, you can look forward to post about exactly those subjects in the future. If you're not interested in these things, you may want to unsubscribe from the feed so it doesn't clutter up your feed reader.
ETA: Chose a new template that's less with the ugly.
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
I packed this morning, then went into my placement and said goodbye. I'm really sad to be leaving-- the weather's been beautiful, and I well and truly loved my placement. But I'm really looking forward to seeing Derry again. As Bilbo says, the road goes ever ever on. It's time for me to go on with it.
I've got one more quasi-errand to run now, and then it's off to pick up my luggage and get on the bus to L/Derry. I actually managed to fit everything into my backpack and my new bag, with the exception of one pair of shoes and one jumper/sweater; both of which I donated to a hospice shop on my way to my placement. That's a laudable accomplishment, believe me (the packing, not the donating).
The Spanish teacher I've been working with asked me when I'm coming back. "I don't know," I told her, "but hopefully soon. Maybe gradschool." It seems my gradschool search is expanding unbidden beyond the confines of Canada and the lower 48. I can't bring myself to say goodbye to this place, though. I cannot imagine not returning.
Monday, April 30, 2007
Well, today ended my academic obligations for the semester. Everything's turned in, all classes are done with, and my last mandatory day at placement is over. I'll be going back tomorrow anyway, but I don't technically have to be there tomorrow-- I'm just going because it's awesome.
I'll be spending the next week enjoying my time here as much as possible-- chances are I'll be traveling somewhere cool next weekend just for the giggles of it-- before my return to the states.
I doubt this will be my last post about it though. I kinda want to do some kind of nifty wrap-up of the experience (as if that's even possible). I'm not sure what I'm going to do with this blog after I get home. I might integrate all of the posts into my lj archives and then just let this go defunct, but who knows? Maybe I'll find a use for it.
Friday, April 27, 2007
So today we met a representetive from the Ulster Unionist Party. We were supposed to meet a Sinner (that's totally not how it's spelled, is it? I'm going to leave it that way anyway) too, but he chickened out or something and didn't show.
It was good to meet the UUP guy, though. The UUP foams at the mouth a lot less than the DUP does-- about several things, but mostly about Sinn Fein. Their approach to unionism, as today's speaker put it, is unionism with a small u-- they believe that remaining a part of the UK is the best thing for all of Northern Ireland, including its Catholic population. Unlike the DUP, they don't give the impression that they're still fighting for dominance. They know they've got a diverse population, and they want to represent the interests of all of it.
But today was our very last class-- my very last time seeing our programme director until next September. I'm leaving in less than two weeks. I wish I wasn't still up to my ears in paper rewriting (this is me on break right now) so that I could actually focus a bit on the time I have left.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
So I'm posting from the informal education centre*, and placement is still going well. I spend my mornings helping out in the foreign language wing, preparing students for their GCSEs-- a series of tests they take at sixteen to determine their levels in a veriety of subjects. For thos familiar with Harry Potter, GCSEs are the real-world version of OWLS. Students with good scores in enough subjects generally stay on and do A-levels, and then go to uni from there.
I come down here to the IEC* for lunch, and then generally spend the rest of my day down here, making worksheets, running errands, and sitting in with small group sessions. They're kind enough to let me at the computer during my lunch break, which has been very helpful this past week because I've been running about like mad trying to get my schoolwork finished.
My deadline is tomorrow, and I've got all but two things in-- a self-critique and a 2,000 word paper. I expect it's going to be a long night, but everything should get done (don't try this at home, kids! Annalee is a trained paper-writing ninja who can pull all-nighters on a single litre of coke).
So yes, that's life here. The programme ends next Wednesday, and I fly home the following Monday. I'm not sure how I'll be spending my between-time yet, but if I stay in Belfast, I might do a few extra days at my placement. No really, it's that awesome.
*In case anyone's wondering: not it's real name. I'm avoiding identifying details about the school.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
This last weekend was our last visit to the Corrymeela Reconciliation centre. I don't know if I'll ever again lay eyes on the Rathlin Island lighthouses, or stand on that cliffside Corrymeela path overlooking Ballycastle's lights, but I would surely like to. I would like to see that star-filled sky again, and hear the odd accoustics of the Croi during worship. I'll miss that place.
Two weeks from now, I'll be back in the states. Back in Washington, DC. The city whose equal I never imagined finding until I set foot in Belfast for the first time. The city that I love. Home, if it still is that.
A cab driver told me I'm 'practically a local' the other day. I practically feel like one. I'm excited to be seeing my family again. I'm looking forward to getting together with friends, being around geeks, meeting the new addition to the household, and visiting my brother's new apartment. But I have no real desire to leave Northern Ireland. I feel the way that I feel at the end of the summer, when I have to leave home for Earlham. Like I'm going towards people that I love, but away from the places that are home to me.
Our last weekend in Ballycastle, now my last week at placement, then my last few days here, and then my last trek through the Belfast City Airport... these next two weeks are going to be a series of lasts, finals, and goodbyes. One long goodbye.
I'm not sure what I'm going to do with this blog when I go back. But then, I'm not sure what I'm going to do with myself, either.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Well, another lovely weekend here at the Corrymeela centre in Ballycastle-- I'm going to miss this place. Today, we headed off along the beautiful Antrim coast.
Our first stop was Carrick-a-Rede, a tiny island accessible only by rope bridge. The bridge itslef is much shorter, safer, and lower down than most of the guidebooks suggest-- as I understand it, it used to be far more impressive (or harrowing, depending on how you look at it) before it was rebuilt with safety in mind. But there are views from the island that you simply wouldn't believe. Pictures don't really do them justice, but I took several, so watch this space.
After that, we stopped for lunch and then headed on to Dunluce Castle, which is a remarkably well-preserved ruin when you consider that parts of it date back to the thirteenth century. It, too, is set on an island, but this one's acessible via a nice, sturdy stone bridge. During the Jacobian era, the MacDonald family built a manor house into the sight and extended the buildings onto the mainland to make more room for their many visitors from the Scottish court.
The whole thing's in ruins now, but you can tell how impressive it must have been in its seventeenth century heyday. A cavern running underneath part of it opens right up onto the sea. Another tonne of photos from there should be available soon.
On our way to Dunluce, we stopped at a tiny church that's supposed to be one of the oldest and smallest in Ireland (that claim is quite disputed; some will tell you it's actually less than thirty years old). It's tucked away in a tiny village under a cliff by the sea. After we left Dunluce, our busdriver took us down a lane lined with trees more than four hundred years old. It's been a day for the pretty.
Tonight, we're going out to a nice restaurant as a group. Because our programme director's just cool that way.
Well, I've got a few minutes' downtime here at Corrymeela, so I'm going to attempt a real update.
My placement continues to be fabulous and inspiring. I'm getting to know the students both in my Spanish class and at the informal education centre, and enjoying the experience immensely. On Thursday, I sat in with a group in the IEC that was learning about the International Conventions on the Rights of the Child. They went over the different rights, catagorized them, and discussed their importance, then did an activity to illustrate a few of them. They also learned a few things about how the rights apply to them specifically-- one girl discovered that her employer's been denying her legally-mandated breaks.
Yesterday, the Earlham group visited Stormont-- the Northern Irish Parliament building-- and met with a representetive from the Democratic Unionist Party. He was a pretty nice guy to talk to, but it rather goes without saying that I'm not terribly fond of the DUP's politics. He did point out, though, that the various parties' positions on most issues are remarkably similar. The national question is one of the only issues over which they differ substantially (Sinn Fein aside, as they're a Marxist party).
The building itself was absolutely gorgeous. I got a few pictures, but fewer than I would have liked. The landscaping was lovely as well.
Today: adventures on the Antrim Coast. Details upon return.
Friday, April 20, 2007
Ok, I owe you guys one heck of a post about my placement and all the awesome things I'm doing there.
Unfortunately, I got buried under an unexpected pile of urgent work last night, and it will take me several days to climb out from under it.
So: I'm away at a residential this weekend. I'll probably be working a lot while I'm there. Hopefully by the time I'm back, I'll have time to write a real post. I should also have some pictures (we're going to Stormont today, and meeting the DUP).
Enjoy your weekends, everyone.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
There was an opening at the Golden Thread Gallery on Friday evening. I stopped by for a little while--most of my groupmates were there-- and then headed over to the afterparty at the Black Box.
The art itself wasn't really to my taste-- I don't go in for modern abstract stuff. Some of it was cool, but a lot of it was your standard pretentious 'emperor's new clothes' modern art-- but it was nice to see everyone. All I can say about the afterparty is I'm glad I didn't pay to get in. The band was a group of highschool kids-- four guitars and a drum set. One of their moms works at the gallery, which is how they landed the gig. I'll refrain from reviewing their performance, because I would be mortified if my youthful indescretions appeared on a perfect stranger's blog, but between their overactive amps and the smoke, it wasn't my idea of a fantastic time.
Earlier on Friday, we sat down with Alban Maginness of the SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party), a former Lord Mayor of Belfast (the first nationalist Lord Mayor). He's part of the new Northern Irish Assembly as well. He talked to us for a bit about politics in Northern Ireland, and gave his views about the Troubles, the Belfast Agreement, and the new assembly.
He said something about the national question that I found particularly interesting: that the re-introduction of the national question during the seventies was counterproductive, because it took the focus away from civil rights. My impression of the SDLP is that nationalism has always been a pretty secondary issue to them; taken up because every party's 'got to play either the green card or the orange card,' as one woman in L/Derry put it (though there are and have been parties, such as the Alliance Party and the Women's Coalition, who play neither). Hearing a prominent SDLP man refer to the national question as 'counterproductive' in the same breath he used to condem the violence for the same reason reaffirms that analysis.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
One of the things I'm really going to miss about Belfast when I go home is the quality of the corner grocery stores.
Back home, corner stores are a good place to procure candy bars, junk food, and smoothies. Produce, if they have any, will be grody, and the milk products will be of quality so dubious that no sane person would consume them, let alone pay for the privilage.
But here? I do the majority of my shopping at the green-grocery between my house and the bus stop. It's smaller than your average seven-eleven, but it stocks its shelves with awesome. Fresh bread, quality produce, inexpensive but perfectly fresh milk, and bulk candy. You can even get spices and pasta sauces there.
It was closed for Easter, and let me tell you, I nearly starved. Sure, I could have gone to the Marks&Spencer by city hall (though not the Tesco; it was closed), or the Costa up near Queens, but they weren't my local greengrocer, man. So I was thrilled to see it back open at last today.
(It bears noting that even the Costa does better than seven eleven in the 'carrying real food' department. The milk there isn't a biohazard, for starters).
Monday, April 9, 2007
Well, school's out and so am I.
When I go back, I'll be splitting my time between the informal education centre and the Spanish classroom. The Spanish teacher and class both seem pretty cool, so hopefully I'll enjoy it. The day I spent in her class I ended up feeling useful, which is nice.
Yesterday was Easter. The boys, Iona, and I got together at their house for Easter dinner, and had a lovely time.
Other than that, there's not much to report. I really adore Belfast.
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
This is my second day at my placement in Belfast (my sole source of internet for the moment), and I have to say, I really like it here. I'm spending most of my time in the 'informal education centre,' which is the part of the school where they engage students who are having difficulties (either academic or behavioural) with the normal school environment. Here, they can do their work on sofas instead of behind desks, and talk to their instructor on a one-on-one basis. In place of exams, students fill up portfolios with a veriety of group or solo projects in community involvement, leadership, and creative expression.
The atmosphere here reminds me in a vague way of the drama room at my middle school. The kids feel like they can talk to the staff, and while they're still called on all the things that matter (namecalling, bullying, etc), no one treats them like a miscreant for busting out a soda while they're working. And it seems to do a lot of good. When the kids come in here, they live up to the standards the staff know know they can reach: they behave themselves just fine and get their work done without complaint. Even the kids who are apparantly on the wrong side of a writeup on a fairly frequent basis treat the youth worker here with respect, because they know they're going to get the same from her. It's very exciting to observe.
I've also found the school itself quite impressive. Most times, people say that the families who send kids to integrated schools 'aren't really the problem,' because they specifically want that kind of environment for their children. But the school I'm at has a lot of working-class students from the local community. They're here because it's nearby, or because the education's better than they could get elsewhere. Especially here in the informal education centre, where students form friendships within their small working groups with people who are very different than they are. These 'problem children,' supposedly at the highest risk for sectarian problems, are the ones who seem most conscious of (and greatful for) the diversity around them.
I should go grab some lunch, or I'll keep right on about this for pages. I hope all's well for everyone in the states.
Saturday, March 31, 2007
It was raining the day we moved to the Walled City. Our bus pulled into a gated drive in front of a huge, Gothic building, and through the tinted windows I could see a carpark at the bottom of a hill. We were called off the bus in pairs as our host families arrived. I stared out the window as the others got up and left.
We had already been on a walking tour of the walls, but I'd never seen that part of the city before. Magee Campus. My campus. What was it like? Would I be happy there? Would my host mom be nice? I stared out the window as the others got up and left, trying to get some sense of this foreign place that was suddenly home.
I remember getting lost, our second day, when we tried to walk into town. We took a wrong turn and ended up in Rosemount. Rosemount, where I'd later go for tin whistle class: up the hill and then thread between the townhouses; mind the puddles on the footpath; don't let the alleys spook you.
In my memory, I can see the carpark on the hill the way it appears at night, when I'm walking back from the computer lab in the wee hours of the morning. I can see the bridge lights above the River Foyle, and the yellow glow against the pale stones of the gothic architecture. That first look, through tinted bus windows to a grey afternoon, is a blur.
It was sunny when we got to the bus this morning. Our host mother drove my roommate and I down Northland Road to campus-- the same route I walk every day. She hugged us goodbye after we loaded our luggage. Around us everyone was chattering about their vacations. And then we were on the bus and on our way. The last drive out of Derry was swallowed up with more vacation chatter. Mark showed me his bike route through Scotland. I talked about the armoury in Leeds.
Two hours later, we were driving into Belfast. We passed under the overpass with the wierd murals of silhouettes on geometric shapes, but it was already familiar to me from visits and travel. Nothing terribly foreign about a city centre I've already explored. I'm already at home here.
It was sunny when we unloaded our luggage and stacked it up in the Corrymeela House foyer. They gave us tea and biscuits while our host families arrived. And then I was off again. My host mother and I discussed CSI and bus passes as we drove along the road that will be my new daily commute. She settled me into the house--lovely, large, and quiet-- and headed off to work.
Hi there, Belfast. Here I am.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
A few fun facts I picked up today:
-Buses in England are as wonky as ones in Northern Ireland. Sometimes, they'll decide to just remove themselves from existance for half an hour or more. During rush hour.
-A late bus can make you miss your train. A missed train can make you miss your flight. And no matter what anyone tells you about where the flybe desk at Manchester airport is, you should ignore them. They're probably lying to you because they think it's funny when people run around the entire airport.
-Flybe does not do standby. They also don't let people check in for flights when they still have time to run for it. They'd much preferr charging you eighty quid for a new flight. Sixty four, if you spend a lot of time bargaining and don't mind a 6-hour layover.
-Manchester Airport has a prayer room. It's quiet, non-denominational, and the chaplaincy doesn't mind if you basically spend the whole day there. And it's pretty empty, except for the occasional Muslim who comes in to do prayers (between flights or on their work breaks).
One of these things made me happy. The others decidedly did not. I'll let you figure out which was which.
So today's challenge in the struggle to walk cheerfully over the earth was perspective. On the first count, reminding myself that it wasn't the end of the world, and even if it was pretty much theft on flybe's part, at least I had the sixty quid for them to steal. The second was remembering not to take it out on airline staff, because it wasn't their fault. It was partially the fault of the airport staff who lied to me (twice) about which terminal flybe was in, and partially the fault of the lady who told me the doors were closing in seven minutes when I knew for a fact it was fifteen, but it was not the fault of the ticket counter lady who told me they don't do standby. She can't be held responsible for her company's (idiotic) policies.
Being able to sit in a quiet room for a while made it much easier to calm down, to the point where I was actually able to smile and appreciate the flight when it finally departed (at 5:30; my original one was at ten past eleven). I love flying, really. Airports and airlines notsomuch, but flying itself is pretty cool.
So today's lessons from airports:
-Way really does open, even if sometimes it does it extremely inconveniently, and I should be thankful when it happens, even if I'm pissed off that it shouldn't have had to. Because just when it seems like it's just my day to be mocked by the almighty, I get a prayer room.
-Flybe still loses at life. While there may be that of God in every person, I'm fairly certain the inverse is true of corporations. Especially airlines.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Just a brief comment about Bill Clinton, in reaction to some of my reading for this paper:
Say what you will about the man, but his interest in the Northern Irish peace process did not cause 9/11. No really, it didn't. Granting a temporary visa to Gerry Adams did not cause 9/11; nor was it the same thing as granting Tim McVeigh a visa to England to meet with the PM (as Margaret Thatcher suggested). It did not 'distract' him from dealing with terrorism elsewhere.
I mean good heavens. Has U.S. American partisanship really gotten so bad that we can't even give a guy props for putting forward his best effort in the name of peace? Next, we'll be hearing about how Hurricane Katrina (not just the aftermath, mind you- no, the hurricane itself) was World Health Organization's fault because they were 'distracted' by the Millennium Development Goals.
In other news: the Northern Ireland Assembly is going through as planned, with the DUP and Sinn Fein behind the wheel. I'm holding Northern Ireland in the light with hopes for continued progress and lasting peace.
Monday, March 26, 2007
Well, I'm off to England for a few days for spring break. My backpack contains roughly 25% clothing and essentials and 75% books for those papers I'm supposed to be writing. I have no doubt that things will get done, but I wish I didn't have to get them done during 'break.'
Anyway. I'll probably have internet access in Leeds. With any luck, I'll also have interesting things to post about. I hope all's going well with everyone back in the states.
Friday, March 23, 2007
I just finished up a paper on Johan Galtung's definitions of peace. I'd post it here for sharing purposes, but it's 2,300 words long and I think the eljay subscribers might kill me in my sleep. So, on the off chance than anyone actually wants to read 2,300 words of me babbling about peace research and peace as more than the absence of violence, email me and I'll send it to you.
In other news, the weather's taken a turn for the nice these past few days. This has raised my spirits considerably. I'm really going to miss L/Derry when we relocate, but I'm also really looking forward to Belfast, so life is good in general. And Thornton's (a chocolate shop) is going to be the death of me. The yummy, yummy death of me (they're selling ice cream now. How is that ok!?).
It turns out that Ireland Yearly Meeting is being held in a few weeks in Lisburne, so hopefully I'll be able to go and hang out with Irish Quakers. That would be really awesome, and I'm very much looking forward to it.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Oh Captain Planet... I used to watch that show when I was little. I even knew the song. Man, I was so cool.
And look, here he is saving Belfast:
Best. Thing. Ever. This is just clips from the episode, but I watched the extended version just now, and let me tell you: it doesn't make any more sense than this does. Well, it sort of explains where the paramilitaries got a nuke, but besides that, the level of crack is pretty much the same.
For those of you who subscribe to this via lj, my apologies for the crosspost. It was just too funny not to share.
Monday, March 19, 2007
So I'm back from Dublin.
I went to Friends' Meeting there yesterday, which was fabulous. There was a query about service and whether we devote enough time to God's work, and most of the messages seemed to relate to that.
I ended up standing to speak about something I heard at the World Gathering. An evangelical Friend was telling me about all the service projects that their church runs, because, they said, the best way to make it clear to others that there are Christians in their community is to act like Christians instead of just talking about it. It was a concept that really resonated with me.
Do I devote enough time to service, though? Not so much, really. I need to do more of that. It's no good to be the sort of 'Christian' who just blogs about their struggle to be more Christian. Blogging is not doing (rather like talking is not writing, but that's another matter entirely). I suppose I'm studying to do peacework, and that's something. But studying is not doing, either. And I feel like there's so much more I should be up to.
There was a woman there named Helen who's organizing logistics for the FWCC Triennial in August. After Meeting, she took me out to lunch and then to a museum where there was a truly awesome costumes exhibit. I really love Quakers. I came back in the evening and had Sara over for the night, which was good times. Now I'm over at a local friend's flat for another sleepover.
This week: paper writing. Lots of paper writing.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Happy St Patrick's Day, everyone.
I personally had a lovely one. I went out before the parade and grabbed breakfast at a little cafe, and then met up with a friend and kept him company while he ate. By the time the parade started I was back at the hostel. I watched from the second floor (first floor, for anyone on this side of the pond, as in 'the one above the ground floor') and managed to get some pretty decent pictures. I won't know if there are any real keepers until I upload them-- sometime in the next few days.
After the parade, I headed over to Trinity College to check out the Book of Kells; a full-color illuminated bible dating back to 800 AD. The exhibit also includes The Long Room; a 60-meter long library room with two floors of stacks and a barrel-vaulted ceiling (put it this way: the Jedi Archives in Star Wars episode II are a direct, futurized and digitized copy). It houses over 200,000 of the library's oldest books; some of which date back to the fifteenth century. There are also a series of fabulous busts, including classic thinkers like aristotle alongside more modern faces such as Shakespeare, Bacon, Locke, and Parnell. There's even one of Johnathan Swift.
I spent the entire afternoon there, and ended up going through the exhibit twice. The first time I got there just ahead of the post-parade swarm, but they ended up catching up to me. There was a big crowd around the book of Kells, and then a fairly loud crowd in the long room. The second time, the place was much emptier. I ended up just sitting in the long room for the better part of an hour, taking in the smell of the books and the beauty of the architecture. Photography wasn't allowed inside, but I suppose that's just as well, because I can't imagine pictures capturing it.
And speaking of things pictures can't capture, the Book of Kells itself was incredible. I've seen shots of it, of course, in textbooks and the like. But they simply can't convey the intricate detail, the vividness of the color, or the sheer weight of history behind the book itself. This book, and the smaller one being displayed with it, were created 1200 years ago. I wonder if the scribes who copied it out and the artisits who illuminated it ever imagined that their work would still be around--and on display, at that-- more than a millenium after their deaths.
I wonder what relics of our time, 12oo years from now, will be left over to speak for us?
This evening, I'll probably go out with friends and try to get some good shots of the Dublin St Patrick's Day nightlife. Tomorrow is the UK Mother's Day. I also got some really good news today about my workload that's going to make it a lot easier for me to finish all my papers.
So all in all, a very good day. Tomorrow, I'll be holding a friend back home in the light during Meeting for Worship. I hope everyone has a lovely St Patrick's Day.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
So last weekend was the one-year anniversary of Tom Fox's death. For anyone just joining us, I knew Tom through my yearly meeting youth group, and had a lot of respect for him. He aspired to live Christ's teachings with his whole self, and I think he came a lot closer to it than most ever do (though he would probably be the first to correct anyone who suggested that he was perfect, or christ-like).
I think it's the fact that he wasn't perfect that makes him such an inspiration. He was just a man, but he was a good man, and in so being, he became an example. As I said to a friend at lunch today, he was the sort of Christian that I aspire to be.
I'm hoping to attend Friend's meeting later this afternoon. The prayer that I sit with now and will probably sit with then is this: God, help me to respect the divine light that shines through me enough to know that it is its own defender. Help me to let it shine, undimmed by defensiveness, fear, and anger. Help me to set aside those blocks that I have set up in myself that keep me from being the change that I want to see in myself and the world. Help me to be the Christian, and the person, that I aspire to be.
Dublin continues to be awesome. We took a tour today of the jail where the leaders of the Easter Rising were held prior to their executions. It was a shock to hear the tour guide tell such a one-sided story about Irish independance. I suppose I should expect that-- I mean, when we talk about US history, we rarely ever discuss those that stayed loyal to British rule in any significant or positive way. But coming from up north, where people are always so careful to be diplomatic to both sides when talking about history, it was a bit of a culture shock. I got some lovely photos though. I'll upload them later.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
I think I might have a crush on the city of Dublin. It reminds me of home in ways that really can't be described. It doesn't look like home, neoclassical architecture and low skyline aside. It doesn't sound like home, or smell like it. But somehow it is like it, in all the ways that really matter.
We had a tour of the Dail today. That's the parliament building. It's pronounced 'doyle.' Tomorrow, we're touring a jail. This evening we went to go see Julius Ceasar. The set design was quite really innovative and awesome, and costume-wise, it was cool to see someone at least try to pull off what the original costumes probably looked like-- which is to say sixteenth century doublets with togas on over them. But all in all, I was underwhelmed. I've definetely seen better.
Having the London Programme guys here continues to be awesome. Their group dynamics are significantly better than ours.
There's a meetinghouse not far from where we're staying. I wandered by there yesterday, and the signage suggests that they have thursday evening meeting. I'm getting really excited about checking that out. I've been away from meeting way too long, and with all the Crazy going on, I don't think I'd come out the worse for some worship.
I have nothing witty to say about peace and reconciliation today. I'm afraid you'll have to bear with the travel log for a little while.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
That drag on the internet you just noticed was me uploading a hundred photos at once.
Included in this batch: Inishowen (sp?), the WWI/II base, the ring fort, a faerie tree, and the waterfall trail, along with assorted beach shots. Also a scrabble match. They aren't sorted (yet), because I'm lazy (also because it's midnight). There's one shot of a waterfall that would probably look better without some wierd girl standing in front of it, but I take what I can get. I'll try to remember to post a few of my favorites up here later.
Greetings from Dublin! The group arrived here this afternoon, and will be staying through Saint Patrick's Day (heaven help us all). The Earlham London Programme arrived in L/Derry on Sunday, and did fun 'hey, we're tourists in Northern Ireland things. It's been wonderful to see them. They're here with us in Dublin now, so we get to hang out with them all week.
Last night, we had a gathering at the L/Derry Guildhall, where we did an Irish dance in front of the mayor, played tin whistle, and ate some food. There were certificates involved. This last gave me yet another exhibit in the hall of 'no one ever get's Annalee's !^£%ing name right,' but we'll leave that alone.
The dancing and tin whistling actually went off pretty well. I didn't fall over during the former, and we managed a decent showing at the latter. There were some students from Milkwaulki (sp?) who joined us for the dancing. After that, they mayor said a few words about how Irish culture is Important, and how it's unfortunate that most people don't know Irish, traditional dance, or listen to Irish music. She then admitted that she's no exception to 'most people.'
We left Derry with the London crew at 10:30 this morning, and stopped for lunch at a town a few miles into the republic at about half after noon before continuing down to Dublin. We're staying at a hostel here that's right downtown, in the Temple Bar district. It's pretty much the nightlife area of Dublin. Mervyn and Bob, the London Programme Director, did a bit of an orientation (including the 'Dublin is a big city so don't be stupid' speech), and then took us on a walking tour of the Temple Bar area to show us the way around.
I must admit to being quite charmed by Dublin. It's a lovely city, and I have a feeling I'm going to thoroughly enjoy the visit. I'm rooming with Iona and some really awesome people from the London Programme. And hey, free wireless at the hostel. Beat that.
Things I'm especially looking forward to:
1. The Book of Kells. It's the oldest illuminated bible in the world, and let's face it: I'm a geek about these things.
2. The Trinity College Library in general. For one thing, because of the awesome. For another, because it was the inspiration for the look of the Jedi Archives, and let's face it: I'm a geek about these things.
3. Touristing around the cool historical sights. Because of the pretty.
I've got an ungodly number of photos to offload from my camera, so those should be up soon. And of course I hope to take many more while I'm here.
Sunday, March 4, 2007
I've been feeling a little under the weather these last few days-- achey, tired, and interested in very little that does not start with s and rhyme with 'sleep.' If it seems like I've been neglecting to keep up here, that's why.
In any case...
We visited a police station on Monday. The station itself is on the waterside. On the drive over there, our guide, a very friendly plainclothes officer who's been policing in Northern Ireland for something like fifteen years, gave us an overview of the PSNI's local structure (PSNI stands for Police Service of Northern Ireland). Basically, they go for a two-sided system. The first is 'community policing,' which involves having officers on the beat who really know their area and the people who live there. These officers are supposed to be approachable neighborhood fixtures that everyone knows by name. The second part of their work is more traditional police who respond to calls as they come in-- the sort of policing that I'm used to dealing with back home.
The first thing that stuck me abou the station was the station itself. It's a fairly new, large construction designed to withstand pretty much everything short of nuclear fallout. As we approached, only the guard station and a communications and surveilance tower was visible over the high brick-and-sloping-steel walls. We passed through gigantic blast doors, and then a checkpoint with a barrier, before passing into an open carpark. The building inside was solid and thick-walled, with small windows that only ever open a few inches and thick, blast-resistant exterior doors.
We began our tour in the carpark, with a look at the department's various vehicles. These range from unmarked cars with lights and sirens hidden under the front grilles to armored vans with quarter-inch, spaced-steel plating, with a few 'normal' police vehicles in between (all of which also have light armor, such as bulletproof glass and reenforced exteriors).
The biggest car he showed us, aformentioned heavily-armored van, is chiefly engaged in riot policing these days. As of our Monday visit, there had been nightly riots along an interface area near the station for the last several days. The van was a little the worse for wear. There was damage to the paint job caused by petrol bombs (people apparantly add sugar to them to make them sticky), bits of garbage still stuck to it, and someone had actually managed to crack the armor over one headlight by chucking-- I don't know what to call it, because 'brick' doesn't really convey the size of the thing. It looked like part of a pillar.
But the most annoying thing, according to our guide, was the paint. People throw paint at the cars ('they must not like our color scheme,' he joked), and it's apparantly really annoying when they manage to get it onto the windshield, as it impairs driving. Everything else, he said, was little more than a nuisance. He pointed out, though, that while the heavily-armored van could go into riots and come out needing no more than a £2 paint job, they keep their more 'normal' vehicles far away from that kind of conflict. Even though they're armored, the damages could quickly ammount to a thousand or more pounds.
What he said upset him most about the rioting was that they're a resource-sinc. The PSNI is responsible for normal policing as well as peacekeeping, and the latter often takes up too much of their resources. While his team was dealing with these riots, an elderly couple had their home invaded. The burglers tied them up and stole pretty much all they had-- which ammounted to £20 and a bus pass. The police got the call, but they had no one to send, because they were busy dealing with teenagers who were using their armored van for target practice.
After the carpark tour, he took us in to the station itself. The blast doors are surprisingly well counterbalanced. They apparantly weigh thousands of pounds a piece, but you wouldn't know it to open them. Inside, we took a tour of the cells and the interrogation rooms, where we met the officer responsible for insuring the rights of 'detained persons' (the phraze 'prisoner' is no longer operative). His full-time job is making sure the police at that station respect the rights of civilians. Every arrest has to be justified to him, and he oversees the welfare of everyone being detained and interrogated there. He answers up the line to the police omsbudsman-- basically internal affairs on crack.
I know there's a lot of well-documented issues with police in Northern Ireland prior to the Good Friday Agreement, but having met the officers and seen the way they conduct their business, I have to say I fully believe the PSNI's claim to being the most accountable police force in the world.
Honestly, based on what I saw, if I had to be in police custody, I'd rather be in custody here than back home-- I think American police could stand to take a page or two from PSNI policy. For instance, one of the rights arrested persons in Northern Ireland have is access to the PSNI protocol book. They're allowed to have it in front of them during all interrogations, and allowed to consult it at any time, so that if they feel that their rights are being infringed upon they can cite it line and verse. I thought that was an extremely good idea.
Another thing that really impressed me about the station was it's committment to diversity, and not just the religious kind. Their female officers, and even their openly gay ones, are considered just a part of the team. The way they speak about and interact with each other made it very clear that this concept of equality wasn't just some notion forced upon them in the interest of political correctness, the way it is in many parts of the states. They're proud of being enlightened about diversity. Talking to them, you get the sense that it's really important to them.
But while the police have made a lot of progress, our guide told us that problems with community relations still exist. One officer at the station, a woman from a staunchly republican area of Belfast, got a phonecall one night telling her that she was 'no longer welcome' in her home neighborhood because of her status as a police officer. Several of their Catholic officers come from the republic itself to work in Northern Ireland, rather than from the local community. Our guide (who I'm declining to name because of these very issues) lamented the shortage of local people that really make 'community policing' work. For his own part, he has policies set up in his own family (like avoiding routines) to keep them safe from paramilitaries.
He ended the tour with a Q&A session, in which he talked about his work with local schoolchildren. It's kind of a DARE program combined with general crime-deterrant education. After that, he drove us back to the cityside and dropped us off at school with his contact information in case we have any further questions. I took a handful of pamphlets with me when I left, and I've been looking them over since. The whole experience was really interesting.
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
At work yesterday, I accompanied my boss Pauline to a symposium at The Junction. It was organized by doctorate students at Magee. The topic was 'Contested Spaces: From Third Party To First.' In essence, it was about mediators and documentary makers, and about bias in addressing issues in Northern Ireland. They tried to address whether or not there is such thing as an unbiased third party, and what ethics and responsibilities an intermediary in the conflict has.
One of the speakers does consulting work at the Peace and Reconciliation Group, where one of our professors works. The main thrust of his argument was that there's a difference between being fair and being unbiased. He says that he freely admits to having biases about the conflict(s) in Northern Ireland. But he says thay what matters isn't what he believes, but how he behaves. By being a fair and balanced mediator, he's built himself a reputation as someone who can set his own biases aside when it comes to helping people work out problems.
Two of the other speakers were documentary makers. They discussed the difficulties present in trying to tell the truth while also trying to satisfy funders, most of whom want something sensational they can sell on the air. The last was the director of a nonprofit called Children in Crossfire. He's been the subject of newsmedia and documentaries since he was ten, when he was blinded by a rubber bullet on his way home from school. He discussed using the media, and also the difficulties he's had with getting the media to respect his privacy and his wishes about what does and does not air.
Overall it was quite an interesting day. Plus, they gave us free lunch, and you just can't beat free lunch.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Yesterday was the whole-group excursion to Belfast. We got a nice tour of town hall (quite a pretty building), and then did a bus tour of the murals on the Falls and Shankill roads. Those are two major centres of republicanism and loyalism in Belfast; located within a few blocks of each other. There's a 'peace wall' between them, which is to say a very large fence. I imagine anyone truly dedicated wouldn't have much troube circumventing it, but it apparantly does an at least passing job of keeping young people and drunks from making rash decisions about trouble and the starting thereof. The wall itself has a few murals on it as well.
Many of the murals are really pretty and well-done. And while there are still certainly a lot of murals about the NI political situation, a lot of the more recent ones are about other subjects entirely. One depicted George W. Bush sucking out of a straw that fed into the mural next door: an oil field. Another was of Frderick Douglass, who, it claimed, was inspired to escape slavery by a pair of Irishmen. I seem to recall seeing a 'Where's Wally?' one somewhere along the route as well (Wally is apparantly this side of the pond's younger, hipper answer to Waldo). There was one of an American flag with writing on it, but I didn't see what it said because we drove by too fast.
After the tour, we were left to our own devices in the city centre for a few hours. I spent the time walking around most of the places I'd already walked on Wednesday, but it was fun. Aformentioned diner (actually a cafe) with the bad food was called Blinkers. Walked past it; didn't go in.
I did find the comic book store, thanks to a new friend here in L/Derry who comes from Belfast. There was much rejoicing.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
So I went down to Belfast today for my interview with the headmaster at the integrated school*. Everything went very well, and I'm glad to report that I do in fact have the internship. The school itself is quite lovely as well. I'm sure I'll get on well there. There happened to be a student doing his GCSE in home economics today-- which means he had to cook a complete meal. I got to taste it because I was walking around with the headmaster, and let me tell you, this kid was good. Excellent onion-basil gaspacho, and an absolutely fantastic desert thing that consisted of fruit, chocolate, maple syrup (imported from home sweet home, apparantly), and vanilla yogurt. Oh my heavens, the yum.
Belfast itself was pretty awesome, for what I saw of it. I spent quite a while wandering around near the bus station and city hall. It reminded me of an odd cross between Cleveland and Baltimore, with the aesthetic of the former and the 'lived-in' feeling of the latter. I'm really hoping that the diner I ate at was a fluke, though, because the food was pretty freakin' aweful. I ordered a tomato-cheese sandwich, and they made it with what had to be kraft singles. Yeuch.
I'm definetely going to enjoy living in Belfast, though. It's my kind of wretched hive of scum and villany (wait, Richmond's the scum and villany. Belfast is... I don't know, Corellia? They build ships on Corellia, right?).
Anyway. Best wishes to all. With any luck, there's a computer waiting for me at home.
*I'm intentionally declining to name it. While I'm generally pretty fast and loose with my own identity on the internet, I don't want to pose a security risk to the school or its students.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
So campaign posters have been springing up all over the city like crocuses these last few days. Campaigns here in Northern Ireland only run for a few weeks, instead of months on end like we see in the states (the elections, for anyone just joining us, will be on March 7th). I personally think that's a much better plan, because it means officials are spending more time doing their jobs and less time campaigning.
I'm finding it a little amusing that Sinn Fein's got all their Irish-language posters up on the waterside and their English ones up in the city centre. That seems a little bit backwards because the waterside area is mostly Protestant. In the end, though, I suppose it doesn't really matter. L/Derry's pretty much an SDLP town, near as I can tell.
It's a very exciting time to be studying the situation here. Northern Ireland has been under direct rule from Westminster since 2002, and as I understand it, they were also under direct rule prior to 1998. What's that mean? Think of the situation DC's in, and you've pretty much got Northern Ireland (though NI does elect members of parliament, which is more than DC can say about congress). Politicians that are not in any way accountable to the people of Northern Ireland get to make decisions about their taxes, their schools, their health care... even the structure of their government. They can choose to start initiatives (like the water tax) that everyone here hates. And why not? Northern Ireland is not their constituency.
If these elections go off without trouble, Northern Ireland is finally looking at a long-term devolved government. No matter which side of the conflict you're on, being able to vote the people who levy your taxes in and out of office has got to be pretty nice. And for me, having a court-side seat as history unfolds is pretty nice too.
I'm going down to Belfast tomorrow for my interview at the integrated school. Everyone wish me luck!
Monday, February 19, 2007
So this weekend was a group retreat at Corrymeela. The weather was lovely the whole time, and we got to take a lovely hike down a waterfall trail. I took a lot of pictures, but as I still have no functioning laptop, I'm afraid they'll have to wait.
I've been feeling a little down because of interpersonal issues I don't want to get into, but things are looking better now. I took a very long walk on Saturday night, and wound up sitting on the side of the road with my back to a sheep field looking up at the night sky. The stars here in Ballycastle are incredible, because you can actually see them. I can usually pick out Orion, but on Saturday I could see his bow. I could see his head. I could see an odd sort of faint streak in the sky that may or may not have been the milky way.
When the universe began, stars were born of gas and dust. That same dust formed planets, and one of those planets formed us. So to paraphraze Marianne Williamson, Who am I not to be intelligent, beautiful, talented, and worthy of respect? I'm starstuff. Other people don't have the power to diminsh the divine light of creation that I have inherited from the universe itself. Unless, of course, I give it to them, and who am I to do that?
I've got a few things to say about the upcoming elections, but I think I'll spare it for another post. I hope the weather Stateside isn't too unbearable.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
So today, our 'Representing Women' class trekked down to Foyle Women's Aid to hear about their work. Their main focus is support services for battered women and children, but they also run educational programs and training services.
It's been interesting hearing from the different women's groups in L/Derry, because their work is very non-secterian. Even if the people doing the work have very strong political views, they're able to set them aside and work together to achieve what they see as a more important goal. In the case of Foyle Women's Aid, stopping and preventing domestic violence. There's also a women's coalition that tackles a veriety of non-secterian issues. Right now they're looking at the water tax (which is noncontentious because, near as I can tell, everyone L/Derry hates it).
In class, we've been hearing about Sinn Fein's long-term goals. Everyone knows that they support a united, independent Ireland. But what's the next step? Apparantly if you ask them about it, they get very tetchy and don't answer. But our professors tell us that their long-term plan involves a single-party, marxist-style socialist republic (with them as the single party). That's a little scary when you take their history into account, but maybe I just have a cultural aversion to single-party government structures (I'm not much for dual-party systems either, though, so go figure).
Just as a heads-up, I'll be away from the computer this weekend because the group's going on a retreat. On the picture front, my laptop has died a rather spectacular death, so it's going to be a while before I can upload more. My wonderful family has worked out a way to get me another one for the rest of the program, but it won't be here until sometime next week (I'm guessing. It's coming from London).
Saturday, February 10, 2007
We took a group trip to Donegal last Sunday to visit an ancient ring fort, an old WWI/WWII base, a beach, and a pair of cute little towns whose names I forget entirely. I snapped a bunch of photos, but I'm experiencing a spot of significant computer trouble so I can't share them yet.
The inside of the ring fort was closed due to renovations (yes, renovations. I don't know either). I had a good look at the outside. Very sturdily constructed, I have to say-- even after all this time, it's not at all in ruins or anything. It looks like it could have been put up ten years ago. I'd like to go back sometime when the inside's open, but I don't know if that'll happen before I leave.
The base was a British base during WWI, and during WWII the Irish used it as a defense point to keep warring nations from violating their neutrality. I snapped some neat pictures of gun posts and other military fortifications, but what interested me most was the ghost-town remains of the base's living spaces.
The barracks, the bathhouses, the mess hall... little if any effort has been made to preserve most of them. They're just falling slowly to shambles with the passage of time. To walk through them is to walk through the ruins of a life two and three generations gone. That's why I found it so fascinating. I can imagine the lives lived in those corrugated metal buildings. When I look at the piles of rotted wood that were once front stoops, I can picture the people who might have gathered on them. In the empty twilight beyond the broken barracks windows, I can imagine the sounds of people stumbling out of bed and muttering at the bugler. What's left of the canteen makes me wonder who prepared the food here, and how they answered the inevitable complaints.
Like the historical costumes I'm so fond of, these ruins make up a 'left-handed' history. There's no denying that wars and powerful, famous people were a part of it, but the heart of this history is working people. It's the history of enlisted men. Of cooks, mechanics, musicians, clerks, and nurses instead of generals and politicians. The history of the people behind the uniforms.
Many of the people who were sationed there are dead now. Those shambling, overgrown buildings speak for a part of their life in a way that history books never will. It's chilling, in a way, to see them in such ruin. I don't know if they'd carry the same weight of history if they'd been taken care of, and yet it speaks volumes about the present that no one saw fit to preserve them. I suppose I'm not the only one who's taken an aweful lot of pictures, though. In that way I suppose they're preserved after all.
We didn't dawdle long on the beach, and we certainly weren't fool enough to go near the water (cold!), but I got some lovely pictures of the rocks and of my groupmates. The towns proved useful for acquiring batteries and ice cream, but mostly they were just towns. They reminded me a bit of Ballycastle.
The rest of the week has been fairly uneventful, computer problems aside. My fiction writing has gotten a bit sidetracked, but hopefully I can get back on task once I get my laptop back up and running (early this week, hopefully).
Tuesday, February 6, 2007
Ok, so the gag order's officially been lifted, and I'm allowed to tell you that I've got an interview in two weeks with the principal of an integrated college (jr high/high school) in Belfast. I've been accepted 'in principle,' but they want to meet me and talk about what exactly I want to do.
So first: YAY! Squee squee squee squeeeee!
Second: What I want to do. They apparantly don't just want an office monkey or a teacher's aide-- they want someone with a project of some kind, or something specific they can bring to the school.
Uh, yeah. I've got two weeks to come up with something.
The two ideas I've got right now:
1. Writing. I don't suck at it (usually). I could be a 'writing lab' to help students with papers and whatnot, and assist in English class with grammar lessons and etc.
2. Conflict Resolution. I've been doing it since seventh grade. I've sat through about a dozen different diversity workshops and more conflict and negotiation classes than I care to count. If my program director's right and they really do want someone to teach something, I could put together conflict resolution/negotiation workshops. Topics could include peer mediation, 'fair fighting,' and how to develop constructive, persuasive cases in conflicts with parents/authority figures. I might be able to combine this with a bit of 'diversity workshoping' for an all-around PAGS-R-Us.
This would be really intense, though, and I somehow doubt they really intend to have me actually teaching in that official a capacity. Another idea if they're looking for something less formal is for me to be present as a conflict resolution resource-- doing mediations as part of the counselor's office or something; maybe leading a single fair fighting workshop at some point.
So yes. I have to work out a formal plan. Everyone cross your fingers that I don't screw up and make them hate me.
Friday, February 2, 2007
We've been here less than a month, but already, plans are rolling in for Belfast. I'm extremely excited, for reasons I'm not really allowed to go into detail about yet.
I can tell you a little story, though. This story is about my first ever semester of college. It takes place at Montgomery College, in the fall of 2003.
My English class had been assigned a paper. The topic was pretty much a grab bag, but it had to relate in some way to the concept of land and cultural identity. I chose to write mine on Northern Ireland. During the course of my research, I stumbled across an editorial about integrated schools. I thought it was kind of interesting, so I did some looking in to it.
The original assignment was three to five pages. My paper came in around fifteen, and I never actually finished it. Within those fifteen pages was an overview of the conflict and all of the reasons that I was convinced integrated schools would help solve it.
I chose to transfer to Earlham because they had a Northern Ireland program that offered an opportunity to work in integrated schools. It was a leap of faith, but I took it, and now I'm in L/Derry, making plans for an internship placement in Belfast.
Yes, I believe 'excited' is the correct word.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
So I got the group together to go see Heroes With Their Hands in the Air last night. I thought it came together quite well.
The play ran 90 minutes with no intermission, which turned out to be just about the perfect length. It did what I think Finton (the director) wanted it to do without dragging on at any point. Seeing it all put together from start to finish was pretty powerful. Even though I'd seen almost all of it during rehersals, I found the finished product really moving. There was one point where I almost cried.
They had one last-minute actor substitution due to illness, but he grabbed the ball and ran with it. Aside from one line (from a London taxicab driver) that no one can do better than the original actor, he did a fabulous job.
From a techie standpoint (do costume designers count as techies? backstagers at least), I have to say that the set was pretty awesome. They had a black and white map of the bogside of the floor and another one on the backdrop, along with a seperate backdrop made up of headlines, quotes, articles, and transcript exerpts. Afterwards, a few of us went up and examined it more closely. One of my groupmates was brave enough to walk right up onto the stage to get a better look of the backdrop, but no one shoed him away, so I guess it was alright. I think he was trying to read something. The stage is level with the first row of seats, so it's not that big a deal to walk right up to the set.
It's going to Belfast and Doublin after it closes here. Really good stuff.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
This weekend is the 35th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. We went down to the Ancient Order of the Hibernians Hall last night (it's a men's club) to watch a documentary about it produced by CBC. Afterwards, a few representetives from the Bloody Sunday Families answered questions.
It was really quite powerful. I thought I knew about Bloody Sunday already from sitting in on rehearsals for Heroes With Their Hands in the Air, but seeing the actual footage and photographs really drives it home. If you look at the evidence and the footage, and hear the eyewitness accounts... it's horrific. Fourteen men died. Most of them were young. My age. Younger. Seventeen, some of them.
An eighteen-year-old woman was run over by an armored personel carrier. A father was shot trying to help his dying son. A man was shot dead with his hands up in the air-- the bullet passed from one armpit to the other without damaging his arms. A few people were killed crawling for cover. One seventeen year old was bleeding out on the pavement with a severed spinal cord when a paratrooper came up and shot him in the back. He died of a punctured lung.
I know this is treated as a political issue, but I don't see how it can be. It's a human rights issue, plain and simple. Innocent people were killed. It was wrong. Whether it was a result of premedetated malice or not, it was wrong.
In the Q&A, one of the family members said that the reason they're still fighting this battle is because they don't want there to be any more bloody sundays. They mentioned a school in Fellujah where American soldiers opened fire on civilians and children. The soldiers there used the same excuse that the paras responsible for Bloody Sunday used: they conjured up a fantasy gun battle; all evidence of which apparantly vanished shortly after it occurred. No bulletholes anywhere near them.
When soldiers are sent to control civilian populations but not trained in how to do it properly, innocent people die. They died on Bloody Sunday. They died in Fellujah. They've died elsewhere. It's a simple fact. I can't see anything political about saying it's wrong, and that it shouldn't happen again.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Life is settling into a sort of normal here. Mervyn made us all jump into the deep end at the start by doing a week of placements without him, but it worked out. For me at least, it forced me to get used to L/Derry so that I know more of it than just how to get to school and back. It's an easy town to get to know.
Some of my groupmates have a particular interest in exploring the pub scene here, and I've been joining them most nights. I'm not really a drinker, but the company's good and the coke here tastes better than the stuff in the states. I think it's because they still serve it in glass bottles. This weekend, we're going out to a nightclub in celebration of my birthday. I'll try to get pictures.
The big news in the world of Northern Irish current events right now is a report from the police ombudsman (think Internal Affairs on crack) indicating that the police colluded with loyalist paramilitary organizations in the '90s to kill Catholics. Unfortunately, there's very little that can be done to prove that, because the police involved destroyed what evidence there was. From what I've seen, the general feeling here in L/Derry about it is a cynical lack of shock.
Sinn Fein has been holding policing meetings all around town this week, trying to gain support for their position as they gear up for the coming election. I haven't attended any (I live too far away for it to be practical, and there are safer places to be than Bogside (the neighborhood where Sinn Fein has the most support) at night), but some of my groupmates have. I'm sure I'll hear all about it in class on Monday.
The current challenge I've set in front of myself is to keep up with my writing while I'm over here. My first novel, a fantasy mystery, should be ready to go out to publishers very soon unless I neglect it, and my second, a Young Adult fantasy adventure story, is just starting to get up off the ground. I don't want to get so preoccupied with writing that I miss out on being here, but I've certainly got downtime that would be better spent writing than surfing the web or watching imported American movies on tv.
Speaking of which, I've got a couple minutes before my next class. Perhaps I ought to be productive with it.
Monday, January 22, 2007
So today is the first day of class. We gathered at 10:15 for our first one, which comes in two parts: 1. Strategies of conflict intervention, community building, andreconciliation; and 2. current events in Northern Ireland. We take it with Mervyn, our program director.
He was talking about forgiveness as it relates to peace and reconciliation, and about how it's a necessary but difficult part of the peace process. He asked us to think about the people who've wronged us in our lives and whether or not we can forgive them.
That's an intersting question for me. On the one hand, I know that forgiving grievous hurts is possible. I think of Tom, and how I honestly harbor no ill will for the people who kidnapped and killed him. I spent more than a hundred days of my life with knots in my stomach, loading and reloading Al-Jazeera in search of news. I still want to cry when I think about the fact that I'll never see him again. But I'm not angry; I'm sad. At least, I'm not angry at the people who killed him. I'm angry at the circumstances that sent him there in the first place. Forgiveness has allowed me to make peace in my own mind with those who hurt me. On a pragmatic level, it takes away their power over me. On a peacebuilding level, it puts me in a position to let go of the past in the interest of building a better future.
But I know that it's not that simple. I think of other wrongs I haven't forgiven. Small things. Petty things. Toxic, selfish people who used me in the name of 'friendship.' Teachers and school administrators who abused their power in the name of 'dicipline.' Decade-old arguments that no one's said 'I'm sorry' for yet. If I can't forgive that, then what right do I have to suggest that people simply move on and get over more than thirty years of violence and nearly a milennium of conflict?
Mervyn made the point that while it's one thing to tell a classroom full of students, or a computer screen, that people need to forgive the past if they want peace, it's another thing entirely to face someone whose son was gunned down by paramilitaries because of his religion and say 'you need to forgive them, because peace is important.'
Even if I've been able to forgive a group of paramilitaries who kidnapped and murdered someone that I care about, I know that it's a hard thing. And I didn't do it for the Swords of Rightiousness. I didn't do it for peace. I did it for Tom. I did it because I know that if he were standing next to me when I got the news, he would have said 'I forgave them. Please don't hate them because of me.' I did it because I knew that I would never be able to honestly embrace the ideals that he died for if I was harboring hate in my heart.
I'm not here to solve the conflict in Northern Ireland. I'm here to study it, and to study the methods people are using to try to solve it. But it seems to me that part of the reconciliation process might be finding something that people will forgive for.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Last night was our first tin whistle class--dinner beforehand was peach yogurt (bet you were wondering how I'd tie that in...). I'm happy to report that I'm taking to it a lot faster than I have been to bodhran. When all's said and done, I guess I'm just a woodwinds kind of gal. Our tin whistle instructor also promised to teach us a few words of Irish (it's his first language. How cool is that?) over the course of the class. Very cool.
Down at the playhouse, I've been sitting in on rehersals for Heroes With Their Hands in the Air. I was right in guessing that it's formatted a bit like The Leramie Project. All of the lines are direct quotes from the real people the actors are portraying. From what I've seen so far, it looks like it's going to be quite good. I'm trying to get my whole group together to go see it--Mervyn says we can probably get funding from the cultural budget for our tickets, because it's Northern Irish theatre and so apropos to what we're studying. It opens on the 26th, and it's here for about a week before it goes on tour (unless I've gotten my dates all screwed up).
I just finished uploading a bunch of pictures. Most of my favorites are a bit big to post here directly, but I'll probably put some in my next post.
Monday, January 15, 2007
We arrived in L/Derry and met our host families on Saturday. Iona and I are living with a woman named Maureen about twenty minute's walk from campus. She's quite nice; has two daughters around my age and a fairly adorable dog named Angel. She also has a wireless router in the house, but it's snubbing Padma for some reason. If I can get them talking to each other, I'll have weekend and evening internet access. As it stands, weekdays only (via the library here at school).
Today was our first day at our placements. The Derry Playhouse is HUGE inside-- two side-by-side three-storey buildings that used to be a pair of schools. It turns out that their theatre is actually their smallest department. They run a veriety of cross-cultural youth programs and workshops designed to bring young people from both sides of the conflict together. They also have a creative writing group that meets on Wednesday nights, so I'm going to try to stop by and check it out. One of the members is apparantly an American expat who's friends with Nancy Polosi.
Most of what I was doing today was reading. They gave me a big stack of stuff to look through to familiarize myself with the playhouse and its programmes. Tomorrow I meet with the peace & reconciliation staff to hear about their projects and see if there's anything that I really want to be involved in. Overall, I think I'm going to really enjoy working there. It's a very laid-back office with a whole lot going on to get involved with. They're moving out of their buildings for a while so that they can be rennovated-- they won some kind of huge BBC historic buildings competition and got a bunch of grant money from it-- but not until after I leave.
The play they'll be putting on while I'm here is called 'Heroes With Their Hands in the Air.' It's about Bloody Sunday (one of the biggest events during the Troubles) and the investigations into it. I haven't seen the script or anything yet, but from the descriptions, it looks like it's going to be formatted sort of like The Laramie Project.
I took some pictures of the city, murals, and graffiti today, but Padma and I need to have at them before I can put them up. Hopefully, the wireless here at the library will like her better than the wireless at home; I haven't tried yet.
The city continues to charm me. I know that's probably the whole 'honeymoon phase' of cultural displacement, but I plan to enjoy it while it lasts. Peace to all, and I hope things are going well.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Photos of the Giant's Causeway and of us with the L/Derry Mayor, as promised.
ETA: Some of them are cutting off on the righthand side for some odd reason (at least on the actual page), so right click->view image if you want to see the full shots.
This first one was taken up on the cliff above the causeway. The causeway itself is down and to the left, but I thought the cliffs were pretty, so I snapped a photo.
This one was taken from the ground below the cliff, sort of below the one above. I liked the sunlight behind the cliff.
Anthony and Greg, two of my groupmates, standing on the causeway propper. You can see the way that the vulcanic rock formed into hexagons that look almost man-made.
group shot of all of us near the Giant's chair:
me, looking all touristy on the Giant's boot. Not a very flattering shot, but meh:
And last but not least, the group with the mayor of L/Derry. I'm the fourth from the left, but I'm kinda tucked in behind Lauren where I'm hard to see. You can see my massive Doctor Who scarf, though :).
I actually took a bunch more pictures than that, but I don't want to post them all here. I might make a flickr account or something later and start collecting them all there (eljay's ohoto album feature isn't exactly the best ever for this sort of thing).
Greetings from Northern Ireland!
Posting may be spotty for a week or so because internet access is infrequent. My apologies for that, but I've only got touristy travel log stuff to say until the program starts anyway. Not that travel logs are bad or anything; I'm really quite fond of them. It's just that the program itself is really fascinating. I'm hoping that it will generate content here that's a lot more substantial than a 'where I've been and what pictures I've taken' sort of blog.
Having said that, I've mostly only got 'where I've been and what pictures I've taken' for you so far. Mervyn, the program director, picked us all up from the Belfast city airport on the ninth and took us to the Corrymeela Reconciliation Centre, where we're staying until Saturday. Corrymeela is the largest Christian peace centre in Northern Ireland. It's perched up on a cliff overlooking Ballycastle-- absolutely gorgeous. Pictures can't capture it. I haven't even tried. Just trying to give you all a sense of the variations in the color of the water would take up five gigs. There's a pair of lighthouses on the island across the water from us. The whole place reminds me of Maine.
Anyway. Yesterday (the tenth), we slept late and then went out to the Giant's Causeway-- the so-called 'eighth wonder of the world.' It's a volcanic rock formation on the northern coast. We were warned it always rains on that trip, but the weather was absolutely gorgeous. Chilly but not freezing, and blue skies the whole afternoon. I had a fabulous time. The site itself was beatiful, but I especially appreciated the chance to do a bit of hiking. Not much by any means, but it was good to get up and walk after a whole day of sitting on airplanes and at airports. I'll post pictures as soon as I shrink them down to a decent web-size.
We took a walking tour of L/Derry today-- that's where we'll be until the end of March. There wasn't much time for pictures, but I figure there'll be plenty of time for that while I'm living there. The tour did take us right past my placement, though: I'll be working at the Playhouse in the walled city. It's a small theatre that's being run by a mixed group of Catholics and Protestants. It was nice to get a look at it (we didn't go in, but the door was open. Big pile of fabric inside. Maybe they'll let me sort it :D).
I also fell in love with the craft village. It's a small neighborhood inside the walls that's been deliberately styled after 18th century streets. The street level is full of small craft stores; the second is modern apartments that are intentionally rented out to young people from both sides of the religious divide. As I understand it, it's the only actually integrated neighborhood on that side of the river. Really it's the look of it that fascinates me, though. The architects and designers did a fabulous job-- it was like stepping into a time warp. I'd love to do a costume shoot there sometime.
We did a walk of the old wall as well, and heard some interesting facts about the course of the troubles in L/Derry. It's such an odd match-up, because on the one hand, it's an entirely modern city that looks completely at peace. Most parts of it look like they could be somewhere in Boston or Philly. And then two blocks away there's Real IRA graffiti (on the side of the Apprentice Boys house*, no less). There's a Protestant unionist neighborhood right near the Playhouse-- the only one on that side of the river. It's fenced off with barbed wire. The curbs and sighposts are painted red, white, and blue (the colors of the union jack, a ripped and tattered version of which flies over the house nearest the wall). There's a big mural, black with white lettering, declaring their intent to 'Never Surrender the West Bank.'
English lettering aside, it looks like it belongs in Palestine.
The walking tour ended at the Guild Hall, where we met the mayor of L/Derry (again, pictures once I shrink them). She met us in the council chamber and talked to us a bit about the current political situation (elections are apparantly back on for the seventh of March; Sinn Fein and the DUP** are not pleased). We've been invited back to come play pennywhistle for her once we learn.
After that, we went over to UU to register. They got some of my vitals (namely, birthday) way wrong, so I don't get me 'real' card until Monday at the earliest. This might make internetting a challenge. We'll have to see.
We had to face a squall on our way into the building-- rain blowing right in our face and the wind against us. I ran straight for the door, but heavens, what a workout! When we got out: blue skies. I'm noticing that a lot here. People talk about how it rains every day, but it only rains for maybe an hour at a go before the sun's back out. I much preferr it to Maryland, where if you wake up to rain, it's pretty much a garantee that the weather will be gross all day.
I'm back at Corrymeela now with just a few minutes to spare before dinner, so I'm going to see what I can do about these pictures and then head off. I may post them up later tonight if I get the chance. I'm sorry this entry's gotten so long! I'll try to post shorter entries more frequently as opposed to longer entries less frequently in the future. I imagine that will get easier once classes begin.
I hope everyone's having a lovely new year!
*The Apprentice Boys is basically a protestant men's club, named after a group of apprentices who shut the gates of the walled city against James II's catholic army. Every December and August, they do marches around the wall to commemorate withstanding the seige. The march has gone off peacefully for the last nine years, but the Catholic community doesn't like it much, to put it mildly (The IRA blew up a column on which the marchers used to hang and burn the effigy of a historic figure they consider a traitor some years back. They now burn the effigy in front of the courthouse).
**Sinn Fein and the DUP are the two largest parties for the Nationalists and Unionists, respectively.
Sunday, January 7, 2007
It occurrs to me that I haven't explained what I'll be doing in Northern Ireland yet.
I'm going to Northern Ireland as part of an Earlham College study abroad programme. N.I. is a Peace and Global Studies program; I'll be studying conflict resolution with professors from the University of Ulster and taking part in field placements with organizations that contribute to the peace process. We spend the first half of the semester in L/Derry and the second half in Belfast, with a weeklong excursion to Dublin thrown somewhere in the middle. I'm not sure where I'll be living or what my internship is yet.
Tomorrow's the big day. My next post will probably be from either Belfast or L/derry.
I'm a little scared, very sad to be leaving my friends and family (and DC, because I really love this city), and extremely tired (because it's nearly 3 am). I'm also very excited. I love that I've got the chance to do this.
Once I get there, I expect to be updating much more frequently. Blogging about trip prep is like blogging about watching paint dry, which is why this place has been mostly dead so far. Once again, please allow me to direct any interested eljayers to the blog's livejournal feed.