Saturday, March 31, 2007

Goodbyes and Hellos

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.

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