Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Pictures--A few sunny days

Quasi illegal camping on the north coast. Using a Norman castle as a toilet is definitely one of the high points of my life. The only real toilet was up that cliff.

Walking up the street to my house.
New graffiti on the gate outside my door.

10 things

I know I haven't written in forever and ever, but I have a good reason....a reason I can't share, but a good reason. So, to get back into the whole blogging thing, I am going to be really lazy and write a top ten list. I know it's cliched, but I have some annoyances to get off me chest.

The Top Ten Things about Northern Irish People that Drive Me CRAZY (in no particular order)

1. They think that the phrase "I was just messin'" is magical. You could call someone the stupidest, laziest, *&%# you have ever met, but if you follow it with "Oh, I was just messin'", then the person on the receiving end is not allowed to be at all upset. If you do get angry then you are overly sensitive and take things too seriously. I call for the entire Troubles to be declared just messing about, so anyone who doesn't move on and get over it will be treated with contempt.

2. Unintelligible. No, explanation needed if you have ever been to Northern Ireland. They must all have overly large tongues, or walk around with marbles in their mouths.

3. I have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating--pick a side!!! We can't all walk on the same side of the side walk.

4. Bad taste. You name it: food, fashion, music. JLS, leggings that want to be jeans, leggings that are worn like jeans, mountains and mountains of potatoes in every form imaginable.

5. They "love" America, but slag me to no end when I use American terms for things or say words with my American accent.

6. Thinking that seeing two people in Belfast who aren't white white white in one day means there are "Too many damn foreigners in this country."

7. Being called a girl for your entire life.

8. Having the nerve to call pickled onions pickles. Please, can you make some effort not to make gross food?

9. Bombs, bricks, and fire. Find a safer past time.

10. Being some of the most charming, laid back, and giving people on the planet. They get under your skin and before long you find yourself defending even their most ridiculous behavior. Bastards.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

I haven't posted anything in awhile, because really there isn't anything new to post and I haven't felt inspired by anything. The nightly riots stopped a few weeks ago, after a young person was arrested (see my previous post). The only interesting event in my neighborhood was a bomb scare awhile ago that closed down the main street for an afternoon and resulted in an increase in helicopters circling for a few days. The afternoon it happened, a helicopter circled for over 5 hours. I find the fact that one of the local young people described the sound as soothing to be really depressing.

The only other somewhat interesting thing were the fires on Black Mountain. For about a week and a half around the time of the bomb scare, different parts of the mountain were set on fire by young people every day. I wish I had taken a picture, because at night time the fires made the mountain look like a volcano. The fires and the riots, I've been told are very early this year and usually don't take place until the summer, in the case of the fires, and until after Easter for the riots. The riots have also been a lot more frequent this year than in the past couple of years. I have been told that these factors indicate that it will be a "hot" summer. Unfortunately, this is not the kind of heat that I will most probably enjoy.

None of this is terribly interesting though in the big scheme. The bomb scare didn't even make it into the local news. What is more interesting to me right now (and probably more harmful to my health) is the mold/mildew growing around my windows. Its very resilient and causing all sorts of problems for my allergies. Now that the weather is warmer (slightly) other organisms that cause itchy eyes and throat are growing too, and even with two prescriptions I am still walking around with tissues. Its not too bad, but I guess it is bad enough for Sister M to think that "this place is just not suiting" me, and that I am sick "all the time". I haven't been sick once. When I asked her point blank when was the last time I was sick, she responded "not that long ago." Thinking about it I might have had a cold in the beginning of January. Yes, she agreed, not that long ago. This coming from the woman who coughs all the time.

The next big event will be a parade that goes through the wall right outside my house. This has caused problems in the past, but hopefully it will like the first clip and not the second. Both show the wall that I have to pass through every day, and you can see the top of my house at :42 in the second video. In the first you can see my house at :48.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

The media takes an interest

As some of you might know from talking to me on the phone, there has been a lot of action lately on the two barren sites straddling the Springfield Road. This has been going on for 3 weeks without much being done by the police or the knowledge of anyone from out side the area. Well apparently the other night some of the young people went too far. We can now add petrol bombs to the various other things that the young people are throwing. I will have to go and take some pictures of the damage, but for now here are two takes on what happened 2 nights ago.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Botantic Gardens and Queen's University

Once again, Lena took these pictures. She is always taking sneaky profile pictures of me.

Monday, 22 February 2010

The honeymoon is OVER

I admit it, I was completely blinded by my lust for everything N. Irish when I first arrived in Belfast. I mean the grass really is greener here! Then I realized that the reason for that is the ungodly amount of precipitation. Not only is the grass greener, but so are the roofs. I could probably count on two hands the amount of days in my 5 months here that there hasn't been any form of rain, fog, snow, sleet, or forms of precipitation that I haven't even encountered before. Hollywood must have had Belfast in mind when it created the iconic movie rain. I have gotten so soaked walking in the rain for 10 minutes that I looked like I just got out of the shower. Actually a typical rain here probably has more pressure than my shower.

I know I am living here during one of the coldest winters in a long time, but even when I first arrived on a mild October day, it wasn't the cold outside that bothered me, it was the temperature of my house. These people keep heat on a timer, portioning and rationing human comfort in an attempt to save money. Americans don't realize how spoiled we are when it comes to temperature control. When we are cold we just turn the heat up a little nudge. Or if you are in my family, you turn it up with thick gloves so that you leave no finger prints and then blame it on Adam. "Yeah dad, I put some wood on the fire, I don't know why anyone would turn the heat up?!?! But, I did see Adam lingering in the hall earlier". Something like that. Here, I don't even know how the heater works. Even when the sisters are out of town, I have no control of the heat. Which is probably a good thing for their heating bill.

Other than the weather, I guess I am just weary of the little differences. I am constantly wrong footed in even the most simple of interactions. A few weeks ago I was sitting around with the youth team before club. There had been a meeting earlier in the day and as usual the extra food was left for the youth team to either eat or throw away. I wasn't feeling well that day so when Andrea offered me some food I declined, besides I said "I have some pizza in my purse". My coworkers all paused and looked as if waiting for the punchline of a hilarious joke. Unfortunately that joke is me. "How did you manage that?" One of them asked. Blinking and looking from one expectant face to the next I finally realized my mistake, women's wallets here are called purses and a purse is a bag. Sometimes I think that it would be easier if I actually did speak a different language than the N. Irish. Then at least I would have a good excuse when I said stupid things like "Darn, now my pants are all wet!" in front of children. My coworkers wouldn't look at me like I was crass, but instead pity me for being the ignorant nonnative norn irish speaker that I am.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

The Angry Mob

I have been putting off writing on this topic since last November--since the first riot that I was involved in as a youthworker. I have started multiple post about this topic, but have never been able to finish one because it is difficult to describe fear. I could write about how I can hear the blood pounding in my ears, or how I have been literally unable to react to the situation around me. I could write about the intense shivers that come after the adrenaline rush and the desire to cry. None of this would express how I felt though, because fear is really hard to pin down. All I know is that the worst part of fear is feeling defeated before you have even started. That is how I felt tonight.

Tonight's youthwork began pleasantly enough. I was on detached tonight with D (part of our new schedule) and we had a very interesting engaging visitor--a man from a consulting firm who is doing work with our Good Relations department (and by department I mean one person). We went on our normal route and spoke to and saw a fair number of young people. We even got to talk to a group for a long time about the walls, sectarianism, catholics, marching, etc. Basically a good evenings work. Soon after we had dropped our visitor back off at his car, D got a call from one of the youthworkers in club saying that a fight was on at one of the wastelands (large tracts of empty space). D and I investigated the area, but could find no sign of a fight so we started heading back. As we approached the pedestrian gate a few of the Catholic young people came out of youth club, one with a metal pipe in his hand. Just after saying our hellos, we heard shouts from across the street from behind the peace wall. On the other side were a group of protestant boys shouting and jeering at the three catholics.

Now this is where time begins to go all wonky. I have no idea if this lasted 5 minutes or 15, but I do know that a lot can happen at the interface in a short amount of time. Before we could stop them, the three catholics rushed the gate, leaving us no option but to push between them as bottles and bricks came flying over the wall. To describe what happened next would be pointless. Dealing with an incident at the interface is standing in the cold till you can't feel your toes, shouting at young people to stop--stop throwing things, stop pushing me, stop shouting things at the other side, and most importantly just stop and go home. This time was slightly different than other times though in that all the uncovered faces were unfamiliar, though I think I know who the one covered face was, and these guys were aggressive.

It makes all the difference in the world when you know the names of the young people you are dealing with, for both us as youthworkers and for the kids. Its hard to imagine one of the young people who come to club coming at me with a brick and yelling at me to get out of the way as happened tonight. During an incident last Friday, young people pushed me to try to get to the other side, but yelling "Hey, Ron you need to back off!" works fairly well when you have a history with that young person and when you have their parent's number handy. Tonight though yelling didn't deter them and they just kept pushing and pushing. The only advantage I had was height while they had numbers.

Unfortunately this story does not have a happy ending. Well, it does for me, I am home safe--a little shaken, but fine. For the young people, nothing was resolved. It wasn't our diligence that ended the riot, neither logic nor compassion. The only thing that can make a group of young people scatter quickly is paramilitaries pulling up on either side of the wall. Fear was the force that stopped the riot tonight. Fear is an emotion that the young people know well.