Monday, May 25, 2009

freedom, favorites & friendly felons

-All that this day stands for: those who sacrificed everything in service to others, and who continue to do so.

-Pierce emailing me a very thoughtful prayer.

-Sunday morning, I was going down the stairs and slipped on my slippers (ironic, I know) and fell down 5 steps, sending my favorite coffee mug that my sister gave me for Christmas a while back shattering down the stairs. This is not the glimpse of grace. Later, when I was telling Jessi about it, and that I hoped I could turn the handle that survived into something cool, she supportively said "Yeah, you would be great at that. You're so creative!" This is the glimpse of grace.

-Irish linen being sold at St. George's, and the charming but semi-aloof "this-stuff-markets-itself" attitude of the seller that was so quintiscentally Irish to me.

-Gorgeous vibrant flowers.

-Thinking outside the booth: this was scrawled on the floor right in front of a booth selling tea.

-A great saying on the wall of a pub. It stuck with me all day.

-The advantages of being an outsider. They're are certainly plenty of disadvantages to being a foreigner, but there are also opportunities a local wouldn't probably have. Saturday was one such opportunity. Lori and I were invited by friendly Republicans we met once, Fra and Spotty, to have a tour of the Falls Road in Belfast. This is the most Republican area in Belfast, where a great deal of the Troubles happened. They took us to a "museum" where Rebublican memorabilia are kept, including many things from Long Kesh (a prison where many IRA people were sent). They took us to a Memorial Garden and the cemetary where most who died through IRA involvement were buried and pointed out their numerous family and friends who died. Then, they took us to the "Felons Club," where only ex-IRA (or not-so-ex I'm sure) people who were imprisoned for more than 9 months and their families are invited to be members. Belfast has many, many sectarian pubs, but this one takes the cake. This tells you something about our tour guides, one of whom is now a prominent Republican politician. I was completely safe the whole time, in fact, I was constantly introduced to Fra's friends by him saying "This woman here's a Presbyterian minister" and was warmly received. I sat and sipped a pint of Harp, and was brought free egg salad sandwiches and sausages like it was the most natural thing in the world. It seemed that once I was found to be American, the whole Protestant thing wasn't such a hangup. Now my tour was extremely one-sided, full of propaganda and politics, but it was also full of real stories and experiences of these two mens' lives on the Falls Road. And a Northern Irish Protestant just wouldn't have been invited in, minister or not. And maybe that's part of the problem. It was a powerful experience. I just hope they're not equating American with "felon"... :)
-Fra, Spotty and Lori at the Falls Road Cemetary in what I can only describe as the "IRA Section." There was a palpable, eerie sadness about the place, not just because it was a cemetary. Being told that the average age was between 18-25 probably had something to do with it.

-Writing on one of the peace walls. As Fra and Spotty stopped to give us the chance to write on the walls they said "You can come back and see your writing there again!" and I thought to myself that I would rather come back to no walls.

-Roses drenched in rain.

-The infamous Felons' Club.

-A tranquil Sunday afternoon walk at Shaw's Bridge along the water. Belfast is a place of such extremes: from places of bitterly violent history one day to still, calm waters and tall-reaching trees the next.


Clay and Ashley said...

Sista, I am so moved by your visit with the Republicans. I can't imagine anyone else but YOU being ivited into an IRA Bar!!! A Protestant nonetheless?!? Eeek! What an honor. I'm so happy you got to experience that. I'm so sad about the mug. I'll scout for another...An even better one!

Email/Call soon. LOVE YOU! - Ash

Jennifer Ashbaugh said...

you're a bridge over troubled waters :)

I miss shaw's bridge- give it a kiss for me!