Monday, June 22, 2009


What a whirlwind week I had last week! First, my good friends Ian and Gina came from the States for a wee visit and we had the greatest time catching up, slagging each other off*, seeing the sights of Belfast and re-living old memories. Then, in the middle of the week, about 20 Romanian families in Belfast were victims of racial intimidation: a group of teenagers broke into their homes and hurled racial slurs at them. These families were removed from the area for their own safety and taken first to a church, then a gym and now an undisclosed location. Chris and I know several of the children affected by these terrible events, and have been supporting them. So, all in all, a very busy week! I'll share some of my glimpses of grace from it with you...

(*: "slagging off", ie. "taking the mickey out of", v. Belfast slang for making fun of someone. Most commonly is a sign of affection.)

-Ian announcing his arrival by sticking his head in the window above my door and giving me a cheeky grin. He is ridiculously tall (by my standards, anyway...). The hugs and "Heeeey! Howareya?" that ensued made for a great reunion.

-Gina's enthusiasm about my house, loving everything from my yellow kitchen to my green "wooden" bathroom floor. She looked around and said, "Hmm. Everything's different--just slightly--but different."

-A gorgeous sunny walk in Botanic Gardens smelling the huge variety of roses "This one's lemony!", "Wow-this one's like cinnamon!", "This one's like...cleaner. Ugh." I smelled roses until I had a headache from all the fragrance. It's amazing how each one has such a different scent.

-I loved this little guy. He looks so real, I half expected him to wink at me as I walked by.

-This huge bright lizard caught me completely off guard. The colors and quirkiness instantly made me think of my Aunt Karen.

-I love the Palm House in Botanic Gardens. Just gorgeous.

-I, of course, took them to St. George's Market (I feel like they should give me a commission for all the advertising I do for it here!!) for the Friday Variety Market. Gina had her first Ulster Fry and loved it. It was also a cozy respite from the cold, rainy weather.

-Bright orange goldfish swirling around in a big blue plastic tub. I thought of buying one but didn't...maybe next week.

-There are several ways I know I'm becoming just a bit more Northern Irish. The fact that I find rainy streets beautiful is just one of them.

-Going into a gym where Roma families were being temporarily held and having several children I know rush over to hug me, their faces lighting up with seeing someone they know.

-The amazing resilience of Roma people. They had been through the most harrowing experiences but were able to just sit around talking, while children played expansively, enjoying the huge gym.

-A colder night that demanded my soft flannel pj's instead of the cotton ones. I really enjoyed the extra warmth.

-The energy and collective passion of a community worship service at Fitzroy that centered around solidarity with Romanians and all immigrants, fighting racism and the poverty that ignites it, and worshipping the God of all people. As Chris and I pulled up to the church, we saw about 20 Roma children playing inside the church gates. When some of the teenagers played with them after the service one turned to me and said, "These kids are awesome!"

-While talking to my sister on the phone, she held it up to my niece and I said "Hi, Natalie! It's Aunt Whit...I love you, sweetie!" and I heard a little squeal. My sister got back on the phone and said, "Whit, I swear she totally smiled!" It made my night.