By far, the earliest start we’ve had since we landed in Dublin almost a week ago, but totally worth it. Up before dawn, we started the day driving through the city, up through the countryside, (most of us caught up on sleep while on the bus), and finally into Belfast.
Most of the day was spent on the bus driving around the city with a tour guide, hearing about the history and the things we were seeing outside of the window. I had heard about the troubles in Belfast before, but it was never broken down to the extent that it was yesterday. Finally understanding the conflict a little more combined with seeing some of the bullet holes in buildings, murals, and Peace Wall itself made me really think about where we were and what we were doing.
My favorite part of the tour was definitely when we got off to see the Peace Wall up close and personal. So many cries of “the wall should come down” and variations of “peace in Belfast” really hit home. Our class added our words of well-wishing to the wall, snapped more pictures, and climbed back on the bus.
That whole section of the tour (where we were driving around the Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods) felt a little eerie. One of my other classmates described it best: “It’s like you can still feel the tension in the air from everything that’s happened.” We really could, but it was humbling and made the whole experience hit in a completely new way.
Even though we didn’t stay out too late the night before, I think everyone was starting to feel the toll of all the work and fun we’ve been having together while we spent the day on the bus, and unfortunately, we found ourselves drifting in and out of consciousness throughout the tour. We managed to take in so many things though, and I’m so glad we were able to make a trip to Belfast part of our itinerary. If you get the chance to come to Ireland, put Belfast on your list.
I think everyone conked out on the bus going back to the hotel, and once we got back it was followed with a lot of debate of whether or not we were going to stay in or go out. I ended up booking my bus tickets for London, worked to try and get some interviews for my story, and some other work; but ultimately, we went to Tesco, got some goodies, and enjoyed each other’s company again at the hotel… followed by enjoying more company outside of our group.
Honestly, I realize how it sounds when I say “we’re enjoying each other’s company” or vague things like that when it comes to the evening time, but for real, that’s what we’re doing together. Sure, legal drinks here are involved, but ultimately, it’s been more of a bonding experience than anything. When we flew out a week ago for Dublin, I hardly knew everyone’s name. Now, a week later, I could rattle of so many different things about each person in this group, and especially the ten-ish people I’ve been spending most of my time with.
For someone who has been upholding more long-distance friendships than at-home friendships in the past six months, this trip really has meant a lot to me in that sense. I forgot what it was like to be able to talk about things going on to someone who’s sitting next to you, rather than 500 miles away and over a computer screen/cell phone. Even while I’m here, I’m interacting in the same way to my loved ones that are far away from Chicago; albeit less frequent and sometimes a bit more difficult, but becoming close with so many of my classmates on this trip has been one of the “hidden” highlights for me.
More to come, I promise. Stay with us.