The World is my Classroom

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Flag of United Kingdom  , Northern Ireland,
Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Hello from Ireland, where out first stop has been the city of Belfast in Northern Ireland. And what an experience! There have been so many places that we've visited over the past few weeks where we have felt an incredible sense of awe about the events that took place in those locations hundreds of years before and became part of the fabric of history. 

But Brendon and I both grew up seeing images in the news of the terror transpiring here in Belfast, so there was something even more moving about standing on the very streets we'd seen ablaze with conflict in our own lifetime. I actually felt privileged to listen to a first-hand account from our Black Cab Tour Guide, who lived through such a dreadful and defining period of this country's history, and it is something I am definitely richer for having experienced.

We stood on the Protestant side of the 2.5km reinforced concrete 'Peace Wall' separating just one section of this community. There are four other similar walls still standing in this city and the gates are still locked at 10 o'clock each evening. We drove through the streets where British flags hung in windows and above large, bright murals painted on building walls that provide vivid reminders in this stark neighbourhood. We stood on the Catholic side of the same wall, where the houses closest to the wall still have cages attached to them, originally erected to protect against petrol bombs. We stood outside the Sinn Fein headquarters building. And again, we saw large, bright murals providing reminders of the past. We also saw, on both sides of the wall and even on the wall itself, bright murals with hopeful messages for the future - a more positive future which we could see slowly emerging as we walked and drove around the city; a future possibly well summed up in these words we saw painted on the wall - "Peace by piece". 

I can't even begin to put down in words what it has been like to visit this city, a classroom I am glad to have been educated in. 

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