Thursday, November 6, 2008

Northern Ireland... a Whole Other Country

We're in Northern Ireland now.  It's a part of Great Britain, though that is hotly contested, and it even uses a different currency, Sterling instead of euro.  We we're supposed to leave on Wednesday morning at 6:30... and Lauren and I woke up at 6:36 sharp.  Oops.  We've been having serious alarm issues because our normal one broke, and now we're using a watch that can normally wake us up, but sometimes can't.  Oh well, we made it out the door semi-on time for Ireland at least.

We headed up to Belfast the first day, which was a pretty... heavy place.  If you don't know the history of the city and the Troubles, you probably won't understand what I'm talking about, but you should look it up.  It's interesting stuff.  There are "Peace Walls" throughout the town to divide up the Unionists (people who want Northern Ireland to remain apart of Great Britain, usually Protestant) and Nationalists (those who want a united Ireland, usually Catholics).  The hatred and the deep scars from the Troubles are almost tangible when you walk or drive through this city divided up by walls and gates that can shut automatically in case any violence erupts.  I've been in poor communities before, but I've never been in such an oppressive place, where the whole city seemed to be so buried within hatred that nothing else existed beyond the conflict and their dead heroes.  You could almost feel the demonic forces in the city, with Satan at work dividing the town.  All over Belfast there are murals, some from both sides and some from people who want peace.  There's this one where a masked gunman literally follows you with his gun no matter where you stand.  It's crazy to me that the children of Belfast grow up under these murals of masked gunman and dead heroes.  Well, as you can tell, that whole tour was very depressing, yet extremely enlightening to Ireland's political and social situation.

However, we ended the day on a higher not, for which I was extremely grateful.  We went to the Giant's Causeway, this place with awesome rock formations.  All the rocks are six-sided in shape.  I really enjoyed that, and I felt an almost physical relief to leave Belfast and get out into God's awesome nature.

Today, we got up early and headed out to see Derry, another city in Northern Ireland, toured there, and then went to some cliffs.  I can't remember their name... Sligo something, but we hiked to the top, and the view was absolutely incredible.  Just massive cliffs, and we were the only people out there as well.  I really enjoyed that.  Tonight we're staying in a hotel in county Donegal, back in the Republic of Ireland.  We'll get back to Greystones sometime tomorrow.  But tonight we're going to eat out at the Hotel restaurant, and I'm pretty excited.  We've been eating paper bag lunches for a while now, so this should be good.

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