In the middle of the riots….

I just got back from a week-long trip to Northern Ireland and Scotland…which means technically my country count is up to 3, woohoo!

We left from Dublin last Sunday for a day bus trip to Belfast in Northern Ireland….our program (30 kids) took classes for a week at Queens University. We were brought there at an unusual time, it’s a very complicated situation but basically N. Ireland and the rest of Ireland do not like each other, and there are huge fights that have been happening between Unionists and Nationalists (Protestants and Catholics).

A brief history, but the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 established peace in the area and they have been working toward it ever since. So basically on the 12th of July they have a parade and the Unionists are celebrating their defeat of the Nationalists….they parade through Catholic neighborhoods and there are riots at night with large bonfires. The parade has become so peaceful that we were allowed to go to the parade–the first group ever allowed to go. Although a bit scary, when you take a step back and look at it, the fact that we COULD go is a huge step for how far they have come, even though they still have ways to go.

To put it into perspective because it’s much more complicated to understand, imagine the KKK parading through the streets of New Orleans and other Southern cities.

Anyway, the rest of the week we layed low…..we were put on larger floors and since it wasn’t really safe to be wandering at night we had group bonding time–lots of playing cards and talking time.

Wednesday we took a day field trip to the Antrim Coast—to see the Giants Causeway and the Carrick-a-rede bridge….again, beautiful and breathtaking and a fun day trip.

Thursday morning Allison, Carly and I didn’t have classes so we took a taxi to a movie theatre and saw Harry Potter!! If anyone hasn’t seen it, there’s a new director and the movie is much better than the previous ones. Going to a movie and relaxing was also awesome, it felt good to get out in the city a bit.

Thursday night was probably the highlight of the trip. Our group got a tour of Stormont, N. Ireland’s parliament buildings….AND THEN, when the tour was over, we were taken to one of the assembly rooms where Great Britain used to plan military defense during World War II. Four members of parliament from different parties came in and we got to ask questions and have a debate. All of us were supposed to submit questions and 6 people were picked to ask their question…they got to read it aloud to the panel of parliamentary people and I was picked as one of the 6 people!!

Public speaking and me do not go well so I got nervous even though it was a one sentence question! This kid named Matt made jokes until I settled down, yikes. Anyway, it was an awesome experience. The first question asked was about the parade and the riots and it was extremely heated. We had members of both the Unionist and Nationalist party and they were at each others throats over whether these parades were okay or not.

A group of 7 of us went to Glasgow Scotland for the weekend, taking trains, ferries, and planes to get there and back. It was fun, but kind of relaxing just eating out and shopping which we all needed. Some of us are getting sick and others are just tired and worn out so the weekend was good.

That’s all for now, time to write a paper for film!