Friday, July 26, 2013

My last day.

I realized this morning that I'm wearing the same outfit today that I wore on my first day of work in the EBM office. Yes, I have a strange brain that remembers things like that...and I will say it is significantly warmer as I wear this outfit today than when I covered it in sweaters and jackets during mid-may.

I look outside my office window and see blue skies, the sunshine, and Union Jack bunting waving in the breeze, and rather than having no idea where I am situated in this place called Belfast, I know where I am. I know what directions to take to get different places. I know what the big yellow cranes mean and even that H&W doesn't mean Hello&Welcome, but rather Harland & Wolfe. I know what murals are closest to me, what "territory" I'm in, what the "Freedom Corner" is, where the paint bomb splatters are located, what bus stop has been repaired after being burned, what bus to take to get into the city (but why take it when you can walk?), and that tea and custard are some of the greatest inventions of man.

While I can't completely understand Belfast itself, Northern Ireland, or the ideologies behind the conflict here, I can understand people. I now know plenty of unique individuals who all function very differently here in this place. They even function very differently here in the community of Skainos Square and EBM.

I said in my first blog post here what EBM is, and I had a list. But now, I could almost put it in one word: people.

While there's this great new building that has won awards, is super green, has the only vertical garden on the island of Ireland/N. Ireland, is structurally innovative, is contemporary while including elements of history, and is shiny and's not really about the building in the long run.

It's the people of the whole congregation.
The youth that feel safe here.
Flo and her lovelies.
The pensioners in re:fresh.
The friendship circle.
The moms and the tots...and even the dads.
Celebrating Jamie's birthday on a Sunday Morning.
Volunteers who become church members.
Rhys wearing his many crazy hats.
Corey and his 'grumpy old man' face.
All the people who use the services here.
The Irish class community.
Sandra and Lindsay at the multiple reception desks.
Billy being the 'Driving Miss Daisy' to all the older ladies.
Rachel and her trolly and Jammie Dodgers.
The volunteers from all walks of life.
The tenant that lives above us and drops his cigarettes on our ledge.
The facilities team that will help out with anything.
Bobby and his constant flow of food.
Big Mark interacting with the youth...and cleaning up their messes.
The Fusion kids making pizzas and dancing with umbrellas that won't open.
Paula and Mary serving food to the church.
The constant flow of Americans.
Kay delivering Strawberries to desks.
The kids who can be baptized questions asked.
The girls who will hug you until you can't breathe.
The whole staff.
It's a community. It's a family.

And with every family, of course there are dysfunctional moments. There are those who may clash. There are some who wish they still lived in the old house. They're figuring it out here. It has moments of chaos, but there are many moments of beauty as well.

Even when you can look out and see police rovers and rioting, this place is safe. This skainos--this's a protective covering over the whole community that comes here, in the midst of a world that is anxious, on edge, full of clashing, full of perceptions, full of the mentality to fight fire with fire.

While no one may understand what creates the chaos, and what perpetuates it all, we can understand a person. We can understand a hug, a smile, a bounce on a bouncy castle. We can understand someone's tears, the sound of laughter, the want to dance, the joy of song. We can understand the telling of a story.

East Belfast Mission is: a people, a story...a future.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

13 days left...

I've never heard bombs before. But after last night I know how to differentiate the sound between a "blast bomb," a petrol bomb, and just fireworks.

When you're just sitting around watching Phantom of the Opera of tv and hear about 6 blasts in a row, that's when you get up and go look out the window. And when people are coming out of the Bethany Chippy to look at what's going know that you should also go figure out what's going on. This weekend I've learned to follow the locals...well, the ones who aren't doing the actual rioting.

So, I'll begin with Friday...that's partially what has led up to last night's chaos.

July 12th is the day where Belfast commemorates the victory of William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne, celebrating this Protestant ascendancy to the throne. The Orange Order Lodges march alongside bands and drum corps (as on the 1st of July), carrying banners depicting different Protestant themes and pride for their townships and orders. The major parade goes by for nearly two hours, with bands playing hymns, songs of patriotism, and songs of the Orange Order. The parades throughout the day are regulated by the Parades Commission of Northern Ireland that ruled this year that certain groups would not be allowed to pass through a particular piece of the road on their return route in Ardoyne, in North Belfast. Because of this ruling, there was a lot of anger on the part of the Orange Order, and this resulted in lasting tension throughout the weekend.

Friday's regulations on the parades sparked reaction by some of the bands playing "The Sash"--an Orange Order song--while passing in front of a predominant Catholic church within the city, where only hymns or a drum click are to be played. The regulations also sparked protest on marching through the area in Ardoyne. While police blocked the road, the crowds began to riot, attacking the police force with anything they could, including but not limited to: fireworks, bricks, and ceremonial swords. To read about this particular rioting click here:

While this was raging on another side of the city, we were standing on Templemore Avenue, close to home for us, waiting for the East Belfast Orangemen to march by to finish their day's journey. We waited nearly an extra hour and a half for the bands, while we heard rumors of rioting on the bridge, and that all the bands were stopped unil those in North Belfast would be permitted to pass. After some time, they finally began to come by, with a lot of gusto in their playing if I must say so myself. But as they passed, we began to notice that some were stained with paint...some had hands that were black. These were signs of the paint bombs that had been thrown at the marchers, and that some had thrown some things back themselves. We didn't witness what had gone on, but rather on of the other roomies, another American from Drew University was witness to a riot against the police who did nothing to stop the paint or other objects being thrown at the bands. She came back saying she saw people throwing anything they could, punching riot screens, trying to tip police land rovers, and climbing on top of police barriers. She told us about those who stood watching, with an older woman who was crying, and some who tried to step in and pull people away from the police.

We missed all of this, and made our way inside after the bands passed, and could sit watching a movie as the rioting apparently continued in other parts of the city. This was all we knew, and the city seemed to go back to "business as usual" for the rest of the holiday weekend. We went to the movies (btw...Monsters Inc. University is awesome), walked around city centre, and enjoyed a weekend of beautiful weather. Apparently we did this while others continued to riot each night against the police force, injuring 44 police from Friday to Sunday.

And then Monday, a holiday still for us, as we went to the Titanic Museum and got to experience a piece of Belfast history, as it was built here and staffed by many from Belfast. The museum is a really cool and hands-on place that not only focuses on the Titanic itself, but how it fits into the history of Belfast as a city. After this, we walked home, seeing one police land rover standing on the lower Newtownards Road. We settled in for an evening of super classy move watching...and now we're back to the beginning.

So Monday night...around 6pm...still light outside, and we see smoke coming up a few blocks down. We had to go for a wee nosy toward the noise in trying to figure out what was going on, as police rovers rushed to the scene. We decided to then rely on the news instead of getting ourselves down too close, and 45 minutes later learned that there had been "at least 4 blast bombs and several petrol bombs" thrown at police from the Nationalists. This followed the report that a pipe bomb had been thrown at police in North Belfast around 5pm. After a while and the simmering down to the point that I changed the channel to some "classic American television" (meaning How I Met Your Mother, New Girl, The Mindy Project etc.) we heard a small blast, and then were stunned at a blast bomb that got us out of our chairs. Note: it sounds really dumb when I say that we went outside to see what was going on after we heard the bomb really close to us...but hey, that's what we did. Meeting up with a congregation member from the church, we were talked through what the police were doing with the blockade, and that the rioting tended to follow the same patterns as they attempt to move them further up the road, away from the Catholic/Protestant divide.

As we stood watching the commotion, there were lots of people coming out to join the crowd watching, as well as many teenagers in hoodies, some with their faces already covered, ready to join the action. Once we saw a bin on fire, bricks and glass thrown at the rovers, and the police force on the move, much of the crowd watching around us began to run, so we ran too. We made it up to the apartment where we could then watch the chaos at the blockade continue as the game of cat and mouse seemed to happen up and down the road, until finally around 12:30 or 12:45 the crowds and police were all dispersed.

It's amazing to stand and listen to people talk about what's going get a biased history lesson that involves old stories of police, talk of who's who, and even a call that the paramilitaries are needed in this situation, but that they're getting money to stay out of it. When you haven't experienced it all, it is extremely hard to grasp why this would even be an option, and why this is even happening in the first place. As we were watching the action and inaction here we were also getting reports of issues in Portadown, a rumor of something in Dundonald and Newtownards, more talk of the Crumlin Road, and issues that seemed to be ranging across the whole city against the police force. To read more about it go here:

There was something brewing last night that was unnerving, and while in our apartment, we feel safe, there is clearly a lot going on here that we aren't used to. The crowds gather and say that by Northern Irish standards, these attacks and riots are nothing...but I think they're like the murals. There are clearly underlying issues that are plastered across buildings, yet people can walk by them without a glance every day. These riots clearly point to violence and underlying issues that people can get chips and watch, or walk by without a glance. This is a strange reality, as I still notice the real eerie images that stare through some of the murals, and as I saw hooded teenagers lined up behind a burning dumpster throwing bricks.

I don't understand it, and I don't think that I ever will. What will make people see the murals? What will make people see that this isn't the way to solve things?

As Joanna and I were walking in from town the other day we were discussing peace work here, and how it is like there is someone sweeping up broken glass, but there is someone else following them throwing glass, and litter, and paint on the path they just swept, so another person comes behind to sweep, and then another to litter, and it goes on...the cycle and perpetual nature of it here is so hard to step in and break.

Some random thoughts:
- the stairwell is back to smelling like sunscreen, ah...the comfortability of something that is consistent
- it hit like 81 degrees fahrenheit here...that just doesn't happen.
- don't order scallops at the's a lie!
- Safe Haven is an excellent Nicholas Sparks movie to watch instead of attending Bonfires that uphold sectarianism far beyond what I would want to support in any way
- the Titanic Museum has a ride in it...but it's definitely not Disney caliber
- I'm using a pen right now that has a giant sheep covered in clovers on it...I love Irish souvenirs!
- TJ Maxx is TK Maxx here...let that blow your mind a little.
- I didn't have a cup of tea all weekend and it feels weird
- Songs that kids sing on the bus here are way funnier
- I have 9 more work days here, including today...strange.

Until next time, cheers!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

18 days LEFT...

The major parades and events begin tomorrow.

We have already experienced the marching on July 1 and the following Saturday, which seemed to be an impromptu "just for funsies" sort of affair. These events have given us a broader picture of the community, as everyone makes it out onto the streets, covered in Union Jacks head to toe, with food trucks, sweet stands, and Union Jack souvenirs lining the streets along the parade routes as well. For the 1st of July, it was determined that the PSNI (Police Service) would set up screens at the main location of the flag protests earlier this year. The result of this as the bands passed was a giant metal wall beside them, so that the adjacent community would have the sight of the bands shielded from them. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Even if giant bass drums are being slammed to the point of breaking drum heads......It truly is fascinating to see drum corps after drum corps and flute band after flute band travel by for about 45 minutes with their lodges of men, boys, and sometimes women and girls following behind (and the super cute old men who have to ride in cars). The tunes are rarely familiar to me, but I know they are songs of British and Protestant pride, played as loudly as possible in places so that the pride can be heard beyond walls.

And boy, can you hear it. Saturday's more informal parade was one of ear-splitting volume that moved down the Newtownards Road until nearly 11:00 at night. It is impossible to think of anything but the bands as the pass, since you can nearly feel your brain rattling in your head to the rhythm of the tunes.

Both the July 1 parade and that on Saturday seemed to be peaceful occasions, the first being dedicated to commemorate the Battle of the Somme, and the second...well, I have no clue what it was commemorating...but overall, they seemed to be joyous occasions without threat of violence from either side of the fence, literally. As we stood at the riot screens watching the parades pass, the bands stopped, and I was discretely advised "just be aware when the bands stop, that's when things will get thrown over...if anything happens, run that way." Later someone jokingly said, "always know your exits." This is real life now. The threat of danger is apparently entirely real, but you have to know your exits, know how to get away and get home. But nothing happened. Despite the fact that to have the screens up was a step backwards in the ideas of the peace process, both communities welcomed not seeing the other.

But the parade on Saturday is much larger, much longer, and has had regulations set down on it...resulting in anger... (to read all about it go here:

There are rumors flying that this could be a 12th of July that is taking multiple steps back in the peace process, while others say that because the 1st was peaceful, it set precedent for this event as well. While this is the hope, over 600 extra police force from throughout the UK are being called in as backup after last year's events, the upset of the Orange Order over a regulated parade route, and the flag protests earlier in the year.

My hope is that this day proves that peace is achievable, and despite upsets on both sides, that the ongoing conflicts will eventually resolve in time and through the communication between parties, communities, and particularly young people across Belfast and Northern Ireland. To see something really hopeful on that front watch Hannah Nelson's speech before President Obama's speech here in Belfast last month (

Other than parade season, this is also holiday season for the community here. Everyone seems to be away at their caravans, and soaking up the sun here in Belfast and beyond as we have seen temperatures in the 70's (fahrenheit). This would've been very welcome last week when some of us traveled with the drop-in young people to Portrush on the north coast to go for a surf lesson. While we were being blasted with freezing cold rain that felt as if it had a good mix of hail we learned to get up on our surfboards laying on the beach, and welcomed the warmer water of the North Atlantic Ocean in comparison to the rain that felt like it could penetrate a wetsuit. Overall though, despite the cold, we had so much fun, and the kids were ranting about it all the way home...and yes, that's an hour and forty minute train ride. Tomorrow we take them down to a waterpark-Funtasia in Drogheda...down in the republic. International trips, now...haha. The summer stuff for the community kids has been going great. Now if only the people to participate in my piece of work for the congregation would not be on holiday and prove just as a successful summer venture for the church leadership. I'm keeping my hopes up that we can get all the procrastinators in at the last minute, and get a flood of responses to the survey right at the end of my time.

While the ones we have gotten in have proved interesting to read and see, some sadden me while others give me hope and give ideas for the future of this church family. These last two weeks that I have here may be filled with reading more interesting stories of this place...I hope they are. I want this place to thrive in the next year, and for the congregation and leadership to be spiritually renewed. I want them to feel the hope for the future alongside the city that they seek to provide hope for on a daily basis.

Other than that, some random thoughts:
- I'll be home in 30 days...WHAT?
- wetsuits and claustrophobia don't exactly mix...especially since they're like impossible to get out of!
- Barry's...a Northern Irish tradition, but really like a creepy carnival that sets up in mall parking lots in the States...but in a permanent building. Hilarious!
- As I shared the notion of Myrtle Beach as the "Redneck Riviera" with another leader, it was decided Portrush is the "Redneck Riviera" of Northern Ireland
- Yes, I will buy tons of bags of my favorite sweets here to take home with me...and by tons, I mean 7
- Never ask and American to paint Union Jacks on the faces of children...

Until later, and probably an update after the parades of the 12th...

Monday, July 1, 2013

An Adventure to Paris and Parade Preparation...Day 45

I have less than a month left here in Belfast. That seems like  crazy notion as I sit here getting a wee break before our event and the parade this evening. Today being the 1st of July marks the beginning of "parade season" here in Belfast, and marks my first day back from work after a three day weekend in Paris to celebrate my birthday.

Before you ask, no...24 doesn't feel much different than 23. And I want to make a reference to Gilmore Girls as Joanna and I have come back from Paris a little more sad, as Rory says after returning from backpacking around Europe. While it was a grand whirlwind adventure, we realized that Paris is a city that causes anxiety and that you truly cannot get through without knowing French. We tried as best we could, but boy is it tough when the French speak quickly and find out you're American, therefore thinking you're really dumb. Overall, we didn't speak much to others due to the communication issue, and we got sufficiently lost a couple times. First world problems really rear their ugly head when you are functioning without smart phone mapping. But despite the complications and stresses, we had a fun time and experienced at least a little bit of France.

Friday we arrived and got sufficiently lost in the CDG Airport trying to find the trains into the city...then ran into the issue of ticket machines not taking American cards...getting on the train at rush hour, and then an hour and a half commute (complete with train transfers and getting lost in stations) to our hotel, where thankfully the front desk staff spoke English. Our hotel was nicely situated at the edge of the city, right near a metro stop, decorated like Arabian Nights, with a crazy spiral staircase winding up through the floor floors of tightly packed guest space. Contrary to the travel reviews for the cheap hotel room, it was actually quite spacious, with a fun and funky vibe and a ridiculously bright bathroom sealed by what looked like a bright blue dungeon door. After a quick crash into the room and a change from travel clothes, we ventured out to the streets around us and into a small bistro/cafe/bar type place with a dinner menu that looked reasonable, and a daily special menu...all of which we couldn't read, but thought we would try. The woman who served us realized we were trying very hard to do the dinner in French and helped us to stumble along with some throwing in of English words and speaking slowly for our benefit. All in all, we still didn't know what we were getting and ended up receiving tuna salad in half a tomato, some type of fish in a cream sauce, some greens that were like eating grass, and a nicely cooked potato...followed by a creme brûlée that wasn't very brûlée-d...Overall not a bad meal, and one of the nicest people we encountered on our trip. We followed this up with a trip to the Eiffel Tower, which took a good try on getting there via the metro, and then a good guess of what stop to get off at. The Tower is beautiful and started to sparkle right when we approached it. No, we didn't go up, but we took in the atmosphere and walked around for a while before heading back to the hotel to experiment with French television (didn't understand ONE word) and getting prepped for an early start to Disneyland the next morning.

Saturday brought my birthday and our adventures to Disney...and if you're going to go...don't take the Disney shuttle...just take the train out and back, as the shuttle is difficult to find, a time consuming journey, and puts time limits on your stay in the parks. For never having been before, it was an ok choice for us, but I wouldn't do it again. Once we made it to the parks though, even as it was a little chilly and rainy we didn't run into huge crowds and rather had a wonderful magical time, getting to most every attraction we wanted to experience. While some were very much the same as our american Disney experiences, there were some big differences and new rides that were fun and exciting. By the end of the day we were smiling far more than the French and our feet were hurting, but it was the least stressful Paris experience...until we got back on the bus and ran into Paris Saturday night traffic. Getting to a train station FINALLY, we then celebrated the rest of my birthday relaxing in the room with a cheap bottle of French wine and lounging on the bed, planning our final adventures.

Sunday began with a venture out to Notre Dame to experience a Mass there, which was lovely and done in French, Spanish, and English...meaning we knew all of two things said...but it was a very nice service, and although we couldn't necessarily understand all the language, you understand the liturgy and the main ideas. We followed this up with a French hot dog on the street (in a baguette and covered in cheese) before heading to see the architecture of the Louvre, and then trekking out to see the absolutely underwhelming and saddening Moulin Rouge in the red light district of Pigalle. We then made our way to the airport...apparently with the wrong train ticket...resulting in a lovely 30 Euro fine, and made our way back to Belfast...ready to kick off the July festivities.

Tonight marks the first parade, commemorating the Battle of the Somme in 1916, and we can expect to see a lot of party atmosphere from the protestant community as the boys march by in the parade for miles around East Belfast. This is the first year in a few that the police will be putting up screens between communities for pieces of the parade route. After the tension brought on by the flag protests, the precaution that feels like one step back seems like a solid decision among the community leadership, and we are hoping for general calm tonight as the festivities kick off. If tonight presents itself as a peaceful situation, then hopefully it will speak to what the big event on the twelfth will be like. I will most definitely update you on all the activities and pageantry that goes along with the parades in the next few weeks.

Things to note:
- the stairwell doesn't smell like sunscreen today
- yes I drank Orangina in France, and ate a baguette, and we had a croissant
- ask me for the long list of reasons the French are grumpy...we took note
- going for a surf lesson with the youth tomorrow, here's hoping we don't freeze
- 28 more days here. How crazy is that?!

That's all for now...more detail than commentary I know, but I'll post again soon!

Monday, June 17, 2013

A whole month!

This is the blog post that will appear on the Candler Admissions Blog "Enthused" tomorrow afternoon, but I figure that it is perfectly relevant here, and I will add a bit at the end as well...and I guess I can give you some pictures as well.

So here it is:

"I have been serving here for a month. The words seem strange to me as I utter them, and as I realize that I have been here in Belfast, Northern Ireland for nearly half of my time given to working with this congregation. Through Candler Advantage I’ve gotten the opportunity to spend 10 weeks with Skainos and the congregation of East Belfast Mission (and reaching beyond).

This place is unique. As a Methodist Mission it is the umbrella organization that encompasses Hosford House transitional housing, Stepping Stone employment guidance and training, Compass community and family outreach, the East Belfast Mission Congregation, Re:Fresh Café social economy café, and countless Re:Stores and charity shops around the city of Belfast. This place is also unique in that it is housed in a new building and the new Skainos Square, which is focused on the idea of shared space. With architecture based on the vision of the tent of meeting, there are apartments, classrooms, offices for other organizations such as Tearfund, AgeNI and New Life Counseling, a dance studio, a sports hall, roof terraces and vertical gardens, and plenty of space for use by anyone who needs it.

Now, this idea of sharing is unique because it is very unconventional here in Northern Ireland. So…some history…Northern Ireland is still in the peace process that began with the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 that marks the end of the ethno-national conflict that is well known as “The Troubles” that took place from 1969-1998. This conflict was political with religious undertones, based simply in the idea of nationality. The Protestant Unionist Loyalists and the Catholic Nationalist Republicans had different ideas of whether the country of Northern Ireland should be Irish or British. Paramilitary groups of the IRA, INLA, IPLO, CIRA, RIRA, UVF, UDA, RHC, UR, and LVF fought each other with car bombs, petrol bombs, guns, fire, and even rocks and bricks. With over 3,000 deaths and approximately 47,000 injured throughout the near 30 years of conflict, many scars were left in the community…particularly here in Belfast. 

Now that’s the history, but here’s the present: today there are “peace lines” that run through pieces of Belfast, separating the Protestant Loyalist and Catholic Nationalist neighborhoods. These are walls resembling the peace walls separating Israel and Palestine. I look out my office window and see Union Jacks and 1913 UVF Flags (Ulster Volunteer Force) flying. I am in UVF territory. Murals are on nearly every corner. The one directly to my right under those flags says “We owe it to the future and the victims never to forget the past.” A few streets down there is a UVF mural of two men in balaclavas poised to shoot, with the statement “We seek nothing but the elementary right implemented in every man: the right if you are attacked to defend yourself.” The whole city is filled with murals, ranging from peaceful and celebrating Belfast to violent imagery. You become conditioned to seeing them and walking straight past each day. The mentality that exists here is still separate and unequal. Each side believes the other has something they don’t, and the peace process is difficult. But the thing is, you can walk into town, go into Victoria Square and not know the difference from one person to another. There is no visible difference between the parties, they are the same, but have different political and religious leanings. It is when one party begins to march, to protest, or to riot that you can see the tension that underlies the everyday life of all these people who look the same.

Part of the ministry and mission here at Skainos and East Belfast Mission is to be a safe space for all walks of life and every part of the political and religious spectrum. This is to be neutral ground. With this mentality, the building is host to Irish Language Classes. Nearly every day of the week, members of the community come to learn the language of their heritage, the language that is readily seen in Catholic communities, and the language that I now know very few verbs in…and I can only tell you things I did in the past tense. The building is also host to children and youth from the community, home to FridayFusion for primary aged children and Drop-In on Wednesday and Friday nights for the teenagers of the community. Women’s Group combines with a women’s group from a local Catholic church, and kidzGAP is a safe space for moms and tots from the community (and a few dads). The outreach programming here is endless. While I participate and help with a handful of these, I realize the congregation of East Belfast Mission is far beyond the group that meets for church on Sunday morning, but is rather the entire community of East Belfast, and every person that comes through this building and can feel the effects of its ministries.

But for that congregation that does meet on Sunday mornings, the transition into Skainos Square has been a difficult one, sacrificing the old church building, making shared space a necessity, and creating some insecurity about ownership of the church within this space. Part of my job as a response to this is to administer a congregational survey that seeks to hear from every voice of the congregation, understanding how they feel in this place and what can be done in the next year to help with the process of settling in. This is a big undertaking in the final 5 weeks of my time here, but I have become a part of the congregation and I am invested in letting each one of them understand that their voice matters and is important. This is the body of Christ, feeling the pains of change and transition, feeling the pains of trying to be open and accepting in a city that is so divided. And even while the body may be feeling some growing pains, this does not deflate the meaning of 1 Corinthians 12:14-31. Each person making up the fuller body of Christ plays an important role, and I am working to empower this congregation in the knowledge that their roles are truly important.

This is a difficult task, but as the G8 summit meets here in Northern Ireland this week, and Obama has given the youth of Northern Ireland the message to keep up hope and to keep reminding everyone that this place is dedicated to peace, we can look hopefully toward the future for the congregation, for Skainos and East Belfast Mission, for Belfast, and for the country of Northern Ireland.

Thanks to Candler Advantage I am able to be in this place and see how communities can react to the ideas of sharing space and embracing change and peace. I look to my third year at Candler hopeful that I can bring my experiences back and look at community development in the United States with a new perspective and vision. Until then, and until I’m back in Hot-lanta in August, cheers!"

So the new things since last time too:

1. When it decides it's going back to rain here, it REALLY rains. And then you get soaked and you freeze at an outdoor concert event. 
2. The cupcakes are HUGE. And when they have pink frosting with edible glitter...they are going to taste pink and glittery. 
3. Those stairs still smell like sunscreen. 
4. Joanna and I made our own custard last night. Success! 
5. Guinness is truly better here. 
6. You can just walk straight through a protest surrounded by riot police...I've done it now. 
7. You can get Haribo Rhubarb and Custard Splats sweets at Tesco Metro...and your life will be endlessly better. 
8. There is just as much hype about Obama here as there is in the states.
9. American iPhones are useless in foreign countries without wifi capability...but they make a lovely slim camera. 
10. Fish n' Chips with garlic sauce from the Bethany are like crack. 



That's all for now folks, and I'll blog again soon(ish)...or when Drew reminds me that I need to post another blog. 


Friday, June 7, 2013

Day 20...

This week hasn't flown by like the last one, but the weather here has been beautiful...I even said it was pretty hot one day, so you know all the people who are Northern Irish were rocking shorts and beachwear while I was still in jeans and had a cardigan on. But it really is lovely, which makes the square fill with people for lunch and to hang around outside. It stays buzzing with noise and activity that way, which means that the social economy pieces of the centre do pretty well. I've taken a liking to doing lunch in re:fresh cafe along with the masses as well.

Other than the beautiful weather, I've been working to get everything up and ready for my project that will (hopefully) consume the rest of my time here. I say hopefully only because we're asking for 100% participation from a we'll see what happens. I've gotten the materials all made up and worked out for this congregational survey focusing on the areas of spiritual life, worship, fellowship, energy and ownership in a time of transition. I'm looking forward to launching it next week if the church council is all on board. Along with this work, I've also had the regular scheduled programming of kidsGAP with some super cute beebies, Friendship Circle with some super cute pensioners, and a Drop-In field trip to an aquatic complex with the teens. It was a really cool little place with slides and a wave pool, and it was a place where they could just go and be kids. It was nice to see.

Some of these girls were the same ones I taught dance last week...and yes, a few of them embraced it and have been showing me some of their practiced moves. They're looking forward to finishing a whole song, and they even wanted to show off their skills to some of the other leaders when we were done. Of course far more of the group absolutely loved Zumba and the dance that was made up to "Grease Lightning" got far more attention than contemporary dance...but that's all cool, because it's great when they get invested in something and you can really tell that they enjoy it and want to put their energy into it...again, it was nice to see too. 

It's been a fun week getting to know my roommates better as well, lounging about and going out with them to have some fun. Although it's sad that Andy, Ryan, and Maria have moved out of the apartment, we did gain two more American interns as of Wednesday (because the Americans are taking over...of course) and so we're back at full capacity, and all ladies. It should prove a fun group to go through the rest of the summer with. 

Belfast is an interesting place, with Honey Chili Chicken and Fish n' Chips (with really good garlic sauce at Bethany), and fantastic sweets, and cake in custard, and Fanta made with real fruit, and black currant flavored everything (not my favorite flavor in the world but it's ok). It's got fake store fronts for the Queen, contrasted with Victoria Square Mall that holds the Hollister (where the workers speak with American accents). I've met lots of wonderful people here, and I've seen every type of Converse All-Stars ever made (I want them all...), and I've gone to Irish language classes (and boy does it not look like it sounds, and half of it sounds crazy anyways...but you pick it up). Apparently this is where tea complements everything, and Indian spices can be used on anything. 

Well I guess my strange insights made it into non-list form this time...and yes...the stairwell still smells like sunscreen. I can't figure it out. 

Until next time...

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Day 11...

It doesn't really feel like day 11 here in Belfast...although I couldn't tell you if it feels like day 50 or day 2. I guess not day 2, then I would still be very tired and have a headache. So, on the scale, who knows what day it is. The job description has been a little more filled out as I step into somewhat of a consultant role for the pastoral team and get to put together a giant survey and report on the life on the church and the congregation. I am also participating in KidzGAP (aka moms and cute), FridayFusion with primary age kids, and Drop-In with inner city youth. Tonight I have the privilege of teaching dance class to some of these youth...we'll see how that goes...I dunno if contemporary dance is their cup of tea (with milk and sugar of course). So if I come out alive tonight, I will then update you all on how it went later.

I was very excited to get to spend the bank holiday on Monday with the lovely Lauren Tumilson, who is so glad to have someone here to do cheesy touristy things buy items with shamrocks and leprechauns on them and go on cheesy city bus tours. Really, it's nice to be in the same city as she is and have her show me the ropes.

I also had the privilege of taking part in the David Ervine memorial lecture yesterday evening with a keynote speaker who played a large role in the peace process in South Africa. While I may not have been connected to the peace process here or to David Ervine personally, as many of the attendees were, I gained an insight into the wide range of people that are working towards peace in this community and how they understand the struggles that are still going on here in Belfast. It was lovely to hear the comparisons between South Africa and Northern Ireland and know that the process is a lengthy one in any place, and that sometimes you must fall back and regroup, give up power, and live in a time of transition for a long time.

Still missing home. And the time difference still really stinks. I don't know if this will improve in the next 8.5 weeks or not...we'll see.

Things that I have learned or that perplex me:
- The weather here...sunny one minute, pouring rain the next, and ranging from allowing me to get a sun burn to feeling like I'm going to freeze to death...strange
- The stairwell leading up to the EBM offices ALWAYS smells like sunscreen. I don't understand it. I don't think I ever will.
- To do a cheesy double decker bus tour is really actually pretty fun, and they do a good job with being neutral and slightly comical on the political side of things...but most of it is about the Titanic.
- I am good at getting others addicted to Facebook games/iphone apps...Candy Crush. Do it.
- Britain's Got Talent...and that dang song by the 14 year old girl can get so stuck in your head!! [Put your lighters in the air, if you've ever been scared...]
- I drink a lot of tea here.
- The candy is better here.

That's all for now.