Exploring without Traveling

This week I took over another class to teach at Breda Academy. This class was a bit livelier than my other two, but just as exciting to teach. I continued teaching my year 8 and year 11 classes, and was complimented by having the pupils excited to see me and seeming disappointed during lessons that I was not teaching. I have really enjoyed getting to know these students and learning from them. It has been really fun sharing my experiences in America and having them compare them to their lives in Northern Ireland. I find myself a little more nervous when teaching here since it is a different culture and I still have yet to grasp all of the classroom norms, but my students are always excited and ready to learn, which makes it all much easier.

This weekend Mariah and I went on the Black Taxi Tour around Belfast. This tour gives the history of the conflict in Northern Ireland. We were driven around to different historic areas on sides that were predominately Catholic and Protestant. We drove by the peace walls that are still up today; locking at 6:00pm daily in the chance that violence could break out. Being in Belfast, I have loved learning about the history and what has led to make it the city that it is. Seeing the peace walls was a very moving experience. I had envisioned what they might have looked like, but it was nothing like the reality. Seeing the walls gave me a better perspective on the chaotic times of The Troubles here in Belfast. The height and military grade level of the walls and seeing homes with cages to protect from bombs, transformed the stories that I had heard in my time in Belfast into a reality. I have loved learning about the history of Belfast and I was really glad that I was able to see this area that I may not have had the opportunity to see otherwise.

Christmas celebrations began in Belfast this weekend with the switching on of the Christmas lights at City Hall. Belfast hosts a large Christmas market that is filled with shops from around the world. This weekend was very crowded, but we managed to squeeze in to see City Hall light up. We did not explore the markets very much because it was so crowded, but we will definitely be making a visit later on, maybe two.

On Sunday, I traveled to Downpatrick for part of the day. It is said that St. Patrick, St. Bridget, and St. Columba are buried there, so I was very curious to explore the area. I was able to attend the service at the Down Cathedral, which is located at the site where the saints are buried. I have never felt more welcomed than I did at this service. It was a small group in attendance, but each of them was very excited to have me there with them. Many of them asked me questions about how I was getting on in Belfast and it was a really comforting experience. One woman even walked me out to the gravesite and explained some of the history to me. Not only was there great history the area I was in, but you could also view the Mourne Mountains, which was absolutely breathtaking.

For the next three weekends, we will be traveling for two of them. I am very excited for all of our upcoming adventures, but the reality that out time in Belfast is winding down is very bittersweet. I am excited for the journey ahead, but will be very sad to see our time wind down.

One of the Peace Walls in Belfast

One of the Peace Walls in Belfast

City Hall lit up for Christmas

City Hall lit up for Christmas

One of the many festive signs around Belfast

One of the many festive signs around Belfast

Down Cathedral

Down Cathedral

The Burial Site of St. Patrick, St. Bridget, and St. Columba

The Burial Site of St. Patrick, St. Bridget, and St. Columba

The view outside of Down Cathedral

The view outside of Down Cathedral