Sunday, August 7, 2011

"We welcome the Americans, wherever they are."

Hello family and friends!This is Katie and Kate here ready to tell you all about our Saturday in Belfast. We may even tap into Sunday festivities, but we'll see!

Our main guide here Jude has helped us greatly during our stay here and we can't wait to tell you about him and his wife, Sota. First though, some of our group members had an adventure to Tesco, Belfast's version of Wal-Mart. After that Jude invited his family Monica, Stephen and Michelle and his niece Cara and nephews Daniel, Matthew, Aidan, and Oran. We loved having a laugh with them and getting to know each other, and baby Cara adored the bubbles we bought her. The boys were quite rough though with their beachballs but we managed. After dinner it was off to mass at Colnard church. The interesting thing is that the main church is being renovated, so we had mass in a tent out front. The entire congregation was welcoming to us and it was just like being back at home. We have a picture with the priest, but until the two of us can figure this technology out, we'll be sure to post it!

After mass Jude walked us to a memorial on Bombay street, the site of an intense fire that left hundreds of Protestants without homes. It was there that we saw our first sight of the "peace wall" that surrounds the city, nearly 40 in total. The homes that are against the peace wall have fences around their backyards so their children can play safely outside. One side is Catholic and one is Protestant, and in the years they never knew if one would throw bombs or stones over the wall. It was then that it came to light for many of us that this battle between the two sides is still very serious and nearly hidden from an outsiders perspective.

After our walk we all returned safely to our hostel and talked about the day and how surreal everything was around us. Katherine is next and is going to tell you about our tours today and how much we realized this city is split and how much anger is still present. Even simple matters such as what side of the road a person walks on defines if they are a Protestant or a Catholic. We love you all and miss the states but we're fitting in just fine here and learning our way around and the local slang. For instance, people here do not dance at a pub, but they save that for the nightclubs. Needless to say, we brought some American to their pubs! Slan Abhaile!(Goodbye for now)

Love,Katie and Kate!

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