Northern Ireland: Initial reactions, home-stays, and pub life


One week ago today, I was in the car with the program leader on the way to Corrymeela (a Christian reconciliation center in northern Northern Ireland) after just landing in Belfast. It was a hell of a trip involving 2 cancelled flights, 1 last second $110 taxi ride from Laguardia to Newark, 5 days of boredom, and 1 giant snow storm called Hercules, but I finally made it!

I only had a few hours at Corrymeela, but if I didn’t include a picture in this post I wouldn’t be doing Northern Ireland and my experience justice.


View from the backyard at Corrymeela

Later in the day, we travelled to Derry/Londonderry/Freederry (depending on your political orientation) where we met our host families. I’m living with 2 other Earlham students (Evan and Johnny) and an older couple (Tim and Burney) in a beautiful house about 5 minute walk from campus and 10 minute walk to the good pubs. I’d post a picture, but it’s raining and cold outside so you’ll just have to wait. Sorry, not sorry.

A lot has happened since I got here so it’s hard to decide what to include in this post, but I’m not feeling particular academic so I’m going to finish up this post with some thoughts about pub life. First off, the pub to person ratio is crazy. I’d estimate somewhere around 1 pub per 50 people which is perfect because when a few people decide to stay home on a Tuesday night it means you can get to the restroom while only brushing shoulders with 45 people along the way. One of our favorite pubs, Peadar O’Donnels, has live music everyday from 11PM till 1AM and a pretty wide range of ages.

Quay West

With the crew at Quay West in Derry

Another thing you’ll notice if you’re going out to pubs on the West side of Derry (“Cityside”) are the pictures of Che Guevera, Fidel Castro, Augusto Sandino (especially at a hip bar called “Sandino’s”), Native Americans, Palestinian flags, etc. The proliferation of international solidarity symbolism here is fascinating and I’m looking forward to learning more. I haven’t talked to anyone directly about the symbols, but most people’s political views and opinions are practically palpable. Then when you add alcohol you get some interesting conversations (some not as friendly as I’d like). For example, one extremely drunk man with an almost unintelligible accent who I started talking to at midnight on Tuesday first told me he was from Iraq, but then later told me he was from Cuba. He was obviously from somewhere in Ireland, but I guess thought that naming countries America fucked with would provoke me. His friends assured me he was just “taking the piss” and he left soon after.