May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets’ towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkey’s howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches where storms come and go as lightening clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you---beyond that next turning of the canyon walls. ---Edward Abbey (thanks Trudy Hall)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

North of Ireland/divided

Happy Fathers Day

Our first view of Ireland
Get your Party Shoes and Shorts Ready!
"Occupy Belfast" too--but no one is on the street!

Enormous Room of Bunks

June 16—We arrived to Belfast and started walking to our hostel.  It was an abandoned downtown.  We hardly found anyone who could give us directions, so we wandered a little past closed solid stores and empty lots before we found the place.  There was a sign on the door to not let ANYone in for security’s sake.  The man behind the counter said it’s pretty noisy in the main part of the hostel, so he brought us to the overflow, out the back, through an empty lot and a large gate, up metal stairs into an old (cold) linen factory full of bunk beds.  As far as we could tell we were the only ones in here.  It felt both cool and creepy.  I looked around and the place had rooms and rooms of bunk beds.  The desk clerk said that certain times the place is packed.  We went walking for some food.  We walked down the main drag toward city hall and there was only McDonalds and a burrito place (with the worst burritos I’ve ever had).  I plunked myself down at the counter with the computer, and soon loud gaggles of partiers with platform heels and skirts at the top of their legs careened out of the basement with bottles in hand, competing for airtime to talk, and heading out the door.  (I had video of some of this, but lost it.)  Then at midnight, the police came.  When young ones came in looking drunk, they would take them into the alley.  (What? For an interview?)  The lady running the hostel looked really nervous.  After I hit the hay, others came in around 3-4:00.  I found out in the morning, the place wasn’t locked.  I was glad to have a host for the rest of our stay.
Les and Sean at the Bushmill's Distillery

We walked a rope bridge to this island
This looks like a sand castle to me

Still Life (Get it?)
Beach scene

Les with the columnar basalt looking out to sea

June 17—We went on a grand tour on a sunny day to the northern coast.  On the way, we stopped by some castles and the Bushnell’s Distillery.  There we toasted Les Lauther and Julia Baird for Father’s Day.  We crossed the gap to a fishing island on a rope bridge modeled after those that the fishermen used to bring in their big salmon.  It was a beautiful day to be out on the Giant’s Causeway.  Like mid-Oregon, the columnar basalt has crystals that bend and collect into pleasing patterns.  This formation goes right into the sea!
Our Black Taxi
Our Taxi Driver/Guide Paddy

June 18—The big part of today was the Black Taxi Tour.  It was all about “the troubles” and how it developed and is resolving, and how it was to live in the troubled times.  It is said that during the troubles, if you ended up in the back of one of these black taxis, you may not come back.  
It started here: King William III in 1690
I learned so much about how it started with King William III of Orange WAY back in 1690, who wanted England to conquer the island.  England has been successful with controlling just one northeastern segment called Ulster, but not without a lot of fighting from those who wished Ireland was one united country.  
The English set up a viewpost with Catholic homes below

Old photo of the view from the lookout
A story about Reverend Ian Paisley who saw an Irish flag inside someone’s window and then gathered people to forcibly take that flag down began a huge civil war.  The English brought in army forces, and the smaller group of Irish Unionists (Freedom Fighters or Irish Republican Army) fought against them guerrilla style, because they didn’t have the resources that the English did. 
Les at the "Peace Wall"
(It’s important to note that because the English were mostly Protestants, it became the Protestants against the [previously-settled Irish] Catholics conflict.)  The English put up a giant wall to separate the bands with searches to counter the car bombs and such. 
Curfew Gates still in use
The English implemented a curfew to keep the criminals from acting in the dark of night, but this didn’t last too long because the women came out with their babies in strollers and with bread and milk in their hands.  The police couldn’t arrest all these women in the street for this.  
Bobby Sands died in a hunger strike in prison

The English created large prisons in which to keep those criminals, but those in prison wanted to be treated as war prisoners and not common criminals.  So they went around naked in blankets, refusing to wear the criminal uniform.  They upped the ante by not showering or shaving, and by soiling the walls of the place.  

The kinds of prisons

Finally, they started to fast.  Many of them starved to death until Brendan Hughes put an end to it all, and they were treated like war prisoners, though the queen never officially called them war prisoners.  
Anyone want to buy some "Republican Gifts" at the Sinn Fein Shop?

Years later, US President Clinton and George Mitchell finally got people from Sinn Fein and the British representatives to work out a peace process.  
The Protestant Side of the Wall

Now, though there are still angry people on either side trying to fight for what they think is right, they are losing power because so many people are coming together for peace and cooperation.  
Remember a particularly bad neighborhood hit

No one got exactly what he/she wanted; there is no unified Ireland.  England no longer can legally dominate the Catholic Irish like they did before.   
Flags put up getting ready for "marching season"

Huge bonfire site.  Furniture inside fire circle

We were there 2 weeks before the marching season, where the (English) Protestants wear uniforms, carry flags and march through the whole of Ulster to celebrate William of Orange’s “success.”   Paddy, our guide, was informative and dramatic.  He said that many of the Catholics go on vacation about this time, as old passions flair up in violent ways.  We saw their preparations for the giant bonfires; this is not a small thing.

Celebrating  Ulster Defense: the gun points at you no matter where you are
Rory in his back yard

Fritatta diner

Rory and Ani
After this I understood why Belfast downtown seemed so abandoned, more about the gunmen murals being painted over to promote mutual understanding, why teenagers seemed so scared of us who were asking for directions and why Rory wanted to meet us before inviting us to stay in his home.  Les and I went to the store and bought supplies to make a frittata for dinner.  We had a marvelous time with Rory and his housemate Anita.  We got to go to see where Rory was going to run sound for a director setting some of Shakespeare’s works out in a nearby forest.  The director was very busy with moving the props and costumes; and though we helped, he didn’t have time for chitchat.  I know how it is the week before an opening!

Who shrunk Les?

It was waste awareness week.  Little electric car!
A fiber leprechaun at the end of this rainbow?
I'm in the Coates family!
June 19—We found a community center that has a coffee house down the street where we have a scone and coffee in the morning.  It supports lots of neighborhood efforts, including taking care of and educating children, selling crafts done by those without jobs, and helping people disabled by traumas in their lives get back on their feet and out into the world.  The waitress had such a story, and showed it to us in writing.  We went to find tickets to Dublin and walked through the city -- ending at the MAC Arts Center.  There were a couple of interesting exhibits there.  
Rory and mom
Les and Rory's dad

 For dinner, we were invited to Rory’s parent’s place.  Geraldine and Colin were really interesting people.  Geraldine teaches art in the schools.  We were talking about how the schools were cutting back and we were asking her if she thought the arts programs would be cut.  It was a little shocking that she couldn’t comprehend such a thing.  “It’s part of the curriculum.  You can’t cut part of the curriculum.”  The idea of cutting back by reducing the arts programs hadn’t ever occurred to her.  Colin showed us a photography book about Ireland that he had designed with his photographer friend.  It was gorgeous, and really made us want to travel to the west side of Ireland.  We had a scrumptious dinner and scooted off so that Rory could get his Internet to work at home. 
Can anyone use an O?

Can anyone help me get seate

Neighborhood watch?
June 20—After taking Rory and Anita to the community coffee place, we packed up and set off to take the bus to Dublin.  I love seeing the big view from the front.

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