Friday, 28 August 2009

I'm not in Belfast anymore. I'm not in BVS anymore and those days feel farther away than logic says they should. I'm back home now, and working in a bookstore. It's one of those major chains and not a quaint, local place, which I would prefer and love, but which don't exist. I keep having this internal debate: I didn't go to college to work in a bookstore. I can't do retail for life. But I LOVE working there.

I think I start to love a place when I see the stories, and even in the walls of this branch of a major retailer, there are living stories. There's the guy who comes in everyday for his grande cappuccino, sometimes with friends, sometime alone, but always for his grande cappuccino, no extra flavor shot, nothing from the bake case.

And the gentleman whose eyes lit up and whose words sped up as he told me about his civil war reenactment. The morning was foggy and there were 700 of them, marching 6 abreast through the small town. Local residents heard the marching (were there drums?), but couldn't see anything through the low cloud until the first row marched through, led by the flag of the Confederacy... he demonstrated their surprise, the jaw dropping and gasps from the locals as they marched through to "battle."

But the thing that gets me, that surprises me, humbles me, and makes me grateful, is how often I see need. People looking for books are transparent. What you read reveals so much, and when you check out with three books about controlling men, and how to deal with verbally abusive men, I hope you see compassion. My heart breaks knowing that you're at a point where you need help. As your cashier or bookseller, I may not be able to say anything helpful to you, but I pray for customers. To the woman whose son is hospitalized, just diagnosed with bi-polar, and unrecognizing of you or himself, I pray that you see hope in your tough time. I know we just sell books, but I hope you walked out with more than a collection of words and pages.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Catholics, Protestants and Romanians

I went to church last Tuesday night to help with a clean up of the garden and grounds. When I got there they told me that we weren't gardening anymore, we were hosting. Turns out there were about 20 Romanian Roma families crashing for the night in our sanctuary.

A few days before several homes of Romanian families had stones thrown through their windows. Other reports mention white supremacist literature, guns, threats. It got to the point where they didn't feel safe in their homes, so they camped out at one, deemed a safe house, until community members caught on and called City Church.

It was amazing to see the church move so quickly. Within an hour there was tea, coffee, sandwiches and a video on for the kids. We spent the evening playing with children, chatting with teens and listening to women who were just distraught. It was heartbreaking, and I felt so grateful to be there. It's been big news lately, international news even (google City Church and Romanians).

I think there's a lot to be said about the situation. A youth worker from the area where the families live talked about how the young people there are raised to protect their homes from Catholics. How then, should they respond when another population moves in? Sectarianism may (slowly) be starting to melt, but in it's place comes Racism, in full force. It's not just about Catholics and Protestants anymore. It's those and Chinese and Polish and Romanian.

As for our church, one of the blessings is that we were there. Things were able to move so quickly because the church community was available. The clean up was originally scheduled for the week before, and then pushed back a week. Pretty fantastic that we showed up to pitch in and got to play a part in a much bigger story. The emails and encouragement that our church leadership received was astounding. I got all teary eyed reading the print outs of letters and emails from believers, friends, strangers and atheists. People were impressed to see an act of kindness from a church. On the one hand, how sad that Christian kindness is such a news story. On the other hand, bring on the glory to God.

Monday, 30 March 2009

New photos of recent good times coming soon via link on the left.

(Flashdance, regional BVS retreat in Glenariff, B's leaving BBQ)
My mind is spinning tonight. It's filled with facts and pictures from work today and I don't really know how to process them or how to feel.

The future is super hazy for our afterschool programme. It doesn't look promising for after April. The staff members are on notice (one month of funding left and that's it, if even one month) and there's no programme funding. There's a few things in the works, and FS has a history of resiliency, but this time it seems really dire.

Then we had youth programmes, which was basically just giving out info about the Residential (retreat) this weekend. It's a bit of a mess. The youth have been inconsistent and thus, the groups haven't had a chance to meet yet. Which means, Friday night could be nuts. It's all just so frustrating. Both sides say the exact same thing: "we won't start anything, but THEY will! And if THEY hit me, I'll f-in hit back!" There's just no reasoning to be done with that argument. I'm tired of saying the same things over and over and over. I'm sure life isn't easy for these yp, and they have seen people hating on them, but if you're not willing to listen and believe what I say, let's not have the conversation. (Ugh. that sounds bad. I don't think I really mean that). It's just on of those nights when I wonder if anything we do is sinking in.

As we walked the boys out, they decided to dander around the gate (i.e. goad any unsuspecting Catholics to a riot at the gate). It caused a ruckus (thankfully no one was out on the other side...yet), brought out the neighbors (whose conversation about "prods" and "taigs"just makes my blood BOIL) and made for an uneasy little while. The boys whistles finally brought some other guys to the gate, older boys who we've never seen (which also means people who won't give darn about us being there) but thankfully nothing really kicked off.

It's probably one of the few places in Belfast where nothing really kicked off today. It's was wild tonight, with bomb hoaxes closing roads all around, hijacked and burning cars, police, sirens, fire trucks, helicopters. It seems to be quiet now, and the only effect it had on us was that our taxi had to take the super long way to our house. But add up all of that and today feels rather defeating. Good thing it's almost over. God knew what he was doing in creating new days, new starts, sunsets and sunrises.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Photo Essay

maybe my favorite place on earth.

These rocks are very very very old.

Enroute to work.

Traditional Session at one of my favorite pubs

J and I at the (superb!) Ulster Hall gig

Yes, Snow Patrol was there, too (two of them at least)

Go- Karting

Wednesday, 18 March 2009


Life in Belfast has been FANTASTIC recently.

Concerts: Do You Remember the First Time? at the Ulster Hall. An Amazing line up of local bands (and bands that started as locals): The Lowly Knights, Kowalski, Cashier #9, Panama Kings, Foy Vance, Iain Archer, Duke Special, Fighting with Wire, Divine Comedy, Ash, Therapy?, JetPlane Landing, LaFaro. It was long, with lots of change over time, and not always the best sound, but SO fun to see all these bands I've heard about for the past year. Oh, and did i mention SNOW PATROL showed up. Yea. It was good.

St Patrick's Day concert at the Waterfront Hall, celebration of music by Bill Whelan (the dude who composed Riverdance). A free concert and it was super. Lots of Irish instruments and influences, the kind of music I listen to and then want to buy immediately.

Trips: Downhill several weeks ago. There's this beautiful little hostel right on the beach below the huge cliffs that hold up the Mussenden Temple. It's heaven on earth. My favorite place in N/Ireland. It feels like you're the only person alive and you've discovered magnificent buildings and ruins. The view is breathtaking and it was a refreshing weekend away.

Downpatrick this past weekend. A group of us spent a goofy day in the St Patrick's Centre (and excellent ticket for the money we paid), at St Patrick's supposed grave and the Down County Museum. I've heard about this town ever since my first flight over; the ladies I sat next to were from Downpatrick and invited me down for a cup of tea. It's the first I've been to look around the town though, and it was well worth it. I was inspired to make a list of the other little towns nearby that I "should" see before I go.

Visitors: Our house has been insane lately. On Sunday night there were 9 of us in our small home. We found beds and futons for everyone, and I was smart enough to get up early enough to miss the queue for the bathroom.

Small group: I finally figured out a way to get Thursdays off without feeling bad, so I've joined a small group through church. It's super. It's almost exclusively young married couples (except for me and one other) but I reallllly like them all. We're just finishing Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline.

That's the scoop. As always, I keep thinking of profound things to blog about, and then not doing it. This will have to do :) Happy Spring, friends.


I was clued into the latest secondary school trend tonight. The "shag tag." It's a rubber bracelet that a girl gives a guy (can a guy give one to a girl? I dunno...) and if he breaks it, they have to "shag." The catch this time is that the girl who gave it to the boy I was talking with is going out with another guy we work with. Sad.

The weather was GORGEOUS today. Hopefully, HOPEFULLY it's the start of Northern Irish spring, the best time of the year. Except for the riots. There's just nothing to be done when young people on both sides of the wall are ringing each other, looking for excitement. We had a bit of success tonight, and got several yp into the centre for a ridiculous game of football (yp v. youth workers), but in the end, if they want to throw stones, I'm not standing in the middle.

It seems that FS has made a good decision about international volunteers for next year. They've restructured the programme and I think it will be better for vols and staff. I'm glad they've put the thought into it and worked out a financially viable solution.