Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Corrymeela slide show 2006 - Photos by Jason Fehr

Photos from half of my year, taken by fellow volunteer, Jason Fehr. Check it out.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The last Irish post

This will be my last post made in Northern Ireland. I've said good-bye to all of my fellow volunteers, the staff, and the friends that I've made along the way.
It's impossible to summarise the experiences I've had here, the learning I've done, or the connection I've forged with the people and this place. All I can say is, I will be back. There's a joke that when you come to Corrymeela they put a homing device in you so that you can't get actually get away for long. The further you try to run away, the faster you are snapped back. Since words will not convey my year, I will attempt with photos.

Photos: The team on a day out eating brownies, Rina and I in London, coastearing off Dunseverick, Christian and I in Ballycastle, and a gorgeous sunset from behind the main house.


Monday, July 02, 2007

You take the high road and I'll take the low road...

...and I'll be in Scotland before you.
Aghhh....it's taken me ages, but here's my update and photos from my holiday in Scotland with Adrienne and Jason. We took off for about a week to travel around together after volunteering on-site for four days.
Descriptions of photos: 1. The three of us in Edinburgh 2. Jason and Adrienne missing John at the Edinburgh Castle 3. The three of us atop of the mountain we climbed in Edinburgh 4. The view from the stone circle-thing in Oban--amazing! 5. The three of us hanging out on a playground on the Isle of Mull, off the coast of Oban.
I had an amazing time with these ones. We went to several art museums, did tons of walking about, and tasted the fine food and beverages of Scotland and Ireland. It was really nice to hang out with people who've known me for longer than the time I've spent in Northern Ireland, and in a context other than volunteering. A wee bit of home came to see me again. I'm having to start thinking about flying home. I've checked my baggage weight allowance, confirmed the flights, and begun to think about packing. There's no way everything will fit into the suitcases I brought it all in! Absolutely not! This will require much creative thinking. And there's also my leaving party to plan, which will be fun and hard at the same time. It's going to be hard to leave the friends I've made here. But, it will be nice to see again the friends I've missed for the past year.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

It's Not Rubbish?

I've been spending this week in Belfast working on an independent project. Each volunteer is allowed 5 days to go work somewhere else to experience another similar organisation. We call it our initiative week, because it's up to ourselves to take the initiative to plan our week away. My initiative week is slightly different than most. I am working with one of our programme staff members, so I'm not with a different organisation. I am in the process of evaluating a cross-community women's project that was carried out over the course of a year. Because I'm working with/for someone who already knows me, she trusts me to do the evaluation on my own. Other organisations that I talked to didn't think that 5 days would be enough time to truly get to know their organisations, which means they didn't think I would really be able to do them any good in just 5 days. I understand. This way, I get to do a type of project that is closer to the type of thing I studied at university. This is the type of thing I think I might like to do for a living, so I'm pretty chuffed. It's going well so far, and I hope to write up a decent report that will help develop the programme as well as my skills.
While I'm in Belfast, I'm also taking advantage of all the city has to offer. So I hung out in the city centre and visited the 'Waste. It's not rubbish.' festival all about recycling. It was pretty cool, really. And they had a huge art piece on the city hall lawn. It make syou think about what you throw away in your lifetime. And before I came to Belfast, I caught a gorgeous sunset in Ballycastle.

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

After school lessons

Guess the age of the group I worked with this week.
We asked for volunteers to help with dishes for each meal, and each time, our ‘volunteers’ disappeared after about 5 minutes. We organized a few activities like quizzes and bingo, but they weren’t really interested in playing the games once they realized that there were sweeties involved. They just wanted the sweeties. During the evening activities, a few of them were exhausted but didn’t want to go to bed and miss out on the fun, so they fell asleep in the main lounge with all the loud music going on around them. They were painfully and hilariously honest about everything the entire week. Any guesses? Primary school? Teenagers? Nope, senior citizens! All week they reminded me of children in mostly good ways. But they were really sweet, and I learned so much from them.
Our 30 little old ladies and our 2 little old men were from two different community projects—one Catholic and one Protestant. They actually only came up together by accident. Both groups wanted to come here, but one of the groups couldn’t find their own week to stay in the main house. Instead, we offered to let them share the main house with another small senior citizen group. The two groups conferred and agreed to share. One group was very quiet and reserved and sipped tea like dainty and polite senior citizens. The other group was described to me as ‘mad as hatters’ and fit the bill perfectly. They burst into the room and chattered the place up. They described themselves as ‘recycled teenagers’ which also fit them perfectly. The two groups were pretty different, but only in personality. By that, I mean the religious differences were a non-issue. Before the groups left on Friday morning, the two leaders met with our bookings administrator to book another week together for the next year. They had such a good time together they want to do it again! In my book, that’s a success.
They absolutely loved their volunteers, or as they called us, ‘the girls.’ One of the volunteers, Ochanya, is getting married in a month, and so they all got together and got her a present and a card signed by all of them—both groups. They presented it, along with cards for all of the volunteers, at the dance they had on Thursday night. It was very touching.
I would have to admit that I was a bit nervous before the group arrived. I had never worked with a senior citizens group before, and I didn’t know what to expect. I can entertain primary school children all day long with games and songs that come like second nature by now. But senior citizens aren’t quite as enamored by a giant parachute or songs about yodeling Austrians. So what do you do? Well, I learned. You have quizzes, play bingo, let them go for walks, book buses to take them shopping, play with clay, do foot massages, hold dances, and have sing-a-longs. And of course you have tea and scones at regular intervals. Most importantly, you sit with your cup of tea and your scone and you talk to them and listen to them.


Monday, May 07, 2007

Great Expectations--Met and Missed

I’ve been a naughty girl! I haven’t updated for nearly a month! So here’s an update with lots of pictures!
The past month has been full of lots of work, pretty much. As a treat and an escape from the pressure of the long hours and emotional investment this place requires, I booked a flight to London to stay with a friend from OWU who has been inviting me to go stay with her since I’ve been in the UK. I booked the flight a bit last minute, searching every internet search engine I could to try to find the cheapest flight (cause I—like all volunteers—am poor). I found one that was almost reasonable from Dublin to London Stansted, so I booked it. I arrived and easily found the right train. The ride into the city was beautiful and made me think of all the stories I’ve read about England. Novels by all the greats—Dickens, Austen, Shakespeare, and more. I was giddy by the time I arrived and my friend picked me up. We took a walk to the Thames river, and sat near the Globe theatre to chat. We heated up frozen dinners and watched Sex and the City DVDs until we were exhausted, which didn’t take long.
The next day I met up with Rina, one of the other volunteers who happened to be in London at the same time, and ran around the city seeing all of the touristy sites. We saw St. Paul’s Cathedral (where Princess Diana got married to Prince Charles), the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Street, Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, the London Eye, and Westminster Abbey. Being poor as we are, we couldn’t afford to enter these places (most of the admissions were around $20) so we took pictures and enjoyed the gorgeous weather by walking around. Rina went back to her place of lodging, and I went back to mine and made myself dinner. The evening involved more Sex and the City, as my friend needed to stay in to study for most of the night.
For my final day, I had a bit of a lie in and then got up, showered, packed, and met my friend up where she works part-time—Abercrombie and Fitch. A&F have just opened their only UK store in London among style icons like Prada and Ralph Lauren. The store is truly an American tourist destination. It is housed in a Georgian mansion. When you first walk in you are met by two topless male models who are paid to stand at the entrance. They do not greet you; other beautiful employees do that. Inside, the windows are blocked out so as to give the atmosphere of a night club at any time of day. But the first thing you notice (past the models) is the smell—heavy A&F perfume. Then your eyes adjust to the lack of light and you realize that there are clothes on shelves and racks. All of the sales employees are dressed head to toe in A&F clothing, including A&F flip-flops. Normal shoes are not allowed. Employees are provided with complimentary clothing, provided they are a size 2 or smaller, of course. I arrived at this place half an hour before my friend went off duty, so I awkwardly walked around pretending to shop, even though it was easily the most uncomfortable shopping experience of my life. I felt like a bit of a fraud, trying on clothes that I know I can’t afford. The prices are the same in the UK as in the US, just trade the dollar sign for a pound sign—which effectively doubles the price.
After this disorientating experience, I went with my friend for the most amazing Chinese food I have had in the UK, hands down. Stuffed from dim sum, we waddled back to her flat, collected my bag, and headed for the train station. We said farewell, and I headed for the airport.
This is where things get a bit hairy. I thought I had booked my flight for Thursday afternoon to arrive in Dublin in the early evening, and then arrive in Belfast by bus in the late evening. Remember how I was combing the internet looking for the cheapest flight? Well, evidently I must have gotten a couple screens confused, and I booked a flight for Wednesday afternoon instead. Oops! So I didn’t have a flight. If I wanted to book the flight that I thought I had already booked, I would have had to pay an extra 160 pounds ($320). I don’t make that much money in a month, so that was clearly not an option. Instead, I booked the 6.30am flight for much less. With no money left to take the train back into the city, I made camp to sleep in the airport for the night. While this was much inferior to the plans I had for the evening in Belfast, there wasn’t much I could do about it. I did observe an interesting culture in the airport. All of us sleeping for the night jockeyed for the best benches with the fewest armrests to afford the most comfortable sleeping surface. Of course, no surface in the airport is actually comfortable to sleep on, so I wandered in and out of consciousness with my pajama bottoms and a suitcase for a pillow. By 4.30am I was happy to collect my boarding ticket and proceed through three levels of security to test the volume of my liquids and gels (nothing over 100ml), the number of bags I was carrying on (only one), the contents of said bag, and the danger inherent in my shoes. And yes, these were done at three different stations. Fun. Then I settled in to wait for my flight and finish the 500 page novel I had brought with me, not expecting to finish while spending 16 hours in the London Stansted airport.
I made it to Dublin, and then to Belfast, and then to Ballycastle just in time to start work for the weekend. I think I’ve nearly caught up on sleep.
All in all, I would have to say I enjoyed my trip to London. I’m much poorer, but much wiser, I hope.

Photos: 1. Me and my gracious host by the Thames 2. The Millenium Bridge across the Thames 3. Me with the huge lions in Trafalgar Square 4. Rina in front of Piccadilly Street 5. Buckingham Palace (with no gurads in funny hats) 6. Big Ben with the London Eye in the background

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

3 years old again

The weather here in Ballycastle has been gorgeous this past week, inspiring me to act like a 3 year old again. This meant going to the beach to build a sand castle. I roped Niki into joining me, and away we went! It wasn't necessarily 'warm' outside, but we bundled up and went out anyway. Here's the final product!