I am returning to Belfast to learn from and help those in Belfast overcome and put into perspective generations of conflict. This is my second trip to Belfast with a Volunteer In Mission group.
Several of the people going today were on the trip two years ago, so I look forward to catching up with my friends. The "new" volunteers have interesting and committed lives, too, so I look forward to getting to know them and working with them.
Traveling starts out with concerns, from grand to mundane.
I hope this isn't too much information, but my packing has evolved. My friend Dave told me years ago to put a change of clothes in a plastic bag for each day. I haven't done that exactly, but I have packed most things in clear plastic bags. Our leaders Mike and Pat pointed out packing in plastic bags, especially with zip closures, makes the potential search and repack at the airport go well, with less chance of things getting lost or torn by the bag zipper, and helps keep stuff cleaner with regard to the counter where a million bags are dumped and repacked every week. If I like dealing with the bags at the other end, I'll air the bags out and save them for next time. It should save on pawing through my entire bag to find a clean item, right? Just have to find the right bag.
An odd worry is the accents. My "ear" for the language takes a bit to kick in, and I'm pretty good with unfamiliar accents. I'm talking about English being spoken, not Irish or Gaelic. There is that saying about Britain and America being divided by a common tongue. I was going to ascribe that as a quote, but it turns out the saying can't actually be ascribed to anyone in that exact form. Still, the American accents and the Northern Irish accent are quite different. The accent there is heavily influenced by Scottish to my mind.
I am wondering how they are getting on with reconciliation. The Great Recession is worse in Europe than in the US at this point. There are a lot of low income people in Belfast and I wonder if the cutbacks in spending on social aid and charitable donations are fanning the fires of resentment and pain. Soon, I'll hear.
Don't forget to check out the Volunteer In Mission group blog at: http://bpp2012.blogspot.com/