Samantha Carwile wrote last weekend after her arrival at Quaker Cottage:
Greetings from Belfast, N. Ireland! Thanks to St. Christopher (the saint of good travels) and all of your thoughts and prayers, I have traveled safely to Bonn, Germany for my BVS European orientation, which coincided with the BVS retreat. Also, last night I flew into Belfast from Germany. So THANK YOU for all of your thoughts and prayers! I am finally here!
Right now I am sitting in my new cottage house in Belfast! I arrived late last night. And I flew with fellow BVS'ers that live in/near Belfast, plus Courtney...who is also starting BVS with me at Quaker Cottage. It was fun to travel with friends this time instead of trying to figure everything on my own like when I flew to Germany. I have met my other room mates, they are German and were nice enough to pick us up from the bus station last night and made sure we were warmly welcomed into the house. I won't meet the other staff at Quakers until Monday when work will begin.
As mentioned before, I have been in Germany for BVS European orientation,which is basically talking about the N. Irish conflict as well as some logistics of BVS in Europe like health care, travel, technology differences, etc. My orientation also coincided with the BVS European retreat which happens each summer...so I had the opportunity to meet all of the BVS'ers in Europe.
My week in Germany was amazing! It was great making new friends...fellow BVS'ers in Europe. I hope to visit some of them during vacation/holidays if I can gather up the funds. The village where our retreat was held was very small, but it was near the city of Bonn, which was about the same size as Anderson. Bonn is also the birthplace of Beethoven, so they have a neat city-center with his birth house and monument. We had a free day on Wednesday where a few of us went to Cologne, which is a beautiful city, and much larger than Bonn. We toured a beautiful cathedral that barely survived WWII. We did a bit of shopping, got ice cream, and found some amazing Roman ruins. We actually stumbled upon an ancient Jewish bath house (mikveh), which existed before the times of Jesus! There was also an Emperor's palace where a wedding was taking place. It is just incredible to see such amazing history all around you. We wrapped up our time in Cologne by getting an authentic micro-beer in a German bar. Kolsh is the well-known German beer that we tried.
Back at the retreat near Bonn, we spent our nights sharing stories and building relationships. We would have a beer or share a bottle of wine amongst the group every night just talking and connecting with one another.And our meals were delicious and bountiful! Overall, I feel very grateful for having the chance to have my BVS European "orientation" during the Germany retreat. I feel fortunate mostly for the relationships I built with fellow BVS'ers. I have been welcomed and feel that I have an incredible support network of volunteer colleagues.
In about an hour I will be exploring the city of Belfast for the first time. Our room mates will be taking us grocery shopping. Then Courtney (the other newbie BVS'er with me) and I plan to be dropped off at the city center for adventures. So, I am off for my first exploration of Belfast and hopefully, the firstI rish Guinness of my life! Cheers!
- Sam Carwile