30 August 2011

Week Two in Belfast

My second full week in Belfast was full of adventure! My work at Quakers was rewarding with opportunities to acquaint myself with the children. We had our last week of the summer program, which meant our last couple of outings into the city of Belfast and beyond. I am awed by the many opportunities I had to go out with the kids to see something new.

On Monday I spent my day with 4-15 year olds, as the teens were grouped with the elementary aged children. We went to the small town of Killyleagh, which had an outstanding playpark right off of the Strangford Lough (lake). The children & youth loved the park; it had an obstacle course, zip line, and the traditional climbing, swinging, and sliding infrastructure. After our playground time, we walked to the lakeshore to catch small crabs. Don't worry they were too small to pinch or bite! I spent my time playing “photographer” while being secretly too scared to catch crabs myself. :)

I had my first full day with the teens on Tuesday. Along with the teen-worker, Rory, we went to the cinema to see The Inbetweeners. Now, The Inbetweeners, is a film I may recommend to party-movie, perverted humor, and toilet humor fans. The film is based from a UK t.v. series of four underdog, nerdy, sexually ambitious teens and their many adventures. The film is about the lads' holiday before starting at university; you get the idea. After the film, we went to the Belfast Castle. I was completely surprised and excited to go, and the teens thought I was a hyperactive-freak! I had to explain that I had never visited a castle before, because the US never had a monarchy. The Belfast Castle is relatively young and was built in the late 19th century. The castle has a cat theme, with a legend about a lucky cat. If the white cat continues to roam the castle boundaries, then all those who visit will be lucky. So, the castle gardens holds 9 cats within the landscaping. I enjoyed seeing the castle and being graced with a lucky visit.

Wednesday was another great day with the elementary-aged kids, 4-11 years old. We went to Carnfunnock, another small town park area. Carnfunnock had an interesting sundial garden and lakeshore, but we were really there for the hedge maze. Our group leader, Phil, hid 10 marbles throughout the maze, and our group had the challenge of finding all the marbles. After our marble-maze hunt, we walked around to the “haunted hospital,” an abandoned hospital campus, which actually did give me the spooks! Phil told some great ghost stories to enhance the grim-and-ghoul aura.

I was lucky enough to also visit Castle Ward on Thursday with the afterschoolers, 4-11 years old. Castle Ward, is actually not a castle, but a very unique mansion. Castle Ward was home to theViscount of Bangor, and his wife; however, the Wards were not happily married. In fact, they were so unhappily married, that they had separate halves of the house. Interestingly enough, the lord chose a Classical décor for the front half of the house, and the lady chose Gothic architecture for her lay of the house. I was amazed to see the stark difference in architecture and décor. One can actually see the front Classical facade, and then run the the back of the mansion to see the Gothic facade. The interior, of course, also runs with this theme. The children from Quakers loved the house and stayed interested, asking lots of questions to our tour guide. It was amazing. After work, my roommates and I went to the John Hewitt, a famous and popular traditional pub in Belfast. The John Hewitt hosts artists almost every night of the week, so we enjoyed hearing the very start of the Blues Festival.

Friday was a simple day of baby care in the morning, and a deep cleaning of our work cottage in the afternoon. As mentioned above, Belfast hosted the Blues Festival last weekend, so my roommates, Courtney and Lena, along with myself went to two bars to enjoy the artists.

Our fellow BVS friend from Derry/Londonderry, Becca, came to visit again on Saturday. We went to a wine bar hosting a blues band for dinner, then went to a nightclub called Lavery's that night. I think we found the nightclub to be a little “too much fun” for us! The place was completely packed, and there's no good way to have a conversation or get to know people while trying to dance to blaring club music. We also fought the crowd to find a cab when the place closed. There's nothing like seeing Belfast's inebriated population all crawling around the street waving down taxis or just aimlessly wandering through the street! So, I think we're looking for something a bit tamer for next time!

Sunday was a great day, because we went to the cultural festival/Mela. The mela is a Belfast summer tradition with thousands of participants. There were 2 music stages, hosting dancers, stilt performance, Chinese lion dancers, and other cool acts. A world food market, and a global craft village were also present. The mela was hosted in the Botanic Gardens in South Belfast. The gardens were beautiful and enjoyable to explore.

Needless to say, I have been keeping busy! I'm enjoying each and every adventure I have, whether it's a quick grocery-stop at TESCO, on a long bus ride with children on our way to a cool site, or rockin' out at the Blues Festival. Wonder, discovery, gratitude, fortune, grace, excitement, and beauty are all collective words I would choose to use to describe my time thus far. Blessings on my journey!

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