Thursday, July 7, 2011

Farewell to Northern Ireland

Monday June 27
Today we took a tour of the city walls. Which means, we walked along the wall that circles the walled portion of Derry. From a Royal Charter in 1613 the name was officially changed to Londonderry, and it remains the legal name of the city. However, nowhere in the Republic of Ireland is that used, and all the street signs I saw leading up to Derry had the "London" scratched off, painted over, or otherwise removed. This was even the case in about half of the street signs in Derry (and all of them on the Bogside, or Catholic side, really). Recently there has even been an in-city change to using only Derry, where people on the city council are slowly moving the "London" away. There was actually talk of writing and petitioning England to legally drop the "London" from the name. The walls only took about 6 years to finish, from the first to the last stones laid, built between 1613 and 1619. Derry is the only remaining completely intact walled city in Ireland and I believe one of the only walled cities in Europe whose walls have never been breached. And it's not as if the walls of Derry weren't ever tested, there was a 105 day siege in 1689 but still the walls were not breached.This fact is a reason behind the nickname "The Maiden City"...referring to the fact that they are in essence "virgin" walls so the city is still a maiden.
From the wall we also saw some of the murals that Derry is famous for, although we did not take a tour of the murals. Which I found strange. Not so strange that I went and did it in my free time however. Seeing the murals from the wall where the Bloody Sunday (1972) events occurred was enough for me.
The picture above left is looking onto the gate where King James II, after being removed from his throne by William of Orange, came to expecting to gather support and forces in Londonderry. One guard tried to let him in, but was stopped and James was refused entrance, and was soon after thoroughly defeated at the Battle of the Boyne. (I was there earlier too! Look at me, doing history backwards.)
Tuesday June 28
Today we took a bus ride out to Belfast, and after we were there we took a "Black Taxi Tour" of the murals in Belfast. The murals in Derry, compared to those in Belfast, are entirely sedate. Perhaps the most famous mural is that of the gunman, a statement of protection for Protestant Belfast. The gunman is painted so that no matter where you are standing, he is aiming at you. What? You don't believe me?
While standing elevated and to the left? Yep. Looking and aiming at me.
But what if I move off to the center and then...Oh. Look at that. Still aiming at me.
Right then. I'll just move off to the right and...Oh. Hello again Mr. Gunman.
Fine! I'll show you! I'll just stand a foot away from the building so you can't possible be.... Hmn. Touche Mr. UFF Gunman, touche.
All the murals here are very interesting because none have graffiti on them. This is because the UDA (formerly UFF) has so much power in the area. Really, they have power in everything that goes on, and if they don't want the murals to be ruined? They won't be.
After our tour we had a two hour break, in which Claire, Rebecca and I found a lovely pub, and then we met the group again to go see a play. We went to the Lyric Theater to see the play Dockers by Martin Lynch. This takes place on the docks of Belfast, and is about the workers of the docks. The focus of this play is that there is a separate Catholic and Protestant union, so they're competing against each other which defies the point of a union. The main character gets election to being a union council member (or something) and he wants to get everyone united into one union, and to get everyone excited about what the union used to be and should be. His actions are not welcomed by the union leaders and big-shots, or by the older members (so there's a lot of faith and hope in the younger generation), and the ending is bittersweet, ambiguous, and...unfulfilling. But so wonderful. You should all watch it as well as Translations.
Wednesday June 29 and Thursday June 30
On Wednesday, other than class and homework, I didn't really do that much. We did celebrate Lara's 21st birthday, and that was fun. Thursday was our last day of classes before the long weekend, and we got out of class early. However, with the bus schedule I stayed in Derry all of Thursday. On Thursday Claire, Olivia and I did go out to walk around since we were all still in Derry and we went to an adorable cafe for some tea and pastries. It's name? The Boston Tea Party. This tea basically marked the end of my stay in Northern Ireland.

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