Since being in Ireland I’ve traveled to a few different places but what has been most interesting are the places that have had to work to maintain their place on a map. Namely, places like Ireland/Northern Ireland and Berlin. It’s places like these that made my realize just how often I take my life at home for granted.
Berlin: What a surreal experience to have been able to put my hands on the Wall that just 20 years ago divided an entire city. It’s still shocking to me that we spent the majority of our time in Berlin on the East side, which not too long ago was a desolate area with not a lot of promise. Aside from the historical part of Berlin I obviously loved it because of the food. So many brats. So much sauerkraut. I felt right at home. Being away makes me that much more excited to be back home in Dublin. I missed my Blackhall family and the familiarity of the dirty dub.
Northern Ireland: Also a place recovering from an ideological/political conflict but absolutely beautiful. We started in Derry, which is a town full of character and resilience. This is one of the places where British began their efforts to claim it as their own. The city of Derry is entirely surrounded by a wall, which was built by the British for defense just a few years ago (1990s) we would not have been able to walk on the wall because it was closed in an effort to avoid violence by both Protestants and Catholics in Derry. Now, the town is extremely safe and our tour guide (one of my favorite Irishmen I’ve met here) was overwhelmingly happy that we (a group of young Americans) came to visit Derry and learn about it’s important history. He continued to reiterate how important and deep the bond is between the Irish and the Americans. Belfast was also a very interesting place to see. Going along with the “walled” theme, Belfast also had a wall separating Protestants from Catholics. The difference between the walls in Berlin and Derry and the wall in Belfast is that it’s still there to serve a purpose. Ironically, the wall is called the “Peace Wall” although it’s not called the peace wall because it is supposed to bring peace between Catholics and Protestants it is there to keep the peace. The walls are full of murals, which change frequently, and project a variety of messages some promoting what I would call harmful messages justifying the killing of a person or a group of individuals and some promoting peaceful messages of reconciliation. The tour guide encouraged us to remember that “one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter,” this could not be more true. One thing I just do not understand though is how a wall full of such harsh images and symbolism could be a good idea for their peace process. An agreement was made in Belfast that until further notice the wall would remain up but I’m sure to many it’s a constant reminder of tension that continues to exist between those that live in Belfast and the rest of Northern Ireland.
In other news I’m getting very excited for the month of November. My family is coming and after that I’m off to Italy for a week and Barcelona the following weekend. Are we sure I’m living my life and not someone else’s because this is just too legit to quit. As always my time here is going much too fast although I really miss my family and friends. If you all could just come and live here with me that would be grand.
Amber Duerwaechter is studying abroad in Dublin, Ireland, with the Foundation for International Education (FIE).