Today, our class traveled from Belfast to Derry (also known as Londonderry or Ledgen-derry, according to one of our tour guides), in three Black Cabs. Our three cab drivers/tour guides took us to see the different neighborhoods of Belfast, and explained many of the subtleties of the situation to us, before bringing us along the coast.
We started with the Shankill Road neighborhood, the most extreme and well-known Protestant Unionist area. In this part of Belfast, the citizens tried to make their affiliation with the UK very clear. There are many Union Jacks flying, and the curbstones are painted red white and blue. This is also the neighborhood with the highest density of murals. I felt strange taking pictures of peoples' houses, so I sketched them out instead. For some good photos, I would recommend checking out Josh, Jazmin, and Peter's blogs.
I gave some more background for each in the caption of the photo- hover over the image to read them.
Once again, i forgot to take pictures, though if you flip through the class blogs, you're sure to find some beautiful views of the wall.
The wall is a striking visual symbol, which sums up rather well the current state of separation. Our tour guide, Paddy had some interesting things to say on its subject. The first was that, while the wall was often compared to the Berlin Wall, the Peace Line was put up by both sides of the conflict to keep each other out, rather than by one group trying to keep people in against their will. He also mentioned that the government is planning to have the wall torn down by 2023, as well as his skepticism regarding the plan. Paddy explained that, while the wall is no longer necessary to stop violence, people still don't trust each other, and are not likely to want to remove the wall. It makes them feel safe, whether or not armed conflicts are happening. While I'm not sure whether this will indeed stop the government from tearing down the wall, it certainly offered some interesting insight on how the people of Ireland viewed the wall. Walking along it was very surreal to me- this beautifully decorated wall, cutting through a city, and upheld by the people living by it. I can't say I've ever seen such a concrete (no pun intended) embodiment of the idea of willful segregation. To an outsider, this sort of lifestyle seems so extreme that it's hard to imagine people would want to uphold it. We are so used to hearing about the Troubles as something of the past that we forget that for some people, the hate and mistrust is a thing of the present. This view of Belfast reminded me of this fact, something I am not likely to forget.
The 180 degree switch from the dark realities of the Troubles to the beauty of the coast once again highlighted the fact that Ireland is a place of remarkable contradictions, home to both the very sad and the very beautiful.