Living Where the Streets Have No Name
“I want to run.
I want to hide.
I want to tear down the walls
That hold me inside.
And want to reach out
And touch the flame
Where the streets have no name.”
Perhaps it is a little cliche to quote U2 when writing about my daily life in Ireland, but it is certainly appropriate considering the difficulty involved in locating street signs, even in the metropolis of Belfast. It took me no less than three days to realize the reason I couldn’t find the signs was because the aren’t on posts or streetlights, but rather attached to buildings. After a good, long look at a map I’ve finally started to learn my way around. I’m proud to say that I’ve only gotten lost once, and I got myself un-lost again without any help (though admittedly, this resulted in an hour long detour).
It is my seventh day in Belfast and I have finally begun to settle into a daily pattern of life here. For the most part, things are the same as they were back home: I’ve spent my days registering for classes, taking trips to the grocery store and the bank, and exploring the city with the friends I’ve made. However, there are certain things about living abroad that are different from living in Texas.
The greatest difference is the weather and how the locals react to it. The temperature here has been 30-40 degrees Fahrenheit–I can’t describe the shock I felt when the Captain of our airplane announced that it was -1 degrees where we were landing, nor my relief when I realized he was using Celsius rather than Fahrenheit–and either drizzling, raining, sleeting, or snowing. A local told me that if you could see the mountains across the water, that meant it was going to rain; if you couldn’t see them, that meant it was already raining. Coming from a hot, dry climate to this cold, incessantly damp location has been quite an adjustment. However, what surprised me all the more was the perspective on heating. Basically, heating is considered unnecessary at night and, in university housing, shuts off automatically at either 10pm or 11pm, along with the hot water.
Additionally, people spend a lot more time outside than back home; rather than running through the cold and rain from the front door to the car, many people walk as much as possible. The twenty seconds in the cold-damp stretches to a twenty minute walk to campus, or the grocery store, gym, or bank. That’s not to say that people don’t drive, but coming from a place where most people get cars as gifts for their sixteenth birthday, I’ve been doing a lot more walking than usual–a fact which my calves remind me of every morning when I first step out of bed.
Over all, though, I love the city and I am so excited to have this incredible opportunity. After orientation from IFSA-Butler and orientation from QUB I feel prepared to explore safely and cheaply, and still enjoy myself to the fullest. Honestly, the people that I encounter while doing simple things, like running errands, have been the highlight of my trip. At every cash register you have a conversation with the cashier, and the second I open my mouth they have a million questions about America. Every time the conversation has ended with the same sentiment: good luck and hope you enjoy Belfast. Well, I certainly am.
Tomorrow the semester officially begins and I’ll attend my first lecture at Queens University Belfast. I doubt I’ll ever be used to the beauty of the grounds. I’m thrilled that I’m able to go to school at a place with as much history as this campus. The first week is over, but I feel the adventure is just beginning, and I intend to experience everything to the fullest; I want to “reach out and touch the flame where the streets have no name”.