Hi y’all! I want to apologize for my long absence from this blog – I submitted a post last week, but either something went wrong with the system, or I did something wrong (both equally possible), but here I am now.
The past few weeks have been a blur – I feel like I’ve been all over the planet. After the weekend in Carna, we pretty much went straight into our IFSA-Butler weekend in Belfast. I was excited to go, but didn’t really know what to expect. I was surprised at how quickly I fell head-over-heels in love with the city. There are beautiful murals and street art around almost every corner you turn down – not to mention the Peace Walls, which are still there, and still serve their purpose. We learned so much about the troubles on our Black Taxi Tours.
Our guides explained to us that the people of Belfast do not see what went on as acts of terrorism, but as a war. When we were walking through Shankhill Road, where the loyalist (those who wanted to remain as a British state or saw themselves as British) Protestants lived and where many still live, and Falls Road, where the republican (those who wanted to be free from British rule and saw themselves as Irish) Catholics lived and still live, we were literally walking through warzones that were active not that long ago. Some of the places still have curfews. There are memorials everywhere, to specific people (soldiers, they are called), and for the communities. Most of the more militant artwork and graffiti has been removed, but some still remains. It felt dormant, like everything was still just below the surface; it felt like a relic; everywhere we went on the tour was very quiet, except for the noise the people in our group made. Contrasted with the main city, which was beautiful and more modern and alive, it was a lethal combination on my heart.
The weekend after that, I went on a 3-day trip to Brussels, Belgium with two other IFSA-Butler Galway students. It felt so special to me, because my mom studied abroad in Belgium for a year when she was in high school, and I get super emotional about anything I can do in my life that makes me feel connected to my mother, especially if I’m doing something she did before she was my mother. Anyways, we had a great time. It was amazing to get to speak French. We saw as many of the sites as possible, ate all the waffles, chocolate, and fries that we could eat, and got cheesy postcards: all in all, a great success. It’s funny, when I knew I was studying abroad, visiting another country other than the one where I was going to be staying in was never something that really occurred to me, until I got here and saw so many people planning to do so. I’m so glad I was able to. All my Irish friends are always saying that study abroad students see so much more of Europe, even so much more of Ireland, than they do, just because they never think of doing it.
Other than all those adventures, life in Galway is really magical. I think about how lucky I am to be here, that I chose this place, every day. Last night, a big group of us went to a little pub called Fibber Mcgee’s, where the NUIG International Student’s Society was sponsoring an event. We ordered fancy cocktails and sang karaoke. The whole place was mostly filled with American students, so a couple of us got up and sang “American Pie” and literally the entire place joined in. After, we went to a club called Roisin Dubh (pronounced “Roh-sheen Duv” – the first couple weeks in Galway, when people would mention it, I always thought they were saying “Russian Dove”, so that’s what we jokingly call it now) where they have a silent disco every Tuesday. We had been planning to go for weeks, because none of us had ever been to a silent disco before; it was worth the hype. We all got wireless headphones when we came in, and we could switch back and forth between two stations run by two different DJs, one who was playing mostly pop music and random requests, and another who was mostly playing new and old-school hip-hop and rap. It was so crowded we could barely move, but everyone just danced. It was so funny to turn off your headphones and just listen to everyone singing along to whatever they were listening to.
In general, I feel so liberated being here. When we’ve gone out, I have danced with random boys, and random girls, and nobody cares. I’ve kissed a girl (and a boy) in the middle of a crowded pub and walked down the main Shop street at night holding a girl’s hand, all just for fun, to be affectionate and loving to another person without caring at all what anyone else thinks, and I have felt pretty safe doing so here. I’m so free here; it’s a great feeling. I’ll write soon.
P.S. “Galway Girl” is one of the songs that they play every Thursday out our favorite trad music pub, Taaffes. We all freak out when it comes on. Here’s a link: