30 April 2013

All Being Well

"All Being Well" - a phrase I've come to know and love during my time here in Belfast. Typically, it's used when making plans: "I'll see you Sunday then, all being well." I love it because it serves as a reminder that things happen... plans change.

It brings to mind a similar concept I learned during my time in Morocco: Insha'Allah (Inshallah), which means God willing, or if God wills it. This was said whenever we made plans. A constant reminder that our plans are not really our own, that we are reliant on God's will in everything we do.

Part of this was entirely practical in a culture like Morocco, because plans often changed due to unforeseeable circumstances. We became used to saying, "Tomorrow we will go into the city, Inshallah," knowing that in reality our bus might be broken or the person we were supposed to meet was no longer available. I've tried to remember this concept over the years, which at some times is easier than others. There are many variants on the theme: Inshallah, All Being Well, and my personal favorite, "God Willing and the Creek Don't Rise."
13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city. We will spend a year there. We will buy and sell and make money.” 14 You don’t even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? It is a mist that appears for a little while. Then it disappears. 15 Instead, you should say, “If it pleases the Lord, we will live and do this or that.”
James 4:13-15 (NIRV)
I'm trying to extend myself grace as I make plans for the next few months. The honest truth is that I don't even have an inkling of what the future holds for me. And I'm getting closer to being okay with that. Inshallah.

16 April 2013

Special blog post, Momma-style!

As promised, I've asked my mom to give a bit of reflection on her whirlwind tour of Belfast (and most of the UK). So without further ado:

It’s rather unnerving to do a guest blog; Tricia does what I consider a fabulous job with her entries. She did warn me about this request but it just gave me more time to fret about it. Well, here goes:

Thursday: Being busy doesn't even touch on what Tricia had in store for my visit. After the bus ride home from the airport we got our first sign of how friendly Belfast can be. With only 2 blocks to go, Robert insisted on giving us a lift. As Tricia said, people are so friendly here you learn to just graciously accept these kind offers. We crock-potted dinner and were on our way for one of my few opportunities to see Tricia active in one of her normal weekly-duties—Lunch with the Pensioners. Julia prepared a traditional Belfast feast and everyone that works at the Vine had nothing but good to say not only about Tricia but also her work there. We went on the see so much of the city that Tricia has been calling home this year, (or she was keeping me on my feet so I wouldn't fall asleep). The Maundy Thursday service was beautiful and gave me the opportunity to meet some of the people who have helped Tricia feel welcome in this foreign country. Going out after the service with friends and fellow YAVs was very comforting and gave me peace. The plan for new YAVs on their first night in Belfast is to stay awake until at least 9:00 P.M. But no, normal bedtime back home for me is 9:00 PM, add those 4 hours for Belfast time, equals 1:00 AM in Belfast. We only made midnight, but still a very long 38 hours. Glad I squeezed in that 1 ¼ hours of sleep on the flight over.

Meeting David and Anna on Thursday
Friday: After a traditional Ulster breakfast we trekked to Belfast Castle. The castle wasn't the main attraction but the several-hour hike up to Napoleon’s nose in the snow, ice and cold was the naz. Fellow YAV David included us in his weekly hike, and was a wonderful guide—patient and tolerant of Tricia and my less than perfect skills and a Florida mom who had never frolicked in snow. We got home in time to change for the Good Friday service and my opportunity to get to know Lesley, the pastor at Tricia’s church, and to meet others who have helped Tricia feel welcome in Belfast. It was nice to see Tricia involved with the service. The evening outing gave me a chance to meet TJ, the final North Belfast YAV. Things closed early for Good Friday so we got to bed before midnight.

Our view from "Napoleon's Nose"
Saturday: Tricia has made the trip to Giant’s Causeway with friends from the congregation before but we got the full-day tour with many sights of this lovely country both along the way and on the return to Belfast. Upon our return we headed back to Belfast Castle, now the main attraction. It was odd hiking up the hill in the cold and dark to get to the castle, but was so worth it to see all the Northern Belfast YAVs as a group. The friendship they share is priceless. The support and camaraderie they have towards one another is invaluable.

Photo op with the Giant's Causeway in the background
Sunday: Easter Sunday was a peaceful morning, not having to get out of the house until 10:00. Maybe not as calm for Tricia with every alarm in the house set to make sure she didn't miss the time change. (What devices automatically change time, which don’t?) The service was lovely and I got to see Tricia in another phase of her work: keeping the service and all of its digital aspects in sync; a nice presentation of Tricia’s work with The Youth Club was included. After the service there was a chance to meet others in the congregation. Stewart who complimented Tricia’s help with The Boys' Brigade, and several young couples who love Tricia and value her relationship with their “tots”. After church we went to the City Centre. More was closed than expected on Easter Sunday so we missed St. George’s Market and our falafel, but this just allowed us to eat at Nando's, one of Tricia’s favorites. Easter and the time change combined had us miss our tour of Belfast but Tricia came through once again. We got a very special, first-hand tour of the murals in Belfast and the Peace Wall, the biggest attractions of the Belfast tour, from TJ, who does much of his YAV work in this area.

Monday: Well this brings us to the 7:00 arrival at the International Airport for our flight to Newcastle for our “whistle-stop tour” that Tricia mentioned in her blog. She makes it seem like a simple tour but seeing how my first 4 days went, I’m sure you can imagine the “tour” of Great Britain at times seemed more of an “assault”. We made the most of the vacation time and finished it with a wonderful meal at a winery B&B that Tricia tricked me into having her pay for.

Of all the wonderful things Tricia mentions in her blog, what does Tricia’s mom do? Hears anything that she could worry about--life is scary; no, it isn't easy; trials and tribulations; etc—often not even hearing the context is which something is said. But I guess we all can be proven so wrong. With my short time in Belfast I saw so much. Not only have I seen my daughter’s successes and accomplishments, I've seen and witnessed some of her trials and tribulations.Tricia has met some wonderful people, has had irreplaceable experiences and has learned volumes about herself. She now sees that she can do anything and that every cloud has a silver lining. A mother could be nothing but proud. Tricia has soldiered through her YAV year with dignity and grace—for that I am extremely proud of her and admire her. And for who she is I love her.

Aww, thanks mom - love you too! For more of our photos from the trip, click here.

14 April 2013

A moment for reflection

At lunch today, I mentioned to another of the young adults in our lunch group that my last Sunday at Fortwilliam and Macrory would be July 14th. After which, I will be packing up for a bit of travel before heading home. This was soon followed by the realization that today is April 14th, making it exactly 3 months before I leave Belfast.

This is so strange. I know that time is flying, but this feels a little extreme. There is still so much here I want to learn and do before my time is up!  But as much as I want to soak it all up here, my mind has already started to drift back to Louisville - clearing up my resume for the impending job search, pulling my old landlord's contact info out of the files - but in reality I have so much still left to experience here.

I've had this discussion with some of the other YAVs, about this strange limbo between Northern Ireland and the States, knowing that many of our projects are wrapping up soon for the summer, and that the next batch of Volunteers are making their first steps toward fundraising and preparing for their new life-changing experience. Like many of the emotions I've experienced this year, trying to put it all into words somehow seems so daunting. Maybe someday I'll be able to do it justice.

08 April 2013

Holy, Wholly, Holi...

Bear with me on the obscure title, hopefully it will make sense shortly... 

The past few weeks have been extremely full in real life, which makes for figurative crickets on the blog end of things. As I was thinking about everything I had to update you on, I realized that two of them were pronounced \ˈhō-lē\... so I just went with it and stretched the other update to fit the theme.

Holy Week was March 24-30. Since many of the local kids were either off school or preparing for break, many extracurricular events were cancelled - leaving me more time for the Church side. We participated in a joint communion service with Cave Hill Methodist on Maundy Thursday, an intimate service at Fortwilliam and Macrory on Good Friday, and of course the typical Easter Sunday festivities.  My special guest for these events was my mom, who flew in on Thursday morning. It was great to see her after almost an entire year apart, and I was glad to give her the opportunity to experience such a full time at the church (although it meant she missed out on a few of my regularly scheduled activities like homework club and Boys' Brigade).

This one is clearly the stretcher in the theme, but nonetheless... as part of my mom's trip, we decided to take a road trip! The week after Holy Week (Easter Week) is fairly quiet at both my sites, so we hopped a flight to England and did the whistle stop tour, hitting highlights in England, Wales and Ireland. So while we did not hit the entire British Isles wholly (see what I did there? Also: sorry, Scotland!), we did make a noble attempt.

Our road trip - covered all this (plus Dublin) in 5 days!

We had a great time visiting new places - and my mom even managed to hold her own with driving a manual transmission on the opposite side of the road! She will be writing a special "guest blogger" post within the next week or so to give her perspective on our time together and my work in Belfast, so keep an eye out!

Dinner in Dublin
View more photos from our trip here.

My mom left on Saturday, and by Sunday I was deep enough into my "introvert recovery" that I considered skipping out on the Belfast Colour Festival that was taking place that afternoon. However, I decided that I would probably regret it if I didn't attend, and of course I couldn't let my £3 ticket go to waste, so I talked myself into putting on my ratty jeans and a white T-shirt and headed to the City Centre.

For those of you who have never heard of Holi, it is an Hindu festival marking the beginning of spring. (Please note that I am SO vastly simplifying this holiday!) It is typically celebrated in part by throwing colored powders at each other, which has been the inspiration for events like the Color Run. Since I love just about anything from India and I hate running, this was the only way I could hope to have mass quantities of colored powder thrown in my face. ;-)

Immediately after leaving the ring
While the event was definitely commercialized and I spent an hour crammed into a line with hundreds of strangers for just 10 minutes of color throwing, I was really glad I attended. Mostly, because it reminded me of my life back home. "Cross-cultural" here is mostly confined to Protestants and Catholics. I rarely have the opportunity to experience other religious traditions or dance like a fool to Jai Ho (which they played no fewer than 3 times while I was there). Plus, I love the concept of celebrating Spring. While it's still been unseasonably cold here, there's something to be said for shaking off the winter blahs and bursting forth in a blast of color!

So in that spirit, I charge you now to go forth and celebrate! Jesus is risen and the world is blooming!