30 June 2013

Reflections from Scotland

We returned from our final YAV retreat earlier this week, and after some consideration I don't think I can do it justice with one of my typical rundown posts. In short, I LOVED Scotland... which surprised me for some reason. We spent time as a group in Edinburgh and Iona, then the boys and I spent some extra time in Glasgow. Each city had its own flavor and special moments, so I will just pull a few excerpts from my private journal:

On a train, click-clickity-clacking through the Scottish countryside. I love it here.... I have this intense desire to never leave this place. 

Kathryn and I at the Storytelling Centre
We spent the past two days in Edinburgh. I never really left the touristy areas, but loved the city all the same.  ... The city itself seems to have pride in storytelling. Kathryn, TJ, David and I went on a ghost tour last night, after a day that involved hiking Arthur's Seat, learning about a social enterprise for homeless people in the Grassmarket, lunch at the place where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter, ... and an afternoon exploring Edinburgh Castle.

Even with my camera there's no way I could adequately capture fields of wildflowers against a soft blue sky. Grass so green. Do these colours even exist back home?

(OK, you caught me: this photo isn't from Scotland)
(after a service loosely based on Ecclesiastes 3)
We went to the evening service at the Abbey, and as a part of the prayer the officiant read out the familiar "a time for..." and we were meant to add our wordless prayers. So when she said something, I tried my best to feel it - as a way to see what I associate with that emotion ... A time for gratitude: C.'s smile. 

I sit now on a ferry, watching Mull slip into the distance as we return to the mainland. Iona was like a dream.

We took a trip today through the Scottish Highlands to Glen Coe and Loch Ness. The thought of following in the footsteps of my ancestors on this trip (first Iona, now this place) is so strange, but incredibly powerful.

Photo credit: David Mills
As we entered the bus terminal, we saw a chilling sight: groups of well-dressed men and women with signs and brochures proclaiming the gospel - ignoring the shivering, barefoot man sitting just feet away. How often do I do the same - literally, or figuratively? 

To see the rest of my Scotland photos (warning: there are several!), click here.

Stories from Silence

Earlier this week, David invited me to come along with him for a work thing. Since this was the first time I've been able to accept an invitation on a Thursday evening, and there was the promise of free food (YAV life!), I accepted the vague invitation and hopped in the WAVE minibus with no idea what to expect.

It turns out, the event was the launching of a website, Stories from Silence, that is the culmination of a storytelling project documenting those injured or bereaved as a result of "the Troubles" here in Northern Ireland. The theme of the evening was stories by those who had lost children during the conflict. While David's placement allows him to have frequent interaction with these topics, this was the first time I'd heard stories like this discussed openly. The culture here in many ways encourages those who have had a difficult time to keep it to themselves, part of what leads to such high rates of suicide and depression. Luckily, places like the WAVE Trauma Centre are here to encourage people to tell their stories and talk about their feelings.

I had the powerful experience of sitting next to a man called Michael as his story was played for the crowd. Although the Troubles are officially over, it is important to remember that the pain is still incredibly real for the people who lost their loved ones during this time. I encourage you to visit http://storiesfromsilence.com and listen to a few of them for a better idea of what many people we know here in Belfast have been through.

The event also featured popular folk singer Tommy Sands as he used his method of music and storytelling for healing. He was kind enough to speak to David and I at length after the event. I couldn't find any of the songs he sang on YouTube, but here is a little taste of his music:

15 June 2013

What I'm Listening To: Father's Day Edition

Daddy's Girl

Father / daughter songs. There are a lot of them - and some do it better than others (I'm looking at you, Frank and Nancy - that's weird). Today's song is very special to me, as I listen to it (usually on repeat) whenever I'm missing my daddy. I thought it would be appropriate for a special Father's Day edition of "What I'm Listening To"... so this one goes out to mine.

Although this version might be more appropriate for my dad... Dougie. (See 3:54 - that's totally my Dougie-Fresh dad)

Derby Daddy-O
(Lyrics below)

06 June 2013

Ch- ch- changes

Sorry for the long silence - recently it's been that every time I sit down to write, I pull a giant blank. So I've decided to just write through all the weirdness and fill you in on a bit of YAV life to date...

The weather in Belfast has been uncharacteristically gorgeous, so we've all been in a super, sunshine-induced happiness which is awesome after months of cold, grey rain. Hanging just on the periphery, however is the knowledge that our time here is coming to an end. This is bittersweet: on one hand we're all excited to see family and friends, but on the other we're sad to see this year end. I've become so close to this group, the idea of being scattered across the country next year is really hard. We've been taking every opportunity to spend time together, take day trips to places we haven't been yet and soak up everything we can before we go.

Day trip to Derry / Londonderry
Things are wrapping up at work as well. Last week was my final Bible Study and prayer group, today is my last homework club. Mums and Tots and JAFFA end next week. While I'll have other tasks to fill the time, I've often said that this year has been about building relationships, and many of these will come to an end when I'm not at the Vine each week.

Dinner with my Bible Study group
As I prepare to go, people keep asking what I'll do when I get home. The truth is, I have no real clue. At orientation, they warned us that re-entry would be difficult. So I've effectively had a year to worry about fitting back into "my life" when I return. To be fair, I've not been too concerned about it for most of my time here, but as the date of my return flight inches closer, the worry begins to mount.

So now I see the changes that have gone on back home while I've been gone - new relationships, marriages, babies, jobs, houses... and I'm afraid that the "home" I'm sick for doesn't exist anymore. Self-reflection is hard - and while I've not seen myself change, I've been told by others that they've seen a change in me. It's weird to think you don't even know yourself anymore.

So yes, there are lots of thoughts floating around in my head, and I'm not really always sure how to feel about them, much less express them. So for now, please just be patient with me while I try to figure it out!

Greetings from sunny Belfast!