January 2005 Reflection

Greetings all! In my last journal entry, I gave you all a promise that I would attempt to become a far more fascinating Mitchell the next time you read my journal. Well, I have striven to keep that promise. I have become much more active in social things at Magee and Derry/Londonderry.

First off, I have taken up Salsa (believe me no is more surprised than I that I would learn to Salsa in Derry/Londonderry). I only wish someone taught the Tango, but baby steps for someone like me who has very little rhythm. Also, since we last chatted I have taken up mountain walking. At Magee, they call it merely hill walking. As a Cajun who comes from an area that is at least six feet below sea level, anything that rises above 100 feet to me is much more than a hill it is a mountain. Those excursions have revealed the true beauty of Ireland’s countryside. Sure I got soaked on one trip, but it was more than worth it to see the coast and Giant’s Causeway. It was an absolutely breathtaking walk/hike. Oh yes, I have also taken up my long time wish of fencing. I have only had a few lessons but love every minute of it.

Derry/Londonderry and Ireland have truly grown on me. I love it. Right now, I am sitting in my living room in Erath, Louisiana thinking of the green of the countryside and just the fascinating nature of Northern Ireland. Though, this may sound strange coming from a Cajun, but Northern Ireland is beginning to feel like a second home to me. The nature and way of the people of Ireland remind me considerably of the American South and home. You know people going out of their way to make sure that you are enjoying yourself and that you find those places of interest that most would miss.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a conference for another fellowship that I was awarded, and they were stressing cultural sensitivity for those students who were studying abroad and how to watch their mouths to not get into trouble. I just could not help but sit back and think how I never did any of that in Ireland/Northern Ireland. I just asked questions and proudly stated my beliefs. Sure it got some strange looks, some heated debates, but in the end I made good friends and came to truly understand the nature of conflict in Northern Ireland because I was not afraid to look like a fool or ask a hard question. I did not remain clueless. Instead, I got an often-neglected insight into the problem. I believe I am far far better for it. I could not help but think that these counselors should be telling them ask anything. Stand up for your beliefs and that is when you will learn, not by playing it safe or coy.

Finally, this experience is truly beginning to have an impact on me. When I went to Northern Ireland, admittedly I knew little to nothing about the conflict. I was a product of the American media convinced it was Catholics and Protestants killing each other over religion and nothing more. How wrong I was, and how I have learned, and actually felt as if I were a part of everything. I’ll never forget the Wednesday before I left Ireland for Christmas how excited we all were that an agreement could finally be reached and the Belfast Agreement would be fully implemented. I found myself reading every article, listening to every story on the media about the negotiations. Actually, I felt a sense of disappointment when nothing materialized. Many there explained to me that they have heard the same things for almost thirty years, and have come to the belief that seeing is believing not hearing.

Well, I hope that this entry is slightly more interesting than the last. I hope that all of you who have read this will have had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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