I love the Irish spring. DCU is located right next to the blooming Albert College Park and I spend a lot of my free time jogging through the open fields past multicolored roses and young boys playing hurling. During the long evenings I bring my guitar out to the park and strum until the sun sets. It is in days like these that I am most relaxed and at peace.
The Irish spring settles around 55 degrees. My fitness has increased radically over the past few weeks as I spend long afternoons lost on my bicycle pedaling from Catholic church to church and village to village. Some churches have no roof but the stones remain. The Celtic gravestones are withered by acid rain and time. But mostly its just wide open fields, meandering creeks, and rusty tractors. Friendly old men guide me back to Dublin. Towns like Garristown, Naul, Bray, Enniskerry, and Malahide are a few of my favorites.
One of the best weekends this spring was a trip up to Derry/Londonderry to be with Ibrahim. It is a quaint town – like Ithaca, New York or Birmingham, Alabama. Ibrahim showed me a furniture store which was car-bombed a few months ago just a quarter mile from his apartment. The building remained but its broken windows, burnt couches, and falling ceiling were wrapped in yellow “Do Not Enter” tape.
We met a man named Gerry on Saturday for a tour of the Bogside, a Catholic neighborhood of Derry. His face was overly wrinkled and his eyebrows were round and bushy. Gerry had been jailed four separate times during the Troubles for possession of M-16s and AK-47s, yet he still denies being in the IRA. During one of Gerry’s years out of prison, his brother was jailed for similar reasons and went on Hunger Strike to protest the British government’s labeling of “criminal” rather that “political prisoner.” Gerry watched his mother break down as his brother withered away in prison. Fortunately he survived. Gerry’s last remark to us was that his only wish is for Margaret Thatcher to die a slow and painful death like the one his unfortunate friends went through.
During Holy week I spent my evenings at Adelaide Road Presbyterian Church listening to lectures from a Belfast man on Luke 22 and 23. This community has welcomed me, and I spent Sundays afternoons at the Pastor’s manse playing cricket with his three boys. It’s funny how sports unite and divide. Protestants play cricket, Catholics hurling or Gaelic football. Some walls appear taller than others.
Spending a year at DCU studying has been a real joy. The classes are great, and the professors care a great deal about each individual experience. However, the best part has been my community of friends. A few of the guys in my program and I organized a trip to Israel this spring; we were able to observe tensions of this conflict with our own eyes in addition to our work in the classroom. The social culmination of our year together was the DCU School of Law and Government soccer tournament. Although our team was easily able to handle the staff, beating them 4 to 1, we had a harder time with some of the undergrads who are studying on soccer scholarships.
One of the best aspects of my year in Ireland has been the focus and patience it has given me. I am less stressed and do not get worked up about small issues. I am able to see the big picture in my own life, and in international events. I am not sure where exactly I am headed other than underwater on a submarine, but I do know that wherever I go I will be more effective in what I set out to do.