Looking Back

I’ve written most of my posts about the people who turn ordinary days into extraordinary ones. As a group of friends we have given ourselves the title of “Elephants” – we are loud, clumsy, and have big personalities. At times there are only 3 or so in the library, at other times 14 in the pub. This group of friends – from extremely diverse backgrounds – will forever mark my time in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

We’ve spent the last few weeks attempting to say good bye, knowing that it will be difficult, although certainly possible, to connect in the future. Knowing that my time is coming to a close, I’ve tried to remember my first impressions of Derry/Londonderry, the class, and INCORE (where my academic program is housed).

The first days in INCORE were terrifying, we were horribly nervous after being asked, “So, what’s your research topic?” I knew, albeit loosely, that I wanted to write on political graffiti and its relationship to space and conflict. I didn’t know that after ten months of thinking about this topic, I’d finally be able to begin to put words to paper about what I had the opportunity to see happen in Bahrain. I certainly didn’t know that I’d have the opportunity to mesh my classroom experiences with the community I was living in in such a practical way.

Derry/Londonderry initially felt extremely isolated from the rest of the island. As I’ve lived here, and had the occasion to work with different communities, I’ve learned more about its complexities and now it seems as if there are days when the entire world exists in a few city blocks. Today I went to the play “Re-energize,” about a punk rock band, based outside the city, trying to reform. Laughing at the jokes, finally, came naturally.

The Elephants became instant friends, the way you hope when you move some place new. We’ve celebrated birthdays, assignments, and holidays together, always making it as big a deal, if not bigger, as it should be. We’ve seen each other through some hilarious, and often awkward, situations. We’ve made tea, ate too much food and indulged in too many nights out. Elephants, thanks for helping me find my way through.

I feel like I’ve learned a lot over the year, inside and outside the classroom. There have been challenges, especially when navigating the nuances of a divided city, but all have helped me learn more about life from the place I’m in. Mostly, as I leave the island after a few weeks, I’ll know that I’ll always have a place to come back to, and a couch to sleep on.

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