Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dear Lord, grant me the grace of wonder. Surprise me, amaze me, awe me in every crevice of Your universe...Each day enrapture me with Your marvelous things without number. I do not ask to see the reason for it all; I ask only to share the wonder of it all. -Abraham Heschel

Well it has been over a month since I last posted on here.  It is crazy how you blink once and its Christmas time and you blink again and its suddenly almost February!!  Here's a little bit of what has happened this past month!!

One month ago, I was trying to organize my life from Christmas and get ready to begin the wonderful journey that was the 8 day, 7 night trip to Rome, Italy with my fellow YAV, Christina.  Wednesday, the 28th, Christina and I began our trip by leisurely sitting in the airport, having a cuppa and reading (which proves to be a difficult task when, someone like me is trying to steady their nerves).  Soon it was that wonderful moment of take off, the time when you know you can't turn back now and must face the challenges, and joys ahead of you with confidence.  We landed after a 3 hour plane ride and walked out into the crisp, warm Rome air.  We took a train to Termini Station and began our walk to our hotel which was only a 5 minute walk from the station.

The hotel we were staying in for the first half of the trip was fantastic!  The rooms were nice, it was in a great spot, very affordable, and the front desk people were very friendly.  So if you are headed to Rome and need a place to stay, look up Hotel Elide.  I mean who can beat staying just down the road from the Colosseum (we only found out that tid bit of information our last day on that side of the city)?!  Our first day adventures consisted of getting lost several times, seeing the Colosseum for the first time, stumbling upon the Trevi Fountain: day and night settings, stumbling also upon the Pantheon at night, and eating some delicious Italian food.  Both the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon are absolutely beautiful at night, all lit up.  The thing that I think took the cake for me was the amazing food that we had.  Fabulous pasta for lunch by the Colosseum and some delicious gnocchi and meatballs for dinner at a place we found while wondering around. 

Day two was our day to tour the Colosseum and the Roman Forum.  It was awesome to be walking where the Gladiators used to walk and see the place where they used to fight.  There are barely words to describe being where the spectators sat, seeing the under ground tunnels and hearing about the intricate workings both on top of the fighting area and underneath (thanks to the audio guide we rented!).  After a bite of pizza and a wee rest, we headed off to see the Roman Forum.  Walking backwards through the Forum allowed for us to spend a little bit more time exploring the bits that were still under excavation.  Something like only 30 or 40% has been excavated which not only allows for continued surprises but also for people's minds to wonder about what treasures could lie below their feet. 

New Years Eve, or day three, consisted of wondering around and poking our heads in shops around Rome but also seeing the Spanish Steps.  The Steps were absolutely packed but was awesome to see people just relaxing and taking in the wonderful sites that were just presented in front of them.  I mean who wouldn't want to relax in the Sun when you are in one of the oldest and beautifulest cities in the world?  To ring in the New Year, we decided on hanging out at the Colosseum because not only were they going to have a free concert but the fireworks were supposed to be amazing!!  It was sad though that when it came time for the fireworks display, we couldn't see them due to our views being blocked by the trees that lined the street.  :(  Oh well, I guess we will just have to go back!!  :)

Day four was super relaxing and the moving of hotels, which ended up in an adventure itself.  We ended up having to take the train to almost the very end, then needing to take a bus to a supermarket parking lot and then walking another 5 minutes to find our hotel.  Needless to say, its not as easy as it seems.  The hotel we stayed in, though, was super nice. 

Days 5 and 6, we visited the Pantheon and the Vatican City.  The Pantheon is huge and no matter how you try and take a picture, you will never be able to fit the whole dome in a picture.  The Vatican City was full of interesting facts and statues I never knew existed (again, thank you to the audio guide we rented).  After seeing the wonderful museums, we eventually made it into the Sistine Chapel.  The paintings are beautiful and extremely intricate.  Seeing the famous painting on the ceiling can not be described in words.  It was beautiful and very humbling to be standing where several great painters once stood and painted absolutely gorgeous paintings onto the walls and ceiling.

Our last day, we went to a famous museum but I think for me the highlight of the day was getting to see St. Peter's Basilica.  The size of it is incredible.  Absolutely beautiful sculptures of Pope's and breath taking paintings line the sides making it a site that one won't forget as long as they live.  The thing that really caught my attention was the window that was letting in a stream of light onto an altar which lies under the baldacchino of Gianlorenzo Bernini (the baldacchino is 98 ft tall and is claimed to be the largest piece of bronze in the world).  It was incredible and made you feel like God's presence, although he is with us every day, was truly there.  Soon we moved on to stand in the queue to the Dome, both inside and out.  551 steps from the ground to the tip top outside area, several areas which you felt like you were going down into the rabbit's hole in Alice in Wonderland.  The view from both inside and outside was incredible.  Outside you could see as far as the eye could see (thank goodness for a very sunny day with no clouds) and inside, looking down the people walking around looked like little tiny ants.  By the way, if your a little shaky on heights, don't look down either inside or outside even though you are protected by a thick metal fence inside and thick bars outside. 

All in all, it was a great trip and won't ever be forgotten.  Now its back to EBM and the wonderful programs I am involved in.  Its nice to go back to work and to the programs and see all the friends I have made since I arrived back in September.  If ever given the opportunity to go to Rome, even for a day, take it!!  For now, I will leave you with a few photos from the trip!  I hope you enjoy!!  Another post to come soon!! Thanks for reading and love to each and every one of you!

Trevi Fountain
Trevi Fountain at night

Pantheon at night

Delicious meatballs

Colosseum 2
Colosseum 1

Colosseum 3

Excavation at Roman Forum
Roman Forum

Spanish Steps

Pantheon Dome
In the Vatican City

Outside St. Peter's Basilica
Light onto the altar

View of St. Basilica's Plaza

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Don't be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated; you can't cross a chasm in two small jumps. -David Lloyd George

Merry/Happy belated Christmas everybody!!

I hope everybody had a happy, joy filled day that was full of friends, family, good food and plenty of laughs and smiles to go around!!  Christmas in Belfast is not much different than it was/is in Texas. 

My Christmas actually started on Friday evening with the other Northern Ireland YAV's.  Everybody came over to Bathgate and we enjoyed a delicious meal (completely with an abundance of food), all the while laughing, joking and chatting with each other.  My housemate and fellow YAV, Ellison, soon called us upstairs (at this point we had been joined by Doug and Elaine) to take part in an Advent circle time, complete with a homemade wreath.  It was absolutely beautiful and I felt most at home during and after that time. 

Our celebrations carried over to Christmas Eve, when at 7:30am, we all gathered again in our living room to exchange/reveal our Secret Santa gifts.  We laughed, ooo-ed and ah-ed over the gifts that were given to each person.  It was tons of fun and you could definitely feel the love in the air!!

I spent Christmas day with my supervisor, his family and the extended family.  We laughed, talked, enjoyed a great meal, and watched the merriment of new games and toys unfold before us (not to mention the occasional out of the blue comment or saying :)! ).  We enjoyed a meal of ham and turkey, roastie potatoes, mashed potatoes, parsnip and carrot mash, brussel sprouts, stuffing, and gravy (I think I got everything that was on the table).  For dessert, we had a Lemon Cheesecake, Apricot Pecan Cake (all the way from Coriscana, Texas; Thanks Granny!), and fruit salad.  Needless to say, after everything was consumed, we were stuffed to the brim!

The next morning, Boxing day, I had been invited to head to my supervisor's parents house to enjoy another meal and participate in some family time.  After hellos, introductions, and presents were opened, we started off our meal with a vegetable soup.  This was followed shortly by a dinner of Roast Beef, mashed potatoes, roastie potatoes, carrot and parsnip mash, cauliflower, Yorkshire Puddings, and gravy.  I was truly stuffed after eating all that excellent food!!  After all the food was put away or consumed, a chance to sit back and relax ensued.  It was truly hard to stay awake and be sociable after stuffing myself with the delicious food, but some how I prevailed! 

Although this year Christmas was hard, with it being my first time away from my family at Christmas, it was a great experience!!  I really want to thank the Sweeney's and their families for having me over for Christmas!! I enjoyed every minute of it!

Now, I am getting ready to head to Rome, Italy till the 4th of January with my friend and fellow YAV, Christina.  We hope to have tons of fun and take loads of pictures (I have three empty camera cards just for this occasion!! Hope the battery lasts!!).  I will tell you guys all about it when I get back.

But for now enjoy the pictures of Christmas time in Northern Ireland!! Thank you so much for your continued support and love throughout this year!! It has been a good year so far and I hope it continues!!  Love and miss everybody!!

Patrick is just so excited about Chili!!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving. ~W.T. Purkiser

Wow!! Today is the first day in December!! I honestly never thought that this month would come so fast!!  We have been in Northern Ireland for about three months now but it certainly doesn't feel like it!!

Quite a lot has happened in the past two weeks.  Everything from Thanksgiving day, to packing hampers, to Thanksgiving celebration with YAV's to the beginnings of the many Christmas celebrations.  I guess the only place to begin is at the beginning, Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving for me was really weird and at times hard.  It was my first major holiday, other than my birthday and Fourth of July, that I have been away from home.  Not sitting around the dining room table surrounded by my family eating copious amounts of turkey and then proceeding to take about a two hour nap was really weird.  My day consisted of working in a primary school (one of my weekly activities) and then talking with my family for about two hours.  No turkey was to be had by me...yet. Haha!!  I had a great time talking to almost all of my family, seeing their faces and their expressions as I recounted my time so far in this great country.  I hope to skype with them again soon because there is no better cure for serious homesickness than seeing your families faces, smiling back at you, so proud of you for what you are doing and the huge leaps you are taking in your life.  I love my family so much and know that they will continue to stand by me throughout my life!!

Moving on to Saturday, I awoke and was down at the Dee Street Community center to help pack the Neighbors in Need hampers.  EBM provides boxes with approximately 15 items in them to pensioners and people in and around East Belfast and the greater Belfast area who are might be having trouble with some things this winter.  So along with about 50-60 volunteers, we managed to pack 450 hampers to go out in the upcoming weeks.  It was very uplifting to see how many people were so enthusiastic to help pack hampers for those in need and/or to provide food or money for the hampers, especially after the set back.  Approximately 4 days before, on the last Sunday for people to give food donations, donations were stolen from a church in Hillsborough. Here is the article that might explain it a little more, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-15815440.   It was truly amazing the support that people around Belfast showed in replenishing the food that was stolen.  It is amazing how many lives are touched through community outreach programs.  I thoroughly enjoyed packing the hampers and was very happy to help those in need.

Later on that evening, I went with the 7 other Northern Ireland YAV's to our site coordinator, Doug's house and enjoyed a wonderful meal of Turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, rolls, green beans, cheesecake, cake, just to name a few.  It was absolutely delicious and the whole staying awake after the meal because it would be bed time pretty much when we got home was super hard.  Darn that Triptophan for making me sleepy but thank you for being delicious!!  The company was absolutely great too!! It was good to get to know Doug and Elaine's son and his two friends over dinner, dessert and the Auburn/Alabama game.  Our little YAV family, I think was what we all needed for Thanksgiving.  I am thankful that I am in this wonderful country with such great people who all care about each other and enjoy hanging out together on holiday's and on the weekends!!

Sunday, anybody who was able and had appropriate shoes, got to go on a tour of the new Skainos site.  It was great to see the progress that they have made in just 6 months and to know that it will all be done in approximately another 6 months.  It will be a multifunctional building that will not only allow for the church to worship and hold their events there but will also allow for other businesses and organizations around Belfast to have offices and programs within the building.  I can't wait to see the finished product but am sad that I won't be here for the official opening.  I guess I will just have to plan a trip to come back and see everything once its up and going!!

Tuesday, the 29th, the Women's group attended a Christmas demonstration through Healthy Food for All and the Going Green groups.  We saw all the wonderful crafts, gifts, and items that they will have at the fair this upcoming Saturday.  Its amazing how many different crafts you can make using simple reusable items from around your house!!  We also ate some delicious food and sang wonderful Christmas carols!!  Although it doesn't really feel like its December and only 25 days till Christmas, it felt a little more like Christmas through the merriment that all the people were having and the carols!!

All in all, my time in Northern Ireland is going great!!  The people that I interact with through the church and Stepping Stone are absolutely fabulous!!

But for now, I'll leave you with my favorite Psalm.  This psalm was read at the Sunday night worship held in Stepping Stone and led by a fellow American.  It seemed extremely appropriate after the packing of the Hampers, Thanksgiving and Skainos tour and is still appropriate after all the merriment of the past few days.

Psalm 100:
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.  It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.  For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

"The music of divine love plays uniquely in each peron's life. Through individual personalities and personal life events, the goodness of God takes on a melody all its own. The song of God needs and instrument to give it shape and voice...We are all called to be instruments through which the melody of God takes shape. Through our lives God's love seeks to dance and make music in the world." -Joyce Rupp

Well I am sad to say that it has been almost three weeks since I last posted.  Hopefully, I can get you all caught back up with what has been happening in my life. 

After my last post, my fellow Northern Ireland YAV's, our site coordinator and myself went on our first retreat to Corrymeela and the Giants Causeway.  The drive along the coast was absolutely beautiful!! We saw the ocean almost all the way to the place where we were staying.  Once arriving at Corrymeela Knocklayde, which is just a short drive from Ballycastle on the North Coast, we decided to take the rest of the day to rest, play games, and relax.  The boys decided to hike to the top of the hill/mountain that was right outside our door, while the girls decided to nap and play games.  After dinner, the girls and our site coordinator, Doug, went into town to watch the Halloween parade and fireworks.  The parade was good for a small town and included a fire twirler, drum circle, and people on stilts.  The fireworks display was bigger and longer than I ever thought one for a town of that size to have, all the while playing Katy Perry's song Firework in the background.

On the second day of our trip, we made our way to the Giants Causeway.  Before arriving, we stopped at different over looks to see the scenery.  We saw in the far off distance, Scotland, and the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, and an island that is known as Sheep's Island.  The tale that goes with Sheep's Island is an interesting one because in the tale/riddle if you put 12 sheep on the island they die from over eating but if you put 13 sheep on the island, they die of starvation.  So how many sheep can you keep on the island?  Nobody really know!! The Giant Causeway is a jaw dropping sight and allows for some incredible photos!!  We walked every where we felt we could stand without falling over from the wind, uncertainty of the ground, and without getting soaked by the waves crashing on the pillars.  The tale of the Giants Causeway is funny but also very clever. 

The tale is of Finn McCool who went over to Scotland to fight their Giants but got scared and ran home.  When the head Scottish Giant got wind that Finn had wanted to fight him, he marched right over to Ireland.  By that time Finn's wife had disguised him as a baby to keep him safe and so that the Scottish Giant wouldn't fight him.  When the Scottish Giant arrived and demanded to see Finn, Finn's wife only allowed the Scottish Giant to see their "baby" because her husband wasn't home.  Upon seeing the baby, the Scottish Giant fled back home because he was scared of how big the father was going to be if the baby was that big.  Silly little tale but fun to tell!!

After our retreat ended, getting back into the swing of things was interesting because I was trying to figure out what day it was and what I needed to do those days.  All in all, I got through them and everything was done!!

On Sunday, November 6, EBM held our first Church +.  Church + is basically supersized Sunday.  We began at 9:30 (set up began at 9am) with a light breakfast of Bacon Butties.  Bacon Butties are two slices of bacon on a bap (aka a roll).  I cooked over a hundred pieces of bacon but I certainly didn't mind because there were so many people for our first one!!  After breakfast, we split into three different groups, a discussion group, a family group, and a youth group (I believe).  I was helping lead the family group.  The focus for the entire morning was prayer and communion because in the normal church service at 11, a team of 18 people who completed prayer training were commissioned into service.  I was one of those 18 and our job is, in pairs, to offer/be available for people to come to us and have us pray with them.  Its something I never saw myself getting into but I am happy to have done it.  It forces me to step outside of my comfort zone and explore life a little bit more through prayer. 

Moving on to this past week (I don't think anything happened the week between church plus and this past week), a big event happened in my life.  On Thursday, I met the Taoiseach (the Prime Minister) of the Republic of Ireland, Enda Kenny.  Although I didn't have a lengthy conversation with him, I did shake his hand and tell him about what I am doing with EBM this year.  He came to see the projects that were going on with EBM since we are in the middle of building Skainos, to see the projects that Short Strand (our neighboring Catholic community) were doing, and to present an award at the Aisling Awards.  EBM won Best Business!!  Yay for EBM!!!  Oh and not to forget, we were on the news!!  Here is the link for the video!! http://ww.u.tv/utvplayer/video/140742/115279

I know this is a lot in one post but there is one more thing!!  Tonight, we attended the Christmas lighting ceremony.  Although it was geared more toward children, the actual lighting of the tree, City Hall and the street decorations were absolutely beautiful!! I'm sad I forgot my camera in the craziness of trying to get out of the door but I promise pictures of the tree, City Hall, streets and the Christmas market will all come soon!!

For now, I hope you enjoy some photos of the Giants Causeway!!

Carrick-a-rede rope bridge

Sheep's Island

Giants Causeway

Giants Causeway again!!  Look how big!!

Walking out to the tip of the Causeway!

Just to put how big it is into perspective!!
Hope you enjoyed this post!!  More will come soon!!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

"Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding" Albert Einstein

Do you ever wonder what it would be like to talk with somebody who has hurt you to your core?  Somebody who has hurt not only you but also your family and friends?  Ever wonder what peace/understanding would look like in that situation? Well this past Wednesday, I went to a talk between Patrick Magee and Jo Berry.  Pat and Jo are two people who have done this and still continue to do this today in connection with the Brighton Bomb and the hurt that was caused through the death of Jo's father, Anthony.

A little history for those who don't know what the Brighton Bomb was.  On October 12, 1984, Pat Magee set off a bomb at the Grand Hotel in Brighton England.  The bomb killed 5 people and injured 31 people.  It was an attempt to to assassinate the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet.  Pat had been to the hotel several weeks prior to set up the bomb, which was on a long time delay to allow for the bomb to sit through the upcoming weeks without exploding prematurely.  Margaret Thatcher and her husband were not injured but the bomb did kill Conservative MP Anthony Berry, Parliamentary Treasury Secretary John Wakeham's wife Roberta, Lady Muriel Maclean, Eric Taylor and Jeanne Shattock.  After detonating the bomb, Pat was found guilty and sentenced to prison for the 5 counts of murder he committed, which ended up being 8 life sentences.  He was released from prison in 1999 under the Good Friday Agreement. The Good Friday Agreement, also known as The Belfast Agreement, is an agreement between the British and Irish governments and was created to address the relationships in Northern Ireland, between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and between both parts of Ireland and England, Wales and Scotland.

Magee agreed, after several miscommunications, to meet with Jo Berry, the daughter of Anthony Berry, to meet and discuss the bomb and life in general.  In November 2000, Magee and Berry sat down for the first time, for three hours and talked.  The conversation started off with Magee trying to explain why he did through a political lens but soon turned to Berry explaining and questioning Magee about what happened and circumstances surrounding it.  From this point on, Magee and Berry have met probably over 80 times to talk with people about their experiences with and surrounding the bomb.

My eyes were opened to an incredible journey between two people from a horrible situation.  These two set a wonderful example to others that reconciliation is possible, from the smallest situations to situations on a grander scale.

On a completely different note, last Saturday (October 29), I went with 5 other YAV's to Carrickfergus.  We got to take the train, which is one of my favorite things to do here, and we were able to do it relatively cheap too!!!!  Once there, we decided that we were starving and decided that we needed to find a cheap place to eat, due to the fact that we are all on a stipend and are trying to live solely on that every two weeks.  After our cheap but delicious meal at the neighborhood pub, we made our way to the castle.  We thoroughly enjoyed our trip through the castle because after about 10 minutes of making our way through the outside grounds, a friend we met in the pub where we ate lunch and who worked at the castle, gave us a free and impromptu tour!! It was awesome to hear, not only the history of the castle, but also hear how the history of his family throughout the generations in relationship to the castle.  All in all, it was a great day and I can't wait to go back and spend a little more time there!!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

“We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey.” John Hope Franklin

Last Saturday, I did something that was completely out of my comfort zone.  I went to a new city, in a different country, by myself.  For me, this was absolutely terrifying at the beginning because I was completely unsure of what to expect and what I would/will do once I got to the city. 

Saturday morning at about 5:00, I was extremely unsure if I should/could even go on the trip or not.  I wasn't feeling the greatest and I was scared out of my wits but I couldn't justify losing the money I had spent on the train ticket and/or missing out on a great time.  Needless to say, about 6 a.m., I phoned for a cab (my first time doing that as well) to come pick me up and take me to the station.  5 minutes and 5 pounds later, I was at the station waiting to board my 6:50 a.m. train to Dublin.  The train ride was smooth but weird due to most of it being in the dark.  Now I am used to flying when it is dark (plus I really enjoy seeing the beautiful sunrises above the clouds) but riding on a train in the dark was interesting but a good way for me to catch up on about an hour of my sleep that I lost.  It was also really awkward because when you try to stare out the window to look at the scenery, you are actually staring at the people sitting on the other side of the train.  Finally, we pulled into Dublin Connolly Rail Station and I felt a bit more calm but was still seriously unsure of how to get where I wanted to go and how to get there.

Scenery on the train ride to Dublin

More beautiful green scenery!

I started off at the National Museum-Archeology.  I viewed everything from the exhibit of Kingship and Sacrifice to Ancient Egypt. All the plaques that were describing the artifacts were both in Gaelic and in English which was really cool because it was interesting to try and match up the English words with the Gaelic words.  It was interesting to see all the different types of jewelry and Ireland's gold that they have found all over Ireland and at the same time, mummified bodies of the Iron Age that were the result of human sacrifice. 

Description of the mummified guy below
Mummified guy in the Kingship and Sacrifice exhibit in the museum

Gold necklace's that people used to wear!! I don't plan on wearing those any time soon!!

What one would look like wearing the necklaces and ear plugs

 After the Museum, I decided that I wanted to see more of the city but wanted to be back for two tours of the National Library at 2:30pm, so I hopped on a Hop-On, Hop-Off bus.  Although I didn't get off the bus to explore the sights because of time constraints, I did see a wide variety of sights.  I saw everything from where Oscar Wilde's statue and where he grew up, to the Guinness Storehouse.  I plan on going back to view the sights in more depth later on this year but driving by the Storehouse, it had the most interesting smell ever.  To me, it smelt like somebody was cooking baby food, which is not how I imagined a brewery smelling.  

Guinness Storehouse/Brewery

Guinness Storehouse/Brewery

I got back just in time to grab a little lunch and head back to the National Library for the tour to the reading room.  The room was huge and had books dating back till the 1700's!!  Their catalog system is unlike anything that I have seen.  They have all of their books in ledgers on a bookshelf.  Once you find the book/s that you want, you take the information up and give it to the librarian who goes and looks in the stacks of the books they have and bring them to your table.  After the tour of the reading room, I went on a tour of the W. B. Yeats exhibition.  Apparently, William Butler Yeats was one of the most important 20th century poets.  The exhibition goes throughout Yeats's life from birth till death highlighting his main works.  It was interesting to see the actual works of the poet sitting in glass cases or seeing the last set of glasses the great poet wore.  If you would like to know more about the exhibition/take a virtual tour of the exhibition, you can visit the exhibition website, http://www.nli.ie/yeats/main.html

The library's catalog system!

Oldest book I found!! 1758!!!

After the tours of the library, I decided that it was time to head back towards the train station because it was starting to get dark and I didn't really want to be in a big city, at night, by myself.  On the way to the station, I entered quite a few shops just seeing what they had and the possibility of buying cheap items.  I entered one of my favorite stores, a soap shop.  Not knowing if I had enough Euros to buy food to get back and any unknown items I might pick up in the station, I refrained from buying.  Don't worry though because next time I am saving all of the money that I can and buy as much soap that I can (if I can find the shop again)!! :-)  It was the same way with all the chocolate shops that I passed.  They looked so good but seemed a little bit highly priced for the current monetary state I was in.  Oh well, next time!!

So all in all, it was a great day!!

Moving on to this week, the fellow YAV's and myself went with our site coordinator to the Holy Cross Benedictine Monastery. We went to their worship service which was very interesting and unique due to my inexperience with that type of service.  Talking with one of the monks and experiencing their worship and their prayer time, really allowed me to see the differences and similarities between our lives and worship styles.  I hope that I can go back one day and experience their worship again and talk to the monks again.  On our way out of the monastery, we made a stop by their little shop, which contained their homemade candles, postcards, cards, and beads.  It smelled fantastic and I definitely plan on buying more cinnamon scented candles!!

All in all, the past few weeks have been full of fun, exciting adventures, and great learning experiences!! There are many more to come and I can't wait!!  Thank you to everybody for your love and support throughout this year!! It means a lot to me and I hope you are enjoying this blog as much as I enjoy writing it!!!

Here are some random pictures to finish it off!! :-) 
Cool mosaic floor in the library

I saw fake leprechauns standing on the corner!!

A dog made out of sand!! So cool!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." - Howard Thurman

Well it has been a while since I have updated this and for that I am truly sorry.  I have been super busy and I know that's not an excuse but here's a little bit about what I have been doing.

Today, the Women's group met in Short Strand and started a program on Peace and Reconciliation. Throughout this program, we are looking at conflict and reconciliation in our lives and in the world today.  We worked through a working definition of what conflict is and how we see it in our lives.  We also explored the different terminology that goes along with conflict.  For example, we looked at the different between intra-personal conflict and inter-personal conflict.  Intra-personal conflict is a conflict that we have with ourselves.  An argument or disagreement about whether we want to eat a certain type of chips or drink a certain type of drink is an example of intra-personal conflict.  We each have this conflict within us whether we consciously realize it or not.  Inter-personal conflict is conflict between you and another person or persons.  This is the type of conflict we normally see in our everyday lives through war, abuse and through many more ways.  It's going to be interesting to be a part of this because the conflicts we, as Americans, is different than that of the people in Northern Ireland but all in all, it will be insightful to learn more about the commonalities and differences in our conflicts other than the obvious ones.

Going a little bit back in time, I went on a residential, aka a retreat, with the youth of the church this weekend to Annalong.  It was a great weekend and it gave me a change to really get to know the youth of the church.  We talked about where they see themselves in the church, what they want in terms of a youth group and what they want from the new Skainos building.  For fun, we went the the Peace Maze in Castlewellan, which is the largest maze in the UK and the second larges in the world, and to Newcastle to tour around the shops for about an hour.  The maze was a lot of fun and Tanita and I completed it without cheating and going over or through hedge.  All in all, the weekend was great but extremely tiring.  I'm still trying to get caught up on my sleep.  Haha!!

Going even a little father back, last Tuesday, the Women's group met with two or three other groups for a workshop for a play that we are going to see this upcoming Thursday, the 13th.  The play is called Guidelines by Tinderbox, a theatrical group here in Belfast.  The play is about 1% of the population that is left after a huge world disaster and how they survive.  They warn us that there are times in the play that might be uncomfortable but it should be interesting no less.  There will be more about the play in the next post.

All in all, I have had a great couple of weeks, busy but great.  This weekend we are going to Dublin for a day trip, so there will most def be pictures from that!! :-)

But for now, here are a few pictures of some of the peace walls here in Belfast, along with a few pictures of the maze!!

One of the Titanic Murals

Portraying how the Red Hand of Ulster came about

Largest maze in the UK

Largest Maze in the UK take 2!!

I feel its only appropriate to close this post with a Shel Silverstein quote: "I will not play tug o' war. I'd rather play hug o' war. Where everyone hugs instead of tugs, Where everyone giggles and rolls on the rug, Where everyone kisses, and everyone grins, and everyone cuddles, and everyone wins."  With the current Peace and Reconciliation course I'm in, this quote is all the more appropriate cause we need to learn to love one another no matter what, even if we have some differences.  Much love and thanks!!! :-)