Reagan Villet 5/16/16
As I am someone who has been traveling since before I could speak, I am not usually one to be excited about a flight; I want to get on and off as fast as possible. However, traveling in to Belfast was a completely different experience for me. Flying over scenic mountains, cliffs, and ocean, and seeing more green than I possibly ever have in my entire life was a view that I will never forget.
Arriving in Belfast was very nerve-racking for me, but as the day progressed and more of my fellow Spartans arrived, I realized how excited I actually was, not only to make new friends and learn new things, but to fully immerse myself in a brand new culture. The first day flew by, and before I knew it, we were on day two and embarking on our first scheduled activity, a double-decker bus tour through the city. We were able to see many different important sites in Belfast, including the parliament building, the Titanic museum, and the location where they shoot the popular show “Game of Thrones“. We also got a brief history of the conflict that Northern Ireland, and specifically Belfast, has faced in its past (and even still continues to face to this day).Our group decided to head down to Queen’s University after the tour, and we were able to explore a U.K. college campus, comparing and contrasting it to our buildings at MSU.
Our second activity was a Black Cab tour of Belfast, which was a much more in-depth look at the conflict and war surrounding the city, and Northern Ireland as a whole. We learned about “The Troubles“, a time of war between the Nationalists (Catholics), and the Unionists (Protestants), and how the effects of this have carried on into the current generations. I was so surprised that I had never heard of any of this conflict before, and I was overcome with emotions for the people of this city. I could see the sadness in our tour guide’s eyes as he spoke of the violence that he has seen, and his hope that his grandchildren would never have to experience such times. It was so interesting to be in both Nationalist and Unionist communities, to see the walls that separated them, and to hear about their beliefs and thoughts. I was very intrigued by their wall murals and the peace wall, not only because of the artistic expression that went into them, but by the way that the two different communities express themselves and their beliefs. In the Unionist community we saw a mural of a man considered a hero, but a murderer to the Nationalists. On the Nationalist side, we saw a mural of a man who fought for his beliefs and the rights of his group, but was considered a nuisance to the Unionists. This made me reflect on many of my own conflicts that I have experienced. While I often am set on my personal beliefs and feelings, I tend to forget that the other person/persons that I am conflicting with have their own thoughts and beliefs too; that they think are right just as equally as I do.
I think I was impacted most by seeing the Peace Wall today. Seeing something that is so powerful and large, with beautiful artwork and signatures from all over the world was really wonderful and exciting to see and sign myself. However as I reflect on these pictures, I can only think about the fact that this wall was, and in a way still continues to be a necessity. My hope is that one day the people of Belfast will be able to live in peace in their beautiful city, learning to coexist as neighbors, not divided by religion, nationality, or hatred. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools“.