By Camille Douglas
It’s only the end of day three, and already I cannot believe how time has flown by. It seems like it was just yesterday that I was getting onto the first plan ride back in Windsor, Canada, and journeying here to Belfast. Yet, these first few days have been jammed pack with sightseeing, exploring new tastes at different restaurants, making new friends, etc. But already, as I look back, there are many firsts that I can check off, with some being:
- My first time flying alone
- My first time experiencing jet lagged (it is very unpleasant)
- My first time being abroad
- My first time being able to walk into a bar and order a drink legally.
- Being the first member in my immediate family to travel outside the U.S.A. and abroad
- My first time truly trying to immerse myself into another country’s culture
I don’t think that there is just one word that can sum up the plethora of emotions I am having. I’m excited, eager, nervous, a little scared, amazed, etc. Wandering around the city, I am having little moments where I have to remind myself that this is real. I am truly here. I realize that this is just the beginning of a lifetime journey of mine to fulfill my dream of traveling and seeing the whole world (well, as much of it as I can). I’m overwhelmed with everything as I want to make sure I try to take in as much as I can in the time that we have in the five countries we visit while also having the experience of a lifetime. So far, these last few days have been some of the best times in my life.
Coming to Belfast, I was unknowledgeable of all of the history that lies behind the old brick buildings. The Belfast City Tour helped introduced me to little bits and pieces of the culture and history. It was the perfect way to get a first look at the city as significant monuments and buildings were pointed out to and identified.
But taking The Black Cab tour really put in perspective the struggle and hardship the people of this beautiful city had endured. The cab drivers transformed the tour to make it seem like we went back in time 20 years ago. They taught us about the violent conflicts – otherwise known as “The Troubles” – that lasted 30 years between the unionist Protestants and the nationalist Catholics.
The violence and dangers are a rarity today, but some tensions still remain between the groups. There is still massive 30 foot wall, known as The Peace Wall, that continues to divide the city of Protestants from the city of Catholics.
While our tour guides acknowledged that the city has progressed much already from these dark times, there is still much to be done. One of the tour guides said that the wall – though the government said it will come down in 2023 – it will truly come down when the people are ready. No one can predict when that will be. Like my fellow peers, I hope that these two groups find peace with one another, that a wall will no longer be necessary and torn down.
Belfast is a beautiful city, filled with so much history and lively locals. I’m a little sadden that tomorrow will be the last day here, but I am excited to continue on with this journey and to see what is next.