And We’re Off…

BY: ALEXANDRA FLAMINI

I never thought I would become an international reporter before my sophomore year of college, but here I am, in Dublin, Ireland, gearing up to write my first piece. Despite jet lag, an inadequate plug converter and horrible coffee, I am reveling in a beautiful red-brick city surrounded by the greenest of green foliage.

Ireland is the epitome of religious conflict. Knowing of the resurgent clashes between Catholics and Protestants, a tension dating back generations, I knew that was where I would begin. I soon looked to Facebook and Twitter to find a source: someone my age living in Belfast. I stumbled across some interesting things, including an Irish Republic Army (IRA) members group. Wouldn’t that be like publically admitting you were part of the Ku Klux Klan? It was in a foreign language, and I most definitely felt intimidated.

Another group I found on Facebook was a youth activism group calling for the tearing down of the peace barriers separating Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods. Following a few links, I came across a most interesting organization called Full Court Peace.

The group aims to have Protestant and Catholic youths interact on basketball teams, and it’s based in the U.S. and in Belfast. Making sure we could get to Belfast via train from Dublin was a daunting task. Tickets from those locations cannot be reserved, and good luck finding the applicable rate to your trip.

Plus, Irish phone numbers are ridiculous. They consist of at least 12 numbers, not including the area codes. I don’t understand how anyone here remembers their number.

The co-founder, Dave Cullen, was extremely friendly, although a bit hard to understand because of his accent. Cullen offered to get the students together at a basketball court at Ormeau Park in Belfast on Saturday. A group of us are going to make the almost three-hour train ride up there.

I am both excited and nervous to head into Northern Ireland. Being a place notorious for its recent spurts of violence, it is an intimidating trip. But nothing seems more enthralling! Stay tuned.

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