Au Revoir, Dublin! Bonjour, Paris!

BY ALEXANDRA FLAMINI

Completion.

As Derek explained in a previous post, nothing makes me more confident that I love journalism than stepping back and having a completed piece in front of me. The challenges with sources, word choice and harsh deadlines make the end product that much more rewarding.

Forgive me for being clichéd, but writing a news story is like piecing together a puzzle…scavenger hunt style. The pieces aren’t boxed together. You have to search them out and then begin to assemble the chunks.

From my last post, everything, as you know, was up in the air. The chances of not getting to Belfast were high. But sometimes, that’s all part of the adventure.

In short, we arrived at the train station and found out that you could buy a ticket for any train and get on at any time. We had to buy the tickets online, though, to receive the 20 euro rate. The Internet café across the street was closed, and the only working Internet computer in the station was occupied by a silver-haired elderly woman researching her genealogy. This woman could not take a hint that we were in a rush to buy tickets online.

After we bought her remaining computer time, we had only 20 minutes to get our tickets (or so we thought). So I typed in the credit card and passenger info as fast as I could with the pressure of defusing a bomb…only to find out we were 30 minutes early.

Did I mention it was pouring rain and hail?

The train ride (yes, we did get on and had seats) was beautiful. We went up the coast along the stormy, gray Irish sea. What a sight. Two hours later we arrived in dreary Belfast.

We met our interesting (for lack of a better word) cabby, Patrick. He took us to the Full Court Peace office after Dave Cullen gave him directions changing locations. Twice.

We met with Dave Cullen and T.J. Reynolds at the Full Court Peace office and had tea. Never have I had a more honest conversation with a group of strangers. If they’re reading this, thank you again, a million times over.

They then took us to the local recreation center, where we met with the players and coaches, who were all so friendly. They conducted a practice, so I got some pictures and had a great time. I interviewed a Protestant and a Catholic student and was amazed by their lighthearted attitudes toward the violence that had occurred when they were little.

Inspired by this courageous group (the coaches and T.J. don’t get paid and live off 20 to 30 pounds a week), we headed off with Patrick the cabby on our “terror tour.”

We saw the peace line, a wall that has outlasted the Berlin Wall, and stretches 4 kilometers in its longest section. There are political murals painted on both sides. When we ventured into a Catholic neighborhood that backs right up to the wall, we saw scorch marks from when the residents had been burned out of their homes. Now, metal cages encase their backyards to protect them from bricks and petrol bombs tossed over.

I rode the train back in awe. It’s all so recent, so violent, so hushed in the south. The people in the north seem tired, sleepy, exhausted from the fighting. They carry scars, emotional baggage and hatred. The Dubliners laugh it off as just a trivial part of Irish history. But really, it runs way deeper than that.

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