Monday, September 25, 2006

Some great days in Northern Ireland

A couple weekends ago we all went to the beach, technically to go surfing but really to get out of Belfast, visit Tosti and Rosanna at the Downhill Hostel, and play in the sun!
Tosti and Yonkers working out their game plan... Lookin good Yonks, sorry for posting your topless pics on my blog...

My favorite girl!
Yonkers was better than he let on, and he caught some good waves despite the fact that the surf wasn't that great...

This was after Graham, Eli, Malia and I got caught on Cave Hill during the rainstorm... they've just scaled that cliff, Graham bailed, and we were all covered with mud but look how manly they are! Haha!
Malia and I at the Stiff Kitten, totally sweaty and totally happy with the random European dance music!

Graham and I downtown imitating every sculpture we could find in between intense rounds of "Would You Rather?"

Chris and I at Woodvale Park... two year reunion! I love this kid!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Words I swore I'd never use

which are now staples in my vocabulary:
any derogatory nicknames that generally mean douchebag, ie; tosser, header, wanker
And their opposite, "love," which is one of my favorite pet names that applies to everyone:
"You alright, love?"
"Your man"- UK equivalent to "whatshisface"
wee- use this word in reference to anything, at any time. seriously. throw it in a sentence and it'll probably work. "Your wee man's a tosser."
sussed- figured out. "Don't worry, it's all been sussed out."
Other quirks include:
adding "like," "just" or "but" to the end of sentences rather than beginnings:
"It's a nice house but." "I'll have two just." "It's two o'clock like."
"That's me"/"I'm away"- I'm leaving. Peace.
Do your head in- drive you crazy
"What about you?"- this means what's up, but it comes out "Boutchee?" and did my head in for a long time
Aye- yes. This one sounds a lot better than "yeah" to me and I started saying, "Oh aye" without even realizing it. People probably think I'm a total tosser.

Can't tell you how many times I've heard that Gig Harbor kids have an accent and vocab all our own, well here in the UK, "As soon as you open your mouth and say even two or three words people know where you are from, what you do for a living, who you know, how much you earn and who you vote for." That's like someone from Fremont picking out a Belltown resident after the first sentence. I'm getting there, but the cards are stacked against me; not only do I work in North Belfast where the accent is super thick, but I work with teenagers who won't slow down or say a sentence without 50% obscure slang. Once I get downtown (not much more than a mile away) the language becomes crystal clear to me. Still, they put the emPHAsis on the wrong syllABle, add vowels which completely change a word (aluminium, anyone?), and refuse to open their mouths when they talk (don't hate me for my blatant generalizing). Rumor has it the people here in Norn Arn speak English... but I'm gonna need more evidence.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Casualty Count: 0

I thought that maybe moving over here seemed a bit simple, so it was only natural that I have a rough week at some point! The last couple weeks have involved more than a few tears, a bit of realism, and an afternoon in the ER.
Vocab lessons to follow, but my "wee" lesson of the day was the discovery that the ER is referred to here as the "casualty." Excuse me? To me this word can only refer, in some way, to me not being alive anymore, and I wanted nothing to do with it! But I couldn't avoid it any longer after what I thought was a bruised rib turned into something that made every heartbeat and deep breath HURT! (Cut to me, sitting all alone in a massive Belfast hospital, thinking I am about to die- cue tears and me practicing my "big brave girl" face). But after cardiac tests and a failed blood exam (during which I almost passed out before the doctor could even get any blood), his best guess was an inflamed lung, and he sent me on my way. A whole depressing afternoon of watching babies with bonked heads, broken limbs, drugged up men and crying girls run through the hospital and all I got was a prescription for ibuprofen?
But the inflamed lung was only the clincher of the rough week I think of as my adjustment phase. Just three weeks into it and I think a lot of things hit me at once: how difficult my job actually is, how isolated and lonely I feel so much of the time, and the total lack of structure my year has. In a lot of ways I am starting everything from scratch. After so long in the Greek system/INN safety net, I have to be much more intentional with my relationships. I don't have 40 girls living on the same floor. I don't have church services with hundreds of people to talk to. I have to seek out and take advantage of every opportunity to meet people and spend time with them that I possibly can, and I am realizing that I just have a really hard time being alone for extended periods of time. On one hand I appreciate the fact that I can take lots of time for myself- to read, to study a bit, to think, to ask questions. On the other hand, I miss having people around constantly!
So I have been working really hard on creating my own community again. I met one of the elders at Crumlin Road, and when I found out his visitation schedule, I just invited myself along. Let me tell you, there is nothing I love more than sitting around drinking tea and eating shortbread while listening to old people tell stories, and somehow I have a job that EXPECTS me to do that. Anyway, I am quickly discovering how weighty the stories from this area can be. After a morning of hearing tales of talented girls who committed suicide, boys who get beat up for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and other sad stories collected after lifetimes in north Belfast, I came back to the Drennans on the verge of tears (not an unusual state for me lately). All my normal questions that I run past people failed me. All I could think of to ask Jack was, "Does it ever stop striking you as glaringly painful and unjust? When does someone stop seeing this entire situation as individual faces and stories that will break you down and start seeing the entire situation as a fact of life?" He told me that at some point, you have to harden yourself up to it. You just can't let your heart be torn open every time you see or hear something that really is heartbreaking-- you have to let it bounce off you, to some extent, for your own survival. And finding the balance between hardening yourself to the situation and still letting yourself be sensitive to it enough to change it is the struggle.
So I've been struggling. But I've been learning how to be satisfied with life as it comes at me, whether it's a day when the teenagers almost kill each other or a day when I get to hang out at Fisherwick with Yonkers, Eli, Malia and Peter and get some down time. There are plenty of things to be joyful about, it's whether or not I'm willing to look for them, and I am adjusting to living for the little pictures as well as the big one.