Today we had a walking tour of East Belfast, along the Shankill Road, which the Loyalists and Protestants reside. Shankill runs parallel to Falls Road (Republic and Catholic side), and has seen just as many tragedies as the Falls. Our tourguide certainly made a sure to make a point of that and disclose his strong opinionated views too. I have to say it made for a quite interesting tour. He made it clear that the underlying resentment and anger still boil beneath the peaceful streets of Belfast.
East Belfast had murals and memorials as well. The main difference I saw between East Belfast and West Belfast was that East Belfast murals had more militant feel, which is understandable since many of the loyalists were part of the UVF and UDA. So several murals had guns and men in uniforms with ski masks (a/k/a “wooly faces”). Two memorials were for the people that died by bombings planted by the IRA. It was clear that both sides of the divide struggled to survive through the Troubles and no one was innocent.
We ended our afternoon at the Holy Cross with Father Gary, who gave us a tour of the small church, which few of our friends from Pips Programme belong to. Father Gary did not spare us of any of the tragic details that the church and the congregation has endured over the years, even as recent as 2001; yet, he was able to find the sliverlining to it all. Hope. He is one of the few priests left at Holy Cross. They are no where close to giving up on the people of Belfast and the community.
So it’s our last night in Belfast…I can’t believe it! My how 10 days flies. The people at Pips Programme and Belfast opened their hearts and homes to us and I will never forget their hospitality. They have made an imprint, one that I will not fully comprehend the depth of it until I get back home. I am sad it’s time to leave. 10 days just wasn’t enough time to hear the stories, the jokes, and share pints of Carlsberg (which I prefer over Guiness). I am certainly not in Kansas anymore and to that I am grateful because no where in Kansas could I get the best pour as I do here.
Jammie S. Rubio