I’m definitely growing in my understanding of Belfast, getting an inkling of how much there is I just don’t see and pick up on. The area where our house is in south Belfast is a mixed area. There are several of these but most of the city is clearly carved up between Protestant and Catholic. You can pick it up from the murals painted on the sides of many buildings and what team the occupants of any given pub are supporting. I can pick out someplaces as clearly loyalist, and others as republican, but a native knows intuitevely the intricate patchwork of the city. It’s somewhat boggling to me how present the sectarian differences are here, having grown up in relatively homogenous suburban america where most people could really care less about religious background (or too commonly religion at all). A perseptive fellow can normally nail down someones denominational background through a few simple questions like “what’s your name?”, “where do you live?”, and “where did you go to school?”.
Last night there was a Charis Lord’s Day celebration. I’m really enjoying getting to know the brothers and sisters in Charis. As I think many of you know the Sword of the Spirit communities have a set of prayers and a special meal on Saturday night in order to usher in Sunday and observe it, the day of Christ’s resurrection, in a prayerful, thankful, and joyous way. The Charis community has one Saturday a month where the whole community joins together for the opening prayers and then goes to different houses for the meal. I went to the McFaddens, a Protestant family. They hosted me along with a couple folks from TEC and a Catholic family. The whole time was delightful, an easygoing and entirely pleasant affair. It’s so clear to me what a blessing it is for folks from different traditions to live life together and support one another in following Christ. It’s clear that this is a blessing, but unfortunately it’s a bit under represented in Belfast. Overall I’m thankful to be living in the midst of this people who have found such rich life together amidst the real obstacles to that here in Belfast.
Today the lads here in the house had a bit of an outing together. We went hiking up by Belfast castle to a place called Napolean’s nose (it looks a bit like a giant sleeping with the highest point being the nose, but I’m not sure where the Napolean bit comes in). A nice little climb, from the top you can get a view of much of Belfast, this one here is of North Belfast and Belfast Lough (actually taken on a previous occasion by Bruce, our view today was a bit cloudier). We brought along the houses frisbee supply and played frolf up and down the hike. From the top there was a stiff wind going, very difficult to get off a good throw. Q had one that caught some thermals and went farther then I’ve ever seen one go in my life. I had a good stretch until I had a seriously errant throw go well off the path down a steep hill, landing in the middle of a thick patch of black berries, wild rose, and stinging nettles. After slow progress for about twenty minutes I managed to recover the disc. Amazingly, despite many precarious lies, all of our frisbees made it home. They’ll be able to threaten the Irish public on yet another occasions.
One more aspect of life here I’m figuring out a bit are some of the language differences. There are many, maybe I’ll try to keep up a little running Irish lexicon. Here are a few of the more important, or just entertaining, ones so far:
Slaggin’ and slags off: the Northern Irish well refined art of cutdowns, backhanded compliments, and sarcasm. You need a slightly thicker skin then back home, but it’s generally good natured.
Yousons: All of you folks, just like y’all.
Uni: The universtiy. If I’m trying to blend in I might ask someone what they’re taking at uni, ie what are you studying. Truth be told I don’t blend very well.
So I was: an emphatic, many variations on the theme, some of the lads here can distill half a dozen variations in a single sentence.
What’s the craic?: What’s going on with you, how are things going, can also be used descriptively- I was heading from city center to uni, so I was, and saw some of my mates there on the corner, so I did, and asked them if they wanted to go for a swallie (get a drink). So we ducked in and grabbed a pint, so we did, and, aye – it was good craic … so it was.
Slicked (two syllables, slick-ed): I’ve only heard this one once but I think it’s brilliant. Basically it’s a contraction of sly and wicked, could be used to describe someone who sneakily always manages not to buy a round at the pub or the like.
God Bless yousons, I appreciate all your prayers. I’ve gotta go get washed up and remove the last prickers from my lacerated limbs now.