We're off to Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Amsterdam, Paris, and Ireland as a retirement celebration trip.
  • FIVE PHOTOGRAPHS: Portland Home Again

    July 19 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

    I just wanted to express gratitude to you all for following our journey. Although it was a twenty-hour travel day, it went quite smoothly. The security queues weren't too long, and we were lucky to have resting time in the hospitality lounges at Dublin and Heathrow.

    When we were flying into Heathrow, I noticed that we flew over Windsor Castle.

    Our direct flight from Heathrow to Portland was smooth and comfortable. We flew a very northerly route over Iceland and Greenland. We were grateful to be able to travel in Business Class (Yay for stockpiled mileage points).

    We recognize how very lucky we were to be able to take this trip. We have learned so much from the experience. It was a special treat to make acquaintances along the way. I really do think that we will forge some long-lasting friendships.

    I want to close with gratitude to my husband. He first proposed that we do this about 15 months ago. I really was surprised that he was open to going for so long. It was a great way to bookmark the next chapter in our lives. I shall be forever grateful to him for pushing the idea. The experience was powerful and healing.

    Be well, friends and family. I'm signing off from Portland.
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    Richard Isaac

    Great trip! Thanks for sharing your adventures, photos, and thoughts.

    Jim Fotter

    Thank you, Rich. I hope that you and Kevin have a great trip.

    Reggie Gulley

    Thanks for sharing this with all of us. Looks like it was a great trip. Welcome home!

    Jim Fotter

    Thank you, Reggie.

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  • CÚIG GHRIANGHRAF-Ireland Day 31

    July 18 in Ireland ⋅ ☁️ 22 °C

    And we made it to Dublin Bonus Day 3. In theory, we will be home tomorrow at 5 pm PDT if the travel gods are aligned.

    One of the many things that I appreciate about our relationship is the willingness to take separate adventures. Today Jim took the train to Howth, a picturesque coastal fishing village that draws tourists to the area. He remarked that the area reminded him of Cape Elizabeth,ME, the affluent coastal community that is home to the Portland Head Light. I chose to walk to Glasnevin Cemetery, the final resting place of many important historical figures ranging from key revolutionaries, labor leaders, Suffragettes, artists and sports heroes.

    At the center of the cemetery is O'Connell Tower named for Daniel O'Connell was famous for helping Catholics to win the right to become members of Parliament in the UK. Irish person who lived during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. He also wanted Ireland to have its own parliament. He became known as the “Liberator” because he advicated for Irish people's rights.

    I hesitated before considering going up the 198-step journey to the top of the tower. I was intrigued that the start of the journey began in O'Connell's crypt. His resting place was housed in an ornate sarcophagus. I was encouraged to touch his casket which is said to bring good luck. Guess what I wished for?

    There were two aspects of the crypt that I found a bit amusing: O'Connell purportedly said, " My body in Dublin, my heart in Paris (where he died), my soul in Heaven." People weren't certain if O'Connor's reference to "...his heart in Paris" was literal or figurative. They went with the former. Also, O'Connell's family members are also interred in the crypt. This sounds more elegant than it is; it looked more like a Jenga pile of caskets in a storage closet.

    I do consider it a moral victory that I made it to the tower. I'm deathly afraid of heights,an apt description given my launching point. The 360-degree view was spectacular.

    After I left the tower I went see the gravesite of Michael Collins, an Irish revolutionary, soldier and politician who was a central figure in Ireland's fight for independence in the early 1900's. He was assassinated at the age of 31 in an ambush.

    There are many other important leaders laid to rest in this cemetery. I was moved by a tribute to, Michael Carey, the first person buried here who died of tuberculosis at the age of 11.

    I did make it a point to visit the site of James "Big Jim" Larkin who was a famous labor leader in Ireland's history. There is also a statue of him near our hotel with this inscription:

    "The great appear great because we are on our knees. Let us rise!"

    I made it back to the hotel in time to join a new acquaintance and his friend for coffee. I really enjoyed our conversation and shared experiences.

    Jim and I prepared for our trip home again, and we again joined our friend Frank from the Portland Gay Men's Chorus for dinner. We has a great conversation, a nightcap at a nearby pub, and we settled in for what we hope will be an uneventful trip home.

    It's been an incredible journey. Thank you for joining us.
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    Mark Brady Smith

    Have a safe and uneventful journey home! We will miss ye guys but we will meet again! “May the road rise to me ye!” ☘️

    Jim Fotter

    Thank you, friend. You both gave us such a great launch in Ireland. Warm regards! 💚

    Nancy Carroll

    You climb the tower! Great way to cap your travels! Congratulations. 💪🏻Safe travels tomorrow! ❤️

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  • CÚIG GHRIANGHRAF-Ireland Day 30

    July 17 in Ireland ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    Today is bonus day 2 in Dublin, and it was pretty low key for us despite the frenetic hurling fans' in the city. We started the day with a delicious breakfast in the hotel. Jim C opted to get a haircut, and I mostly relaxed in our hotel room. I didn't particularly sleep well as the revelers were quite loud into the wee hours of the morning, and the air was a bit warm and still.

    I wanted to find the Molly Malone statue as it reminded me of my elementary teacher leading us in songs from other countries. It's interesting how I might not remember someone's name from six months ago, but I can belt out the lyrics of Molly Malone, English Country Garden, Waltzing Matilda and visualize my teachers leading us in song.

    Molly, as portrayed by the sculptor, could also be in competition with Dolly Parton for her well-endowed bosom. I noticed the amusement of other tourists as well while we were taking photos.

    Right next to Molly was a painting of a downtrodden man with a despairing poem. It reminded me of the panhandlers who we have seen on the streets. With rare exception they have been exceedingly polite and offering well wishes despite my declining response. I'm reminded of our privilege and the need to do more to support those who need our help.

    We stopped for lunch at a nearby Thai restaurant that was quite good, and then we started working our way back to the hotel. On the way, we passed the Irish Rock Hall of Fame, and we approached the famous Temple Bar. We decided to stop for a drink. The bar has many lively rooms with considerable memorabilia. In a nearby room, two local singers were singing traditional Irish songs, but then switched to "Sweet Caroline" with the obligatory crowd sing- shouting "BAH BAH BAH!!!!"

    I'm glad that we stopped in the Temple Bar. On one level, we've resisted the urge to visit the "you must go see" places life the Guinness warehouse or the Jameson Distillery or the Titanic Museum in Belfast. We were pleasantly surprised by the experience. While we were at the bar, Limerick squeezed out an all Ireland hurling championship and there are many happy fans in green shirts mixed with the black and yellow clad fans rooting for Kilkenny's losing team.

    We ended the day with a Zoom call back home with one of our community groups. The call reminded me how much we miss these people.They are among our treasured friends and we are excited to see them.

    We are enjoying a quiet night with the exception of the bar across the street belting out a traditional Irish song loop. I should have them memorized soon. We have discovered that Irish songs have a bit of a formulaic structure to them. I might write one of my own dedicated to British Airways. Best to you all from Dublin.
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  • Day94

    CÚIG GHRIANGHRAF-Ireland Day 29

    July 16 in Ireland ⋅ ☁️ 23 °C

    Today was "bonus" day 1 in Dublin. When we woke up, my first thought was "we should be on our flight home right now". It was a fleeting thought though as we planned for the day. We started the day with a great breakfast in a nearby café as our hosts were entranced with a rugby game with Ireland as a finalist (they won).

    It was one of the few sunny days that we've had in Ireland, and it was absolutely spectacular. We had booked a hotel about a mile and a half away and we decided to just walk with our backpacks. When Jim first proposed that we only take two backpacks on this trip, I was skeptical. Since then, every time I have seen tourists lugging roller bags over cobblestones, I'm grateful for his wisdom. It's also been great for my strength and endurance. Walking has definitely become a healthy habit, and I have enjoyed our walling adventures-definitely a gift of our European travels.

    We said good-bye to our hosts, Peter and Jarek. They really were delightful, and we appreciated our stay with them. We made our way over to Wynn's Hotel, a stately older property across the river in Dublin. The desk receptionist found us an available room for an early check in, and she handed us a key with an attached weight that reminded me of sinkers used in deep-sea fishing. She advised us that it might be prudent to leave the key at the property when venturing out rather than carrying the key. We checked into our room which is spacious and comfortable.

    We learned that there is a premium fee was added to the room as Dublin is hosting the hurling finals on Sunday. At the risk of being gross, I do have to admit that every time Ireland boasts its affinity for hurling, my warped mind goes to the slang definition "Well, of course it is, given Ireland's stereotypical reputation for heavy drinking." Hurling is an ancient Gaelic outdoor sport resembling Gaelic football. The closest thing I can otherwise think of is lacrosse although the sport seems pretty fierce like rugby.

    One fun fact that I learned: The game has been described as "a bastion of humility", with player names absent from jerseys and a player's number decided by his position on the field.

    A local acquaintance also told us of the legend of the "Mayo (county) curse:

    "According to this much-disputed story, a priest put a curse on Mayo football after the lorry transporting the victorious ’51 players failed to pay proper respects to a funeral cortege in Foxford. Supposedly the priest decreed that Mayo would not win another All-Ireland until all members of the team had gone to their eternal rest." The last player passed last September at the age of 95. I'm not sure how Mayo fared during the season, but we thought it was a funny story.

    Meanwhile sports fans will be out in force today as they root for Limerick and Kilkenny. I guess I have to root for Limerick given my ancestral ties.

    We learned that there was going to be a Trans/Intersex March in Dublin during the afternoon. We thought we would go watch the march as a show of solidarity and alignment with my Q Center volunteer work back home. John, an online acquaintance told us that he was planning to March so we decided to join him.

    While we were waiting for the march to begin, I talked with some of the organizers. One organizer was attached to the international Socialist party, and when he learned that we were from the Pacific Northwest, he asked if we knew Kshama Sawant. I told him that I knew her, and that we have voted for her once on the City Council, but we didn't support her in the subsequent term. We had a good conversation about activism. I shared with him that I appreciated the topics that she raised, particularly the fight for increasing the minimum wage, but that attacking perceived opponents was not a winning strategy if you can't build a winning coalition.

    We appreciated the opportunity to march, particularly as a show of support for members of our community who are severely marginalized. We also have missed Pride celebrations back home as well as across Europe. This felt like a grounding opportunity.

    One of the landmarks of the neighborhood where we're staying in a large stainless steel spire that reaches 121 meters in height. I learned that this spire was built at the former site of the Horatio Nelson pillar which was bombed by the IRA in the mid '60's. When we asked John about the purpose of the spire, he remarked that no one seemed to know and that the only cool feature was when they made it look like a Star Wars light saber. I have decided to rename the momunent "The No Point Pointed Needle". (Space Needle seemes to have been claimed.)

    We ended the evening with a spectacular Itakian dinner, the best we've had since our time in Italy. Despite our disappointment in not being home, I do think that we managed to make limoncello from lemons.
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    Mark Brady Smith

    👏 there is a clip on Twitter of the March and I spotted you but could not find Jim C! Hope ye have a great day today!

    Mark Brady Smith


    Jim Fotter

    Thank you, friend.


    Safe and smooth travels home!

  • Day93

    CÚIG GHRIANGHRAF-Ireland Day 28

    July 15 in Ireland ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    We had a bit of a rocky start today. When we woke up, I noticed a reference to an Alaska Airlines alert to a schedule change. Most of these changes have been trivial, but we learned from the agent that British Airways had canceled the Dublin to London flight, our first leg of our trip home tomorrow.

    We tried calling British Airways to explore other back-up options, and we heard recorded announcements to call back later. We decided to take an Uber to the airport to see if we could talk to a live person. 30€ later, we discovered that no one was at the BA ticket counter upon our arrival at the terminal. At this point, I kept trying to call Alaska Airlines back and the call dropped several times until we discovered that British Airways had rebooked flights from Saturday to Tuesday.

    I should note that we know that air travel this summer in Europe and some cities in the U.S. have been quite a trial for many travelers. We don't expect to have some magical exemption to protect a cancellation from happening to us. But I did have a bit of a meltdown when there was just no one to talk with about a remedy. British Airways is complete "shite" 💩 as they say over here.

    In the scheme of things, we're fine. We've booked a hotel for three more nights at a reasonable price in the heart of a really great city. The weather is expected be sunny and warm. We're not missing an important family event or an important work meeting. We will likely be reimbursed for most or all of our expenses caused by the delay.

    My childish side still claims the right to some sulking and fuming time. I was happy to embrace my inner twelve-year-old. And admittedly I did revert to a few hours of life not being fair.

    Jim C chose a walk in a park and reading a new book as a coping strategy. I chose being holed up in our bedroom and an eventual walk around the city with a quick culinary diversion of Dutch Apple pie.

    Jim snd and I had a rendezvous at The George, and we has a great Asian meal of stuffed dumplings and noodles. We met up with an online acquaintance, and we had a great conversation with him. It was fun hearing about his hiking travels in Wyoming and Montana

    When we returned to the flat, we had a great conversation with our gracious hosts.

    In reflection, when I'm in a deficit mind frame, I have learned that a good cure is to make gratitude lists. That shift was catalyzed by a walk through Love Alley, a space where the walls were decorated with hearts and various affirmations and excerpt from song lyrics. One in particular caught my eye:

    "We have enough.
    We have each other.
    We have everything."

    Indeed we do.
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    We had a small bump in our trip earlier this summer. An eleven hour wait in Manchester to fly to Dublin. Two cancelled flight and one delayed 3+ hours. Similarly, the lack of airline staff (in our case, Aer Lingus) created a vacuum of information that increased our frustration. But, as they say, truly a first world problem. [Mary Lindquist]

    Marvin Newton

    Although I am disheartened you won’t be home tomorrow, I am glad you are safe and able to explore that beautiful city a couple more days. See you soon friends!

    Nancy Carroll

    Glad you found Love Alley and some peace of mind on such a challenging day. Love you two! ❤️

    Jim Fotter


  • Day92

    CÚIG GHRIANGHRAF-Ireland Day 27

    July 14 in Ireland ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    We checked out Phoenix Park today which is also the home of the Dublin Zoo. The park is massive and well kept with beautiful garden beds and trees.

    We enjoyed our trip to the zoo. We sometimes go to zoos with mixed feelings as we worry about the enclosures where animals are housed. The Dublin Zoo was a nice exception, as the areas where the elephants, lions and gorillas were kept were quite spacious, and efforts to match habitat were notable. The zoo walk is pleasant, and it's fun to listen to the kids with Irish accents. It reminded us of missing our zoo time with Olive.

    After leaving the zoo we walked back toward the city and stopped at the Brazen Head Pub for wings, chips and a pint. The Brazen Head is the oldest pub in Ireland dating back to the late 12th century. This underscores our experience in Europe: In the states we consider something very old if it is over 150 years old. It's been hard to fathom witnessing sites that are thousands of years old as well as staying in neighborhoods from Medieval times.

    We had no plans this evening, and we went to a movie, something we haven't done the whole trip. Jim C and I went to see "Everything, Everywhere, and All at Once". He hadn't seen it, and it was the last film that I saw in a movie theater right before we left for our trip. We found the showing at the Irish Film Institute, and it reminded us of the smaller movie theaters back home. It was another good day in Dublin.
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    Mark Brady Smith

    “De Azoo” in Dublin is fab. A great day out. I was thinking about you both as I passed through Dublin today.

    Jim Fotter

    looks like we have some bonus days. Our flight home was canceled. Tuesday departure now

    Mark Brady Smith

    You know where we are and only a message away if at a loose end! Sorry to hear about the flight! 😞

    Jim Fotter

    thank you. let's just say I'm not a fan of British Airways. zero communication from them

    Mark Brady Smith

    Seems to be the story with a lot of companies unfortunately.

  • Day91

    CÚIG GHRIANGHRAF-Ireland Day 26

    July 13 in Ireland ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    Today our destination was to see the Book of Kells and the Long Hall at Trinity College. I had not really known much about the book and first heard a reference to it in an animated fiction movie that our son-in-law told us about, "The Secret of Kells". Our granddaughter's middle name is Aisling and her parents parents chose it because her piercing blue eyes reminded her father of that character.

    The Book of Kells is an illustrated manuscript of the four Gospels and its thought to have been created by monks around the beginning of the 9th Century. The calligraphy is intricate and supposedly given more attention than the actual text accuracy. It's name comes from a monastery in Ireland where it was housed for centuries.

    We had a timed entry to set the exhibit, and we were first led to a maze of background displays before entering the room where the book is displayed. We found the prefacing displays to be a bit random and unclear about sequencing. I did like seeing the example of parchment although purportedly the pages were not paper, but made from tanned calf skins(vellum) cured with excrement.

    We were not allowed to take photos of the displayed portion of the book displayed. It was pretty amazing to see how vibrant the colors were given that it is around 1300 years old.

    We proceeded to the Long Hall after leaving the display. It was one of the most magnificent libraries that I have ever witnessed. The rows of books packed in two levels of ceiling high bookshelves was really spectacular. Both the visual display and the smell of the woodwork and books created a memorable sensory experience.

    I'm reminded that an e-book is no substitute for the feel and smell of a book. I could have just sat and meditated in that beautiful library for hours. I'm grateful for the books that we have at home.

    After enjoying burritos outdoors on a sunny afternoon, we made our way to St Patrick's Cathedral which is near where we are staying. St. Patrick's Cathedral was founded as a Catholic cathedral in 1191 A.D. It is currently the national Cathedral of the Church of Ireland. One of the Cathedral's most notable deans was Jonathan Swift, author of "Gulliver's Travels" and other works. The Cathedral is known for its choir who also participated in the first performance of Handel's "Messiah". The church was in considerable disrepair in the 19th century, and the famous brewmaker Guinness contributed funds for its restoration. It's interesting that both Cathedrals in Dublin were restored by brewers.

    We took a rest in the afternoon and we enjoyed a return visit to The George for a beer. We went to a nearby Japanese restaurant for dinner, and we returned to our flat. We wrapped the evening with a nice conversation with our hosts. It was another great day in this beautiful city.
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  • Day90

    CÚIG GHRIANGHRAF-Ireland Day 25

    July 12 in Ireland ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    Today was our first full day in Dublin. We started with breakfast with Peter and Jarek, and we decided that this would just be a "get a feel for the" city day and we would select attractions as the mood called us.

    Today was overcast, but the temperatures were pleasant. We passed by St. Patrick's Cathedral an Anglican Church where Jonathan Swift once served as its Dean.

    We decided to explore Christ Church Cathedral which was built under Viking in the early 11th century. My first impression of the church was the sense of how old it was. We learned that the roof collapsed in the 16th century and it was rebuilt from a wealthy distiller of whiskey hundreds of years later.

    Besides the church, one of the first things that captures your eye is the prone monument over the resting point of Strongbow. The name Strongbow gives the image of a strong soldier, but he was not known by that nickname until several hundred years after his death and it might be more of a loss in translation. We found it funny that he was described as "...a rather gangly, effeminate and softly-spoken man with ginger hair and freckles who had ‘more of the air of a man-at-arms than a general-in-chief".

    I couldn't help think of the fierce queens of Stonewall. Don't underestimate their strength or determination.

    Despite the depiction, Strongbow was known for leading an army of Normans in an invasion of Waterford, and he was promised the hand of the Irish princess Aoife and subsequently considerable land. Traditionally business deals signed over his resting place were considered a sign of sealing the deal.

    The cathedral was otherwise quite beautiful. Purportedly the choir of Christ Church were among those who first performed Handel's Messiah in 1742. Having sung that piece in a church choir, I imagined the honor of performing in the choir lofts here.

    After our visit to Christ Church we decided to make a visit to the EPIC museum which celebrates Irish history and documents the hardships that caused Irish immigration as well as the influence of Irish immigrants in world. I took the opportunity to work with Maura, a genealogist, during our visit to EPIC. She was very helpful in unlocking some family tree mysteries where I had been stuck around my maternal grandfather's lineage.

    After our visit we had the pleasure to connect with Frank who I sang with in the Portland Gay Men's Chorus. Frank is originally from Dublin and he returned a few years ago. We enjoyed a few pints at The George, a stately gay Irish pub, and we enjoyed dinner and catching up at an area Italian Restaurant. It was a very fine day, and we are really enjoying this last leg of our journey.
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  • Day89

    CÚIG GHRIANGHRAF-Ireland Day 24

    July 11 in Ireland ⋅ ☁️ 23 °C

    Today was our last road trip as we made our way to Dublin, our last destination of our three-month European road trip.

    One of the sites we were interested in visiting was Newgrange, a 5500 year old Neolithic burial mound. It's older than Stonehenge or the Pyramids of Giza. We learned that the entrance into the mound books way in advance so we were unable to get tickets. Jim C suggested that we instead go to Dowth a lesser known Neolithic passage tomb located in the Boyne Valley, County Meath, Ireland. In my research, I learned that Dowth is one of the three principal tombs of the Brú na Bóinne World Heritage Site – a landscape of prehistoric monuments in the area.

    Unlike Newgrange, Dowth has no visitor center. It's announced by a simple gate, in a mostly unkempt cow pasture. When we arrived, there was only one other visitor. The structure is cratered in the center. I assumed that the structure just collapsed, but learned that it was subject to an "unprofessional excavation" in the mid 1800's. More specifically, the Royal Irish Academy used dynamite as their excavation tool.

    We saw some closed passages to the chambers as we dodged cowpies to go up the ridge. When we made our way to the top, we could see Newgrange in the distance. Dowth Hall, a stately manor with a adjacent cemetery, could also be viewed on the property. On one of the kerbstones, we could see carvings representing the sun. This is fitting as the entry points of the cave are perfectly aligned with Winter Solstice sunset light. In reflection, we think of ancient peoples as primitive. Perhaps, we're the primitive ones as we too often fail to celebrate the simple gifts available to us with no cost.

    We left Dowth and headed to Drogheda, an industrial port town north of Dublin. I had a bit of macabre interest in viewing two sites there: St. Peter's Church of Ireland and St. Peter's Catholic Church.

    The first site has a cemetery with an unusual memorial to its departed: two cadaver stones. These stones are seven-foot veiled skeletons carvings. We talked to a man who was enjoying his lunch in the cemetery, and he told us that he sang in the church choir when he was a boy. He mourned the deterioration of his town which he attributed to growing drug addiction and the availability of heroin. He remarked that he hardly knew anyone in town anymore, and that he was surprised to talk to out-of-toen strangers who spoke English. We thanked him for the conversation, and we made our way to the Catholic Church a few blocks away.

    I have been using the website Ireland Before You Die (IBUD). St. Peter's Catholic Church houses the relics of Saint Oliver Plunkett. More graphically, the church houses some of his bones and his mummified head in full view inside ornate cases. While the gruesome display draws curious visitors like myself, this is also a place where Catholics visit to honor the most recent canonized Irish Saint in the last 700 years. Saint Oscar was known for promoting Catholicism in Ireland. He was the last victim murdered as a result of a Protestant conspiracy campaign known as the Popish Plot where he was accused of conspiring with the French to kill the Protestant King. This church also purports to house a piece of wood from the cross used to crucify Jesus. The church is quite beautiful, and I'm glad that we were able to visit.

    We left Drogheda and made our way to Dublin. The last two miles were a bit slow due to traffic, but we made it to the flat we're sharing with Peter & Jarek. They are a lovely, engaging couple. We joined them for a pasta dinner prepared by Jarek, and we enjoyed our conversations.

    We watched the news about the upcoming celebration of July 12th by Unionists in Belfast. One of the traditions is to burn massive bonfires reminiscent of football homecoming celebrations. I couldn't help noticing that at the top of the pyre in one piece of footage was Ireland's tri-color flag, a reminder that the internal strife remains. I'm grateful to miss the disdain "festivities".
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  • Day88


    July 10 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

    I don't have many words to offer today. We signed up for a a tour where the guides offered two competing perspectives about "The Troubles".

    We first heard from Gerald, an Irish Republican man who was just shy of eleven years old the summer of '69. That's the same age that I was back then. It was the summer of the Stonewall Uprising, the summer that Judy Garland overdosed, the summer when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. And in Northern Ireland, it was the summer that launched a forty-year period of civil war, heartache and loss.

    Gerald was imprisoned for six years for his connection and violence with the Irish Republican Army. He told a story that resisted Brirish colonization as inspired by the fight for Civil Rights led by leaders like Martin Luther King,Jr. He made the case that the growing tensions were bound to happen and that diplomacy is a better option. He told the story of lost friends from his neighborhood, Catholic homes being burned tu the ground, and of neighbors turning against each other.

    We witnessed memorials to those lost at the sites where they perished., memorials honoring their martyrs, and angry murals beckoning observers to remember the loss.

    Gerald turned us over to John after a perfunctory handshake with him. John is a Loyalist who supports the attachment to the UK He mostly told a story of what he viewed to be unprovoked bombings by the IRA against "the innocents".

    We walked past the gates of a walled part of the Loyalist sections of the city. John remarked that the walls would probably last a few more decades until subsequent generations opt out of living in impenetrable fortresses.

    We saw several more plaques and murals in tribute to those who fought or were murdered in skirmishes and bombings. We listened for reasons why Loyalists want to keep their attachment to the UK. We didn't hear it, and we were surprised by murals criticizing British Prime Ministers.

    Years ago in my work, I was striving to mediate a fractured workplace that suffered unending turbulence. In a point of frustration I blurted out the following thought to all parties:

    "I have never seen so many innocent victims of their own collective creation of misery."

    That thought rings true here for me.

    I think I left this experience with more questions than answers.

    I don't understand why continued colonization benefits anyone as opposed to a unified Ireland.

    I don't understand how progress can be made by futile attempts to negotiate a better past instead of creating a better future.

    I don't understand how competing martyr stories are a source of pride rather than focusing on building unity.

    I found three hours of this experience to be emotionally and physically exhausting. I can only imagine enduring the division for over forty years.

    I worry that we are facing the same dilemma back home. Too many are demonizing those who differ from them, entrenched in their own shifty narratives about the other. I recognize my part in it as well although I'd like to believe that I subscribe to the notion that my happiness is not rooted in someone else's misery.

    I hope that we find a better way to lift each other up, but the prospects seem a bit elusive right now. I hope that I'm wrong.
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    Becky Rounds

    “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead 💖 🧡 💛 💚 💙 💜 🤎 🖤 ✨