Once we got to Belfast, Allen went one way to attend a meeting and we went to the W5 children's museum. I got absolutely no pictures because I was at a children's museum with 3 young children. I'm sure you are shocked. I will say that if you ever find yourself in Belfast, you should check it out. Megan has been crying for a week over the fact that we don't live in Belfast so she can't go to the W5 every day.
When reunited it was time to take a taxi ride to our hotel. Belfast taxi drivers are astoundingly kind and friendly patiently tolerating the rather confused woman who first tried to pay with her library card and then euros before finally landing on her stash of pound notes.
I also had another dear man patiently help me sort through the jumble of 1 pound and 1 euro coins, helpfully identifying them for me as I picked through the handful. They are actually quite different what with one having an Irish harp on it and saying "EURO" and 1 having a picture of the Queen and "POUND" on it. But, I did have 3 very excited children hopping about me at the time, waiting to get a snack. I find you can get a lot of milage out of simply owning up to the fact that you simply have no idea what you are doing.
We wandered about downtown and Olympic spirit was high. Every pub and whatnot was showing the Olympics on tv. Most interesting was the city square where they had huge Olympic rings decorating the City Hall as well as a massive screen at one end of the green where they showed the BBC coverage of the Olympics. There were always at least a few people watching with big crowds gathering after work. I'm guessing NBC didn't sponsor anything similar?
The next day we took a bus tour which was rather depressing. The tour had a pretty strong emphasis on The Troubles and for good reason since Belfast was really at the center of it all and then there were pockets of trouble all throughout the history of the last several hundred years. There was just so much hurting go on in the area for so long and not that much time to temper it. But, it was wonderful to see the many strides towards rebuilding that were happening. I try to find a lesson within those sorts of painful stories and the one I found in this one was to keep talking. The thing that struck me most was when the guide began talking about how things seemed to become more tense as more people began moving. People moved to areas of Belfast that they considered safer which mostly meant that there started being concentrated areas of republicans and loyalists. Living around and only exposing yourself to like-minded people means that you don't really have to figure out how to make things work out; a middle way becomes lost; differences become entrenched; violence quickly seems not only justified but necessary to make your point. This reminded me a lot of how we are currently handling differences in the US. We are becoming pockets of liberal and conservative. More than ever before, your neighbors are much more likely to vote like you do; shop like you do; think like you do; value what you do. I have seen us begin to stop even trying; stop talking; become entrenched. We are losing an awareness of a middle way. I don't think we are on an irreversible path and I'm don't see a life of civil war becoming a reality any time soon but I do think we can learn from the past.
On a lighter note! Mid-way through the bus tour (it was a hop on/hop off) we stopped for some fun at the Ulster Museum. They had a dinosaur exhibit and the children really enjoyed the hands on section. I didn't think Noah would ever agree to stop cleaning up. He was quite annoyed that everyone kept moving the sand to the side of the table when it obviously belonged on the dinosaur bones. :-)