This weekend, Ashley, Rachel, Megan & I went to Wales, in true Amazing Race style (taxi > plane to Bristol, England > bus > train to Wales > another train > taxi...in both directions). On the way from England to Swansea (after 1 missed bus & 1 missed train), our train picked up a huge wave of Wales rugby fans (they'd just won their match against France), who sang & danced the whole train ride. The 4 of us were delirious from all the traveling and traveling mishaps, & we thoroughly entertained ourselves by making impromptu Harry Potter references that suited our English train ride....e.g:
(Intercom): "Attention passengers, this is to inform you that there will not be food for purchase available on this train ride."
-Rachel: "2 chocolate frogs, please!"....
-Rachel: "Where did my apple go? It was in my backpack, it's disappeared."
-Me: "THAT's Wizard's Chess!"....
-"Oh dang there's no bathroom over here."
-"Alas! Ear wax!"...
At one point, a Frenchman told us we were on a train to London. Megan & Ashley stood up & shouted over to Rachel & me, "Uh, guys. Wrong train. We're headed to London. Just FYI." Funny enough, we were all pretty excited about this unexpected twist in events, & immediately started planning how we'd find a hostel in London. (Then we found out the Frenchman had misunderstood Megan's question, & we were on the right train after all.)
We visited a charming little seaside town called Mumbles, watching the Six Nations rugby games on TV in a pub (while drinking Irish coffee, in support of our team of course!) We stayed in Swansea with Ashley's friend, & got to see the Gower, which is an area of really amazing hills and cliffs that tower over the sea.
(PICTURED: Megan in Mumbles, Wales)
At the university in Swansea, there was a huge, wirey-looking tree (in the pic below) that instantly reminded me of the little black wire tree that Mom used to keep in her bedroom (I think it was a gift from one of her sponsors a long time ago). The tree was standing in front of a big, modern-looking building, and guess what that building was called? Vivian Tower. Yeah, you can't make that kinda stuff up.
(PICTURED: Vivian Tower)
Risking My Life for Lil' Wayne
Last Thursday, we went to one of our usual clubs called Rain. There was lots of dancing, & while it was overall a good night, there was one disappointment. See, the DJ in the club is up on the ceiling in this little loft. No less than THREE times, I climbed the scaffolding to get to the DJ, & proceeded to wave my cell phone in his face, which read (in the "Contacts" list), "A Milli Lil Wayne PLEASE." Each time, he would nod & convince me to go back down the ladder, but he never played it!! I'll try again next week.
Bombings This Week in Northern Ireland
"There's a threat that's as dangerous as anything that we've had during the 30 years of our troubles. There's no doubt that if you look at the patterns, particularly since last December, there's a growing escalation of events -- fairly major events, 13 major events since last December."
- Irish Justice Minister Dermot Ahern, last night.
Ahern is referring to the threat of dissident Republicans, which seem to be amping up their terrorism campaign, aimed particularly at the police force.
Northern Ireland has seen a lot of violence during the last week. Around 11pm one night, a 250-pound car bomb (the biggest bomb since the Troubles ended) exploded in front of the Newry courthouse (about 30 miles from here)--no one was killed, but the police were only given 17 minutes to evacuate the surrounding bars. There was a mortar bomb device & rioting in Craigavon yesterday, and a guy in Derry was murdered a few days ago by the Real IRA. It seems like police stations are just constantly recovering from petrol bombs.
I am consistently confused about the level of danger here. I read all of these horrifying things in the newspaper, but I don't see any signs of political unrest in my own little world in Belfast. I see Starbucks and I see happy, full pubs. When I get to know Irish people my age, I usually ask them something about the current conflict--and every time, the question's sort of politely brushed-off. I've been told that people who aren't involved personally in the paramilitary gangs needn't worry about it. They very much seem to think about it as we think of gangs in the US--there are several gangs in Nashville, even, but if you're not in one (or living near one), it won't affect you. So the newspapers make it seem like I live in a full-on war zone, while the young people I meet make it seem like the violence is irrelevant to my life. I'm guessing the truth is somewhere in the middle. Maybe I'm being melodramatic, but when I'm in line behind a pair of police officers in a coffee shop, I do look at their bullet-proof vests & think about how I could potentially be standing next to a target.