Two years ago, I participated in an international peace project called the Ulster Project. This project helps foster peace between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland and between different races in America. Sixteen teenagers from Northern Ireland come to live with sixteen American teenagers for an entire month. During this month lots of time is spent talking about topics like racism, sectarianism, and sexism to break down boundaries between people.
I’ve made some of my best friends through the Ulster Project and I keep in touch with both the Americans and the Northern Irish. I got along great with a Northern Irish teenager named Deirdre who stayed with me and we truly did become best friends. We have emailed each other frequently and talk on the phone as much as possible, but it’s just not the same as talking in person.
My older sister also participated in this project the year before I did and she also wanted to visit her Northern Irish friends, so we decided to take a trip to Northern Ireland and stay with teens who stayed with us.
Christmas day in 2006 was not the traditional Christmas for my family. We usually spend Christmas opening presents, eating delicious foods, and enjoying time with loved ones. This Christmas we squeezed in some of these traditions in the morning, but we had to leave our house in the early afternoon to be on time for our flight to Dublin, Ireland. My sister Nora and I spent most of our Christmas day on a plane flying to see friends. The flight seemed to last forever because we couldn’t wait to see everyone, but when we finally got there it was definitely worth every long minute.
My friend, Deirdre, and her dad drove from Belfast, Northern Ireland to Dublin, Ireland to pick us up early in the morning and were waiting at the airport for us, just as excited as we were. The drive home was filled with stories about what we have all been up to since we last saw each other, as well as old memories from the time we spent together. I didn’t know what to expect seeing Deirdre for the first time in over a year, but from the second we saw each other it was like nothing ever changed.
The teen that stayed with my sister Nora during the Ulster Project, Rachel, was turning eighteen during the time we were in Northern Ireland, so we thought it would be a good idea to surprise her at her birthday party. She had no idea that we were even in the country and it was so hard for Deirdre not to talk about us coming with her.
Nora and I spent our first few days in the country with Deirdre. We had to go places we knew that Rachel wouldn’t be at because we wanted to make sure the surprise would work out perfectly. Nora, Deirdre and I spent lots of time during these days talking about everything, hanging out with other friends and, of course, going shopping.
Finally, the day of Rachel’s party came and we were so excited to surprise her. All day we were going crazy because we couldn’t wait to get to her party and see her face when we walked in. We spent lots of time getting ready for the party and we made sure we got to Rachel’s house right on time. Rachel’s parents made two cakes, one for Rachel and one for her twin sister Helen, so Nora and I both carried them into the party while everyone was singing Happy Birthday to them.
When they first saw us their faces were priceless. They were genuinely surprised and a little confused because they didn’t expect us to be there at all. The party that night was loads of fun with Rachel’s family, Deirdre and lots of other friends. The rest of trip to Northern Ireland was spent touring the country, hanging out with all of our other friends from the Ulster Project and lots of other different activities that were very unique to the country.
Going to Northern Ireland with my sister was one of the best trips I have ever been on because although we have been to the country many times, it was amazing just spending time with people I don’t get to see too often. Deirdre and I are still very close friends and hopefully we will be able to see each other again soon.
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