Can I just say that 600 words is not nearly enough room to write down everything I want to say, but here I go anyway. Nearly 3 years ago, I traveled with People to People, an educational travel program that promoted learning of other cultures around the world. I traveled to places like London, and Dublin, and Edinburgh, and little places in between the capitols. For example, small villages with cute bookstores and malls. I made sure to go to all the churches I could find and look at the architecture. The most powerful place I went to though, was Belfast, Ireland, however. If you're looking for a place to have your whole perspective on life changed, Belfast would be the place to visit.
â–º Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
There was a time when I looked out my window [back home in the U.S.] and thought about nothing beyond my neighbor’s backyard. I was 15, and had lived in the protective arms of surburbia all my life. The biggest worry I had was getting good grades.
Who knows the reason for perspectives like that? Perhaps it was my being stagnant? Stuck in a small suburb with a lack of rich culture would do that to anyone, I suppose.
As a friend and I walked down the street of the infamous wall that still divides the city, I made sure to feel the paint of peace murals as we strolled in the Irish rain. Every so often, my finger dipped sporadically, reaching small indents. Bullet holes. They were everything my native, Norman Rockwell styled, American suburb was not. Those tiny holes spoke of misery and chaos, of something darkly incomprehensible to me.
The rain that gently cleansed the city surrounding us made a good effort to wash away memories of The Troubles. The scars: abandoned buildings, bombed houses never touched again, the chips of concrete that had been blown away into an unforgiving oblivion, had left their mark on the people of Ireland.
I stayed in Belfast for a total of 3 days, yet my perspective of the world changed so rapidly in such a small amount of time. An imprint was left on my young, impressionable soul. Was I so naïve to not wonder what was beyond that neighbor’s backyard? Even more important, why did I never question what was going on in the world? How does one not question violence in the name of a political party, or hate crimes justified in the name of God?
I was left wondering things that really tore at whatever naivety had fogged my vision before. The idea of another human being looking straight into a man’s face, an undiluted hate etched into every muscle, poised to kill, not in self defense but in the name of some force that transcends, puzzled me completely.
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