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Sunday, December 30, 2007


We went to Belfast today. Here’s a city we’ve read about for many years. While Rob and I lived in Greenwood Lake, it was from Belfast that children—Catholic and Protestant—were brought over for a summer holiday. We learned how difficult it was for these poor, war-traumatized children to sleep. It was too quiet without the nightly fighting.

Belfast is still a segregated city, but it is making its own kind of progress. The barriers separating the Catholics and Protestants are, thankfully, gone. There are 24,000 students at the bustling University. Our local guide, born and living in Belfast her entire life, does not seem anxious to talk about the political situation as our London/Derry guides did. Rather, Hilda points out Belfast’s accomplishments and the new directions the city is taking. But, she adds, everything takes time. We’d like to take Ronan’s advice and re-visit in ten years. Hopefully improvement will continue and peace and cooler heads will prevail.

It is time to leave Ireland for the next leg of our journey, Scotland. This is an exciting and anticipated transition. We take a ferry across the Irish Sea to Scotland. Randomly, several of our friends are frisked by customs officers—they stood in for the rest of us.

The coach boards the ship, we offload and make our way to the comfortable lounges to settle in for the two hour journey. I’d taken Dramamine because I was fearful that the Irish Sea would be rough, but the crossing is exceedingly smooth.

Scotland from the get-go is different from Ireland. We drive through Ayreshire, stopping to see Alisa Craig and Robert Burns’ home. Harry reads aloud to us: “My luv is like a red, red rose….” “Little Mousie” and bits of “Tam O’Shanter.” The mood on the coach shifts seamlessly as we enter a new country and culture. Then it is on to Glasgow.

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