By Charlie Murray
For as long as I can remember, I have dreamed of visiting Ireland. I am of Irish decent and I wanted to see the land where my ancestors came from. Like most people, I have seen pictures, movies, etc. on Ireland and it's people...all the more reason to want to go there. In the time leading up to our trip I did a lot of day dreaming about what it would be like. Are the fields as green and beautiful as they look in pictures? Are the people as friendly and humorous as they seem to be in the movies? I also thought a lot about what Northern Ireland might be like after the Troubles. Would it be dangerous? Would the people still be friendly, happy, and hospitable or would they be standoffish and suspecting? Do they like Americans?
Almost all my questions were answered the first day. Even on a rainy dreary day in the middle of winter Ireland was more beautiful than anything I could have imagined and each day I was in awe of everything I saw. The highlight of it all was the north coast and the Irish Sea. As for the people, they are the most kind, hospitable people I have ever met. I felt more at home in Derry than I do in Tennessee. Our sponsor's at The Junction are wonderful people and are doing vital community work. The staff at the Tower Hotel are the best I have ever experienced. It was like staying with family. The people in the shops were extremely nice as well. I met the most wonderful lady in The Donegal Shop and it was there that I bought all my souvenirs. I spent most of my evenings in the pubs on Waterloo street and each night I met new people. Most were from Derry, but some were visiting from places such as Armagh, Surrey England, and even other Americans. Many of my new friends are Republicans and they were very willing to talk about their experiences and political views. As for it being dangerous in Derry, they assured me that the violence was over and peace is the only way. By the way, the Irish do like Americans and many of them have family in the states.
My experience in Northern Ireland was the most incredible experience of my life and now I am dreaming of going back. I want to share this wonderful place with my family and introduce them to the many friends I made while there. Until then I will cherish the memories I made and share them with everyone I can.