Going into this Derry experience I was a little nervous...
I was not nervous because I am shy, that is the last word someone would use to describe me, but my nervousness came from knowing we were required to meet and learn from the local Derry population and how would these locals receive me. Especially since I had just finished doing all this reading about the conflict that had taken place in Northern Ireland and how passionate the people were about these topics. Now, not only was I going to meet these people, but I was also expected to talk about these heavy and passionate issues. Seemed like it could be a recipe for a lot of awkward and uncomfortable conversations. However, at this point I have been in Northern Ireland for two days and I can say that those fears I had entering the program have been eliminated. Since arriving here I have encountered the best hospitality from everyone I have interacted with in this amazing city.
The first person I met was a very nice woman on the plane from Birmingham, UK to Belfast. She was so open with where I should go and gave me advice on how to enhance my experience. She even took the time and waited for me to get my suitcase and show me the information desk where I could purchase my bus ticket for Derry. The second person I met I have now named my new “Irish Grandfather.” On the bus from Derry I was concerned I was going to miss my stop. My Irish Grandfather said he was getting off on that stop as well and would let me know when to get off the bus. Not only did he ensure I got off on the correct bus stop, he helped me find the hotel. Which ended up being very helpful because he helped me pull my fifty-pound suitcase (I know, I really need to learn to pack less) up a rather steep hill. He also was very concerned that I did not have a working cell phone, insisted on giving me his number and that I call him if I had any problems. To meet such caring and considerate strangers is not something you get to experience every day, it really opens your eyes and reminds you that there are still good people in the world.
Reflecting back on the culture and people where I live, I cannot say they would be this giving. I think if asked for directions (back in California) a person would be quick to help, but not to the extent I have experienced in Derry. The open hearts and spirit of giving is present in everyone I have encountered, and I can say that I now do not have any more reservations about meeting and conversing with the residents of Derry. In fact, I must say I am looking forward to meeting and getting to know as many people as possible. And I hope that this spirit of hospitality and giving stays with me.