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Peace Walls, Fourth of July, Exploring Ireland: Kyra's Second Week in Belfast

Kyra Cooper from Truman State University shares the story of her second week of the International Summer School on Conflict Transformation and Social Justice...

Moher Kyra Cooper Blog Summer Schools 2018

Hello and welcome back to my monologue! It has absolutely been quite the week!

Well folks, Tuesday was PEACE WALLS DAY. Super exciting stuff. I’d been waiting for the peace walls all summer. I think public art is a freaking blast. And man oh man let me tell you, the peace walls did not disappoint. We started looking at murals in a neighborhood near Shankill road, which is a Protestant area in Belfast. Some of the murals there are commemorative for someone who died, some more broadly advocate for civil rights. Then, we drove next to the peace wall that separates the Protestants from the Catholics. You can tell that the wall was originally constructed, but then built higher, and then higher again. We then drive through a gate that’s open during the day to the Catholic side of the wall near Falls Road. Unlike the Protestant side of the walls, the walls here push right up against the houses, so the houses have protective material to prevent things thrown over the wall from damaging the living room. It was really interesting to view the walls and murals up close, and see how local citizens commemorate the events of the past.

 Peace Wall Kyra Cooper Blog Summer Schools 2018

Fourth of July
For the 4th of July, Queen’s organized an event to celebrate, grilling out hamburgers with French Fries. The Student Assistants went all out for this event. One dressed as the Statue of Liberty, face paint and all.
We also then with a lot of the summer school students to watch the harrowing World Cup victory of England over Columbia. I have never gotten so into a soccer game in my entire life. Normally I could go either way on watching a soccer game, but there’s so much riding on it!

4th July Kyra Cooper Blog Summer Schools 2018

On Thursday, we took a field trip to Derry/Londonderry. Derry/Londonderry is absolutely gorgeous. It is such a beautiful city.
One of the highlights of the trip was visiting the “Free Derry” museum, where our tour guide explained that his grandfather had been killed during Bloody Sunday. You can tell that this was still very real for our tour guide, even though he wasn’t even alive for Bloody Sunday. He described how his grandfather got shot, how people who tried to help his grandfather also got shot, and how his family has never received justice. As he was telling this story, he started to tear up a bit. I think of how many times he must give this speech to people, and yet it was still so raw for him. I think it was really important for our group to see that.

Following the Free Derry museum, we had one of the professors lead us around the city. We saw the large bastion representing Protestant victory overlooking the Catholic area of Derry/Londonderry, the Derry/Londonderry walls, the large Anglican Church, and the Apprentice Boys museum.

Derry Kyra Cooper Blog Summer Schools 2018

Galway Trip
Some of my friends from the summer school program decided to do a weekend trip to Galway to see the Aran Islands and the Cliffs of Moher (and, of course, Galway).

Aran Islands
Our first day in Galway, we woke up at 7 AM, walked to a hotel near our AirBnb, got picked up by a bus, and were taken to a central station. Then we transferred onto another bus, which took us to the ferry, which (whew, finally) took us to the Aran Islands.
After grabbing coffee, we finagled our way to get to the highest point on the island at O’Brien’s castle, which had a breathtaking view.
One obvious thing about the Aran Islands is that it is not going to run out of limestone anytime soon. They are just drowning in it. Around every corner is limestone. It’s like there was a town hall meeting and someone was like “what should we build our walls out of?” and someone else was like “well, we have a bunch of this rock stuff” and everyone was like “YES BRILLIANT THAT.”

Cliffs of Moher
After the Aran Islands, we hopped back on the ferry to take a cruise around the Cliffs of Moher. I tried to take pictures along the cruise, but you can’t really capture quite how beautiful it is. Specifically, the vastness of the Cliffs of Moher is incredible.
The Cliffs of Moher was one of those things everyone talks about and like it looks fine in pictures but also I didn’t really get it. So when people in my class are like “let’s go to the Cliffs of Moher!” I was like “ah, inevitable” and went along with it. The first moment I saw them, I totally got it. It’s beautiful. Also, death suddenly became a real and present danger at the Cliffs of Moher. Even when I’m looking back at the pictures, it hurts my stomach a little bit. It was really high up there. Long way to fall.

Galway is absolutely adorable. With twisting roads, quaint rivers with swans, tons of street shopping, and not to mention GIANT murals of Ed Sheeran, this city is all kinds of cute.

We had a wonderful time looking around the city, doing some street shopping, and finding eclectic places to drink coffee. Also, I finally got to break out the rain jacket (thanks mom, for letting me “borrow” this! I hope that’s okay!) It rained for exactly 30 seconds while we were inside and I was like “welp, guess it’s rain jacket time!” and threw that bad boy on. Sure, it only misted for five minutes afterwards and then didn’t rain the rest of the day, but I’m just thrilled that they do get rain up here. Myth confirmed – it does rain in Ireland!

That’s all I have for week two! See you next week!