Bye Bye Belfast

One More Time

For our final night in Belfast, the team took to the city center one last time.  The team split up for our own dinner exploits.  That involved half of the team going to Burger King.  Those who went claimed that the Irish do BK much better than the Yankees.  We have a very cultured palate here on the basketball team.

We reunited to take the European dance scene by storm.  At a local techno club (where we ran into some players that we had competed against earlier in the night), we kicked off the party thanks to some amazing dance floor innovations.  Among the many moves that were created that night, “The Accordian”, “The Nordic Track” and “The Bird Call” were among the greats.

Most of us adhered to the dancing style which involved people gathering in a circle, clapping to the beat and waiting for one brave soul to journey to the center, showing off a move that he just thought of.  This produced the aforementioned dance moves and some other classics.  One individual on our team, however, who I won’t name (Bo), preferred to venture off on his own.  His dancing style consisted of him closing his eyes, rhythmically waving his arms above his head and slowly rolling his body from side to side.  It was quite impressive.  I would surely be willing to swap some moves with him sometime soon.  Whatever the dance, the locals were intrigued/repulsed/amused by all of our antics.

Belfast will miss us.  I’m sure of it.

“Corrymeela Begins When You Leave”

After checking out of our hotel and completing a one-hour ride to the northeast of Belfast, we arrived at a small community known as Corrymeela.  Visiting the community gave us our first chance to see some of the cliffs and landscape that Ireland has become known for. 

Situated on a cliff that overlooks the Irish Sea, Corrymeela was founded in 1965 to provide a safe space for the meaningful dialogue concerning peace and reconciliation.  The community was founded by Christians, but welcomes people of all ethnicities, nationalities, religions and cultures to the grounds to engage in activities and discussions that have been instrumental in helping Northern Irish individuals, families and communities deal with the horrors that have plagued the country for the past decades.

The founder of the Corrymeela community, Ray Davey, has always stressed that the activities and discussions that occur at Corrymeela are only the beginning of the healing process.  The community’s motto, then, is that “Corrymeela Begins When You Leave”.  Nothing illustrates such a concept better than the following story, told to us by our tour guide as we stood looking out over the Irish Sea.

Corrymeela has programs that host a variety of groups and individuals that would otherwise not share a common space.  One such program involved police and young men (aged from about 18-22).  The program involved a lot of personal interaction between the two groups, with the football (soccer) matches between and among the two always being the most emotional.  Gradually, however, a real sense of camaraderie developed between the two groups.  After a few days of activities, everyone could sense that headway had been made and the two groups all went back to their respective towns.

Fast-forward to a few months later in a city center (the exact city escapes me).  A local crowd of young activists had assembled in the main square of the city ready to riot at the drop of a hat.  The police had mobilized accordingly and were fitted with their riot-proof gear: bulletproof vest, plastic shields, guns, helmet and all. 

It just so happens that one of the policemen there that day had been to Corrymeela a few months before.  As he scanned the crowd of angry youths, he noticed a familiar face.  The policeman, then, made a daring move.  Breaking the line, the policeman stepped forward, dropped his shield and lifted his helmet to reveal his face. 

Slowly walking towards the crowd, he shuffled through the first few potential rioters, who were befuddled by the policeman’s actions.  Working his way to the second or third row of activists, he tapped the young man he was seeking on the shoulder, “Hey there!  Do you remember me?” inquired the policeman. 

“Not that I remember.  Should I?” replied the puzzled activist.

“Yes, you do.  I was at Corrymeela with you just a few months back.”

“Oh, yes.  Of course.”

The policeman then took a leap of faith as he suggested the seemingly impossible.  “What are we doing here?  Tell your friends to go home and I’ll do the same.”

“You’re right,” replied the activist.

Within the minutes, both previously antagonized groups had disbanded and a riot was avoided.  The story lives on in the Corrymeela community as the best example of what they are able to offer to the world.

The dialogue I presented here is merely a summary of the story told to the team today at Corrymeela.  While my version of the tale is far less moving and personally significant, I would hope that it sheds some light on the goals and effectiveness of the community.

I would strongly encourage anyone interested in the conflict of the Irish island to look more closely into the Corrymeela community and their work.

The Rope Bridge

Among the most gorgeous landscape that the island has to offer, there sits a few wooden planks, five neatly arranged ropes and 80 feet of air in between the assembled materials and the water below.  Put these all together and you have one terrifying/picturesque rope bridge. 

I’m not going to say I was hero, because I may or may not have been holding back bowel movements during my trek across, but a few individuals in our party were beyond horrified.

Coach Mike Mucci and junior Mike Gabriel were by far the most entertaining.  Matt Palmer also supplied us with a memorable moment, but his choice language in the heat of the moment would not be suitable for such a classy blog.

Both Coach and Gabe started the initial crossing, only to turn around after just a few steps across.  After Gabe caved into peer pressure, however, he made the trek across the 60-foot bridge in just under 14 minutes.  Math major Doug Edelman again came in handy for this calculation, claiming that Gabe was moving at an astonishing rate of 1 foot for every 14 seconds.  Calm down there Usain.  Coach was not as easy to coax across.  The team had to resort to our patented “Mooch” chant in order for him to take the bridge by storm.  And oh did he ever!  With his tinted glasses and athletic stance, Coach Mucci stole the show with his crossing.  The other tourists and locals made sure to laugh at our expense.

Along with our second game, the rest of today’s activities will be posted sometime tomorrow.  

Cheers!

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