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Saturday, January 4, 2014

A Rainy Day in Derry

by Lisa Becker

In Northern Ireland, rain is to be expected.  Especially frequent in winter, the drizzle of precipitation is key to the wonderful, lush greenery surrounding Derry.  Gray skies bring fruitfulness and promise for the future, much akin to the current peace in Derry following its stormy past.

A sea of umbrellas in the drizzle. 
Overall, our group was fairly prepared for today's walking tour of the city, dressed in Gortex jackets, rain boots, gloves, hats, and scarves.  As a dozen multi-colored umbrellas bopped up and down across the sidewalk, it was apparent to any onlooker that we were an inquisitive tour group, off to see the world, snapping photos at every stop.  Our tour guide, Garvin, was a jolly chap, excited to share his love of his beautiful city with us.  His passion for all things Derry resonated throughout the tour as we walked the city walls, viewed the bogside memorials, and sat in awe within the solid walls of the long-standing St. Columbs Cathedral.

The wealth of knowledge shared was immeasurable and certainly incredibly valuable for our time here in Derry.  The many numbers and names will not all remain in my feeble memory once I make my return across the Atlantic, but one heartfelt comment will never leave me.  Garvin grew up in Derry.  He's lived here his entire life.  He has seen and lived through the unimaginable for those of us who have lived comparatively sheltered lives.  As we kicked off our tour in the visitor's center, Garvin said that regardless of what has happened here, "I wouldn't change my life with anyone else, anywhere.  This is just the way we lived.  It is just the way it was."
Garvin passionately discusses the Bloody Sunday Memorial

So striking was this thought, that I had to revisit it with Garvin more than once during the tour.  He then related stories from his own experience, including details of the Bloody Sunday massacre and riots in the streets. One evening in the 1970s when Garvin and a friend were walking home following a dance downtown, they passed by a building which housed British troops.  As they passed by they suddenly heard shots fired and immediately hit the ground in the gutter as the bullets whizzed by over their heads.  Garvin said that at the time he was far more concerned about getting his clothes dirty than the tracer bullets flying through the night sky. He remembers thinking how mad his mother would be that he had maybe ruined his best blazer.  Eventually the shots ceased and Garvin and his friend made it safely home without a second thought about what had just occurred.

I can't even begin to imagine a childhood where gun fire and violence were so commonplace as to go completely unnoticed. The stormy days of unrest in Northern Ireland, especially through the Troubles, are finally beginning to clear out and the fruitful days of peace are finally at hand.  I look forward to continuing our journey to see how the people of Derry survived their pain and sorrow to successfully find happiness and harmony.

New friends

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed the post. Your description of the day was great and Garvin's story about his experience with British troops and desire to stay in Derry/Londonderry really validates his love of his city.