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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Feeling the warmth

by Arlene Melo 

Just as many as my fellow classmates have experienced, the damp, gusty, unpredictable weather of Derry/Londonderry has generated a surprising flush to the cheeks and added volume to the tresses. As we walk around the city walls, Diamond area, the Bogside, or even the local pound store, it’s hard to imagine what these city streets and structures have been witnesses to. Learning the history of Derry/Londonderry in the late 20th century has opened a gateway of emotions, including empathy, awe, and gratification. It’s been a unique experience to meet locals and ex-combatants and hear how the civil unrest in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, has not only shaped them on a personal level, but also how it has affected their communities as a whole.

However, there is one thing that has stood out these past few days – despite the distress experienced by many and the unrest that shook the city, we have been welcomed with joviality and warmth from the citizens of Derry/Londonderry. It is to no surprise, that according to the Office for National Statistics, people from Northern Ireland ranked nine out of 10 for their life satisfaction. This is reflected by 73-year-old Margery Thompson, from a BBC article, "I was a small child during the war, so I don't remember much about it. But I know that people had a very hard time and it made them more grateful. That was put into us as children. You didn't take anything for nothing." Over and over we hear this echoed in the many people we have met these last few days. For example, one of our tour guides, Garvin K., has welcomed us with great warmth and affection, that it’s impossible to not be drawn into his world and see how he is grateful for what he has and the intense love he has for his city.

One thing I have definitely taken from Derry/Londonderry, is the need for gratification and appreciation in our every day lives. The need to pause, smile, count our blessings, and perhaps ‘"sláinte" with a nice pint of Guinness.

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