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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Taking It Home

by Stephen Miller

"Why would you leave sunny California to come to Northern Ireland?" This was one of the first questions I got when chatting with a local Irishman. I didn't have a good answer at the time. Why would someone come to Northern Ireland, specifically Derry? My time in this fascinating culture and intriguing people has lead me to an answer.

Mural in remembrance of the "troubles"
More often than not, at least from a foreign perspective, the focus of discussion about Northern Ireland is their history of violence, conflict, and troubles. Every community is more than a compilation of their past. Past tension, stress, and unrest contributes to and molds this community, but doesn't define it. Derry is not bound by its troubles. Derry, and moreover Northern Ireland, is home to bountiful history, culture, and beauty. The realization of this is something that should be understood globally. James, a former combatant with the Ulster Defense Association, stated that the American perception of Northern Ireland is especially skewed. He asked that we, as students and visitors to his country, share with our families, friends, and colleagues back home our personal experience in Derry. James' opinion and appeal is common. We can communicate to our individual communities the reality, that the land is safe and dedicated to the peace building process, of our experience in Northern Ireland.
Former combatants, James and Charlie
 sharing their stories.

Why would I visit Derry, Northern Ireland? The answers are immense. I have never spent time with a more welcoming, appreciative, or generous people than those in Derry. It doesn't take much time spent with an Irishman (or woman) to feel as though you've been friends for years. It is a community that is full of beautiful healthy landscapes, the majestic Rive Foyle, historic museums and tours, city walls that have stood the test of time, vibrant architecture, and rich culture. The community is one of a kind.

The Derry Peace Bridge

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