I am long overdue for some kind of update here. Hopefully it hasn’t caused you any stress! Haha. In truth, not much of consequence has happened lately, which is probably good. I spend most of my time reading, writing, going to class, exploring a bit here and there, and enjoying my friends I’ve met. Living abroad is quite exciting, perhaps exotic, but in truth you do get use to it. It becomes normal. I have to remind myself sometimes that I am in a different country. And some days, as soon as I forget some cultural difference abruptly reminds me that I am not, in fact, in my ‘native’ land. Usually as soon as I open my mouth. I can fake a bit of the Northern Irish accent (I actually fooled a native several weeks ago!), but usually within about one or two words I am given away. That’s alright though because for a bit of a shy person like myself it instantly become a conversation starter. Great fun.
One of the more exciting things at the moment for me has been getting connected with a local church: Christ Church. I have been adopted by one of the families, attend a fantastic home group, and learn every Sunday from their sermon series. One of many cool ‘God things’ has been being able to connect with a home group that is actively interested in learning about human trafficking, and has been bringing in speakers once a month on the subject. I was hoping, praying, to connect with something like that while I was here, and just stumbled into this. Isn’t God great? I also have been incredibly blessed by the members of the church through various forms of hospitality (especially rides, or ‘lifts’ as they say around here), and one family in the church has been exceedingly kind and gone out of their way to make me feel welcome not only at Christ Church but in Northern Ireland.
Even outside church and away from familiar faces, people around here are generally very help, friendly, and hospitable. Having the foreign accent certainly helps, I’m sure, but the culture does do well at hospitality. It has made me realize how poorly I have been at ‘welcoming the stranger’, so to speak, at various times in my life. As an outsider here, I am grateful to everyone who has gone out of their way to help me, welcome me, and befriend me. Of course living here, in a ‘western’ English-speaking country, isn’t radically different from the states, not as much as say India or Brazil might be. Still, knowing where to find things (places, products, and so on), understanding the lingo, and just generally getting around is surprisingly challenging at times, or at least was at first. And that’s where so many people were helpful in making that learning process easier and making the ‘different’ become normal. I hope, if I’ve learned nothing else from my time here, I hope I’ve learned just what an impact we can have on those who are ‘outsiders’ to our community. I don’t want to delve into politics too much, but I do wonder, with the current ‘immigration’ debates in the States, if we haven’t missed out on welcoming those outsiders, even though they may not be in right standing with our immigration laws. I felt this way before coming here, but living as an outsider to a culture has made it more personal and made me more acutely aware of what that experience is like. I can hardly identify with every person who has immigrated, legal or illegal, but I do know what it feels like to feel like an outsider and it is hard sometimes. A kind word, a helping hand, and even just a smile can do wonders. Feel free to disagree with my conclusion, but I personally have a much different perspective on the issue now as a result. Oh, have I mentioned that I too have illegally crossed borders? I have. But that is another story for another time. For now, warm greetings from the emerald isle. I hope all my family, friends, and readers in the States are well.
I feel like I should end with an Irish proverb or poem, but sadly none come to mind, probably because I don’t really know any. Hmm, maybe I should change that?