Today was another day filled with sights that pictures canâ€™t do justice. In the morning we road the coach an hour and a half to Carrick-A-Rede. This is an area on the northern coast. There were giant cliffs on the ocean. We hiked down to a swinging rope bridge 85 feet high and 65 feet long. The scenery was gorgeous. We were only aloud to have a few people on the bridge at a time. It was very windy so it swayed as you walked across it. It was built 350 years ago by salmon fishermen who needed to get across the chasm to check their nets. After that we hiked back up to a quarry made of limestone. There were fish fossils in the walls.
We got back on the coach and rode about six miles to another coastal area.
There we hiked for about two more hours around the Giantâ€™s Causeway. We learned about the legend of Finn MacCool, a giant who was responsible for all the rock formations. The scientific explanation for the formations was volcanic activity. The rock tubes were so perplexing. Most of them were perfect hexagons. There were pentagons, heptagons and octagons as well. Our guide told us that there was one nine-sided rock and whoever could find it would get twenty pounds. We didnâ€™t really have the chance to look though. It is amazing to see these perfect shapes formed in nature. This will come in really handy when I am teaching geometry next year!
Back in Belfast we had some time to relax before dinner.
Michaelâ€™s funeral service was on T.V. It was so horrible. I was glad to be distracted by dinner and our lecture about The Troubles.
Three girls, one American, and two Northern Ireland students, came to speak to us about the conflicts and peace agreements. It was so interesting to hear about the people from the 60â€™s, 70â€™s and 80â€™s having to check under their cars before getting in them to make sure there were no bombs there. I canâ€™t even imagine. The I.R.A. was a sort of terrorist group that caused a lot of the problems. They wore black masks and carried machine guns. The British army used to raid peopleâ€™s homes. They threw many Catholics in jail and held them without trial for years and years.
There was a group of eight men who were in jail that protested in their cells by going on a hunger strike. All of them died from it. Their faces were in some of the murals we saw yesterday. We learned about Bloody Sunday. Catholics were protesting peacefully and the British soldiers fired into the crowd killing thirteen people. Many of whom were under the age of eighteen. This inspired the U2 song. Violence like this was common for people my parents and grandparents age. About eleven years ago the Good Friday agreement was signed. This stated that there would be no more violence as a form of protest. Although that did not stop the conflict. Recently things have been better but there is still tension between the groups. Schools and neighborhoods remain segregated and many people live in fear. It was interesting to listen to these young girls talk about it. Both of them were in their early twenties. They go to university and are friends with each other. When they try to tell their parents that they are friends with Catholics or are dating a Protestant, their parents object to it. It seems like it will take the younger generation to overcome this segregation.