Friday, 14 February 2014

Waiting for my flock ...

For the fourth time in two years, I am once again in Belfast with a group interested in learning about the peace and reconciliation process in Northern Ireland. This time, however, I am alone, waiting for my group to arrive this afternoon. There have been many times in the past six months when I thought this moment would not arrive – that in fact my dream of building relationships between Dalhousie University and the Corrymeela Peace and Reconciliation Centre in Ballycastle, Northern Ireland, where I spent three months while on sabbatical in the summer of 2011, might have run its course.

In fact, this trip should probably not be happening ... from a slow start last fall as we struggled to find enough participants to make it a go, to fundraising challenges, to my own personal health concerns and major surgery in December, to flight cancellations and snow storms, the odds have been against this trip happening. But ... it is.

As I write this, I am watching the Olympics on BBC in a Belfast Hotel – waiting for my flock to arrive this afternoon. I booked my flight later than everyone else because of the very real possibility that I might not be able to travel with the group this year, so I was on a different flight than the others (the one that got cancelled on Wednesday!) I did finally get out, being re-routed on a different airline. Although hard on my psyche – being separated from the group, and of course giving up total control over everything – it has been good for my body to get a head start on acclimatizing to the new time zone.

Despite our challenges this year we’ve also had many joys and moments to celebrate – a wonderfully keen group of seven Dalhousie students and one Dal alumna who have come together and worked hard as a team doing fundraising and educational activities for six months, a great visit to Halifax two weeks ago from Paul Hutchinson, former Centre Director of Corrymeela, and an amazing team of folks who supported the group during my recovery period. There are many people behind us - family, friends and colleagues – who have kept things moving forward when things got tough.

And so the journey begins again – and this time, the Canadians may even commandeer a local pub in Belfast for the Gold Medal Olympic Game (assuming, of course , that ... well, you know ...)  ... perhaps a study in itself of peace and reconciliation. Below is the group at the Halifax airport, ready to go – from the back, Bridget Graham, Claire Chilelli, Kendra Wilcox, Adrian Lacson; middle, Alana Martin, Marisha Pluta; front, Brennan Low and Daniel Whitten.

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