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Sauntering Vaguely Downward [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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Day 10: Donegal to Doíre Calgaigh (Derry-stroke-Londonderry) [20050825|23:46]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
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View from Banba's Crown
I wake at 7:30 AM and it's every bit as painful as I was expecting it to be. In fact, I'm probably still a little drunk when I slip on my shoes and tiptoe outside to call Marco. (We weren't going to speak on the phone during his trip to the US but I couldn't hold out that long. Anyone who has anything snide to say about that can kiss my ass.) Anyway, we slowly start the day with a lot of breakfast, Emergen-C and Nuprofen.

We drag ourselves out to Banba's Crown at the tip of Malin Head, the northernmost point of Ireland. We hike around the white-washed stones scattered over the cliff-top and arranged to announce presences and affections, including the meter-long ones that have been arranged to spell EIRE. (I later read in the Let's Go guidebook that it used to spell S.S. EIRE, to identify the land as neutral territory to would-be German bombers.) The air tastes of salt and I can feel it crusting on my skin. Water runs down the cliffs in rivulets, making the narrow path slippery and difficult to navigate. I can't hear anything but wind and waves. When I look up at the end of the path, I am startled to see the chasm called Hell's Hole. I sit on a patch of grass that's miraculously devoid of sheep poop and watch the rainbows form and dissolve in the spray that jets up from the crashing surf.
We return to the car for the drive to Derry. We stop in Cardonagh to pick up maps and get directions, and to fill up our tank at the petrol station. We meet (who I presume to be) the only Filipino man in northwest Ireland, who fills our gas tank and immediately recognizes my racial heritage. The combination of Filipino and Irish accent is indescribably awesome. It defies my powers of mimicry. The light-hearted, friendly encounter helps to buffer the shock that is to come.

We cross the muzzy border into Northern Ireland without really realizing it. Becca nervously but skillfully navigates a few roundabouts and we park. The first thing I see is a giant Tesco to the right of the parking lot with its trolley return point. I'm suddenly seeing familiar chains and businesses, which makes me want to identify this place with a particular culture, but I'm hearing Irish accents and seeing Irish faces, which sets up an internal discord that I find impossible to shake, fed as it is by the divided nature of the city itself.
Hell's Hole
Fountain Estate
We walk into the city center and the competing graffiti begins to leap out at me. "Fuck the IRA." "UDA" "RIRA Rules." Over and over, everywhere, on every taggable surface it seems, the paramilitary Protestant and Catholic factions rival in paint. We drop our things at the hostel and go back out to walk the city walls. The Derry Walls surround the medieval city center on the Catholic side of the River Foyle. The last Protestant enclave o this side of the river, the Fountain Estate, can be seen from one side of the city walls. Here, the Union Jack and the Red Hand of Ulster fly side by side. The curbs are painted in alternating stripes of red, white and blue, as are the lamp-posts and street signs. The pronouncement on the side of the building in the image reads "Londonderry West Bank Loyalists still under siege: No Surrender."

We continue around the walls and arrive at a set of squat guard towers with tinted windows surrounded by metal cages. A much taller tower bristles with CCTV cameras, all pointed in one direction: at the Bogside district. The traditionally working-class Catholic neighborhood has seen some of the worst violence in the struggle between British loyalist and Irish republican forces, as well as playing host to the tragic civilian slayings of Bloody Sunday in 1972.
The cubs in the Bogside are painted in alternating stripes of green, white and orange. The Irish flag flies next to the golden harp. The enormous Bogside murals painted on the sides of blocks of flats, which we'll inspect in detail tomorrow, lend a peculiar combination of brightly-colored childlike simplicity and monochrome adult seriousness to the place.

I'm temporarily overwhelmed. I squat down and hold my stomach by the tall metal fences that block access to the outer wall (but only on this side), trying not to throw up. I don't.

We walk slowly back into town to get groceries for dinner. We make curried vegetables and pork. Although I'm hungry and we put together a pretty good meal, I don't particularly enjoy it. My subconscious is too busy processing my reaction to the city. It isn't until we go to a pub to try to have a quiet pint that I'm finally able to come to grips with my reaction. I'm revolted at seeing the clash of English and Irish elements in Derry and I know it shouldn't be that way. Cultural mixing, when it's combined with attempts at understanding and concession, creates cosmopolitanism. But here, they're not blended. They coexist, but not harmoniously. The result is thoroughly unpleasant.
CCTV tower with rainbow
The very attractive Derry Walls
Cannon overlooking the Bogside
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