Once more; with feeling, eh?

I’m leaving in the morning. (Yes, on a jet plane. Yes, don’t know if I’ll be back again. Done with this reference.) It is an odd feeling. I’m not sure what I’m feeling; I’m not even sure what I’m supposed to be feeling. I’m bad at valedictory statements; it is really good I don’t get asked to give speeches at graduations and suchness. How can I sum up what others are supposed to be feeling when they reach the end of whatever thing they’re reaching the end of when I can’t even encapsulate my own feelings in such a way? Anyway, I’m struggling to come up with ways to sum these nine months up, and I wonder if it is even possible.


On Thursday night I had dinner with Andrew and Harriet (Or Harriet and Andrew, if you prefer.) at the Barking Dog– which, by the way, is an excellent place to eat if you’re in this city. It was a wonderful night with two people who’ve really come to mean a lot to me since I’ve been here. Andrew asked me at one point what sort of stuff I would miss from Belfast, and I stumbled through an answer which was altogether unsatisfactory, I think. I never know just what it is that I’m going to miss from a place when I leave it. When I left central Iowa to go to Northwestern I had no idea I would come to miss Des Moines so keenly. When I left Russia I would never have expected that I would long for rides on the bus to give me daily moments of zen. So what will I miss most from here? No clue. Really.

I do know for certain a few things I will miss. The kitchen on first floor Holly 1, Elms Village. Steve saying hello to Johnny. (Well!) Chi’s cooking. My classmates. Harriet’s bike. Being able to get around without a car. The Lagan river at the dead of night. Smoke breaks out front of the building. EBM. Harriet and Andrew. Common Grounds and the excellent music that people inexplicably complain about. (Radiohead is good; shut up about the noise.) QFT and my student discount there.

Just a taste.

Go to Belfast some time; you’ll like it here. Give me a month or so, and I will want to go back, badly.


Friday I caught a train down to Newry, and Gary showed me around his neck of the woods. (Who came up with that saying, and how can I shout at them for anthropomorphizing the forest?) First, the train. It was fun. Maybe it wouldn’t be fun if I was taking the train every day during the commute, but it was just under an hour from Belfast central to Newry rail station with one stop along the way. I enjoyed myself, and the train gave me a chance to just sit and read. Lovely.

You know what else was lovely? The scenery in the South of the North. The Mournes are absolutely beautiful; the roads snake around in a decidedly un-American way; the air is crisp; the wind is bracing. (What a cliche description of air.) It really was a great time, and after driving me around for a bit (And having a really great chat) Gary and I stopped into a bar and watched the Uruguay-France World Cup match. But that was an absolutely dire game. Wonderful Friday evening.


And then, Saturday. What an odd day.

I had to move out of Elms at noon, and as a result I didn’t really get a chance to say goodbye to anyone in there with the exception of Marita. It was a very dislocating feeling. After I had checked out, Harriet and Andrew (They’re EVERYWHERE!) and Huey, the four year old they were fostering for the weekend, picked me up, and we drove together out to Bangor where Andrew’s parents live.

Yet another lovely afternoon/evening in store. First of all, Huey was absolutely charming. Such a smart young guy, always asking questions, always full of energy. We went to the beach and walked around in the water for a bit, taking care to avoid the jelly fish. We played on the swingsets. We gave the deaf cat, Alvin, some attention. It was great. While we were off walking in the sand, Andrew’s parents cooked up a feast for us; steaks, sausages, crisps, wonderful salads, fresh fruit. At about six, Harriet and Andrew left with Huey to go home for the night, and I stayed in Bangor.

When 7:30 rolled around, Andrew’s dad, David (Gosh, I hope I got that name right; I’m so bad at names.) and I walked to the church, where we watched the USA-England match. As the only genuine Yank in the building, I was a bit of an exotic specimen; but the atmosphere was great fun, and the balance of support in the building was about even. In the evening, we had some coffee and a chat, and I settled in to bed in the most comfortable bed I have slept in in the last nine months. Truly heavenly.


Sunday, David drove me in to Belfast, and I had my last Sunday at EBM. Andrew conducted a little interview with me in front of the congregation, and they all prayed for me, which was touching. I’m going to miss that place, really. After church, Harriet, Andrew, Huey, and I drove out again to Bangor and had another afternoon of food and fun. After that was finished I had a quiet night to myself as Jean and David went to evening church service. I watched an episode of Dr. Who, read a bit more, and attempted to write. Right before bed, we had a few glasses of wine, watched a cheesy soap together, and chatted some more. And I had another glorious night in that wonderful bed.


Which brings me to today. I was dropped off at ten in Belfast at Common Grounds. I got one last hurrah in there, and finished up the second chapter of my dissertation. Well, a rough draft at least. Then I did a lot of walking. All told three times across the river today running various errands. I had a last meeting face to face with Neo to discuss my thesis, and headed to Harriet and Andrew’s for a final night in Belfast. Harriet had some friends over and we watched the season finale of Glee. (I got a wee bit teary a few times. Zac, you were totally right about what happens when we grow older. Mom, I’m turning into you.)

And now I’m going to go to bed.

If you’re in Des Moines, see you soon; if you’re in Belfast or I met you here, I’m glad I met you, and I will miss you.