A Quick Stroll Through Belfast

Ireland is a country on the move. As I departed by train from Connelly Station in Dublin, I could see out of my window at least 27 big cranes doing construction around the city. I can’t recall ever seen that many big cranes in action at one time. And that was only 1/2 of the city! I couldn’t see the other half, since the train cut my view in half.
Everywhere you go in Ireland, you can see evidence of the Gaelic or Irish language. It’s not a hard language to sound out, but it’s impossible IMO to sound it out properly using standard English pronunciations.
Other cities in Ireland were also showing a lot of evidence of construction, though not on the same scale as Dublin. As the train pulled in to Belfast, which is actually in a different country (the UK), I counted about 8 of the big cranes – the second largest number of construction cranes after Dublin. So it seems like the prosperity that is lifting the Irish economy is also helping out in Northern Ireland.
Many people asked about “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland and while things certainly seemed good, you could see evidence that the north has had its share of problems. For example, there were still many areas cordoned off with wrought iron fences with spear-like tops, nationalistic graffiti, and spots with barbed wire.
However, the vibrant economy really seems to be pulling up the area by it’s bootstraps and improving the outlook for everyone. There is peace (though not necessarily good humor) between the opposing camps. And the area is definitely prospering. Here’s a picture of me along with (from left to right) Damien McGivern (leader of the local user group), Karim Rauf, Alan Boyd, me, John Quinn, and Neal Gordon.
I was also able to visit the beautiful campus of Queen’s University, just up the street from my hotel. It’s a large, vibrant campus with thousands of students from all over the globe.
I also learned about the age-old pastime of “conkers“. It’s a game that reminds me a bit of marbles. It’s a passion of the guys here that, while they’re still in grade school, they try to find the biggest, hardest chestnut that they can find. They then drill a hole through the chestnut (or conker). Each kid takes turns holding their conker out dangling from its string while the other player whacks it with his own conker. The first one to break loses the game. I had never heard of the game, but when I later spoke at the presentation to 35 people (all men) everyone had played it as a kid except for the 3 American men in the room.
Funny stuff!

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