This week I thought I'd start out simply. Mostly because I have no idea where to start.
So here we go.
Why did we decide to come here?
We had a lot going for us back home - things we miss now, so why change that?
It began as a need to cleanse our lives of the things we had been justifying a need for, had accumulated, and continued to want. It turned into a lot more.
To make a really long story short, we chose Corrymeela to guide this journey. It didn't come out of nowhere. Eleven years ago I came here with another university to study peace and conflict resolution for a semester. It sounds like I was super sophisticated and really into the scholarly idea of studying such things in a place that was still struggling with it (Northern Ireland had just signed the Good Friday Agreement two years before that, which was meant to end "The Troubles"). The truth is that I didn't know anything about Northern Ireland and I just thought it sounded like a cool trip.
I spent the second half of my semester at Corrymeela working with groups. I was amazed. I was wowed. I was changed.
Although it never occurred to me that I'd come back to live here.
So why did we choose Corrymeela? We tell everyone jokingly it was because we had such a hot summer, and the the choice was between here or Cambodia - which is always hot.
The truth is that I grew tired of justifying peace, of talking about peace with my students, and of hanging up peace-minded bumper stickers in my classroom, when I couldn't honestly say I was doing anything about it.
A lot of good things have changed in this region over the last 11 years. Army vehicles and men no longer man the city streets of Derry (the town I lived in) with their giant intimidated guns. Belfast seems to be a much safer place. And conversations are happening that would have never happened before.
But a lot of hatred and violence is still there, and I'm reminded of it everyday. In the last 10 years there have been police and civilians murdered, new cease fires put into place, and people run out of their homes. New walls have been built around the city - named "Peace walls", that in reality invite violence between the two groups they divide. There are still Catholic children who are taught to hate Protestants, and Protestant children who are still taught to hate Catholics. This kind of stuff exists everywhere, and probably in every nation. The thing about Corrymeela is that it is actively working to fix that problem, in young and old, in their nation and others, in many people and many belief systems.
And I just feel lucky enough to be a part of it.