The grass actually is greener in Ireland

August 26th, 2014 | Uncategorized

Today has been the most beautiful, sunny, and warm day since my arrival. From the vantage point of the low-income housing estates in East Belfast today where we ran two summer camp sessions, I couldn’t help but lose myself from time to time, just staring up at the surrounding hills and their sprawling greenery. Sometimes its hard not to stop and stare at natural beauty, in people, places, and things.


The kids don’t allow it for long, though. 


Our sports mentors warned us that the children we work with are going to look at us like we’re celebrities, like everything we do is worth a round of applause (I won’t let them know that I find most of them just as captivating, because then I wouldn’t feel as cool). But they run around with their “wee” Northern-Irish accents (which are, indeed, much different from those of the South), all the boys with their modern, stylish haircuts, and they follow us around like we’re the interesting ones. 


Many of the kids I meet love watching me do weird yoga poses, and they have a great time trying to achieve the poses as well, laughing their way through their own successes and failures. I met my match yesterday in eight year-old Zoe, a dancer who was capable of mimicking almost every pose I challenged her with, plus many more that are out of my skill-range. She didn’t think she was very good at soccer (she’s becoming more and more my mini-me), so I braided her hair while the rest of the kids played.


Today, one of our sports mentors informed me that she was asking him over and over again when I’d arrive. Once I walked in, she ran towards me and jumped up and down, offering a tiny bag filled with what seemed like hundreds of little elastic rubber bands, and asked if I’d give her “a million little plaits.” I asked around, and found out she wanted corn-rows.


I’d been intriged by Zoe since the beginning…It isn’t every day that the quaint little blonde girl with glasses is the one in the group choosing things like “scull crushers” or “blood and guts” as team names during activities. Turns out she likes to watch mortal combat movies and she one day wants to fight for her country in the UK army. She has a grandfather that was in the Royal Navy, and survived, and she’s very proud of that. 


Zoe has a brother who attends the camp as well. He often gives her a hard time, and much to my surprise, she usually cries or concedes to him. Though he’s larger and older, given her spirit, I’d expect her to put up a fight. She confuses me in a good way. It’s like when you don’t know your judgements until you’re confronted by them…Young people are not just made of simple problems and simple emotions. I’ve known Zoe only two days, and I’m certain she’s more than that. It makes me wonder how many of these young people I meet are full of layers and complexities, the likes of which I would only expect from adults. 


It’s overwhelming, the idea that I could learn so much from every young person I’ll encounter on this journey with SCL. It took very little effort with Zoe, but in no time she was jumping up and down at the sight of me and asking me for my mailing address. She won’t be attending the last day of camp tomorrow because she has a dance class, so it’s very likely I may never see her again. Even though I know I’m not as cool as she thinks I am, I hope she always knows I’m someone she can reach out to. 

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