we weren’t sure what to think about you. after a five a.m. wake up call, an hour flight, a bus that stopped every block for a full hour, a missed train, a two hour wait at the ugly connolly rail station in dublin and a two hour train [with a woman coughing out her guts and moaning in a seat nearby] you greeted us with gray skies, rain and humidity at four o’ clock. we walked over a mile, dragging our suitcases [mine graciously tagged “heavy” by aer lingus], balancing our backpacks, carrying our laptops through your noisy, dirty streets. we stopped every two minutes, mumbling hold on, change, as we shifted suitcases from right to left, laptops from left to right.
although your warm air may have felt lovely for the first thirty seconds, it quickly grew old and stale and i longed for the brisk edinburgh evenings. my thick wool sweater was not an appropriate choice for this little jaunt you took us on. my unshowered, running-on-four-hours-of-sleep body was also an unwise choice for our first meeting. this is simply a weird day. we have seen nothing except the inside of an ugly, cold train station. how weird.
half-way. how you holding up? kristen asks. i can’t feel my left forearm. a minute of tired silence. i need a shower. i need a shower so badly. we turn off the main road onto a side street, the wheels of our suitcase behind the loudest noise. i am covered in sweat. — i know. me too. sick. we hear a hiiiii there! and look up to two guys sitting in their car, stopped in the middle of the street, watching us pass. we wave, they drive off. kristen laughs, thank you, thank you very much. we would get honked at the very day we look and feel like pooptards. great.
we checked into our hostel. clean building, friendly people, our room with one double bed [and floor space for nothing else] would do. i showered. kristen laid on the bed. i laid on the bed. over an hour passes. i feel my stomach, empty: i am starving but i am too tired to walk to food. google helps us decide on a thai restaurant, six blocks away. sure, six blocks we can do.
the street we walk down is deserted. the gray skies make everything eerie. we passed a china, china unlimited buffet on our left. if all else fails, at least we have china, china. our exhausted bodies carry us to the thai place. closed. silently, we scan the street. indian? closed. pub? closed. kebabs? we’re on our way. the man behind the counter speaks very broken, slow english. he responds to my order for chicken + rice + salad with, we have no rice. okay, how long for the rice? one hour.
he: where are you from?
he: JESUS. [his hands fly up in the air.]
me: um… good jesus or bad jesus?
he: I LOOOOOOVE CANADAAAAA.
me: oh. happy to hear that. okay, so if you don’t have rice, i’m sorry, we’re really going to have to go somewhere else. i can’t have wheat or any of this other stuff here.
he: why you come to belfast?
me: just to travel. see the city.
he: [he makes a face] ohh no. i live here two years. i want to come to canada so bad. belfast: not good. hate it. leave as soon you can.
me: oh, wow. really.
he: yes. dangerous at night too. don’t walk area… oh, canadians! they like vegetables! you look vegetables, ya?
me: yes, i like vegetables.
he: look at all this i have. look, look! [he proceeds to point out various varieties of fried vegetables and items that perhaps have a bit of lettuce in the long ingredient list.]
me: i’m really sorry.
he: you want rice? okay… china, china has rice! lots of rice. on the corner.
to be continued… observations on belfast: part two tomorrow.
apparently i love to write.