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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Have you ever been in a foreign city when a bomb went off? I have.

There's apparently some unrest in Northern Ireland, which has me a bit restless as a result since I'm planning to fly over in T-minus five months.
Rodney Aldrich, who has spent a decent amount of time in the religiously-torn country, reported in his blog that the first killing since March 2009 occurred on Saturday when a 25-year-old policeman (described as a Catholic) was a casualty of a bomb booby-trap.
The Record's lucky to have Rodney, who I've spoken with myself on a few occasions, as a blogger since he really is a good authority on the N. Ireland topic.
Coincidentally, I just interviewed two teachers from Northern Ireland this past week, one was from near the area where my friend's wedding will take place and the other from the county near the Giant's Causeway which I plan to visit hopefully not while a severe conflict is brewing and manifesting in the country. I might re-interview these teachers about this possible IRA attack.
Though, if these incidents continue, it would not be the first time I was at a location during a bombing.
I was just "reminiscing" with my dad about when I received a travel enrichment grant from my alma mater to study the ancient city of Troy. (Ten points to anyone who knows where the ancient city of Troy actually is. Two hints: it's not in Greece and not in New York's Capital District.)
Through the grant (which was a decent chunk of change and I am still very grateful for the donation and the opportunity to this day), I was to travel from London where I was already studying abroad to Istanbul. I would then meet up with a tour group and see various parts of the country - including Hisarlik and Mount Ida near Canakkale which is where excavations continue to this day of the remains of Troy. They've found about nine layers of the legendary city and it is believed that layer seven is when the Homeric Trojan War took place mainly because of the city walls found from that time period, around 1,200 B.C.
Normally with these grants the school frowns upon using a tour company since the main purpose is to really absorb the culture and research your topic (mine, being an English major, was to compare the findings at the site with the classic books about Troy). They made an exception in this case mainly due to the Nov. 2003 bombings in Istanbul. Actually, for a while, I was not even sure if I would still be going due to the travel warnings. But I went. Needless to say, my parents were a little...ok, very...worried. I did my study abroad from Jan. 2004 to May 2004. (Also, during this time the March 2004 Madrid bombing occured which almost affected some of my fellow study abroaders, but that's a whole other blog entry.) My plan after was to fly to Istanbul, spend 10 days in Turkey, and then make my way from Eurasia back to Europe where I would travel via bus, ship, and train through the continent mainly using a Eurorail pass. (All told, I went to about 20 countries in two months but, again, that's another story.) I've been on a lot of planes but I still vividly remember the four-hour trip from London to Istanbul. I think the best way to describe how I was feeling was anxious. On the outside, I was trying to put on the facade that I was fine but deep down that was anything but true. It was probably partially because I was about to start a long trip where I would be traveling alone and I really did not know what to expect. If I were to be given the same opportunity now, I don't know if my 28-year-old self would have the kahunas that my 21-year-old self had. But the other reason I was worried was because I was going into a mainly Muslim country (my first visited Muslim country, even if it is secular) and protests of the U.S/Britain involvement in the Middle East had reached a climax. This included targeting British HSBC banks. My bank. I remember waking up on my third day in Istanbul to news that there was a "small" bombing (if these things can ever be small) across town from where I was staying. I made a point not to visit HSBC banks for the remainder of my trip in Turkey. Aside from that "small" scare, I had the time of my life in Turkey and I still believe it is a very misunderstood country. It has been denied entry into the European Union for years for reasons which I believe mainly stem from mistakes made on the part of small sects of the population(which would have been like not letting Germany into the EU because of their Nazi heritage) and because of its Islamic ties even though Turkey has one of the richest histories in Christianity. The house where Mary (ya know, that dude Jesus' *cough* virgin mother) was purportedly born is in Turkey, as are some of the very first Catholic churches which at the time had to be hidden in caves and grottos for fear of persecution.I've since developed an affinity with Turkey that I'm not sure I share as much with the other countries I visited that year. And, like Turkey, I believe Northern Ireland is misunderstood as well since it's hard to see through the IRA bombings, the killings, and the bloody past to see the beautiful country that it is. I'm looking forward to discovering as much of its history, bloody or otherwise, and experience its culture upon my visit in September. I have a feeling there might be a confluence of my current and my 21-year-old selves since I very well might need that same courage I had back then and combine it with knowledge I've gained since.

posted by Danielle Sanzone at


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