With the extra sleep from the night before, a good number of us walked onto the coach the next morning looking a little more rejuvenated than usual. This however did little to help us stay awake for the 3-½ hour drive we had before our first stop. If I were to guess, I’d say about 10 minutes passed before 90% of the bus was asleep. What can we say, Rob is a good driver, the Scottish Stallion knows how to rock us to sleep.
As we approached our first stop, Donegal, we heard “Wake Me Up” by Avicci start coming through the speakers, Tim’s signature “wake up” song, and a collective yawn and stretch began to take place across the coach.
We were told we’d have about an hour to walk around, so Natalee and I immediately headed for the castle, because even though they seemed to be as common as middle fingers on a California freeway, we couldn’t help but gawk. Afterwards we walked down the main street for a bit, oohing, aweing and scouring the restaurants before ultimately settling on O’Donnells, where we both had French fries with our meals.
From Donegal we drove to Derry/Londonderry, the name of which consistently confused me when Tim mentioned it at the beginning of the week. But upon arriving we met Ronan, a Chinese, Irish, Buddhist (the only one we’ll ever meet, ever, he said) who gave us a walking tour around the city, sharing its history (and an explanation of its name) in eloquent detail.
Essentially Ireland is divided into two parts: The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and Derry/Londonderry is part of Northern Ireland. Within that city, there is a divide between the citizens on whether it should be part of the Republic (these citizens refer to it as Derry) and those who believe it should be part of Northern Ireland, thus part of the UK (these citizens call it Londonderry). This is obviously just the very shell of the story, the center of it relating to religion and civil rights. But unlike most historical cities whose conflicts you’d expect to see far in the past, Derry/Londonerry’s struggles, while they do have deep seeded roots, were very present in the 60’s and 70’s, and the repercussions are still easily seen today. Ronan himself discussed what it was like to grow up in the thick of it all and how prideful he is to see how far his city has come.
As we came to the end of our walking tour, Ronan gathered us around him and gave a final speech on how thankful he was for tourists like us, because our presence gave him such hope for the future. For lasting peace. He then preceded to tell us a story about one evening when he was sitting in the living room watching TV with his 8 year old son. It was late, much later than his son would normally be allowed to stay up, but that night was special as his son’s idol, Rory McIlroy, was golfing in the Masters. At a commercial break, Ronan recalled his son looking up at him and saying, “I want to be Rory McIlroy,” to which he responded, “I want you to be Rory McIlroy, you’re my pension.” His son was confused by this, but Ronan told him not to worry and smiled as his son turned back to the TV. That night when he got in bed, Ronan said he pulled out his journal and wrote words that he would never forget, for they were as honest as anything he’d ever written.
“I’m so glad our children and grandchildren can have dreams.”
To him, seeing his son able to aspire to be someone like Rory McIlroy and to dream of doing great things, this suggested a true presence of peace, and with that he was given hope.
If you’re tearing up, please try to imagine what it was like looking into this man’s eyes as he told this story. Then try shaking this man’s hand and realizing that yes, he is a real person who also happens to be an angel. All I’m saying is, THAT GUY 100% kissed the Blarney Stone.