Travel Journal: Northern Ireland
Although I was running on three hours of sleep in the past 48 hours, my excitement on the bus from Belfast International Airport to the city kept me alert. Admittedly, I was a little ticked off because I had expected a shuttle to be awaiting me at the airport to take me directly to Queen’s University Belfast, in Northern Ireland, where I will be an exchange student this semester, and I really hadn’t expected to pay seven quid to the airport shuttle busman (when the airport worker told me to find the “busman,” I vaguely expected to see a man in a cape and tights at the wheel). Still, I was reveling in the glory of being out of a cramped airplane seat, as I had been for the better part of the past 11 hours. Moreover, I was captivated by the small idyllic sheep farms in a sea of green outside the window; they were like parts of a giant landscape painting come
After about 40 minutes we arrived in a giant bus compound. “Just go through that mall and turn right. Turn right again once you leave it. Go straight a while and you’ll be at Queen’s.” I think that’s what he said. Given the result of his directions, though, I’m not so certain...
“What street am I aiming for?”
“[Incomprehensible word with a strong accent]. There’s only one road.”
Well, I did what the man said. And I found myself in the middle of a neighborhood sporting the sign “Ulster Loyalists,” which was across the street from
a giant car lot and industrial park. When the road seemed to end into a hotel, I began to think I had taken a wrong turn. Surely this was not “the only road.” Bereft of a map, lacking a plan, and possessing a notoriously horrible sense of direction, I shouted down a group of Ulster Loyalists walking down the other side of the road. A man who looked like a bald, beardless Santa Claus kindly took me under his wing. He said to walk along with them and he would point me in the right direction. We chatted about this and that, and he asked me about my flight and studies. Despite the fact that I had expected to be taking a hot shower in my room at Elms Village by this time, and instead was dripping cold with Belfast rain, the warmness of this guy gave me some encouragement that I would, in fact, make it to Queen’s.
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