Belfast: Impressions from a Black Taxi

What we don’t know about other people could fill the space between us and them.

When I was 14 I visited Ireland with my parents. As we drove around the countryside we enjoyed everything that you are supposed to enjoy on an Ireland trip, namely the beauty of the green countryside. However, things in Belfast, Northern Ireland, while beautiful, are certainly different.

We took a Black Taxi Tour around the city. Our driver had “Love” tattooed on the knuckles of one hand and “Hate” on the knuckles of the other. His face had craters filled with a past that knew the struggles of the city. We drove past a large prison and I’m fairly certain that our driver knew some of the inhabitants.

As we were about to turn onto a street a group of young boys stood in a line in the road blocking us from going straight ahead. I remember thinking that I would die but our driver didn’t make a sound. He just turned around and told us about the next group of murals.

The driver took us to a wall that had separated the Catholic and Protestant sides of the city. Over the years hundreds of people have signed the wall, some with political messages, some with love messages, and some with pictures of breasts. When we got out to take a closer look our driver asked me if I wanted to sign the wall. I said I didn’t because I didn’t feel like I should have been a part of that history. My mom’s family is Irish but I have nothing to do with Irish religious rebellion. This felt the case even more when we got out of the taxi to look at the murals. Faces of the dead live on the walls and at times, it feels, all over the city. You never forget that wars were fought in front of homes.

The city is gray and beautiful.

Written by Rachel Goldfarb

 

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