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I had a relaxing last few days in Belfast before I was set to leave on Monday to further explore Ireland on my own. After the randomness of Thursday, Friday I borrowed Jonathon’s bike for the day and rode along the river to do some writing in my hammock in a nice secluded spot. I rode back down to the city center along the river, too, and somehow figured out how to get to Cave Hill, the mountain in Belfast. It was a bit hard riding up hill, but I locked up the bike at the park entrance and hiked up. It was a nice sunny day and the path wasn’t very busy and there were great views of Belfast and the harbour at the top. It was funny passing random cows along the way. I met some travellers at the bottom and we had a nice chat after they offered to take my picture in front of the Cave Hill sign. I met up with Karen and we rode back to hers to have a chill evening of dinner and a movie. Carol came over and we watched Me, Before You. It was an interesting flick, uplifting in a semi-disappointing way, at least a different perspective on living life to the fullest and being happy. After the morbid read of White Noise and my recent thoughts on not being afraid of death, but afraid of not living it, the film aligned more than I first realized with my own thoughts on life.
Karen’s parents brought her little brother down to spend the day with us on Saturday and Carol took us all to the Giant’s Causeway and Port Stewart. It was a lovely day, despite putting up with moods of a seven year old, but it was fun to see things through his eyes a bit, too. It was a bit of a walk for him and he didn’t completely understand the beauty of a rocks and mountains, but I thought it was pretty cool. We stayed in that night and got ready for the family reunion the next day. Karen’s dad’s side of the family were all getting together to celebrate the wedding of a niece who had gotten married in England earlier that summer. Unfortunately, the bride could not attend, but all of the 15 Henry children of Gerard’s family was present, and many of their kids, too. I was welcomed in quite nicely and it was great fun meeting so many of Karen’s cousins, aunts, and uncles, and it was really easy to talk to everyone. They even had some Henry cousins in from Chicagoland, Naperville, small world indeed. Everyone warmed up after we ate and we had some drinks and a great time conversing. I was the shortest person there, which was unusual for me! I spoke to Mark, the groom, for while, who was really nice, and a couple of Karen’s cousins were great to chat with about life and travelling, and one of them had also taught in China.
We made our way back to the Henry farm and hung out with her parents and her brothers before heading out on the small town, the night before a holiday, so everyone would be out. I played some songs on my guitar for the family and they really enjoyed it! It was awesome. (Oisin told me that his dad said I say ‘awesome’ too much, haha, but when Gerard asked Oisin what he thought about me, he said I was awesome.) Karen’s brother gave us a ride to the bar and we were sad him and his girlfriend couldn’t come out with us. It was really fun going out and meeting more of Karen’s friends, it was really good craic as we danced to the live music and had a few drinks. It felt a bit like being in my hometown. Everyone was friendly and happy to see each other. Carol’s mom picked us up and dropped us off and then we stayed up a bit and chatted with Karen’s mom, Clare. The next morning, we had a really lovely Irish breakfast and Jonathon picked us up in his new blue BMW. It was hard saying goodbye to Karen’s parents, they were so great to meet and spend time with, and I can’t fully describe how truly lovely people they are.
It was just really nice to see how the Henry family lives and how Gerard and Clare love their children so much and give them freedom to live their lives while still being there for them. Karen and her sister are such sweet girls, and Conrad and Finbarre were really nice boys. (I have yet to meet Cormac because he is currently teaching in South Korea.) And Oisin of course has such a fun spirit and is so smart, and his parents are so good with him. I really hope I can see them all again someday, but really appreciate that I’ve met them. It was really hard to leave them!