Once I finished my first day of work, I felt much more confident leaving the third floor of the building than I did arriving. Even though I’d had several “barnga” moments throughout the day, especially my attempt to compare an Irish rugby rivalry to Duke vs. UNC, I felt good about my day overall. I walked out the door and onto the sidewalk feeling incredibly independent, heading for my bus stop. It was the first time I’d ever navigated an unfamiliar city alone and I was feeling empowered as I passed other business people on the street.
Then I suddenly dragged my head out of the clouds and realized that I had no idea where I was. I tried to look for things that I passed on the way to work that morning; city hall wasn’t helping me at this point. Did I pass that bank? Oh I’m sure I did. Wait, that’s the tower from yesterday’s tour, this can’t be right. I quickly turned down streets with things that were familiar from days before, but gave no bearing on where I wanted to go. I made up my mind that I was going to walk back instead of taking the bus. I’d done that before, I could do it again. But my main landmark, the Europa hotel, was no where in sight. All around me were voices that I vaguely understood and barely heard and I felt like people were staring as if I was an outsider. I wasn’t panicked, but I was far from comfortable.
Finally I saw something that flipped a switch for me. Queen’s Street. Hadn’t my boss said something about this? Well, I had nothing else to lose. I trekked down the middle of the alley and saw one of the single most beautiful thing in all of Belfast: Craftworld. Or as the Bus Inspector from two days prior said: Crftwrd. It was name of the store behind a bus stop that would take me back to Springfield Road and our beloved home. We spent a good long time waiting here earlier in the week, complaining about our aching feet and joking about the name of store and the way the bus inspector accent sounded. Small victories, small victories.