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Sunday, June 19, 2005

A day of goodbyes in Belfast....

I am only half kidding when I tell people that I've gotten to that point in life where I am the oldest person I talked to on any day. The fact is, as I head toward my 59th birthday this little jest is all too true, especially here in Northern Ireland and at the Institute of Governance where I am surrounded by a great many bright young scholars. The problem is, I often forget that I'm the old man in the bunch while they are all too conscious of it.

I mention this because of the difficulty of saying goodbyes this week to some of my closest companions during the two-year stay in Belfast. High on that list is friend Ciarán who is often mentioned in these blogs and whose friendship has proven very important to me, especially since we began writing together -- or at least arguing about things that eventually turned into co-authored pieces.

I do not play the role of "Senior Mentor" very well at all, and in that regard I prefer collegial relationships based on compatible intellectual interests rather than deference based on age (not that I got much of that...thank goodness...). Nor for that matter does Ciarán play the role of "Deferential Junior Scholar" very well. It was clear early on that Ciarán was able to see how some of my amateurish explorations of political theory and political philosophy tied into his own interests, and perhaps as a result of his capacity to tolerate my constant droning on and on about things I knew so little about that we finally developed into a co-authoring team that has now established a published record and will hopefully carry that forward along a couple of different fronts.

Today was also a day to say goodbye to friends Bronagh and Patrick, two of the most interesting and generous people I think I've ever met. In fact, my only complaint is that I have yet to be able to beat them to picking up the 'tab'. I am really looking forward to their next visit to New England where I can play the role of host. Interestingly, however, they are far better connected than I am in the US, and so I also look forward to their visit so that they can introduce me to some of their many, many friends and acquaintances....

Finally, it was a day to say goodbye to Niaz and to hand over the keys and control of my flat which I will formally hold onto until late August. Niaz doesn't really say goodbyes, so after a dinner at a chat late this evening he took his leave....

What did make the process of saying goodbye to these and other folks a bit easier this week is the prospect of almost constant contact through e-mails, web sites, blogs, and even web cams. I am planning a trip back to Belfast in August (fingers crossed) and definitely in October, and the number of projects that will provide a constant reason for me to keep in frequent touch with people like Ciaran, Justin, Elizabeth, Istemi, Iqbal, John (the several of them), Barbara, Stephen, Trevor, et al. made it quite a bit easier to get through this last weekend in Northern Ireland.

And so now to the last of the packing....

So long, Belfast -- at least for now....

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