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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Visitors, security and packing....

From RandiArt

Randi posted the above pic to mark the visit of our cousins to Belfast. In my time here I've had two or three visitors, and I've enjoyed showing off my home away from home. This is actually quite a wonderful area to visit, but hardly anyone does and I'm happy that my presence here has given at least a few people the excuse they needed to visit Ulster. And to a person they are all impressed not only by the beauty of the surroundings, but also by the surprising (given recent history) lack of obvious security measures which almost everyone expects.

This is especially true for those who are making visits from the US where the growing obsession with Homeland security seems to the point where there are more police and security in more places with more scary weapons than anyone could remember. What is most obvious to the visitor to Belfast is just how little there is in the way of a police presence. I noticed the same thing in my trip to Brussels and Leuven this past weekend. As we took our bus tour of Brussels on Sunday, the guide pointed out that you can easily tell which buildings along to the US, UK and Israeli governments by the use of concrete barriers and newly constructed entry points for their facilities. Belgium, like Northern Ireland, is not a place without its deep divisions that can often lead to confrontations, violent and otherwise. And yet the possibility of problems has not brought on the kind of police state atmosphere that I now feel in mid Manhattan or other places in the US. Maybe over time the US will develop the same sense of either safety or resignation about potential terrorist attacks.

While cousins Bob and Evan continue their exploration of Northern Ireland, I will be busy with my preparations for leaving Belfast. I'm currently packing books that I will send ahead to the US, and in the process toss out a great stack of accumulated papers that have landed in my office and flat over the past 20 months. It has finally dawned on me that I am actually within two weeks of departure and there's a lot to do.

Among other things, I am also packing in my web sites at Rutgers as I make the change to the University of New Hampshire. Each day I tried to move a paper or two over to the new site, but this is a slower process than I imagined. Ultimately this blog will shift as well. As with the rest of the web site move, I'm going to treat this more as a learning experience than as a problem. Let's see what happens....

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