28th April (Wednesday) - Soccer Match
Football (soccer) is actually a very popular sports in Northern Ireland. The national team is managed by the Irish Football Association (IFA). There happened to be a match between Northern Ireland and Serbia Montenegro on the 28th April. Si Yu and I bought tickets for the match which cost £15. We arrived at 7.25pm, 20 minutes before kick-off time.
We were advised since the first day of our arrival in Belfast that the Windsor Stadium area is a place best not to be ventured at any part of the day. The tension between Catholics and Protestants may still be felt there. But whatever! We are there for a match.
A few Northern Ireland fan-stalls dotted the route to the stadium. We got the North Stand (Upper Deck) seats. The seats are good with a very close-up view of the field. Sneaking into the stadium without a ticket is impossible given the entrance system. I could hardly squeeze through the narrow rotating door where entry is only permitted by the ticket-office guy.
Mascots walked around the field before the start of the game. Oh man. I really hope to go to Disney Land in Paris during the Summer vacation. They look really cute and huggy. Drums and cheers resounded throughout stadium when the Northern Ireland players walked (Not run) into the field. We all stood up and sang the anthem of Northern Ireland (I think it is the UK National Anthem). God save the Queen!!!
The first half was rather lacklustre. The Serbian team players were much larger and quicker in pace than the Northern Ireland players. Thus the Serbs scored the first goal 7 minutes into play. The players and crowd were all stunned. I felt the fighting spirit of the NI players were not there. The second goal came in this time and it was indeed a remarkable goal!!! It was by the NI players. Really superb, their attacking speed astounded the audiences.
Now I understand why everyone in the stadium stand up whenever there's a goal. Those in front wanna get a better view of the action and stand up. Or they may just be excited about it. Which in turn block those behind. And they have to stand up too to catch a better view. There goes the first half and its half-time.
Half time sessions was pretty interesting. There were 4 primary school teams playing against one another on the field. Balloons were let off. The under-17 team were cheered for their coming finals. Cheerleading teams walked around the field. The field has everything on it.
The second half is where the true battle truly start. Battle drums sounded through the stadium continuously and we kept on cheering 'Northern Ireland!!!' What a moment to be remembered. And as a side note, we felt it is damn cold after sitting there for an hour plus. Yea. Besides the Belfast Giants competition, this soccer match is also the time when the Catholics and Protestants sat side by side supporting a common goal. Or just to kill time besides downing Guinness at pubs and clubs. The stadium is full-house. Final score 1-1. A good match with a deserving equaliser.
30th April (Friday) – EU Enlargement Day
On 1 May 2004, large parts of Eastern and Western Europe had been united in peace and democracy as the EU expands to 25 Member States. Ten new countries were joining the European Union - Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia. My Hungarian buddy Tibor had invited me in celebration for this classic event. We went to his house at College Gardens.
Here I am with Tibor and Eusoff from Malaysia.
1st May (Saturday) – Lazing at the Botanic Garden
The Botanic Gardens had lots of people warming up under the afternoon sun. What a beautiful day!!
We joined the rest at the Botanic Gardens worshipping the sun. Saw quite a number of old friends from the party at the park too.
7th May (Friday) – Samurai vs Knight
Tibor suggested that we have a short sparing session with the wooden sticks we bought from the hardware store. As I have been learning Kendo for around 2 years and Tibor belong to an order of knights from Hungary, this is a good opportunity for us to compare our sword-fighting styles.
Here we go! He has a greater variety of attack techniques as compared to Kendo. They have the leg cuts and neck cut from sides. Kenjitsu also have these great variety but Kendo has reduced it for tournament use. At the end, my sword head broken off due to the momentum and we have to call it a day.
8th May (Saturday) - Silent Valley
The International Friendship Association (IFA) organised a bus tour to the Silent Valley. We rendezvous at 9pm and the bus departed from Queens. We first arrived at the Silent Valley Reservoir.
We took a small group photo there.
We went back to the bus and our next stop is Tollymore Forest Park. The bus arrived at 1.30pm and from here we had our BBQ lunch of hot dogs and burgers. As the weather is quite pleasant, I decided to take a short afternoon nap before hitting the track.
While walking around the forest park, I came among several gentle streams.
I walked all the way to King's grave. Found there is nothing much there and came back.
13th May (Thursday) – Songs and Dance at Fisherwick
Fisherwick church has an evening of songs and dance. The best I felt was played by the fiddle, accordion and the harp. It was wrapped up with a choir team.
15th May (Saturday) – Cycling around Belfast
On this day, we decided to rent bicycles and cycle around Belfast. So here are the four of us.
Our first stop is Malone House. The view from there was remarkable and the weather was cooling.
We took a short break at Belvoir Park.
We proceeded on to locate Giant's Ring further south. It is a large circle field with rocks in the middle. The journey back was quite tiring as it involves a series of uphills and downhills climb.
We went back north of belfast to check out the port and the Odyssey. The journey here is more leisurely as the slopes are gentle. Here we are back to the Botanic Gardens, resting, against the backdrop of the greenhouse.
16th May (Sunday) – Friends at Potala
On Sunday, I will visit the Potala Buddhist Centre occasionally at Donegall Pass. Back then, this is the only Buddhist Centre in Belfast. After I have left Belfast, another Buddhist Centre came into place at the Cathedral's quarters.
A group photo with the rest there.
25th May (Tuesday) – Exams Start
My exams had officially began. As all I have to do is just get a pass in my module, I studied briefly just to pass them. During my first few days, I tried to settle in at the library to study. The central library has been around for more than a century, it feels really old. The books were also ancient.
5th June (Saturday) – Belfast Castle
After sending Joshua off in the morning, I brought Tibor to Belfast Castle and Cave Hill country park.
Here we are at the top of the country park.
Belfast at a Glance
From here on, we shall visit some of the major sights of Belfast. Here is the Queens University of Belfast Lanyon building.
A sneek peek into my room. No internet, no TV.
The famous (or infamous) Europa hotel. It has been bombed many times and it is still standing.
The fat cat of San Souci park. It is always there when we walk to university or back from there.
Another landmark building, the Botanic Inn. This is one of the more popular pubs around but it is also one that we have never really went into.
Over the weekends, we will normally prepare meals by ourselves. Here we are sampling the fruits of our labour.
The Queens' main building at night.
Meals at the Student Union
Let's take a peek into the meals we have daily. Over the weekend, they will serve the special Ulster Fry. It is actually potato bread fried with local-cure bacon. It has free range eggs with Armagh mushrooms. I love the mushrooms.
For lunch, I will normally go for burgers. I love the chicken and beef burgers.
Spring is a beautiful season. The weather is pleasing and the flowers bloom throughout the land.
Shopping at St George’s Market
St George's market is only open on Fridays' morning. As most of the time I have lessons in the morning, Joshua will be the one coming here for shopping. I came here twice with him.
Shopping in Belfast
The main shopping street in Belfast with the City Hall at the end of the road.
Here we are finishing our shopping with bags of Zara and so on. It is also through this trip that I learned to appreciate shopping as a past-time from Joshua.
Tuesday, June 08, 2004
Best of Belfast 2 [25/04 – 08/06]
28th April (Wednesday) - Soccer Match