This week’s blog post is brought to you by PPI-NI’s International Fellow, Leif Frymire.
It’s Christmas time in Belfast. You can feel it in the air. You can literally see it on every street. Houses are decorated. Lights are up. Everyone is in their finest Christmas Jumper (an “ugly” sweater to our American readers). Everyone is handing out cards. Boxes of chocolate are exchanged. For the past 3 weeks I have been slowly working through a tubs of Cadbury Heroes and Quality Street chocolates in addition to a large Toblerone.
At PeacePlayers, just because its the Holiday’s doesn’t mean we take a break. We were working up until what felt like Christmas Eve! After another successful Jingle Ball, we had OCNs (Open College Network qualifications) to deliver. Residentials to attend. SEP (Shared education programme) teacher support training to deliver. Christmas parties to enjoy. Twinning evaluations to conduct. Data to plug in. Strategic planning to think about. Speaking for myself, I would compare those last few days of work before Christmas to the last 200 meters of a distance race. The end is in sight, you give yourself a little kick to finish strong, but you can’t feel your legs anymore and you’re not sure if you’ll make it.
As I collapsed over the finish line, I took solace knowing I’d get to spend the next couple of days relaxing. And you best believe that’s just what I did!
Christmas comes. I spent the day like any other weekend. Watching Netflix. Talking to the family back home. Eating and playing games at the Byrne family’s home (Debbie Byrne, Ops Manager). Well I don’t do that last part every weekend….
Then came boxing day. A day for relaxing. For rushing to the Shopping centres for getting the best discounts and returning too big or small gifts. On this day, a few individuals such as myself, went for a swim in the Irish Sea down in Newcastle. It was the 2nd ever annual Boxing Day Plunge. An event to help raise money for PeacePlayers – NI.
Let me set the scene.
I awoke early. The drive from Belfast to Newcastle was quiet, dark and cold. I’m listening to the Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast. Mist and fog clung onto the rolling hills. I get down to Newcastle early. The drive was shorter than anticipated. Locals start arriving in the car park where I am holed up. They’re taking their dogs for walks, taking their kids for walks, and taking themselves for walks. They must be thinking, “what a day to walk and not swim!” Gareth and others taking the plunge arrive. Gareth is bustling around like a mother hen. Everything is ready. Except the tide. We have to walk 100 meters out across rock and seaweed strewn beach to reach the water. A couple of quick photos and we’re in. To get nice and wet we had to walk in knee high water for about 10 meters. Quick dip in and out. The water on me freezes right away thanks to some cold wind from Jack Frost. Everyone quickly grabs their stuff and sprints back to the warmth of their cars. I’m fully clothed, my dry shoes are on and I can’t feel my feet. I look back briefly. One woman is still out in the water and it appears she is enjoying herself. Everyone drives to Gareth’s mum’s house for a warm fire, hot coco and/or coffee.
All this before 10 a.m. boxing day.
If you are interested in supporting PeacePlayers NI, there is still time left to donate to the Boxing Day Plunge! See link below.