Living in Belfast (well, Norn Iron in general) comes with its drawbacks.
Roads blocked because of protests/parades - There has been a Loyalist protest at Twaddell Avenue since last July because they are upset (as if I really know what they're really feeling) with a decision made by the Parades Commission. The road is blocked every night from 7:30-8:30. We use this road daily.
Being hyper-vigilant about what you say and to whom you are saying it. A few weeks ago, the Lord Mayor of Belfast visited the Quaker Meeting I attend. After the meeting, he spoke with Steffi and I about Quaker Cottage for a bit. During the talk, he asked us which road we take to come down the mountain. There are two roads: the Ballygomartin which heads down into a Protestant area and the Whiterock which heads into a Catholic area. In a backdoor sort of way, he was asking which side we supported more. Although he seemed like a very nice man trying to right the wrongs of the past, this question seemed out of place and inappropriate. This is the way conversations can often go. People just have a way of knowing whether someone is Catholic or Protestant based solely on what you say. Don't you dare let on that you're from Ardoyne (Catholic neighborhood) if you're in the Shankhill (Protestant neighborhood). Should I say Derry, Londonderry, Derry~Londonderry? Gotta be careful which sports team you claim to support. Even the way you pronounce letters (H can be 'aitch' or 'haitch' depending on where you're from) can tip someone off.
Security alerts - We had a security alert today in the neighborhood of one of our afterschool children and nearby several others. This forced us to make phone calls to their mums, reroute our bus runs, and find ways to avoid the roads that were closed off or severely backed up. A security alert essentially means that there could be a bomb/pipebomb/suspicious bag in the area. This is not the first time that I've dealt with a security alert. Sometime before Christmas, Becky, Steffi, and I ventured down to the City Centre. On the walk there, we passed by a cathedral. An hour later, we walked back along the same route and found the area around the cathedral cordoned off by police officers. Once home, I found this article. Essentially, a bomb had exploded nearby where I had walked an hour earlier.
And on that note, I'm not sure if I'll ever get used to seeing police officers walking around in full body armour and carrying assault rifles.
Roads closed because of closed gates - In certain areas of the city, there are peace lines in place. Basically, they're walls that cut off one neighborhood from another. There are some roads that cross these lines, so they have gates on them. Although I've only been blocked by a gate once so far, the potential annoyance is there. I understand the purpose they serve, but man it would be great if they weren't necessary.
I have been told that you can't truly understand the situation in Northern Ireland unless you live there, and after six months here, I have to say that I still question the extent of my understanding. In fact, I'm not even sure if anything I just wrote might be construed as inappropriate or choosing sides.