Bob is seated next to you. He is the silent type (rare for a Jack-Russell). You have considered giving him a scratch, although reconsider because Josh (7) has informed you that he bites. You and Bob silently enjoy the heat from the furnace and he seems to occasionally drift off to sleep. Josh and Marlene are playing Jenga on the floor behind the couch. It is 5:30pm and completely dark outside.
It has been nearly a week since you passed through airport security 40 times and endured lengthy interrogations by customs officers. These conversations covered everything from what you did for a living and how much money you had in your bank account. They asked you details about where you were going and how long you would be staying. Apparently, “I quit my job in order to travel the world.” is not something they are used to hearing. Furthermore, it begs the question of “why start out in Ireland….in winter?!” surely, you must be up to something. “Trust me officer, if we were intending to work, we would go to a much warmer climate.” This seemed to satisfy them.
By a great stroke of luck they did not ask whether or not you were carrying any food. If they had confiscated your organic gogi berries or your Quaker Oatmeal Squares, you would have been super pissed.
Angus fetched you from the airport, thank god, because you could not imagine what it would have been like to public-transit/hike your way to this rustic place in the dark. Instead you were weaving in and out of traffic, at night, as if you were in an ambulance. Angus assured you he was not speeding, but that other wankers were going too slowly. This may have been true, but still, as an American it jars you a bit when you glance at the speedometer and it reads 120 (that’s k/h — something you will need to get used to).
There is actually a cow-catcher at the beginning of the drive (you discovered later this was to keep Donkey and Pony from escaping).
Waking up the next day, you would have thought you were in a dream. First of all, this place is wonderful. It is everything you thought it would be and somehow more. Sli Na Bande sits on about 4 acres of garden, a pond, several actual gardens, 3 dogs, compost bins, stables, 10 chickens, herb spirals, and a handful of wonderfully charming chalets for guests and yoga classes.
It is paradise. In one of the least-likely places you would expect to find paradise. Ireland in winter. Nevertheless, you are immersed in a splendid balance of luxury and “roughing-it” comprising of entire days spent outside and evenings spent indoors on armchairs with tea in front of fires.
Since you arrived you have had the pleasure of feeding and cleaning up after a group of 13 people for two days. You have shoveled and spread manure, organized compost bins, weeded, raked leaves, harvested leeks, potatoes, beets, artichoke roots, and herbs. You have reconstructed wood piles, sorted timber, fixed a rake, and found tools. You have managed to get very good at navigating the kitchen, as well as picking out edible things around the property.
You spend your days in work gloves and rain boots and every day you go to bed tired. that is really the goal, isn’t it?
The evenings are passed by cooking meals and lighting fires. Another reason why this place is paradise to you: you LOVE lighting fires. Of course, you also spend your time with your hosts, Marlene and Douglass. Marlene is a psychoanalyst and yoga instructor and Douglas owns his own company that manufactures moldings.
You and Maria have the attic to yourselves now, although for a few days you shared it with Fabiana (a lovely former wwoofer from Brazil). The attic has a low angled ceiling, as most attics do as well as several beds up against the walls and in corners. You have a bed, an armchair, and a table with two candles on it and a skylight. It is perhaps the most bohemian/romantic space you have encountered. You can’t help but feel as though you go back in time when you climb upstairs. Aside from the electrical outlet and the overhead lighting, it is completely void of anything modern. There are wooden chairs and tables, candles, and books.
You had always thought your first post abroad would be much longer, but this is it. All you need to communicate to yourself at this point in time is that you have been given everything you were promised (so far): a wooden house, an attic space, poop, dirt, wood sorting, weed pulling, cold weather, rain, and good company.
And you could not be happier.