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Ireland in Review

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The time has finally come for you to depart from the stony island you have called home for the past two months. The day after tomorrow, you will be boarding a plane to Charleroi, leaving behind guest-rooms in favor of couches and maybe your tent. Purchasing meals as opposed to earning them. Reliable and free internet access and all of the comfort that come with shacking up with “family” for a while.

To be perfectly honest, it feels as though your traveling experience is just beginning despite having done so many things. You have been unable to shake the feeling that you have simply been spinning your wheels, idling, for the past four months.

Perhaps it is the weather. Something about rain and cold and fireplaces make you feel like you have been hibernating. Though truthfully, you’ve had some good times here despite being soaked, frozen, and brought to death’s doorstep with illness. Let’s review:

Your room in the attic.
Your room in the attic.

You arrived at Sli Na Bande, an unexpected oasis nestled between a forestry and a cemetery. Here you lived in an attic where you spent your evenings eating lollipops and/or popcorn watching Walking Dead and Trueblood. You slept under 4 duvets, and awoke every morning around 10am. You shoveled poop, raked leaves, cut down a tree, sorted timber, cut timber, washed dishes, used the most dangerous tools you have ever encountered, split logs, washed dishes, went for walks, painted a mural, washed dishes, sat by the fireplace drinking tea, made shortbread, washed dishes, baked actual bread, did yoga, participated in a sweat lodge ceremony, almost succumbed to strep throat, and got chased by a donkey, among other things. You were invited to spend Christmas and New Years with the family and it was wonderful. Even thousands of miles away from home you were still able to be around loved ones.

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Your first outing was also your first hitch-hiking experience. You found yourself in the back of a van with no windows that didn’t open from the inside. You followed this up with a splendid walk through Glendalough. Days later, you walked to Greystones, had fish and chips, and also caught the worst illness in recent memory. It was also raining.

lighthouse party

You hitch hiked to Wicklow town to meet Levente. You shared a bottle of wine at a lighthouse, visited a church that had been on fire only the night before, drank your way through the town, managed to get out before dark, lost Maria’s passport, bought more wine, found Maria’s passport, and went to church the next day.

You took a road-trip around the north of Ireland and to the west. You hiked around Giant’s Causeway, got profoundly lost, listened to pop music, hiked to Sleive League, Cliffs of Moher, all together drove 1200 kilometers and saw a shit-ton of sheep, stone walls, and more rain.

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An honorable mention should also go to the second time you hitch-hiked into Dublin to re-visit Judit and Susan. You got on with them so well the first time you couch surfed, they invited you to stay with them a second time before you left Ireland.

This over-night adventure went something like this: Two lifts in – the second from an off-duty charter bus- The Brazen Head Pub with money for wallpaper, 2 pints of Guinness, the outdoors store where you purchased a Kelly kettle, another pint of Guinness, smashing a bottle of champagne inside a plastic bag because the corkscrew broke, passing the champagne through a mesh strainer to get the glass out, drinking the worst champagne ever, music, snacks, Globe, finding 5 euro in change on the ground, people asking to try on your hat, people thinking you were Canadian, dancing, kissing, dancing home, candles, space heater, popcorn, Red Bull, Infected Mushroom, getting a massage by three women simultaneously, sleep, a big breakfast in the morning, storytelling, coffee, getting a lift out of Dublin by a van full of hippies, getting dropped near Bray (a mere 20 kilometers away from your destination) then NOT GETTING PICKED UP AT ALL for the rest of the journey. You walked 18+ kilometers to Angus’ house in the dark.

You have experienced incredible hospitality here. Angus’ house is amazingly warm and full of food. You have home-made curry every day and all the coffee and Darjeeling you could possibly want. You get your own room (which also happens to be the hottest room in the house) and it’s large enough to spread all of your gear on the floor for admiring whenever you please. And not to brag, but you have become rather mediocre at Snooker and darts. It will be missed.

Looking back, you did a fair amount of adventuring while you were here, though it seemed to happen at a slow pace. You know it happened slowly because you also managed to read the following books since you got to Ireland:

  • A Fighter’s Mind
  • The Tipping Point (kind of)
  • The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest
  • Survival in the Killing Fields
  • Letters to a Christian Nation
  • Everything is Illuminated
  • A Walk in the Woods

You have given Ireland a good run and you are ready for the next adventure (beginning with exclusive couch-surfing and getting to a place where they don’t speak English) and you are ready for it largely because Ireland (and the people in it) have prepared you. Until next time, you must say so long to your stony island.

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Sli Na Bande

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.

this is Bob

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.

Your room in the attic.

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.