Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hello Sweden!

After two days of traveling, a bus, a plane, a train, a ferry, and another train, I have made it to my family in Sweden.  Getting here was fairly easy, all things considered.  The airport in Dublin is worth visiting if you ever get the chance.  They had free samples of Bailey's Irish Cream and whiskey.  I liked Bailey's new hazlenut flavor.  When I landed at the airport in Copenhagen, the signs were in English as well as Danish.  Any time during my journey, especially after getting out of English-signed areas, I got well and truely confused or lost, I would stop someone and ask them for help.  All of the people I impinged upon were friendly and helpful, always pointing me in the right direction.  What surprised me the most was that everyone I stopped spoke English.  After a fair bit of bubling about, I did manage to make it to the rendezvoux with my cousin.

It is fabulous!  I'm getting to know the youngest generation and reacquainting myself with my cousin that I haven't seen for almost 10 years.  Later today, we are going to visit her parents and on Friday we will meet up with her sister and her family.  I am so glad I came and I am looking forward to catching up with the family.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Last Night in Ireland

My last night in Ireland.  My time here has been a bit of a roller coaster, ups and downs a-plenty.  In spite of the downs, I'm glad I came.  I have encountered people from all over the world on this little island: Holland, Sweden, America, England, Australia, New Zealand, Germany.  Sometimes, it seems I've interacted with more people visiting Ireland than with Irish themselves.  I have talked with people about horses, legal age of consumption, gardens, aliens, compost, spirituality, chickens, relationships, just about everything under the sun (or above it).  I've also enjoyed all sorts of different foods.  I'm looking forward to trying to make some of these dishes when I get back to the States.  I have greatly enjoyed my time here in Ireland.  Some of the people I have met since coming here have become very dear to me and I plan to remain in contact.  I am glad I came.

But there is still a week before I head back to the U.S.  Tomorrow, I fly to Copenhagen and take the train into Sweden to meet up with some of my extended family.  I'm a little nervous about going for two reasons.  First, I am having an extremely difficult time with Swedish.  It seems to have almost nothing in common with English or any other language I have much experience with.  My second concern is about the weather.  I'm not sure I fully grasped the fact that I would be going to one of the northern most countries in Europe just as winter is descending when I planned this trip.  We've had some thick frosts in the morning in southern Ireland. My guess is I didn't pack enough cold weather gear for this.  We shall see.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Still Here

No, I haven't dropped off this lovely little island.  I've just been very busy and mobile since my last post.  As you might have guessed, my former host and I have parted ways.  This event turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  I remembered a classmate mentioning WWOOFing as part of his international experience.  He said he had enjoyed almost all of his hosts.  I looked up the WWOOF website and found the link to the Irish WWOOF site.  I paid my fee (€20) and got a year's access to the hosts' posts and the discussion boards.  While still trying to work out how the site worked I stumbled across a call for help from the woman who has become my new host.  A set of emails and a few quick phone calls found me with a new host and a spot reserved on the bus from Athlone to Cork.

I settled into the trailer my hostess, Pippa, has setup for WWOOFers, complete with a tidy little kitchen and a working shower!  I worked for my hostess for several days, settling the organic garden for the winter and helping rake up leaves.  After talking with my host, I followed her recommendation to use the time she was having a guest over to go see Dzogchen Beara.  I entered the volunteer program there for what was planned to be a few days and ended up staying a whole week!  I joined the morning meditations and spent the majority of my days working in the garden or talking with one of their part time gardeners about growing food in a sustainable, responsible manner.  I also helped out with the normal volunteer activities, mostly maintenance and house keeping to maintain the gorgeous site.  I loved my time there and though I was only there for a brief period of time, I am so glad I went.  I met fabulous people and learned so much.  There seemed to be an air about the place, it was just a comfortable place to be.  That may be the nature of the facility or just the wonderful people I met but it is definitely one of the unexpected joys of my trip.  (Seriously, who expects to come to Ireland and end up at a Tibetan Buddhist retreat center?)

One thing that my time at Dzogchen Beara emphasized is my regret for not bringing certain things with me.  Somethings I simply forgot, like my cowboy hat with a brim that would keep the rain from dripping into the back of my collar.  However one item I didn't seriously consider bringing, and probably would have worried about the entire time I was traveling, is a mandolin.  I am only learning how to play it (and it's my mother's so I would have had to borrow it) but there are lots of evenings I have free time to practice and at Dzogchen Beara we would occasionally pull out one of the ever present guitars and have a round of songs.  One night we even went to a music night at the pub and people brought what ever instrument they played: guitar, low whistle, harmonica, etc.  I loved it, but wished I could have contributed more.

I am now back with Pippa, doing more of the odd jobs that tend to get put off because there's always something more urgent and having wonderful, thought provoking conversations.  After all this time, I know why the place is so green, it's always raining!  If you run indoors anytime it rains here in Ireland, at least from my experience of this season, you would never get anything accomplished outdoors.  It doesn't necessarily rain hard, or very much, but most of my days, especially lately, there has been some form of rain at some point in the day.  After getting used to it, I find I enjoy working in a light rain.  It keeps you cool.  I also just love rain and a light rain doesn't drench you through to the skin.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Moving On

As a continuance of last night's retraction, I would like to state that I deeply regret any harm I have done to my hosts here.  I posted a story I had heard second or third hand that was untrue and posted numerous other misunderstandings.  As a result, I have been asked to leave.

One of the things I regret most is that, as my host stated, I didn't ask questions.  Not only did I not ask them of him, I stopped asking them in my head.  I became distracted by the little things and forgot why I decided to come here in the first place.  This place is unique.  In all of the places in all of the world, I chose to come here.  I wanted to learn about this place that is bringing a different style of horsemanship to Ireland.  I wanted to know why and how my host became involved in something so uncommon here.  I wanted to know what he was doing to further western horsemanship.  Instead I forgot why I came and wrote stupid things on the internet.  I hope that someday he may forgive me.

But I still learned.  I learned a lesson that I'm sure they teach every burgeoning journalist the first time they set pen to paper.  First, double check all facts.  Second, use only first person accounts.  I also learned something about different cultures.  I do not regret my time there.  I do not regret learning these lessons.  I deeply regret any harm that I may have unintentionally caused to the people who gave me the opportunity to come see this incredible country.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


I would like to apologize to my readers and my host Cochise Stud for some of my recent posts.  They were unfair and reflected a limited understanding on my part.  I hope you will not hold this against me as we proceed on this journey of exploring new cultures and experiences.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Interesting Times

Yesterday, we had a bit of excitement.  Apparently one of the horses in the field, Buck, decided he liked the molassas mineral lick a bit too much.  Too much molassas has the unfotunate side effect of causing constipation.  In humans, this may not be a big deal, but in horses it can be life threatening.  As a result, we got to walk Buck around the arena for 2 hours while we waited for the liquid parafin to kick in.  Liquid parafin is used over here rather than caster oil for these types of problems.  We kept him walking to make sure he didn't roll and twist his gut, giving himself colic which can be fatal.

Turns out, my random herb knowledge may be useful after all.  We are out in the middle of no where.  It took us a few days to get someone into a town big enough to have a store with cough syrup for Jennifer.  She was having a hard time sleeping until I remembered that Elder Berries can be used as a cough suppressant.  It isn't as effective as cough syrup, but Jennifer ate a few handfuls of the berries before bed and was able to get a good night's sleep.  It makes me wish I had thought to bring along my herb books.  There are so many things that grow over here.  I know that some of them have medicinal properties, but I can't remember all of them.  I wish I could, especially since it seems I may be catching what ever she's got.`

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Tough Days

The past few days have been really tough. Gia returned to Sweden on Tuesday, leaving just me and Jennifer. Then, Jennifer got sick. So, for the past couple of days I have been doing what is normally a two person full-time job (we haven't had time for riding since Gia left). In addition to the normal everyday things, we are getting ready for winter. Today, we pulled out blankets, dewormed a bunch of the horses. and moved rocks to add stability to the muddy areas. One of the horses, Santana, also decided to work on the wall dividing her stall from another of the horses, Bonita. Therefore, we got to patch and shore up the cement wall and find Santana another stall while we wait for the cement patch to harden.

All this work and no play may be making me a little grumpy. Between that and conflicting advice on what I'm doing wrong, I decided to try to figure out what I am good at. What is my unique contribution? I may not be as experienced with horses as everyone else around here, but I think I am the best at customer service. Not the easy little "please hold the line" phone call customer service, no I'm talking about "oops customers, gotta keep them happy while we figure out where the boss went". Gia was the old hand who knew how things worked here, Jennifer is the best with the stallions, and I can distract the people who pay for the whole thing. That may not sound like much, but sometimes, it's the little things that get you through the tough times.

It other news, I finally figured out how to get a temporary phone here in Ireland! Better late than never. Apparently you need to get a phone that you can put a chip into, a sim chip, and credits for the chip. In addition, because the system can't be that easy, out here in the country, each of these three things has to be purchased in different stores in different villages. So, yesterday felt like a really bad treasure hunt. But, I finally got it working and figured out how to make an international call to the States. Last night was the first night I got to talk to my mother since landing in Ireland. I also got to hear my nephew; the boy has lungs! It's all the little things.