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.