Rural Ireland is about 40 years behind everywhere else on the Isle. There are signs for animals (cows, horses, sheep, dogs, etc.) in small rural townships that haven't been repainted for years.

Rebecca and I share a room, before that I was lone lady in this room. We get along so well, likely, because we both have a shared love for being in constant motion and "cleaning" our rooms. All the time. Comical and I love it. My bed is left, hers right. Sometimes at night we have giggle fits like we are 14.
Oh, God of Little Things! A small sign of my hybridizing. My home, other home.
From the top of Torc Mountian. We take our guests on my trip up here, only when the weather is good. It is a solid climb (for a little day trip) but you are rewarded for the views. Laugh Lake is in the picture, as well as Killarney (the buildings far away...)
And Torc Falls! We take a trip in Killarney national park to see these also on my trip.

From my perch on the table of the Ireland leader house I can hear the steady hum of the drier. Hum. hum. hum. I can see the gray sky outside. After three months of this drizzle on, drizzle off, sprinkle, pour, repeat, I am unaffected by the weathers changing emotions, violent tantrums followed by brilliant smiles; soaking fits of rain and wind and my life changes, again, day by day, month by month.

Finishing another trip I am facing a few days off, a few days to soak in my final moments of time here in Ireland. Hum. hum. hum. Three months, three months, the beginning of a football season in another country. An almost-whole semester at university, one fourth of a year. I spent here, in West Cork. The area has taken hold of my heart and I fear it might never let it go, or at the very least, I might never be the same.

Perhaps this is the great tragedy of travel. You leave your job, your home, your people, your life to pursue 'something' greater, a question without words you can't even answer yourself. You take off to see and live and taste and experience and breathe these areas of earth you couldn't have even fathomed existed, and you cannot exist the same way in the world after what you see. What you learn, what becomes your new home, experiences, routine. These cliffs and bogs and water and weather and whiskey and tea are in my heart, my blood. Ireland, like the damp rain, has made its way to my blood and bone and I am a better woman for it. A better human walking the earth because of what she has seen and done here, lived and experienced.

Hum, hum. Hum.

With the final scores still weeks away, knowing what kind of job I did here in Ireland will (hopefully) cement me a return for 2009. I am thrilled at this and equally as sad to think of leaving here, my new friends and town. The new friends and town pictures will make there way to these pages at some point. Hum, hum, hum.

In the days ahead I will be finishing off the administrative portion of my trips. Another brief adventure awaits as well, these final days of Ireland are cause for reflection, hope, meditation and gratitude. And surf? And bike? And tea at my favorite place in town, Jam? And Banoffi pie from Cafe Mocha? A run around the stone circle? A walk along Kenmare Bay? Hot Chocolate at Benoits? Lucky I am, lucky I will be.

Hum. Hum. Hum.

I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.
Maryanne Radmacher-Hershey

Ah, illness a good old fashioned ROAD TRIP!

It reminds me of my first road trip in the Summer of 2001 with Jenny Van Kempen. Armed only with a map from AMA and our undying enthusiasm, viagra sale we set out across the mountains to Kelowna to visit with our dear friend Jordan. We contemplated life one mountain road at a time, viagra sale stopping only briefly for water and snacks, and a $15 Enrique Inglasias CD I still own to this day. Playing it reminds me of the crazy heat, the lazy summer days and the late night swim Jordan took us on outside when we got there. That road trip is engrained in my memory. Special.

So off to Dingle with a few days off to road trip summer 2008 style- and Ireland style- rain. Not to be confused there is Dingle (the city) and Dingle (the Peninsula). Most of this area, Cork and Kerry, is famous for its rugged coastline dropping dramatically into the sea... More undying enthusiasm later and a rental car that the steering column is right, and the shift in the middle (and more then a few tries of me going to shift and hitting my hand against the door on the right) and off to the north goes the travel. What I found was absolutely gorgeous- see more pictures below. This country keeps getting at my heart.

And Dingle, the Peninsula. The 47 km Slea head drive takes you right out to the edge of the world, or so it seems! The Atlantic is crashing against the rocks. Solidly, rhythmically, unapologetically. Like it has done for hundreds of thousands of years. Standing in the silence of the ocean and rocks you feel small in this great big world. Very small.

On my list of goals for 2008 was… learn to surf. This is for two reasons. 1. I thought I fit the mold of “surfer girl”. 2. So I could go work for Lacy in Costa Rica as a surf-yoga-fitness-bike-hike-multi-talented-multi-faceted woman. Ok. 3. It looks cool. Here is what I learned from my surf lessons and time on the board. 1. It is quite hard. 2. It is quite a good work out. 3. I’m good (yes, invisible air fist pump of enthusiasm here!) well- as good as one can be after two days in the water, ha ha.

Orion was my surf instructor and then surf buddy. With his prompting I was able to stand up. Before I knew it. SURF! SALUTE! I am sure I am far from a ‘vision’ on the board, but it turns out that having yoga helps- a lot- and also having boogie and body boarded helps to in the whole “feeling the wave” part. And here I thought all those times Mom and Dad put us on boards they were just trying to break our noses and scare the living daylights out of us. Nothing is as humbling as getting swallowed up by a wave, wondering what is ‘up’ and then realized something long and black is attached and pulling at your leg. AH HA. The surfboard. Also humbling is when two eight year old kids came out to surf with Orion and I. And after they caught wave after wave, I pop up on the board and ride in and the young guy, Finnbar yells “HEY, GOOD JOB LADY.” LADY? Lady? Oh boy.

I was able to pop down to a mediation retreat at Castletownbere afterwards and spend some quiet time before heading back to Kenmare. It was absolutely stunning. I was reading on the board they do year long retreats of silence. Silence.. for a whole year? Really? Good lord. That seems like about 350 days too long to me. But a challenge, I suppose, for those living, praying and meditating there. I make a note to myself to come back for a weekend retreat sometime, the location was a-m-a-z-i-n-g. See below.

Back in Kenmare I got a delightful surprise when my friend Rocky phoned. Her and her boyfriend/ FINANCE got engaged on a recent trip to Paris. Ah, there is love all around for the wonderful people of my life, and I am SO so excited for them.

And here I go for my prep day. I am getting ready for a MIRQ- Multi-sport Ireland Casual… my trip. I am stoked and scared all in the same breath… should be an interesting week!

Holly xo

A peculiar dilemma struck me in the Supervalu yesterday. I was purchasing syrup and there were only two kids available for sale. One kind was bottled in clear glass. The front label was green and blue and the title was “Authentic Canadian Maple Syrup”. On the flip side it noted the syrup was produced in London. The other syrup was in a brown non-see through container. On the second bottle the title reads “Real Maple Syrup”. Bottled in Germany. So standing with two bottles in each hand I am torn what to choose for my pancake and Canadian Syrup breakfast in honor of Canada Day tomorrow (today).

For me the day goes beyond the gold writing on the front of my passport, thumb or the red Roots tee shirt I have carried with me for four months (and worn all over the countries I have been in); the real crux of the matter boils down to that I have never felt more patriotic then I do when I am far away from home. Being in Canada for years and years on Canada day was met with little more then a shrug and perhaps a cold Canadian Beer, medical more then likely a football game would fall sometime during the long weekend. Perhaps camping with pals. Perhaps working. Maybe I’d wear red that day. Maybe I’d forget.

So it seems odd, perhaps, that I have been stewing about Canada day since sometime last week. Thinking. When I am asked here (and it is only a matter of how long once someone starts talking to me) what part of the USA I am from, I am quick to respond Calgary, Alberta, Canada, like they are asking me a question where the very heart of the matter is the question of home and belonging. To what do you link your identity? And is the country of your birth so much a part of who you are it is unshakable, despite lengthy absences, other citizenships and years spent away from your motherland? Does the sign that hangs in the Edmonton Eskimo dressing room ring true, a sign that gave me shivers for years and continued to long after Dad had left, the sign that announces in plain, bold painting that has been in that dressing room for forty years: Once an Eskimo, Always an Eskimo. Is it that, Once a Canadian, always a Canadian?

Growing up ‘Canadian’ I always considered myself as so (with an American Dad). It was only years later in my semi- adult life (I’m not a full fledged grown up yet, am I?) that I considered the weight of bearing two passports. Two legal documents I own stating I “belong” (in some sense of the word) to two countries. One country which is like a long lost older sister, a sister you want to know, a sister you want to love. A sister you do love, despite not knowing her, her charms, her desires and goals, her pitfalls, her idiosyncrasies. But this sister is a stranger to you. You do not know her. You know of her. You’ve danced the idea of being closer to her. But you do not have a relationship with her. She is just a blue document with silver writing, colored pages, and a citizenship statement with your picture. It is your picture, you realize. But it is not your life. It is just an unknown half family piece.

Calling myself a Canadian abroad has more meaning to me then I could have ever realized living in the actual country for years. Like we all have to leave home to discover how good it is at home. So on this particular Canada day I find myself wearing my Roots red tee, asking myself the question, what does it mean to me to be Canadian?

The answer, it seems, can be found on Google. Making a pancake breakfast for the two souls in the Irish leader house (a California boy who has a German mother and Italian father, an Englishman who is in love with a French woman) with my syrup and my Canadian artists play list on itunes, I am creating a monologue in my head (and a blog under my fingers) to do due justice to the feelings in my patriotic heart this morning. But it is not Google’s ‘101 best things about Canada’ or the ‘Canada Rocks’ or ‘I am Canadian’ website that gives me this insight. It is (thank you Rod Stewart) the Rhythm of my heart. My hearts answers when I ask it about being Canadian.

To me, being Canadian is about Peace. In our country, and world wide as ‘Peace Keepers’. It’s about knowing our history, the good, bad and ugly, and all the provinces and their capitals. It’s about seeing the beauty of a Vancouver evening or feeling the heart beat of old Montreal. The Canadian Rockies during ski season, the lakes in the summer. But more then seeing the beautiful places of my country, it is how the little special things about it make me feel.

These are the times I really feel Canadian. When the national anthem plays at a Canadian football game. When I can see the flag rippling in the cold night air and the final notes of the song sing out: God keep out land. Glorious and free. When I realized I can sing our entire national anthem in French. I am Canadian when I can see Canada Olympic Park when driving through Calgary. When I see someone abroad with a little flag sewn on their backpack. When I tell people I know how to hold a hockey stick. When I think about walking the streets of Banff. When someone asks me what the best place to see in Canada is. When I think about Tim Horton’s coffees and Apple Crullers. When I had to draw a map in Italian school and tell the class in Italian about Canada. My heart, my home land.

I may blab on and on about marrying European for a third passport (Ok, Ok. Aussie would do). I might entertain living with my older, unknown sister. As my desire to travel this world over and over continues to gurgle up in me like a too hot teakettle set to explode, I just mix my batter. And set out the napkins, fruit and syrup. Put on the coffee pot and Canadian play list for the morning. Set out in my mind what I am grateful for about being Canadian so I can tell the boys… and then carry on with working in Ireland. But somewhere in the essence of today sings a Canadian girl, far from home on the cliffs of Ireland, the national anthem in her head. Likely out loud.

Just in case you were wondering, I bought the ‘Authentic Canadian Syrup’. After all, I am an Authentic Canadian Girl.