From Monkton, we travelled for 3 days to get to County Clare, Ireland. First we went up to Liverpool, which we both liked. We spent a night in a easy-going hostel, got a 8 persons room for only the two of us and lay two matresses on the ground. Then we went to Dublin and had a great vegan dinner in a Hare Krishna restaurant and saw this guy:
Which probably has been the expression we wore most of the time we spent in Boghill.
The Bughill Centre (I know I shouldn't repeat my puns but it's just so UGLY!)
Our rather nice shed, and Jack the dog who came to comfort us
There was also a caravan with a bad case of mold, in which the volunteers could watch movies and get a headache
When we saw the owners again (there were three of them, the rudest a Dutch hag) we still hadn't gotten a proper tour of the place. Again, we depended on the other volunteers, to show us everything. We had to clean the first morning, and had to ask, ask, ask. We thought, well, maybe this afternoon we will get an explanation.
'Is there work for the afternoon?' we asked.
'Is there work for the afternoon?' we asked.
'Well, there's always something to do, but no, if you want, you are free this afternoon. We expect you to be self-motivated here.'
Confusing. Before they had really given us something from themselves (a tour, a proper explanation), we were already expected to be self-motivated. That's not how it works and it's certainly not how it has to be. I think they wanted us to take the work from their hands, so that they could hide in their house up the road. They literally said this thing about hiding.
By then, we knew we wouldn't spend one month there. We soon discovered 'bog' means 'swamp', and there were many flies, called midge's. We were so fed up that afternoon that we wanted to leave immediately. But there was a problem. We didn't have a car. We were dependable on those people to get us to the station AND to book a train ticket for us online (there wasn't a public computer and with our cards, we couldn't book). And then what? Go someplace else? No, we didn't want to start something new again - we had decided to stay for a month here for a reason. It was confusing, because the Irish centre we wanted to go to first, cancelled last minute, and when we emailed Boghill, the also got a last minute cancellation and we were very welcome to come, so it seemed to fit perfectly, but didn't turn out well!
We decided to stay for one more week, to rest from the journey and let things settle in, and then tell them we would leave after another week. After two days, I spoke to the Dutch hag, and said I found it difficult that I didn't know what was expected of me. She said they usually let the volunteers freewheel for a few days, but that apparently I needed more guidance. In practice, 'guidance' meant that when she incidentally bumped into me (two times), she asked if I was alright and gave me work. After one week, we said to them this was not what we were looking for and made it clear that we wanted to leave.
Weeding in midge hats
The polytunnel, full of shot lettuce and cabbage
Apparently, the weather had been terrible. Only now they could prepare the heavily neglected garden, in June!
Group picture of the volunteers: me, Enes, Raul (a nice, rather factual Estonian who would answer the question 'do you want water with your dinner?' with 'no, I only drink water before or after a meal. Or both.), Gemma and Albert (two Catalan friends)
All the pictures were made on sunny days, but it also rained a lot. Enes, with his Moroccan blood, was having trouble handling the ongoing wind and the chilliness. The smell reminded me of my happy childhood vacations on Terschelling, so that was comforting and unsettling at once. Sigh. Irish weather. Don't underestimate.
Truth to be told, after the first two days we weren't putting much effort in it anymore. We complained, judged, were lazy. We also hid in our shed most of the time (think we were inspired by certain someones). Soon we found an unused tv, dvd-player and cd-player. I have spent a lot of afternoons sleeping, even though I wasn't tired. We didn't go somewhere, because the surroundings were barren and uninviting, and we were rather passive about it as well. We were missing Monkton a lot, this felt like a punch in the stomach. We were bored, bored, bored.
BUT. The last weekend, the sweat lodgers arrived. They took over the place, as the owners announced, adding 'we will hide in our house'. We were told that we could help with the work (building up, kitchen work) and could join in with the ceremony for free. And when those people arrived, suddenly the whole tension was relieved, our hearts were opened again, and we let the flow of healing excitement take us along. We worked with pleasure and we worked hard.
All the intentions I had this winter, the dream of learning about healing, have been focussed on the Irish healing centre. To learn from a mentor, to encounter shamanism, to speak with many healers, to learn yoga and 5 rhythm dance and meditate with a group, to be guided and all that stuff. And a big part of that dream came true: learning more about shamanism, undergoing a ritual. The universe gave me a present and a lesson in humility and self-guidance that I took to heart. Carl Big Heart, the shaman, also talked about this. I was reminded that the lesson you get is not always the lesson you want, but always the lesson you need. My whole being was touched and cleansed.
And after one last day (also the first) of garden work, we were relieved and could finally fly away.
The last picture: punching the scarecrow
On a final note, a comparison with Ecolonie (of course). Just as Boghill, Ecolonie had a core that didn't feel good. The difference was that Ecolonie rather strict, orderly, patriarchal and gave almost no room for initiative and creativity. The work load was big (40 hours a week, filled in by the manager) and there was a lot of male energy and activity. Here, the energy was mostly female and passive. The work load was low (25 hours a week, filled in mostly by yourself), the cohesion lacking, the organisation matriarchal and you had to use all your initiative and creativity. Order versus chaos - I prefer none.
Old Hall and Monkton maintained a good - although different - balance, which I came to respect highly. Now I can recognize this balance better, and appreciate it. Thanks.
So that was the end of our journey, and it was a good one. Old Hall was about opening up and relaxing, Monkton was about actively and creatively taking part and Boghill was about getting more confidence. I'm often struggling with speaking up for myself and being independent, and I've grown a little bit stronger now.