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I am a massage therapist and had a small private practice back in Austin, in addition to my job working with some AWESOME people at the University of Texas (hook’em horns!). Now that I can look for employment and start a business, if I wish, here in Ireland, I am slowly reaching out. I joined the Irish Massage Therapists Association and have attended a regular meeting, and plan to attend their upcoming annual meeting. I’ve registered a business name so I can purchase a domain here. (strange side note: seems you must have a business number to register an .ie domain – this is very different from the US. For those wondering..I did try for the .com, but it was taken) In my first attempts at networking, I scored an interview. Can you feel the story building?

I was trained as a therapist at the nationally recognized Lauterstein-Conway Massage School. I received a wonderful grounding in professional etiquette and best practice, in addition to superb theory and hands-on training. To employ healing touch through soft tissue manipulation is a gift, a sacred encounter that has been honored as a healing modality for millenia. A therapist must also be mindful when approaching the body. Systems are interconnected. What heals and nurtures one system, could impact another in a harmful way when certain conditions are present. These conditions are called contraindications. When a therapist discusses a clients medical history, or general health, they are looking for these signs. Primum non nocere . Once I verify that it is wise to proceed, I encourage my clients to relax into the nurturing glow of therapeutic body work, which will either entail a softer holistic approach (think Swedish, with long strokes) or a session working targeted muscle groups with a deeper focus, whichever we have discussed beforehand. Or so I was taught….. :sound of breaks screeching:

So, I saw that a center in Dublin was looking for a holistic massage therapist. The website seemed interesting, and expressed a relaxed environment. They even had a purple treatment room! (all hail The Purple Room – how I miss thee) The owner phoned and we arranged a time for me to come in. When he indicated that I should plan for an hour and a half, I “assumed” it would include a massage, though he never communicated it directly. When I arrived I was pleasantly surprised by the very hippy vibe. The rooms were full of gorgeous art. Every square inch of space was covered in a bright painting, rocks and crystals lined the shelves, books were stacked and spilling. If you know me, you know I was immediately smitten. The owner walked in, and I “expected” him to greet me. He looked at me, gave a weak hand gesture, then walked into another room. Puzzled, I started rifling through books. lol. His partner soon appeared and she greeted me, shook my hand, asked me a bit about my website, joyfully commented on my “not a dog, cat, or chicken free environment” disclaimer, and explained that the owner would be receiving a massage from me, and that he would want it deep. She then takes me into the room where I will work. Their purple room. joy, joy….

Until I see the table. OMG. There must have only been an inch of padding. It must feel hard as a rock! She proceeded to place three bed pillows on top, and cover the entire thing with a sheet of paper roll, like at the doctors office, and handed me a towel. I must have had my mouth completely open at this point. No sheets? No blankets? This is Ireland..it’s COLD. She places a small bottle of oil (oil for deep tissue massage??) on the radiator, to warm. She then leaves me, but before she leaves she asks if I need to get changed. What??? I was wearing nice linen pants, a fitted short sleeved top, my great little leather shoes… basically, my therapist get-up. I admit, I had a moment of panic. What if this is a Happy Ending place?? What if they aren’t real therapists at all!! No matter. I was in charge, and I was just happy to finally work on a table again! (I still don’t have mine!!) When he FINALLY (30 minutes late) comes into the room he barely looks at me. He mumbled something about whether I needed anything else. He had a classic forward head rounded shoulders, almost collapsed in on himself, posture. He needed deep work. Since he wasn’t giving me any direction, or communicating clearly, I took over. I told him I would like to sit down for a moment and discuss the work I was going to do, and whether there were any conditions or injuries I should know about.

He looked straight up for that one! “Look, I know you were trained in the US where they go in for continuing education and learning new methods :hand flourish: but we don’t do that here. This is just a massage after all!” Alrighty then. I can see he and I don’t agree on some things. I step out so he can get on the table, when I return only his genitals are covered with the towel. So THAT’S what it was for! geesh. No draping, no covering of muscles not being worked. How on earth will those muscle groups stay warm and pliable. 😦 I can’t imagine receiving a massage here without a nice toasty sheet and blanket on top of me. Then the table! Oh, lordy the table. It was a good thing I was focusing on deep work, because any amount of rocking or vigorous effleurage or petrissage would have ripped the paper. There was no face cradle, just a hole in the table for the face in the prone position, which he wasn’t using, instead there was a bed pillow covering it. His neck was always craned to one side or the other, never achieving spinal alignment. It was a nightmare. lol. I did my best and counted it as a learning experience.

At the end….his only words were, “You are technically very good, but massage is an ancient art. I prefer the hands never leave the body.”

I translated that as….. We don’t think of massage as a complimentary therapy here and we don’t bother wondering whether our clients have high blood pressure or just found out they are pregnant or are taking blood thinners. And when we say we want a deep massage, we just mean Swedish with a bit more pressure.

It’s a pity he communicated so poorly. I would have enjoyed understanding his own approach, learning where he trained, and engaging in a dialogue about deep massage as I was trained. Any Irish therapists reading this…. how in the world do you work on a paper strip?? help???

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or becoming a legal resident due to my de facto relationship with an Irish National.

I arrived on these fair shores in mid-September. Himself had already been in contact with the Department of Justice (INIS) before I arrived. We immediately sent off paperwork, were asked for further paperwork, and finally on 18 December, exactly 3 months later to the day, received my letter saying I had been granted permission to remain. All we had to do now was go down to our local Garda station to be stamped and given a residence card. As it was Christmas, and we were headed north to Donegal, we waited till after the New Year.

I thought I would be able to pop down fairly easily, since it’s never too busy down there (thank goodness for not being in Dublin!). You can imagine our surprise when I was given an appointment some 3 weeks later! Since patience is a virtue (and that, debatable), I waited. The day came, but instead of a card I was given a form to present at a local bank along with my €150 fee. We were going away to Cork later that week, so another 2 weeks passed before I got an appointment to receive my official card.

That in hand, my next stop to seeking employment was to secure a Personal Public Service number (PPS). Since I was driving finally, I arranged to have the car and journey to Navan, where the Social Welfare Office is. The same office that handles welfare applications and payments (the dole), assigns PPS numbers. I had all my paperwork in order (passport, utility bill showing my name and address, residence card) and hoped I could handle it in the same day without needing to come back. I presented at the “hatch” (the irish don’t call them lines, they are queues..but also, the station where you queue is called a hatch) for reception and was told I could be seen a few hours later. No problem, I didn’t mind having lunch and exploring the town a bit, even though I have a general aversion to Navan. You see, a few years ago I rented a holiday cottage near there and every time I so much as got near the town, I got lost!

Back to business. I presented myself at 2pm at hatch 1 (“no queuing required”), as requested, only to be told she should not have scheduled me then, someone else had that slot. Unsure what to do, and probably looking on the verge of tears, the man told me he could see me at 3:30. I had to feed the meter no less than 3 times on this little visit to Navan, which took a good chunk of my pocket money. I also noticed how uncomfortable I was queuing with social welfare recipients. Did people think I was on the dole? Why did I feel bad about that? Why do people call them “dole scum”? This was an unnerving response on my part. I have long believed the U.S. should provide an unconditional safety net to its citizens. In fact, I am a firm believer that no citizen should be without shelter or food. If a country decides to embrace an economic system that requires humans to exchange work for currency, and currency for food and shelter instead of providing those with their own hands, through building and hunting, then it should ensure everyone at least has food and housing. The hard truth is that many in the U.S. are unable to earn enough money to provide these most basic of necessities.

End of rant, and back to the story. I noticed discomfort, and that is something I need to sit with. I wandered around the town, in the growing cold, for a little longer and finally presented myself at 3:30. The man who processed my application was friendly enough. “surname? that’s a northern name, isn’t it?”…”mother’s maiden name? another ulster name! don’t worry, we won’t hold that against you. :laugh: (serious) do you have any business or financial ties in The North?” After being investigated on InterPol, having my documents copied, and a “delicate” conversation about the benefits of having my PPS number attached to Himself, I was done. He informed me the number would arrive in the post anywhere from 4-10 days later.

It arrived yesterday. As of today…..just 3 days shy of 6 months, I am officially able to seek employment. Equinox to Equinox…..rather fitting, don’t you agree?

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.

Words can not describe the beauty of the Gap of Dunloe, and the sheer wondrousness of MacGillycuddy’s Reeks (Irish: Na Cruacha Dubha, meaning “the black stacks”). The play of light over the peaks, with its sweep across valley and river…. the delightful ruins and sturdy bridges….. sheep that nary a glance do offer….. and quiet. Only the soft whisper of wind or the joyous song of bird. We spent the better part of a day exploring the Gap, which was, sadly, not enough. Having filled up on a hearty breakfast at our B&B, we parked half-way in at the abandoned “Inn” and hopped out ready for a day of scenery and excercise.
There is a cold stream dancing down from the heights, as it snakes its way through valley and under bridge. Under a lone Thorn tree, in the midst of a pasture by the stream, I found the remains of a ram. Hooves still attached, bloody wool scattered, horns atop its blank skeletal head.
Under the Black Stacks
in the Kingdom we found
the head of a Ram, long dead
bloody its last hours
drug under the Thorn,
to offer its life to the land

As the afternoon pressed on, and with our stomachs growling, we headed North toward Clare. We would stop for the night in my favorite town; Ennis! Along the way we popped into the Horseshoe Bar & Restaurant in Listowel, Kerry, for yummy food and the last half of the rugby. (we shared the most decadent and sinful of desserts….a Hot Belgian Waffle, with delicious caramel inside..YUM) We took the ferry from Kerry into Clare, which made another first for me. I’ve been on this exact ferry before but never when I was driving! I admit to being a little nervous as I inched the car onto the boat, especially since I was the first in our line!

We passed into the beautiful county Clare just as the sun was sinking into the deep, cold waters of the Atlantic….the Plain of Mag Mell before us. But the Honey Road was not ours that day. Instead, we set our sites on Ennis where we had to find accommodation. There were a few minutes of nerves, and near tears, when I discovered the cost of the hotel I wanted, but we found a nicely priced room at the Temple Gate, which is also in the town centre (a must!). We had a drink at Brogan’s and then walked down to the Old Ground for another while listening to the trad session. Next day I did a bit of shopping while we were in Ennis (which has two of my favorite boutiques EVER). I scored a cute dress and a skirt, and also found a little shop selling African fabrics. Rich Blue Peacock Feathers on vibrant orange, anyone?? We had to leave in time to make the ferry in county Galway because our next stop was the haunting island of Inis Mór.

My l.B. LOVES this island…I think she would probably love all three of the Aran Islands, but she’s only ever visited this one. Maybe on that upcoming summer trip (hint, hint) she can spend a day on each. We had spectacular weather! We biked from one end to the other (OH my sore butt!), explored monastic ruins and iron age forts. The sea lions were out sunbathing in their little spot, the birds were singing, the sun was warm on our faces (I even got a little colour!). We could not have asked for a better day! A little plug for the places we ate and slept. The Kilronan Hostel was clean, cheap, friendly and VERY convenient!

It was late when we boarded the ferry back to the BIG island (can’t really call it a mainland, can I?). Tired, happy, and already reminiscing on our grand adventures, we made the drive back east. There are memories to be made at every turn here, and new myths to weave into the old. But, isn’t that the way of life everywhere on our divine sphere?

It’s Better Out There

I fell in love with Ireland on the West Coast. My regular visits, before moving, always included the West Coast. Intuition and Dream waken for me in the West. I met Himself (and saw loads of other handsome men – sssshhhh) on the West Coast. It’s no wonder my heart yearns to return to the West every chance I get. So when my little Big hopped over for a visit recently, we loaded up the car and drove West!

First things first, though. I drove. Yes, I DROVE the stick shift with my left hand, on the left side of the road!! I feel like wonder woman, seriously. I’ve driven on the left before but always with an automatic, and since our household owns a little sports car with manual gears and I was gosh-darn-gonna drive for this trip, I had some learning to do. The first time Himself took me out to practice at a roundabout I got nervous and reached with my right hand for invisible gears on the driver’s door! I’m not sure he was totally convinced I could do it, even up to the morning I dropped him at work on my way west. I’m certain he never imagined the driving adventures about to unfold….

Our first stop was Killarney. I love the woods and mountains there. It is stunning countryside, just perfect for outdoor pursuits. We stayed at the Railway Hostel in town, which was right in the town centre: cheap, clean and surprisingly quiet! It was also lovely to hear the church bells from next door. Our first day was an easy stroll around Muckross House gardens, then dinner at the Failte Hotel, where the l.B. had kangaroo. It’s an interesting meat. I found it very light in texture, almost disintegrating in my mouth. It had a rich taste that was in no way gamy, or over harsh. We ended that evening after a pint and a little music, because we had an early day ahead.

Our first full day was a 12 kilometer morning hike around the middle lake. It was absolutely gorgeous! We had good weather with typical 4 seasons in an hour. It was sunny, then rainy, then it hailed, then it was sunny. My Patagonia rain jacket and pants have been a life saver more than once in my years of wandering and this day was no exception. We even had to eat our snack of cheese and bread holding our umbrella with our heads so our food was dry and our hands free! We saw Torc Falls via the scenic route, and passed through ancient Oak and Yew forests. We also encountered the Three Billy Goats Gruff, though we couldn’t remember what the troll had demanded of them and were afraid we might be eaten shortly. The bird song was sweet and I was more than a little envious of the locals who have use of this amenity daily! After the hike we fortified ourselves with lunch at the Muckross cafe, where I saw an older woman with the cutest milk-maid braids. I asked for, and was granted, a pic. I suppose this is her customary look as she told me a story of how her little granddaughter asks her Momma to fix her hair like Nanna’s. I want wonderful long silver hair someday. Exhausted, but ready for more adventure, the l.B. wanted to venture toward Kenmare to drive through the tunnel.

You see…our family has a tradition. We once lived in Colorado where Interstate 70 takes you up, over and through the Rocky Mountains. The Eisenhower–Johnson Memorial Tunnel, with it’s 2.73 km borehole into the mountain, was an “Event”. The moment we entered the darkness we began to yell….and yell….and yell…..and quick breath….yell….all the way through to the other side of the mountain! Now, whenever we drive through any tunnel, we yell until we exit. As soon as the l.B. saw a sign for a tunnel it was fated, it seemed we owed it to the rest of the family to drive through. Little did we know….

The road from Killarney to Kenmare is a tiny, teeny, twisty, switchback, blind curve, barely-enough-room-to-pass, road up into a mountain and back down…where HUGE BUSES DRIVE BY!!! There I was, in my second day of driving the stick shift with my left hand without supervision, and up into dangerous territory I was headed with no turn around spots!! I hugged the wheel at 10 & 2, eyes glued, trying to remember to breathe. Deep breath…deep breath….deep breath…. Thank all the gods we made it!! and found the road to the West which would take us back down through the Gap of Dunloe. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA (maniacal laughter)

We missed the …. secondary road (?) to the pass and instead hopped on a third class road. In Ireland, a third class road (which is designated by a little yellow line on the OS map) really just means single-lane-dirt-sheep-path-barely-big-enough-for-two-people-walking. I only thought I was nervous on that huge paved road up the other mountain….where there was a good inch of space between me and passing cars. Now there was NO space!! only occasional little dodgy dirt pull-off spots next to ravines! Here we go…up, up, switch-back, blind curve, up, up…when the l.B. says, “good thing we haven’t met any other cars.” Pray you never hear those words. Around the blind curve we meet…a huge car with pink and grey ribbons attached to the bonnet (hood)!! (yes, that means…a Wedding Party) The ENTIRE wedding party…bride, groom, followed by 10 other cars!! I don’t know how I made it, but I did…..and we passed softly into the twilight of the Gap.

But that’s not the end of the story…

….and not the kind you find on a wine bottle.

I have a few things to write about (I’ve been busy!), but I’ll start with a recent trip down to Cork. Both of our birthdays are in February, and of course there is valentines day, and since January was a little sparse money-wise, due to the HUGE expense of that New Years wedding (yes, that’s me complaining just a bit), we decided to treat ourselves with a trip down to county Cork. Admittedly, it was also a scouting expedition for Himself, as he plans to start a business there in the next year.

We drove down on a Friday. He visited with the Enterprise Board while I sauntered around the town centre. Can I just say…I LOVE Cork City! Clearly, it is love at first sight. I had never wandered around the town itself, though I was lured through it’s one way streets on a wild “wallet” chase a few years ago (remind me to share that story some time), and I heartily admit to finding it delightful. The pace was Oh SO Much more humane than Dublin, and I saw nary a Poser. (be warned: take with a pinch of salt, and wedge of lime) There certainly might be posers in Cork City, and I’m not condemning all Dubs to the outer fringes of coolness by declaring them all posers, but it was refreshing to see “individuals” walking the streets of Cork. The people I saw had a decidedly more individual style than those I usually see in Dublin, where many look like High Street cookie cutters. There was also FREE WIFI!

It has been more of a struggle than I anticipated finding free wifi in Dublin. Back home in Austin you can pick-up free, no-registration-required, wifi on almost every street corner. (sort of like lard. lol) So far in “town” I’ve figured out how to get wifi at Starbucks (with the purchase of a starbucks card), and there is free service at the No Name Bar and Solas, but every other place I’ve been to requires some sort of registration, and I’m just not willing to hand out my email address to every Tom Dick and Cafe. Cork surprised me with access in the first coffee shop I visited. This is a big positive in my book!

We stayed over in a local B&B and almost went to see Republic of Loose for a tenner that night. I say almost because we rang down to make sure they still had tickets, made a plan to go, and then ….. promptly fell asleep when our heads hit the pillow. Does this make us old? (lie to me….please) Even though we missed the nights music we did enjoy a few exceptional street performers the next morning. Jazz piano in the alleyway? Classical guitar on cobblestone? Opera in front of the post office? The caliber of panhandling in Cork blew me away!

After lattes and music we drove down to Kinsale. It was a bit rainy and gray, which didn’t showcase the little coastal town in the best light (Badump Bump Chhhh!). We had a lovely meal at the Blue Haven Hotel, then drinks at An Seanachai where a cool 70’s band was playing. I liked this spot because the vibe was so mellow and there were all ages grooving to the awesome tunes. Literally. There were very young adults and “old guys” there. This is a good sign in my book. Another score for this spot was the “Fig” sitting outside. A cute little Nissan Figaro was parked just outside tempting me with it’s cuteness. Yes, little Fig…one of your kind will be mine someday (if you are easy to maintain and don’t cost a fortune in parts). I’ve since discovered that the Blue Haven “Collection” owns both the places we visited that night…which makes me wonder if Kinsale is the epicenter of the Illuminati in Ireland. (I admit, there has been Bulmers tonight. Can you tell?)

We stayed over at the Cloisters B&B (which I highly recommend) and the next day we explored Kinsale town a bit more. It was a bright sunny day and Oh, how picturesque the harbour was! We drove the coast road (OMG Gorgeous) to Clonakilty where we had lunch, watched the rugby, and traipsed around in a stone circle. On our way back to Leinster we took the little ferry over to check-out Cobh. We had considered it as a place to live when we make the big “start-your-business-move” because it has easy train access to Cork city and Dublin, while being a bit smaller. I wasn’t overly impressed I have to say, but we arrived at night so maybe it wasn’t seen in its best light either. 😉

All in all, it was a Great trip!

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