Despite my best efforts to try and get a Visa for the UK, I had to leave once my six months had ended on March 15th. I was determined to not go too far away from my newly formed relationship, so I arranged a ferry and work-a-way in Ireland. I drove Chewy and myself onto the ferry and we stayed the 11ish hour journey in a cute little cabin. They even served us dinner and then a super early morning breakfast at 2:30am. Unfortunately, the high winds delayed our departure and route as well. We didn’t dock in Dublin until 4am Friday morning. Then to my surprise, there wasn’t a customs or immigration check. Actually, there wasn’t a check at all, I just drove off the boat and out of the docking area. I asked several security workers if they knew how I could get my passport stamped and they didn’t have a clue. I decided to stay in Dublin and wait until the immigration office opened at 9am. I found a place to park and quickly discovered that I can sleep quite well in the backseat of my car for a couple of hours.:) The next morning was chaotic. After being interrogated by customs officers in the past, I was expecting much the same here in Ireland. I found it comical that I had a lot of trouble in actually getting my stamp. I mean, I spent the next three hours in Dublin driving from Garda (police) to Passport Services, Immigration, etc. I paid for parking so many times that during my final stop, I was getting desperate. Everyone kept telling me, don’t worry, you are in Ireland now, you don’t need a stamp. To which I replied, “No, I need a stamp so that the UK knows that I left!” After repeating this over and over I finally got a Garda officer to stamp my passport with the Ireland stamp. I think he did this mostly because he felt sorry for me. No interrogation, no other words were spoken, he just came back out with my passport and said, “there you go.” When I arrived on the farm where I am currently staying, I met another American who had the exact opposite experience. She wasn’t allowed to enter Ireland. Tessa, who is 20 and originally from Los Angeles, told the customs officer at the airport that she was coming to Ireland to do a work-a-way. Which is the same as WOOFing or volunteering in exchange for room and board. Tessa’s Customs officer told her she had the wrong type of Visa and was not able to “work” in Ireland. After a confusing couple of hours, she was allowed to stay in Ireland for only 2 weeks. When this time ended she then went to Germany and organized her trip back. She had to show her bank account balance, letters of reference from the owners of the farm, her family in Germany and her mother also ended up making a donation to this same farm in order to allow her normal tourism access into the country. I am still stunned at the lack of consistency between our situations.
I am working on a farm sanctuary about 45 minutes east of Dublin. The farm consists of 20 horses, 11 pigs, 4 donkeys, 2 sheep, 2 goats, and 4 chickens. They all have names and are all rescued from abusive and/or neglectful pasts. The work is often very hard, shoveling, lifting, pushing, all movements I haven’t practiced in years. My body was very sore after the third day which consisted of a large amount of shoveling pig poo. It was foul, difficult, and seemed never ending. Yet, while I was ankle deep in mud and poo, feeling like I couldn’t physically do anymore, I had an epiphany. I would rather be right where I was instead of being trapped in a cubicle all day. It’s hard work, but it feels good. My body is becoming stronger and that is very empowering. I am proud of the way I can push myself and the things I am able to physically accomplish. I am able to stay on my very low carb diet so my overall moods, digestion and blood sugar feel great! Overall life is going very well. I plan to take the ferry back to Liverpool on April 16th. That should be enough time to allow safe entry back into the UK for another six months.
My favorite part of the workday is training the animals. I am assigned two miniature ponies, Shaft and Onya. They came from a very neglectful owner and weren’t around humans much and when they were it was abusive. I place my hands around their heads for three seconds and then give them carrots. I’ve moved up to trying to put the halter on them. I can get their noses through them, but when I bring the top part of the halter up around their head they run off terrified. Their association is being beaten by a whip. It’s so sad. But little by little I am earning their trust and it’s very gratifying to see them run up to me as soon as I come into their stable. Even though it’s mostly for the carrots, at least they are associating humans to something positive. Something I didn’t expect about the farm is that my favorite animals here are two donkeys, Peanut and Wayne. I’m sure many of you are aware that donkeys are notoriously abused all over the world, even in America. They often lead a very sad, harsh lives. After training the mini’s I will spend time with the two male donkeys. They have such a somber, weighty energy. Very different from the other animals. Even though they are afraid they still willingly stay close to me when I begin petting and showing them affection. It’s like they have waited a long time for that kind of attention. After about 10-20 minutes they begin to lean in slightly to my touch. In my opinion, they seem much happier. They enjoy a little bit of love. I told Joe I would try not to come back with any animals, but these donkeys are stealing my heart! I can’t wait until one day when I can rescue these beautiful souls and show them a better life. In the meantime, I wonder how hard it is to transport donkeys to the UK 😀