Notes from Afar 11: Ireland


A week in Ireland rounded out the journey. Ireland felt the most like NZ of anywhere I have been. But with a whole Irish edge to it. Beneath the Guinness, charm and turn of phrase, there is a full on history, and a rapidly intensifying present. On the way in from the airport, I was struck by the number of billboards about homelessness, alarming statistics coming into winter. The Celtic Tiger of a few years back has tanked, and it is getting a bit brutal. My first day of wandering, came upon women with babies begging on the street, a massive student protest, and a very present Occupy movement.

Dublin is a city full of Irish pubs. Guinness in Ireland is a totally different drink, smooth, creamy, and, well, nice. (I had never liked it in NZ, stale and thick and kinda grainy.) I did a couple of walking tours, which were pretty cool for getting a sense of the history layered in to the place – and a bloody and interesting one at that – again, something we don’t quite have in awareness in NZ.

The weather was grey and gloomy, and I was missing folks in Italy.

My reason to be in Ireland was Smokin Craic, the Irish decompression – a party in a castle. Seemed like a fitting way to cap the journey off, the last hurrah of the trip. It was a pretty great night, though a shame it was only one night – the true magic of a burn takes a little time to unfold. I helped a bit with set up and clean up, and met some good folks, and reconnected with some excellent companions of the journey. And partied in a motherfucking castle.

Back to Dublin, a charming CS host, and a random reunion with a dude who had been to all three northern burn festivals with me, who I had only got to chatting with at the castle. We had a good night with many Guinness. Saw some amazing ancient celtic art and goldwork. Wandered the sights, such as they are.

And then it was 30 plus hours of planes and airports. And then Wellington, and this great beauty, and exploding greenery, and amazing light.

Waking from this mad and beautiful dream has not been easy. Strangely, I never felt homesick for New Zealand, but I am feeling something like homesickness for the rest of the world, the whole travel modality, and the people I met.

Ui mai koe ki ahau he aha te mea nui o te ao, Māku e kī atu he tangata, he tangata, he tangata!

“Ask me what is the greatest thing in the world, I will reply: It is people, it is people, it is people!”

Notes from Afar 10: Art Monastery, Italy

So I have spent the last month at the Art Monastery Project. The project is about fusing artistic production and monastic discipline – or something, it is an evolving process – and living in community.

The Art Monastery project is based in Labro, a tiny old hilltop town in the Italian countryside. The Monastery itself dates back to the 1200s. The first references to Labro are from sometime in the 900s. Labro is all old stones and seriously cute. There are two winding roads in the town, that’s it. There used to be a gigantic tower here, but then they murdered the priest and the town was excommunicated. The price of getting back into the religion was destroying the tower.

Life here has been a radical shift from the chaos of the road.This is very much their downtime of the year, so there are not lots of weird shows being put on. While that would have been cool, this actually suits my purposes pretty well. Mostly I have been splitting wood and cleaning, and rewriting Mosaic, which is coming along nicely, and becoming a pretty unusual fantasy novel. And getting to know the artmonks, who are a pretty fascinating cast of characters. There are only three of them here at the moment, so we are a small crew. But we are getting through the astoundingly cheap 5 litre jugs of wine. And it has been great making deeper connections after the intense but brief way of things on the road. We are pretty isolated, and the interaction is pretty intensive, as there is not much space, and everyone is caught up in the project.

One definite highlight was singing Compline a couple of times in the medieval church of the monastery. (Compline is the Gregorian chant monks sang, the last of singing the hours.) 

Autumn here is staggeringly beautiful. Lots more colours of autumn than I am used to, a range of fire, yellow and red and orange and brown. The Italian countryside, at least around here, with its hills and lakes and green, is the closest thing to New Zealand I have encountered. (Other than generally, every time I get somewhere beautiful, kind of nodding and going, yeah, that’s kind of like a part of NZ.) There is not much public transport and nowhere much to go, though it is all very pretty. I walked to a ruined castle on a nearby hill, and wandered around Labro. 

But yeah. A quiet, productive time. We have quasi-adopted a bunch of stray cats, but are keeping them at arms length, as everyone leaves for winter and they can’t start thinking of it as home. 

Have booked tickets to Ireland, and back to NZ. I am not quite ready for this mad and beautiful dream to end, but so it goes. And I will definitely miss this place, and these people. Good times, good times.

returning to NZ in a couple of weeks.

Hey all. This mad and beautiful dream of travel will be ending soon, for now anyway. I will be back in NZ just before the election. Will be great to catch up with familiar faces again, and deeply fascinating to see NZ anew.

Also, I will need to replenish the war chest, which has been mauled by the past six months, so am interested in any random job stuff that is coming up that people know of. And any options of places to live, be it a flat, or a house sit, or even a couch or a backyard for a while, anywhere in the country really… everything is wide open. Surprise me. 🙂