Friday, May 27, 2016

Céad míle fáilte

A hundred thousand welcomes! 

There are so many things I could say about traveling to Ireland and the beautiful country itself. I should tell you that this trip was the first trip I have ever been on a plane and to another country! My peers informed me that both flights, from Louisville to Charlotte and from Charlotte to Dublin, were exceptionally smooth. I was amazed by the fact that the states are literally a couple of plane rides from the rest of the world. The flights were exciting and terrifying all at the same time. I loved the feelings and accepted every one of them that arrived during the flights.  

A few family members assured me that I would feel right at home, and they were right. I have not yet felt out of place or unwelcomed. The people of Ireland are easy to talk to and anyone is willing to help. They all seem to know a lot about their country, which is refreshing. 

 I sat next to a woman who was traveling home after visiting her son who lives in Charlotte. I asked for her name and she raised her eyebrows, held up her necklace, and allowed me to read it. It spelled, "Beesie". My sisters name is Bess, I immediately went nuts and felt happy. There have been a few more instances so far, where I was reminded of home.  When visiting the incredible view of the Ring of Kerry, I met a Canadian traveling here with his father, and he introduced himself as Nathan, which is my boyfriend's name.  When walking in the city centre of Cork, a man with a beautiful voice sang "wish you were here" by Pink Floyd. This is a song that touches my boyfriend and I heard it for the first time riding in the car with him. These are just a few examples of how the people I have met here have affected my visit to the Emerald Isle. 

Speaking of that, Ireland is filled with every shade of green you can imagine. It has taken my breath away multiple times. The scenery and the clear air bring a calmness over me. The calmness is similar to the one I feel when I am home. The air is similar's not similar to home at all because I can breathe more naturally here, unlike the lovely spring allergies of Kentucky (hahaha). We have been so thankful for the beautiful weather we have had. 

We arrived in Limerick last night and began with more site visits this morning. This morning our Art Therapy/Mental Health group visited The Blue Box Creative Learning Centre.  It has by far been my favorite and I think the others would agree. We have learned that Mental Health Services in Ireland are very few, and most of them are directed toward adults. The Blue Box is a program for children taking an integrative approach using art therapy, music therapy, and play therapy. According to the information folder that I received their vision "is to support the development of young people and their families within their community through creative activities." They do individual-based therapy through low income schools, Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) and with those referred through the Health Service Executive (HSE) and privately referred children.  Also, group therapy with the children and their parent(s) and sometimes siblings are involved. It was mentioned in the discussion that when the parent(s) see the child benefit from the therapeutic process, they themselves are more inclined to want to participate and help themselves live a more balanced life through therapy. It is an open environment with windows in the ceilings of every room in order to allow more natural light in. I immediately felt safe in their space and the staff were very welcoming. I was happy to visit and learn about the inspiring work that is happening at the Blue Box. 

It is interesting to learn about the similarities and differences in the way Ireland approaches mental health/art therapy as compared to the States. I am still exploring my approach to art therapy and still finding my niche population to work with and having the opportunity to hear more approaches has and will continue to be beneficial as I continue into my last year into the art therapy Masters’ program at the University of Louisville and in my long future in this "lifelong learning" career.

This afternoon we took a bus to Kilcommon to embark on a 3 hour hike through the National Pilgrimage Loop walk. When we were driving through the Ring of Kerry I wondered to myself what it would be like to be able to walk through the hills of Ireland. That came true today. It was a challenging hike for myself, but my soul is happy. 

I will forever hold Ireland in my heart and hope to visit again.

Go raibh maith agat 

Literally meaning "may good be with you"

Thank you! 

~ Edie Johnson

Street art, Limerick

The Blue Box


A rest stop in the long walk

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