I have always been in love with Ireland. I came here when I was a wild kid. I remember the castle ruins and the green meadows where I played and imagined all kind of fantasy stories, as all kids should do. With these beautiful memories, I grew up and started to read and admire Irish writers, like Joyce or Swift. I am amazed at the number of artists Ireland has. Later, I had the opportunity to watch the film Song of the sea by Tomm Moore and, since then, I have been following the Irish cinema. While watching and reading all these cultural products, I am also studying Irish History, and I am astonished of how much there is to learn from it.

Therefore, as soon as I heard about the GEAI volunteering opportunity, I applied. My interest in nature and its preservation comes from early on in my life when I played in the forests close to my house. I have always tried to make my friends and relatives to have a more responsible relation with their environment. Thus, I thought the GEAI opportunity was a perfect way to expand these believes. I did not even expect my email to be answered by GEAI, as almost all the applications I had made before were probably lost in some human resources email. So, I was surprised when a few days later I got an email from GEAI and after two interviews, I decided to finally come to Ireland.

The trip from Spain to Ireland was a complicated mix of emotions. On the last few days before I left, I was either very nervous or very excited. I tried to visit those places that are special for me before leaving, like the brown holm oak forests with the crispy gold grass near my home, where the deer roam; or the bookstores and cinemas where you can find your next story hidden in a lonely book shelf. But when I was at home and I had to pack my bags, the excitement of these days in my favorite places transformed into nerves. There are no instructions for choosing what to leave behind when you want to bring all your stuff, like memories, books or cameras with you.

The day of my departure was difficult. I had to say goodbye to my family, my friends and my girlfriend, and saying goodbye is never an easy thing to do (even thought I am not going very far and I have my holidays). But between the tears and the waving hands, I was excited about this experience and everyone around me was very supportive, which made easier to leave Spain and start this new adventure. I got my plane at 15:45. This is the “siesta” time and, as a Spaniard, I took my “siesta” in the plane. When I arrived in Ireland, I had to wait for two and a half hours for the bus, and I used that time to read and watch a movie. Meanwhile, I listened to the music some people were playing on a piano in the airport hall.

In the bus station, I met an old couple from Sligo who asked me where I was going and what was I going to do. They told me about the River Shannon, which is the longest of Ireland and passes near to Drumshanbo, where we the volunteers live. Even though it was a dark night, I could see through the bus window the typical Irish architecture and the skyline that the trees and hills made against the full moon sky. I arrived at Carrick On Shanoon, the main town of Leitrim, at 11:00 p.m. and there was Leslie, a member of GEAI, waiting to pick me up with the car. He showed me the place around and we got to Drumshanbo talking about the artists from Leitrim.

When I arrived at the volunteer’s house, they were going to start watching a film with some of the family and friends that were visiting them. For dinner I had some focaccia that Mariangela, another volunteer, had made and, although I wanted to stay and watch the film, I was so tired, and I just went to sleep in my new bedroom.

The next day was a rainy Sunday, but here in Ireland you can not let the rain stop you, so we went for a walk through the forests around Drumshanbo. I was amazed with all the green mossy trees and the amount of water everywhere. In the afternoon, we did some grocery shopping and visited the Carrick On Shanon church. It was a nice introduction to my new life in Ireland.

On Monday, I started working at the GEAI office, which is a building next to a river and fifteen minutes’ walk away from Lough Allen. There, I got to meet all the volunteers I hadn’t met the previous days and the workers and directors of GEAI. They explained everything to me, and I started the actual volunteering. In the next few days we will be going to a school for the Climate Action Days and, also, we are preparing some activities, trying to leave an impression in County Letrim. After all the goodbyes, the nervous, the excitement, I can finally say that I’m in the same Ireland I came and played when I was just a wild kid.

Written by: Ignacio Martínez Armas