Suzie Lee’s Love of Ghost Stories and Good Food

suzieSuzie Lee is a force of nature! She’s one of my incredible Honors students – a fast talker (she’s Korean and even though English is her second language, she is so expressive and open and communicative), a dedicated and passionate food lover, and someone who deeply appreciates natural beauty and quiet opportunities to reflect in nature.

Take a look at her Superstitions Comparisons post (where she talks about Irish and Korean superstitions and features a photo of our delicious food on the afternoon we all spent together at Irish filmmaker Brenda Ní Shúilleabháin’s house for tea and talk with the Bibeanna and The Men of Ventry) and her wonderful post about the beauty of the Giant’s Causeway and Dunluce Castle along the North Antrim Coast in Northern Ireland, Gorgeous and Gorgeous and Gorgeous…!.


Kevie Kawasaki’s Deep Consciousness and Sense of Place

puffinKevie Kawasaki, one of my amazing Honors students, has a keen, curious mind, a kind spirit, and a deep consciousness and sense of place. She is from Hawaii and this trip, for her and some of her peers, opened up a new awareness of heritage and inspired great discussions and reflections about place and identity. It was incredible to see Kevie’s deep emotional responses to some of the political issues we learned about and experienced in Northern Ireland and it was joyous to see her complete delight in experiencing the natural beauty of Ireland – another beautiful island with which she’s fallen in love!

Take a look at Kevie’s beautifully poignant posts on James Fisher (who was only 18 years old when was sentenced to death by firing squad at Kilmainham Gaol, for being caught while possessing illegal weapons during the Irish Civil War) and Lonely Farmers (about the bachelor farmers phenomenon in Ireland).

Adam Gerken’s Keen Political Analyses and Problem-Solving Skills

img_20140528_093429Another of my great Honors students, Adam Gerken, did a fabulous job of analyzing the Irish political system and making comparisons to our system in the US. We all had some great discussions and learned a great deal from Adam’s insights. He was ecstatic to be in Ireland while both the local and the European Union elections were taking place. Take a look at his posts on Politics in the Republic of Ireland and Politics in Northern Ireland.

About halfway through the trip, Adam’s battery in his laptop died. He and I talked through some ideas about trying to replace it – and he did some great cybersleuthing on his phone to try and find an Irish tech retailer that might sell laptop batteries with a US plug. Every new city we went to, Adam had pinpointed a possible store and its location, and charted out a walking route. After no luck at all (but lots of valuable things learned about how to navigate in a foreign country), he decided to make the best of his research and blog post protocol using his smart phone. He did a great job! There aren’t a lot of photos on his blog, but there are relevant and useful research links and concise and excellent posts!

Jazmin Fontenot’s Passion for Nature and Civil Rights

dingle-day-4-593My honors students left Ireland 11 days ago, and I am resting and reflecting, and catching up on a few details during my stay here in Dunquin, Co. Kerry. In earlier posts, I wrote a bit about four of my eight students – in the next few posts, I’ll write a bit about the other four of my students. We had such a great learning journey – each of these eight students – with their own personalities, learning styles, rhythms and preferences, made such wonderful contributions to this group. It was marvelous to watch them as individuals – learning, processing, struggling to understand, being delighted and enchanted, talking and reflecting – through solitary and group cybersleuthing and research, through small group and whole group discussions, through blog responses, and through planned excursions and serendipitous in context impromptu encounters.

One of these fabulous Honors students, Jazmin Fontenot, was one of the CU Denver UHL (University Honors and Leadership) Program students who came to me the fall of 2013 with a request that I teach an Honors Maymester in Ireland. I was impressed with Jazmin’s perspicacity all along the way – she and Kate O’Connell met with me several times during the year as I planned the class and began to work on the huge number of details required for a learning experience in two countries over three weeks! She’s a quiet but determined young woman, and keenly interested in broadening her life experiences and worldview. I believe she now has a solid base from which to expand those goals – she served as one of our two student leaders and did a great job! Take a look at her blog to see the topics that deeply resonated with her – her love of nature and her deep emotional reaction to learning about The Troubles, hearing personal stories, and making profound and poignant connections to the Civil Rights movement in the US. Her post on Unspoken Love, the play we saw in Derry about mixed marriages (Catholics and Protestants) is moving.

A Blasket Island Songbook

IMG_2207If you’d like to follow my continuing work on Blasket Island native Martin Kearney and his life on the Blaskets and in America, take a look at my blog, A Blasket Island Songbook. In April 2014, I did a faculty concert with some amazing colleagues/students/musicians that featured my original songs about Martin Kearney and his family, and the history of the Blasket Islands and its peoples. We’re working on an album project, and of course, the documentary film work is ongoing.

I’ll be keeping a chronicle of work in progress — I’d love to hear from you if you are a Blasket Island native or descendant, or if you have stories to share!

Here is a repost about Martin Kearney from February 7, 2011.

Meeting Martin Kearney

In October of 2006, the second month into my Fulbright year in Ireland, my sister Joni and her husband Dave came to visit me. We spent a few days exploring together and learning more about the Dingle Peninsula, Dunquin, and the Blaskets. At the end of one spectacular day, we stopped in at Lord Baker’s Restaurant in Dingle for dinner. I noticed some framed newspaper articles on the wall near our table, and I went to investigate. I started reading about two brothers, Martin Kearney (Máirtin Ó Cearna, born in 1923) and Mike Carney (Mícheál Ó Cearna, born in 1920) who had been born on the Great Blasket Island and immigrated to the Hungry Hill area of Springfield, Massachusetts. I read a second framed article about their older sister, Céit Ó Cearna (Kate, born in 1918), who had helped raise her younger brothers and sister when their mother, Neilí Ní Dhálaigh, died at the age of 35.

Brothers, Martin Kearney and Mike Carney
Photo taken in Dingle, 2006

Sister, Kate Kearney
Photo taken in Dingle, 2006

I recognized those names and faces.

During the summer of 2000, I took my first trip to Ireland, to attend a 2-week International Summer School of Irish Traditional Music and Dance (Blas) at the University of Limerick. More about that amazing connection in a later post; the experiences I had there, and the wonderful people I met and worked with, helped to shape and focus the future of my subsequent study of and passionate interest in Irish traditional and contemporary history and culture. My interest in the Dingle Peninsula and Dunquin had been ignited during my teenage years, and after my course at UL was finished, I rented a car and drove to the Dingle Peninsula, where I stayed for 3 weeks. It was a trip I had dreamed of since I was a young girl, and it was a transformative, life-changing experience.

I learned about and visited the Blasket Island Centre many times over the course of that first 3-week visit, and I fell in love with the place – the stories of the islanders’ difficult, primitive and dangerous existence on the Blaskets, the immigration of some of them to America, the amazing multimedia exhibits capturing a way of life, freezing moments in time and lining out a distinctive history and culture, the scholars and writers who came to visit, a rich oral tradition of story-telling, folktales, poetry and a vanished literary tradition – and the stunningly gorgeous land- and seascapes that are a deeply influential aspect of all of these things. I learned much about the Blasket Islands and the people who lived there, and came home knowing that, one day, I would go find a way to go back and stay for a substantive amount of time.

In the Centre, in a small exhibit room at the end of the long corridor that looks out to the islands, I first encountered and now remembered seeing the faces of Martin and Mike and their families, displayed in photos taken at their homes in Springfield, Massachusetts, and I remembered reading their stories about life on the Blaskets and life in America.

And now, owing to a lucky, random dinner choice in this Dingle restaurant, here were more stories and photos about the Ó Cearna family and their Blasket heritage.

A young man working at the bar in Lord Baker’s came over to me and politely asked if I had any questions about the articles. We talked for a bit – me explaining my interest in the history and heritage of the islands – him explaining that the people in the photos were his relatives. I was excited to speak to him and learned that his great-uncle, Martin Kearney, was in Dunquin for a few days visiting relatives. Would I be at all interested in meeting him, the young man asked. I was elated at the possibilities. He took my mobile number and said he would get it all sorted and ring me back with a meeting time and place, if possible. He also told me that a book had been recently published about the Ó Cearna family – the Kearneys – and their journey from one way of life to another. He wrote down the title, and the next day I picked up a copy in Dingle.

Later that next afternoon, while my sister, brother-in-law and I were in the Blasket Centre, my mobile rang. A meeting with Martin and his wife Eleanor was arranged. They would meet us in the sitting room at the B&B where we were staying in Dingle, and would it be alright, the young man asked, if a few others came along – Martin and Eleanor’s son Marty and his wife (along on the visit from Springfield), and Martin’s nephew Paud and his wife (living on the mainland, close to Dunquin). We were delighted! We had a marvelous meeting, and my sister and brother-in-law were brought into the bones of the place and Martin’s life in a personal and deeply poignant way.

A recent phone conversation with Martin’s son, Marty, solidified for me what that chance encounter had meant to his Dad. He was, Marty told me, so proud that I wanted to meet him and talk to him about his life on the Blaskets and his life in America. It was one of the most touching, humbling and wonderful events of my life, and I am so happy to be working on this project.

Martin Kearney died in November of 2009. I am sad that I won’t ever have the opportunity to talk with him again, but I am grateful and excited to be working with Marty and Eleanor, and wonderful people in Springfield, MA and Dunquin, Ireland. I look greatly forward to  doing the work of this project – and to writing songs which will help to tell the story of Martin’s life on the Blaskets and in America.

Following are some photos taken by my brother-in-law, Dave, during my October 2006 meeting with Martin and his family, and our interview and discussion.

Martin and Kearney and Judith Coe
Photo taken in Dingle, Co. Kerry, October 2006

After introductions, we all settled into comfortable places. Martin and I talked informally, and every now and then, someone in his family would augment our discussion or his answers to my questions, and add details or another perspective.

He had such a great, strong spirit. His eyes were bright and proud, and although he was clearly a very private man, he was so gracious. I asked him how he thought of his identity – did he consider himself to be an Islandman, a Kerry man, an Irishman, or an American? He was adamant that he was an American.

Listening to Martin Kearney’s stories about life on the Blaskets and life in America
Photo taken in Dingle, Co. Kerry, October 2006

It was wonderful to have his family, Irish and American, there with him. Martin’s wife, Eleanor, told me a little about how they met after Martin came to America (at a dance). His son, Marty, told me a bit about what it was like growing up in Springfield, Massachusetts in the Hungry Hill area, where the people who immigrated to the US from the Blaskets settled. He also told me what a very different place the Celtic Tiger Ireland was from the Ireland he had first visited on his honeymoon (his wife concurred). Martin’s nephew, Paud, and his wife, shared stories about growing up on the mainland and about what it was like to hear stories about the Blaskets and his relatives who had been born there, many of whom now lived in the US. It was lovely to meet all of them and to get a glimpse of a vanished world.

L to R: Martin Kearney, Judith Coe, Marty Kearney, Eleanor Kearney
Diane Kearney, Maureen Kearney, Paud Kearney
Photo taken in Dingle, Co. Kerry, October 2006

One last, proud photo of Martin, alone, and our incredible evening came to a close. As Martin and his family, my sister and brother-in-law, and I, all hugged and said goodnight, I was extremely conscious that an exceedingly rare and wonderful event had just occurred. Owing to the generosity and good will of these lovely people, and that of the young man in Lord Baker’s the night before, my family and I experienced a wonderful cultural connection.

Martin Kearney
Photo taken in Dingle, Co. Kerry, October 2006

During a recent cybersearch, I found Caitlin Foley’s blog. Her grandmother, Mary (Sullivan) Foley, was born on the Blasket Island and is related to Martin and his family. Her school blog project was to research the lives of the people originally born on the Great Blasket who now live in the Springfield, Massachusetts area. She conducted interviews with several people, one of whom was Martin.

This photo of Martin is from Caitlin’s blog. Click on the link below to read her account of meeting Martin.

Photo of Martin Kearney
Source: Caitlin Foley’s blog, Blaskets to Springfield, May 13, 2008.

Meeting Martin Kearney was one of the great joys of my life. He was a private, dignified, proud man and it was an honor and a pleasure to spend a few hours with him and his family and mine in Dingle one misty October evening so near to the place he was born on the Great Blasket Island. I will be forever grateful for that chance encounter and the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn more about Martin’s life on the Blaskets and in America, and to begin a wonderful friendship and association with his family.

Síochán leat (peace be with you), Martin.

Acknowledgments and Thanks

IMG_2313Thanks, most especially, to all of my amazing Mamymester honors students. It was truly an honor and a joy to share this incredible learning journey with each of them and to see their growth and development over this three-week timeframe. This is a lovely card they gave me on our last day of class!

Take a look at their fantastic class blogs

Marie Angoulvant – Marie Goes to Ireland
Josh Blair – From Ireland to Paris
Peter Costea – People Places and Adventures in Ireland
Austin Fogle – Ireland Blog
Jazmin Fontenot – And the Journey Begins
Adam Gerken – Adam’s Ireland in Context Blog
Kevie Kawasaki – Adventures Abroad
Suzie Lee – Spectacular Journey In Ireland With Suzie

Special thanks to –

Dr. Steve Medema, Director of the University Honors and Leadership Program (UHL) at CU Denver, for leadership of this incredible program and encouragement and program support for the Honors Maymester experience

Phyllis Cheney, UHL Program Coordinator, for administrative support

John Sunnygard, Director of Global Education/Study Abroad in the Office of International Affairs, at CU Denver, for program guidance and support

Meghan Atherton, Study Abroad Coordinator, Global Education/Study Abroad in the Office of International Affairs, at CU Denver, for program support

Shereen Khwajazada, Coordinator, Finance and Human Resources, the Office of International Affairs, at CU Denver, for program support

Jan Rutherford, Director, Self Reliant Leadership and Senior Instructor, CU Denver Business School, for collaboration

Laura Goodwin, Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Interim Dean, CAM, for collaborative program approval and support

Leslie Gaston- Bird, Chair, MEIS, CU Denver, for collaborative program approval and support

Brenda Ní Shúilleabháin, for collaboration and friendship, and hosting our Bibeanna and Men of Ventry films, discussions, and beautiful tea for me and my students in her home

Mícheál de Mordha, Director, Blasket Centre, for collaboration, friendship, hosting my Visiting Researcher appointment in the Center in 2001, and Centre tour for students

Dáithí de Mórdha, Associate Director, Blasket Centre, for collaboration, friendship, hosting my Visiting Researcher appointment in the Center in 2001

Maria Simonds-Gooding, for hosting an amazing studio tour and sharing stories

Paul and Gleann Doherty, for an incredible tour of the Derry Wall and the Bosgside, and sharing personal stories

Last Day of Maymester and Final Projects – Day 19

IMG_2295Friday, June 6 was our last day of Maymester class – it seemed impossible to all of us that the class was nearly over. Where had the last three weeks gone?! This class was an intense experience but an amazing opportunity to learn in situ and in context– to experience the beauty of these incredible countries (the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland), their unique histories and fabulous people. Every day brought new, wondrous, exciting, and sometimes challenging learning and cultural experiences – those that had been planned and those that were serendipitous discoveries and in context individual and group happenings.

IMG_2301Perhaps you’ve read the student blogs and their powerful intellectual and emotional responses and reactions to some of these in context learning opportunities – the incredibly moving play we saw on mixed marriages (Protestant and Catholic) in Derry, the somber and beautiful exhibit of art inspired and/or informed by The Troubles we went to in Belfast, and the fun and beautiful night of music and pub culture experienced in the Dingle pubs, i.e. All of these events and experiences – planned excursions and in context discoveries, delicious meals, discussions with Irish people, engaging in Irish culture and politics, deep learning about The Troubles and personal stories and putting that into present perspective, the evening at the US Ambassador’s residence in Phoenix Park in Dublin, our morning at the Irish Fulbright Commission, our tea with the Bibeanna and the Men of Ventry – helped these students to fall in love with Ireland and to discover, construct and embrace a new world view of themselves and their potential roles as citizens of the world and cultural ambassadors. I am so proud of these students and their commitment to getting everything they could out of this experience and bringing curiosity, grace and respectful inquiry to our process and its product, their insightful and wondrous blogs.

IMG_2303This last day was a free day – students had time to write, edit, contextualize – finish up their last few blog posts, write their final reflections in Canvas, and record their summative VoiceThread discussions about their reflections on how they had changed over the course of this three-week class.

IMG_2306At 4pm, we met in Paudie’s Bar in the Dingle Bay Hotel (their sticky toffee pudding is to die for!) so that students could give their final presentations and order a snack and a pot of tea. We discovered when we got there, that there was a wedding reception scheduled at 5pm, so we got through about half of the presentations before it was too loud and busy to continue. But, in context, it was great fun to see an Irish wedding reception – the fashion, the particular rituals of toasting the bridge and groom, the music and the dancing! We moved on to Lord Baker’s Restaurant, where we were to have our final group dinner – a significant place (this is where, during my Fulbright year in Ireland, I met Maureen Kearney, Martin Kearney’s niece, her husband John Moriarty and their son, Jonathan – owners of Lord Baker’s). We arrived a bit early and asked if we could finish up the presentations before our dinner, and we did just that.

The significance of these final project presentations in this place was so lovely. We had a marvelous dinner, and the student presentations were just incredible. They each did a PechaKucha presentation on a topic that deeply resonated – their presentations were unique, creative and engaging – and they were passionate research, synthesis and contextualizing capstone experiences, owing to our active practice and pedagogy of student-centered learning. Take a look at their blogs to read their reflections on their own work and that of their peers.

Thanks to my wonderful Maymester students for a marvelous and unforgettable learning journey –

Marie Angoulvant – Marie Goes to Ireland
Josh Blair – From Ireland to Paris
Peter Costea – People Places and Adventures in Ireland
Austin Fogle – Ireland Blog
Jazmin Fontenot – And the Journey Begins
Adam Gerken – Adam’s Ireland in Context Blog
Kevie Kawasaki – Adventures Abroad
Suzie Lee – Spectacular Journey In Ireland With Suzie