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.


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

Last Day in Derry

IMG_1856We’ve been in Galway for the last few days, but I wanted to share a few more posts on Derry. We stayed in the Abbey B&B in Bogside. Our experiences in Derry were equal parts marvelous and solemn, and students experienced a tremendous amount – history, culture, the personal and the political. They were profoundly touched, learning about the history of The Troubles and Bloody Sunday and we all had some amazing and transformative experiences. The Abbey was a lovely and peaceful place to stay in an area that is marked with so much sadness and violence. We enjoyed and were grateful for the respite of a pretty tearoom and we were engaged with the paraphernalia on Bloody Sunday and music. This lovely B&B was our comfy base in Derry. Here are a few photos at our early morning breakfast, before we walked to the Derry bus station and headed back to the Republic and Galway.



Bus Station Blues – or, Reds, Really

bus-eireannToday was a lovely free day after so much intense work over the last few days – after we all had breakfast together and finished a big discussion about The Troubles and Bloody Sunday, everyone headed off to enjoy a bit of a break in the warm sunshine, a beautiful day! I went to the bus station to get tickets for the next leg of our journey in the morning – travel back to the Republic of Ireland to Galway and then, the Cliffs of Moher. I had previously found the Bus Éireann schedule online and knew that we needed to take bus 64 from the Foyle station in Derry leaving Derry at 9:15am and arriving in Galway at 2:45pm.

I walked the few minutes from our Bogside B&B to the bus station and encountered a bit of a shocking instance of discrimination – namely, the minute I asked questions about how much the tickets were from Derry to Galway, what payment method would be accepted, and which platform would we depart from, I was met with an icy blow off and no help whatsoever. A pity – I love Derry, but this Northern Ireland/Republic of Ireland divide is just still so palpable here, despite numerous campaigns and peace efforts. Hatred and bigotry still run deep in some pockets here (on all sides), just as they do in the American south. I was shuffled back and forth between offices, scowled at and scolded for asking these questions. Didn’t I realize that Bus Éireann is not a Northern Ireland company? Didn’t I realize that they weren’t responsible for accommodating another company’s schedule? I was not deterred. I politely pressed that I had, in fact, seen the schedule online but simply wanted to inquire about the cost of the ticket, the platform and the method of payment required. I smiled. I waited. Finally, the same man who told me that he had no idea about anything to do with Bus Éireann (I had been sent on to him from a surly woman in the next room) walked over to the wall, huffed loudly, consulted a printed information sheet, and told me that the ticket cost would be either €21.50 or £21.50, cash. He said I could use either currency, that they were both the same. I replied that the pound was more expensive and I would be paying in euros. I smiled again, and asked what platform the bus would be leaving from. He sighed and told me the platform number. I thanked him and left. It gave me just a tiny, uncomfortable glimpse into the feeling of being situated on the opposite end of a power and privilege divide that has caused so much pain and suffering for so many.

Day 10 – Paddy Campbell’s Famous Black Taxi Cab Tour of The Troubles (May 28)

IMG_1507This was an amazing day – students continued to learn more about The Troubles, adding to developing layers of understanding, as we visited the Belfast political murals in several sectarian neighborhoods. We studied these areas of sectarian divide and the murals in class last semester (spring 2014), but actually seeing them, firsthand and in situ, was powerful, disturbing and absolutely essential to really being able to begin to grok all of this complex history – on any level.

Our three black cab taxi drivers – father Paddy Campbell and sons Peter and Sam – were terrific. They picked us up at our Guest House and engaged students, from the start, with their generosity of spirit and, at turns, humor and somber storytelling about all sides of The Troubles.

IMG_1527We were able to see many parts of these sectarian areas, including the Crumlin Road Courthouse and Gaol, West Belfast (Gaeltacht Quarter) and Falls Road, Shankill Road and the Lower Shankill Estates, and part of Belfast’s biggest and tallest peace wall (‘peace lines’) along Cupar Way which divides the loyalist area of Shankill Road from the Springfield/Fall Roads Catholic area of west Belfast. Please take a look at the amazing student blogs to get a sense of their experience – they’ve written some powerful reflections.

Next, we drove along the gorgeous North Antrim coast. Seeing The Dark Hedges (from The Game of Thrones) was a huge hit and lots of fun – it is a gorgeous, fabulously creepy place and we could all imagine ourselves in that famous fog and chiaroscuro moonlight scene!

IMG_1548Next, we drove close by Dunseverick and Protballintrae (getting out in the glorious sunshine for a look at the sea and across to mainland Scotland – for a few students, this was their first time to see an ocean) and then to the beautiful coastal hamlet of Portbraddan (‘Port of the Salmon’). Historically a famous fishing spot, it still has a working slipway.

IMG_1555Students were enchanted with the tiny, beautiful St. Gobbans church – Ireland’s smallest church – a local man’s tribute to St. Gobban, a 7th-century Benedictine monk.

IMG_1577They absolutely loved and were delighted by The Giant’s Causeway – one of my favorite places. It is a magical place, and students were like small children – fascinated, happy and charmed by exploring this wondrous, natural place.

IMG_1612Our last two stops of the day were at Dunluce Castle (not far from Derry) and The Wee Cottage. It was a long day and everyone was tired, but elated at what a beautiful day it had been. We arrived at the castle about half an hour before closing time, and students really just wanted to explore the grounds and wander, which was lovely. The sun was warm and the air was cool – it was a perfect place to explore and to reflect on the day. Soon, tired and hungry and thirsty, we went in to the Wee Cottage – a fabulous and wacky little traditional cottage that serves delicious homemade soup, sandwiches and scones. I’ve been here before and was so glad that Paddy brought us all here – we had leek and potato or tomato and basil soup, chicken sandwiches, and endless servings of light, flaky scones with cream and jam – and pot after pot of hot tea. Students were in heaven (and so was I, truth be told) and happy, happy with this day. An hour or so later, we were tucked into our beautiful and contemporary B&B in the Bogside area of Derry – a great and historic place from which to learn more about The Troubles.






Glossary – The Troubles

IMG_1527Source: The O’Brien Pocket History of The Troubles by Brian Feeney

Apprentice Boys of Derry– one of the Protestant ‘Loyal Orders’, it organizes annual demonstrations commemorating the vents surrounding the Siege of Derry in 1688 when apprentices closed the gates on the approach of King James II. With about 10,00 members, the Order’s major demonstration in Derry each August has often been the occasion of increased tension and violence.

Ard Fheis – the name Irish political parties give to their annual conference.

Armalite – an American rifle favored by the IRA.

Army Council – the seven-member ruling body of the IRA which determines its military strategy.

B Specials – established in 1920 to defend Northern Ireland against the IRA. An exclusively Protestant, part-time force abolished in 1969 and replaced by the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) in 1970.

Belfast confetti – rivets and other pieces of small, dense, heavy ironmongery thrown with terrible effect by shipyard workers in Belfast riots. Take a look, also, at this description, which states that the term long predates the IRA and their bombs and was first used in the 1890s in the context of Protestant shipyard workers attacking Catholics by pelting them with scrap metal and large iron rivets as missiles.

Dáil Éireann – the lower house of the Irish parliament.

Gerrymandering – the deliberate redrawing of electoral boundaries to control the outcome of elections. The term originates from 1812 when the Governor of Massachusetts, Eldbridge Gerry, drew the boundaries for a congressional district that looked like a salamander. His opponents called it a ‘Gerrymander’.

H-blocks – compounds in the Maze prison in Belfast, so named because of their shape. Each had approximately two hundred cells in fours wings.

Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) – an extreme republican paramilitary group established in 1974.

Long Kesh – the name of a WWII airfield, located sixteen kilometers south of Belfast, whose wartime huts were used to house republican internees in 1971. The name was later changed to HM Prison Maze when permanent facilities were built. Republicans never used the new name.

Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) – a dissident faction of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) formed in the late 1990s.

Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) – established in 1967 and modeled on the African-American civil rights movement’s tactics of passive resistance and non-violence.

Northern Ireland Office (NIO) – the department of the British government established in1972 to administer Northern Ireland under direct rule from Westminster, through a secretary of state who has a seat in the British Cabinet.

Orange Order – the largest of the ‘Loyal Orders’, it was founded in County Armagh in 1795 and expanded into an important politico-religious grouping opposed to Irish nationalism. Throughout its existence its traditions of marching, sometimes through the nationalist districts, has caused controversy. Its extensive program of marches culminates on July 12 to commemorate the victory of King William III at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

Peaceline – originally high fences made from corrugated metal, these were erected by the British Army in 1969 to provide a physical barrier between Catholic and Protestant districts. Most are now permanent brick, or concrete structures. There are currently 99 barriers of various shapes and sizes dividing nationalist and loyalist communities in Belfast. There are also several similar ‘peace walls’ and barriers in Derry. walls are highly unusual among such barriers around the world because most of those living closest to them continue to support their existence in successive opinion polls, mainly because of fear of attack from the community on the other side.

Plastic bullet – officially described as a plastic baton round (PBR), it is a controversial riot-control weapon used extensively from February 1973. A solid PVC cylinder, when fired its muzzle velocity is estimated to be in excess of 250kph. In 1998 a parliamentary answer revealed that plastic and rubber bullets killed sixteen people since 1970. A total of 124,829 plastic and rubber bullets were fired between 1970 and November 1998.

Proportional representation – a voting system designed to give seats to parties in proportion to the number of votes cast for each party rather than, as in the USA and Britain, the system of first the past, or ‘winner takes all’. Proportional representation ensures seats for minority parties and is widely used throughout Europe.

Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) – generally simply known as the IRA, it is the largest republican paramilitary group. Following a split from the Official IRA in 1969, its violent campaign proceeded for almost three decades.

PSNI – Police Service of Northern Ireland, the title of the new police service inaugurated in Northern Ireland on November 4, 2001 on the recommendation of the Patten report.

Rolling devolution – a scheme devised by British secretary of state Jim Prior in 1982 by which devolved powers would be ‘rolled out’ to local parties the more they cooperated with each other in sharing power. Nationalists boycotted the scheme.

Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) – the police force for Northern Ireland, established in 1921.

Rubber bullet – a riot-control weapon, it was replaced by plastic bullets in 1975. According to official figures, 55,688 rubber bullets were fired between 1970 and 1975.

‘Shoot-to-kill’ policy – a description coined by the SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party) security spokesman Michael Canavan to describe incidents when security forced in Northern Ireland shot dead suspected republicans at rode checks in disputed circumstances.

Six counties – the name by which nationalists, but especially republicans, refer to Northern Ireland, which is comprised of the six counties of Antrim, Down, Armagh, Tyrone, Fermanagh and Derry, which unionists call Londonderry.

Special Air Service (SAS) – a special forces unit of the British Army officially known as 22 SAS Regiment, it was formally deployed in Northern Ireland in 1976 and has been involved in several disputed killings.

Stormont – the building, completed in 1929, which housed the Northern Ireland parliament until it was prorogued in 1972. It became the seat of the assembly established after the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. The term ‘Stormont’ is also used to refer to the Unionist government of the period 1921-1972.

Taoiseach – literally meaning ‘chief’, it is the term for the Irish prime minister.

TD – a member of the Dáil, the Irish parliament (in full, Teachta Dála).

‘The Falls’ – an abbreviation for the Falls Road, but its meaning widened over the 20th century to include the many streets of the republican heartland of west Belfast, close to the city centre.

‘The Shankill’ – an abbreviation for the Shankill Road, but, like the Falls Road a few hundred meters away, a term which includes the streets of the loyalist heartland of west Belfast.

Ulster Defence Association (UDA) – the largest loyalist paramilitary organization, the UDA was established in Belfast in 1971 and finally proscribed in 1992.

Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) – a regiment of the British Army made up of full-time and part-time members recruited exclusively in Northern Ireland, it was raised in 1970, after the disbandment of the B Specials.

Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) – a loyalist paramilitary group claiming descent from Sir Edward Carson’s UVF of 1913, but established in modern times in 1966 by Shankill Road loyalists, when it carried out the first killings of the current Troubles. Banned in June 1966, it was legalized in April 1974 before again being declared illegal in October 1975.

Ulster Workers’ Council (UWC) – it emerged out of the Loyalist Association of Workers (LAW) to organize the loyalist strike, which brought down the power-sharing executive in May 1974.

United Ulster Unionist Council (UUUC) – an umbrella group of unionist parties, including the UUP, DUP and VUP, which were opposed to power-sharing. It existed from April 1974 until an unsuccessful DUP-inspired strike in 1977 when the UUP withdrew.

High Tea at the Europa Hotel

IMG_1422Students were shocked to learn the sad history of the hotel (during The Troubles, a reputation for being the most bombed hotel in Europe). They cybersleuthed to learn more about the hotel’s history, which informed their experience greatly this afternoon.

After a couple of intense days, it was such fun to see them relaxed and enjoying the ceremony of High Tea. None of them had ever experienced this quintessential British cultural phenomenon and they were thrilled and delighted! It’s one of my favorite things to do, and how wonderful to see them experience this marvelous tradition, together. They quite like the idea of my hosting High Tea for them at my house during fall semester next year. I think it sounds like a fantastic idea.

Take a look at what was on the menu, delicious!

IMG_1419They were very curious about all of the different teas on the tea trolley, and they spent quite a lot of time selecting just the right tea. It was a perfect afternoon. Tomorrow, we tour the sectarian neighborhoods of Belfast and travel to Derry.