This weekend was the 2 night field trip to Dingle. Let me assure everyone, some of the bravest people in the world are the bus drivers who fearlessly ferry people safely on roads just wide enough for a mini cooper and curvy enough for a sidewinder. It was a long weekend, but, for the most part, a good one. Rather than go into detail (mainly I’m just really tired. We stayed in a hostel where I was on the second floor. The only ventilation was the skylight which also allowed for sunlight to begin streaming in at 4:00 a.m. or so.) I’ll just post some pictures. Some of the sites I was able to visit and/or learn about were Skellig Michael (Luke was hiding out there, pretending not be a Jedi anymore), Bunratty Castle, Gallarus Oratory, ringed forts, heard an incredible Ulliean pipe player, several standing stones which did not transport me to Jaime Fraser, BeeHive dwellings, Coumeenoole Beach, Kilmalkedar Church and burial grounds, a sundial, a stone with Ogham carvings, an Alphabet stone, live music, and so much more.
Tonight, as part of the creative writing class, we have to participate in the “Open Mic” portion of the evening. It’s based on time, so I think I’ll have time to read two pieces since they are both fairly short. First, I think I’ll read “Closure”, the one about my brother’s tragic and senseless death. Here’s the second one. I’m titling it “Warning for Teachers”. It’s based on a true event, but has been fictionalized somewhat.
“The fuck you say my boy failing this goddamned, stupid class. No dumbass fuckin’ bitch gonna say that ‘bout my son!”
That was when I saw the flash of silver.
“Mr. Johnson, you need to calm down. . .” I stupidly began.
“Now you tellin’ me what to do!?” roared the glassy eyed, red faced man as he rose to his full height of 6’2”.
The silver was more than just a flash now. It was a bright, shining five inch blade gripped in a shaking meaty hand.
Sweat pooled beneath my breasts and my bladder suddenly filled. I bit my lips. How in the bloody hell do I handle this? I was taught how to instruct sweet little angels the intricacies of diagraming sentences and the magic of literature. I had gone through extensive training on how to identify ADD, ADHD, OCC, ODD, LD, BD, and a whole alphabet soup of other behavioral and learning disorders. I knew the laws governing education in the great states of Illinois and Missouri. Somewhere in my exemplary education and meager five years of experience, however, I had missed the part about disarming a large, out of control, stoned parent.
“Dad, chill the fuck out,” Jimmy said slowly.
The 15 year old 8th grader slowly stood as well. His body was tense and his normally slightly flushed face was now the color of stale bread. He had subtly maneuvered himself between his father and me.
My god! This child was trying to protect me! I couldn’t let that happen. It was my job to protect him! What was this kid’s daily life like? I knew from his file that he sometimes lived with his father and sometimes with an aunt. His teacher from last year had let me know that his mom had taken off several years before and that he was the one in charge of the cooking, cleaning, and caring for not only himself, but also his three younger brothers. Jimmy often came to school wearing dirty clothes. I used to hear his stomach growing loud enough to distract me from teaching. He wasn’t alone in this, so I get in the habit of stocking my classroom with granola bars and fruit. When winter came to St. Louis and Jimmy showed up for school without a jacket despite the sub freezing temperature, another teacher and I bought him a leather coat, gloves, scarf, and hat even though we were struggling to make ends meet ourselves. If he had to deal with all of that plus this level of violence, no wonder the kid was a year behind in school and was currently failing again.
“You defending this bitch? You picking her over your own blood?” Mr. Johnson seethed, raising his knife hand waist high. “You got the hots for her or something?”
“Mr. Johnson,” I interjected trying to use my most soothing voice. “I’m sorry for offending you. Obviously, we got off on the wrong foot, and I’m sure the fault is mine. I really don’t think Jimmy will fail. He just seems to be struggling with the material right now. I’d really appreciate it if you could help me find a way to help him.”
I smiled slightly and nodded. I remembered reading somewhere that if you not at a person they are likely to nod back and agree with you. I sat very still, my hands flat on my scarred wooden des. Smile and nod. Smile and nod. Eons passed. Jimmy’s eyes darted between his father and me. Finally, Mr. Johnson nodded back and his arm relaxed. He pressed the back of the blade against his denim covered thigh, folding it back into its case, slipping the weapon into his pocket, and easing himself down into the chair. I glanced up at Jimmy and jerked my head slightly to the right. He took the hint and left the room only to come back moments later with a very anxious looking principal preceding him.
I learned a lot that afternoon. I learned that no matter how good or thorough a formal education is, no matter how many degrees you hold, there wills till be gaps between theory and reality. I learned that no matter how well I think I know my students, I really have no idea what their daily lives are like. I learned there is no substitute for calm thinking and common sense. I learned that teaching children involves a hell of a lot more than preparing them to take a standardized test.
As for Mr. Johnson, the police were waiting for him outside of the school that afternoon. He was arrested for armed robbery, possession, and several other charges. Pulling a knife on me didn’t even rank in his list of crimes.
Jimmy’s aunt came to live with him and the three little ones for a while, but that didn’t last long. Jimmy ended up passing the 8th grade, but dropped out of school when he was 16 years old. After his aunt beat the living shit out of him, he moved in with a friend who helped him get a factory job. Less than a year later, she was coming home from work when she was raped, beaten so badly that she was unrecognizable, and left for dead. Jimmy found the guy who did it before the cops and blew his head off with a sawed off shotgun. Last I heard, he was still in prison.
No one warns you when you go into teaching that you are placing yourself in danger. Sometimes, the danger is losing your heart to a doomed teenager.
Today, for the first time, I was disappointed. This, I believe, was caused by a number of factors, poor planning and an asthma flare up being the two most likely. We are required as part of the Irish Studies to go on two field trips. Today, was Inis Mo’r – the largest of the Aran Islands. I knew we were supposed to bike to the attraction, but I also knew that transportation could be arranged for those of us who can’t or shouldn’t bike. I fit into both of those categories. Transportation, however, wasn’t arranged until we actually got there and then it was the lowest bidder. His name was Bertie (I think) with the busted out window. He took us to the location and dropped us off saying he’d be back at 1:30 p.m. This confused the five of us in the transport because the tour wasn’t even supposed to begin until 1:30. What tour? I was told it was walk up a rocky hillside. What I didn’t know was that it was a 300 ft cliff with LOTS of big ass rocks and slippery, roly-poly gravel. Luckily, I had wrapped the ankle and taken the cane. This is NOT handicap accessible on any level!! Also, the day had started out chilly and rainy and now was sunny and hot. My lungs got confused and just shut down. So, after a few puffs on the handy inhaler, I took off. SLOWLY. I had to stop several times to catch my breath. Four hours later, repeat the inhaler. Four hours later, repeat.
At the top of the Cliff was Dun Aonghasa, a round fort built with one side to the ocean. I never did make it all the way into the fort. I did, though, have a lovely conversation with a guide about my possible genealogy. The view was spectacular, but considering the state of my lungs and the renewed swelling in the ankle, not worth the pain and suffering.
It was time to return to the Ferry – but no transport. Apparently, Bertie is known to even the other drivers to be unreliable. Another tour bus driver took pity on us and let us join his tour for the return trip. He, however, took us on the long way home – the scenic tour if you will. Normally, I would have enjoyed this, but I was hot, crabby, wheezing, crammed into the very back of the bus, and really wanting to get to the Aran Sweater shop to do some shopping. I’d waiting on buying various things for this exact trip!
Finally, we were dropped off next to the Ferry about 30 minutes before we were supposed to be at the Ferry. The shop was on the other side of the dock – a good 10 minute walk from where I was. Ten minutes there, 10 minutes back, only 30 minutes to spare in total left not nearly enough time to shop. Interestingly enough, the bikers got back well before we did and had plenty of time.
The positives of the trip. I saw seals paying in the ocean. I got to pet a cow and a baby donkey. The scenery was spectacular.
Negatives of the trip. My lungs were unhappy. My ankle is again swollen. I sweat like a pig. I did not buy the gifts I had planned on buying. I never did see the inside of the fort.
I think the negatives won today. Luckily, this is only one day in an otherwise perfect trip.
I went on the Galway Food tour this afternoon and let me assure everyone – GREAT decision!! It began at Griffin’s Bakery, a place that has been in busines and family owned since the 1700’s. For my American friends and family, pause a moment and contemplate that. The guy who currently owns it was bitten a few years back by a big ass Conger Eel. The picture is actually of him and the eel I found from the Connacht Tribune from 2013. The picture is graphic, so I’m putting it at the bottom of the post. Rather than give up on life, the man, Jimmy Griffin, found a way to capitalize on his trauma. He began making the Conger Bread – a giangantic loaf of divine sour dough bread with added seaweed for a bit of unusal and absolutely wonderful flavor! You buy it by weight, not loaf, by the way. From there we went on to try several types of Irish spirits, one flavored with bog beans. On to a lager named Soul Water. Anyone who knows me, knows I really only drink Guiness in the realms of beer, but this was delightful. We tried an oyster on the half shell – creamy with the taste of the sea, a bit of brown bread topped with a crab salad with added bits of apple and a freshly pickled cucumber slice on top, a chocolatier who actually makes their own chocolate from the freakin’ bean!!, a raspberry scone, fish chowder, cheeses, air dried lamb, and a host of other treats. Not to repeat myself, but it was a brilliant decision to take this tour. I also found a place that sells – wait for it – BUNRATTY MEAD!!!!!
It was odd celebrating the 242 birthday of my country in a place that has been standing for 367 years. So, while good ol’ John Hancock was practicing his calligraphy, Some Irish block was very likely enjoying a pint in this “pub of the year”. The building, however, had been standing for quite a long time before the predigious award, having once belonged to a man named Gunner, the executioner of King Charles I. Nonetheless, the bands played such rousing American tunes as “Johnny B. Good” and “Smoke on the Water” and “Crazy Train.”
In my Gaelic Lit. class, we have changed instructors and are now focusing on folklore and Fairy tales – more of what I was interested it. That is not to say, however, that I didn’t find Early myths fascinating. I can, however, better utilize some of the later tales in my classroom and, hopefully, as a storyteller. In Creative Writing, we had to write a poem which told a story in 14 or fewer lines in a very stylized manner. When I read mine aloud, the instructor, much to my honor and amusement, was silent for a moment then said, “Well. . . Fuck.” Here’s the poem. And yes, it’s about my brother.
The crib assembled
Tge scrapped knees kissed
The school books stacked
The degree earned
The beater car purchased
the interim job almost completed
The career about to begin
The gun fired
The coffin closed
I met the descendant of the ceremonial king of Claddagh! His name is Liam and he is, by far, one of the most lovely individuals I have ever had the absolute pleasure of meeting and sharing a pint with! I recently (as in today!) discovered that Claddagh is actually a small fishing town which pre-dates the city of Galway. Now this is saying something since Galway may well have been founded in 1124. To give my American friends a rough idea – Cahokia mounds was likely still a metropolis then. Many may be familiar with the Claddagh symbol – a man and a woman’s hands holding a crowned heart. This symbol, along with the Celtic knots, the harp, and the shamrock, are the quintessential symbols of Ireland.
Anyway, Liam was a delightful conversationalist and told me the story of his “mam” passing – a story that was staightforward and round about as is much the Irish way. I was charmed to say the least. He spoke of his father – or maybe grandfather – Patrick Curran, the ceremonial King, and said, “He taught me the most important thing. The thing that I’ve always tried to remember. The thing that I try to live my life by. Would like to to know it? It’s this. . .” (He did not give me a chance to answer, but if he had, I would have shouted YES!! I VERY MUCH WANT TO KNOW!!) “. . it’s a simple thing really, but essential. If the world would follow this one thing, we’d all be better off. Here it is. Kindness costs nothing to give, but could be everything to recieve.”
King Patrick was right. Such a simple truth. Kindness costs nothing.
Liam was just that. Kind. He told stories, laughed, chugged a few Guinesses, hugged me, and gave the best advice anyone could ever give.
Kindness costs nothing.
Yesterday, I didn’t have any particular plans, so in the afternoon I strolled around Galway, took my time, enjoyed the sites, As it turned out, there was a lovely festival by the docks where I learned about the Irish Air Force – yes, they have one! It’s quite small, but proud. Basically, they seem to do quite a bit of search and rescue along with helicopter fire fighting. All of this seems like a good thing to me!
I also saw two guys go up several stories on this water shooting jet pack thing. Seriously cool. Curiously enough, when I sent the picture to my sons they each, individually, sent back a text basically begging me not to try it. It’s almost like the don’t trust me or something!! Then again, I did raise smart sons, so they might have a point.
After that I went to a surprisingly fun poetry reading as requested by my Creative Writing instructor. I say suprisingly because sometimes poets can be terribly righteous and pompous. These poets, however, were not.
Following the poets, what else is a girl to do on a Friday night in Galway than hit pub. I finally found one that wasn’t insanely crowded (just crowded), belly upped to a bar, ordered a Red Headed Writers Tears Whiskey and listened to some lovely live music. Johnny Cash is big here, apparently. An older gentleman sat down beside me, we got to talking, and he bought a glass of Guinness for me. He suddenly wanted more than just conversation and asked a few questions that no one should ask of someone they’ve just met – or met years ago. I excused myself, got a taxi, and came back to my snug and stuffy dorm room right on the stroke of midnight (not really, but it sounds good!)
All in all, after a quick cold shower, I decided it was a lovely day.
Bet that title got your attention. Don’t, however, jump to any conculsions.
First, Let’s remember that Scott and I have been married for 31 and 1/2 years. We also dated for 6 years before we married. We’ve also never really been apart for more than a few days, so thiws has been the longest we have been apart and there’s still several weeks to go before he is able to join me here. On one hand, I do miss him. On the other, I don’t. Why? Because he’s here with me. Not physically of course, but certainly in spirit. I can hear his voice in my head as I’m getting ready to leave my little dorm room.
“Did you put on your ankle brace?”
I can hear him when I get frustrated with getting turned around (lost).
“Take a breath. Look around. You’ll figure it out.
I can feel him when I’m in my slightly uncomfortable bed, sweating, his arm heavy across my stomach.
Last night when I was in a pub enjoying a Red Headed Writer’s Tears whiskey and listening to live music, I felt him next to me, sipping his black and tan, enjoying himself.
So yes, on one had, I mss him. But in a very real sense, he’s never actually been away from me.
It’s a freakin’ heat wave here in Ireland. I heard from one source that this is the highest temperatures since 1932. this is the hottest June weather since 1976. It might “skyrocket” to 30 (celsius) which is 86 for us Americans. Tomorrow should be about 27, or 80, and people are freaking out. To be fair, I’m sweating like a pig too. Hardly any buildings have air conditioning or even fans. Normally, there’s no need. I packed long sleeved blouses, slacks, jeans, sweaters. Today I bought 2 sets of shorts, 2 tanks, 1 t-shirt, and a really cute (and cheap) pink rain jacket. I’ve had to offer advice to several locals on various ways to treat sunburn – or in their terms – scorched skin. Luckily, I was able to find sunscreen today, so I avoided getting scorched. I rathere like that term!
I also found a whiskey I need to try. I would have had it today, but it was too hot for whiskey. Bless the gods of fermentation, though, it was not too hot for cider.
We are “required” to attend three interdisciplinary classes for summer program. The first one was yesterday on the topic of Sex and Gender in Early and Medieval Ireland. Let me tell you, some of the literature is quite, quite interesting! For example, did you know that in Early Celtic Literature one can get pregnant from swallowing a fly? Definitely stay away from red flies!!!! If a monk masturbates and – um – releases shall we say – on watercress and then a nun wanders by, gathers said watercress for a lovely salad, she can, indeed, become pregnant. Also, a guy named Fergus had a 7 foot long penis. A woman who has sex with 3 guys in the same night can become pregnant with a baby who is the mix of all three men.
As to gender roles, the literature disputes historical fact. This makes sense to me since literature is fiction, something that is often forgotten. Women had status only in association with the man who had power over them – father, husband, brother, uncle. Women’s work was, naturally, children and the home, but also sickness and death. In many cases, literature has the female character warning her male counterpart NOT to do something (foreshadowing!!), but naturally, the male does it anyway. Be that as it may, there is also evidence that women could divorce her husband or such offenses as failing to give her children, impotence, and (my fav!) corpulence. In several places both historically and in literature, gay and lesbian sexual encounters are acknowledged without any censure. The same is true for abortion.
What conclusions can be drawn from all of this? Well, that’s really for the individual to decide. My conculsions is simple. Every “age” gets some things wrong and some right. A sense of humor is good to incorporate into our daily lives.