Irish Hospitality – by Allison Brennhofer. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Irish Hospitality – by Allison Brennhofer. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

At our welcome dinner that we had a few weeks into the semester, three of my friends met an older woman named Agnes. They struck up a friendship with her and she invited them over to her house for scones. One of the girls, Annie, took her up on that and continued to meet her a few times.

For our Travel Writing class, we were required to write a paper about a person from Ireland. Annie chose Agnes because she had gotten to know her so well. One day when Annie went over to interview her, she invited myself and two other friends to come with. We braved the rain and hail for the three-minute walk to Agnes’ bright yellow house. When there was no response at the knock, Annie opened the door and stuck her head in, asking, “Agnes?” Agnes then ushered us in and scolded us for walking in the rain just to see her.

[The street leading to Agnes’ house, taken later in better weather]

We quickly found out that Agnes has strong opinions about everything. She warned us away from the Irish boys, telling us not to bother. Her advice for any woman was, even if they were married, to save money separate from her significant other. She even told this to her daughter-in-law.

Agnes actually left Ireland for the United States after we left her house that day. She has ten children and many of them live in the states. The truly ironic part is that she will return to Ireland May 9th, the day we leave. Her eldest son drove up from near Galway, two hours south of our location, to take her to the airport. We tried to leave then, to let her get ready and visit with her son but she told us we were ridiculous. They made tea and served us her amazing scones. Then her youngest son, who lives in town, came by with his eldest son to borrow baking soda. We tried to leave then as well, because they would not see her for two months but her son’s wife had not come with and she wanted us to meet her.

We begged her for the scone recipe because they were the best thing I have had. They were light and delicious, with raisins that added a hint of sweetness. She talked her way through the recipe, having to think about the measurements because she normally just throws the ingredients in. We asked if we could put chocolate chips in them, instead of raisins, and I have never received such a horrified look in my life. After a little wheedling, she grudgingly admitted that she supposed we could put chocolate chips in.

[Agnes’ scones. She insisted we take the leftovers]

We tried to leave a third time, so she called her son and told him he had to bring his family over. It was interesting to meet her sons and their family. Agnes has an Irish accent. Her eldest son has a mixed accent that everyone he meets has trouble placing. Her youngest son and his two sons all have American accents. His wife has a softer Irish accent. Agnes moved to the states when she was “eighteen and a half, almost nineteen” (she corrected us each time we said she had been eighteen). She lived there for almost sixty years. Her children were all born there except for one daughter who was born in Scotland. Her youngest son stayed in the states until he was fifteen, moved to Ireland for three years, moved back to the states and then moved to Ireland again. Their two boys, 14 and 12, were born in America as well. However, their family moved back to Ireland when they were 8 and 6 because college is free in Ireland and the parents wanted to start planning for that.

The 14-year-old grandson decided that the presence of four guests would soften the blow of a bad grade. A little while after they had arrived, he leaned over and whispered to his mother, “Is this a bad time to let you know I got 42% on my Gaelic test?” Without missing a beat, she replied, “We’ll speak about this later.” Then she returned to our conversation. He grinned at us a tad sheepishly, which makes me think he wouldn’t get into too much trouble for it. That little aside, though, led his mother onto the topic of how silly she thought it was that the children were required to learn Gaelic. Since they moved back to Ireland when the boys were 8 and 6, they had not grown up with the language like the other Irish children had. She thought it was ridiculous that they were required to learn a language that would not help them anywhere in the world except for Ireland.

Ultimately, we spent three and a half hours at Agnes’ house. We had planned to just stop in and say goodbye to her and go do homework in one of the local pubs (they have great Wi-Fi, much better than our cottages). Instead, we just headed back home after that and made dinner. I didn’t end up getting any homework done that day, but I think it was incredibly worth it.

Allison serves as an editor for The North Star Reports.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports. Eleni Birhane and Matthew Breeze, Assistant Managing Editors, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

7 Comments

Filed under Allison Brennhofer, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

7 responses to “Irish Hospitality – by Allison Brennhofer. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

  1. Meeting people from different cultures is always a great experience. I think almost all people have good and bad prejudgements regarding new people and places. No matter what ideas or prejudgements we might have, humans are humans. All humans beings are very similar deep down. Agnes certainly sounds like a wonderful woman to meet. Agnes sounds like your stereotypical grandma whether it’s in the U.S. or Ireland! She has yummy snacks for visitors, and holds her children and grand children very close to her heart.

  2. This was a very fun story to read about! It is important to note how much one can learn from their elders in any location of the world. How did Annie and Agnes grow so close to on another in a short amount of time/Do you know how often Annie visited her? What are your thoughts on students learning Gaelic, a language that Agnes said “would only be useful to them in Ireland”? I would think perhaps it taught to preserve the culture a bit, but I do not know the real answer. I would be interested to hear your thoughts.

  3. amanda greene

    Your experience reminded me a lot of mine in Guatemala. They were very family oriented and wanted me to meet everyone. For them, they don’t work on very strict schedules and move at the pace they choose. This is how we spent hours and hours in places that we thought would only be there for a few minutes. It’s incredible that different cultures have such vast differences in what is considered polite and hospitable. I wish I can see more of Guatemalan and Irish hospitality here in the United States. Thanks for the article!

  4. Grace Young

    I really enjoyed reading this story because I think it relates to my own culture. Overall, however, this is not the culture that is known in the United States. We are all often in such a hurry and an individualistic culture. This could be seen as a lack of hospitality. For my own culture however, I find myself trying to be as welcoming, caring, and inclusive while meeting or hosting people. I would like to think that this is a trait to Minnesota and how we are “Minnesota nice.” I have wound up in many situations like this one that you describe where I end up spending more time at a persons house because they make you want to be around them with their hospitable ways.

  5. McKenna Holman

    I think that it is really incredible that you got to have such a great experience with an Irish native, especially for your friend; who it seems made very fast friends with Agnes! How long did you guys end up staying at Agnes’s home? It sounds like you guys had a good time and they didn’t want you to leave! It was interesting to hear Agnes’s sons wife say Gaelic was unimportant and wouldn’t help them. I find that even if it won’t help them outside of Ireland, it’s still a neat thing to learn. Indigenous languages are important to the heritage and culture of the Irish community. While it may not seem important for their futures, I think that it is important for keeping important aspects of culture alive.

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