One good outcome from the program was that every now and then a faculty member from the main U of O campus in Eugene presented an excellent lecture. Gabriela Martinez from the Journalism School showed a video she had made in Oaxaca, Mexico. She had been there in 2005 when women supporting a teachers' strike took over the local television station (link to video here). Members of Portland's Planning and Transportation Departments spoke and illustrated past, present, and future City issues. [photo: Hawthorne Bridge opens for tiny sailboat to float underneath along Willamette River.]
We became friends with Al and Toni, another couple new to Portland, who live in the South Waterfront neighborhood, have excellent views of boat traffic and skies. We've met up to explore, walk, find new places to eat. Who knew when we visited the Hulda Kluger Lilac Garden that it would gain fame in Congress as a reason not to fund a national museum of women's history when there are already places like this small garden in Oregon that cover the subject.
Back to PSU, which we see as "our" school, a 15 minute downhill walk from Terwilliger. Once we got into the system, described here, it was only a matter of course selection. It was November, classes are on the quarter system, so I started late in "Women & Politics." Great instructor, Lois Ann M. Bronfman, very patient with mostly clueless students. It was stimulating to review the time of my own participation starting in late 1960s. Issues with my teeth caused me to miss classes including the last one when the speaker was Barbara Roberts, Governor of Oregon from 1991-95--the first woman.
In March 2010, next term, at the suggestion of Susan Bishop, an older student herself who runs the Senior Auditors' (official designation) office, I signed up for "A Sense of Place," a cultural geography course. I've been needing a way to look at where I am now, how I relate to a very different landscape and people, and vice versa. An east coast woman, surrounded by westerners, I know little about the history of Oregon. My imagination can hardly take in how Merriwhether Lewis and William Clark could travel from early 19th century, urbanized east into this mountainous, unsettled territory. Taking grandson Zach to Fort Clatsop at the state park in Astoria, where the exploration ended, made the expedition more real though still awe-inspiring.
Hunter Shobe was the energetic, super-organized instructor. Every class period he'd open the New York Times, read a paragraph from a relevant article (3/31/10 Notes: Key West as best place for homeless, France bans facial veils). Discuss: he demanded active participation from students. The only photo I took--busy taking notes, figuring out place making vis a vis finding places--was the front of the classroom. At the top of the blackboard were the familiar pull-down maps I'd expected to see, like elementary school.
Not what we saw up there rather several important documentaries. "Manufactured Landscapes"--- I'd seen in New York and was glad to see again, provoked classroom exchanges about whether it was useful or not to be able to buy cheap goods from China...and how workers are treated there...and the environmental consequences of China's massive industrialization. Notes: Student, "Population increase...panic that losting ourselves." Shobe, "Aware that this issue brings out most concern in my classes." He mentioned that Malthus in the 19th century had noted war was one check on over-population.
Hearing students voices was powerful experience. Many were older (over 25), most were from Oregon or elsewhere in the West. Here are some others: "I belong to nine different identities and I'm not comfortable with any one of them....curious phrase 'ethnic' food when we're all ethnic or is this the way to differentiate from white peoples food?....Neighbors when we moved in. felt like Steppford wives. I was impressed that some could talk about readings that were beyond my comprehension-- Marxist ideas about cultural geography and power geometry.
For the final two classes, students had turned in photographs reflecting sense of place and as Shobe screened them, students explained, "Grew up in military, when I see Mt. Hood, know I'm home....Can't imagine living without my garden....Railroad spike from time I hopped a freight train....Skate park, best place in the world....St. John's bridge cathedral-like....Juno, Alaska, where I'm from...Dormant farm field, my father is a farmer, has booth in Saturday Market...My husband and my dog." With about 50 students, we traveled mostly outdoors; were surprised by the living room of an apartment in Venice. Great trip. Thanks to the students and Hunter Shobe, my sense of Portlandness has expanded even while it may never be fully mine.
Suggested article from the reading list, one that could shift your thinking when visiting historic sites is Dydia DeLyser's "When Less Is More: Absence and Landscape in a California Ghost Town."