One week ago, I was in the midst of teaching a Summer Institute with David for educators at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center in Kahului, Maui. I must say that it was spectacular to be invited to teach in Hawaii, and I spent part of the trip in disbelief that I was actually there. It was extra special since my wife was able to tag along.
After a rather grueling 16 hr trip from the DC area to Maui and a snafu at our reserved condo that left us locked out for a couple of hours, we settled in for the night so that we could be rested for our Maui adventure. We built in an extra day to acclimate to the time difference and to enjoy ourselves a bit, so we got up early the next day to explore the island.
We headed to Haleakala, the dormant volcanic that dominates east Maui. The peak of Haleakala is just over 10,000 feet, and the 40 mile drive took over an hour and a half from our condo at sea level in Maalaea. But it was well worth the twisting road, the steep climb in elevation, and the dozen or so cyclists who were determined to bike up the mountain. The crater was completely other worldly, and provided a stunning 360 degree view. We didn't go early enough for the sunrise, an activity so popular now that you have to make a reservation with the National Park Service, but we spent a good portion of the morning there taking in the breathtaking views. Later in the day we headed to Lahaina to see the western side of the island and to explore the historic part of the town on Front Street which is lined with a plethora of shops and restaurants. Of course, shave ice was on the agenda!
After our day of play, it was time to get down to business, and David and I spent six days at the center teaching two groups of teachers while the wives got to explore the island and the beaches. Monday through Wednesday was a group of just elementary teachers, and Thursday through Saturday was a group of elementary, middle, and high school teachers.
Both groups were very eager and very open to the process of the visual journal, and everyone seemed comfortable with diving in. We did hear later that some of the teachers were a bit nervous about it being an art professional development class, but hopefully David and I quelled their anxiety as we started. To be honest, no one seemed nervous, and they all took to process quickly.
It seemed that by the end of the first session those nerves and anxieties were gone, and it became difficult to get the participants to stop. Even at the end of the day, many of them just did not want to stop, and would stay until we had to kick them out.
We even heard tales of people spending hours at home or in their hotel rooms working in their journal and staying up too late. It's always nice to hear that people get so into the visual journal. The word "addicting" came up a lot throughout the week, and I think many people came to better understand our name, the Journal Fodder Junkies!
It was an amazing experience to connect with those sixty educators who ventured out to the Maui Arts and Cultural Center, and it just reaffirmed for me the power of the visual journal and the power of art.
Of course, it wasn't all work. For my wife it was a just a vacation, and she hit up the beaches almost every day, but we did get to enjoy the beaches together both in the morning and in the afternoons. We stayed in an ocean front condo that was walking distance to a beach that was perfect for morning walks, and we were able to hit up a few beaches in the afternoon when we were done with class.
Maui was a truly remarkable adventure, and I am full of gratitude to the universe for taking me there. One year ago, when I stepped away from life as a public school teacher, I had no idea where my new adventure would take me. I couldn't image that it would take me to Maui where I could have an impact on thousands and thousands of students through their teachers. It's such a humbling thought.
I am appreciative and truly thankful to Chadwick Pang, the Education Director for the Maui Arts and Cultural Center, for making it all possible by bring us to Maui; to Bianca Rajan, the Exhibits Assistant for the center, for all of her help during our week; and to all of the teachers who came out to explore the journal with us. It was an amazingly remarkable experience.