Friday, October 30, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
Fri, Oct. 23, 2009.
Half an hour at the Maui Community College library, and I’m already tempted to chuck my entire paper and grad school applications.
Imagine you have to write a 15-20 page essay in the next month. For the past year and a half, your brain has spent its time thinking about how to steam milk and scrub sinks, stressing about love, enjoying sunshine and new places, planning for transitions…not engaging in research or discussing literature or analyzing writing. Now, the drive for an academic challenge burns in you, but your hands are tied. Imagine that your only resources are two public libraries and one community college (in Hawaii, where the state of education is a source of shame) that have no computerized searching systems, in which three quarters of the books were printed before 1980, and one equally limited bookstore. You have no internet databases, no way to know if the books you need even exist, and the only places you can almost always get internet either close early or are outside, where mosquitoes will bite you 50 times before you’re done. You are searching yellowed books shelf by shelf (on the bright side, there are so few books on the shelves that it doesn’t take more than twenty minutes to figure out there’s nothing helpful). To top it off, this paper does not simply have to get a decent grade. It has to outdo 90% of the 299 other papers that UW will receive for admission to the creative writing program for fall 2010. It has to be perfect, technically and creatively.
It’s absolutely hilarious. If you were me, you would also be laughing about how ridiculous the experience is rather than allowing yourself to keep experiencing it.
I have to admit, though, it is pleasant to be on a college campus again, to see people furiously taking notes, staring dully at their laptops, carrying their backpacks past walls of art. Also, there’s something about libraries…any country, any state, any city, they’re a little piece of home, whatever that is.
I am never going to experience this again. This moment, in this blank air-conditioned quiet: blue sky and mountains out the window, my laptop alive under my fingers, the faint scent of clean, sunned skin. And that is worth more than any UW paper, than grad school itself. How long has it taken me to truly sit and enjoy now?
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Jeanie and I spent most of Sunday with Mary. Every so often, the irrigation ditch at her family’s farm stops running smoothly, whether because of areas clogged by fallen trees or because the dam that channels the water is broken. Members of the family get called up to hike to “The Source,” cleaning up the ditch and fixing the dam if necessary. Mary was planning to go, and she invited me. It was pretty sweet…manual labor/farm chore, maybe, but a unique experience. Really, I can’t believe this life belongs to me. At times I get jealous of Isaac for the experiences and family he grew up with, but then I realize (in addition to remembering that I would never trade my own experiences and family for the world) that I get to share in it all through him. Cool, huh? Anyway, here’s the story of the adventure:
We drive a short distance from the Pfleegor’s home in Wailuku into a new posh residential area, through a gate, and onto a dirt road winding through macadamia nut fields. Half a dozen mismatched dogs and a massive pig named Penelope meet us at the farm house, where Mary takes us into the shower/old clothing storage room. I dig through bins and soon find myself swimming in a pair of men’s pants, a stained denim button-down shirt, two pairs of socks, and Isaac’s old shoes. Tuck the pants into the socks, spray bug repellent everywhere, and add gloves, a utility belt, and a machete, and I am ready.
Isaac’s cousin Angelo leads the way, with Jeanie, Mary, and me close behind. We walk into the jungle, following beside the narrow irrigation ditch, its water slower and shallower than usual. On one side, a steep drop-off and the river far below. On all sides, ferns, banana plants, palms, lilikoi, more trees I could never name. Eventually, the path is so overgrown that we plunge shin-deep into the ditch, digging out clogged leaves and cutting away branches and tangled plants with our machetes. Mosquitoes follow in swarms and find their way to the patches of skin untouched by repellent. Mary points out the edible plants, picks baby ferns, shows us a plant Hawaiians used to use as candles, keeps saying we’re almost there and not to hate her for bringing us along.
After a couple miles of sloshing, climbing, chopping, and threading, we reach the dam. A few rocks have been pushed aside by rain, and we pile them back up to block the river’s flow into the pool that fuels the irrigation channel. And then, back down, through the water, under the banana plants, along the muddy paths, finally surfacing onto the open dirt road.
Back at the farm house, Mary, Jeanie, and I strip off the wet clothes and shower in the long shower room. Huge, unscreened windows leave one wall open to the outside, where a brief vivid tangle of jungle quickly ascends to the looming West Maui Mountains, lush on this side. Mary, practiced from growing up with nine siblings in a family that knows and loves good food, literally throws together dinner for us and the other family members who are there. Into a wok go onions, olive oil, some greens collected on the trek, and tuna. The meal is completed with whatever else can be found in the kitchen: fresh pineapple, chicken, quinoa salad, and rice. Evening wraps purple shadows around the old wooden buildings and down courtyard steps, and I feel entirely inadequate to appreciate the beauty.
So that’s that. We watched a movie back at the Pfleegor’s house afterwards and I borrowed Isaac’s guitar so Jeanie and I can keep practicing. It’s been cool getting to know Isaac in a new way, through his family. I almost feel like he’s here.
Though the last couple of days have been really fun, I’m still struggling with feeling depressed. Don’t really know why, and trying to figure out why only makes me exhausted from overthinking. It is not cool.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Yesterday Jeanie and I both had the whole day off, so we celebrated my one-day-early-birthday by driving to Iao Valley (this beautiful, touristy place that I'd never been to in all of my ten months here), eating pastries at this little bakery, going to a couple beaches on the glorious sunny west side of the island, watching Where the Wild Things Are (super good and oddly sad/dark), eating out at Melting Pot (a surprise from Jeanie--SOOOOO good), and hanging out at Uncle Kaleo's house (he's the pastor of Ke Aha and his family is incredibly inviting--their house is open all the time and there are always people over there).
I spent today with Isaac's mom, Mary. I'd been wanting to hang out with his parents for a while, but it took me a long time to get the nerve up to contact them. Mary originally invited me to help out cleaning up a taro patch at her family farm, but we ended up doing some other errands with her Auntie Loretta. It was seriously such an awesome day, just going about normal life with a couple true Maui women--we went to a swap meet, ate at a Filipino market/restaurant, did some grocery shopping, and looked around Walmart for a while. It was so much fun being with these two adorable, sweet, funny Filipino ladies, hearing about their childhood memories and family, and even more meaningful knowing I was getting insight into Isaac's life. I think I can safely say this was one of the best birthdays ever, and it wasn't even a celebration of my birthday. :)
I've got a little bit of time to hang out at Borders, and then I'm going to a potluck. Should be good. I will need a break from all the socializing soon, though. ;)
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Oct. 14, 2009. 5:15 p.m.
This day sucks. Not actually the day itself, or anything that has happened today, but just because I feel like it sucks.
I’m at Borders right now waiting to go to small group. We got wi fi in the store but it’s not working right now and I’m writing this in a Word document. I feel helpless without the internet, it’s kind of sad. At the table across from me, three men are discussing some kind of firefighting classes. “Eh, brah, what happens if the fire’s in this room and the smoke’s just banking, banking down?” one of them says.
I’m actually getting pretty depressed being in Maui. I am fighting to crawl through each day, particularly the work parts. I’m over the beauty, the sunshine, the interesting people. Adventure has turned into routine has turned into being stuck. I want to hide on some part of the island that only has internet, phone reception, Jeanie, some hikes and swimming spots, and tons of books. Two. more. months. and. nine. more. days.
On the plus side, at times I’m excited to write my 15-20 page UW paper. My thesis will be something like “The graphic novels Persepolis, Maus, American Born Chinese, and Palestine are examples of how the search for and understanding of cultural identity is expressed in a meaningful way through art.” It’s kind of a huge topic; there are lots of possible directions I could take it and I don’t want it to get too unfocused. I’ve started outlining and searching for resources, but it’s a challenge not having a decent library or college databases.The internet is working now.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
It's raining on my laptop because I don't get internet at home and all the coffee shops are closed and I'm sitting on a patio with a leaky roof
-I'm in the process of applying to two grad schools, Eastern Washington University and University of Washington. I have two and a half months until the applications are due, and I feel totally overwhelmed at times. I've forgotten how to be academic. My favorite thing is that I have to submit a 15-20 page essay to UW, in addition to my poetry sample and my admissions essay (and of course application, reference letters, GRE scores, teaching assistantship application and essay). Unfortunately, I don't have a paper that long from college (I know, is there something wrong with that?), so I get to write one now. I got a few things done tonight, but there is so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so much more to do.
-I officially got accepted to teach in Thailand!! They want me there from Feb. 4 through May 18. I can't believe this life I'm living is actually mine. In a good way.
-I went to the Maui county fair with Jeanie, Jeffree, Josh, and Angela a couple weekends ago. It was fun. Much much smaller than the MN fair (to put it simply), but with the same feel--lots of crowds, food, and dumpsters. It was interesting to see seas of dark-haired heads rather than blonds.
-I've started walking on the beach every morning with Luisa, one of our Paia work trade friends. She's really different than me, which I enjoy a lot--40, used to live a glamorous NYC life as a makeup artist, a raw foodist, live-in boyfriend and 15-year-old daughter.... It's fascinating hearing her stories and perspective. I also greatly appreciate the motivation to get up a bit earlier and get some exercise in my favorite form--sun, beach, and a dip in the ocean at the end.
-Jeanie, Josh, and I went camping last night, met up with this guy Josh knows and a huge group of random people. It was a lot of fun. We did the campfire thing, walked on the beach in the dark, looked at stars through the screen of the tent as we fell asleep, swam, hiked, swam, drove, and swam again today.... It's so weird, though, most of the time I feel like something is missing because Isaac is not here, not with his friends, not doing back flips off rocks into the water, not joking or asking me challenging questions as we walk. I associate hiking and swimming with him so much now that I'm not sure I'll ever be able to do either again without thinking about him.
-I started another facebook album for the LAST THREE MONTHS OF MAUI!! Here's the link:
Friday, October 2, 2009
Being in Maui, thousands of miles from most of the people I love, has made me realize how technology enables me to stay easily connected to anyone anywhere. Using Skype, I can talk with Martha in Amsterdam as clearly (and as cost-free) as if she was sitting next to me. I can video chat on gmail with Isaac and talk to him on the phone at the same time. I can email, IM, write on walls, read blogs, carry a phone in my pocket...and those are just the basics. Being part of this mobile generation doesn't make me less fascinated by it, how far we've come so fast, how much more accessible we've made the world. At the same time, I never want to get so caught up in new things that I lose the beauty of the "old." I want to keep the patience of waiting for a letter, the uncluttered silence of taking time away from cell phones or internet, the yellowed pages of my favorite book.