Teaching | Flowers | Big Island | Maui | Ohau | Kauai | Other Adventures
|This was probably one of the best summers I have had in this decade - working, learning new things and traveling! All in one - what an amazing three months!
It all started when the position for teaching organic chemistry in summer, at University of Hawaii - Hilo, was announced in C & E News. Sounded too good to be true. I of course applied, got interviewed, and got the job. I was ecstatic! Of course I had to leave as soon as semester ended and come back the week before semester started at Park in fall. 12 weeks of packing, 12 weeks of spices, living arrangement etc..all had to be done. I think the most fun part was telling everyone I was going to Hawaii to teach for summer.
I was prepared well. I took all my necessary ingredients - my daals, spices, molecular models, books, and enough clothes. My chemistry colleague was wonderful enough to arrange accommodations for me near campus. I rented in one room of a faculty's house. It was less than a mile from campus, and since I would not have a car, it was perfect for me.
I got to Hilo on Thursday evening. So I had the Friday for paperwork and the weekend to acclimated (and start my touring!). Hilo is a beautiful town. Very non-touristy, very homey. I was very lucky to be teaching there for summer and not on Ohau. I rented a car that weekend and started my touring around. I have never seen a place so green! The whole island seemed like a large park. I drove around the island - hit all the key spots, bought some touristy stuff and ate some good bread. Without realizing it, I drove on some places I probably should not have driven to in a rental car, the south point and Saddle road. The south point road is quite unpaved and Saddle road is notorious for getting fog in the afternoon (that is when I was on it!!) and having many accidents. I am a careful driver, or maybe I was lucky, I did not have any troubles driving on any island on any road. Saddle road is worth a mention though. While I was driving on it (BTW - I went on it only once. Did not have the guts to do it again), I saw all this black land. I did not know what to make of it. I stopped a few times, took picture and drove on. It took me a while to realize that I was looking at lava!! My first encounter!
My travels are written on other pages. Here I want to mention about my class and teaching experience.
I had a small class of 12 dedicated students (10, after 2 withdrew). It was the first time in USA I had such a diverse class: Filipino, Taiwanese, Japanese, Hawaiian, mixed races and yes, Caucasian too. And to top it off, they had me, an Indian, as their teacher. But no matter what the ethnicity, they were all there to learn organic chemistry, and they all got along just fine. I did not realize how close I would become to this group of students. We were together every day of the week from 3-7 hours daily. We had study sessions together and sometimes we socialized too. I had 12 weeks to finish what I do in 30 weeks, so we all worked hard. For me it was 8-5 days M-F. I made sure to finish my work during the week so I could play during the weekends.
What really connected me to the students was the love of food. I always had chocolate, cookies and candy in my office. Anyone would need a sugar break after studying organic for two hours! And then we had one hour of recitation. So yes, sugar was in high demand. But what I did not know was that Hawaiians are also fond of eating! So then started the treats. They would bring great local snacks and foods and I would bring whatever lame cookies I could find. But everyday we had some food, and I felt that was a kind of bonding I would not have achieved without the food.
By the time we were half way through, I knew them well and they knew me very well. The hardest week for me was the 12th week. I prepared for it for three weeks. I had little gifts for everyone, including a group picture of us. We were the pioneers of summer organic class, so yes, I thought we were special. They gave me gifts before I left. Very emotional.
I keep thinking about how it would be go back and teach there again during another summer and then I realize it will never be the same. First times are always first times! The emotions, the fascination, the wonder and the innocence (or ignorance) of the first time would not be there. I am very lucky and happy to have been there during the summer of 2004 and I know for sure, the ten students who stuck it through the 12 weeks with me, will also never forget that summer.
Mahalo for reading!!