Wanderlust, Part 2: Maui

We just got back from a week of vacation in Maui, and we want to share our adventures with you. We chose to attend a work convention/leadership training in Maui and then add several more days of adventure. It was a blast!

Since we live in Kentucky, it’s quite a long trip to reach Maui. It takes approximately almost a full day to get from here to there. We had layovers in Chicago and San Francisco, and then we arrived in Kahului International Airport. It was interesting to leave Kentucky with long sleeves and long pants, and have to change our clothes into shorts and T-shirts because the temperature in Maui was in the 80s (Fahrenheit).

We got the rental car from the airport and then proceeded to stop by our first adventure spot: Costco. Hah! We laughed about it, but we definitely needed to stock up on a few things such as water, fruits, and some swimsuits for the kiddos since they had outgrown their swimsuits.

The island of Maui is the second largest island among Hawaiian archipelago and is about 727 square miles, which is comparable to three times the size of Chicago, Illinois, thought not as populated. Maui has several volcanoes, but the one on the east, Haleakalā, rises to more than 10,000 feet (3,000 m) above sea level, and measures five miles (eight km) from seafloor to summit, making it one of the world’s tallest mountains. It’s a beautiful island, and we were even more amazed by the kind people we met.

The first few days of our vacation, we stayed at Honua Kai resort on Kaanapali beach, on the western side of the island, called Lahaina. Lā hainā means “cruel sun” in the Hawaiian language, describing the sunny, dry climate. Lahaina was the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii in the mid-1800s, and when you walk down Front Street, you can see this giant Banyan tree, one of the largest in the world, that was planted in 1873 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the arrival of Christian missionaries.

The banyan tree or Ficus benghalensis has roots that descend or sprout from the branches into aerial roots towards the ground, where they form new trunks around the main trunk. This Lahaina giant banyan tree sprouted 16 major trunks that are apart from the main trunk, forming a large canopy with a circumference of about one-fourth of a mile, and about a thousand people could congregate under it.

Maui is also the best place to watch humpback whales between the months of February and April. These whales migrate from Alaskan waters to mate and give birth in the warm waters of Maui. You can easily see these whales from the beach and from a boat. They often congregate in pods, which is typically a group of a mother, her calf, and a few male suitors. You may also see the males fighting for the female by bumping against each other. When you snorkel or dive, you will be able to hear the sound of the whales singing for hours under the water. It’s a magnificent experience!

We joined a whale-watching ship from the nonprofit Pacific Whale Foundation, and the tour guide gave great educational information on how whales behave, how to spot them, and how to protect these endangered animals. The kids loved it! We recommend going in the morning as the water will be calmer and it will be less windy than the afternoon would. You also should reserve your spots ahead of time as these whale-watching boats get booked up really quickly.

We got to attend a luau that exhibited amazing singers and fire dancers sharing their New Zealand (Maori), Samoan, Tahitian, and Hawaiian cultures and stories. This is one way to enrich your children’s knowledge of the world cultures while having fun at the same time!

My wife always wanted to see a pineapple plantation, so we booked a plantation tour with Maui Gold Pineapple, where we were able to see thousands of acres of pineapple fields in various stages of growth, tour the packing facility, watch how they harvest the pineapples, and taste various stages of the pineapple and tour the packing facility. The tour took about 1.5 hours and we got to come home with a box of two hand-picked fresh pineapples.

The last half of the trip we stayed at the beautiful Grand Wailea on the south side of the island, in Kihei. The kids loved every one of the nine incredible pools and beach. When you visit, you must check out the world’s first water elevator there. It is rated as the Best Kid-Friendly Hotel in Hawaii by Oyster. The view was breathtaking from any angle. You can even see whales swimming right from the beach or from their signature restaurant, Humuhumunukunukuapua’a. Try pronouncing that!

The one downside to this trip was the time it took to travel from the mainland USA. This creates jetlag as your body tries to adjust to local time. We would be super tired at 6 p.m. local time (midnight in EST), and then wide awake at 2 or 3 a.m., as it’s already 8 or 9 a.m. in the mainland eastern standard time. By the time we were ready to leave at the end of the week, our bodies had finally adjusted to the Hawaiian time, which means it took us a few more days to again adjust once we get back home. We all agreed that the next time we return, we will stay much longer than just a week.

This was one of our favorite trips. We got to incorporate biology and science learning (whales, climate, and pineapple growing), and then history, geography, and native cultures. The kids got to meet various kinds of people from various parts of the world.

They also learned more about people with interesting tattoos all over their faces and body (Maori and most Polynesian cultures). They learned about how kindness transcends cultures and borders. They learned how the time change affected their body functions. They learned about how different cultures eat different kinds of food. They especially loved the physical education portion of this homeschool trip: swimming and bodyboarding!

Most of all, as we got to see Hawaii as a melting pot of many different cultures and races, we learned that Jesus loves all the children of the world: red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in His sight. We all learned that God would love for all His children to be with Him again, and that the responsibility to share the Good News is on our shoulders.

Go travel, go outside of your comfort zone. If you haven’t read my previous blogpost on Wanderlust, you should! Click here.

God bless!

Arthur

Nurturing in a Dynamic Way at the Nursing Home

It has been our beautiful experience this year to visit the nursing home several times. What is homeschool (or church for that matter) worth if we aren’t learning compassion, community, and how to communicate despite age or restriction? I’m the director of our church’s Adventurer program (the homeschool-related benefits of such are for another post), and we made these visits with the Adventurer and Pathfinder groups. However, I know, at least from my childhood, that you don’t need an Adventurer program to make a trek to the local nursing home!

In my childhood, we only sang. The singing was beautiful, the singing was important, but I always felt a disconnect…a large chasm between me and the residents. So, I was very intrigued when a friend told me how they take crayons and color with the residents after singing.

I wanted to take it a step further. I have been talking to my kids about the importance of touch, that when we go to the nursing home, our hand on the shoulder, arm, or hand of a resident does much to brighten their day. A side note: Always remember hand-sanitizer before and after visiting. They don’t want our germs as much as we don’t want theirs, but they crave our touch!

Kids are often frightened to go up and shake someone’s hand, but — I’ve seen it with my own eyes — when they are actively engaged in an activity with them, touch happens naturally, and without fear.

So, what activities are safe for little kids, safe for aging (often senile) adults, easy to do with less-than-fine motor skills, easy to clean up, and not too expensive? Here’s what we’ve done so far…

I called the nursing home’s activity director. She was delighted and said that we were more than welcome to do something extra with the residents. I found a tissue paper fall tree craft that begins with a traced hand and wrist. I asked the students to pair up with the residents so that they could trace each other’s hand and help each other with the glue. Instant touch! And the effects were visible on faces. Comfort of the child, and joy of the aged.

They tore off bits of colorful tissue paper, wrapped them around the eraser-end of a pencil (it’s easier to hold) and used the pencil to push the tissue-paper leaves into the glue on the “finger branches.”

I always encourage the students to give their finished product to another resident that wasn’t able to come to activity time on our way out, but of course that’s optional.

Our latest venture was a beaded sun-catcher craft. Just a thin pipe cleaner, translucent pony beads, some odd beads, a twist, and a thread to hang it from. I wanted to sparkle-up their rooms!

I brain-stormed for a month and finally landed on this idea. I could just see them all working together to string the beads. I could hear the objection from the residents, “My eyes aren’t good enough for this,” and my answer, “Well, good news! I brought good eyes and lots and lots of little fingers with me!” And then, the day before we went, the activity director emailed me and said “about half the residents can’t have beads…they’ll try to eat them.”

Aaahhhhhh!!! I hurriedly packed crayons and fun coloring sheets in addition to the beads. The director said that she could seat them at separate tables. (The twist-up crayons encased in plastic are perfect for older hands.) “Half” turned out to be only 4 residents, so the majority got to work with beads, and it was wonderful to watch student and resident working together to make it happen. Haha, remember to ask before you plan.

Jesus knew the value of touch. Sometimes it speaks what cannot be heard…especially if your hearing is not all that good.

Comment below if you have some touch-promoting ideas for me. We are loving it and looking forward to next time. I think one of those giant toy parachutes with all the handles is in our near future!

Tang Hulurs

imageWhen my son was small and we were just beginning our homeschool journey, my good friend, Tanya, loaned me her Sonlight curriculum for grade 1. Although I chose not to use it, I did read most of the books to my little boy. I have wonderful memories of sitting under the big maple tree in our backyard reading one of our favorites, “Little Pear,” by Eleanor Frances Lattimore. In this enchanting book, the main character’s favorite treat to buy is a tang hulur. My child liked this book so much that we borrowed the others in the series from the library. Our favorite part that has stuck with us all these years (he is 12 now, but still likes to be read to!) is the fascinating idea of a tang hulur. We have our own idea of what they look like, and when we see a resemblance of our conception, whether it be in a store or picture, we always exclaim, “Look! It’s a tang hulur!”

In this blog post, I share with you the day we made tang hulurs, better known as rock candy. This is a fun activity to go along with a science lesson or unit on rocks. We actually made the rock candy with our small Pathfinder group as part of the Rocks and Minerals honor. We had attended a gem and fossil show the week before, a first for all of us. A day or two later, I received an email to sign up for a free online science class to learn about rocks, including experiments to do at home. Thinking this was perfect timing, I bought the necessary supplies for the experiments and showed the video to the Pathfinders. To be honest, the video wasn’t a big hit, but everybody loves an edible experiment so that saved the day!

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Here is what we did to create our version of tang hulurs. This makes a big batch, so you might want to reduce it. We added eight cups of sugar, which was a small four-pound bag, to three cups of water gradually, and then heated it on the stove. Do not let it boil. We did not use a candy thermometer, but you can. The mixture should change into a cloudy yellowish color with all the sugar dissolved, and should be hot to the touch. Let it cool enough to pour into a glass container. We used mason jars. You can add flavorings and/or colors at this point.

imageThen position a skewer in the middle, holding it in place with a clothespin laid across the top.

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The skewer should be moistened and rolled in sugar to give the crystals something to adhere to.

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Now you just wait for the crystals to form. That can take hours or even days; we just kept checking ours.

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Break up the edges and pour out the excess liquid after it has crystallized, and set the jar in hot water to remove your creation. It’s not the healthiest treat, but fun to make to demonstrate crystals when studying rocks. Enjoy your tang hulur while reading a good book, like “Little Pear,” or even a book about rocks.

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Oh, and by the way, here’s what tang hulurs really look like! Much more tasty to me!

 

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The World is a Book

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness” – Mark Twain

It’s common to take the family to visit a nearby national park or even a road trip to historical sites. We have enjoyed these vacations. But when we headed out a while back to visit Ecuador we got some interesting looks and comments.

Why would you go there? Isn’t that expensive with the family? Are you going on a mission trip?

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While I highly recommend international mission trips, it’s okay to take a vacation abroad. Our family vacation was economical, eye-opening, character building and an educational goldmine. Here’s a synopsis of our trip.

Using frequent flyer miles saved over many years, we reached our destination of Quito, the capital city of Ecuador. Spanish classes filled our first week while we stayed with an Ecuadorian family arranged through the “Cristobol Colon Spanish School”. My older son learned more Spanish that week than in the last six months of our homeschool Spanish program. The week included a trip to the equator. How’s cool is that – to stand with one foot in the northern hemisphere and the other in the southern hemisphere. My kids will never forget where Ecuador is on the map.

Next we headed to the Amazon jungle. An overnight bus, another mini-bus and a 2-hour trip in motorized canoes. We stayed in a jungle lodge with no electricity. Our guide took us out daily to explore the river and jungle where we encountered anacondas, pink river dolphins, and loads of birds and monkeys. Swimming with piranhas anyone? I passed on that, but my son was an eager participant. The guide told us the piranhas were not in the middle of the lagoon. Thankfully all came out with limbs intact!

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After our jungle adventure we rented a car and drove along the Andes Mountain range which runs down the center of the country. Soaking in volcanic hot springs, exploring the colonial city of Cuenca, and hiking around Inca ruins were some of our activities. Some nights we spent a mere $25 for a room and $10 for dinner for four. Another time we “splurged” and stayed in a lovely bed and breakfast run by a friendly expat couple. The kids loved running around their huge garden filled with banana trees, papaya trees, coffee trees, and a vegetable garden. The price? About the same as we usually pay for a Motel 6 in the states.

Ecuadorians are very family oriented and often the tickets for our kids were either free or half-price, even on buses and tours. The people were also so friendly and helpful. Petty theft can be a problem there as in many developing countries, but we took precautions and found it no less safe than visiting a U.S. city. Everywhere we stayed the children were welcome and treated kindly.

Visiting the local markets filled with textiles, hand-made leather goods and all kinds of interesting fruits and vegetables we’d never seen made for fun shopping. Previously we were unaware that Ecuador was a large producer of chocolate. Using the always handy internet, we looked up a small local chocolate factory, called ahead and arranged to have a personal tour complete with samples.

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There were so many educational experiences. We tasted raw sugarcane and saw how the locals make it into raw sugar (not bleached and white). The boys helped grate yucca root to make into flat bread. We visited cathedrals that the conquistadors built, and walked on ancient Inca roads. We also visited a local Adventist church where there was standing room only. It’s fun to worship with believers from other countries and cultures and find how much our faith ties us all together.

International traveling is not only for the rich or for foreign missionaries. Many families spend more money taking a Disney vacation than we did on our Ecuadorian adventure. Yes, it took some planning, an adventurous spirit, and one night sleeping on the floor of the airport. However, if you have the desire to experience geography, geology, culture and history up close and personal, consider taking your kids abroad before they leave the nest. It will teach them that people all around the world are not so different than they are. We are all God’s children. 

“The world is a book, and those who don’t travel read only one page.”

If you’ve traveled abroad with your kids, leave a comment about your adventures below or on the Facebook page. Let’s inspire each other.

International Service — A Personal Outlook

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My girls and I at Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) in Malawi

From the age of nine through my senior year in high school, I had the opportunity to go on six short-term mission trips. In my junior year of college, I studied abroad for a few months. After college I lived in Malawi for a year and a half as a Peace Corps volunteer. I am here to share with you my experiences.

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A Sabbath afternoon hike to a cave in Honduras

I always had a burning desire to travel. I thought it was a glorious thing! Travel is still wonderful, but I’ve learned the value of the closeness of family and friends, and that I don’t need to go far, far away to be “valuable” or “successful.” I’ve proven my independence and have learned a great deal about myself in the process.

An article by Tarja Parssinen, entitled “We’re not meant to do this alone: American individualism is destroying our families,” had a quote to which I related: “It’s as if Americans must always be Lewis and Clark on a brave embarkation, and if we’re not, we are provincial, frightened, and uneducated. Unlike our ancestors, young people today are not concerned with America’s place in the world. Instead, we ask ourselves, ‘What is my place in the world?’”

I definitely started out being a stereotypical American individualist, but now value and respect the collectivist culture of other countries. Probably I still have individualist qualities, but I think I have achieved a balance, and that is always the preferred state with most things.

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Buying greens at the local market in Malawi

If you ask, “Should I send my kid on an overseas mission trip?” I would 99 percent of the time say “Yes!” But, it may not be for the reasons you would expect. Yes, it is for an honorable cause, to help the less fortunate, but that isn’t the only reason, nor is it the most significant thing that will happen. There is no way that a person can go into this type of service without coming out changed. The opportunity to see a new way of life, have a new cultural experience, make lots of new friends, and learn to love the unpredictable…is priceless.

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There were so many incredible experiences and learning experiences:

  • Not ever being sure of how things would work out, but they always would
  • Having faith in my fellow man while hitchhiking in Africa
  • Driving, seemingly aimlessly, around the savannas of Guyana in the middle of the night
  • Sleeping on a very narrow wooden church pew on a hot night with mosquitoes buzzing around
  • Washing girls’ hair with a water hose, treating for lice, and giving them pretty new hair clips and combs
  • Being put under house arrest while under the investigation of Hugo Chavez’s government
  • Backpacking, just able to put one foot in front of the other

Things didn’t always go according to plan, but those were some of the most memorable experiences.

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Hiking Mt. Roraima on the Venezuela side

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I made it to the top!

Sometimes I look back and wonder what it was that I accomplished? Well the truth is this — maybe not much. But, that’s okay. Sometimes we have to lower our expectations. That’s not something you typically tell your children. Usually parents say, “You can be whatever you want, you can reach the stars,” which is an awesome, positive message and should be encouraged. The thing is…you can’t expect to always achieve whatever it is you set out to do. It may be that you started out with unrealistic expectations, not through any fault of your own, just that you didn’t have the whole picture. It could be cultural differences, not taking into account the other “human” factors in the equation, or that God had a different plan. I may never be able to measure my impact on others, but I know that my life was changed, in a big way, by the gracious people who befriended me.

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Waiting for a ride to my village in Malawi

I look back on all the mistakes I’ve made, and one specific incident sticks out in my mind. I was a speaker for an evangelistic series in the Ukraine when I was 16. I was so nervous at one point that I skipped an entire page of slides of essential information on the topic “Who is the Beast?” I can only pray that God blessed this talk in His own way. Maybe it did have an impact on someone, but I won’t find out until heaven, and it will certainly not be to any “glory” of my own.

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Teaching a health lesson in Malawi

Some trips were very adrenaline filling, especially the short term trips where we rushed in to “save the world.” At one point on a trip, we had kids lining up for our autographs! And, we obliged. Looking back on that, was that really the message we were there to send? Probably not. But, it’s easy to get caught up in the glory of being a “famous American.” And yet, the job isn’t always glorious. On one trip I remember being stuck on the clean-up crew after meals instead of being at the job site. In naivete I complained that I should be able to help with the “real work.”

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Hanging out and eating sugar cane in Malawi

Additionally, there was often a layer of hidden danger that, as a naive traveler, I was unaware of. There were forces at work to stop the job we were there to do. In a way this goes to show that God was using us to do His good work.

  • Priests from other churches working to shut us down
  • Being accused of spying for the U.S. Government
  • Kids chasing us with rocks because they wanted more candy (because they were hungry, and the only way to cut that hunger was by sniffing airplane glue)

There was even more danger to workers who lived in the countries we visited. Soon after a trip to the Ukraine, we found out that the pastor we had worked with was shot and killed by one of the teenage boys we had come in contact while there. The struggles are real: drugs, spiritual war, poverty, poor hygiene, lack of water, and on and on. We take many things for granted in everyday life. Once in a while a reality check can be very grounding.

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A village girl in Venezuela

Preparing for experiences like these are impossible. Even if I knew then what I know now, I doubt it would have changed any of my decisions. That is a blessing. I value all the friends I made, all of the “unknowns,” the tough adventures.

My message to you is this: Find a purpose in whatever it is you are tasked to do, and relish the experience.