Monthly Archives: July 2015
Back at the Coffee Perk because I’m a creature of habit. I’m all checked out of the house, and it was a wonderful stay! On to Seattle in a few. So, more about yesterday. After rising and getting in a few hours of writing, I drove to Walla Walla Community College for a morning meeting with Tim Donahue. It’s hard, frankly, to express how awesome my visit was.
First, Tim is an incredible human being. Within five minutes, I knew this. He was so generous with his time, kind with his attention and care, and candid with his words. He is the current Director of the Center and was prominently featured in this mini-documentary, which is basically the entire reason I am here.
After talking about all manners of things (career path, teaching, students), we toured College Cellars and then made our way our to the vineyards in a massive, bumpy, wonderful red truck. I loved it.
It was amazing to see everything in action, and the being here really brought the video to life. Loved hearing about the care and attention each student within the program receives–as well as the pragmatic and student-centered approaches to teaching. The very first thing the students do is make wine. Practice first, (some) theory later. Wine making seems romantic, whimsical, and FUN. However, not (aways) so. Making wine right away gives students the experience they need to make a sound decision–is this for me? Can I stand the work, the lack of sleep, the cold, the wet? Moreover, the internship experience happens quite early on as well. Tim shared that students often “land” (paid) assistantships all over the world. Amazing. The world needs wine makers! Skillful ones. With all of his experience in the business, he knows. And he knows people, which is a huge asset to the students. [In fact, he’s working on a plan to send me to New Zealand right now. Okay, I’m kidding. Maybe.]
So, we’re at the vineyard, which is super close to the incubator. I tell Tim about missing J&J Vintners. He’s like, no worries, I can call Jeremy of you want. Um. Sure?(!). We’re looking at grapes. I am learning about grapes. I eat a grape. Then, Jeremy DRIVES BY! What?!?!? So, Tim being Tim flags him down, and Jeremy turns his big truck around to come visit with us for a few. It was amazing!
Jeremy, like Tim, is the nicest. We had a good time chatting, and it was awesome to witness the rapport between these two–teacher and student, mentor and mentee, and now, friends and colleagues. There’s something about the people here that draws you toward them. A sense of being acknowledged, a kindness, I am not entirely sure. But being here felt good.
Once we returned, I had the chance to get myself some swag and a bottle of wine (thank you, Tim!)–Scholarship White. We spent about two hours together in total, and I loved every second of it. This place deserves the recognition it has received. The good these folks do for the students, the community, and community colleges is real and palpable.
My next visit was with Wendy Samitore, Vice President of Student Services at the college. She was warm and lovely and candid and giving and curious and smart. I loved hearing about her career path, which included teaching high school English, adjuncting at the college, and working with the TRIO program at the college. We talked about teaching, what it means to believe in students, and how working at a community college can feel, sometimes, like culture shock, depending on a person’s background. She told me about the simple yet brilliant initiatives they’ve launched as well as the ways in which they’ve “tested out” hunches and discovered things about their students, thereby serving them better and more purposefully. Completion does matter, and steps can be taken to advance students’ completion.
Wendy and I visited together for about an hour and a half, and she plans to retire within months. It was wonderful to listen to the new ways in which she’ll continue making herself, inspiring. We discussed succession planning, institutional memory, and new leadership. She’s been at the college for over 25 years. She’s lived the college–lived Walla Walla. This was evident in our discussions abut the video. It occurred to me that, in some ways, institutional memory can be inhibiting. I suppose it’s in what we choose to do with that memory, however. Anyway.
After hitting up the bookstore (actually, I did that prior to meeting with Wendy), I ventured to the coffee shop (internet) and then drove back to the house.
After leaving the Coffee Perk yesterday (and now I’m back for more internet!) I walked around downtown Walla Walla for a while. There were wine tasting rooms everywhere I looked, literally.It (all the tasting rooms) was amazing. More amazing–I did not go in to any of them (at least not while downtown). Walked around snapping pictures, poking my nose into a few stores, and visiting the post office for postcard stamps (see previous post). Then, I walked back to the home sweet rental home.
Apparently, it’s really hot here, which I don’t really feel because I’m used to hot. But by the time I returned to the house, I was hot, tired, and craving a nap (such lovely imagery). It is hot here. Also, pedagogical vacationing is hard! But my self-talk worked (“YOU ARE NOT HERE TO NAP!”), napping was averted, and I hopped into the car and was off again. Destination: J&J Vintners. And they were closed. Awesome. Planning ahead is not adventurous, so. Things worked out swimmingly in the end, however. More on that later.The drive there was weird. “Um. Why am I going to the airport?” Really. I was headed to the little airport in Walla Walla. When I arrived at the address, I was flummoxed and a little pissed at my phone (because that is so very helpful). Clearly this was not right. Wrong.
What I came upon was a series of five buildings, or huts. They are all part of the “wine incubator,” a grant-funded project, which is adjacent to the airport. After seeing that J&J was closed (one of the huts), I ventured over to Walla Faces and talked with Debbie Johnson for awhile. She was awesome and poured me a series of red wines to try. The wine was lovely, but I know nothing about wine, so I have nothing intelligent to share on that. Debbie and I chatted about the area and all the beautiful wheat fields I passed along the way.
I asked her about the people of Walla Walla, the art in the room, and food (where must I eat?). The people are kind, generous, and caring. The art is made by her sister-in-law. And I should eat at Saffron (and order octopus) and the Whitehouse-Crawford Restaurant (and order whatever).After tasting the wine, I got a mini-tour of the facility from Victor De La Luz. He was excellent and informative and patient with my questions. Because it was a Wednesday, most of the other “huts” were closed, so after spending time at Walla Faces, I decided to be on my way.
I swung through Walla Walla Community College to get my bearings in preparation for hanging out on campus the next morning (today!) and continued on to the grocery store for supplies. There is a grill at the house, and I wanted to use it! With two bags of groceries in the car (and two bottles of wine–thank you Debbie!), I was in the for the night.
Dinner was served, and I spent the rest of the evening relaxing and finishing The Small Room. Made it until about 10:30 pm. Then, lights out (jet lag and two modest glasses of this). More on today in a moment.
I’ve written and mailed five postcards so far, and it’s only day three. No idea when I’ve done this last. It must have been over 15 years ago. Taking this as a sign of a good, (mostly) restful (pedagogical) vacation. Do you want a postcard? If you send me an email (amandaolatz[insertatsymbolhere]gmail.com) between now and 3 pm (EST) on Tuesday, August 4, 2015 I will send you one. Place postcard in the subject line and include your mailing address. Something kind of related. Participated. It was fun.
Yesterday began at 4:30 am (EST) and concluded 22 hours later. Flights were easy, but sleep eluded me. However, The Small Room by May Sarton kept me company, and there was the laptop, of course. I flew from Indy to San Francisco and from there to Portland. The Portland-bound plane had an “electrical issue,” which kept us on the plane and at the gate for two hours–longer than the actual flight. Safety first. While most people on board were wholly grumpy about this, I found it a good opportunity to learn about Plants vs. Zombies and Minecraft. Seated in seat D, to my right were two small brothers, totally consumed by an iPad. [Their mother, seated one row in front of us, kept telling me “Thank you for your patience.” I kept nodding, smiling, and saying, “They’re fine.” Is that phrase a midwestern thing?] They were lovely, interesting, and boisterous kids, but I felt badly for the littler one who never got to touch the iPad–despite his pleas–and then later fell asleep, his head dangling all over the place. Kids are so bendy! Also, the iPad dexterity! I felt old and kind of jealous–will my hands ever work that way?–and needed Dramamine with all the Minecraft 3D movement or whatever. Anyways, this observation of iPad gaming called to mind Dungeons and Dreamers, a book I read a few months ago and recommend–beautiful storytelling and written by Ball State’s very own Brad King. I don’t game, but I find games enticing. Alas. (Alas? Yes, alas.)
Upon arriving to Portland, I hopped into a rental car and began the route to Walla Walla, WA. Wow. Heading east out of Portland on I84 is stunning. I was quite happy to have the Columbia River to my left the whole time. The scenery was too beautiful for music, so I drove along in silence commenting on the sights–aloud–to myself every so often. There may or may not have been soft swearing. See photographs below; you’ll understand.
After making a quick stop on I84 in Hood River, OR and peeking into the Full Sail Brewing Company, I continued on to Walla Walla, WA. Apparently I rented myself a whole house (really–I planned this trip sort of hastily, so I was genuinely surprised), and it is lovely. I may not return (okay, yes I will). After getting settled, looking all around the place, and going out for some basic groceries (coffee), I called it a night.
This morning I wrangled with the home’s wireless connection for awhile, and then I gave up. Walked to the downtown area and plopped down at the Coffee Perk. And now that the email’s caught up on, here I am. The rest of the day will likely include reading, writing, J&J Vintner’s, grilling, and fire (the backyard has a fire pit!). More in time.
At first I thought I would drive my car (a 2003 Toyota Corolla with 131k miles) from Muncie, IN to Walla Walla, WA. There were two impetuses. One. In the summer of 2000, a college teammate and I drove 11k miles in 28 days–a big loop around the US–and I loved it. I wanted a repeat. Two. I “teach with” this video in my EDCC 640 course every semester, and I LOVE IT. So I wanted to visit Walla Walla Community College. Badly.
Loved ones said, “Please don’t drive.” (I’m going alone.) Being one to love back, I said, “Alright.” So the original plan changed. A little. Tomorrow, I’m flying to Portland. I’ll be in Oregon and Washington for about a week, tooling around.
I booked my flight the weekend before my final EDCC 698 class session of the summer. Being giddy about it (and because it’s kind of related), I told the students about the trip (I like telling stories, and I think they like hearing them). In doing so, I referred to it as a pedagogical vacation. Yes, a pedagogical vacation. And I was made fun of (albiet lovingly) for the remainder of the session. So in true pedagogical vacation fashion (whatever that means), I plan to document/blog this trip. I’ll do so here and in the journal on the right (I like to think it’s photovoice inspired).
My tentative plan is to spend three days in Walla Walla (visiting wineries and meeting with Tim Donahue and Wendy Samitore), a weekend in Seattle (hanging out with abovementioned teammate), and two days in Portland (checking out the University of Portland and visiting SAAHE alumni). I will also be visiting Voodoo Doughnuts (so pedagogical!) and Powell’s Books while in Portland. I’ll keep you posted as I go.