Friday, July 20, 2007

Vacation and realizations

I left Oxford for vacation on June 30 and returned last Monday, July 16. During the two weeks away, I checked e-mail occasionally but I tried to stay as separated from work as possible. I guess I should attribute my success in staying away from work to the fact that our vacation schedule was almost as busy as my work life. The result - lots of fun and fulfillment but not much rest.

We started off our vacation in Washington, D.C. We had intended to arrive in Washington on July 4th to see the celebration on the mall. We arrived too late to make it to the mall but could see many fireworks in the area as we drove toward our hotel in Arlington, Virginia. Over the next several days, we attend the Folk Life Festival on the mall, went to the new Smithsonian American Indian Museum, ate at all our old favorite hang-outs, went to the National Cathedral and the National Shrine, visited the Baltimore Inner Harbor, and went to Annapolis to see the Naval Academy and eat at St. Michael's Island. These were all very fun and helped us to celebrate the history and tradition of the Chesapeake Bay and the birth of our nation. All in all, it was awe inspiring to be reminded of what the immigrants to the colonies risked and accomplished in the days before and during the American Revolution. We were also reminded (particularly through the American Indian Museum) of how much was sacrificed among the native people's of North America.

I concluded the Washington touring in order to participate in the 10th anniversary reunion of the group (fondly called the Ensemble) that created the Social Change Model of Leadership Development. This group included such illustrious personalities as Alexander and Helen Astin, Susan Komives, and others. It was great fun to conclude that the Social Change Model has made a mark on higher education leadership learning and that there is still work to do. The group committed to a couple of initiatives that will continue to draw attention to this model. While I met with this group, Diane and Darbi completed more touring. We did conclude it all together over a wonderful dinner with the Ensemble and significant others. I thought I would explode seeing Darbi engage with Helen Astin on the importance of engagement in learning and the emerging emphasis on spirituality in higher education.

We returned to Oxford to do laundry and get ready for a quick trip to Chicago to see Devin and Steve.Chicago has as much to offer as Washington so we dug in again. We went to the Millennium Plaza Chicago Symphony concert of Beethoven and Gershwin, toured the "Cool Globes" along the harbor that serve to educate about global warming, ate at more great restaurants, and attended our first Chicago Cubs game (in the bleachers section, no less).

This vacation was in partial celebration of Darbi's conclusion of her undergraduate years at Carnegie Mellon and her launch into the world of work in her new role at Education City in Doha, Qatar. This remarkable institution promises to make a worldwide statement about the Arabian Gulf region, about the importance of investing in the public good, and about creating learning environments that transform people and places. More to come on this one in later posts...

This particular post doesn't seem earth shaking in any important way. However, I wanted to reflect on what I saw and did over the last couple of weeks. My connection to family was renewed, the importance of understanding history and place was reinforced, and the wonder of how diverse and blended cultures creates a world more interesting than I could ever have imagined was raised to a new level. When I say "more interesting than I could ever have imagined" I'm coming from a middle-class background in Boulder, Colorado, in the 1960s. I thought Boulder was a wonderful and interesting place then but I could never in all my years have anticipated what I saw and did during the last two-three weeks. Note to self - don't be surprised at what you discover when you let the wind blow you to new boundaries and horizons.

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