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The Coolest Jobs in Hawaii

What do you daydream about when you’re at work? Surfing? Shopping? What if you could do it for a living? This month, we found 11 lucky people who get paid to do what many would do for free.


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Photo: Mark Arbeit


Yvonne Cheng

After more than 30 years  of painting, Yvonne Cheng has become well known for her large paintings of Hawaiian women clad in traditional, colorful clothing. Her talent is in such demand that she’s able to make a steady living painting commissioned works, almost exclusively through word of mouth.

Cheng treats her art as a job, clocking into the cottage studio next to her Makiki house at midmorning and working until five every day. “A lot of people have this romantic view of art, that you have to have thunder and lightning to have inspiration, but to me, it’s not like that,” she says. “It’s not that I have to paint, but I do it.”

Her studio is no factory assembly line, however; Cheng says she still enjoys her artistic freedom and encountering new challenges. Over the decades, she’s moved through a few different mediums, working with batik, then abstract paper collages and finally settling on acrylics, but she’s remained fascinated with the same subject matter she began with in the ’70s. “I’ve always liked doing figures and faces, and I’m not bored of it yet,” she says. “I really do love what I’m doing.”


Jeff Pawloski takes time from his busy schedule at Sea Life Park to relax with a co-worker.

Photo: Mark Arbeit


Jeff Pawloski

Jeff Pawloski spends his days by the pool, not watching screaming kids with foam noodles, but training one of nature’s most intelligent marine mammals, the dolphin. Pawloski is a dolphin trainer at Sea Life Park and works with 20 dolphins, including the famous wholphin.

Pawloski and his staff train the dolphins to jump, flip, wave and more for the Dolphin Cove show, as well as work with them during the dolphin swims for the public.
While most of Pawloski’s day is spent training the dolphins, his mornings consist of feeding the animals and conducting physical exams, checking their eyes, blowholes and tails. “We’re here to train, but we’re also here to take the best care of the animal.”

He starts to work the dolphins soon after they are born. In doing so, Pawloski gets to know their personalities and helps name them. “Every animal has its own unique personality. Some are more [social], some are more introverted and some have great patience while others don’t.” He says the dolphins even misbehave during shows. “There are moments just like in raising children where they can be very trying,” he laughs. “One thing you can’t have enough of in animal training is patience.”

While it’s hard work and long days spent caring for and training the dolphin, Pawloski says it’s a rewarding experience. “The bonds and relationships you develop with the animals are as meaningful as what you develop with people.”


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Honolulu Magazine May 2018
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