U. S. Servas

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Take a look at MALAWI!

Servas Malawi would really like to have someone join their 2012 Servas Youth Language/Volunteer Exchange (SYLVE). Stay with Servas families in Malawi, South Africa, for two months and help out in voluntary organisations and learn Chichewa!

Please contact Servas Malawi’s National Secretary, Demelza Benbow, for details.

Demelza Benbow: benlewis@africa-online.net
Phone: 00+265+999-482983 or +1821520

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Links to Bethany’s Servas experiences

Hello Servas,

I hope to be able to submit more information later, but in the meantime, here are links to recent posts featuring our Servas experiences in Peru. We are on the road traveling for a year, and we are hoping to connect with several Servas hosts over the course of our travels. We are sure to have more stories as the trip unfolds.

http://twooregonians.com/2012/01/good-morning-lima/

http://twooregonians.com/2012/01/lima-too/

Cheers,
Bethany


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Travel experiences by Adrienne Pilz

Here are some travel and host experiences from Adrienne Pilz

My family has had delightful experiences traveling in Europe.  It has varied:
from a little apartment in Paris
a 200 year old farm house in Italy
a million dollar home in Germany.
a home at the sea shore in Connecticut
an upstairs apartment in West New York
a home filled with antiques in California where I again met a traveler who had stayed in our home!
Hosts have always been so gracious and welcomed us as part of their family and given suggestionsfor  sight seeing.  We have enjoyed it and highly recommend learning to appreciate people of other cultures and increasing friendships.  This is my favorite way of traveling!
As a host family we have had families and people from Jamaica, Denmark, Poland, France, Isreal, Australia. Two young men returned two more times and then stayed with family members in other parts of the United States.


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Servas Story from Anni Kamola

Hi Servas folks-
I’m writing you a little note to put on your blog. It seems to me like Servas is a network of people that, somehow, lands synchronicity…

I traveled to Germany last spring (2011) for my first overseas solo-traveling. I began the now in-process journey of retracing my family roots. I happened to find out about Servas about a month before I left the country, and quickly applied and was accepted just before leaving the country.
I spent my travels last spring in Bayern (known to Americans as ‘Bavaria.’ It’s the south-eastern part of Germany) where my family is from. I spent several weeks meeting family friends and family members, eating amazing food, feeling overwhelmed in culture and language-shock, and lugging along my trusty but heavy traveler’s backpack (or ‘rucksack’ as the Germans called it). Part of my lugging-grievances was the Servas book. Really? Was I really going to use it? It was heavy and bulky, and I often looked at it and rolled my eyes. I was spending all of my travels with family and friends–there was no need for it!
But after about a month, I felt I needed a dose of 5Rhythms dancing. 5Rhythms is a dancing meditation that I practice in the states. (I like to call it “meditation for people who can’t sit still.”) At home I practice two times a week for about two hours each time, and not having that touchstone in my traveling lifestyle was hard. I was antsy. I wanted to DANCE!! Thankful for the wonders of technology, I popped online and found several places offering classes. I found a three-day workshop in Freiburg that seemed like just the thing! At the last minute, I applied for the workshop. The workshop was expensive, and I was on a shoestring budget. I was looking up hostels and places to stay…and then I thought of that yellow-covered, bulky Servas book that was tucked into the bottom of my pack.

     I pulled it out and flipped to the section of Frieburg:  hmmmm…..now, which of the 300 hosts would I stay with? I began flipping through, and there, on the top of the page, was a couple who listed–besides red wine, conversation, food, and tango in their interests (all of which I love as well)–5Rhythms! They dance it too! People who not only spoke German, but who also spoke the body language of this wonderful practice! It felt like a relief. Like I was going to visit another set of relatives, though we were related through the practice and not through genes.
I called them up, and N— answered (I’ll not include their names, for privacy). Of course I could stay with them! Oh, wait. Hm. She and A— were leaving for a family reunion the day I was arriving. Hm. Well, no problem. Because I was a Servas member, I could use their apartment while they were gone!
Suddenly, the next day, I arrived at their beautiful apartment. A– was sick, but still invited me in, fed me, gave me the spare room and let me settle in for a little bit. Then he found me a map of Freiburg (which he ripped from a book just so I could carry it along with me), loaned me his grandmother’s bicycle, and sent me on my way to the workshop.
The workshop was intense. We danced for 4-7 hours each day for three d ays. It was such a blessing to land at the quiet, tidy, art-filled apartment in the evening. I was welcome to drink their tea and eat their food. The place, although not mine, felt very familiar and safe. When A— and N— came home two days later, they invited me to stay for another night. We had amazing meals and good discussions, talks about family, heritage, Nazism, change; the food system, gardening, urban vs. rural living.
     That night, A– took me on a bicycle-tour of the town. First stop was ice cream. Ice cream is cheap in Germany because it came with the wave of immigrants post-WWII who came to help rebuild the cities. It started out cheap, and it stayed cheap. While we ate, A— told me some stories about his childhood. Then we biked further and went to the Schloss (church) in the center of Freiburg. It was astounding! Beautiful!  He led me a walking tour of the center of the city and gave me a wonderful history of the area. Much better than a paid tour guide. Quite suddenly, it started to rain! We decided to call it a night, and hopped back onto our bicycles.
     But as we rode, it began to rain harder. And harder! And HARDER!! Within minutes we were drenched. A— had a speedy, new road-bike, and he shot off ahead of me. I couldn’t keep  up, no matter how hard I tried pedaling his grandma’s bicycle.
Can you imagine me:  riding his grandmother’s green 3-speed bicycle, with an almost flat-tire, up a steep, steep, steep cobblestone road, in the pouring down rain, drenched through to my skin, so full of ice cream I could hardly move? There was nothing to do but pull my shawl off of my hair, lean my face back into the rain, and laugh! Laugh and laugh and laugh! I laughed so hard I had to walk my bike up the rest of the hill, where A— waited, grinning, for me in the deluge.
     N— must have thought we looked like drowned rats as we came in. She gave us towels and tea, and we all packed off to our beds.
     The next day N— helped me with paperwork, phoning consulates, wading through bureaucracy in a language I did not understand. We had a leisurely breakfast of rolls and cheeses, and then it was goodbye. It was a sad, but grateful, departure.
     Now, a year later and on the other side of the world, I am still in touch with them. We exchange e-mails at the holidays, and with the turning of the seasons.
     Although I still grumbled about the weight of my Servas book (I think next time I’ll do the online option), it wasn’t with an eye-rolling, but with a smile at the memories of the wonderful hosts I had in Freiburg, and the hilarity we shared. People to people, story to story, we connected in a strange, unpredictable, and serendipitous way.
     Anneliese Kamola


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Servas story experience!

This story is from Jensen Martin, one of the office workers we have here at US Servas headquarters. We asked him to write of his first Servas experience. If you have any stories you would like to share please mail them to info@usservas.org

My first Servas experience began about a year ago; I was 18 and it was Spring Break at Humboldt State University where I was attending classes for a philosophy major. Well, when Spring rolls around, the last thing that one wants to do is sit around on campus, so I was eager to get as far away from  school as I could. When my roommate offered me a ride out to Arches National Park in Moab, Utah I jumped at the opportunity. I was eager to do a backpacking trip and this would be my first real chance at backpacking in a foreign environment. I got all my stuff together; food, some water, a good book, and just in case, my Servas LOI. You never know what will happen. However, I didn’t think to bring the US Host List with me for some reason. After an agonizing 18-hour car drive, my roommate and his friends dropped me off at Arches National Park, with an agreement for them to meet me at the end of the week back at the visitor’s center. I had a vague idea where to go, a hastily drawn map by the Park ranger showed me the area’s I was allowed to camp. The directions were very unclear and I picked a direction and started walking. After 20 minutes of walking, I stopped and completely broke down. I was already exhausted from the enormous car ride ( plus my roommates friends had not been pleasant car companions), and suddenly the reality of being alone in the desert had hit me. This was my first real backpacking trip and the realization came to me that I had no idea what I was doing. The route I was supposed to be walking on had no water; with the exception of the possibility of a small spring that may hold water; but the water would need to be filtered. I had no filter, and only two gallons for the whole week.  I suffered through the first night, the wind ripping at my tiny one-person tent, threatening to tear the whole thing apart. I had no idea how I was going to make it.

Two more days went by, I had a great time exploring the natural beauty of the park but my food and water supplies were slowly dwindling and I was not sure that I had enough to make it through the rest of the week. Trying to think of other options; I remembered that I had brought with me my Servas LOI. I got it out and found the phone number and on my last bit of cellphone battery, I managed to call the Servas office in Arcata. I found that there were 6 Servas hosts in Moab and I got the contact information for all of them. I had a really hard time finding cell phone service out in the park and it was a thirty minute walk from my campsite to the closest location where I knew I had a bar of service. Because my phone was about too die,  it was a miracle when Diane Greene answered the phone after my second round of calling the Hosts. Excitedly, I arranged to meet her at the parks visitor center at noon the next day. From then on, things proceeded with a strange synchronicity. I had an awesome rest of the day; finishing off my food and water while realizing that there was no way that my meager supplies could have lasted me a week and getting some great pictures of the sunset setting underneath delicate arch. The next day, I awoke, packed my gear and set off early for the long walk back to the visitor center. There was no hitchhiking allowed in the back, but I was offered a ride by two kind travelers who were passing through and I arrived at the visitor center with a few hours to spare. I took this time too do some writing in my journal, trying to recollect all of my experiences and lessons that I had learned from this trip.

Right around noon, my Servas host Diane showed up and we connected right away. First we went out to lunch at a local restaurant; the Peace Tree. The was really my first opportunity at seeing the town of Moab and I was so thankful for having an experienced guide show me around and tell where the cool places were. I was struck by how similar the feeling of the town was to my own town, Arcata, where the US Servas national office is located. Moab had the same liberal, outdoor, hippie feeling that makes one feel as if they are in a free, magical place full of open adventure. The grandeur of the slickrock around us only served to accentuate this feeling. After lunch and great conversation, I had the chance to cool off and relax at a beautiful creek that ran through a valley on the outskirts of town. I felt refreshed by the water; it was sorely needed after my three day stint in the wilderness. Afterwards, we headed back to her home where she offered me a guest bed and she gave me some time to relax and settle in. I had a great meal that night with her and we discussed a wide range of subjects late into the night. The next day, I had a full day to explore while Diane went to work. I spent a lot of time hanging out in the library and lying in the grass in the park just relaxing and enjoying the town’s energy. I visited all of the little tourist shops and saw some really phenomenal artwork and Native American crafts. That evening, Diane had a guest, another Servas host named Drew Roots and we all made dinner together and went for an evening walk to a nearby park where Diane and Drew reminisced and I joined in the conversation talking about my own experiences of life. The next morning I had a wonderful breakfast of rice with fruit and soymilk and I bid Diane farewell as I met my roommate and his friends back at the town hall. That was the beginning of my final leg of the journey; the exhausting 18 hour drive back to Arcata.

After the whole trip I had a lot of time to reflect on the experience and I found that I was very grateful of the service that Servas had provided me. I do not know what would have happened to me had I attempted to stay in the wilderness the entirety of the week, but I  doubt it could have been better than the trip that I had. I still stay in touch with Diane and I consider her a great friend. Servas really opens  this connection and makes it possible to make great friends and get a perspective of the area that is hard to get if you are visiting an unfamiliar place for the first time.