Diane Baker with Magdalina, granddaughter of the 1st Servas hosts in Romania, Georghe and Elena Marinca. Photo was taken by Dennis Baker in Timisoara
Diane Baker is an Interviewer, Area Representative and Host in Corona Del Mar, California!
What is your Servas background? In 1980 I was hiking on a Sierra Club trip in the San Gabriel Mountains. During the long dag I chatted with a woman who had traveled for a year, around the world. She used public transportation and stayed frequently with Servas hosts. I was enchanted! My companion, Dennis Baker, and I interviewed with Eva Krutein and flew off on a 2 ½ month trip in South East Asia.
How long you have been an interviewer? When Eva could no longer keep up with daily responsibilities, caring for her ailing husband and interviewing for Servas she asked me to do that. Probably about 1999.
Where have you traveled? We’ve cycled in Portugal, Greece, Malawi, Czech Republic, Finland, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Slovenia, Sumatra, parts of Canada and Hokkaido, Japan. We’ve also traveled in Venezuela, Australia, various countries in So, East Asia and So America, plus Tanzania.
What is one great memory you have from Servas (as a traveler, host, or interviewer)? In 1999 when we went to Malawi the New York office of Servas had only one host listed for Malawi. I copied his contact info onto a small piece of paper that I planned to transfer to my notebook when we arrived. Alas, I lost it in the confusion of tracking down our luggage, including bicycles, that British Airways left in London. I remembered that the host was a teacher in the town of Dedza. A week later when our cycles caught up with us we pedaled to Dedza. How hard could it be to find a Servas host in a small African school? We rode to the Dedza Secondary School. No one had heard of Chris or Servas. A kind English teacher/librarian, Harry Mwalima, befriended us and showed us around the school. We noted that magazines on the shelves dated to 1979, and library books still referred to Winston Churchill as the PM of England, but the library was neat and organized. Harry became a Servas host after our visit. We noted his contact info and later helped to pay his school loan and sent books for the school, but that’s another story. A few weeks later we were camped at a National Park in Malawi. As I walked thru camp with the Servas button pinned onto my visor, a woman called out. Demelza Benbow introduced herself as the Servas coordinator for Malawi. She’s a nurse in Blantyre where her husband Ben was a teacher at All Saints School. She frequently writes about Servas Malawi in the International Newsletter and welcomes travelers and volunteers to come to Malawi. Due to her efforts there are several hosts in Malawi. She laughed when I told her about losing the paper with Chris’ name and address. We went to the wrong school. Turns out Chris taught at the primary school in Dedza. We never met Chris but enjoyed corresponding with Harry and his wife Annie for several years. After we met them in 1999 Demelza and her husband Ben continued to live in Blantyre, and to work tirelessly to benefit their community and the Servas organization. They now have two daughters
What hobbies do you enjoy? Folk dancing is the activity that I do most right now. (when not teaching elementary school) I’ve been dancing at festivals in several cities in the US this year and have traveled to Romania and Bulgaria to learn folk dances. I also enjoyed meeting Servas hosts in both countries. I also love cycling and hiking and wish I had more time for both.
What is one of your favorite quotes? The world is wide! I will not waste my life in friction when it could be turned into momentum. -Francis Willard
Why are you involved with Servas, and why do you think that Servas is important? People!!! The Servas hosts in Orange County have become treasured friends. I meet fascinating folks as an interviewer. Their travel plans both intrigue and amaze me. When we stay in hosts’ home in other countries we gain a perspective that is not available to tourists. When folks stay in our home we get an opportunity to exchange ideas, ask questions, learn different ways of organizing details in daily lives.