U. S. Servas

promoting world peace one conversation at a time…


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Servas Potluck!

We had our potluck gathering on June 15th and it was a big success.

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On June 15th people from Washington and Vancouver BC gathered at Colleen and Harvey Schwartz’s beautiful home in Bellingham.  We had 42 Servas hosts/travelers attending.  Lot’s of great stories were shared along with many varieties of vegetarian food.

Happy gathering!


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Barcelona! The City of Many Wonders

Here is some insight into a Servas member’s trip to Spain:

“As always, the Servas welcome mat made my transition to life in a new country a seamless one. Maria, my host in Barcelona, is a senior physician in charge of an Alzheimer’s unit in a large community health center. Maria, who’s English, is very fluent, is preparing to take the TOEFL exam – a test of English language proficiency for foreigners seeking university entry or employment in the English-speaking world…”just in case”…

The day after my delayed arrival, I made a one hour Power Point presentation about Elder Rehab, the Alzheimer treatment research program I created and directed at the University of Arizona from 1997-2001. The explanatory slides were all in Spanish, as were the captions on the many photos illustrating the elderly participants with Alzheimer’s doing a variety of physical exercises, recreational activities, and volunteer work in the company of their respective student partners. After the presentation, we headed for the beach, where we had a late lunch at Maria’s favorite seaside restaurant. We shared a great salad, a bucket of steamed mussels, and a platter of fried shrimp so tender you ate the shells and all! Barcelona’s vast and inviting beachfront, created with imported sand, for the 1992 Olympics, is maintained by the municipality at all cost of 2 million Euros per year. With its attractive promenade, open air eateries, and paddle wielding ball players, it could have been Tel Aviv, except for the topless sunbathers!

I spent two evenings with Maria and her friends – one at a meeting and potluck supper with a Christian prayer group she belongs to, the other on a spooky tour of Barcelona’s wax museum
in the company a married couple and their two young teenage sons. I spent one day on one of those “hop on, hop off” narrated tour buses, which gave me a good overview of the city. I got off to tour the inside of Gaudi’s famous residence La Pedrera, the Catalan Museum of Contemporary Art, and a magnificent botanical garden on Montjuic (Mountain of the Jews) so named because of the reputed presence of an ancient Jewish cemetery (whereabouts unknown., as far as I could tell!) The garden had incredible stands of cactus plants from all over the world, including some from Texas, Mexico, and Arizona.

Happily, I was in Barcelona on a Sunday where groups of friends gather on the plaza in front of Gaudi’s spectacular Familia Sagrada church to dance the Sardonas, a traditional Catalonian circle dance to the rhythm of several different bands which take turns playing. Disappointingly, I was NOT in Barcelona on a Thursday, when a half-day cooking class at the famous Boqueria Market takes place.

On Tuesday, the 18th, I bid goodbye to Maria and boarded a bus for the 7 1/2 hour trip to Madrid. The ride was a relaxing segue to the next part of my adventure – a brief visit with my Servas host, Pilar – and the start of my week long gig as an “Anglo” conversation partner to a series of Spaniards eager to improve their English.”

Sharon, Servas Traveler


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Quilting Adventure in Bologna!

“I recently returned from a trip to Italy, where I had a wonderful SERVAS experience.  I am a quilter and through SERVAS I connected with Simonetta Marini, an expert quilter in Bologna.  Simonetta invited me to her home for dinner, where I met her family and had the opportunity to look at all her fabulous quilts.  As luck would have it, Simonetta was teaching a workshop the following day at a local Bologna quilt shop, and she invited me to attend.     Although the workshop was in Italian, we all communicated beautifully through the common language of quilting.  It was such a wonderful international experience and I encourage fellow SERVAS members to make connections through common interests.  A great SERVAS experience!”


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Simonetta and I after  finishing my block (with one of her incredible quilts in the background)

Joan, Servas Traveler


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Excerpts from Servas Travelers’ Israel Trip

ISRAEL

“From Eilat we went to Mitzpe Ramon.  It sits on the edge of this enormous crater.   A beautiful memorial and museum recently opened there honoring Israeli born astronaut Ilan Ramon. Tragically his son later became a fighter pilot and his plane crash in that crater during training.

We next spent the weekend with the daughter of a Servas host I stayed with in Guatemala.  Michel lives in
Sderot with in a couple of miles of Gaza.  You can see it from the hill-top.  Things a peaceful now but it was not always that way as Sderot is the closest town to the border. Next we got in the bus to Tel Avia and another short ride to Jaffa just a bit south of the city. Jaffa is an old sea port that has been around for thousands of years.

Haifa was our next stop and we wanted to see the famous Baha’i Gardens.   Under agreement with the
Israeli government we were told the Baha’is are not allowed to recruit or have temples in Israel but can have
conventions and keep their gardens.  In Haifa we stayed with a wonderful Servas (USservas.org) host, Naomi and
her lovable cat.

Then we went further north to Israeli’s other ancient port–Akko.   We took an afternoon to visit Kibbutz Ya’sur where I spent 3 months back in 1973.  It took awhile but we found someone who was there then and gave her some
of the photos I had form the Kibbutz.  I didn’t remember her but I did remember her husband who use to put up
the mail.   As you can imagine a lot has changed since then.

After Akko we stayed with Servas hosts Amira and Moti on Moshav Amirim.  Since this is a popular tourist area, many of the families in this moshav have guest accommodations. We were fortunate enough to stay in theirs.  It was a real treat to have huge rooms. It is a beautiful area and Amira and Moti and their friends showed us around to some ruins and old towns.

From there we went on to Zafat–but it has about 10 different English spellings. It’s full of history and has
always been occupied by the Jews. There were some hard-fought battles there during the early year of Israel’s
independence.  It’s the center of Kabbalah learning in Israel and many of the ultra orthodox live there. It was a few days before holiday of Shavuot and new torah was being brought to the largest synagogue.All the streets were closed down and joyous procession made its way through the town.

We made our way to Servas hosts, Niva and Eyal, the childhood friends of a local Servas in LA.
They live in the Golan Heighs area and short drive to and overlook into Lebanon. We spent the holiday with them
and were introduced to the local talent of their kibbutz. One gentleman was an amazing sculpture and the other
has made a museum on the kibbutz of the artifacts of early man that he’s found in the area. Eyal took us into city of Kiryat Shmona for the best hummus of the entire trip.  Better than anything at Trader Joe’s.   Niva happened to be going to Tel Aviv  for work and so she took us to Old Jaffa and we spent the night there again in the Old Jaffa Hostel.

The next day it was a short trip to Jerusalem to spend our last 3 days there and explore. We stayed in the Old City at the famous, but old, Petra Hotel.  Mark Twain is said to have stayed there and I’m certain they have not decorated since then.   Probably the most interesting thing we did in the Old City is, for about the price of a falafel, buy a ticket to walk most the ramparts atop of the Old City wall.   This gave you a candid look into the both the tourist and living areas of the Old City.

At the airport we saw the auto opening trash compactor that said “thank you” but not in Hebrew.  Our return flight got in at 6:30am–too early of anyone to pick us up.  So we made our way to IHOP and Debra met us there after the second cup of coffee.

Shalom and Until next time……The Global Bum and Princess.”

-Dennis and Shih


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Experiencing New Zealand the ‘Servas Way’

Experiencing New Zealand the ‘Servas Way’

by Patti and Davis

Kia Ora!  After completing our wonderful month in lovely New Zealand in November of 2012, we took time to reflect on the great joy brought to us by our visits with eight delightful Servas hosts along the way.  From Auckland to Christchurch, we were greeted and treated and wrapped in goodness by our hosts.

It all began with the ultimate Servas gift of a 6:00 a.m. airport pick up by Leo, husband of our first host couple.  After getting settled at their lovely and very comfortable Mt. Eden home, our hosts, Leo and Roz, treated us to a fine Kiwi picnic in North Auckland where we discovered a nesting colony of gannets along the coast.  Getting to know our hosts meant learning about Leo’s 75-year rugby passion and Roz’s volunteer work mentoring a young Ethiopian woman in a leadership program.  Delicious meals and electric bed warmers topped off our first warm and friendly Servas stay.

 Colony of Gannett Birds

Colony of Gannett Birds

Servas Picnic Kiwi-Style with Leo & Roz

Servas Picnic Kiwi-Style with Leo & Roz

Our second Auckland host couple opened the door to more unique experiences.  Our hosts, Chris and Marijke, introduced us to their friend and professor from Wellington who was also staying at their home.  Ralph was in town to present a lecture on climate change at the university.  This lecture series was established in honor of Ralph’s father several years ago and we were kindly invited to attend the stimulating  presentation given by the son.  Chris provided us drives into the city center for our adventuring, and both he and Marijke treated us to lovely homemade meals and interesting conversation regarding project facilitation, mindfulness, and counseling.

Auckland Hosts, Marijke and Chris, and Guests

Auckland Hosts, Marijke and Chris, and Guests

Our next stop, after leaving Auckland, was the town of Rotorua.    We decided to ride the “NakedBus,”  whose motto happens to be…can you guess…”It’s Great to Ride Naked.”   Our hosts, Grant and Shirley, really came through for us when our initial host had to cancel on short notice.   What a kind gesture and blessing to receive a warm welcome from Shirley in the beautiful home she shares with her partner, Grant.   We learned of the tragedy “underlying” the lovely home as it was built, with local government approval, on land that should have required special foundation preparation.  Later in our travels we met others who knew (through TV coverage) of Grant and Shirley’s struggle with their local council for compensation for the damage being caused by the subsidence.  This is the kind of real-life experience Servas allows us to share, and we now wish them the best of outcomes.  Meanwhile their lives are packed with this conflict as well as their daily work – Grant pursuing his safety-inspections business and Shirley keeping a doctor’s office in tip-top order.

Shirley & Grant in Rotorua

Shirley & Grant in Rotorua

After another bus ride through NZ’s gorgeous terrain, we arrived at Napier to an open-arms, joy-filled greeting from Melanie.  We had hosted Mel and David in Honolulu five years ago, had since seen them in Australia and again on Oahu, and were now finally able to visit them on their home turf.  We had several days of relaxation in their comfortable home and gardens, and we were treated to healthy veggie-laden meals, good ‘catch-up’, knowledge of the local area, and ruthlessly competitive (not!) card games for evening pleasure.  In addition, Patti learned to make Mel’s lentil-garbanzo hummus and easy-bake grain bread  –  takeaway learning for our times back home.  At the end of our visit, Mel and David were kind enough to drive us to a resort in Turangi where we enjoyed a restful timeshare week.  We are ever-grateful for David’s willingness to drive the gorgeous and far-less-than-direct route through the fantastic North Island countryside, a sight to behold!   After a brief one-night stay, Mel and David said their good-byes and returned home.   This lovely couple, whom we first met as Servas travelers had, over the past five years, become our dear friends – and are willing to be silly besides!

     Our Silly Kiwi Friends, David & Melanie

Our Silly Kiwi Friends, David & Melanie

Our most unusual Servas connection happened at the Rotarua timeshare where we were able to host Jack and Anne, very sweet Servas hosts from the nearby town of Tokoroa.  We had contacted them about a possible stay in their area and they were unavailable, but then we invited them to join us at the timeshare – thus giving us the opportunity to act as Servas hosts in their country.   This ‘twist’ quickly became our new and unique Servas story!   The four us had fantastic times together exploring the nearby volcanic mountains, frequenting the local trout-fishing river walk, and sharing some wonderful meals together!  Both Jack and Anne have been active volunteers with the NZ Forest and Bird agency, were quite familiar with the Rotorua area, and had contagious enthusiasm for the NZ ‘bush’.

Beautiful Trout Stream

Beautiful Trout Stream

Jack & Anne Friend of Birds and Bush

Jack & Anne Friend of Birds and Bush

Giant Gumboot Art!!!

Giant Gumboot Art!!!

The final stop on North Island was in windy, scenic, weather-changeable town of Wellington.  Our hosts, Lisa and Moritz, live in a cliff-top home that boasts astounding views toward the bay and South Island.  A delightful part of our visit was time spent with Lisa’s 15 year old daughter, Lilleet, who was engaging, bubbly, and quite enthused about her involvement with dance and with earning money for her French-class trip to New Caledonia.

Wellington Hosts Lisa & Moritz

Wellington Hosts Lisa & Moritz

After a brief flight to Nelson, we again received the hard-to-overstate gift of an airport greeting and a grand welcome from Brian and Gillian.  After settling in their art-filled, light-filled, warmth-filled home, we ambled on a fine evening river walk and enjoyed the sunny outdoors together.  In the amazing two full days we spent with this caring couple we had wonderful talks, learned of their supportive relationships with their children, shared interests and heart stories, and gathered up many Brian ‘bear hug’ for good measure.   One highlight we encountered while exploring in town was the gourmet tea shop run by a delightful French woman, who gave us a thorough education on the finer points of growing and selecting tea.

Brian & Gillian and Their Warm Smiles

Brian & Gillian and Their Warm Smiles

Joyful Lilleet with Patti

Joyful Lilleet with Patti

Our final Servas visit was in Christchurch where we stayed with Sally and Chendra.   Again we enjoyed fine Kiwi hospitality and their lovely home and garden setting.  We were treated to some spot-on local information and perspective as Sally is a 6-term City Councilor, who has been dealing with the aftermath of Christchurch’s devastating earthquakes.  Sally was also kind enough to lead us on a personal tour of the Council building with amazing views overlooking the City.  At home, she and Chendra demonstrated their skills of cooking fine Indian dishes, including us in a dinner party with fellow board members of a local non-profit, and a warm feel-at-home atmosphere.  Being dropped off for our daily outings around town topped off the gifts they shared.

Councilwoman Sally & Patti on Tour

Councilwoman Sally & Patti on Tour

As ever, our Servas times proved rich and varied, enabled us to feel the “real New Zealand,” and built the kind of friendship and rapport that solidify grass-roots peace around the world.  Go, Servas!

-Patti and Davis

Patti and Davis Loving Servas!

Patti and Davis Loving Servas!

Lovely New Zealand - Time to Say "Goodbye!!!"

Lovely New Zealand – Time to Say “Goodbye!!!”


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Sunshine and a Run in the Captial!

Amy and Reianna at the Women's Fitness Festival in Sacramento, CA

Amy and Reianna at the Women’s Fitness Festival in Sacramento, CA

With nearly 3000 participants, the Women’s Fitness Festival 5K in Sacramento, CA was a wonderful experience. Members of the U.S. Servas Staff drove down to Sacramento to run with other women devoted to supporting WEAVE, Inc. and their efforts in Sacramento County to help survivors of domestic and sexual abuse.

It was a very sunny day, much hotter than we Humboldt County residents prefer,  but we survived!
Our next peace project will be supporting Friends of the Dunes, a non-profit in Humboldt County devoted to promoting the vitality and longevity of Humboldt’s coastal ecosystems.
Stay tuned!