U. S. Servas

promoting world peace one conversation at a time…


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Phoenix Celebrates Their First Servas Gathering!

Phoenix-area Servas Celebrates a First Gathering

7/27/14

Submitted by Jeanne Devine

The first get-together of Phoenix-area Servas members was a great success! Ten enthusiastic Servas members attended, shared their Servas stories including personal memories of Servas founder, Bob Luitweiler. In attendance were Cheryl Cordes, Jeanne Devine, Susan Elliot (soon to be a Servas member), Martha and Phil Koffman, Aleyne Larner, Deb and Rachel Misra, and Andrea and Richard Newhauser. Jeanne shared news from several members who were unable to attend but want to be included in future events.

After watching a short video, discussion moved to the importance of Servas as an NGO at the United Nations. We decided to celebrate International Day of Peace on September 21 at the Japanese Friendship Garden in Phoenix. Details will be decided at a future meeting in August.

The group discussed various ideas about increasing the host membership as well as making Phoenix area attractive to Servas travelers. The group accepted the offer of one member to be the “College Outreach Contact”. We want to increase awareness of the SYLE program and promote greater participation of youth especially as travelers.

The lack of a local Area Representative or Interviewer in the Phoenix area was seen as a challenge to growing the membership. Three persons took applications to become interviewers and will start the process with the U.S. Servas office. We believe that having local interviewers and celebrating an International Peace Day will create more awareness of Servas in the Phoenix area and lead to increased Servas membership.

Everyone expressed joy in having the opportunity to meet others living in this area and in forming a cohesive local group.   The camaraderie was great – what a congenial group of people with similar but unique experiences! Phoenix-area Servas will grow from a small committed core and continue to meet on a bi-monthly basis.  We all love Servas!

 

phoenix


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Betty Brown in the Servas World!

IN THE SERVAS WORLD
With the exception of a phone number, address and an invitation to stay two nights with a Servas family, I was on a plane to Australia to stay three months with no reservations, no plans and no commitments. Thus began my great year-long adventure of traveling around the world as a 68 year-old single traveler.I have been a member of Servas for the last fifteen years. Initially I made two trips with my sons and ex-husband to Europe.  During the last ten years I experimented with a few “solo” home-stays at the end of some group trips. But, I never fully  appreciated Servas until the trip of 2011.
In his book, The Seeds of Servas, our founder, Bob Luitweiler states, “the shift from a tourist absorbing scenic vistas to a traveler actively searching the central ideas of cultures happens gradually.” The goal for my journey was to be a traveler in search of  cultures which could be obtained from an intimate proximity to local people. In many cases Servas was my connector to people and cultures.
During a three month stay in Australia I floated around the country staying with wonderful Servas families choosing the next destination and activities based upon the recommendations of Servas hosts and other locals.  I stayed with families in Melborne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Alice Springs, Sydney, Canberra and Tasmania. There were 12 families in all. Like all of us who have traveled with Servas, the variety of hosts and and their interests were expansive. Wood carvers, Aikido instructors, a government lawyer, retired oil rig engineer, church minister and a Funeral Celebrant to name a few.In Australia many spiritually minded people seek an alternative to religious services for weddings and funerals. My Funeral Celebrant host was kind enough to let me attend one of her services. Not only did I learn about funeral practices in another country but also a new profession which is growing in our country.  In Tasmania I attended a wood carving exhibition where my host took a major prize for his skillful contribution. In a Sydney household I encountered an author of 24 religious books who held 6 degrees. In Cairns I stayed with a lady who had her own Golden Orb spider.  I watched each morning as this Red Hat member dug into her compost planter to withdraw a large cockroach which she threw into her fat, (7″) pet’s web.During two months in Ireland I stayed in a cottage with a host whose garden was listed as “one of the lovely gardens of County Donegal”. Staying in her cozy home in the quiet countryside felt like being in a little hobbit fantasy world.  In Northwest Ireland I also stayed with a writer who had written a book on the sacred sites in Ireland and whose job was conducting nature outings for the local schools. Being in these English-speaking countries, even though different, was still very comfortable because of my ancestry.  Therefore,themost unique and surprising Servas experience happened a few continents away in Madagascar.There is one Servas host in the entire country in the capital city of Antananarivo.  Receiving a confirmation thattheRabe family of five would receive me helped to allay concerns that perhaps I was stepping into an abyss. I knew nothing about the country except it had Lemurs and wonderful Baobab trees.  Before 84 hours of travel to get to the Southeast corner of Africa, I had diligently studied my French language book during a 3 month stay in Nepal. Foolishly I thought myself ready for a remote developing country. It was soon discovered I was not, but fortunatelytheRabe family was ready for me. Not only did they host me for the entire month in the country but they planned my excursions around the country, got me included on one trip with close friends, and took me to a cousin’s anniversary as well as close family dinners.  I made one trip to the Northeastern part of the country with Mrs.Rabe as she was managing a business in the area and stayed with her in their manager’s home. If that were not amazing enough, one can imagine my shock when it was discovered that a Visa credit card was the only card accepted in the country and I found myself with no access to funds.  This Servas family ended up bankrolling my expenses for the entire month.  Occasionally I wouldtellMamyRabe that he was doing too much and his only reply was “it’s my job”.  Never has such generosity and graciousness been given to me by strangers and it was made possible only through the “Servas experience” for which I am truly grateful.In December of 2011, this Servas traveler returned from a 10-country pilgrimage delighted to be a citizen of the world with an expanded appreciationof it’s people, cultures and challenges._______________
In 2011, Betty Brown traveled for a year by herself around-the-world.  In 2012 she wrote her stories of lessons  and experiences in the book There and Back: An Elder’s Solo Global Pilgrimage which is available on Amazon in both hard and electronic formats.
Note:  Betty Brown will be the keynote speaker at the next US Servas national conference, June 13-15, 2014, at the Common Ground Conference Center in Starksboro, Vermont.  Check out usservas.org for more information and registration materials.


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Rob & Bette Allekotte Cruise with Servas

Cruising with Servas

We had never even thought about cruising, thinking it was for older, richer folks using it as a last adventure before heading to hospice care, or for families who tire of the long lines at Disney. But Servas encounters have a way of making one see things in a new light. So when a couple of youngish, not-so-rich Canadians visited with us in Florida on their way to a cruise, we discussed how their cruise was taking them to places which might otherwise be inaccessible. Curious, we looked into and booked a four month Holland America world cruise. The challenge was working Servas visits into our busy, see-a-country-for-a-day-or-two schedule. We succeeded.

Our first meeting was with two hosts in Montevideo. They met us at the port, ran us ragged (in a good way) enjoying the main sites of the city, and brought us to a yacht club for lunch. Along the way, we discussed the political, economic, and social issues of their country. Even though we spent only nine hours in Uruguay, we got to know a few people well.

In Sydney, our day host took us to a Greek Festival. In addition to tasting delicacies, we learned of the huge impact Greeks have on Australia. We still had time for the Opera House and Bondi Beach. Our hostess, a children’s author, made the city far more memorable than any tour Holland America could have provided. We also stopped at a hole-in-the-wall bookstore in Towanda (near Cairns) where our Servas host admitted that the shop was really a front for meaningful conversation. We were glad to oblige him.

We were scheduled for a single night in Hong Kong. Knowing that guest rooms are very rare, I had written to the National Secretary of Servas seeking ideas. We settled on inviting the local hosts onto the ship. Three hosts and a traveler, all who had never met, came aboard for a meal, a tour, and laser show.

Singapore was also a one-night stand. I explained our predicament to a local host, who agreed to break the two-night minimum rule and allow us to stay. The American ex-pat introduced us to her life abroad, her Singaporean family, and the national museum featuring a military archeologist who was digging up a local neighborhood which also served as a WWII battlefield and a POW camp.

In Durban, our first of two South African hosts met us near the controversial, tax-payer supported stadium recently built for the World Cup. (That scenario rings familiar.) They lived by Bollito Beach, a resort town thirty miles north of the city. Nearby was farmland turned into a wildlife reserve. That’s what a farmer turns lemons into lemonade when he realizes that he can’t separate the wildlife from his cash crops. We stayed two nights and flew to Capetown where our hosts lived across from a beach providing a view of Table Mountain. We toured the obligatory winery and South Africa’s largest Afrikaans university. Both South African hosts were “mixed marriages”, one Boer and one Brit. All spoke freely of their country’s past struggles, problems, and hope for improvement. We rejoined our cruise in Capetown, happy that our four day break offered an opportunity to interact with locals and avoid the Cape of Good Hope’s rough seas.

Knowing that the French isle of Reunion has more Servas hosts per square mile than anywhere else, we arranged to meet one. She met us at the port and took us to view one of the island’s foggy volcanos and dine at a typical beachfront Creole barbecue. Beaches and cruising tend to go well together. Our one-day visit was far too short. This is not surprising as we feel that way whenever we utilize Servas to enhance a trip. We intend to keep our promises to return.

 

allekotte 1

Allekotte 2

Rob Allekotte served on the U.S. Servas board of directors for seven years and has been a frequent contributor to our newsletter. He has recently written a memoir, The Most Important Person in the World, which is available at thebookpatch.com.