Archive for April, 2010
Well, Fellow Rotarians, it’s definitely still winter here. But today has been a big day for Lithuanians.
February 17 is Independence Day. It is also Uzgavenes. The latter is a very old celebration, dating back to pagan times, and now converted into the Lithuanian equivalent of Mardi Gras. It is the night before Ash Wednesday.
This year, the two aligned. Quite the rare occurrence. This afternoon I walked down the block to the Old City Square, and watched what is mostly Independence Day. But Uzgavenes was there too.
People wear masks and costumes, and extort small change for candy (a mix of Halloween and Rotary fines??). Uzgavenes always ends in a battle between the spirit of winter and the spirit of spring, and spring always wins. I dunno, it still doesn’t feel that way tonight!
This country is very proud of their independence, it’s taken seriously.
The yellow/red/green flag is in evidence everywhere in the city. And as some of my pictures show, kids will be kids no matter where you are.
Crafts for sale. Kids having fun. Food…and beer over open fires to go with it??
I did decide to buy lunch. And I remembered to take a picture of it when it was about half gone.
I happened to run into two students here who are on Fulbrights, so we wandered some together. They even used my camera to take a picture of me.
We walked down Pilies Street to Independence Hall, and watched the ceremonies there. And you can get very close to public figures…where’s the security? It’s there. Uniformed police are around, but note the picture of the overly serious guy with the earpiece hidden in his hat.
And tomorrow the holiday is over and things are back to normal work.
Rio Grande Rotary member Laura Smart traveled to India in February to administer the polio vaccine in a fight to eradicate the disease. Through the “2 Drops of Life” program set up by the World Health Organization, it is the organization’s hope that polio will be eradicated in India by 2012.
In a country affected by poverty and despair, Laura, with fellow Rotarians, set out on a journey to bring hope to the children of India.
Laura left the comfort of her home in Las Cruces on Feb. 3 and traveled more than half-way around the world to help administer the polio vaccine to thousands of children in an effort to save their lives from the disease that may result in permanent disability or even death.
Laura joined 37 fellow Rotarians from around the world in this fight to eradicate polio. From Feb. 3 to Feb. 14, the Rotarians administered two drops of the polio vaccine orally to advance Rotary International’s quest to immunize every child 5 years of age and younger in India.
Laura, despite not having a medical degree, was never nervous or afraid to administer the vaccine to the children.
“The World Health Organization has been administering the “2 Drops of Life” for more than 10 years now, so all Indians are accustomed to it,” she said. “There is nothing to fear. We vaccinated 55,000 children in three days. The (people of India) know about this program since they’ve seen how polio can ravage the body of those who never received the vaccine as a child.” Laura states that parents with children under the age of 5 understand the consequence if they choose to not vaccinate their children. “There are cases of people crawling around on the streets who have polio,” Laura said.
She explained that in India, residents live in close proximity with their cows, chickens, goats, pigs and wild dogs. Slums consist of rundown shacks and tents made from signs and tree branches. Laura knew her trip to India was not a vacation, but a mission of compassion. “I’ve traveled all over the world working, vacationing and volunteering for various mission trips,” she said.
Laura and her husband, Bob Crowley, moved to Las Cruces in 2005 after she retired from Delta airlines where she served as a flight attendant for 30 years. Laura has stayed busy volunteering for the American Red Cross, Search and Rescue Team, Mesilla Valley Hospice, a homeless children’s organization, as well as serving as a Rotarian.
“I consider myself a “mission junkie” and ask God every day to reveal to me what He wants me to
me to do next,” Laura said. “I want to bless as many people as possible since I have been
so blessed by having wonderful parents, family and friends.”
After 20 years of hard work immunizing against Polio, Rotary International and its partners are on the brink of eradicating this tenacious disease. A strong push is now being carried out worldwide by Rotarians to root it out once and for all. It is a window of opportunity of historic
proportions. This push has been made even more important by the $355 million in challenge grants received from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. As long as polio threatens even one child anywhere in the world, children everywhere remain at risk. The stakes are that high; another example of Rotary working for a better world.
February 3, 2010
The transition to Eastern Europe has been good. It’s a clear sunny winter day; the Old City is where I’m located, but you can see across the river to where the modern construction has been taking place.
It’s very charming this morning, with Sunday morning church bells and such.
I’ve been meeting people rapidly, and have great co-workers. It turns out that the Embassy here likes Fulbrighters, so Friday evening was my first Embassy party. I’m assured there will be more. Friday they had a promotion ceremony for one of the Marines detached here, he made First Sergeant and a re-assignment to southern California.
Last night I made it to the symphony for the first time here. Very good, actually; they performed (among other things) the “Rite of Spring” which I view as still a bit optimistic at this point! Costs of tickets in Eastern Europe are very low by world standards.
Tonight I’ve been invited to a Super Bowl party with the expat community. I have yet to decide; I’ve spent a week fighting jet lag, finally am mostly on track, and the idea of starting a football game at 1:00 a.m. is not ideal. I’ll probably attend…what the heck.
For the size of the city (over half a million), the Old City is a small, and apparently tight, community. After a week folks are starting to recognize me. My obvious non-Lithuanian nature may contribute to that at
least in part.
My classes start soon, so the reality of actually WORKING here will settle in before long. And Tuesday I hope to make up a Rotary meeting here.
Yours in Rotary,
p.s. All things mentioned are within easy walking distance. I have yet to avail myself of a “taksi”.
Varayini Pankayatselran is a junior at Las Cruces High School.
Her school activities include membership in: Key Club; Asian Cultural Society; Students of Sustainability; National Honor Society; and MESA. She also participates in tennis.
Community activities include volunteering at a local hospital.
Her hobbies and interests include tennis and medicine.
Future plans are to attend college and major in biochemistry and pursue and career in medicine.
Varayini is the daughter of Sinnathamby and Ratha Pankayatselran.
District Governor Dick Jones was our guest at the January 26th meeting. As part of his visit Dick presented Pas President John Hummer with the district level 2nd Place Club Award for Per-Capita Annual Program Fund Giving to the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International for the last Rotary year 2008-2009, during John’s term as President.
Lauren Smith is a junior at Onate High School.
Her school activities include membership in: ROTC; MESA; Love Shak, National Honors Society; FCCLA; Young Patriots Club; Student to Student; Science Bowl Team; Ballet Folkloricko; Key Club; and track. She has received awards in: Best Female Physical Fitness; Outstanding Community Service; and Perfect Inspection.
Community activities include a variety of service activities for Veterans of Foreign Wars, her school, and the community at large.
Her hobbies and interests include culinary arts, physical fitness, swimming, painting, and interest in the medical field.
Future plans are to attend the Naval Academy and become an officer.
Lauren is the daughter of Beatrice Smith.
Joe A. Franco II is a senior at Las Cruces High School.
His school activities include cross country; Honor Society and orchestra. He serves as the Secretary of the Honor Society and was a delegate of Boys’ Nation.
Community activities include serving as a catechism teacher and retreat leader for his church, as well as service to the community at large.
His hobbies and interests include playing sports, playing the violin and camping/backpacking.
Future plans are to practice law; become a free-lance writer; and pursue his political and musical interests.
Joe is the son of Joe and Alice Franco.
Alysha Boone is a sophomore at Onate High School.
Her school activities include track & field; student government; Ballet Folklorico; and ROTC. She currently serves as the Sophomore Class President.
Community activities include raising funds and service projects for veterans and working to landscape Alameda Elementary.
Her hobbies and interests include dancing, motorcycle, and reading.
Future plans are to enter the Air Force Academy and learn to fly.
Alysha is the daughter of Shawna and Dave Corbett.