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Annual Meeting at the Jersey Shore, October 13 and 14

The U.S. Servas Annual Meeting will be held at the Jersey shore in Brigantine, New Jersey on Saturday, October 14, 2006. You can vote at the Annual Meeting if you’ve expressed your intention prior to October 5, 2006.

U.S. Servas has a two-pronged voting structure. At the Annual Meeting, which is required by New York law, Annual Meeting members hear the presentation of the Annual Report detailing the finances and membership of U.S. Servas and discuss any proposed resolutions that have been submitted prior to 60 days before the Annual Meeting, or no later than August 15th.

Because not every one interested in the governance of U.S. Servas can attend the Annual Meeting, U.S. Servas encourages every person who is a host, traveler or contributor to request a mail ballot for the election of Directors on the Board and to vote on member-proposed amendments to the bylaws. Many of you have already requested a mail ballot when you renewed your host registration. Those who haven’t may still receive a ballot by requesting one and by signing a statement of allegiance to the principles of Servas. Under New York law, the deadline for requesting a ballot, returning the signed statement, and thus becoming an Elector entitled to vote in the mail ballot is ten days before the ballots are due, which this year is August 15th.

Thus, members who are not already 2006 electors who wish to vote must notify our office by close of business, Friday, August 4th. Members wishing to serve on the Board of Directors must be nominated by the Nominations Committee, chaired by Carlos Bailey, or by petition received no later than June 26th. Proposed amendments to the bylaws are also due by June 26th.

The board is planning to meet on Sunday, October 15th and members are welcome to attend. On Friday evening, October 13th, we’ll have a meet-and-greet session in Atlantic City (only 5 miles away). Conference details and registration packets will be available by July 1st. Please check our website www.usservas.org for the most current information or if you are not internet active, please keep in contact with the office after July 1st either by telephone, 212-267-0252, or U.S. mail, 11 John Street, Room 505, NYC, NY 10038.

For further information about the conference, contact Robert Allekotte, at robabet@aol.com or 609-266-6065.

Your email contributions

Every edition of the newsletter that is distributed electronically as opposed to paper saves U.S. Servas more than one thousand dollars in printing and mailing costs. We save even more in labor costs and volunteer hours.

Many hosts choose to leave their email address out of their host listing because they want travelers to contact them by either phone or U.S. mail. If you have an email address, but would like to keep it private, please let the N.Y. office know (info@usservas.org) and we will add it to our non-published email list. The non-published email list will only be used for email newsletters. We want each member to be aware of what is happening in U.S. Servas.

If you would like to be in the 2006 Host Book supplement, the deadline to renew or become a new host is June 16th.

Argentina Youth Conference

In January, 80 Servas members attended the Servas Youth conference in Bariloche, Argentina. International Coordinator for Servas Youth, Pablo Chefuni, reports that the gathering was energetic. To learn more about what is being done by other countries to combat the graying of Servas, information can be obtained from the website www.youthservas.org. The 2006 International Newsletter (Number 48) dedicates two of its pages to youth activities.

What has SERVAS done for YOU?

Servas members often find it difficult to fully give an accurate description of our organization in a few sentences. Servas traveler, Greg Kehn, described what Servas has done for him in a personal newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

“I have seen and done many touristy things, but I am not defining myself as a tourist, but a traveler. Many tourists leave home, travel in American airplanes, take a room in the Hilton or similar hotel, eat at MacDonald’s or KFC, take a Greyline bus tour of the sights, live in air-conditioned comfort, buy a few post cards and a teak lamp, then go home and tell people that they have traveled in this country or that. Whereas, when I travel, I stay in real people’s homes, eat what they eat, go with them to their jobs, celebrate their holidays, ride on local transport, and try seriously get to know as much about the people as I can; then I may go to tourist spots, but with local people who can tell me about them.”

We occasionally receive travel reports from international Servas visitors to the United States. What follows are direct excerpts of how others see us.

A Dutch Perspective of US by Pieter Muller and Lia Visser, Netherlands

“For many years it had been clear to us: we would not travel to the United States. But, in the end, we had become quite curious about this big country. Not just big: very rich and very poor, a country that is imposing its economic and political power on the world, spreading its way to all continents.

Cities continue to expand, and as there is no lack of space, it seems, urban sprawl is prevailing. To our Dutch eyes, who are used to rigid town planning and condensed buildings, it is just horrid.

Most of our hosts lived in comfortable houses with double garages, all surrounded by a lawn that is carefully maintained. No fence separates their garden from their neighbors, but contacts among them were usually scarce.

On the other hand, church life is intense, clubs are well visited, and charities flourish. Many of the upper class people are seriously involved in community life.

Many hosts belong to the breed of deeply convinced Servas hosts who will tell you amusing stories about their previous guests.

The Liberty Bell is probably the best guarded treasure in the United States: visitors are screened more carefully than at the national border.

New York has all different worlds in one city that inspires rather than oppresses you by its size and height. Much to our surprise, it is a very livable city.

In Connecticut, we discussed the experience of Black teachers at a mixed high school. They think there is no real progress in the field of race relations since Martin Luther King. Subtle, covert discrimination is everywhere.

Yes, we are grateful that we have been able to undertake this trip, that we have met so many good old friends, and made new ones. We got involved in so many personal relationships in such a short time.

Americans are sometimes being reproached for not understanding Europe, yet we Europeans understand very little of the other continent. Travel helps, especially when you have the opportunity of meeting the people in their homes.

Our Spring Visit to Florida by Josee Heits of Belgium & Luxemburg

When I planned our trip to Florida I started contacting hosts from the Florida Servas list. I was surprised that there are so many hosts and I was even more surprised that almost all of them wanted to host us.

When we arrived at our first host, Gail welcomed us warmly and helped us find some more Servas hosts so we could fill some open nights. It was the first time we saw the results of the hurricanes of last autumn: she had already removed the trees that had fallen down in her garden, but she was still waiting for her roof to be repaired as it was still wrapped in plastic foil. We realized that the many blue roofs (we kept noticing them from that moment on) were not a kind of fantasy but bare reality for so many people that lost the roof above their heads and have to wait until workers find time to do the necessary repairs.

We went to Cindy and Garry on their boat in Marathon in the Florida Keys. It was very unusual to look for a 4-digit “house number” and then for a “slip”. When I was walking among the boats I really felt great: Am I dreaming, or is this reality? Cindy and Garry are snowbirds, spending their winters in Florida, away from the cold. But not in rest and peace: they had a lot of work repairing the damage caused by the hurricanes. We enjoyed swimming in the warm ocean water in a small inlet at this marina: we never had such a large pool just for the two of us! Cindy and Garry thought “those Belgians must be desperate that they swim in such cold water!”

In the house of Barbara and Robert, our next hosts, we realized how strong love can be. We are impressed by the way Barbara takes care of her husband and how Robert struggles with his illness, which deprives him of his energy. We admire the way they deal with this bad fate and how they want to be in contact with the world and keep receiving guests - although it must be difficult for them.

We met our next host, Dotty. We also met her pet (climbing on our hands and arms)…a hermit crab. Here we learned more about shells and dolphins and life in a condominium.

Then onwards to Kay and Don whose house breathes an exotic atmosphere: the decoration of the house and the smell of herbs from the kitchen. I consider the shark teeth I got from Kay as a treasure.

So far we met only elderly people - elderly in age, not in minds and behaviour. So we were delighted to meet young Servas hosts Noeleen and Deon and their children Carine and Gavin. Here we learned about fruit trees, and about keeping snakes as pets. In their house I could once again get back in touch with the world: I could load the batteries of my cell phone and camera and read all my mail.

Another surprise, after those snakes, was our next host’s, Mary’s, greenhouses. My husband Michael grew up in greenhouses and has a lot of good memories of his childhood that he could now share with her. Mary’s partner Jim, an experienced Servas traveller himself, very usefully asked us two important questions: (a) Do you want to wash? (b) Do you want to use the computer? Here we got a confirmation that you cannot say anything in general about “the Americans”, simply because there are so many special Americans. They, too, had an unusual pet: a tall blue heron that couldn’t fly anymore and had been ‘adopted’.

A few days later we had the honour of meeting the first and the wisest of Florida’s Servas hosts, Peg McIntire, our host Joe’s mother. I think someone should write her biography or she should do it herself, because she is so inspiring, vivid, witty, and busy. Only her body betrays her age.

Our next hosts Howard and Susan offered us the lovely company of themselves, but also of their coon-cat. Their garden offered us a splendid view over the wide Indian River, with the huge assembly hall of the Kennedy Space Center in the faint distance.

We still were to meet another family with children, Marisol and Tom, with Alicia (2 and a half) and George (9 months). Marisol introduced us to life in Mexico. We are convinced, now more than ever, that we should try and go there, too. We enjoyed seeing how they educate and of course the smile of their happy children.

We came home with lots of memories of nice, very nice people, with pictures, with recipes of shortbread and chicken, with plenty of interesting personal stories, ideas about houses and decoration of houses, a richer understanding of pets, ideas about how it is possible to be good hosts even if you are really very busy, and so much more. To all of our Servas hosts in Florida, thank you very much. You made our trip a BIG experience.

Looking for Peace

In 1932, Waterton Lakes National Park (Alberta, Canada) was combined with the Glacier Nation Park (Montana, USA) to form the world's first International Peace Park. This beautiful, bi-national park is situated along the border of the two countries (the world’s longest uninterrupted border), and was recognized as a World Heritage site in 1995.

In order to develop a list of USA sites that acknowledge Peace, Social Justice and Human Rights, please send your site recommendations to Peace and Social Justice secretary, Mary Jane Mikuriya, at mikuriya@aol.com. Include the name and location of your site and a brief explanation of what one would find there. Let's see if we can identify at least one site in each of the 50 states.

If you are not receiving the email newsletters and would like to please email the New York office. On the the Subject line please indicate that you want to SUBSCRIBE to the E-Newsletter.

Thank you!

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