When Sarah Zemach, 16, writes the proverbial "What I did on my summer vacation" essay, she will inspire the rest of us to amp up our idea of how to do more with our own summer vacations.
Sarah, the daughter of Art and Peggy Zemach, spent three weeks at an orphanage in Battambang, Cambodia, through a program called Rustic Pathways. The adventure began with thoughts of spending her junior year in a student exchange and then considering a volunteer opportunity in Tanzania. It eventually resulted in an unforgettable experience of giving in one of the poorest countries on Earth.
From June 23 to July 10, she and her fellow volunteers, who came from all over the U.S., got up and went to one of the outdoor markets in town to pick up supplies for the day ahead. They sanded and painted walls and beds, painted a mural featuring handprints of the 50 children and young people who live in the orphanage and regraveled a play area that was full of sharp objects that cut the occupants' feet. (The children had numerous medical conditions, including severe infections, missing toes, ringworm, horrible teeth and even polio, which led to volunteers taking then to doctors and dentists.) They also planted a garden and built a fence to protect the plants.
The volunteers even took part in a common activity in the area, helping to plant rice in rice paddies using seedlings from a neighboring farmer. Rice is the food staple in Cambodia, much as it is across Asia, and growing its own rice will give the orphanage more of a guaranteed food supply. (Sarah, however, has had enough rice to last her for a long time.)Sarah said they walked in water and mud that was knee-deep and full of crabs and snails. Luckily, although it's not uncommon to find the water full of snakes, the young volunteers didn't have their own close encounters of the reptilian kind.
They had fun with the children, too, finding that stickers and hula hoops were huge hits. The volunteers pooled their money and bought the orphanage a movie projector and then screened "Madagascar 2." A fireworks display over the rice paddies for the Fourth of July also made a big impression.
But it was the children's need for affection and connection that most touched Sarah. They were yelling, screaming and hugging when the volunteers arrived and so grateful and polite for what they received.
Her take in comparing kids in America with these children, many of whom were just abandoned by their parents because they couldn't take care of them, is that her contemporaries at Durango High School are very impolite and spoiled. The children in Cambodia were the happiest kids she had ever seen, and they were so impoverished.
One of many lessons she learned was to be less stingy with money.
The Rustic Pathways group did have a couple of travel days, visiting the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage Site Angkor Wat along with Sim Reap and the killing fields from the genocide during Pol Pot's reign. That was a lesson of another sort.
Sarah is trying to figure out some ways to continue helping the orphanage, including raising money and awareness. She is also hoping to present some programs about her experiences. She can be reached at zemach.
firstname.lastname@example.org if your organization is interested in a program.
Some of these folks are back in the classroom for their birthdays, and others are happy they're not - Judy Risner, Amber Jackson, Andrew Cooley, Liz Cahill, Bob Mueller, Joe Hanel, Breezy Beckler, Scott Yarbrough, Dick Adcock, Ellen Roberts, Gabrielle Souder, Gloria Freitag, Clara Wolf, Shannon White, Tom Campbell, Pam Mantle, Carl Sallee, Weston Baken, Murray Pearthree, Zara Brown, Emily Safran, Kay Mayer and Marco Good.
Many congratulations go to Eric and Joan Wessman, who celebrated their 60th anniversary with a dinner Saturday. Think about that for a second. Six decades, 720 months, 21,900 days. (Maybe it's doing that math that has kept me single!)I'm sure the Wessmans have confronted challenges, joys and sorrows, but now they are looking back at a long and loving life together with family and friends. It all started when they exchanged their vows in Cleveland, Ohio, on Sept. 3, 1949.
At their celebration, which was part of a family reunion, they gathered at Kennebec Café for a special evening. Joining them for the big occasion were their daughters Linda Louise Wessman from Rensselaer, N.Y., and Jayne Rene Edwards, with her friend Carl Tucker, from Northville Township, Mich.; sons Gary Wessman of Marvel and Gregory Wessman and his wife, Suzanne, of Newport Beach, Calif.; and granddaughter Devon Wessman from Princeton, N.J.
Many happy returns to both of you.
Shuffling through one of my reporter's notebooks the other day, I realized I had neglected to write about one of my interesting conversations during Music in the Mountains. It was with Durango's own Rhodes Scholar, Philip Mann, and his wife, Tatiana Roitman. They both were in town to teach at Conservatory Music in the Mountains, where he had the special occasion of conducting his mother, Rochelle Mann, on the flute.
Both Philip Mann and Roitman are enjoying active music careers, he as an assistant conductor at the San Diego Symphony Orchestra, and she as a talented pianist who has appeared with orchestras and festivals across the country.
One thing I'm looking forward to with great anticipation is Roitman's first CD, which will feature George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" as he wrote it. It is the first recording of the original score in its totality, and will feature both an orchestra and a jazz band.
If ever there was an excuse for a party, her CD release next spring is it.
Meanwhile, Philip Mann was leaving Durango to spend five weeks in Australia, where he conducted not one, but two, world premieres, before returning to San Diego for his day - make that night - job. (Or round-the-clock job - the behind-the-scenes responsibilities of conducting as well as memorizing scores, rehearsing and performing make his job pretty nonstop.)The couple started their marriage with him in Indiana finishing up his Ph.D. and her in Minnesota completing hers. So, San Diego has been a wonderful together time in an industry that often makes musical marriages commuter-centric. (See San Juan Symphony Musical Director Arthur Post and his wife, Gemma Coma-Alabert, who split their time between Europe and America, as an example.)Mann says he and Roitman are happy to be making a living at something they love. And they thank God for Skype, which allows them to have free face-to-face conversations via the Internet no matter where in the world they are at any given time.
Singin' in the rain for their anniversaries are Jon and Linda Geer, Tom and Nancy Williams, Sandy and Phyllis Max, Neil and Evan McCleery, Barry and Diana Longwell, Daniel and Donna Meadors and Lee and Mary Edlund.
For information on upcoming events and fundraisers, check Local Briefs.
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