Volume XIII, Issue 6: August 14, 2015

Coming Soon …
Aug 19RISE EVENT – Welcome Party for Inbound Exchange Student Sophia at Redwood Park – 6 pm
Sept 13RISE EVENT – “Out of the Darkness” – Arcata Community Walk Against Suicide. Begins at 10 am at the Arcata Plaza 
Sept 26 – District 5130 Rotary Foundation Workshop in Fortuna – 10 am to 2 pm
Sept 27 – District 5130 New Focus Membership Meeting in Fortuna – 10 am to 2 pm

Rotarian News 

  • Sunriser Kyle Visser is in the running to become the 5th District Commissioner for the Humboldt Bay Harbor District.
  • Last week, we heard the sad news that Angelo Bacigaluppi will be leaving the Club as of September 1st. His wife Michelle has accepted a position in Portland, Oregon. We will miss them both, and we wish them all the best.
  • The arrival of Sophia Waern-Bugge, our Exchange Student from Nyköping, Sweden, was delayed a day. But she’s here now, and we are all encouraged to welcome her and Alessandro (the Noon Club’s student from Italy) next Wednesday in Redwood Park. Please bring a side dish or salad to share. The party starts at 6 pm. 
  • Dennis Rael was on hand to let us know that this year marks the 30th anniversary of the sister city relationship between Arcata and Camoapa, Nicaragua. As always, there will be a Labor Day fundraiser for the project – the I Street Block Party, from Noon to 6 pm. This year, Dennis said, there will be a contingent of Camoapans joining the festivities. He also noted that President Howard Stauffer and Past President Barbara Browning made important contributions to the initial Sister City efforts. (They all must have been in their teens …)

RCAS Scholar Update
Gregory Arena graduated from Arcata High School in 2012, and he received our Club’s Memorial Scholarship. He is preparing to begin his Senior Year at UC Berkeley, majoring in Integrated Biology. Over his years at Cal, he has “really come to enjoy Botany.” He noted that many of his courses have involved a great deal of fieldwork. He said that working outside is inspiring.

Over the summer Gregory worked in Plumas County, earning credits toward his minor in Forestry. “I learned a lot of interesting field skills,” he said. He was able to put them to use working with climate scientists in the Santa Rosa area.

Gregory Arena

Gregory told us that “ever since I was very young, I’ve always been a doodler.” He is putting his skills to work of late, drawing biological illustrations for Cal’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. Since his freshman year, he has also contributed editorial cartoons for the student newspaper, the Daily Californian.

Gregory lives in a student owned and operated housing cooperative, and for the past year and a half, he has been the house president of his co-op, which has helped him learn more about working with people, managing, and budgeting.

He said that Cal has provided a lot of opportunities to learn and to grow, and he understands that he didn’t get there completely on his own. He thanked us for our ongoing support, for himself and for other students who have benefited from our generosity.

Joyce Hinrichs recognized the Recognizer last week. (Dustin Littlefield and Joyce co-chair the Recognitions Committee.)

Joyce told us that Dustin was born in Crescent City in 1979, and he came to Arcata four years later. These were two of the 21 residences Dustin has had (so far – and the number is 22 if you count living in his van for a while in Austin). He is the oldest of six children, with three sisters and two brothers. He also has a huge extended family. His mother and stepfather (Kathy and Don Gaston) live in Arcata, and his father and stepmother (Chris and Debra Littlefield) live in Stockton.

Dustin attended all local schools, starting at Pacific Union, graduating from Arcata High, then on to College of the Redwoods and Humboldt State. He majored in Economics at HSU, and he is just a few units shy of a degree in Music Composition.

When he was in 4th grade at Pacific Union, he met his best friend, Matt Stuart. They had a friendly rivalry over girls, they were diehard Giants fans (Will Clark was their favorite player) and they learned to play the saxophone together. They worked on community service projects with their Campfire Boys and Girls Club. 

As he grew up, Dustin was involved in sports and the arts. He played baseball, basketball, and football. (He was a member of Pacific Union’s undefeated 6th grade basketball team!) He also enjoyed surfing, wake boarding, and water skiing. Dustin is also a talented musician. In addition to the aforementioned saxophone, he plays the violin, guitar, cello, and piano.

Dustin has worked as a Bagelero at Los Bagels, a bartender at Avalon, and as a musician in Austin. He is currently a Financial Advisor at Redwood Coast Financial Partners. 

Dustin loves to travel, and he has been all over the United States, and also to Mexico, Canada, and France.

Rachel Damme, the President of the North Bay Rotaract Club, worked with Dustin at Avalon for about five years. She told Joyce that Dustin is literally the best bartender. “He always had some crazy but delicious concoction” that he would come up with. Rachel also said that, in addition to his musical talents, Dustin is “stellar with a paintbrush. If he’s not buying stock, enjoying a cocktail, or rocking out on his guitar, he is most certainly in the ocean on one of his many surfboards.”

Sunriser Angelo Bacigaluppi echoed the things Rachel said, adding, “Dustin is a great friend who will always come through in a pinch for a friend in need. He’s a great Rotarian and friend, and I am honored to have sponsored him.”

Another Sunriser, Tomas Chavez, said that one evening he and Dustin were part of a group listening to some live music. When Dustin noticed an older woman dancing by herself in the back of the room. He asked her for a dance and totally made her night!

A Year in Belgium
Sylvie Leppig, our Outbound Exchange Student from last year, told us about her year in Belgium. Sylvie faced (and overcame) some real challenges, and she was able to learn and grow during her year abroad. Sylvie was originally hoping to be assigned to a Spanish-speaking country, but she was happy for the opportunity to learn French, as well.

Sylvie traveled to Morlanwelz, in the Hainaut province. It is in Southern Belgium, near the French Border. “Belgium is a really small country,” she told us. “It takes about four hours to drive across it.” Half of the country speaks French, while the other half speaks Dutch. Sylvie noted that, along with the linguistic divide, there is a cultural one as well.

Sylvie Leppig

Seventy-five percent of Morlanwelz’s population is of Italian descent, which was an unexpected surprise. The Italians migrated to France to work in the coal mines. When those closed, many moved to Morlanwelz. Sylvie said that the town is somewhat poor, and “it wasn’t the cleanest”. Nonetheless, she was glad that she lived there, since it was “an honest representation of how a lot of people live”.

When Sylvie got off the plane, she learned that there was no family ready to serve as her hosts. So she spent the first six weeks with her counselor. Unfortunately, he was “a very angry person. He was verbally abusive to myself and to his wife.” 

She had a better time with her first official host family. In addition to her host parents, she had three host brothers who were older than her. “They were really, really good to me,” she said. They helped Sylvie with her French, and she was grateful that they cared about her.

The family owned a bank, and they lived in rooms above it. “It’s really common to have your business as part of your house there,” Sylvie said. “I went to one friend’s house, and she lived in a dentist’s office.”

School presented another challenge for Sylvie. The classes were all in French, and it seemed that her fellow students were not interested in learning about her. She spent her days studying French, carrying around a notebook to record words and phrases. “It was really hard,” she said. “I didn’t understand anything the teachers taught me – it was totally embarrassing. I just went with it. There’s nothing you can do about it, you just do your best.”

She described her classmates as “cold”. She spent the first part of her Exchange Year trying to break through, but by December, she decided to put her energy elsewhere. She discussed the situation with her school’s principal (a Rotarian), seeking an alternative. They decided that Sylvie should take some short trips in Belgium, learn about the country, and write and give presentations about her experiences and observations.  “That was so much better,” Sylvie told us.

There were a few fellow exchange students at her school who were sharing many of the same difficulties, so they joined Sylvie on her adventures, and the group became friends. One of these friends was Ashley, who was (amazingly) from Fortuna!

Sylvie said, “I took “14,000 photos last year; about 600 I put on Facebook.” She showed us a selection of those, showing where her travels took her, both in and out of Belgium. One of her pictures was taken in Dinant, showing a row of homes alongside a castle, which seemed to be rising out of the river or canal. 

Sylvie said that Ghent was her favorite city in Belgium, and she also visited Brussels. She was able to spend a week in Barcelona, Spain, and her host family also took her to Paris. “Paris is the most picturesque city,” she said. She also visited Giverny, France, “which is where Claude Monet used to live”. Other cities she was able to visit included Amsterdam, Prague, and London.

She praised the cuisine, saying, “I regret eating it now, but at the time, it was really good.” She described the crepes as decadent, and she said that she can’t find anything here that compares. 

While she was abroad, the terrorist attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo occurred in Paris, and “it was a really big deal” throughout Europe. When Sylvie was in Brussels, the threat alert was high, with armed police all around.

Sylvie told us that she experienced culture shock – “That’s real,” she said. She said that there was a “honeymoon” period in her first months in Belgium, but as the days grew longer, it was more pronounced. She also experienced “reverse culture shock” when she returned. “I was really surprised to walk on the Plaza after being gone for a year,” she told us. “I’m like, ‘Well, nothing’s changed!'” 

She noticed and experienced a great deal of sexism and racism, which was difficult. She said that she didn’t know whether she should speak up, or just observe. She found herself biting her tongue frequently, and she said later that it was a challenge to stay true to her values amid the negativity. However, Sylvie wanted to be clear that she doesn’t think that all Belgians share these attitudes.

She also learned a lot about American culture in its absence. “I found,” she said, “that I became more patriotic, which I didn’t expect.” She said that she realized how much of a “bubble” Humboldt County is.

Her experience made her realize how important it is to make others feel welcome. She believes that she is more open to new ideas and experiences as a result of her year abroad, and more resilient. She believes that you should make the most out of the situations that life provides. 

Sylvie will be off to British Columbia soon to attend the University of Victoria. She said that she will be taking “seven hours of French a week, which I’m really looking forward to”. 

And Leaving Soon …
This year’s Outbound Exchange Student, Trula Rael, will leave very soon for Trieste, Italy. She greeted us in Italian, so she’s off to a great start!

Trula has lived in Bayside her whole life, with her mother Carol, her father Dennis, and her younger sister. She recently completed her sophomore year at Arcata High School, and she rows for the Humboldt Junior Crew Team.

She was excited (and surprised) to learn that she had been selected by our Club for this year’s Exchange. Since then, things have been happening fast. She has attended orientations, all of the Exchange Student get-togethers, and the District Conference in Yosemite. She said that she bonded quickly with the other Exchange Students.

She has been studying up on her host country. She said that Italy is noted for food, cars (Maserati and Ferrari, among others), the Catholic Church, and fashion. Trula provided some fun facts as well – Italy is a bit larger than Arizona, it surrounds the smallest country in the world (Vatican City), and it is the country that invented the ice cream cone!

Trula Rael

Trula is in touch with her host family – Alessandro, Ilaria, Clio, and Alice … and their dog, Chanel. Clio is on her own Exchange this year, to Mexico. Their home is about 20 minutes from the center of town, and about 10 minutes from the border with Slovenia.

“I am so, so excited to go,” Trula told us. She expects to leave in early September, although her travel plans are not finalized yet. She thanked us for the opportunity, and she promises to keep us updated.

Special Daze
July 29th was Kyle Visser’s birthday, and his wife asked him what he wanted to do. “I really love my job,” he told us, so he told her he wanted to go to work. He went, had a good day, and enjoyed dinner with his family, took his son Damon for a walk, and had a nice evening.