with Joan Douma
Geneva was a wonderful location for exploring other parts of Europe, easily, and on three-day weekends with a holiday as I had no “leave time” having just joined the Government and Foreign Service.
My sister, Sharon, came for a two-week visit and I surprised her by a train trip to Venice (amazing the difference in the quality of train travel once we reached Milan to change trains and left the Swiss rail for the Italian rail!!!).
We stayed in a hotel right overlooking the water and traveled by a waterbus (Vaporetto) while in Venice to Murano (the celebrated home of Venetian glass-making since the 13th century) and another close small island. I remember that the first night my sister ordered calves liver with polenta and she was “hooked” and we returned to the same restaurant in our hotel for a repeat the following night, and I also walked the streets with her, so she could locate in little markets, fresh raspberries and clotted cream which she ingeniously kept cold in a little makeshift ice chest apparatus for her before bed snack! What a wonderful time these two sisters had together, and I shall never forget it!!
My good friend, Barb, who lived in Napa, California, came to visit me in Geneva and we made a train trip which took us to Zurich and then on to Lugano, where we discovered this charming little village on the lake, spending a couple of nights in a Pension, which I remember was adorned with bright pink flowers which seems to envelop the entire little white building, and we enjoyed walking along the lake during the day and taking a boat trip on the lake, and simply marveling at the beauty of the area. I remember a highlight of how the mist/fog would come down over the lake like a veil, a picturesque scene which I, in my many travels, and viewing many lakes, had not experienced before. I particularly remember one night, when I was sound asleep in our room and all of a sudden I heard this racket, jumped awake, and it was my friend, who heard a lightning and thunderstorm and leaped out of bed, opening the window wide and exclaiming, “oh, I LOVE it, I LOVE it”!!!! as the pouring rain came streaming into our bedroom.
Barb and I took another three day weekend trip, by fast train from Geneva to Paris, a city where it is just a sight to stand in the middle of this beautiful city and look to the right, to the left, up and down, in amazement of what one can see and experience, and of course we visited the famous art museum, the streets where artists were painting and displaying their works and enjoyed many tasty delights. One night when we were dining, to show what a small world it is? We started visiting with a couple sitting next to us and they were a couple from Napa, where Barb and I each grew up, who owned a winery in the valley. Barb and her husband became good friends with this lovely couple when each returned to Napa. It warmed my heart during the entire visit by Barb, to watch her exuberance and thrill at absolutely everything she experienced both in Geneva and elsewhere during her two-week stay in Switzerland.
There were a lot of visitors and a lot of shared experiences and when my friend, Ileta, came for a three week visit, I planned a trip to Vienna, Austria, as I knew what a thrill it would be for her to go to an opera and ballet, with her love and knowledge of music, and I announced my surprise and we flew to Vienna, stayed in another very unusual and interesting pension in the middle of the city, and not only saw these events but also a Spanish Riding School Lipizzaner performance and, of course, we enjoyed more than one meal of “wiener schnitzel” On a second three day weekend we traveled by train to Interlaken and further on to Grind weld, high in the mountains and Ileta, also being a nature lover of all species, spent hours just sitting by the big bay window gazing, happily, at all the scene offered her.
It must be clear by now that, for me, being in the company of my “special people” and observing them in pure delight of experience, was and is one of my “highlights of life”!!
In conclusion, Geneva, Switzerland was a perfect “first post” for this adventuresome 50-year-old woman, and we will move on from here next month to Izmir, Turkey, which was my second posting for, again, two years, on the coast of the Aegean, and my memories from that tour of duty.
Until then, fall is approaching quickly and another beautiful season to enjoy in my home here in Napa, California
After a year of waiting to learn if I had been accepted into the ranks of the State Department Foreign Service as an Office Management Specialist, I did make the "list" around Easter of 1984, and in August received the telephone call from State that I was offered a position (where I would be posted would be revealed to me later if I accepted the employment), and I immediately said "Yes!." I was told to rather "dismantle my life" and report for training in Washington, D.C. in one month, which I did.
Coincidentally, and to the joy of each of us, my best friend at the San Jose Office of Appeals who applied concurrently with me, also was placed on the list, and about an hour after I received my offer, she received an offer of employment as well, so, for the first time in my entire life, I left all I loved in California and flew off into the "unknown," but with the consolation that my "best friend" would be by my side in Washington, D.C. for our five weeks of training. Two weeks later I was advised I would go to Geneva, Switzerland, to work in the political section of the Mission to the UN and my friend was to go to Paramaribo, Suriname, where she would work for the Deputy Chief of Mission at that small Embassy. The training was often grueling, but exciting, and my friend and I enjoyed experiencing the wonders of Washington, D.C. together for the first time together in our off hours.
November 1, 1984: I departed for Geneva, and as I circled the airport the thought passed through my mind "what in the world have I done on purpose," as the fear of the unknown became prominent in my mind, but I was met at the airport by my new boss, the political officer, who delivered me to my temporary hotel quarters in downtown Geneva with the promise he would be back to pick me up in early evening to have dinner with him and his family in his home. After I settled my belongings the first experience I remember was going out for a little walk, spotting a "boulangerie" (Geneva is a French-speaking city), walking out with a warm baguette, and, with a maiden name of "LaPoint" thinking, I have arrived in yet another "home”!
Memorable highlights of my two years in Geneva, working in a seven-story Mission and living in “old town” In a second floor flat of a very old building abound. I made three lifetime friends during that posting, John, who became a traveling companion and my “soul mate” was a “communicator” (one who receives and disburses “cable traffic,” which I learned in training is the way the Foreign Service communicates from one Embassy, Consulate, etc. to another); Deb, an office management specialist, and Anita, a Swedish woman who I met over coffee who had lived and worked in Geneva for many years. These three people became lifelong friends to this day (however, sadly, John died, at the age of 60 at the end of 2016, and I shall miss him forever).
I enjoyed strolling the streets of the city, listening to street musicians along the way, shopping at meat markets, bakeries, groceries, and fruit and vegetable stands, candy shops, flower stands which lined the area, and marveled at how the Swiss, who ate ice cream throughout the entire year, could retain their slim figures. There was the beautiful Lake Geneva and fetes. I ate fillet de perches with pommes frites caught fresh from the lake, raclette (a Swiss dish of melted cheese served with tiny boiled potatoes and dill pickles), drank many, many cafes which were always served with a little wrapped piece of Swiss chocolate, and delighted in the many culinary delights of the city and country.
Two memories stand out: a drive up to the mountains with my friend Anita, so she could ski and just as we climbed at one point appeared the top of a mountain with the sun shining on the snow which looked like “gilded gold”; and another day while on a bus tour through the city it was the first snowfall and the small branches on the trees were etched with snow as if by the careful stroke of a painter had occurred to create this beautiful sight. I was simply “at the right place at the right time” on these two occasions. I could go on forever but it is time to complete this article. In another article, I shall describe some of my travels in and out of Switzerland which I was fortunate to do in my two years posting so, until then…………………………….Joan
Let me introduce myself to you--my name is Joan Douma and I am Secretary of the Board for Seedlings of Change, since its inception in 2009. Eveline Marie Smith has suggested to me that I write an article now and then for the newsletter based on the fact that we are a global organization, providing mini-grants to both local and international venues that align with our mission and intended manner of helping people to improve their lives and their community, in some cases, country (i.e., improving pollution conditions or contributing to new manners in which to provide sustainable daily living improvements to families in a variety of locations). As I have served overseas for over 16 years, before I retired, in 2000, as an Office Management Specialist in the Foreign Service branch of the U.S. Department of State, Eveline felt I have had experiences I could share that might be of interest to our readers, which I will attempt to provide in different newsletters in the future but for now I felt that I should simply introduce myself and give you a little history on my life up until now.
I was born in San Francisco, CA, on February 24 of 1935, moving to Berkeley, CA when one year old where I lived with my parents and my sister, Sharon (3 1/2 years my junior), attending Washington Elementary School through the 6th grade. My childhood in Berkeley was wonderful and I have such fond memories of, life in Berkeley then. When the entire world was safer for children growing up, walking several blocks to school and home, and to an ice skating rink where I enjoyed this activity so much with a friend, to movies up on Shattuck Avenue, or to Walt's Drugstore on the corner of California and University Avenue where I was treated to a 5 cent chocolate coke by my grandmother, and for a special treat? a banana split for 25 cents! Which was huge and delicious, and Walt’s had comic books, paper dolls, puzzles, and many other items which delighted a child as they are growing up.
When I was age 11 my family moved to Napa, CA, and we had a chicken ranch, "laying" hens and "eggs" was our business. So, I went from being a city girl to a country girl and I was in my element! My dad getting me a horse and I, thinking I was the "Roy Rodgers" of the day! I spent as much time as possible roaming the countryside and having adventures which I will never forget. I entered "junior high" in Napa at that time, 7th through 10th grade, and finished high school at Napa High School.
When I was 19 years of age I married my former husband and we had three children, my daughter, adopted, who we brought home from the hospital at 2 1/2 days old (now 58) my son, Danny, who I bore, and turned 58 on July 12, 2018 and my third child son, David, who is 56 years old. I have five grandchildren and one great-grandson. My work for the vast part of my working career was as a legal secretary here in Napa, it was a small two girl office, and I did this work until I divorced and moved to the San Jose, CA area, in 1979 where I worked as a Senior Legal Stenographer for the State of California. Then when I was almost age 50 I joined the Foreign Service and went off into the world in this new career. I will be sharing with you my experiences and travels in another article. For now, you know who I am, and I look forward to sharing more of my life in articles to come.
The children are seeing light through Seedlings of Change. It is with Seedlings of Change help they have clothes to wear, food to put a meal on the table which before they seldom had one meal a day that was eaten at 4 pm. I am glad and happy to say a big Thank You to Seedlings of Change for putting a smile on their faces. And also, for making it possible for the children to attend a school that they may know how to read and write through the Elementary Education Program made possible through Seedlings of Change support.
My friendship with the founder, Eveline since 2008 id Gold! During these past 11 years, we were able to raise livestock like; cows, goats, pigs, and hens. We now have gardens where the women are able to plant; maize, cassava, potatoes, sorghum, groundnuts for their home consumption are for commercial use. The money received from the produce sold at the market is used to boost their families. We also had a knitting machine and sewing machines which were used to make sweaters and clothes until they broke down they now have been repaired and one of the women is going to begin working with the machines again soon rather than selling the machines off.
I also want to extend my sincere gratitude and appreciation to Eveline and Seedlings of Change team for supporting Jane and her kids and more so for funding her medical treatment. God bless you all! If it were not for you, we would be rugs but thank God we met you. I remember Jane and her kids used to sleep on funny rugs on the floor but today she sleeps on a mattress, they used to sleep in huts with no light, but they were able to get solar lamps from your support. The children used to walk to school barefooted but now they try to put on shoes and attend good schools. Bravo Seedlings of Change!
Solomon’s mother Teddy Akodo does garden work all her life for sustainability. She is also the chairperson of the women group supported by Seedlings of Change Africa Women Development Efforts Organization (EWEDO) in Soroti. They appreciate the support Eveline and Seedlings of Change is giving them. With the cow project they are able to get milk and some little money from the sales which they use for buying soap, sugar, salt, paraffin, and other essential household commodities. Thank you so much Seedlings of Change for the great help and we pray you continue supporting us.