At Last, Mina Soroosh, (& worth waiting for)
WVRC on Dec. 14th
New Member BARRY MARLIN led the Pledge and I heard he was the first contributor to the Iraq soldiers program, which was outlined recently by SHERRY DEWANE. This is a going concern his materials are already on the way to our service people in that difficult and dangerous place. Next up was that dependable duo of LENNY FRIEDMAN and JACK HARRIS, with the song. It was announced as Jingle Bells, and mostly got there by the midpoint. We recognize that WVRC isn’t much good at singing, and even less easy to manage, but we all ended together, anyway.
PP RUDY ALVAREZ came forward with his Invocation, first suggesting that we look at our wonderful surroundings in the gardens of the Bel Air.
“I live for those who trust me, for the heavens that smile above me, for the cause that needs assistance, for the wrongs that need resistance, for the future in the distance, and for the good that I can do”.
RUDY, your favorite has become one of ours Thank You.
Birthdays came next. December started off with ANN SAMSON, on the 1st, of course, and Tacoma, Washington was the place. CHRIS BRADFORD came along on the 2nd and LA was his choice. PP DAVE WHITEHEAD elected the 6th, in nearby Glendale. HONORATA AQUINO arrived in San Luis, Philippines, on the 14th that’s today, and so she rates an additional $50 buck fine! Brawley, California was the scene for PP HOMER NEWMAN, and his date was the 18th. PP JIM COLLINS chose Huntington Park on the 20th, while MARK ROGO liked the 22nd, back in LA. ELOISE SISKEL, (who by the way is recuperating from hip surgery) liked the next day, the 23rd, in Gosport, Indiana. BILL PIERCE (and we miss you, BILL) did not select but was given the 25th, but at least it was in LA. PP TED IHNEN and he’ll be back with us early next year) liked St. Louis on the 27th, and RALPH BEASOM (did you know he’s a twin?) closed the month on the 29th in Seattle. Each honoree autographed the books they are giving our new Westwood Library, and we bravely sang Happy Birthday.
We had a Visiting Rotarian, Ron Morgan. He is a CPA who belongs to the N. San Fernando Valley Club. PP JOHN SINGLETON introduced what he called a Stranger his son, Todd. SHANE WAARBROEK stepped in for PP HOWIE HENKES, leading BRIAN and PATRICIA BUMPAS, SLOS VIAU, PP RUDY ALVAREZ, SEEMA PATEL and two other Rotoractors, Wendy McGinnis and Sergio Rodriguez, as they hosted and helped at the annual Braille Holiday Luncheon.
MIKE YOUSEM was recognized for his 22-year sponsorship of the Christmas Shopping Spree. Those who participated included MARK BLOCK, CURT & GAYLE SMITH, SEAN McMILLAN, PP DAVE WHITEHEAD, MARK ROGO, Prexy MIKE GINTZ, KEVIN BADKOUBEHI, PP PETER and SHIRLEY MORE, HANK HEUER, PP RON LYSTER, KEVIN KOMATSU, PP STEVE & DEBBIE SCHERER, PP DON & ROZ NELSON, MINA SOROOSH, FLORENCE SAMPSON, ELLIOTT TURNER, PP JOHN SINGLETON, and SHEILA YOUSEM. Mike reminded everyone that once on the list, you are expected each year thereafter! You may recall that FLOYD DEWHIRST picks up the bus tab, and Mr. YOUSEM takes care of the kid’s dinner. This really is a nice event and we congratulate MIKE on being there these many years.
The next District Breakfast will be Tuesday, Jan 9th, starting at 0700 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at LAX. PEGGY BLOOMFIELD can take your reservation and it does count as a makeup, if you need one. Cost is $25.00.
PP DON NELSON stood in for PP GEORGE DEA, this year’s Chair of our Nominating Committee. He announced the following slate of suggested Officers and Avenue of Service Chairs: Youth Service, ANN SAMSON; Community Service, MARK ROGO; Vocational Service, SHERRY DEWANE; International Service, ELLIOTT TURNER; Treasurer, MARK BLOCK; Secretary SHANE WAARBROEK; Vice President, ED GAULD; President Elect, SEAN McMILLAN; and President, CHRIS BRADFORD. Prexy MIKE GINTZ moved the election of these candidates, it was seconded, and they were thus elected, unanimously.
PP DON remained at the podium, reporting on the status of our meeting site plans. DON started with a bit of history, noting that in 2004 we were paying $26.00 for lunch. The Bel Air Hotel informed us that they intended to raise the weekly lunch cost to $35.00! After some serious negotiation, they then phased in the increase, first to $29.00, and eventually to the present $33.00 but ending in 2006. So in 2004 we spent considerable time searching for alternative sites, trying the Luxe and the Bel Air Country Club, but deciding to stay at the Bel Air Hotel.
The Bel Air now tells us the meals will cost $48.00, subject to further increases after 2007. We immediately began another search, checking with the Luxe, the Doubletree, the W, Angelino, the Regency Club, Bel Air Country Club, Riviera CC, and two nearby churches. Only two sites could accommodate us on a regular basis Covel Commons and the UCLA Faculty Center. The Faculty Center will provide a three course, served meal, for $21.65 including tax and tip. We would add $1.35, making our cost $23.00. Parking is extra, and can cost $8.00, but there are several options, including some space at the nearby St. Albans Church, which we suggest should be used by members who may not wish to walk as far as the regular UCLA parking. Besides the major price reduction, the Faculty Center may help us to attract professors, and it certainly is a prestige location.
Accordingly, your Board of Directors is recommending we change to the UCLA Faculty Center starting January 4th, 2007. Prexy MIKE came forward, asking for comments or questions. PP JIM COLLINS stood up to say that the resources for speakers and new members were a real plus. MIKE asked for a voice vote to accept the recommendation of the Board of Directors, and it was overwhelmingly positive. Even those at that back table didn’t object! Prexy MIKE then reminded us that a change of this magnitude was bound to have some glitches (my word), and that we should all work cooperatively to smooth the transition.
The Joke Elmer and Sam were hunting wascully wabbits. Suddenly, Elmer grabs his throat, and falls to the ground. Sam rushes over, and it looks to him like Elmer is dead. Sam calls 911, and the Operator tries to calm him down. “First, just take it easy. 2nd, follow my instructions and third, make sure he’s dead.” Shortly, a shot rings out, and Sam returns to the phone. “OK, what do I do now?”
CHRIS BRADFORD introduced our Speaker, Mina Soroosh. She has a distinguished background, graduating from Claremont, Phi Beta Kappa, with a degree in French Studies. She has her Masters in French from UCLA, and is studying for her PhD. As an Ambassadorial Scholar she elected to go to Spain, specifically to the Basque country. Mina is known to many of us and we have been waiting with great expectations for her report and we weren’t disappointed.
She began by thanking us, as Rotarians, for making this study for a year aboard possible. It has changed her outlook on life. She looks upon the Scholarship as a three-year project. First, a year of preparation which in her case meant studying Spanish in depth, 2nd the actual year aboard, and then the better part of a year afterward when she analyses and reports on her experiences. During her first year, she was able to learn about Rotary in detail, plus meeting other Ambassadorial Scholars who were planning on studying aboard.
The major city in the Basque area is Bilbao. She found the people there to be almost regal in their appearance. She happened to be there during the worst winter they have had in the last half century snow was everywhere, sometimes not melting very rapidly.
The manana image in Spain is that everything can get done tomorrow everything can wait until tomorrow. While Bilbao supports a major university, it is usually classified as industrial. The Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Gehry, is a major tourist attraction, of course.
Mina’s original expectation was that she would find people to be angry, impatient to be separated from Spain. Upon arrival, this is not what she found. There is some discontent, but it certainly isn’t dominant. Thus most of the people she met consider themselves to be both Basque and Spanish. She found the younger generation to be very proud of their heritage whereas their parents, under Franco, suffered in silence. Since she was the first Ambassadorial Scholar from the U.S. to spend time in the Basque area, she was constantly being compared to students from other parts of Europe. “You are from America, from California, and yet you have black hair who ARE you?”
What we have heard and in some cases experienced is that dining is very late. A dinner can last five hours. Her hosts were extremely hospitable her sponsor had her over to his home many times, mostly on weekends. She was included in any events or festivals that went on while she was present.
There were still memories of Franco a gathering of five or more people always had to have a government person present, for example. This has all changed now, of course. Rotary had to go entirely underground during Franco’s regime but they are proud to report that the first Rotary Club in Europe was established in Madrid in 1921. Most Rotary Clubs that she visited were small perhaps 15 members, and they usually met in the morning. If they met at night, they had the meeting first, followed by dinner. Some members only attended the meeting, since the dinner went on too long.
One of the major differences she found was the lack of a choice of opportunities for University graduates. The students continued to live at home with their families, and usually took positions near where they grew up. She was able to travel extensively in Spain, visiting most of the major cities and of course her talk was illustrated by many excellent color slides. She felt she ‘discovered’ EasyJet, the low cost airline now serving much of Europe. All this exposure has led her to be considering a career with the United Nations as noted at the beginning, this year abroad changed the way she looks at life. She looks forward to becoming a Rotarian, and specifically thanked LENORE MULRYAN and PP RUDY ALVAREZ for their help and encouragement. She was warmly applauded for her excellent presentation.
Q&A PP DON NELSON led off, asking if she, like he, had seen the topless beach at Bilbao…She denied everything, of course and shame on you, DON! PDG BILL GOODWYN reminded us that for the 60 years of Franco, the Rotary clubs continued to meet underground. MARK BLOCK asked about women in Rotary, and there aren’t many. But some of the newer clubs are working on this. ED GAULD, How can such a small numerical group expect to become independent? She questioned this herself, using two examples of the problems. First, the postal service and then, the general economy.
LENORE MULRYAN rose to point out that Mina had been a tremendous help to our Club in organizing and promoting the Ambassadorial Program at UCLA she is a go-getter (my words). I asked what the total population of Spain is less than 60 million, but that makes the Basques only 5% of the total. RAY ZICKFELD What has been the effect of the Guggenheim Museum on Bilbao? The locals think it is odd, but it has certainly brought in tourists.
Again, Mina, we thank you for a wonderful report on your most-fruitful year in Europe!
There were two late fines, which must be recorded. DONN CONNER committed some really terrible crime, which I didn’t get noted, but it costs him $100, OK? And CHRIS GAYNOR allowed his cell phone to go off at least once and thus, he owes $10.