Exchanges: India to Oregon and Oregon to Taiwan

Kush Gandhi, from India to Oregon

My exchange is going great, and like any other month here in the United States of America, November was a fun and interesting month.

It gave me fantastic memories with my family and friends, to celebrate my first Thanksgiving. Going out to the dinner with my family was fun, cooking and eating delicious food, meeting other people from the family.

The cold is a small problem as I am used to very hot conditions back in India, but it’s easy to protect myself. It was my host mom’s birthday, so we had a small family dinner and got a chance to make a gift for her and bake a cake for her. I attended a Blazers basketball game and an ice hockey game which were both new experiences for me and I enjoyed both of them.

I am relocating with my second host family; changing families is a little sad experience but my second host family will be great, too (like my first–Steve and Lisa Zich & family).

Overall my experience at my exchange is going great and I am planning to have a great Christmas break, celebrating my first authentic Christmas and expecting to go to the best new year’s party ever.

Zaidie Long, from Oregon to Taiwan

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been almost four months since I boarded a plane on my own and flew 7,600 miles across the Pacific Ocean to an entirely new life in Taiwan. Before long I’ll be halfway through my time here, and I still feel like there is so much I don’t understand, I don’t know how I can possibly learn everything I want to about the culture and the people in the time I have left. Already, I have grown so much, and have such a deeper appreciation not only for the culture here, but also in the distinct value of the differences in every culture. It’s surprising how many conflicts can be overcome simply by remembering these differences, and that the way you approach a situation might be fundamentally different than the person across from you. That neither of you is wrong or right, but that it is your job to adjust because you have come to be a part of this culture, not to force people to adapt to yours. I feel that the word culture often carries a meaning that is more superficial, that by seeing the temples, learning the history, and meeting the people, you have fulfilled the duty of understanding culture. However, the true realizations come after you have broken the surface level of polite interactions and have connected with the people who live this culture every day. Understanding comes with conflict, with confusion, with feeling frustrated, or hurt, or scared of offending someone because you don’t know the right way to express what you feel.

Recently I’ve had the opportunity to participate in numerous activities around Taiwan that have allowed me to see another side of the country other than the hustle and bustle of Rotarian life in Taipei city. I’ve traveled with my Rotary club on volunteer trips twice, once to a small town on the East coast of Taiwan, and once to a school near Tainan in southern Taiwan. On both occasions, we had opportunities to interact with kids and locals in the communities, and it really opened my eyes to how different life is immediately outside the fast moving, economically driven, technologically advanced city that is Taipei. While I certainly encounter differences in culture in Taipei with every interaction I have, there are still at least some recognizable Western influences to fall back on when the discrepancies feel overwhelming. The differences from American culture are even more significant outside of Taipei, By visiting with my Rotary club, I got to experience first hand not only those differences but also the unique and very culturally revealing tensions that exist between residents of the Taipei area and people who live further away from big cities.

Finally, I’d like to take a moment to talk about my host family. I’ll be moving to a new family in a month, and, while part of me is excited to gain a new perspective on living in Taiwan, I will certainly miss my host mom. Because she is a single mother, and both her daughters are on exchange this year, she was the only other person in my family. This was great because it meant that we had many opportunities to bond and get to know each other. She’s taken me to see the sunset from the tallest mountain in Taipei, Yangmingshan, to the famous Beitou library, and to the northern coast of Taiwan. She works a lot, but whenever we have the chance to go out to eat, she takes me to try a new type of traditional food, and I’ve been able to talk to her about life in Taiwan over many exceptional, and some particularly interesting, meals. I will miss watching TV dramas in Chinese with her, and going to class in the evenings, even if I don’t understand parts of either.

My new host family will have six people, the two parents, a 12-year-old girl, a 15-year-old boy, the father’s mother, and a woman from Indonesia who takes care of the grandma and also cooks dinners for the family, so it will be quite a big change. Based on what I’ve learned about my friend’s families, having such a big family that includes grandparents and live-in help is the most common, traditional family structure here in Taiwan, so I think that living with them will be a great experience. Still I have really enjoyed living with my current family, and plan to spend as much time with my host mom as possible during my last few weeks with her.

I miss everyone back in Portland, but even on my most homesick of days, I would never want to be anywhere but right here in Taipei, having the incredible exchange that I am, with the amazing people I’ve met here.

The United Nations honors six Rotary People of Action: Champions of Peace at Rotary Day at the United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland, 10 November 2017. These Rotary members and Rotary Peace Center alumni are all involved in projects that address underlying causes of conflict, including poverty, inequality, ethnic tension, lack of access to education, or unequal distribution of resources.

By Taylor Cass Talbott

Thanks to generous support from Rotarians all over Oregon, my husband, Brodie, and I were able to attend Rotary Day at the Geneva United Nations in November. We were invited so that I could receive one Rotary International’s People of Action: Champion of Peace awards.

Each year, Rotary presents six People of Action awards during Rotary Day at the United Nations and focuses on a different theme each year. This year was the first time Rotary held the event in Geneva rather than New York, and the first time that Rotary included peace fellows (two of us!) as awardees.

After sleeping off our jet lag, our first day in Geneva was spent at the United Nations, where we were given a historical tour and an intensive public speaking training. Fellow Peace Fellow Kiran Singh Sirah and I finished the day at a dinner with top donors to Rotary’s peace initiative, and I enjoyed the opportunity to chat with RI President Ian Riseley and his wife, Juliet.

The following day kicked off the Rotary Day event. We were broken up into three different groups to give presentations in three separate UN meeting halls, so I was not able to hear presentations by most of the other awardees and only my workshop was live-streamed. UN representatives who spoke on our panels placed considerable emphasis on the importance of inclusion, which was very validating because our SWaCH project is a perfect example of socially and economically inclusive development.

My presentation is still online, and you can find it about 1hr and 20 minutes into this video:

That night, Rotary held a celebratory dinner, and we had the chance to socialize more with the other awardees and their spouses. I have since been in conversation with the other Champions of Peace to discuss how we all might collaborate on projects in the future.

Many thanks for your support in getting us to Geneva. It has planted many new seeds for peace-building, and it meant a lot to be honored for our SWaCH waste picker project [in Pune, India].

I encourage you to read more about the other awardees, who were all very impressive:

(Pictures: Taylor outside the UN headquarters in Geneva; with all six who won the Champion of Peace award.)

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s quote reminds me of the spirit of Pearl Rotarians. Your ever-giving nature and ability to collectively pull it all together into something that shines ever so brightly are awe-inspiring. There are many moments over the past month that gives me great pride to be a part of this collective body of leaders.

First Wednesday (Oct. 4) and experiencing my first ever affagato (espresso and gelato) courtesy of Duane Cook–thanks, Duane! If you’ve never had one, stop reading this and go directly to Via Delizia, I’ll wait. Delicious, right!? On Friday, Oct. 13, I attended a fundraiser for REACH, a non-profit which helps build and create healthy communities and affordable housing for Oregonians with future Pearl Rotarian, Marshawna Williams. The following week, I met with Lincoln High School Interact co-president Ben Brandenburger to talk about all things Interact and what plans they had and how we as Portland Pearl Rotary could best serve them in their year of leadership and service.

This past Thursday, Oct. 19, both John and I attended the Social Justice Task Force event in concert with Oregon Humanities Conversation Project discussing, “Power, Privilege and Racial Diversity in Oregon.” A group of about 20 of us came together over a dark and stormy night, to become more aware and engaged in these issues. It was a wonderful way to spend an evening and if you ever have the opportunity to be a part of a conversation project, I highly recommend it.

Saturday, I attended the District 5100 Membership and Public Image Training. This was an opportunity for clubs around the district to get further information about and best practices on how to gain and retain members and how to expand their club’s public image. I was given the opportunity to present on behalf of our club and to speak to what makes us successful. In a nutshell of what I stated, it’s because of you.  Our collective We and Why, is a force to be reckoned with. It’s because of the excellent leadership of our past presidents and the forethought they had in moving our club forward. It is our belief in the Five-Way test that drives a lot of the decisions and in the spirit of fun; we also allow for members to be themselves in our collective humanness. It’s authentic and that is what makes what we’ve created special…”Those little bits of good.”

Special thank you also need to go out to Alan Bacharach for hosting the first of the sign-up parties benefiting the Pearl Fund. It was an outstanding evening and you are a master chef when it comes to lamb! And to Adina for wrangling us cats to get together.

Two Months in Taiwan

by Zaidie Long

I’ve been in Taipei, Taiwan, for two months, today, and honestly what I have the most trouble believing is how natural it feels to wake up every day in this beautiful city. I roll out of bed at 6:30 in the morning, get ready, eat a quick breakfast of sweet bread, or noodles, or dumplings, or maybe pizza and an egg, then head out the door around 7:00. I walk down the street, catch the public bus, thank the driver and scan my student card at my stop, and move within the throngs of students dressed in pastel pink and blue towards school.

On days when I have Chinese class in the mornings, I stop instead at the MRT station, jump on a train, study my Chinese on the way. I know my stop, when I need to transfer, how long it will take to walk to class from the station. After Chinese class, a group of my friends and I head out into the world in search of some new restaurant or food stand, where we’ll buy dumplings or maybe noodle soup, often accompanied by a plastic cup of bubble tea. We’ll eat and talk, for about an hour, before we have to head back to school for the afternoon.

At school, I’ll study or read during class, and talk to my classmates during the breaks. Sometimes we have PE class, where I’ll play basketball with the girls, or take a seat on the bleachers with a group of boys, talking about everyday things like how hard their classes are, what I’m learning in Chinese class. After school, I’ll find a youbike, throw my backpack in the basket, scan my student card, adjust the seat, and pedal my way through the crowds of students towards home. Maybe I’ll stop at a 7 Eleven, and add money to my card, or grab a snack or a drink after school.

Some nights I’ll go to my host mom’s Buddhist class, or we’ll go out to a restaurant or a night market for dinner. Or I’ll stay home, study, head downstairs and have a conversation with the security guard while he lets me into the exercise room and helps me set up the treadmill. Other days I’ll make plans after school, and instead of biking home, I’ll catch the MRT into the city, or to the station of one of my friend’s schools, and we’ll head to Ximen, or to some new part of the city we want to explore. Or I’ll go with my friends from school, if they somehow manage to get out of cram-school for a day, and we’ll grab dinner at a night market. Whenever I finally get home and climb under my covers into bed, I’ll turn towards the window and stare out for a moment, before I pull down the shade.

While I may be facing the wrong direction to have a spectacular view of the cityscape, looking out at the lights of the buildings, the cars below, the neon signs flashing and changing on every corner, I feel like I know exactly where I am, like the honking and screeching of the cars belong there in the night sky, like I can fall asleep knowing all is right in my tiny pocket of the incredible city that is Taipei.

I certainly can’t say everything about these amazing two months in just 500 words, so I’ve been writing a blog about my time here. If you’re interested in learning more about everything I’ve been up to in Taiwan, please follow this link to my blog:

Two months in Portland (and at Benson H.S.)

by Kush Gandhi

I am enjoying my exchange at the fullest; my school is going great. I have financial literacy in school  [Benson] which is my favorite subject and I am gaining experience in my building construction class in school with woodwork and other construction techniques.

My host family (the Zichs) is the best family I could get on my exchange; they support me with everything and also keep doing activities to keep me engaged. My dad cooks the best food I have ever had in the United States. I have a lot of new friends including students from the school and exchange students.

Right now I am on my west coast tour and I have enjoyed the past seven days like never before. Bonding with all the exchange students, sharing memories and making new ones, shopping and the fun moments we had on the bus and during stops are completely unforgettable.

Overall, my exchange cannot be any better and I love the way it is going on right now.

Taylor with SWaCH members at a press conference for the Red Dot Campaign
Celebration of the United National International Day of Peace (Sept. 21) included an announcement that Taylor Stevenson, Portland Pearl Rotary’s first Peace Scholar, has been named a Rotary International Peace Champion.

Taylor is one of six global champions being honored Nov. 11 on Rotary Day at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. The event honors those who make a positive difference in their community, their country and around the globe.

Taylor Cass Talbott in the slum community where she and Brodie livedTaylor will be honored and will celebrate with current RI President Ian Riseley, RI directors, foundation trustees, leaders from the United Nations and renowned humanitarians.

Taylor developed a Rotary Foundations global grant to improve sanitary conditions for waste collectors in Pune, India. Waste collectors together handle 20 tons of unwrapped sanitary waste every day. Stevenson collaborated with SWaCH, a waste-collector cooperative, to create the “Red Dot” campaign, which calls for people to wrap their sanitary waste in newspaper or bags and mark it with a red dot.

This helps waste collectors identify sanitary waste and handle it accordingly. Stevenson developed all the educational imaging for the campaign. She also secured in-kind offerings of support, including free training space and campaign printing.

Pearl Rotarian Anne Oneill, who is the past chair of the International Service committee and served as PPRC’s point person for the Pushing for Peace, Sanitation and Dignity for Pune’s Waste Pickers, said this of Taylor, “Taylor Stevenson is a master of working with and building on the support of local institutions, and is a fierce advocate of society’s most marginalized. For the project, Taylor developed all of the educational imaging used for the campaign, liaised between various stakeholders in a foreign culture, and even lived in the slums with the waste pickers in order understand their lives better.”

We are proud and honored to support Taylor in her peace-building work and that Portland Pearl Rotary and District 5100 are able to be a part of it. Taylor would like to extend her gratitude to Portland, Pearl Rotary, Anne Oneill, District Governor Renee Campbell, and Past District Governor Michael Caruso.

We look forward in hearing Taylor’s latest updates on the Pune waste pickers’ project when she speaks to Pearl Rotary on Tuesday, Oct 3.

Taylor and Brodie 7-28-16Let’s get Taylor and Brodie to Geneva!
We are beyond excited that Taylor has received this very distinguished honor from Rotary International and United Nations. We have informed Taylor that as a Rotary club and with some assistance from District 5100, we would pay for all of Taylor and Brodie’s (Taylor’s husband) air and ground transportation from Portland to Geneva, Rotary International already has housing taken care of. Our goal is to raise $2,318. We have a nice start of $380 [through Sept. 27]. Taylor and I are able to accept cash and checks made out to Taylor Stevenson. Additionally, I will be attending the peace-builder club meeting in October to also try and solicit funds from them, as well as District 5100.

Taylor’s Rotary connection to the Pearl club
Taylor Cass Talbott (previously Taylor Stevenson) is an artist and program designer who uses art and waste to contest the social and economic exclusion of marginalized people. She completed a Master’s in Peace Studies as a Rotary Peace Fellow in Tokyo from 2011-13. While working as a waste reduction specialist in rural Bhutan from 2013-16, the Portland Pearl Rotary Club contacted her with an interest in collaborating on a Rotary International Global Grant. Taylor agreed, going on to develop a peace and sanitation project with the SWaCH waste picker cooperative in Pune, India. When the “Pushing for Peace” project was approved by Rotary International, Taylor and her husband, Brodie Cass Talbott, worked with SWaCH in Pune for 8 months helping to implement the project. You can learn more about her work and the Pushing for Peace project at:

Here’s text of RI announcement
The Sept. 21 announcement of the award to Taylor Stevenson included notice of the event and bios of the six peace champions. Here’s a link from Rotary International:

Rotary 5100 District Governor Renee Campbell visits PPRC
For District Governor Renee Campbell, the power of the Rotary wheel–and members’ volunteerism–is “fueled by our desire for service.”

Speaking Aug. 29 to Portland Pearl Rotary, the 5100 leader both celebrated and encouraged Rotarians in a talk that covered the 2017-28 Rotary theme (Making a Difference), polio eradication, leadership development, local and worldwide projects, and fun/fellowship.

Rotarians “make a difference, change the world,” Renee observed. “Surely we’d be missed if (Rotary) didn’t exist.”

The worldwide effort to end polio, she said, is indicative of the the combined achievement of clubs and individual Rotarians: “We all recognize that power, that we apply it, are proud of it, and share it.”

Projects large and small, the Salem Rotarian said, contribute to a better world. She spoke specifically about polio–the three-decade-old effort Rotary spearheaded. “This could be the year that we see the last polio case on earth,” Renee said. She called the goal “audacious.”

And, using her fingers to show just an inch of space left: “Now we are this close!”

New members to Rotary, she said, tend to join for the local service opportunities. “They stay because friendships develop.” The essence of Rotary combines leadership possibilities, service and friendship, the DG believes.

Renee turned her attention to the Rotarians in the room at Ecotrust: “Portland Pearl Rotary is exceptional. Your members and projects (show) progress and success.”

She then saluted Rotarian Jack Bradley as “a person of action” (see following story).

Back behind the podium, Renee returned to her theme of making a difference in Rotary: “We can accomplish so much more in the world together than we could ever do alone…We are Rotarians; we make a difference; and that, my friends, is the power of the wheel.”

The governor was given gifts from PPRC of wine and a gift certificate to Powell’s by President Tara Mussulman. Renee then spent another 20 minutes with the club board and DGE Jim Flood, who had made the DG introduction.

2017-2018 District Governor Renee Campbell with President Tara Mussulman

Golf Tourney Heated Up Funds for Combating Homelessness

Welcome to Portland Pearl Rotary Club/New Generations Golf Tournament

There were about 100 golfers. And the temperature neared 100 degrees.

Yet the heat didn’t stop the Portland Pearl/New Generations clubs’ golf tournament…or from staging a successful benefit golf tournament at Persimmon Golf Course in Gresham Aug. 28.

PPRC Past President Pat Mahoney co-chaired the event with Isaac Samsa from New Generations. The event included multiple sponsors (see below), a wine wall filled with donations, gift baskets which were raffled off, and meals before and after the 18-hole event. Fellowship and fun prevailed. And dollars were raised to combat homelessness.

PPRC Golf Tournament 2017
“Thanks to everyone for a great golf tournament,” Pat announced at PPRC the following day. “It was a great experience working with the New Generations members. There’s a lot we can do together in the future.”

What the tournament netted wasn’t calculated in the first 24 hours after the Persimmon play. But, he said, “we exceeded our expectations.”

And Pat added in writing:

“At our club visioning last year, one of our set goals was to establish partnerships with other Rotary Clubs. This golf tournament partnership with New Generations Rotary Club was a nice, positive experience with results that were mutually beneficial.

Each of the 18 holes had signage featuring various non-profit organizations that our clubs support in the fight against homelessness. Each sign included an impactful quote or mission statement from the nonprofit.

The overall golf experience was great. This event was well-organized with good food and beverages, fun activities, and many opportunities to win prizes.

Thanks to all the sponsors, volunteers, golfers and everyone who made this a event a success. Special thanks to our presenting sponsors–Pearl and Woodstock Ace Hardware and Mottau & Company. Thanks also to Portland New Generations Rotary Club for allowing us to team up with them.”

PPRC Musicians Have A New Name

Pearl Peacemakers of PPRC“Pearl Peacemakers” has replaced the seven-year old PPRC “Jerry and the Pacemakers”–music leader/Rotarian Jerry Baysinger reports. Just one letter added to get from Pace to Peace which seems right for PPRC, Peace Club. It’s never been about “Jerry”; there are four or five of us who learn the songs and lead each week, providing a spark of music to start the meetings with great energy. Finally, Pearl Peacemakers is unique to Pearl Rotary . . . whereas Gerry and Pacemakers has its own page on Wikipedia (chronicling the ’60 British band). Pictured at the June 27th transitional meeting are (from left): Pat Mahoney, Jerry, Matt Lillard, Anne Oneill.

PPRC 2016-2017 Youth Exchange Year End Reports

Noah Lovgren PPRC Outbound 2016-2017

Tour, travel with family ends Noah’s year
by Noah Lovgren, Switzerland, PPRC outbound, 2016-17

Hi, all Rotarians, I hope Portland is treating you well 😀

I’ve got very little time left, but in the past few months I’ve been busier than ever. I got to go to the southern tip of Italy with my current host family, went to Stuttgart, Germany, with my class, and got to go to Northern Germany with my basketball team for a tournament (see picture, Noah is front, far left). What lies ahead?

On Saturday I’ve got the long-awaited Euro Tour with the other Rotary exchange students from Switzerland. I’m extremely hyped. We’re going to 11 cities in 11 countries, namely: Zurich, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Bratislava, Vienna, Budapest, Postonja and Venice.

On July 10, when we arrive in Zurich and are done, my parents and brother, Martha, Mark, and Henry, are coming to Switzerland. Then we’re going to travel two weeks in Switzerland and try to see as much as possible-I mean the country’s not that big, is it?

I’ll be arriving home at 11:44 PM on July 24, which is a Monday. You’re welcome to greet me at the airport if you want. I don’t think I’ll be fit enough to come to the Rotary meeting the next day, so we’d have to see each other the week after.

I’ll see y’all soon and am excited to share my year with you!

Outbound PPRC Exchange Student Rebecca

Reflections on a year overseas
by Rebecca Zich, India, PPRC outbound, 2016-17

Hello, everyone! This might be a little late but I need to give a huge thank you to everyone who helped contribute to my amazing year in India. This time I spent away from home I found a new one. I found family and friends who truly care for me. I lived with five different families who each taught me so many different things. I learned some very important life lessons and important aspects of Indian culture. So for the Jaykhedkar, Satpute, Dinani, Gandhi, and Daga families, I cannot thank you enough for opening up your homes to me and making me feel like a part of your family. I miss you all a lot!

For all my friends from wisdom high and the other hobby classes I took, I really can’t thank you enough for welcoming me so perfectly! Even if you just talked to me once, asked me how my day was, or said good morning you may not have realized how much that helped me in my first few months in India when I was feeling lonely. I’ll miss messing around and having fun in class and all the after school meets. Seriously, all my Indian friends are so perfect and I love and miss you all so much!

For all the beautiful and amazing exchange students who I went on the tours with and my exchange family in Nasik, thank you for teaching me some rad things about all your cultures and just being awesome. Exchange students are really the coolest people in the world and I was so lucky to travel around India with you guys. I now know I have many homes all over the world with my international friends.❤️

Finally other than people I met in India, I’ll miss the country itself. People don’t realize how amazing, beautiful and diverse India is. I was lucky to be able to travel around the whole country and see it for myself. When I landed back in USA, I immediately saw the differences and I missed India dearly. I miss the constant sound, the traffic, the abundance of people out and about outside, the cows and dogs in the street, the delicious street food, and more. I just miss it so much. I feel the streets are so empty here and I miss the strong Indian sun. Not to mention the food, the food is so bland here, I would kill for my host moms’ cooking right now! Anyway, what more can I say? This year was perfect and I want everyone who helped make it perfect to know!

Kristina 2016-2017 PPRC Inbound Exchange Student

Pali 2016-2017 PPRC Inbound Exchange Student

Kristina, Pali reminisce, share gratitude for exchange
Farewells to Rotarians were genuinely and gratefully shared June 20 by our inbound youth exchange students—Kristina. from Slovakia, and Pali, Chile. They came to the breakfast meeting (their last before going home) dressed in their Rotary blazers and laden with pins, buttons and Rotary-related memorabilia.

“You made a dream come true,” Kristina (blue blazer) told the club. “…I’m so grateful for my exchange.” She cited her host families, fellow inbound exchangers and friends for making the ten months in Portland so memorable. Kristina believes she’s more independent, stepped out of her comfort zone and can more easily talk to strangers. “This made me realize I can do so much more than I ever thought I could do.” Her year involved considerable USA travel—including, with Pali, attendance at the international Rotary convention in Atlanta earlier this month. “I’ll never forget what you’ve done for me.”

Pali, right, came to Oregon from northern Chile and was the first exchanger sent by an all-women Rotary Club which includes her mother. Early months here were difficult, she admitted, especially with limited English and being so far from family. “The world is bigger than I imagined,” she said, and cited friends from Mexico to Japan through y.e. And her best friend during her exchange year: Kristina. “I didn’t know where Slovakia was…today I know someone from there is my friend…she’s more than a friend, she’s my sister.” The countless memorable experiences will go back to Chile with her, Pale said, adding: “What you gave me doesn’t have a price. You will be in my memory forever.”