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Archive for July, 2007

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Grandeur of Ethiopia well worth the effort

Friday, July 27th, 2007

World traveler and Moraga resident Margaret Stithem entertained her fellow Planned Parenthood Auxiliary members at a meeting sharing slides from a recent trip to Ethiopia. This African adventure composed of 17 travelers was an Elder Hostel trip planned by Destination Horizons. They took the historic route to the Land of Queen of Sheba, visiting many different sights including churches built down into the rock with gorgeous artwork inside. “I wouldn’t go for the food and the water is a terrible problem,” notes Stithem. Yet she adds that this is a land of beautiful people.

Two times the size of Texas, Ethiopia is composed of seventy ethnic groups where English is widely spoken. The economy is supported largely by agriculture and coffee. The economy is not prosperous and young children can be found herding goats to help support the family. Stithem remarked that they are trying to modernize the cities but the area has been plagued by terrible droughts.

She particularly enjoyed Gonder’s Lake Tana which serves as the headwaters of the Blue Nile and is surrounded by magnificent twelfth century castles. Some structures span 60 feet in height, are carved of granite and are 1,800 years old.

It wasn’t bad water nor did foul weather leave fellow Auxiliary member Lorelee Mogg shanghaied in her Holland America cabin with husband Bob. While sailing the cruise ship to China, Moraga’s Mogg fell captive to the Norwalk Flu. “We had been instructed to report immediately to the staff if we experienced any symptoms,” reflects Mogg. “A nurse came promptly with pills and told us that we would be quarantined for 48 hours so we missed two days in Shanghai.”

Bob had to be quarantined with Lorelee, but did not get the flu. “The ship did everything they could to make our 48 hours comfortable and compensated us financially,” reflects Mogg. And what if the Mogg’s decided to mutiny and leave the cabin? “They could put us off the ship!” exclaims Lorelee. In fact, Mogg tells a similar story of a flu-struck passenger’s wife leaving the cabin on the last day of quarantine to have a drink in the ships bar, as she was healthy and felt it safe to leave her husband. The cruise ship company, who will remain anonymous, withdrew the compensation from their bill.

So how can you minimize your chance of contracting Viral Gastroenteritis, the gastrointestinal illness known as norovirus? According to industry newsletter Cruise Week, cruise any time from June through October. Norovirus is seasonal, and there are very few outbreaks in the late spring, summer, and early fall. Flu season, especially January and February, brings the greatest number of outbreaks. Also consider a small luxury ship. Crystal Cruises, Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn and Silversea have never had norovirus outbreaks. By contrast, within the past five-plus years (Jan. 2002 through May 2007), there have been 23 outbreaks on Holland America, 18 on Princess, 13 on Carnival, 12 on Royal Caribbean, 11 on Celebrity, 10 on Norwegian Cruise Line, 4 on Cunard, and 1 on Disney in 2002, according to Centers for Disease Control records.

If you’re looking for outdoor adventures closer to home, check out Weekend Sherpa, The weekly e-newsletter gives insiders’ recommendations on the Bay Area’s best outdoor pursuits and little known adventures. Ever slept in a yurt in Big Sur or wanted to volunteer to help Mother Earth? Weekend Sherpa leads the way.

Next month well visit the 49th state admitted to the Union. That’s right, we’re Alaska bound! Where have you been lately? Drop me an e-mail of your travels.

Nancy Brown grew up in Moraga and lives in Lafayette with her husband and children. She looks forward to hearing of your adventures at

Groups travel to touch the lives of others

Thursday, July 12th, 2007


While Lafayette’s Sivesind and Brown family sipped margarita’s beachside at Cabo’s Royal Solaris, Walnut Lane youth could also be found in Mexico over Spring Break. Among our neighbor’s pouring cement and putting up drywall on behalf of Moraga Valley Presbyterian Church (MVPC) were Campolindo’s Matt Keeble, Sophia McCarthy, Christine Moore and Wilita Sanguma.

Moraga’s Darlene and Dave Kingery, along with Campo Cougars Julianne and Stephen helped build a home in five days. “It’s like a legacy with the church,” notes Darlene who worked food prep last year. “I think it’s important that the kids give to others. It’s a perspective check. You see how little these people have.”

St. Mary’s Professor and former soccer coach, Orinda’s Randy Farris is an advocate for under-privileged kids in the Dominican Republic. At his camp, Farris met Leslie Trautwin. The Campo graduate moved to the DR with her husband who is the Director of Kid’s Alive. “Leslie wanted me to come there and work with the kids,” remarks Farris. “I said no four times. I’d done the soccer stuff and had traveled abroad, but I finally decided to go.”

Farris went down for two weeks and returned to share his enthusiasm and knowledge with the St. Mary’s students resulting in a Jan term “Christian Service Internship” in 2005 and 2006. The interns go to all four “Kid’s Alive” sites on the island where they set up soccer clinics and PE classes. He’s also a member of the Global Missions Team at MVPC with Associate Pastor Tom Dabasinskas.

The youth at Lafayette-Orinda-Presbyterian Church will be heading to New Orleans in August for a mission trip. “Growing up in the church, I’ve been on 11 mission trips,” says LOPC’s Youth Director Blake Beal. “We’ll go to Denver and Atlanta for service at inner city soup kitchens and different organizations around the city that serve the homeless. We do an international trip every four years so the students can experience global travel.”

The church is partnering with The School of Urban Missions,,   for the summer trip. The kids will be visiting the city and working with the families as they go through the process of rebuilding their lives.

Mississippi natives Tammy and Michael Borosky, along with Stanley eighth grader Hannah and Burton Valley Elementary’s Weston, have founded the non-profit Adopt A Coast Family, Weston’s elementary school hosted a musical concert to raise funds for the Gorenflo school in Biloxi. The Borosky’s returned to New Orleans during Mardi gras to visit family and continue their mission of helping gulf coast families get back on track.

Lafayette’s Mary Anne Winig went on a “study mission” with American Jewish World Service,, a cross congregational organization that helps Jews understand their place in the world as global citizens. “One of the main tenants of Judaism is Tikun Olam,” offers Winig. “In Hebrew it translates to repair the world. The organization gives Jews the opportunity to be global citizens.” The organization supports over 100 partners in the developing of non-governmental organization project partners such as micro credit loans.

“With the HIV aids crisis in South Africa, we visited 6-8 project partners to see where our funding was going,” reflects Winig. “Our first trip was to Peru where we visited project partners who had a program to develop health education and micro credit in the high Andes. “We go around to various local groups and try to educate people about the work that AJWS does in the developing world.”

In addition to the study missions, they also do alternative Spring Break work study programs for college-age students and offer volunteer opportunities for adults to stay and work. An Acalanes graduate, daughter Heidi, has worked in Guyana, South America, and now works for AJWS in El Cerrito. She has lead many work trips around the world.

Nancy Brown grew up in Moraga and lives in Lafayette with her husband and children. She looks forward to hearing of your adventures. Send items to