By Ms. Thida Thant, Burma
After attending one week of different lecture topics and tasting a variety of local food available in Missoula, Montana, I was a bit concerned that the following two weeks of home stay might be a little less interesting or not as eventful as the very first week. How wrong and naive I was ! On 14 Oct, I, together with Cho, was picked up by Ms. Liz Marchi, a well-known business woman of Montana and Cho’s host coordinator, at 10:30 am from our hotel. From that point on, I was on a different journey to explore Polson, a town 70 miles north of Missoula. Ms. Marchi owns 6 cattle ranches in Mission Valley which is a good 8 miles still further to the the west of Polson. On the way to her home, we were able to visit Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, dedicated to preserving habitats for the elks. Then, we were at St.Ignatius Church which is known to be the oldest surviving catholic church built in early 19th Century. I was amazed to find a large painting with the elderly native American Indian portrayed as Jesus inside the church. This was followed by a visit to Nine Pipes Natural wildlife refuge where we had a delicious lunch. Thereafter, we went to visit the power house of Kerr Dam which was built in 1936, supplying electricity to western Montana. The breathtaking view of the shores of Flathead Lake was mesmerizing as the lake is known to be the largest in western US and the last glacier lake from the Ice Age, as explained in detail by Liz.
On 15 Oct, we started off the day at 10:30 am from the beautiful home of Liz and headed to the office of Black Mountain Software. We were received by Ms.Darlis Smith, the Marketing Manager, who was kind enough to show her office which is a successful software company engaged in accounting software development and utility billing software. With a workforce of 26 in Polson and 12 in Helena, the company already has 60% market share and the critical success factors are found to be the skillful people working for the company and the huge focus on customer services provided for companies in Montana and neighboring States. Our next stop was at Mission Valley Aquatic Center which is a community center with a large swimming pool and tons of swimming lessons/activities for all ages. We later headed to Rotary Club: an international humanitarian service organization addressing several social causes of the community. In partnership with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the organization is putting great efforts in eradicating polio and building water and sanitation system at Polson. We also had the chance to listen to the inspiring speech made by the District Governor at the event. Next, we had a visit to the Polson branch of First Interstate Bank which has altogether 70 branches serving the community and supporting social causes. Our next stop was to a local art gallery where very elegant and fine photos and paintings are displayed. Before the next appointment at 6 pm, I was also able to visit Sacajewa Park and the local library where I had the opportunity to borrow a book of my choice even though I was only a visitor there. When I tried to give my info at the check- out counter, I was told that I did not need to provide such info and that the lending was done based on TRUST that the borrower will return it! What more can I say other than that I immediately fell in love with the system. Our last stop was at a nearby location where the monthly community meetings are held. The topic of the month was the alarming drug usage of children and how the community is dealing with it. At the meeting, I can feel the strong concern and connection among people from business, community volunteers, Chief Juvenile Probation Officer, and Chief of Police who were all intent on making a difference and to bring about positive impact to the future generations.
At the end of the day at 7pm, I can say confidently that my first 2 days of home stay have been very eventful and rewarding to witness people from diverse fields at Polson who have strong commitment to upgrading the lives of the community in all aspects.I could not have had this truly valuable experience without Ms.Liz Marchi, my home stay host this week who has tremendous energy and enthusiasm in making all the visits possible.