Sunday, April 28, 2013

Washington State’s Capitol in Olympia - Beautiful Building, Beautiful Site

View of Washington State's Capitol from lake below

It’s no secret that your children’s relocations can take you places you never expected to explore.  Olympia, Washington is one of those sites for us.   As the capital of the State of Washington, the city has more power than its size would suggest.   With only 47,000 inhabitants (less than twice the population of Paris), Olympia has a small but vibrant downtown on the waters edge.   Suburbs absorb most of the rest of  Thurston County’s 250,000 population.  Only the capitol building and grounds really set this town apart.    On a rainy Sunday afternoon, I checked out the last of the great state capitols to be built.

The elevated site looks out over downtown Olympia.  All of Thomas Jefferson’s criteria for a government on a hill are met in this Washington rather than Washington, D.C. In 1905, the state dedicated its money from harvested timber on state lands to the building and maintenance of a new capitol.  Their timing was perfect.  The building was completed in 1928 - just one year before the Great Depression hit.  While the governor and others derided the expense, 7 million dollars bought one heck of a building. 

Bas Relief 
There’s nothing native about the architecture. It’s  pure Roman-Greco - the same style copied by many state buildings from our nation’s capitol in Washington, D.C.  Filled with irreplaceable Alaskan white marble floors and walls, brass firepots, and  a five story cupola, this is as close to the cathedrals of Europe as can be found around here.  The one-ton brass doors tell stories with their bas relief - the states’ timber that made the state what it is today, early 1850's homesteading, waterfalls indicating the state with the most hydro-electric power and the sheep industry that once competed with Australia.  They display a different kind of paradise than Ghibertti’s in Florence.

The capitol building  has some Texas bragging kind of qualities -  largest single loom carpet in the world, biggest Tiffany chandelier ever made (could hold a Volkswagon beetle according to our guide), largest collection of Tiffany lights and the highest masonry dome in the United States - i.e. one with stone on top.  Of course, Texas’ dome is taller but of  different material.  

The information sheets came in Spanish, German, French, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Russian - indicative of the state’s Pacific location and sources of their immigrant population.  And, because it sits on a whole capillary set of geological faults, the structure was built to withstand earthquakes.  Before the 2001 earthquake, the columns were not even attached and no mortar held the stone together, only gravity.  A $100 million renovation after that earthquake has now secured those.  

In 1976, on our nation’s 200th birthday, each state chose items to place in their capitols.  Washington’s time capsule is buried in the capitol’s entrance and contains seeds from their native plants, then current magazines and newspapers, student compositions on imagined life in 2076 and, no surprise here, cans of salmon and beer.

After years in Texas, it felt strange to be in a legislature where Democrats dominate.  Despite two-thirds of the land being in Western Washington, it is no longer a rural state.  Seattle’s King County guides the votes.  One legislator remarked that he could pass anything with the support of a majority of the voters seen from the Seattle space needle.  Yet, a more laid back atmosphere prevails.  Ninety percent of the votes are unanimous. The Senate still votes by a roll call of individual senators rather than electronically.  There were no metal detectors to suffer upon entering the building.  And the legislature meets only 105 days this year. 

I’ve always thought the view from the Texas Capitol in Austin, down Congress Avenue to Town Lake was as good as it got.  But walking out of the Washington Capitol with landscaped grounds, spring fruit trees in full bloom, Capitol Lake to the west, Puget Sound to the north, mountains circling and the Temple of Justice below gave me pause.   If the sun would just shine more, it would be tempting indeed.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Journey from the Philippines to Paris via Nursing School

Dane and  Vimah Temporal, Bridgett Rian, Lina and George Tabangcora

In November 1976, six nurses arrived in Paris to work for St. Joseph’s Hospital, the first of many Filipino nurses who were to enhance the medical community of Lamar County.  Recently, I spoke with two of the original six, Lina Tabangcora and Bridgett Rian, as well as four other members of the local Filipino community - George Tabangcora, Dane and Vimah Temporal, and TJ Gorley.   Their travel stories reflect the history of Filipino nurses in the United States.

To counter communist propaganda, the United States instituted an Exchange Visitors  Program in 1948 to bring young people to America for two years to learn our way of life and expand  knowledge in their fields.  Because of U.S. influence from its colonial days in the Philippines, many Filipino nurses had been trained by American methods.  They soon became the dominant participants in the Exchange program where 80% came from the Philippines.  In 1965, immigration laws were revised and no longer favored European immigrants, thus allowing more Filipino nurses to apply.  As demand increased, so did their local nursing schools - growing from 17 in 1940 to over 300 today.

Lina and Bridgett were originally recruited to work in Georgia but a friend enticed them to Paris because St. Joseph’s hospital would sponsor them for permanent residency.  Bridgett remembers being depressed as they arrived noting Wal-Mart was the only place to shop.  But the Sisters were very accommodating, helping with furniture, and Dr. Bercher even brought by some food.

Both Lina and Bridgett were single but that would change, thanks to the “inter-relative” network, a precursor to internet dating services.  Bridgett’s cousin, George Tabangcora, had also come to the United States via the Exchange Program and was living in Pennsylvania, studying embryo transplants for cattle.  He met Lina in 1978 on a visit to Paris and they married in 1981.   George introduced Bridgett to Levi Rian, another Exchange Program participant in Ohio, and they married.   After a correspondence course with California College under the supervision of Ed Schaffer, both George and Levi became certified respiratory therapists and joined our local medical community.

By the time fiancees, Vimah and Dane Temporal, finished nursing school, recruiters from the U.S. were all over the Phillippines including an alum from their school who worked out of Houston.    It was 1983, a time of recession, and the offer looked good.  Dane remembers looking at a map of the United States in the recruitment office in Manila and couldn’t find Paris, Texas on it.  After landing in Houston, Dane and another nurse were put on a Trailway bus to travel by night to Dallas and then to Paris.  Vimah came two months later.

Dane and Vimah wanted to marry immediately.  They paid $7 for a marriage license and found their way to Justice of the Peace Chester Oakes’ office.  Judge Oakes thought they were Native Americans and bewildered the couple by speaking in Cherokee.  He also couldn’t pronounce her name and asked if Dane wanted to marry Vimah “whatever her last name is.”  Dane wondered aloud if they were legally married.

TJ Gorley soon after her arrival in Paris
At age 23, TJ Gorley came to America because it was prestigious and she knew her parents would be proud.  TJ had to choose among El Paso, San Antonio or Paris - selecting Paris only because she recognized the name.  In January 1984, she disembarked from the plane in a mini-skirt and immediately wondered why all the trees were dead - having never experienced winter in the Phillippines.  She joined eight other nurses staying in George and Lina’s home until accommodations could be found.  Lina said they had women sleeping everywhere.

Even though many of the recruits moved on, Dane believes there are over 100 Filipinos living in Lamar County, with most coming directly or indirectly through nursing recruitment.  They all had big adjustments to make.  Although English classes begin in second grade in the Phillippines, our local idioms were challenging.  “Move your noggin,” “over yonder,” “come back directly”, or “fixin to” all had to be explained.

This group stayed in Paris for many reasons.  They wanted their children to have a hometown. They felt if they worked hard, they could earn respect as well as financial success.  They appreciated then and now the lack of red tape and our efficient government bureaucracy.  They see their taxes used on good roads and schools and believe opportunity still exists here.

 Because of America’s increased emphasis on nursing, Filipino nurses no longer are needed to  fill our needs.  Many of them now go to the Middle East.  But we were lucky that some of their best made it to Paris and that they stayed.

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