Although initially mentioned in an off-hand manner, 10-year-old Olivier Nicault took his jesting grandparents’ invitation to finish his fifth-grade school year with them quite seriously.
So over the nation and across the ocean Olivier did fly, to spend four months with grandmère et grandpère Christiane and Alain Nicault at their home in Malarce-sur-la Thines, southern France.
“To our surprise, Olivier got very enthusiastic and totally embraced the idea. We had less than three weeks until my parents’ trip back to France to organize his move, plus his passport had just expired,” said Olivier’s father, Gilles Nicault. Here in Walla Walla, Gilles is chief winemaker for Long Shadows Vintners and wife Marie-Eve Gilla is winemaker for Forgeron Cellars.
To everyone’s relief, and with the help of local authorities, Olivier’s passport arrived the day before he left with his grandparents.
The Nicaults had to square things with Prospect Point Elementary and with L’ecole de Gravieres and the school district in France, Gilles said.
Principal Chris Gardea checked Olivier’s grades and responded immediately that he is a good student and that such an experience would be very beneficial for his education, Gilles said.
“Olivier did spend his last summer in France with his grandparents and indicated then that his dream was to eventually go to school and maybe live in France for a while when he gets older.”
“He is very driven but does not like changes so we did not think twice about it until my parents came to visit us in mid-March.”
Once the invitation was extended there were no second thoughts for the student, who will be 11 on June 10. “As the big day drew closer ... he did not back down a bit. Just the day we bought his plane ticket he realized it was for real and we could clearly see on his face that he fully understood then the extent of his near future adventure,” Gilles said.
“Olivier has been doing very well and is loving his school there. He has made some good friends already and loves the food … he even compares his two-hour lunch at school as a restaurant. It seems that he is following the classes very well too. In his spare time, he helps my parents maintain their old farm and visits with his cousins. He misses us, of course, but he is doing very well and grateful about the all experience.”
Gilles and Marie-Eve keep in touch with Olivier via Skype. “He’s learning French poems and his French is getting really good, too,” his mom said.
Kevin Pogue made the big time when a story by Eric Asimov ran in The New York Times April 25 about his work as a geology professor and spokesman for Washington terroirs that produce wine.
Kevin teaches at Whitman College. The terroirs about which he speaks comes from the French, and represent everything from soil, drainage, climate, altitude, terrain, human interaction and exposition.
He offers a yearly seminar on the subject and includes wine tastings.
On the side, Kevin acts as a terroir locater. His work in wine country involves a shovel, pick and other tools as he evaluates pieces of land and their potential for grape growing and wine making.
With students, he’s set up hillside and meadow temperature monitors to help in the evaluations.
Cayuse Vineyards owner Christophe Baron said potential investors need to talk to Kevin before sinking a lot of money into a piece of land. “There’s no better man who knows about terroir in the Northwest.”
Kevin added that “We’re just beginning to figure out where our good terroirs are. Most plantings have been driven by things like cost, or whether water was available or whether it’s easy to farm.”
Ethan Bland’s great-grandparents Bob and Imojean Winn — of “famous Winn Berries” in Weston — have been watching his adventures with interest.
The 9-year-old son of Eli and Shauna Bland of Grants Pass, Ore., is involved in a project that benefits those in need.
His grandfather Wes Winn is pastor of First Christian Church in Grants Pass. The church is building a permanent school for 130 Maasai children in Tanzania.
Walla Wallans Kathy and Harry McMichael are missionaries to Africa who are responsible for the mission in Tanzania. It also receives support from several Walla Walla churches.
Ethan has raised enough money to feed almost seven children breakfast and lunch for a year in Tanzania.
The McMichaels got to visit with Ethan recently and came away impressed with the boy’s enterprising acumen.
Grandfather Wes had challenged his congregation to raise funds for school children in Tanzania.
“What my family decided to do was to ask people to bring their cans and bottles to the church so we could recycle them for cash and send the money to feed the school children at Calvary Connection Ministries International in U’Kamboni Village,” Ethan said in a newsletter.
That’s how “Cans for Tanz” came about.
It costs about $60 per year to feed a child breakfast and lunch.
“Within the first month, we received enough cans to feed one child breakfast and lunch for a whole year. The second month, we had enough to feed another child for a whole year.
“It has been about a year since we started it and we have fed almost seven children for a year,” Ethan said.
The number of children benefitting from this project has grown to 130.
“I enjoy doing Cans for Tanz. What I like is the friends helping out and knowing I am making a difference. I plan on doing this for at least a few more years and maybe get to go see the kids in Tanzania some time.”
His family has a trash can at the church labeled Cans for Tanz so donors can drop off their cans. When it’s full, Ethan’s family takes it home and puts the cans through a recycling machine.
Culminating a four-week-long diaper drive, The Moms’ Network reports that 4,634 diapers have been amassed to help families in need.
The diapers came in from around the Walla Walla Valley, said Beth Swanson, president of TMN. All the donated diapers go to Helpline, SonBridge Community Center and Catholic Charities of Walla Walla for distribution.
“We are so excited about the donation numbers. Our community has had an increase in diaper demand and these donations were needed.
“Walla Walla is a tremendously giving community and we are so thankful to the businesses, TMN members and the community for embracing this fundraiser,” said TMN member Amy Reed.
Going the extra mile were Rogers Adventist School, Harvest Foods, Safeway on Plaza Way, the YMCA, Wal-Mart, Providence St. Mary Medical Center, Safeway on Rose Street, Andy’s Market, Bright’s Candies, Falkenberg’s Jewelers, Walla Walla General Hospital, WWCC Early Learning Coalition, Walla Walla Catholic Schools, Walla Walla Public Schools, Walla Walla University, Whitman College and Junior Club of Walla Walla.
Donations of diapers can continue to be made directly to Helpline, SonBridge Community Center and Catholic Charities of Walla Walla, Beth said
As a local nonprofit, The Moms’ Network provides tools for members to communicate, receive and exchange information, network with each other and be involved in the community. For more information see www.themomsnetworkww.com or contact Beth at 509-301-7471.
Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or afternoons at 526-8313.