By Rusty Murry, Nevada Daily Mail (Edited by Dan Hall & reprinted with permission)

In an effort "to promote good will and understanding" the Rotary International Foundation brought its Group Study Exchange participants to Vernon County. The group was from the Eastern European country of Romania (RI District 2241); and the three men and two women visited the northern part of Vernon county on Monday, as part of their month long tour of sites throughout Missouri.

Dan Hall of Lee's Summit, Mo., Rotary International District 6040 Governor, has property in southern Bates County that has been in his family for several generations. Hall, who served as tour guide, was accompanied on this trip by Chad Waldo, Lee's Summit, incoming president of the Lee's Summit Sunrise Rotary Club. Hall, is a graduate of Rich Hill High School.

The five Romanian professionals also spent time in the northern half of the state and in the Kansas City area, where they visited museums, as well as Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums. Despite the discrepancies between life in America and in Romania, Ciprian Badila, 30, an area sales manager for a paint and chemical manufacturer, said, "We noticed more similarities than differences."

Each member of the group stayed with several host Rotary families and during that time saw some farmland in northern Missouri, but they hadn't seen anything like the old order Mennonite store, and the Dan Hoover farm on northern edge of the county.

Even though there was a recent death at the Hoover farm, neighbor Ethan Brubacker agreed to give the group a brief tour of the horse-powered wood and metals shop. Brubacker discovered that one of the group, a college English teacher named Acna Banescu, 30, spoke German and he told the group that members of his order "read, speak and sing" what is known as "high German." The tour moved on to the store and then to the farm of Dennis and Jan Reed near Metz, Missouri.


The Reeds open their home to the GSE foreign exchange visitors every year and try to give them a close-up view of farming on a large scale, yet the Romanians said they did notice some differences in farming. The guests said many of the crops were the same on the large farms, but that the smaller, family farms in Romania grow a lot more vegetables for consumption.

The men of the group ventured into the machinery building heat with a warning to watch the mulberries littering the ground under a tree that Jan said they would cut down if it didn't provide so much shade. The first thing Cosmin Pop, 27, an IT specialist, asked about the John Deere 9570 combine was "does it have air conditioning." Reed replied that it did as well as Global Positioning (GPS). Hall asked if it was the biggest combine they make and learned that there are two even bigger combines with even bigger headers.

Standing in the shade of a pin oak tree near the combine, hosts and guests discussed several things pertaining to life in Romania and the United States. The education system is very different, the Romanians said, noting that in Romania, public schools are better than the private institutions of higher learning. According to Pop, the private colleges and universities are "diploma factories."

Religion became a topic and Reed and Hall were surprised to learn that the government in Romania contributes to the building of churches. All of the visitors were children during the revolution that took place in Romania in 1992, but all had memories of it. Pop said, "it was a violent thing." That brought up the topic of privately owned guns. "it's quite different," said Odi Onyejekwe, 26, an area sales manager a company like Proctor and Gamble. Referring to the fact that ordinary Americans can have them and use them, he said, "That's a bit scary."

The tour went on to a café in Rich Hill for lunch, then on to the Four Rivers Conservation Area. Missouri Department of Conservation employee, Doug Ryan, presented a brief history lesson about the area and its primary uses before the tour went on to view wetlands and the river.

All of the guests said they thought Americans were very "nice and hospitable." Badila, or Chip, as the group called him, summed it up when he said, "I enjoyed meeting the people," and "I felt that the Midwest is more representative of what the United States stands for than any other part of the United States I have visited."