Job search leads woman to stint with Peace Corps in Lithuania


April 04, 2002|By Lorraine Gingerich | Lorraine Gingerich,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

BARBARA PASTINE was approaching her 62nd birthday when she found herself without a job. The Highland resident was declared redundant by her employer of more than 11 years.

"On the trail of a new job at my age and interviewing with people half my age was not pleasant," Pastine said in a conversation by e-mail.

Pastine, who has lived in Howard County since 1966, knew she was not interested in starting another 9-to-5 desk job. She soon came to realize that she had the freedom to be more creative with her next career move.

After years of marriage, child-rearing and ordinary jobs, Pastine decided to indulge her interest in traveling and join the Peace Corps. "It was something I wanted to do since JFK times," she said.

Pastine flew to Latvia, then took a bus to Lithuania and began three months of intense language, culture and development training. "I mastered the language enough to present one of two graduation speeches at the end of training and final induction into the corps," she said.

Pastine's grandmother and grandfather were born in Lithuania, and she has relatives there. "The assignment to Lithuania was a fluke," she said. "My Polish relatives live not too far from the southern border, and I have visited them twice."

Her first assignment was in Kedainiai, a small town in the center of Lithuania, where she worked at a regional government office in small-business development. "I was the only non-Lithuanian in this town of 35,000," Pastine said.

The experience transported her back to her childhood in the 1950s "when life was simpler," she said. "It reminded me of my growing up in Shenandoah, Pa. ... Everyone who had a patch of land had a vegetable garden, the kids hang around the local ice cream parlor, and there is not much to do but walk around the town."

Pastine's job involved writing proposals for the European Union and grants for tourism and business. She also taught some English to unemployed women and local government employees.

While in Kedainiai, Pastine communicated with the Lazarus Foundation in Columbia about sending computers to the village schools in the region. "The folks at the Lithuanian Hall in Baltimore installed programs and reconditioned and packaged them for shipment," she said. After the computers arrived in Lithuania, Pastine said, "I delivered 21 computers and two printers to four schools."

In September, Pastine was assigned to Kaunas, the second-largest city in the country. She now works at the Kaunas Business College and the Women's Employment and Information Center (WEIC).

The college is a three-year institution with courses in business, tourism and law. Pastine says it is a technical school - not at the same level as an American university. She has presented workshops on project design and management, and she has taught students how to write resumes.

The WEIC helps women find jobs and learn English, computer skills and bookkeeping. Pastine also works with Finnish and Swedish organizations mentoring Lithuanian women who plan to start businesses.

"We are working on projects for this year to fund programs for e-commerce to develop an Internet site for women in trades and crafts," she said. Another project in which Pastine is involved focuses on empowering women to seek legislative office by finding and supporting those who are interested in running.

Pastine's three children graduated from Atholton High School and live in different areas of the United States. Jessica, 29, had her first baby Jan. 24, and Pastine flew to Montana to see her first grandson, Timothy Maxwell, on Feb. 1. Alexandra, 27, works for a consulting firm in San Francisco, and Stefan, 23, is a graduate student in organic chemistry in New York.

Pastine has been away from home for two birthdays, two New Year's Days, and one Christmas, she said, but she plans to return to Highland in September. "It is time to return and be with family and friends for 65," she said from Kaunas. "My kids miss the holidays in Highland."

Pondering the future, Pastine wrote, "I will return and decide what next."

Talent in the arts

River Hill High School juniors Kacy Clopton, Karl Petre, Megan Gonzales, Hannah Kim and Danny Ji have been selected to represent the school in the Maryland Distinguished Scholars Talent in the Arts Program.

The Talent in the Arts program recruits students in dance, drama, visual art and instrumental and vocal music to participate in a state competition, to be held in June, for a $12,000 scholarship to attend a Maryland college or university. Guidance counselor Molly Gearhart coordinates the program at River Hill High.

Works on display

Cheryl Lucente of Clarksville is a featured artist in the April show at the Artists' Gallery in Columbia. Lucente's exhibition of acrylic paintings and pastels, titled Windows, will be on display through May 3 at the gallery in the American City Building, 10227 Wincopin Circle.

A free reception will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. tomorrow.

Information 410-740-8249.

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