It’s the Year of the Pig

by Lynne Ober

The Chinese New Year starts with the New Moon on the first day of the New Year, and ends on the full moon 15 days later.  The 15th day of the New Year is called the Lantern Festival, which is traditionally celebrated at night, with lantern displays and children carrying lanterns in a parade.

Every year Windham’s Nesmith Library hosts a Chinese New Year’s celebration.  February 18, 2007 was the first day of the Chinese New Year – the Year of the Pig.

The Chinese calendar is based on a combination of lunar and solar movements.  The lunar cycle is about 29.5 days.  In order to “catch up” with the solar calendar, the Chinese insert an extra month once every few years (seven years out of a 19-year cycle).  This is the same as adding an extra day on leap year.  This is why, according to the solar calendar, the Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year, which makes it very difficult for the rest of the world to track.

There are 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac, and this year celebrates the pig.  According to folklore, the pig can be sensible, sensual and sensitive, sweetly naive, caring, self-sacrificing, erudite, talented, open-handed, candid, outgoing, amusing, charitable, obliging, graciously hospitable and virtuous, but it can also be hot-tempered, pessimistic, outrageously epicurean, earthy to a fault, sardonic, snobbish, snide, authoritarian, competitive, know-it-all, stingy, victimized, and sometimes downright criminally mad at the world.

New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are celebrated as a family affair, a time of reunion and thanksgiving.  The celebration was traditionally highlighted with a religious ceremony given in honor of Heaven and Earth, the gods of the household, and the family ancestors.

This year’s celebration at Nesmith Library combined the traditional Dance of the Lion, which expresses joy and happiness.  From the fourth day to the 15th of the New Year, lion dance groups tour in China. 

Lanterns were available and participants could get a Year of the Pig tattoo for their hand.  Snacks were enjoyed by all.

Mother and child enjoy the celebration.

Children show their traditional garb.

Destination ImagiNation Holds Mock Tournament

by Karen Plumley

Have you ever wondered how you might go about changing Niagara Falls into a gigantic volcano?  Or have you ever imagined what would happen if the White House turned into a delectable gingerbread and candy cottage?  Well, participants in this year’s Destination ImagiNation (DI) program used their blossoming young imaginations to envision these situations, and many more in a mock tournament that took place on Thursday, February 22 at Pelham Elementary School (PES).  Nine DI teams were given an opportunity to practice and work the kinks out of their skits, which they have been developing over the course of the year, in preparation for the regional DI tournament, being held on Saturday, March 10, at Nashua High School South.

The DI team “Girls Rule and Jacob” performs a play that stars a hero overcoming his fear of a monster in his grandmother’s basement.  Their mock performance at Pelham Elementary School was good practice for the March 10 competition at Nashua High School South.

This season’s DI program has been underway at Pelham Elementary School since September, and one would be hard-pressed to find anyone from the school who has not heard of it.  Early last fall, enrichment classes encouraged their students to participate in the program.  PES Open House had a DI display table enticing guests to try any number of exciting problem solving challenges.  Teams began to form with parent leaders and elementary students of all ages, making a huge weekly commitment that according to many participants has been well worth the effort.

Pelham Elementary School students have taken part in the DI activity for the last five years, and this year has seen the largest participation yet.  Of the nine teams, four are at the “Rising Stars” level, with students ages 4 - 7, while five teams are at what is called the “Elementary Level.”  Rising Stars participate in the program, but do not compete, whereas the Elementary Level participants, do compete with each other and with teams from other schools.  This year, the Rising Stars program requires teams to pick a favorite landmark and learn about it, and then make a new invention that changes it in some way.  Elementary Level teams were given four different scenarios to choose from. 

The CSI:  DI category, required a team to use skills in scientific principals of light, shadow, illumination, investigative techniques, deductive reasoning, and teamwork to solve a mystery.  In Round About Courage, students were required to create a story of heroic courage, in which the hero must overcome a personal challenge; the set up for the presentation needed to be in the style of theater of the round, without the use of electricity.  For the category of Switching TraDItions, students had to experience International Traditions through the senses, using knowledge of geography, teamwork, social studies, and innovation.  Finally, Card-DI-ology asked that teams use playing cards to build a structure that is sound enough to hold a certain weight, while concurrently presenting a story about the impact of all types of “cards” in life, focusing on mathematics, structural engineering, architecture, and teamwork.

Amy Chartrain, one of the three DI coordinators this year, also managed a team.  Her team of third and fourth graders called themselves “Girls Rule and Jacob” and they chose to take on the Round About Courage challenge.  In their skit, the hero had to overcome his fear of a monster living in his grandmother’s basement.  According to Chartrain, team leaders were not allowed to offer any ideas, or help to the students.  Another team at the Rising Stars level, “The Rainbow Pets” used their artistic skills to create a beautiful cardboard sculpture of Niagara Falls.  When turned inside out, the set changed to an erupting volcano.  Students on the team created a story around the transformation.  Team manager MaryJo Palermo-Kirsch, along with Becky Martin and Renee Tarpey coordinated their very young team successfully, and audience members smiled and cheered during their performance.  Principal Alicia LaFrance thanked the audience for “being here this evening to support these very creative students.”

DI is the world’s largest creative problem solving program for young people from kindergarten through college.  It is designed to encourage youngsters to think more creatively and have fun doing it.  For more information, log on to the DI website at

Curbside Pickup or Status Quo?

by Barbara Jester

Which is more cost-efficient:  implementing the curbside pick-up of all residents’ garbage, or maintaining the status quo at the Windham Transfer Station?

That is one of the dilemmas facing town officials as they plan for Windham’s future.

“We are at a time-frame that demands us to make decisions regarding the future of solid waste management for Windham,” Dave Poulson told selectmen during a recent board meeting.  Poulson is the manager of Windham’s Transfer Station, a position he has held for the past five years.

Poulson cited increases in population, solid waste quantities, disposal costs, operational overhead, and logistical restrictions as factors which are impacting the operational budget, and overall performance of the current transfer/recycling station on Ledge Road.

“We need to examine alternative options to Windham’s solid waste management, and decide on a future course of action,” Poulson said.  “Our goal is to commit to an action, and develop the strategy to implement that action.”

Poulson said one major obstacle at the Windham Transfer Station as it exists now, is the logistical design, which limits the potential for growth and design change.  “We are restricted to one building; are designed for a labor-related operation (sorting line); have limited monitoring; have limited space; and have little to no potential for a scale transaction operation,” he said, adding that the site and operational design, might limit interest from the private sector of trash haulers, or impact the cost in bid proposals.

In order to prepare for his discussion with the selectmen, Poulson spent time comparing Windham’s facility with 12 other area transfer/recycling stations.  “Each town has a unique program, providing different levels of service,” Poulson said.  He also noted that Windham provides more services, allows non-restrictive quantities of waste, and has no residential fee structure for the disposal of specific items, such as refrigerators or tires.

With the exception of Windham, Pelham and Salem, all other communities surveyed by Poulson have curbside pick-up programs, most using private trash haulers, in addition to some type of drop-off facility or bulky waste collection program.  Hooksett and Goffstown both have public curbside programs, using town-owned collection trucks.

Of the 12 communities surveyed, Windham has the highest cost per capita.  With a population of 15,000 residents, and an annual solid waste management budget of $1.3 million, the cost per capita is $87.  This compares with Hooksett, which also has 15,000 residents, but an annual solid waste budget of $896,000; making the per capita cost $60, or $27 less per person than Windham.  Nearby, Pelham has approximately 12,000 residents, and an annual solid waste budget of $550,000; which translates into a per capita cost of $46, or $41 less per person than Windham.  Salem, which has an identical annual budget to Windham ($1.3 million), has approximately 30,000 residents, with a per capita cost of $43, or $44 less than Windham’s cost.

When a town uses a private company to collect its refuse, “cost is the driving motivation, not service,” Poulson said.  The private sector can provide better disposal rates and have less operational overhead, Poulson explained, but they “have no loyalty to the public sector,” meaning the municipality and its residents.

“The private sector is only interested in profit,” Poulson said.  “The public sector, on the other hand does a much better job of recycling.”

Poulson said he’s not advocating any particular solution in regard to Windham’s solid waste program.  “I have no hidden agenda,” he said.  “I have no vested interest.”

As for the possibility of implementing town-wide curbside pick-up in Windham, Poulson said.  “The town can save money with curbside pick-up.”  Personal services to residents, however, would likely decline at the same time, he noted.

One of the benefits of curbside pick-up, town-wide, would be a decreased need to expand the transfer station, because residents will no longer need to come to the site, Poulson said.  As things stand now, “We’re running out of space.”

One of the other options suggested by Poulson, should selectmen choose to continue maintaining the transfer station, would be to expand the facility to adjacent property to the east (Wilson Property), and design a proficient operation with a scale/fee program.

“I’d like to know more about Pelham,” Selectman Roger Hohenberger said.  “They’re doing it for half the cost (of Windham).”

Selectmen Margaret Crisler, Alan Carpenter, and Hohenberger all said they don’t understand how services can be increased, by picking up everybody’s trash curbside, and still cut the cost in half.

In order to find answers to those questions, selectmen have decided to visit several area transfer stations, including Pelham, Goffstown, and Hooksett.  “We really need to do some field trips,” Crisler said.  Poulson will be accompanying the selectmen on their excursions, which are anticipated to take place in the near future.

“What I want everyone to understand,” Carpenter said, “is that we are miles away from making any major changes” at the transfer station.

“This is not an overnight thing,” Chairman Galen Stearns said.  “Any discussion will be well-publicized and discussed prior to any decision being made.”  “We have a whole range of possibilities from which to choose,” Stearns said.

Poulson noted that whatever decisions are made, one thing is clear; Windham cannot cut the cost of solid waste disposal and still maintain the same level of services currently being provided to residents.  “We can’t do both,” he said.

Vice-Chairman Carpenter said he doesn’t view the current transfer station’s operation as “dysfunctional.”  “I’m just concerned over escalating costs,” Carpenter said.  “In fact, it’s never run better, than since Dave (Poulson) took over.”  “Personally, I don’t want to throw it out and start over,” Carpenter said.

“We need to agree on the vision of Windham’s solid waste management program and develop a strategy (five-year-plan) to meet that vision,” Poulson said.  “Without defining the parameters of our program and receiving a formal bid, there is no formula for an exact cost regarding our options, but certainly revenue can be saved, if we elect to make significant changes.”

Although it’s only an estimate, Poulson did tell selectman that the cost to provide Windham with a privately contracted curbside pick-up service, with all collected refuse being disposed of out-of-town, might cost approximately $1.1 million per year, based on current statistics.

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