Shortly after arriving in La Paz, Bolivia, Lenore “Nori” Nash, accompanied her boss to a heavy metal festival in one of the city’s more dangerous neighborhoods. As a music aficionado, Nash was delighted by the experience, and glad to be escorted by the U.S. Embassy’s burly security guards. “You don’t get that kind of experience anywhere but the Foreign Service.”
As an office management specialist for the Foreign Service, Nash works directly with senior officers drafting cables, managing schedules, dealing with protocol and “generally keeping things running smoothly.” She is active in outreach and volunteer activities and gets to travel throughout the country on embassy business.
La Paz is the polar opposite to Nash’s previous posting in Bangkok, Thailand, a lush and humid Asian city known for its cuisine and colorful culture.
Ringed by the Andes Mountains in the land-locked center of South America, La Paz sits at 11,000 feet elevation, a city that is poor, cool, dry and dusty. Passengers arriving at its airport 2,000 feet above the city sometimes faint for lack of oxygen before reaching customs.
Nash lives and works at about 11,000 feet, where just walking up stairs can leave a person gasping for oxygen in the thin atmosphere.
She and husband Brian Pindel are adjusting. By the time her parents Nancy and Dwight Nash visit at the end of this year, they hope to be acclimated enough to explore some of the rest of the country with them, notwithstanding safety warnings to U.S. citizens traveling there.
“The Foreign Service is a great opportunity to give my parents fun places to visit,” she said. Nancy Nash, a music teacher in Haines, particularly enjoys seeking out local musical instruments as souvenirs.
Nash’s parents fostered and supported her interest in travel. When Nash was 11, the family traveled to England; at 15, Nash went to Australia as an exchange student; during her college years she studied for a period in France; and after she graduated from college, she taught English in China for three years.
“I enjoy so much not just traveling in other cultures, but also living in them. I feel challenged every day. It makes you feel more alive. You just never know what is around the corner.”
Nash is working toward a master’s degree in non-fiction writing. Her jobs before joining the Foreign Service included editing publications at Portland State University and managing a retro clothing and furnishings store for a collective in Portland.
She became interested in working in the Foreign Service when she sought out Mandarin language speaking groups after returning from China, and met others who had made careers out of their love for travel by joining the Diplomatic Corps.
When Nash arrives in a new country, she immediately sets herself the task of learning local folk and popular music. For Nash the key to unlocking foreign language and culture has always been music and singing. “Mandarin is a tonal language, so when you sing it you sound like a Native speaker.” Nancy Nash recalls how in China her eldest daughter sang songs in praise of Mao as part of a chorus in which Nash was the only foreigner.
Nash says that she developed her love of singing under former Haines music teacher Claudia (Eberly) Frost, who directed a choir in Haines. “Looking back... I had a world -class education. I had wonderful, engaged, inspiring, amazing teachers. I was raised with the thought that I could be whatever I wanted, that there were no limits, that the world was a large place and that art was important to happiness.”
Nancy Nash said her daughter was always singing and could carry a tune at 18 months.
Nash and Pindel enjoy volunteering in Bolivia and have created a set of English classes centered around learning popular American songs. “When you learn a song in a foreign language, you don’t forget it,” Nash said.
Nash met Pindel, a musician and a carpenter, when she arrived as a guest during a wedding brunch in Portland, Ore. Pindel said that after having traveled “extensively” in search of the “girl of his dreams... I guess that I didn’t think that she would just walk into my dining room and sit down across the table from me.”
After their meeting, Nash hired Pindel to help her redo the basement of her 1886 “fixer-upper” home in Portland. She worked alongside him, putting in “sweat-equity” to bulk up a slim budget, and says Pandell was impressed enough by her ability to learn to shingle in a single afternoon that he agreed to marry her.
“It’s that Alaska work ethic. People from Alaska are hard working,” Pindel said.
He joined Nash in Thailand and now lives with her in Bolivia where he is working toward an online degree in construction management. Nash hopes he will be to be able to find work within the foreign service, a constant challenge for individuals married to diplomats. “He loves the travel and he wants to find a way to make it happen.”
Nash is hoping to visit Haines this summer in time for the Southeast Alaska State Fair and is looking forward to seeing her brother Adrian Nash play live with his band in the local music scene and seeing her sister Amelia Nash, who is program director at KHNS.
Nori spends her evenings after work completing the third in a series of Victorian romances. Her thesis plans were “derailed” when she accepted her position with the Foreign Service, but she is still hoping to complete her degree.
Nash describes her writing as “very racy... It is Jane Austen with naughty bits... I will not be publishing under my real name.” “Ruining the Rake,” her latest effort, joins “Scandalizing the Scoundrel” and “Besting the Beast,” Nash’s other finished but as-yet-unpublished works.
Nash relishes the challenge of meeting the exacting standards of the genre. “People think that romance readers are all housewives in Ohio, but the average historical romance reader has a college degree and is extremely picky about anachronisms.”
Local author Heather Lende said she wasn’t surprised that Nash is a writer. “Nori grew up in a historic house full of mystery and romance where the kids played a lot of dress-up games involving elaborate plots – add to that her super creative family of musicians, artists and avid readers and it’s not surprising she’s a writer at all. The other thing is that Haines pre-Internet required young people to entertain themselves and their friends, which is what writers do.”
For all her travels, Nash claims that she hasn’t yet found a place that can match Haines. “For me, even though I have lived in all these countries, my favorite place in the world is always going to be my parent’s cedar-planked hot tub with a view of the mountains, the ocean and the fireweed. There is that Haines silence that hits you when you get off the ferry or the airplane. It is that feeling of quietness, that the mountains are so big and you are so small. I carry that in my heart where ever I go.”
And it is not just the view that she pines for: “I do think about salmon a lot. I miss it...That is really one of the biggest downfalls in the Foreign Service: the lack of salmon.”
“Over the Mountains” is a feature profiling people from Haines who’ve achieved success. To nominate a person to be featured, contact the Chilkat Valley News at 907-766-2688.