Eight nervous Castlegar students and their chaperones got their documents in order on the morning of July 10 at the West Kootenay Regional Airport. They were looking forward to a solid 24 hours of travel… across the Pacific to the northern Japanese town of Embetsu.
The fact that visiting parties from Castlegar have been making similar journeys west since 1998 (not every year) did nothing to temper the strong sense of excitement among the group.
It was back in 1989 that a sister-city agreement had been forged between the two communities, and continuing goodwill has been cultivated ever since.
The young Castlegarians will enjoy a cultural exchange that books or videos can only hint at as they’re hosted by welcoming Japanese families. In due course, of course, the hospitality will be reciprocated.
Just prior to departure a spokesperson addressed a number of well-wishers on behalf of the group. Gemma Van Doesburg told the crowd:
“Good morning, thank you everyone for coming. Today we embark on a journey to Japan that we have waited for… what felt like an eternity. As we go, we may miss our families, but we will have found our home away from home in Embetsu.”
The students will spend one week with their Embetsu hosts, the other week of their adventure will include visits to Tokyo and other Japanese locations.
“I speak for all eight of us,” Van Doesburg continued, “when I say that we are so honoured to be part of this trip…so excited to be able to learn about new customs and a new language.”
Thanks were dispensed to various organizers of the program, in both countries before the prepared statement concluded.
“As our departure gets closer I get even more excited,” the young lady declared. “I can’t wait to share my experiences with all of you when I return. Thank you.”
On a brilliant Ootischenia morning the trip got underway. Watch for further installments of the ongoing story that may have many years behind it, but never gets old.