Friendship through exchange

Exchanges are happening all the time, but they’re usually set up for high school or college students. Where are the exchanges for people a bit older—the 40-somethings or the retirees?

Exchanges are happening all the time, but they’re usually set up for high school or college students. Where are the exchanges for people a bit older—the 40-somethings or the retirees?

One I know about is the Rotary International Friendship Exchange. It works really well for people who are in Rotary and are interested in travel. My family has hosted Rotary friendship exchangees from Australia, Great Britain, Argentina, Spain, Taiwan, South Africa, Iowa, New Zealand, and Brazil. And we’ve been on an exchange to Brazil.

We’ve met incredibly interesting people. They’re all keen to tell you about their country and their customs.  All of them participate fully in everything you plan for them, be it a trip to the local dam, a hike to Dove Hill, or a dinner featuring rainbow trout.  Usually, there is no language problem as most friendship groups have English speakers among them — even the Aussies.

The most memorable friendship exchange we hosted was with Brazilians from Sao Paulo District.  These people requested that the exchange take place during the winter and that they have as many experiences as possible in snow. So, we took them cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, skidooing, sliding, and building snowmen.

On these Rotary friendship exchanges, the hosts only get to look after the visiting friends for about four days. Then they are moved on to another club in the area. Sometimes we have had to drive our visitors to Colville to be picked or over the pass to Creston.

This past week, we hosted a Rotary Friendship group from New Zealand.  Usually, a Friendship touring group is made up of five couples, but only two couples made up this group. That made our hosting job a lot easier, but it was still necessary to provide a program of activities and to feed and accommodate them.

On the first day of their arrival, we took them to meet Mayor Lawrence Chernoff, who did a wonderful job touring guests around city hall.  Our kiwis got to sit in the mayor’s chair and listen to his stories about what a great city we have.

After that we strolled the Millennium Walkway and had a tour of Zuckerberg Island, guided by historian Chris Darcy. We caught the May Day parade in Fruitvale, took a train ride to the cascading waterfalls of Beaver Creek, and had beef-on-a-bun in Haines Park.  Before day’s end, we tasted wine at Columbia Gardens Winery and drove to the massive rush of water at Seven Mile Dam.

One day we traveled to Deer Park to have a picnic at the Smith’s incredible cottage, where we showed our Kiwi friends how to play bocce and horse balls. Along the way, we stopped at Hugh Keenleyside Dam site and spent a few moments examining marmots on the hillside, after which we climbed up to Tulip Falls to another rush of powerful water.

On the final day, we toured the Kootenay Gallery, the Doukhobor Discovery Centre, and the Doukhobor Suspension Bridge. They loved everything, particularly the suspension bridge—again with its rush of water, but also because of a Canada Goose discovered nesting on top of one of the pillars. The Bistro Restaurant served up a fine luncheon of Doukhobor foods before we moved on.

The final item we arranged was a tour of the new SculptureWalk. The sculptures had been set up Saturday, May 28, and we were able to gaze upon the new artistic works on Monday, May 30. The entire group was in awe at the outdoor art this community has on display. To top it off, SculptureWalk co-ordinator Pat Field let me have the first copies of this year’s brochures for the walk. What a delight — this walk and the entire four days with our new-found friends.