Nearly three decades have passed since students began travelling back and forth between Salmon Arm and its sister city, Inashiki, Japan.
Nineteen students and four adults from Inashiki are visiting Salmon Arm from today, Aug. 16, to Saturday, Aug. 24, says Pam Chudiak, vice-principal of A.L. Fortune in Enderby and one of the exchange organizers.
She says the students, who are being billeted, range from ages 12 to 18 and are in Grades seven to 12.
A fun-filled week is planned for them and their Canadian billet hosts.
On Monday morning, they’ll head to the Friendship Gate at McGuire Lake for photos, a gate that was built by carpenters from Japan 29 years ago.
From there they’re off to city hall to receive an official welcome.
Then it’s the Jackson campus of Salmon Arm Secondary where they’ll tour the school, followed by art activities.
“Some baking, things they don’t normally get to do in school like bake cookies and tie dye T-shirts,” Chudiak explains.
And that’s just Monday.
On Tuesday, she says they’re scheduled for Adams River rafting.
“They love that. Every year they request to go back there.”
Half the group will go down the river, while the other half will go to Quaaout Lodge and the driving range.
Then they’ll get fortified with a bannock taco buffet.
Wednesday’s destination will be Gardom Lake, where they can take part in all the activities provided like navigating the low and high rope course and giving archery a try.
On Thursday afternoon, a family barbecue, beach activities and boating, all at Canoe Beach, are planned.
As the week draws to a close, Friday will be a Sayonara Party at the SASCU Recreation Centre.
Saturday morning comes time for sad farewells as the Japanese students leave Salmon Arm and head to Banff for three nights.
“I figure in the 29 years, well over 1,000 students have gone back and forth… I think we’re very proud of our sister city exchange. We got honoured a few years back by the Japanese consulate-general for being one of three of the longest running in Canada.”
She says students from all over the district and in Grades eight to 12 are chosen to go, often those who are taking Japanese. They generally pay a fee of about $2,500. She will be taking 20 Salmon Arm students to Japan in March next year.
Asked about benefits, Chudiak points to better understanding of each other’s cultures. And then there are the friendships.
“Even though it’s a week, our Japanese students become part of our Salmon Arm families – and form long-lasting relationships. Our daughter went and she’s now 28 – she still communicates with her host.”