Eighteen visitors from Trail’s Japanese sister city were nearly stranded when poor visibility knocked out Air Canada’s Vancouver flight Wednesday and the travelers were left wondering whether they would make it down to the Coast in time to connect to their international flight.
But luckily there was an alternate route, even if it did involve a bit of local sway.
The students were shuttled from Castlegar to Trail, where five loaded onto the morning flight and the remaining waited for a special afternoon charter flight, which was arranged after airport volunteer Don Nutini made a call to Pacific Coastal.
“Thank God for Pacific Coastal,” said Lana Rodlie, who along with Diana Gonzalez acted as hosts for the week-long trip.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the twinning relationship between Trail and Sagamihara, Japan.
The bond was originally established in 1991 with the neighbouring community of Tsukui, which is now a suburb of Sagamihara.
Described as a friendship that promotes cultural diversity and economic opportunities, the sister cities participate in resident exchanges where the host city looks after the visitors with a place to sleep, meals and recreational activities.
While in Trail, the students visited local schools to interact with students, went horseback riding, took a tour of the police station, Teck and Atco and enjoyed a potluck Halloween-themed dinner.
“The impact of the difference that I think I can have in their lives for me is wonderful, it’s when I receive a Christmas card from a host family that says, ‘Your family made a difference in my life,’” said Gonzalez. “The experience is reciprocal, we learn from them and they learn from us.”
Rodlie and her husband Dan have visited the sister city five times, taking their first voyage in 1993.
Beyond checking out the sights – Mount Fuji, temples, Tokyo Disneyland and local markets – the Greater Trail tourists get a real taste of culture when they learn Japanese calligraphy, origami, suit up in a kimono and participate in a tea ceremony.
“It’s quite an adventure but I think the biggest adventure for us is to stay in Japanese homes,” said Rodlie. “I remember the first time we ever went there it was like going to another planet . . . but it’s much different now.”
Due to the massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan this spring, a trip for local students aged 13 and up scheduled for October was cancelled along with a city officials exchange that was to take place in May.
Though details still need to be worked out, Rodlie said she’d like to see a student-delegation trip next year.