(GANANOQUE, ONTARIO) Imagine waking up in a culture and country radically different from your own. The language is different, the food is different, all of the customs are different. Even the people look nothing like you. They are all very friendly and polite, but everything is new and not like anything you’ve been accustomed to.
Now imagine that you’ve volunteered to do this, and you’ll be staying there for a whole year. This is exactly what Elizabeth Walker of Gananoque has decided to do through a Rotary Interact Exchange program.
“I decided to go on a youth exchange for a chance of a great adventure and a chance to represent Canada and my community as well,” says Walker. “I decided to go to Japan because of how different and unique the culture is as I am hoping to reach a whole new level of culture shock and through that, understanding.”
She is hoping to leave in August, and needs to raise $1,000 to help defray some of her costs for travel. In order to do that, she is organizing several fundraisers, the first being a special evening called “A Taste of Japan” which was held on May 22 at Gananoque Intermediate and Secondary School.
Guests at Walker’s dinner indulged in Namba Maki (namba-style bacon and lee rolls), shitake no negi no miso shiru (miso soup with mushrooms and leeks), karei no kara age (tempura style sole), jagaimo su-age (fried potato), gyuniku to broccoli no itame-ni (braised beef with broccoli), kanisu (crab and cucumber salad), mikan (oranges), ringo (apples) and dalgaku imo to hani (fried sweet potato with honey).
“Thirty-five people came out to the dinner,” says Walker. “In order to come up with the menu I searched through an old Japanese cookbook translated to English. And I mean old – the book was falling to pieces. Then I picked out seven recipes to attempt, each with a separate style of Japanese cooking. Each week or so I would try each dish. If it was good I would include it. Most of them – those that I included in the menu – were fantastic, the rest – such as pickled radish – were not included.
“My classmates were my taste testers. People loved the food, and I received many compliments for the food and the ‘ambiance’. It went fantastic. The food was prepared by the Hospitality crew at GISS, but I really want to give special thanks to Emily Sharpe, Neda Amini, Stephanie Docs, and Bentley for all the help they’ve given me making this possible.”
While in Japan, Walker will be staying with three host families in Osaka. She will be travelling on a student visa and attending school while she is there. Although she cannot take gainful employment during her time away, she plans to devote time to volunteer work.
“I hope to give them a greater understanding of Canada, create new friendships, and create a chance for others to consider youth exchange for themselves,” says Walker. “For myself, I’m looking forward to independence, new friends, a greater understanding of Japan, a greater understanding of myself, a chance to represent Canada and my community to the best of my abilities and to experience a greater adventure beyond my wildest dreams.”