Forging friendships with sister city
The annual delegation from Lacombe’s twin town of Rikubetsu, Japan, this year consisting of 11 Grade 8 students and two chaperones, arrived in Lacombe on Saturday. They were welcomed at Terrace Ridge School and are pictured here with their host families and members of the Rikubetsu Friendship Society. (Ashli Barrett/Lacombe Globe)
For the 26th year in a row, the world became a little smaller and closer for 11 Japanese students and their Lacombian host families.
On Saturday, the annual delegation of students from Lacombe’s twin town, Rikubetsu, Japan, arrived in the city in a celebration of friendship and an exchange of cultural understanding.
City of Lacombe Mayor Steve Christie was on hand to welcome the group and said it’s always great to have them visit.
“I’m always amazed with the effort the Town of Rikubetsu and the delegation they send put into learning English and strengthening the relationship between the communities,” he said.
“It’s honouring to see how much weight they put on it, and how serious they are about it.”
At the time of twinning in 1986, Lacombe and Rikubetsu were similar in population, as well as geography.
Since then, Lacombe has grown exponentially, while Rikubetsu has actually become smaller. The town, which used to send high school students over as part of the delegation, no longer has a high school and instead transports students to a neighbouring town.
Rikubetsu, which is situated high in the mountains of Japan, has also lost their train into the community and now uses buses instead.
Christie said it was important for the students to see the differences as well as the similarities between the two communities, a sentiment Rikubetsu Friendship Society President Marlene McQuesten shared.
“It’s important for us to understand somewhat how life is for them and vice versa - the cultural differences and similarities,” she said. “Our world is smaller now, so it’s good to know we have friends in the far east, and for them to know they have friends here.”
The trip involved a visit to the Lacombe Corn Maze and Telus World of Science Centre in Edmonton as well as a city tour.
Tuesday afternoon they got a taste of Canadian schooling for just the second year, attending a few classes at Lacombe Junior High School.
“Last year it worked very well. They participated in gym class, learned beekeeping and even tasted honey straight from the honey comb,” she said. “They really enjoyed it.”
A farewell banquet was held on Tuesday evening at the Lacombe Memorial Centre, where the students were gifted with Central Alberta Selects jerseys and one last night with their host families.
The delegation departed early Wednesday morning.
In the future, the Rikubetsu Friendship Society hopes to have a reciprocal arrangement, potentially for 2018.