Karuizawa 

Armed with a few handy phrases and a brief introduction to Japanese culture, Whistler Secondary students are taking the resort’s sister city by storm this week.

Ten students are taking part in the third annual Karuizawa exchange this year, travelling across the Pacific on Thursday, July 3 and staying until Monday July 14.

"I know how to say, ‘how are you,’" said an excited 13-year-old Ali Milner.

"I pretty much know the basics."

The students and chaperones went to language lessons in the weeks leading up to their trip and they have been cautioned to expect many cultural differences in Japan, particularly as they are staying in the homes of Japanese families.

"We’ve really talked about their culture and how it’s quite different from ours," said Milner.

"It’s so civilized. You have to wear slippers in their home and we’ve talked about that and we just need to be ready and just be open-minded about food (and things like that)."

Milner has already had a glimpse into the Japanese culture. Her family hosted two Japanese girls this winter when the exchange came to Whistler. She will be staying in the homes of those girls when she visits Karuizawa.

Also, her older brother was part of last year’s exchange, bringing home many souvenirs like a bamboo screen and some ceremonial swords.

He must have also brought home some good reports of his trip.

Milner isn’t sure what’s in store for her in Japan but she knows the students will be taking part in a festival in Karuizawa where they will wear traditional dress and carry a shrine through the city streets.

They will also be riding the infamous bullet train from Tokyo to Karuizawa when they arrive. The trip should take 4-5 hours.

It’s an expensive ride but the students managed to raise $500 with a recent bottle drive. That money will go towards the bullet train tickets.

The exchange program is open to students Grade 7-12. The maximum number of students who can go each year is ten so it’s a full trip this year.

Exploring Karuizawa over the next ten days are: Ali Milner, Emma Baker, Toria Whitney, Sammy Paulus, Andrew Saitoh, Same Barnes, Becky Bennett, Chelsea Bush, Sarah Craveiro and Tori Williamson and their two chaperones Sue Oliver and Irene Whitney.

Any students or parents who would like more information about the exchange program for 2004 should contact Sue Oliver at the high school in the fall.

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