Swedish Rotarians visit Alberta, end trip in Airdrie
A group of eight Swedish Rotary Club members arrived in Airdrie on Aug. 15 at the tail-end of their tour of southern Alberta.
The group made its way through Canmore, Sylvan Lake, Calgary, Banff and Lethbridge before stopping in Airdrie for three days after which half of the group returned home to Sweden, while the other half travelled to Vancouver.
Members of Sweden’s Rotary district 2340 came from the cities Hallefors, Grythyttan, Arjang and Vasteras.
Rotary Friendship Exchange Chair with district 2340 Marly Westerburgen was floored by the size of everything in Alberta, not surprising as the area of the entire country of Sweden is around 450,000 square kilometres while Alberta is close to 662,000 square kilometres.
“Everything here is so much bigger than in Sweden,” said Westerburgen. “The cars are bigger, the houses, the roads, it’s a bit intimidating at first but it’s so beautiful here with the (Rocky) mountains and it’s very clean.”
The Rotary exchange program offers a different look at a country and goes beyond that of what a tourist would normally see when visiting a foreign land.
Visitors don’t stay in hotels, but rather at the homes of fellow Rotarians from the city they are visiting.
“You really get a feel for the culture and community and day-to-day life with this program,” said Darren Grierson, who holds the same title as Westerburgen but in the Airdrie area.
“You’re enjoying the food and drinks and hearing the sayings of the people who live here year-round so it’s more than just a sight-seeing tour, you’re living the lives of those who you’re staying with.”
Lasting friendships and a clearer understanding of different cultures and people is “an enormous benefit of the program” said Westerburgen, who has done exchanges in the past with people from around the world and across North America.
“You find out that while we have many differences, in a lot of ways we’re very much the same,” said Westerburgen.
“It’s especially true here in Canada because so many Canadians are from European backgrounds so you find that you share a lot of values and traditions.”
The group of eight was given a first-hand Canadian experience with a truly Alberta flavour upon arriving at the Woodside Seniors Club in Airdrie on Aug. 15 where they were treated to a dinner of steaks cut from Alberta beef, Taber corn and Molson Canadian beer.
For Westerburgen and her group, Airdrie was the perfect final leg to a jam-packed 14-day trip.
“Airdrie is such a beautiful city,” said Westerburgen.
“After being in Calgary it’s nice because it’s not quite so big here. The people here are lovely and so friendly, we really couldn’t have wished for much more.”