This year’s Rotary conference was held in Yakima, Washington. That’s about as far south as cross-border District 5060 extends, with Clearwater, B.C. its northernmost club. Hazel Wadlegger, our Rotary Exchange Student Daniela Romero from Bolivia, and I set off to check it out. Travelling on our “dime”, we could adjust it as we felt the urge. An overnight stop in Osoyoos en route turned the 800+ km trip down into a more relaxed drive.
Upon our arrival on Thursday afternoon, May 1, Daniela was swooped up by the other 29 exchange students, representing some 19 countries, all spending the school year in various communities in this part of North America. Hazel and I attended a Fiesta night, starting in Rotary-improved Franklin Park, and with the meal served in the local museum which we investigated thoroughly. Almost 50 per cent of Yakima’s population is Spanish-speaking and we were honoring their Cinco de Mayo festival happening that weekend.
Our other activities were many, including a hike on old railway grade through the Columbia Basalt of Cowiche Canyon; twice we were hosted with fine food in local homes; speakers told of their own experiences, talked of Rotary’s achievements, and provided inspiration to “keep up the good work”. The current District Governor, from Yakima, wowed us with his talents as a magician. Displays included a ShelterBox tent and its contents, a program to assist areas devastated by natural disasters that Clearwater residents have generously supported. Mixing and mingling, sharing ideas with Rotarians from both sides of the border was informative and fun.
Meantime, the exchange students either joined us or had their own program of events, and provided part of the entertainment on the final morning. Next year’s District Governor is from Kelowna where the 2015 District Conference will be held. Two RCMP constables, both Rotarians, led that delegation into the room and later stood patiently while many exchange students were photographed with them. These excited young people, including Daniela, were about to make a bus trip throughout the District to participate in many activities like hiking, river rafting, and zip-lining. Daniela then had the added bonus of flying to New York to meet with her parents for a few days before returning to Clearwater towards the end of May.
Not to be outdone, Hazel and I chose a different route home, taking in Dry Falls and the old lava flows beside Grand Coulee Dam, and crossing back into Canada through tiny Nighthawk. Our overnight stop at Okanogan, WA was much easier on our wallets!
Continued wandering along less used roads took us through Keremeos and Princeton, and north on Highway 5A to Kamloops.
We had learned lots, seen spectacular countryside with orchards and more flowering in spring green valleys on both sides of the border, and enjoyed great camaraderie.