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Japan. Respect. Culture. History. Beauty.

A garden in Hiroshima.  Caline Strach is  Interact President who earned the trip with us via a contest.  Karly and mom.

A garden in Hiroshima. Caline Strach is an Interact President who earned the trip with us via a contest. Karly and mom.

A trip of a lifetime.   Japan was 12 nights of amazing sights and friendships.  The trip was one of the best ever.   Karly got to see her host family in Koriyama,  the Peace Forum in Hirsoshima was impressive,  the people were quite unlike North Americans.   We had 4 fabulous nights in Koriyama, Fukushima hosted by Rotarians.  Tokyo was incredible.     I want to go back.   Some of the highlights:

* Hiroshima was very green.  The Peace Park where they remember the atomic bomb drop is something I could never forget.
* Touring the sight of where the tsunami hit land in Fukushima is hard to describe.  Even after 2 years –  immense work remains.
* The Rotary members in Koriyama treated us so well.  We saw Japan in a way you couldn’t if you were on your own.
* The people have a quiet respect for one another.  Very admirable.
* We spent time with 2 PR people from Tepco, the company that operates the nuclear power plant that was shut down after the earthquake.  They have 1600 staff dedicated to improving the lives of the 150,000 people who will receive compensation as a result of the plant.  The 2 apologized to us for the problem.  It will take 35 years to clean up.

Where water hit the land..   Befoe the tsunami this was a neighbourhood like any other.  It was haunting and emotional to drive through and stroll about.   We picked up tiny toys where children once played.

Where water hit the land.. Before the tsunami this was a neighbourhood like any other. It was haunting and emotional to drive through and stroll about. We picked up tiny toys where children once played.

* Tokyo was a pleasure the 2 different nights we stayed.
* Meeting 2 special people –  Ako was a Rotary Group Study Exchange student who stayed with us for 4 days,  7 years ago.   Michiko was an exchange student who lived with us for 4 months about the same time.  First time we saw both since.  Very special.
* Standing in a train station someone said “stand back a train is coming”.  I thought nothing of it until one zipped by – at 300 KM’s an hour!
* The food is very different.  Lots of raw fish.   I did not put on weight.
*Rotarians are the same around the world.  All wanting to do more,  all proud of their accomplishments.  This summer my district will host 5 Japanese youth – all displaced from their homes due to the Tepco plant.  Rotarians working together.
* Seeing and hearing daughter Karly speak Japanese.  magic. So proud.
* Tea ceremony.  An honour.

We had the most incredible two weeks.  We attended a Rotary Peace Forum,  we bought along a future leader (Caline),  we experienced Karly’s Japanese families,  we saw old dear friends and made new ones.  What a trip.

Very special out for supper in Koriyama.  All past host families for Karly.

Very special out for supper in Koriyama. All past host families for Karly.










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Four and a Half Million Dollars Raised

Lots of smiles with 12/13 President of Rotary International Sakuji Tanaka

Lots of smiles with 12/13 President of Rotary International Sakuji Tanaka

This was a thrill of a lifetime and I am so honoured to be a part of it. Raising 4.5 million dollars!   The media release says it all below.

A unique fundraiser occurred Saturday evening, May 11, 2013 in Edmonton, Alberta that successfully raised 4.5 million dollars for the Rotary Foundation – well over the target of one million dollars.  Organizers were particularly excited to have in attendance the President of Rotary International, Sakuji Tanaka.  Kevin Hilgers is the Governor for the district that includes northern Alberta, NW Saskatchewan, NE British Columbia and Northwest Territories.  “The fundraiser was unique whereby we asked Rotarians to include the Rotary Foundation via their will and estate planning.  In other words –  become a member of the Foundation’s Bequest Society.    We asked them to provide documents so we could substantiate and track the commitments, and certainly recognize them for their efforts.

Our object was to find over one million dollars of new commitments to the Rotary Foundation. This also included members who chose outright gifts of cash to the Foundation.  We marketed this for almost a year.  It wrapped up May 11 with the Million Dollar Dinner. In the end a check totaling just under 4.5 million dollars was handed to President Tanaka in front of a crowd of 150 supporters of the Foundation.  Even after we printed that check we had several more commitments come in so in fact we are over the 4.5 million mark.  Many in the room were stunned at the amount raised.  4.5 million dollars in commitments to the Rotary Foundation!  We will make a difference tomorrow and in the future, locally and around the world – thanks to these individuals we recognized at this event”.

Hilgers adds, “The picture (attached) says it all.  It’s not every day you can “wow” the President of Rotary International in your own hometown.  It certainly was a thrill in many ways.”  Lastly some advice for any other Rotary Districts who wish to hold such an event.  “We had a team that put on a terrific event.  It really sparked interest in this sort of fundraising.  It captured the imagination and excitement of Rotarians. If anyone wishes to look into doing a Million Dollar Dinner we would be happy to share.  I would highly recommend doing this.  It’s a very fresh approach and one that obviously inspired many”.

UPDATE – I had so many ask about this unique fundraiser I built a “How-To” website so others can easily do the same.

Update:  The magazine Rotary Canada did a story on the event, click here.


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Receiving the QEII Diamond Jubilee Medal

It was quite an honour and thrill to receive the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, in Red Deer.    I was nominated by Premier Redford in large part due to my role as Rotary District Governor for the year in District 5370.  Jan and I drove to Red Deer as the date worked for us and we were residing in Edmonton at the time for our Rotary duties.    There was a ceremony where around 30 received the medal.  The Premier and Lieutenant Governor of Alberta handed out the medals.  Jan and I took along a Rotary Youth exchange student with us,  Elly from Taiwan.  She was also thrilled to meet these people.

Alberta Premier Redford,  me and The Honourable Donald S. Ethell, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta

Alberta Premier Redford, me and The Honourable Donald S. Ethell, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta

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2012, highlights

Map of Rotary District 5370

Map of Rotary District 5370

One of the highlights for me and Jan in 2013 was the official Rotary Club visits as part of our Governor duties.   We visited every one of the 61 Rotary clubs in our district between late August and end of  November.  We also had a separate meeting with the club executive.  I usually gave a 20 minute talk to the club membership after a nice evening dinner event usually.    The executive meetings allowed us to learn about their clubs and offer assistance if needed.   We also met with the youth groups.. around 14 or so Interact clubs and Rotaract clubs.

Jan and I put on around 17,000 km’s driving to places like Fort Nelson and Jasper and Battlefords and Peace River.   We flew to Yellowknife and Ft. MacMurray.   We loved every minute of it.   The clubs are s0 proud to show off their accomplishments.  We are glad we spent a few extra days in the clubs further away from our city,  that being Yellowknife and Hay River and Ft. MacMurray.    All along the way I realized how lucky I am to have Jan.  She visited every single club with me.    I couldn’t have done it with out her.  Such a rare thing to be able to visit 2300 people and learn about what makes them tick in their communities.   So glad to have Jan along with me.  The “Official Governor  Tour” will always be a very memorable experience.  Once in a lifetime.  Our year as Governor ends June 30th, 2013.

Meeting the Rotary Club of Yellowknife executive in Yellowknife, NWT

Meeting the Rotary Club of Yellowknife executive in Yellowknife, NWT.



A warm sunny day in Hay River,  North West Territories.

A warm sunny day in Hay River, North West Territories.






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From Japan to Canada

4 Rotarians from the Rotary Club of Koriyama South, Fukushima Japan attended the Rotary District 5370 Conference. Here with Karly are her Japanese families along with her (real) Grandpa Elmer and family. Missing from the photo is her Grandma Nici who also attended

The Rotary District 5370 Conference was even more special because Karly’s host families and friends from Japan visited.   Karly flew in from University of Victoria to reunite with a host dad and 2 host moms from Japan as well as Jean-Pascal, another member of the club active in the youth exchange program.   This was the first time Karly was  reunited with her Japanese families since the earthquake, so it was quite the weekend.   We had them all over for brunch and were honoured with a tea ceremony by Mrs. Kihara.  Mr. Kihara and Mrs. Honda  and Jean Pascal also took part in the tea ceremony.

Before they left Jean Pascal gave me a document from the Rotary Governor from their District 2530.   It really moved me and made me think about how life must be in that area after the earthquake and nuclear disaster.    Life goes on for us.  A different story for them.  Governor Ito’s words are HERE

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East Coast with Daughter Karly

Just outside of St. John’s, Newfoundland – in a fishing village.

When the daughters were in grades one or two or 3 I promised each I would take them on a “Dad Daughter” trip when they graduated.   Catherine and I went to Panama a few years ago.   Karly and I looked at a few areas of the world that we hadn’t visited.  Karly was quite keen on PEI. I was keen on Newfoundland.

We spent 2 weeks on the road.  4 nights in Newfoundland,  3 nights in the Halifax area and a week on PEI.    It was a terrific trip.  Karly said she really enjoyed Newfoundland.   Our hosts were a fellow Governor, Tom and Shirley.  They were terrific!   We loved Newfoundland.  Halifax was fun, too.   I loved PEI.   The weather was terrific,  Charlottetown was beautiful.  We had a quaint hotel.   Loved it.  Perfect for power walking.

Karly and I reading on the bench overlooking a bay in Charlottetown

I really enjoyed my time with Karly.  I found out Karly is a great traveler.  Not a surprise after living in Japan and Brazil I guess.   She also has a great sense of humour.  She isn’t a spender nor extravagant person.  She carries herself well with people she meets.  She is easy to please and not fussy.. is not worried about souvenirs, and is a very gracious person.  She is a joy to travel with and I am so proud to call her my daughter.  I really enjoyed the time with Karly.

This fall Karly is off to University of Victoria, BC.  She will take sciences with a minor in Asian studies.  She wants to keep up her Japanese and learn more about the culture and language.  Who knows where that will take her. I am confident it will be positive and unique. For Karly this is a very exciting time of life, it was  wonderful to share two weeks together at this juncture.

So many years ago we non-nonchalantly said “When you girls graduate we will do a journey together, just Dad and Daughter.”   That seems so long ago, but I sure am glad we dreamed about if for all those years and did it.  I learned so much about Karly and a few years ago Catherine.  Where ever life takes us we will always have these memories and I will always have so much more knowledge about my two lovely daughters.

Karly in front of the home that inspired the author of “Anne of Green Gables”


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Thailand. Land of a thousand smiles

As seen from the tuk tuk we often hired in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  these were fun.

As seen from the tuk tuk we often hired in Chiang Mai, Thailand. These were fun.

The best part about Thailand – the people. By far.   The Thai people are very warm,wonderful people.   It’s hard to describe.  Maybe it’s the Buddhism lifestyle and way of life.

Jan and I spent 2 weeks in Thailand during the Rotary International convention in Bangkok.    We really enjoyed Chiang Mai, a city of 250,000 north of Bangkok.

Bangkok was hot, sticky, crowded, noisy, busy.  It was also exciting, a lot of fun, great shopping,  fascinating,  mind expanding, educational.

Chiang Mai and area was peaceful for sure.


Top thoughts on Thailand.

  • The Buddhism way of life is fascinating.  Monks, temples, respect,  peace.
  • Sure is cheap there.  Bought a custom fitted blazer for 10o Canadian.  Meals are inexpensive.  Cab rides are $4.00.
  • It’s not easy getting used to paying five thousand baht’s for something.  You think “OMG that is a lot of…….” then you figure it out.   5,000 is one hundred and sixty six dollars Canadian.
  • In both cities we rarely heard sirens or saw police.  We always felt safe.
  • A hot, dusty, bumpy ride.

    On a 40 degree day an elephant ride may not be the most comfortable activity.

  • We never paid for the same amount for the exact same cab ride more than once.
  • Tuk tuk rides are a hoot.
  • I did not know there was so many foods I could not recognize.
  • Flying in Thailand is far more civilized.
  • I thought I knew what hot was.  I didn’t till I went to Thailand.
  • Jan and I did many massages.   They jump right up on top of you.  Fun for $4.00 CDN.
  • We will be back for sure.  Thailand,  Asia, Korea…  we will.  Absolutely.  Okay Japan, too.  What a bucket list.


Ready to sing at any lounge with my new jacket. Or sell homes for Century 21.

The Baiyoke Sky Hotel is the tallest building in Thailand. We were at floor 54. I think we were upgraded, what a veranda! We hosted a few parties in this room.











We did a tour of Bangkok on a very, very hot day. Quite interesting. Jan really enjoyed it. Did I mention it was hot? This was a temple.  Amazing, really.

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