City of Great Falls
Hibikiya Japanese Drummers
Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden
Trip to Culver City, 2008
Some impressions of Lethbridge Twinning Society
trip to Culver City (CC) June 29 - July 12, 2008
The first stage of our journey on a bright sunny morning. Departure from the Heidelberg Inn at 6:15 and final departure from the Park Place parking lot at 6:45 on schedule. Everyone was excited about the trip. As we crossed the Oldman River valley, the grass seemed extra green. We did not anticipate the deluge of rain that would occur two days later. The trees in the Rockies were green and there was still lots of snow at the high altitudes. The border crossing was simple, Harold had done his job well to send our names addresses etc ahead. Everyone had done their part in making sure that they had passports or photo ID. The stop at a busy park in Sandpoint ID had a miniature replica of the Statue of Liberty... a symbol of freedom for Americans... a reminder for many that many of their ancestors passed the monument as they came to America from Europe. On the lake there were pleasure boats of many sizes and descriptions. Recreation on the lake is different than in Lethbridge... people utilize what is available. As we approached Ritzville, the rolling hills were large grain farms that reminded us of the grain farms of the Canadian prairies. [Bob was raised on a farm in southern Alberta and his working career was in agriculture so he especially noted the agriculture along the way].
Our trip was enriched in Ritzville by Ann Olson who gave an evening tour on arrival and boarded the bus in the morning for a town tour. We learned about the early history of the area. Early settlers were German people who came from Russia. The US government wanted settlers for the new land. In order to entice people to settle in the frontiers, the government agreed that the settlers would not have to bear arms for a period of years. The settlers found the area suited to grow wheat. To market the wheat, they developed a cracker and started an industry... the 'ritz crackers' that created work beyond just growing the wheat. There were many craftsmen in the group who built iron decorations for their front yards and public buildings. These remain today. Like Lethbridge, Ritzville was a treeless prairie. Every tree in the town and the surrounding farmsteads have been planted and cared for by the residents. The pride of the people for their homes and community showed in the beautiful front yards. This is a beautiful town. Being a member of 'Communities in Bloom' committee in Lethbridge, I thought about how we might encourage people in Lethbridge to beautify the city. There was an obvious pride in the people to live in a beautiful town.
We passed miles of dry barren land, much of it covered with sage brush that attests to the dryness of the area. Then we passed areas where irrigation made the land productive with a variety of crops... grains, potatoes, hay and vineyards. It was reminiscent of southern Alberta. The Palliser expedition that was sent out about 1863 to assess the prairies of western Canada for inhabitation. The 'Palliser triangle' that included southern Alberta was considered of little agricultural potential. The people who settled in this area, much like the early settlers in western Canada used their ingenuity to find crops that could be grown commercially in a land that posed many challenges beyond being a 'desert'. We passed through an area where grapes were grown and wineries were established. We were taught how to taste wine... swishing it around in our mouth to get the full taste.
Day 3 (July 1) started with a resounding singing of O'Canada. Made us feel real proud to be Canadians... on a trip of good will... a Canadian trait. It reminded us of the purpose of the trip to meet old friends and foster understanding and goodwill. We appreciated the extra effort of Carol and Rolanda to decorate the bus with flags and Canadian things. Everyone got into the spirit of things by wearing their Canada t-shirts. To speed up the lunch breaks, Harold had ordered a choice of 3 kinds of sandwiches. As we passed the Red woods forest, we were impressed with their height, some in excess of 1 metre in diameter and how straight they grew. Then we saw the Pacific ocean... the first time of seeing the ocean for some members. Naturally, a quick stop to permit us to dip our feet in the ocean. The country was a contrast to the desert as we passed through forests for the rest of the day. San Francisco is a city of hills. Some steep streets, it was exciting to see the cable cars still going up and down the streets. Jim Fang, president of the San Francisco Sister
City Society welcomed us at the Four Seasons Chinese restaurant where we were treated to a delicious Dim sum lunch. We learned that about 38% of the population of San Francisco is Asian of which the majority is Chinese (30% of the population of San Francisco). We learned about the earthquake of 1906 and the ensuing fire that destroyed much of San Francisco. The gas lines broke that fed the fire and the water lines broke so there was no water to fight the fires. Finally buildings were destroyed to create a break of combustible buildings to stop the fire. Downtown San Francisco was completely destroyed but the tenacity of the people rebuilt the city. Driving around San Francisco we saw pre- and post 1906 building. There was numerous Victorian era architecture influence in the buildings and homes. It seemed strange that they would refer to the Victorian era in a country that did not have ties with the English monarchy. We heard about the architect who proposed the Golden gate bridge, about the opposition by engineers who said it could never be built and the faith of the common people living in Marin county north of San Francisco who invested money into the construction of the bridge. The bridge construction was completed in 1937 with tens of thousands coming out on the opening day to cross the bridge. We heard about a young lad who asked for a load of manure for his birthday present that was the start of Golden Gate park in a sand area devoid of trees. Big beautiful things can have humble beginnings.
Near King City, in an essentially desert area, a new small housing development did not take valuable farm land out of production. In an ever increasing food short world, we should consider where we build houses for an increasing world population. Workers tending to row crops reminded me of my days on the farm in Raymond. It is a daunting task as one looks at the vast fields and work ahead. It reminded me that I wanted a better life than working all day in the hot sun and was an impetus to stay in school and get an education, even the hard work of university and graduate school seems so easy compared to working the hot fields. The sight of these workers reinforced my conviction that I made the right decision. Irrigation made this wide valley of vegetables and other crops possible. Later, I learned in the restaurant where we stopped that the orange orchards were started about 30 - 40 years and is still expanding. The water apparently was piped in from the hills and beyond as we saw the irrigation water carrying pipes from the barren hills beyond the orange orchards. Passing through other areas, I noted bluffs of trees and single trees growing in an otherwise barren land. This seems to be nature's way of limiting the number of trees to suit the available water. Talking to the local people at the rest stop, I learned that we were also in one of the largest oil fields in USA. It is amazing what one can learn by striking up a conversation with the local people.
As we neared Los Angeles, we saw 4 lanes of traffic moving in both directions over the Santa Monica mountains, especially commuters returning home from the greater Los Angeles area. The next time that I have to stop for two lights on MM drive, I hope that I can be thankful that I am not in a line of slow moving traffic for many miles.
Finally we pulled up to Culver City (CC) City Hall.. The second stage of our journey had begun. It was great feeling seeing old friends and making new friends. The long trip was worth it. For two days friendships were rekindled and new friendships established. Each had different experiences like going to the beach for some, sitting in gardens and just chatting and drinking a few cold drinks. Experiencing how Americans celebrate independence day... pot luck lunch with our hosts, BBQ at the Alexanders where the street was blocked off for our use including line dancing. This gathering has been an annual event for many years and each time that LTS has visited, the invitation has been extended to us. A large crowd gathered at the high school football field for entertainment ending with a spectacular fireworks display. Back at host families, the talk went well into the night. An inscription on a paper weight caught my eye that said "No act of kindness is ever wasted". I thought about this as I received acts of kindness along my way on this trip. I appreciated how everyone helped me with my walking and patience as I moved slowly getting on and off the bus, No one ever complained!
In the morning when we arrived to go on the bus for a tour of the CC, we learned that the bus had a mechanical problem and was not available. Julie Cerra and other members of the Historical Society talked to us and we looked at historical artifacts in the Veterans' Memorial Center. We noted the painting of scenes around Lethbridge hanging in the main rotunda. There were parallels in problems and in people of vision between CC and Lethbridge. We saw that problems became opportunities for better communities. Lunch at the historic CC Hotel was an experience in elegance in architecture.
The monument of Sam Culver brought out the opportunity to learn about and see the depth of his vision for an outstanding community. One that the people are proud of that broadens their thinking beyond their own community... to the world community that they put into practice through Sister City relationships. At the evening dinner, at least one bottle of wine that we purchased at the winery that we visited was consumed. After the dinner, at Sonnia Karroum's home, the talk turned to our Sister City relationships. Sometimes is it more understandable if a concept can be explained along physical things. Bob related this to his experience with Nikka Yuko Japanese garden in Lethbridge... first it was seeing the garden for aesthetic pleasure... gradually it became seeing and understanding the harmony and balance of the garden. This understanding lead to a sense of serenity, a feeling derived from the garden. Relating this to our relationship with CC, twenty years ago the relationships began as friends... we recognized differences in our societies, our different circumstances and environments, our governance...we developed an understanding of each society... learning more of our own and appreciating it more... without being judgmental. Through the understanding a goodwill and trust developed. We care about and help each other as a second nature. I saw this in action when at the end of the evening, our young people without being asked, help clear the tables, folded and stacked the chairs and tables then placed them close to the house ready for the truck that would pick them up. It was a simple act of kindness between friends. This is what Twinning is about... simple acts of kindness and goodwill between people of different communities. These simple acts may seem trivial, but the attitudes can be used collectively towards world peace. The world needs more acts of kindness to solve differences. Again I am reminded of the words on the paper weight at my host family home "no act of kindness is ever wasted".
Sunday July 6, as we met at the Veterans' Memorial Center, we were aware that it was nice to meet again, but it is sad to part again. However, we looked forward to our next meeting in three years in Lethbridge. On this positive outlook, it made the parting a farewell, we look forward to seeing you in three years. Mayor Tarleck reminded us that in the Blackfoot language there is no word equivalent to 'good-bye'. We parted, but it was not good-bye.
With pleasant memories of CC, we started on the third stage of our journey. Some explored Catalina Island, Crystal Cathedral, San Diego with its wonderful Seaworld and old downtown, some shopped. Each found activities and things to see of interest. We stopped to examine a yucca cactus, about the only vegetation that grows in this desert. Yucca is native to the western hemisphere. Even the yucca was spaced out to utilize the little water available without competing for it. There are about 50 species of yucca. The yucca requires a specific butterfly (tegeticula, one of about 16 species) for pollination. While the yucca is widespread in the southern USA. There are pockets of it growing in Montana and one small pocket in Southeastern Alberta. Yucca have been transplanted to Europe, Japan and a few private gardens in Lethbridge. I wondered if the butterfly followed the plant to these areas. The white or sometime creamy yucca cactus flower spike is something to behold. Primm and Las Vegas gave those who wanted an opportunity to try their hand at gambling. For some it was a time of rest. Then two days of riding the bus. As we passed through the corner of Arizona, it was apparent that this section in I-15 really was to connect California to Utah... it did not serve Arizona directly. I wonder who paid for its construction. Do state funds go into the construction and maintenance of interstate highways. If so, did Arizona pay the state portion of the I-15 through Arizona?
Through Utah we passed areas of near desert and areas of productive farms. We were in a wide valley. The Great salt lake was visible parallel to the I-15. We crossed the foot of Idaho and into Montana. It seemed strange to see the mountains in the east, the Bear Paw Mountains, but the Rockies were not visible to the west. In Great Falls we were greeted by Bob Harris and members of the Great Falls International Relations committee. They are doing work in building international goodwill and understanding... exchanges of citizens and students. LTS has participated in events in Great Falls to foster our 'friendly relations' with them. The rules of the International Twinning Assn allows only one 'Twin City' in a country. The flat top hills with steep sides of Northern Montana are a subject of paintings by Charlie Russel.
Back in Lethbridge, right on schedule, we thanked Henry Funk for a safe trip and all the extras that he provided beyond the call of duty to make our trip pleasant. Then we all went our own way, carrying fond memories of the LTS 'Culver City Express Educational Tour'.