Exchange shows tourists prairie winter life


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/02/2011 (4300 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Where Gayle and Jim Macready live, winter temperatures hover above 20 C, and the beaches and water remain as white and turquoise as ever.

Little wonder then why the Australian natives are interested in seeing what a real winter feels like.
“If we have a day and the temperature only gets to 18 degrees, everybody walks around complaining about how cold it is,” said Gayle Macready.

The retired husband and wife duo are part of a 35-member strong group coming to Winnipeg Feb. 17 as part of a cultural exchange to breathe in a bonafide cold prairie winter.

Matt Preprost Val Keenan (left) and Jean Hyrich will be hosting a group of 35 Australians and Americans from Feb. 17 to 23. The group will visit the Charleswood Curling as part of the tour.

They’re leading a group of 25 Australians and nine Americans from the southern United States as part of Friendship Force International.

For most of the group, winter is nothing more than a picture on a postcard or a scene in a movie, and their curiosity brings a lot of questions.

“We certainly have no idea what it’s like to live in snow,” Macready said in an interview from Ottawa.

“We don’t know how many layers of clothing people will have to wear. If you go shopping, what do you do with all your clothes? Do you have to take some of them off, and what do you do with them? Carry them around?

“We just don’t know how the basics of everyday life in the snow and ice work,” said Macready, who has been on five cultural exchanges around the world with her husband since 2004.

The group will be lodging with members of the local Winnipeg and Manitoba chapters of Friendship Force. The purpose of the program, started in 1977 by then-U.S. President Jimmy Carter, is to give tourists the experience of living with residents in the places their visiting — something they say you can’t get staying in hotels and visiting gift shops.

“When you go into someone’s home and they show you their community, you get a totally different feel about the place you are in,” said Jean Hyrich, a St. James resident who will be hosting a pair of visitors, and has been on 10 exchanges since 2004.

“You get that feeling of what it’s like to live in this country, walking on their streets, meeting their neighbours and their families. It’s a true cultural experience we cannot (get through a gift shop)”

The six-day winter exchange is the first in the program. The group will be visiting a MMJHL hockey game in St. Vital, taking in the Festival du Voyageur, visiting Bird’s Hill Park and Fort Whyte, and taking in a curling demonstration at the Charleswood Curling Club.

“These activities are totally foreign to anything Australians know about,” Macready said.

“We don’t know what to expect. I’m expecting a lot of men will be particularly interested in seeing a furnace and how a furnace works,” she said.

“I’m expecting the people to be very warm people and very welcoming people.”

Hyrich, meanwhile, is hoping the cold weather sticks around.

“We didn’t think we’d have the response we did” with people signing up, she added. “Everything’s looking how we want it to look for them.”

For more information on Friendship Force, visit

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