From Where I Sit – Canada Day AIESEC-Style

For the second year in a row, I spent my July 1st afternoon hunched over a hot stove. It’s not that I’m all that thrilled with cooking, you understand. But when a kid asks for a favour, a mother is likely to say yes.

Let me back up. While at university, my daughter Hilary joined a group called AIESEC (Formerly an French acronym for “Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales“). It is the largest student-run organization in the world with chapters in 95 countries, 4,000 exchange interns each year, one million alumni (including Mick Jagger), and 75 Edmonton members. It is truly multi-national in nature. For a student, it’s a safe, fun way to meet people and get cross-cultural exposure to people you’d never otherwise meet. Through leadership opportunities and global internships, students are able to discover and develop their potential. They can have a positive impact on others and become globally minded leaders.

This year, Hilary’s involvement has progressed from the position of Vice-President of Outgoing Exchange to Local Committee President. As parents, we became concerned about the time commitment involved as we heard Hilary is traveling to one or two Canadian conferences each year, attending pot-luck suppers each month, going to meetings, at an AIESEC social, and at the airport with either incoming or outgoing interns. I wondered, “Is this really a cult and you just can’t say? Has any parent ever had to have their child kidnapped and de-programmed?” “We put the cult in culture,” came the reply.

Because incoming interns can be half way around the world from their home for a period of up to 18 months, making them feel comfortable and exposing them to all things Canadian is simply good hospitality. If and when Hilary goes to some foreign country, I would hope she’s treated just as well.

For the second year now, a group of interested AIESEC members have left Edmonton bright and early to do a day of driving for their “World’s Largest” tour. They hit the racquet in St. Albert, derrick in Redwater, pumpkins in Smoky Lake, mushrooms in Vilna, pyrogy in Glendon, UFO landing pad in St. Paul, pysanka in Vegreville, sausage in Mundare and wind up at the Mallard Duck in Andrew. Treating them to a meal of authentic Ukrainian pyrogies (I sub-contract that out to my mom) and accoutrement provided a fitting end to the day. This year, we hosted Frank from Columbia, Neil from South Africa, Bilhan from Indonesia and three Alberta girls as well as Hilary. Some of the young men eat until they need to unbutton their pants, but as one of them pointed out, “when else do I get a home-made meal?”

After a tour of my studio gallery and the requisite photo-op on and around the huge round bales of hay, the boys were tickled to get to drive the 1950s Minneapolis U-tractor. Roy provided a quick how-to of the hand clutch, throttle, and brake and then watched with pride as these guys drove a tractor for the first time in their lives. A couple of the girls stayed the night to attend the local dance at the Andrew Sportoff celebrations.

There’s nothing like showing off Canada on Canada Day, from where I sit.