SYRACUSE — Cultural exchange is always an interesting opportunity to learn of other people’s customs and their own sense of normalcy. Through the friendship exchange program, the Syracuse-Wawasee Rotary Club partook in sending Audra Brooks to Argentina with eight other rotary members from six other districts. Later, Rotarians from Argentina came to visit those same districts from Munster to Angola.
“Syracuse was the last stop and I said, ‘Wow, Syracuse-Wawasee is going to be the best place for them to unwind after everything,’” commented Brooks. “They really wanted an Americana experience. We brought them to the Scout Lodge we help take care of, then we went to the shooting range so they were able to get an education about guns and ammunition since it’s very different in South America. Then we spent an evening bowling, drinking and getting ice cream.”
The visit wouldn’t have been complete without spending a day of Syracuse and Wawasee lakes. Afterward everyone met up at the channel marker were a Rotarian social was held at the home of a Rotarian.
To Brooks, visiting Argentina was “lovely” despite the culture differing from her own. Families of Rotarians opened their homes for visitors to stay in and experience their day to day life. The concept of family and togetherness is vastly different from the American as everyone is included in as much as possible, even children. That truly makes for family-oriented club events and get-togethers. Argentinian families wouldn’t eat dinner until 9-10 at night just so they could have a meal together and discuss their day.
The beauty of the exchange program is everyone is able to experience how truly international the Rotary Club is. Despite language barriers and cultural differences, there is the sense of being a part of something bigger than just an Indiana town.
“When they opened their homes to us, we got to see who they were and get to know them on very personal levels,” Brooks remembered. “We exchanged hosting gifts. We exchanged club flags, which is a symbol of unity because we’re all Rotarians. Our common principle and core togetherness was being a part of rotary.”
On cultural aspect Brooks was especially interested in was the sharing of “mate,” pronounced mah-teh. It is a drink of loose tea leaves shared with a group of people who would then take the time to talk about their day over the drink.
“It’s a very big thing in South America. You’ll see people walk around with a thermos and a cup with a metal straw and filter,” explained Brooks. “That cultural togetherness is what I’ve incorporated in my daily routine because it’s refreshing. That communal aspect isn’t what we’re used to, but it brings people together. I got to know a lot of people that way.”