When retired Carson City business man Bill Reeves visited Japan in the early 1990s, he was transfixed by the elaborate tea ceremony: the delicate handling of the cups and teapot and the beautiful kimonos worn by the women.
In October, the 67-year-old Rotarian will lead a team of regional business professionals to visit the Land of the Rising Sun to experience its customs and vocations from the inside. Rotary Club District 5190, which includes Carson City, is accepting applications from professionals aged 25 to 40 for the monthlong exchange program.
"It was - how do you put in words the experience? It was one that I cherished because of the insight I had learned of people of a different country," Reeves said Monday. "The biggest lesson I learned is that basically people are all the same. They love their families. They love their work. They love good food and good times. We have a lot of commonality."
Reeves visited Hokkaido to see his daughter, Laura, who was there as a Rotary exchange student. He said Rotary exchanges - for teens and adults - are valuable because they place participants in the homes of natives, who are also Rotary members.
"It isn't just a tourist thing," he said. "You actually assimilate into the culture."
The group study exchange team will visit central Japan, a region called Gi Fu. Reeves, who is a 23-year Rotary Club member, will lead a team of five professionals. They will stay in the homes of Rotarians, visit Japanese Rotary Clubs, and meet their professional counterparts. The program is free to participants. It is funded by Rotary International and supplemented by local Rotary clubs.
June 15 is the cut off for applications. The selection process is June 25. The program is only accepting applications from non-Rotarians and those not related to Rotarians. Applicants must be employed full-time in a recognized business or profession. The team leaves Oct. 8 and will return on Nov. 8.
Dr. Woody Allen, who works at the Sierra Veterinary Hospital, went to Chile in 1978 with a Rotary Club group exchange. He recommends the experience to others because of its cultural and educational benefits. After only a month, Allen was speaking Spanish fairly fluently.
He was in Chile right after the fall of Salvador Allende's communist regime, which was followed by rule by committee, which brought Augusto Pinochet to power.
"There was a military person on every corner with a machine gun," Allen said, recounting his visit to the country. "There was a 10 p.m. curfew. But at the time, Chile was probably the safest place in the world because no one was doing any criminal activity. And the people wanted the (military) services to take over.
"The problems of the communist regime had put the country in total chaos. Inflation rates were 240 percent a day for a certain period of time. It was a difficult time, so the leadership then did what they had to do to get the country on its feet."
Despite the tense political environment, Allen learned from the families he stayed with and political officials he met while traveling. Allen, who has worked as a vet in Carson City for 32 years, said when he returned to Nevada, he was able to donate tires to a vet school in Santiago to get its ambulance back on the road.
Susan Glasson, Rotary group exchange chairwoman, said the last three years teams were sent to France, Germany and Korea.
"Every year, the district sends a different outbound team and receives an inbound team from the same country," she said.
The team visiting Northern California and Nevada returned to Japan in late May.
American professionals visiting Japan shouldn't expect as colorful an experience as Dr. Allen. Japan is a stable constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary government modeled after the European civil law system, according to the CIA Factbook.
n Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.
Applications to go to Japan are available from Bill Reeves at 882-4238 or e-mail reevesnv@sbcglobal.
net. Or go to www.rotary.org to print out the application. The deadline is June 15. The trip is Oct. 8-Nov. 8.