SWY 29 take on the holidays!

In exactly one week, the Canadian delegation will be stepping onto Japanese soil.

For the last few months, the twelve youth have been meeting online weekly to sort out logistics, familiarize themselves with the SWY program, and plan out how they will represent Canada with honesty and pride. Initially being split into committees, they are now wrapping up the loose ends of their projects.

Whether it be designing business cards, picking out the national costume, acquiring sponsorships or planning out the national party and presentation, each individual has played an important role and are ready for the final stretch of training this Thursday in Toronto.

With such a diverse group of individuals, each one celebrated the holidays in their own unique ways, surrounded by family and friends. To showcase this, we collected pictures from a few participating youth and asked them how they are preparing for the weeks ahead.

Stephanie Shyluk: I’m making sure home is settled and the dog has an occasional person to come take her. Making sure my partner doesn’t stress out over having the house alone for 2 months with snow shoveling, dog walking, and me not cooking. A few years ago I left Leesa and our bunny for 6 weeks in the summer and I came home to a Homer and Mojo situation. I can’t imagine what they will get up to if winter is horrible, and the dog, she’s as lazy as them both! I’ve also been prepping myself. The social and emotional side of joining programs like this shouldn’t be ignored. I need to prepare myself for all the intense interactions, the reduction of alone time, and keeping my bubbly, happy personality cared for, so evil Stephanie doesn’t come out 😛



Kevin Kobayashi:  Ensuring the Japanese Community in Toronto are feeling well represented. We are a very tight knit group here and I want to ensure that everyone can experience SWY29 vicariously through our special delegation. This has and always will be a big priority for me. Also, ensuring our delegation is well-prepared. We have such an incredible opportunity to make a positive impact on this journey and showcase the amazing country, that is Canada. We can do this, team! Two months is not a long time. We have to ensure that every moment is met with gusto, presence, and reason. Live in the moments that we experience these next 4 weeks and every minute on this trip. In the blink of an eye, it will all be over!

Christmas time means our entire family is together. This was difficult when I lived overseas. The 16 of us from all over the country get together during December, as my Mom’s side is very close.


Henry Tsang: My christmas (which is also my birthday) this year was spent in Korea where I am working temporarily. Went to see the broadway musical Jekyll & Hyde which was on tour in Daegu, and ended the night with a little “secret santa” xmas party at my apartment. There was a lot to do to wrap up the year, including final exam week, Christmas dinner/parties, packing to go back to Canada and now packing for SWY. I’m just taking it day-by-day. Two months is the longest “vacation” I’ve ever taken, and I worry if my job will still be here after the program, and coming back to my email inbox with 10,000 emails. But I’m sure it’s all worth it right… as we are all in the same boat (literally…).

Gabrielle Tremblay: I am a winter lover and this winter is just fantastic, we are lucky to have a lot a beautiful snow! During the holiday, I wanted to enjoy every pleasure that winter has to offer before going away, so I went for ski, cross-country ski, racket in the woods! I also enjoyed delicious food, winter spa and fire woods in a cabin with my friends and family before going away for few weeks.

Tefa Borja: Holidays = family! I hang out with my family a lot. On Christmas Eve, we have our big turkey dinner, and during Christmas day we just hang out home, watch “how the grinch stole christmas”, order Chinese food and eat left over cheesecake from the night before.


Jennifer Whittaker: I’m excited! This group feel very solid even though I haven’t met any of you in person yet and I have a good feeling about this trip. I haven’t been to Japan in 6 years. It’s the longest time I’ve been away to date. I’m nervous about my level of Japanese even though I used to live there. I’m worried the city, trains and house I remember won’t feel the same. I’m hoping I can visit my family while in Tokyo without feeling like I’m rushing.

We don’t really have any Christmas traditions per se and we have a really small family! So every year, this is pretty much it, and honestly it’s pretty great not to have to worry about big extended family holiday get-togethers 🙂  Now that my brother lives in NS, he’s usually not back right on Christmas. When he does come back, my mom usually does a big sushi dinner!  Left to Right: Aynsley (brother’s wife), my mom, my brother Joey, me, my boyfriend, my dad and my sister Stephanie! The adorable dog who hates pictures is Jessie!





Ryme Lahcene: Spending time with my family is my number one priority. I’m also trying to live in the present as much as I can. I’m trying to get mentally ready for the experience, this without necessary setting any expectations. Which is quite hard as I’m often catching myself daydreaming about Japan and the journey ahead of us.
I’m often away for long periods of time so I guess we are all used to the distance but it’s still a bit sad to say goodbye even just for 3 months. The cold is also brutal but at least we have some s.u.n!!! As for the length of the trip 2 months almost feels a little bit short taking in consideration everything we will be experiencing and living. Like Jennifer said I also have a very good feeling about the team and what’s coming our way! I was lucky to be with my family for the past month, my parents live in Winnipeg and my brother and I are based in Vancouver. We hardly get to be all together so it was nice for a change to be reunited. With time you realise how precious those moments are, and even if we don’t celebrate the holidays my time in Winnipeg has been wonderful. My brother and I got to relax and get back to our old ways while spending quality time with the family. We still felt the holiday cheer and had a delicious christmas couscous on the 25th!


Killaq Shayna Enuaraq-Strauss: In order to prepare for this trip, I’ve been working hard to talk to people back home – I need their help a lot right now! As a Canadian delegate, there are responsibilities, like finding good gifts to represent you and Canada, and making sure to bring a lot of your own Canadian identity into things. This is cool and all, but I live in Florida for school, so trying to find Inuit art and suitable Canadian things? It’s been a bit of a struggle! So, right now my main focus in making sure that I try to keep as connected as possible to everyone back home who has been helping me, and making sure that things run smoothly, since I only just get back to Canada before we leave. I’ve packed 3 suitcases, 1 with things I will only need in Japan, one with things I need in Canada but will not need in Japan, and another with things that I will need leading up to, and during the trip. I’ve never been more organized (not that my suitcases are well-organized in the least) So, I spent most of my holidays doing that. I spent the break with my father and grandmother in Florida, where we lit the candles for Chanukkah, and we ate delicious food and saw many family friends, which was exactly what I needed before heading out on this journey of a lifetime!

Sareema Husain: While I don’t celebrate Christmas, my sisters birthday is on the 25th so we always do something festive. This year, we had a cute little tea party and went skiing afterwards. Right now, I’ve been preparing by buying and packaging lots of gifts, figuring out my school situation next year as I’m in the middle of changing programs and consoling my parents that everything will be okay even if I don’t contact them much on the trip as it’s mad pricey to make phone calls in the middle of the ocean. I have to admit, even for a social media nerd, I’m excited for the disconnect. I get more ideas when all the noise isn’t clogging me up.