Friendship Force of Baton Rouge welcomes 'Ambassadors'

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen
The Friendship Force of Baton Rouge welcomed six “Ambassadors” from Moscow, Russia and one “Ambassador” from Minsk, Belarus for a 7-day exchange that began on Nov. 5. From left, Yury Papou, Nadejda Toporkova, Aysyly Khakimova, Ekaterina Erdeeva, Wally Taillon, Dmitry Volin, Natalia Ivkina and Sergey Babenko.

The Friendship Force of Baton Rouge welcomed six "Ambassadors" from Moscow, Russia and one "Ambassador" from Minsk, Belarus for a 7-day exchange that began on Nov. 5. Lynn Robbins was the exchange director for the Baton Rouge Club. During their visit, the "Ambassadors" lived in homes of the members and shared the daily routines of Baton Rouge club members.

The guests were treated to a Welcome Party complete with a jambalaya dinner including white beans and green salad. The jambalaya dinner was donated by the Jambalaya Festival Association and was prepared, delivered and served by Wally Taillon. Les Danseurs de la Capitale de Baton Rouge entertained the visitors with a demonstration of Cajun dancing and encouraged everyone to dance – especially in the Waltz Train. They were provided tours of Rosedown Plantation and St. Francisville, the Rural Life Museum, the old state capitol, Capitol Park Museum, the Governor's Mansion and the new state capitol. They were welcomed by Mayor Melvin "Kip" Holden and made honorary mayors and presented with lapel pins. Their flags were presented on the governmental plaza. A tour of the New Orleans French Quarter was enjoyed by all. On the last full day of the exchange, the visitors enjoyed the music at Sunday in the Park before traveling to Hammond for a gala Thanksgiving dinner and Farewell Party hosted by club president, Gayle Duncan and her husband Bob. A red maple tree was planted in the Friendship Force Forest at the BREC Park in Baker in honor of the visitors.

The group then traveled to Atlanta for an additional week of home hosting before returning home. The exchange provided both the "Ambassadors" and their hosts the opportunity to learn of life in other parts of the world and the opportunity to know that deep down we all have the same feelings and concerns. It is hard to become enemies with those we consider friends.