From 30 above to 30 below: Two Peruvian brothers are getting a bracing taste of winter in Alberta after arriving to volunteer for the 2019 Canada Winter Games.
Italo and Mirko Del Castillo flew 7,967 km from Callao, Peru, to immerse themselves in Canadian culture during this country’s largest sporting event, which runs until March 3 in Red Deer.
The Del Castillos knew Canadian winters can be fridgidly cold. But nothing could prepare them for the blast of -39 C with windchill they experienced upon their arrival.
“In the beginning, it was harsh,” admitted Italo, 24, who comes from a coastal, tropical climate and had never before seen snow.
But after he and Mirko began dressing in layers for the below-normal February conditions, it got a lot better.
“Two days after, I felt I could get accustomed to the local weather,” said Italo.
Mirko, 29, still wears a parka in the house to feel warm — but he loves the snow and looks forward to visiting Banff once the games are over.
The Del Castillos received a warm welcome from Canadians at the games and beyond.
“My experience has been wonderful,” said Mirko, manager at a pharmaceutical company, who feels other volunteers have been “patient” in answering his questions in the meal preparations area at the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre.
Italo, who has a degree in language translation and interpretation, is helping in the media centre at Servus Arena and Westerner Park, where he live-streamed the first hockey game he’d ever seen from a rink-side seat.
“Canadian people are very gentle… they are always available to help me, whatever I need,” he says.
Italo became hooked on volunteer tourism after flying to Russia to help at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in soccer. The sports fan made friends there from countries from around the world.
Although there are fewer international volunteers at the Canada Winter Games — an event he’d scoped out through the internet — Italo also hopes to make some Canadian friendships, while honing his English language skills and learning about life in a different part of the world.
The brothers are from a port city with a population of over a million people. Italo marvels over how quiet Red Deer is, by comparison. So far, they’ve loved seeing skiing at the Canyon Ski Resort and the forested natural areas that are integrated into Red Deer’s urban landscape.
Mirko took pictures of deer that entered the yard of the bed and breakfast where they are staying in Pines. Italo also hopes to see some Canadian wildlife.
Barb Hanson, the operator of the B & B where they are staying, will be taking them sightseeing after the games, and will encourage them to make a snowman before they return to Peru.
One of the best aspects of meeting visitors from other countries, she said, is seeing your own community through their fresh eyes — and appreciating Red Deer a little more.