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Gardiner Wilson 

After being the High Commissioner to the Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam (and it doesn't get any more exotic than that), I retired to my home town Vancouver and a job at the Canadian Education Centre Network a private non profit company supported by DFAIT and mandated to promote Canada as an education destination to international activity near and dear to my heart. When the CECN began to lose it's way I went out of business about a year later. Almost immediately I began to be contacted by former CECN overseas managers who asked me to put together education familiarization tours. Over the past 9 years my wife Suchitra and I have traveled to all 10 provinces with groups of educators, education agents, media reps all of whom are interested in learning more about Canada's education system both K-12 and post secondary. We have had small groups from India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nigeria, Vietnam, Libya and larger group tours I organize on behalf of the Canadian Accredited Indpendent Schools (CAIS). I do the promotion of the tours to prospective participating school here, organize all the logistics (including meals - see below) and assisted by my wife Suchitra, lead the tours throughout Canada. It is quite tiring but great fun.

In organizing incoming tours from India dietary observances are fundamental. Indians are vegetarian and non vegetarian but it does not end there. Amongst the non-vegetarians ie meat eaters...most would not eat beef except the odd Christian. And most would not eat pork in partial deference to their muslim neighbours in India but also because, as was explained to me, "we can't get good pork in India". And Muslims delegates would obviously not eat pork. So we are usually OK with chicken (and it should be halal for the observant Muslims) and fish (no halal requirement).

It gets trickier when it comes to vegetarians...obviously no meat that is clear. But what about dairy (usually OK except for the vegans) and what about eggs? Many vegetarians will not eat fried, scrambled (on the breakfast menu of every hotel we visit), or poached as they are precursors to meat. But if eggs are, for example, used as an ingredient in cakes that is OK. And if you have a Jain participant that is a bit trickier...they are strict vegetarians but also avoid any vegetable which grows beneath the ground ie potato, onion, radish etc. Only above ground vegetables are OK.

On my last tour vegetarianism was taken to a new of the participants would not eat grains ie rice, flour, pasta, bread - this was an observance of a particular Hindu holiday widely celebrated in India. So lots of salads, nuts, cheese and fruit for this participant.

I did have a chuckle several years ago when I threw caution to the winds and took a group, vegetarians included, to a Montana's steak and rib house...I knew there were lots of salads and pastas on the menu. But it seemed the delicious aroma of racks of ribs passing turned the taste buds and a number of vegetarians fell off the wagon at least for this one dinner. I am sure they had to do penance at some point in the future.

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