Warming up winter

Sally Cole
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Event co-ordinator Ratna Rajapaksa makes final plans for the 22nd edition of the International Tea House. The event kicks off Saturday at the Jack Blanchard Centre in Charlottetown at 7 p.m. GUARDIAN PHOTO BY SALLY COLE 

As the ice settles in and P.E.I. residents begin brainstorming ideas for surviving the winter months, one option to consider is the International Tea House.

Returning for its 22th season, it’s a great way to warm up winter.

The three-week showcase of music, dance, cultural entertainment, food, costumes and games begins Saturday at the Jack Blanchard Centre on Pond Street in Charlottetown, 7-9 p.m.

Event co-ordinator Ratna Rajapaksa is counting down the minutes before she puts the tea kettle on.

“It’s very exciting to get the show on the road,” says Rajapaksa who has been busy lining up the talent and the food for the multicultural educational event representing countries from all around the world.

So far, eight groups have agreed to participate.

“We will have performances by the Chinese, Ukrainian, Sri Lankan, Indian, Bhutan, Columbian, Nepali, Filipino and Canadian communities. But I’m always looking for more,” says Rajapaksa, adding any interested community members are invited to contact her.

This Saturday night, the entertainment lineup includes Sri Lankan musicians, P.E.I. step dancers, Chinese dancers, Ukrainian dancers as well as a Nepali singer. Indian food will be on sale. Indian and Chinese crafts will be on display.

It’s always a good time.

“I love watching people. When I see them enjoying themselves, I enjoy it, too,” says Rajapaksa, noting the series continues Jan. 25, 6-8 p.m. at the Stratford Town Centre and Feb. 1, 7-9 p.m. at the Jack Blanchard Centre.

Besides a fun evening, it’s an opportunity for newcomers to network with locals.

“When people come to Canada in the beginning, they don’t know where to go or what to do, whether it’s going for groceries or applying for jobs. But when they go to the teahouse, they meet people from many different countries.

“They make friends and get information from each other. So it’s a great opportunity for (newcomers) to meet more people, know about others and learn about Canadian culture.”

For her, it’s been a rewarding experience.

“I’ve met so many new people who have become my friends. Now they’re calling me,” says Rajapaksa.

And the best part is, the event is free.

“There’s also free tea and coffee. There will be a small charge for the food.”


Sally Cole is a features writer with The Guardian. She welcomes comments about her column as well as suggestions for future columns from readers. She may be reached atscole@theguardian.pe.caor by phone at 629-6000, ext. 6054.



At A Glance

If you are going

- What: International Tea House

- When and where: Kicks off Saturday at Jack Blanchard Centre, Charlottetown at 7 p.m.

- Program details: The Jan. 18 event will be emceed by Nancy Clement, community outreach facilitator from the P.E.I. Association for the Newcomers to Canada. The program includes a Scottish step dance by Kennedy Leard and Janelle Banks, Parsu Ram Giri presenting traditional Nepalese music, Mary Kathleen Hickox, a dance instructor, presenting the Esmerelda Dance, P.E.I. Sri Lankans Thilak Tennekone, Sarath Chandrasekere and Nadeeka Wagaarachchi singing a collection of traditional Sri Lankan songs, a traditional Iranian dance by Nazi Karami and a traditional Chinese and uighur nationality folk dance by Zhi Yu, Shan Shan and QiQi and a semi-classical South Indian dance presented by Harini Balasundaram and Sharuth Bungi.

- Performers needed: Anyone interested in taking part in future performances or for more information, call Ratna at 314-5772.

Organizations: Jack Blanchard Centre, Stratford Town Centre, The Guardian P.E.I. Association for the Newcomers Janelle Banks

Geographic location: P.E.I., Charlottetown, Pond Street Canada South Indian Sharuth Bungi.

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