Glenn Madzuik

Glenn Madzuik, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association

KELOWNA – Recently, we had a staff meeting where four of our team introduced us to a particular aspect of their history and traditions. Louisa Li, our UBCO summer student assisting with the Biosphere Adhesion program, introduced us to the art of drinking ceremonial Chinese tea.

It was fascinating to learn about the various qualities of tea leaves, the ageing process and the proper way to brew different types of tea. The similarity to growing and fermenting wine could not be ignored and the reverence around the tea service is something very special. Each of us gained a new appreciation for tea and Louisa has been busy brewing ever since that meeting.

Greg Hopf, the Indigenous Tourism Specialist at TOTA, together with UBCO summer student Pala Kovacs who is also engaged in this area, took us through a traditional Indigenous smudging ceremony. As we watched the Sage catch fire and then fill the air with its sweet-savoury essence, they explained the importance this tradition has in all Indigenous communities.

Smudging can be used to rid a person or an area of negative energy, to call upon ancestors for guidance or protection, or as a means to cleanse the soul. Done by some on a daily basis, at special gatherings, to mark special occasions, or to ready a home for its new occupant, the importance of the smudge runs deep within Indigenous peoples and we were all very honoured to be invited to take part.

Anirudh Kukrety, our practicum student from Royal Roads University in Victoria, has come to Canada by way of New Delhi India. Working on the Sustainability file at TOTA, he also found the time last week to prepare his own homemade butter chicken recipe together with a selection of Naan bread.

Lunch for 20 did not phase him as he happily prepared more than we could eat in one day! It would not be an understatement that this was collectively agreed to be one of the best butter chicken dishes any of us had tasted and while the secret is for sure in the spices direct from India, Anirudh tells us the real secret is in using fewer tomatoes and more cream. Whatever the secret…delicious!

We have all been enriched by this opportunity to learn from those around us and with each new lesson, comes a closer, richer relationship. This is true as we travel and as others travel to visit us. The more we share and explain, the more we all get to know and appreciate each other, our unique qualities, special histories and shared desires the more connected we become.

I want to thank each of these individuals for taking the time to share a bit of their story with our entire team. I encourage others to take the time to do the same.
We are all more interesting, together.

Glenn Mandziuk is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association. He can be reached at