San Pedro Valley Lions Club hosts international visitors

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Members of the San Pedro Valley Lions Club in Mammoth are pictured with their local and international guests Saturday. Jennifer Carnes | Miner

By Jennifer R. Carnes

San Manuel Miner

Can you remember the first time you ate a taco? How about a cheeseburger? Seems hard to fathom. Both foods are so very Arizona-American – cuisine that epitomizes and even defines the Tri-Community.

On Saturday, nine visitors from across the globe experienced their first tastes of tacos and cheeseburgers.

The San Pedro Valley Lions Club in Mammoth was the second stop on a tour of Arizona for nine cultural exchange students, sponsored by the Gilbert Lions Club. The students will be in Arizona for a full month, staying with Lions in their homes. They will be touring the state, visiting many different Lions Clubs and seeing the sites of Arizona.

The students are participating in the C. Kirby Smithe International Youth Exchange 2014. This is the 33rd year for the cultural exchange. The exchange provides the opportunity for citizens of Arizona to visit with Lions from around the world.

The students and their escorts, Lion Tony Hyland and his wife Jean, arrived at the Lions Club on Main St. in Mammoth at a little after 1 p.m. Saturday. After the meeting was called to order and introductions of the local Lions and their guests and the visitors, Hyland made a presentation to Lion Ralph Herrera which included a pin from the Gilbert Lions Club and a framed photo of the international visitors.

The SPV Lions welcomed one more special guest to the Saturday event, Mammoth K-9 Officer Bindi. Bindi is the department’s new drug dog. She is a year and a half old Czech Shepherd who has been trained to sniff out many different kinds of drugs including methamphetamines, marijuana, heroin and cocaine. She can also sniff out money, Acting Police Chief Steve Nash explained, because often the money comes into contact with drugs.

Bindi and her handler Officer Cardenas gave a very short demonstration of her skills (short only in that she was extremely quick in finding some drugs that Chief Nash had hidden earlier). But that just gave her more time for pictures with her adoring fans.

Following the K-9 presentation, lunch was served to the visitors, giving them the aforementioned first tastes of tacos and cheeseburgers as well as a chance to meet and talk with some local young people.

The nine students who visited were:

Maarten Beckxfrom Beerse, Belgium. He is 17 and the youngest of three children. His father Rudy is the publisher of a magazine, Cruise & Style. His mother Ing is a physiotherapist at a hospital. Maarten wanted to visit Arizona “to see the beautiful nature and the majestic Grand Canyon. Get in a real wild west feeling and to discover a new world.”

Kateřina Lonková(Catherine) from Prague, Czech Republic. She is 19 and is studying at the business academy, Heroldovy sady. She plans to enroll at the Charles University in Prague, School of Law, next year. Her father is Michal Lonek and her mother is Dana. She has an older brother, Jakub.

Svetlana Ivanovafrom St. Petersburg, Russia. She is 16 and the oldest of three. She is a 10th grader and she likes horseback riding and dancing. This is her second visit to the United States with the Lions. She spent a month in South Carolina. “I like your country so much,” she said. “I’m very glad that I will be visiting your country again.”

Konstantinos Eleftheriadisfrom Greece. He is 20 and a student at the University of Patras. He is studying mechanical engineering and aeronautics. He is in his third year. He is the oldest of two and the son of Thomas and Eleni. His family lives in Kavala, a coastal city in northeastern Greece. He said he is excited to visit Arizona. “From what I have seen and read from books, movies or other media, I’ve been intrigued to learn your area’s customs and way of life.” Konstantinos was one of the few visitors to have tasted tacos before, although he admitted never had he tasted an authentic one like the ones served by the SPV Lions. He came back for seconds and thirds.

Ederson Faithfrom the State of Rio Grand do Sul, Brazil. He is 16 and is a member of the LEO Club Soledade. He lives with his father and stepmother, brother and little sister. He works with his father in his furniture factory. His dream, he said, is “to live in the USA.”

Johanne B. Julfrom Vester Nebel, Denmark. She is 19 and will graduate from Danish High School next summer. She took a year off from school after completing elementary school (first to ninth grade) to live in a year in France, in a tiny village in the mountains with a population of 246. “At the end of the year I almost spoke fluently French,” she said. She lives with her parents, Lone and Søren, and her little brother Magnus.

Pauline Danguyfrom France. She is 18 and will celebrate her 19th birthday in Arizona. She lives with her parents, Christophe and Geraldine. Both are teachers and, according to Pauline, “They are perfect parents from my point of view!” She also has a sister, Juliette, who is 16 and “the most amazing thing that ever happened to me,” Pauline said.

Fanni Bakóczyfrom Budapest, Hungary. She is 17 and a student at Xantus János Secondary School. She is an only child and lives with her parents and grandmother. She is a photographer and enjoys traveling. She likes learning languages and is fluent in English and French. She would like to go to university and study to be an agricultural engineer.

Erika Sarah Gazzerafrom Bene Vagienna, Italy. Her mother is from the Philippines and she has been raised in that culture as well. She is studying several foreign languages, English, French and German, and has a part time job tutoring a child with dyslexia. She is excited about her visit to Arizona. “Discovering a new country excites me and I’d like to practice at least one of the foreign languages I’m studying,” she said.

The group headed to Globe following their visit to Mammoth. By the time this newspaper goes to press, the group of young people will have visited: Morenci, Safford, Tombstone, Huachuca City, Sierra Vista, La Salida del Sol and Nogales. Beginning July 18, they will visit Lions Clubs in Catalina/Oro Valley, Wickenburg, Prescott, Williams, Grand Canyon and Benson.

See more photos at

Staff (2348 Posts)

There are news or informational items frequently written by staff or submitted to the Copper Basin News, San Manuel Miner, Superior Sun, Pinal Nugget or Oracle Towne Crier for inclusion in our print or digital products. These items are not credited with an author.

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