Next weekend, Helen Green will pour herself a cup of tea, spread some jam on a biscuit and log into her computer on P.E.I., where she will meet with about 30 people doing the same thing in Japan.
Green, who runs a homestay business in Victoria, P.E.I., has been staying connected to Japanese tourists during the COVID-19 pandemic by hosting virtual tea parties.
"With COVID, we had to be creative and this is one of the projects we created," she said.
Green had been hosting in-person home tours and tea parties for Japanese tourists for about two years.
Then the pandemic hit.
"One of the tour directors who works in Tokyo asked us if we would do a virtual tea party because the Japanese people couldn't come to P.E.I., but could we bring P.E.I. to Japan," she said.
Green hosted the first tea party last October and has had about six since. They have all been hosted out of her home through Zoom, with about 30 people logging in from all over Japan.
On Saturday, she is hosting a virtual tea party from the P.E.I. Preserve Company in New Glasgow, P.E.I.
The tea parties generally start at about 7 a.m. AT, which is 7 p.m. in Japan. She said about 80 per cent of the guests are women over 50 years old.
I had my tea and cookies, and I talked about how we would get together for tea, like a social, back in P.E.I. in old times, and they would all be drinking tea, as well, from P.E.I., or cookies. — Helen Green
Green usually starts the tea parties off with a power point presentation about P.E.I. that includes, for example, a virtual tour of the Anne of Green Gables home.
Then they have a discussion about a certain topic. For example, in October, it was fall colours, and in March, it was maple syrup.
The Japanese participants are sent tea and treats from P.E.I. in preparation.
"When we started our whole virtual tea parties, I had my tea and cookies, and I talked about how we would get together for tea, like a social, back in P.E.I. in old times, and they would all be drinking tea, as well, from P.E.I., or cookies." said Green.
The Japanese guests always have plenty of questions, Green said, including about the island's foxes, winter on P.E.I. and, of course, Anne of Green Gables author Lucy Maud Montgomery.
"Some of the questions have been like wow, these guys really know a lot about Prince Edward Island," she said.
Saturday's tea party will focus on the P.E.I. Preserve Company and how it makes jams, the Gardens of Hope and a live interview and question and answer session with owner Bruce MacNaughton.
Green, who spent seven years living in Japan, said most of the guests who join live in crowded, concrete apartment buildings. She said seeing the open space and lifestyle on P.E.I. is "mind-blowing for them," and some talk about visiting the Island in person someday.
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