Volunteers with the Bellevue Sister Cities Association have the same trouble most years — they can't give away free trips. The association currently is...

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Volunteers with the Bellevue Sister Cities Association have the same trouble most years — they can’t give away free trips. The association currently is recruiting high-school juniors for exchange visits to Japan, Taiwan, Latvia and the Czech Republic.

In this case, there is a free lunch — and free room and board for a couple of weeks, and free tours, too.

The only obligation? Students must participate in events when representatives from the other countries visit Bellevue, and they have to make a couple of short appearances at the association’s events.

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“We have sent 85 students from the Eastside overseas in the last 20 years,” said Dorothy Webb, an association board member. “We pay for the airfare. All the students need is spending money. It is a wonderful opportunity, and many of the students who have done the exchange said it helped them get into college.

“It looks good on college applications.”

Ideally, Webb said, the youths will be high-school juniors. The program is open to students from the entire Eastside, not just Bellevue.

For information, call Webb at 425-635-9394.

Admirable role model

Actress Marlee Matlin visited Seattle on Sunday, thanks to Julie Ellenhorn of Bellevue and Lisa Brashem of Issaquah. Ellenhorn and Brashem were co-chairwomen of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle’s Connections Brunch at the Seattle Sheraton Hotel.

Matlin won an Oscar for her role in “Children of a Lesser God” and appears frequently on television shows.

At Sunday’s brunch she announced an upcoming role in the ABC hit show “Desperate Housewives.” Matlin assured the audience that she “won’t be sleeping with the gardener.”

During the question-and-answer session, brunch attendees wanted more than Hollywood gossip, said Cynthia Flash of Bellevue.

“The women wanted to know how Marlee juggles it all,” Flash said. “She’s a mom of four, a movie actress and contributes her time to charity.”

Matlin explained that she has hired help on weekdays and that her police-officer husband works just three days a week.

On a roll

Bill Pace, operator of the Mercer Slough Blueberry Farm in Bellevue, hopes February will be a healthier month for his family.

His wife, Wilma, had a heart attack Jan. 2 and needed heart surgery. Then he had a hip replacement a couple of weeks later. The reason he finally decided to have the surgery?

“My bowling was going to pot,” the 74-year-old said. “I’d had my left knee replaced a couple years ago and knew the recovery was easy.”

The ugliest part of the replacement, Pace said, was being conscious enough during the surgery to hear his hip bone being cut and listening to the clanging as the new part was being installed.

“But I couldn’t feel a thing,” he said.

He plans to watch his bowling buddies in action this week or next, but he won’t be ready to pick up his own ball for a while.

“I’m not sure they miss me,” Pace said. “I was averaging 160 or so when I left for surgery. My substitute is averaging 230.”

One last grin

A big thumbs up to the owner of the license-plate holder on the SUV seen in Bellevue recently. It read:

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Sherry Grindeland: 206-515-5633 or sgrindeland@seattletimes.com