Sister Cities

Here’s why I’m a bad blogger: I recently returned from a week-and-a-half long trip to Philadelphia and NYC for work and to visit my mom and my friends. Here are all the things that I could blog about related to this trip:  

  • Preparing group presentations
  • WordCamps and the open source community
  • Returning to a place you lived for a long time
  • Leaving NYC (a topic that every writerly-inclined young woman who’s ever lived in NYC for a hot second and then moved feels compelled to write 2000 words on; yet another horror we can blame on Joan Didion)
  • Seeing old friends from various stages of your life
  • Introducing old friends from various stages of your life to each other, and trying to remember what you might have told them about each other, and hoping they don’t mention any of it
  • Continuing to take risks and learn and fail as you get older
  • Some ponderous shit about your goals changing over the years
  • A bunch of photos of all the restaurant food I ate
  • Etc etc etc

But here’s the only thing I can think to say about my trip: what the hell are sister cities? Does anyone know? As I arrived home to the Albuquerque airport, exhausted and hungry, I noticed a plaque announcing all of Albuquerque’s sister cities, and it occurred to me that you only ever see these mentioned in airports and on Wikipedia. And it seemed like at first, all cities only had one sister city, but now there are like ten for every city.

Here are some benefits I might expect from a sister city, such that people would actually care to have it announced in an airport: you can fly at a discounted price to the sister city of the city where you reside. You can visit your sister city without a visa or work permit. If you travel to your sister city, you can take advantage of “sister city” hotel discounts, free meals, and/or a free taxi from the airport or something. But I don’t think any of this is true, or we’d hear about sister cities more.

Also, why “sister” cities? Why not brother cities or partner cities? I guess because of the alliteration, but that’s only in English, and all the sister cities of our cities are in other countries. Which brings up another question: what do the other countries call “sister cities”? Or do they even know about them? Wouldn’t that be just so American, to assign every US city a bunch of sister cities around the world, but then not tell those cities anything about it?

Since now we have the internet, and there is almost no question that can’t be immediately answered, I looked up sister cities. And I learned that it’s an organization formed by Eisenhower in 1956:

A sister city organization is a volunteer group of ordinary citizens who, with the support of their local elected officials, form long-term relationships with people and organizations in a city abroad. Each sister city organization is independent and pursues the activities and thematic areas that are important to them and their community including municipal, business, trade, educational and cultural exchanges with their sister city.

Sister city organizations promote peace through people-to-people relationships—with program offerings varying greatly from basic cultural exchange programs to shared research and development projects between cities with relationships.

I’m not sure how much ability “ordinary citizens” have to pursue “municipal, business, trade, educational and cultural exchanges.” So it seems like basically, if a bunch of people in Albuquerque cared to get together on a volunteer basis and make friends with a bunch of people in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, they’d be welcome to do so?

I dug more and found this article:

Outcomes of these sibling partnerships do vary considerably. As a result of its relationship with Spoleto, Italy, the city of Charleston, South Carolina, has a huge Italian festival every year that generates millions of dollars for the local economy. The partnership between Tempe, Arizona, and Regensburg, Germany, inspires an annual Oktoberfest that raises money for student trips.

So your city’s sister city can also be a source of inspiration for local festivals, should you need help coming up with a theme!

7 Comments

  1. When we were in Grand Forks, ND, we saw such a plaque – in a park. The park was landscaped in the Japanese style, and included lanterns (big stone thingys that were pretty) from their sister city, Awano. Interestingly, Awano no longer exists.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Bet you didn’t know that Oak Ridge has two sister cities, and one of them is Ibaraki, Japan, and the other is in Russia. Seems ironic.

    Like

    1. I did not know that. Seems appropriate, though.

      Like

  3. Here’s a blog idea! Hone your investigative reporter skills by finding out how big the average city hall staff and budget is for supporting the sister city program. On second thought, I don’t want to know.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. When I was living in Germany, I discovered a sister city relationship between Aachen (where I lived) and Toledo, Spain. So I guess it isn’t just a US thing. Of course, in Germany they throw out the familial alliteration and call it a Städtepartnerschaft. (In Spanish it’s the slightly nicer sounding hermanamiento, similar to the English concept.)

    It was a cool idea — they had an organization that got together for Spanish chats every month, put on Spanish festivals and events (music, theater, etc.), and even organized trips to Toledo. Being the Hispanophile that I am, I participated by putting every event on my calendar and then watching the dates pass by while I found reasons to stay at home instead. 😉

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    1. I participated by putting every event on my calendar and then watching the dates pass by while I found reasons to stay at home instead

      I am currently doing this with Meetup groups on a variety of topics. 🙂

      Like

  5. Personally, I’d love to read a blog post about “Leaving NYC” since love NY and a NY-er at heart! But even better than that, please do write about “Seeing old friends from various stages of your life
    Introducing old friends from various stages of your life to each other, and trying to remember what you might have told them about each other, and hoping they don’t mention any of it.”

    That would be a hilarious post! That is, of course, as long as none of your friends are following your blog 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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