Thursday, December 22, 2005

Sister cities

Sister cities

Solano County entered into a partnership with the Chinese city of Ji'an almost two years ago.

In June 2004, four county delegates traveled to Ji'an to formalize the sister city relationship.

County Supervisor John Vasquez was among those who paid for their travel and visited China for 12 days. During that time, the group traveled to Shanghai, Beijing and Ji'an, where the group discussed the advantages to international partnership.

An agreement to last five years was signed, Vasquez said.

In October, a delegation from Ji'an visited Solano County. Local business and county officials hosted a special dinner, took the group sight-seeing and visited many businesses - among them, Nourot Glass Studio in Benicia.

Solano Community College Superintendent-President Paulette Perfumo, who is a member of the County Partnership for International Friendship, remembers how thrilled the Ji'an delegation was with the glass-blowing industry in Benicia.

"They were very impressed with the blown glass artwork," she said. "They brought back beautiful gifts from some of the glass-blowing studios there. That could open up a whole new market for our businesses that are in the arts."

Perfumo has been corresponding with the chancellor of a university in Ji'an to set up another partnership - one based in education. Last fall, Solano Community College deans and faculty hosted the Ji'an delegation.

"Our hope is to look at not only international business opportunities, but also improving our relationship with international education opportunities," Perfumo said. There are many ideas on the table, including the exchange of students and guest faculty.

"It provides opportunities for students and faculty to learn by actually living in another culture as well as studying at another university system and to be exposed to a totally different way of life for a semester or whatever period of time we would work out in our planning together," she said.

Talks are still in the early stages. However, Perfumo said the Ji'an chancellor is considering bringing a delegation early spring to discuss an exchange program.

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