Sister Cities aren’t just about travel
REVELATION and fun. She’s a pretty
fair description of the go-
outdoor party held Tuesday night at Foode, where members of the Fredericksburg Sister City Association hosted guests from Frejus, ahead of their return to France on Wednesday.
As editor of the opinion page, I was honored to have a seat at one of the many tables that night. And although I’ve been lucky enough in my life to travel across the country and the world, here’s a secret I don’t mind sharing – speaking no French and not immediately recognizing faces entering the restaurant, he there were awkward moments of silence early on.
But a kind introduction from Craig Vasey, who is President of the Fredericksburg-Fréjus Sister City Association, to a few native residents of Fredericksburg, and I quickly discussed and learned about the program from those who have attended for many decades. .
People also read…
From cocktails to dinner, Francophones and Anglophones shared the tables. Some of the people I met at dinner were no better at French than I was.
But here’s the thing – it didn’t seem to matter.
Our guests from Frejus spoke some English and enough English speakers knew a sentence or two of French to strike up a conversation. And when language failed us, photos filled the void.
Sitting opposite me, for example, was Jean-Claude Mace, a former basketball player in France who coaches youth teams in Fréjus and 20 years earlier some of them brought some of them to America to compete locally.
Jean-Claude spoke a few words of English, but we had trouble connecting at first. When our dinner partner and her friend Jane Shelhorse, who was formerly Fredericksburg Parks and Recreation Director, told me about her basketball background and coaching experience, I opened my phone and shared a few photos of me coaching football.
The discomfort subsided and Jean-Claude and I had a lively discussion, aided by lots of impromptu sign language, pointing, more photos, the occasional help from a bilingual person and lots of smiles.
Is there an opinion in all of this, you might be wondering?
The Sister Cities program is one that gives us all something we desperately need. An opportunity to face other people with whom we may initially feel a little uncomfortable and disoriented, but quickly learn to connect on the most important level, that of the human.
And you don’t need to be able to afford first class tickets on a United Airlines flight to France to experience it.
Many people welcome visitors or participate in local activities, but cannot make the trip for a number of reasons. Vasey, for example, who has served on the Sister City board for 15 years, has not traveled to Frejus in years due to his teaching schedule at UMW.
My own observation of the evening was that most of the people I met were very much like me, socio-economically. Middle class. This included many of our visitors from France. So for those who might be afraid to get involved because of the cost, don’t be.
An annual membership is only $25; $50 for a family.
Rewards are lifelong and life changing. Consider the story of Fredericksburg resident Mandy Carr, who had a 42-year friendship with Michel and Hilary Gras, which we told on September 22. [“Fredericksburg, Fréjus residents share 42 years of sister-city friendship”]. On the first day the Gras were in town and staying at Carr’s this month, breakfast was served on paper plates.
As you might say here in the South, the Gras were not guests in Carr’s house, but rather family. They’re “like siblings,” Carr said, “except you don’t choose your siblings, whereas you choose your best friends.”
A great opportunity to see all the benefits of the Sister City program will be showcased at the end of October, when the five Sister City programs (Frejus; Kathmandu, Nepal; Este, Italy; Schwetzingen, Germany; and Prince’s Town, Ghana) arrive together to host the sale. art auction and reception FXBG 4 UKRAINE. This program is a fundraiser to help Ukrainians in the areas of medical care, food and child protection.
Ultimately, that’s what the Sister City program is all about.
Connecting people on a human level, breaking down barriers, learning to understand and appreciate each other better…
…and a healthy dose of merriment and fun.