Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hands across the water

I'm watching a television program (Africa Trek) about a French couple who walked the length of Africa – " from Cape to Kili." As I watch, I wonder what possessed them to engage in such a journey, trekking from one stranger's house to another, sometimes through dangerous territory. In tonight's episode, Sonia Poussin makes a comment about how they generally haven't stayed in one place long enough to make many friends, but in this episode they linger with some Masai in Tanzania, enjoy their hospitality and, yes, friendship.

What makes us want to reach out to strangers? Are we seeking to connect with a distant cousin, or looking for something better, or perhaps greater, than ourselves? Sometimes, as I sit in the chashitsu with my friends, I ask myself these questions. I look into my tea bowl as though it's a crystal ball. The tea doesn't answer. Yet we are friends and we return to each other again and again.

In the previous post I briefly mentioned our introduction to meeting delegates from Eureka's sister city, Kamisu, Japan. I have been interested in our Sister City for many years, yet – for whatever reason – we haven't made a connection. But fortune smiled on us this time and friend Tony Smithers, director of the Eureka Humboldt County Convention and Visitor Bureau, invited us to join him and his wife, Eileen, to have dinner with the delegation.

Dinner was in Myers Flat at The Groves. After a bit of wine at the adjacent Riverbend Cellars tasting room. (Allow me to sneak in a small song of praise for the Syrah — beautiful — and the duck — cooked to order.) Food and wine aside, our partners at table were the centerpiece: Ariko Sekine, English translator and HSU wildlife major, and Mitsuko Sunouchi, Vice Executive President of the Kamisu International Friendship Association.

After introductions we settled into sipping wine, snacking on grilled oysters and sharing stories. We learned the delegation was in Humboldt County only for three days, then would spend one day in San Francisco before flying home to Japan. They toured the city of Eureka, took a cruise of Humboldt Bay on the MV Madaket and learned about Humboldt Bay's famed oyster production. They saw the redwoods along the Avenue of the Giants and drove through the Drive Through Tree. Three days are not nearly enough time to enjoy all that the area has to offer.

Perhaps it's not so important why we're friends, but rather that we are friends. We put differences aside, we find common interests to share, we sip wine and share stories. And drink tea.

About Eureka's Sister City program

The Eureka-Kamisu Sister City Corporation was founded in 1991. Kamisu is a port city on Japan's east coast. The Sister City relationship offers an opportunity for the two cities to gain valuable benefits through exchanges of art, culture, education, and commerce.
Exchanges promote goodwill, broaden understanding and create lasting friendships between community members. The Sister City Corporation provides an ideal opportunity for individuals to have a role in developing understanding between the people of Japan and the United States of America.
City of Eureka city plan


Sister city residents explore Eureka -- The photo is from the Kamisu International Friendship Association website [and originally posted on the website of the now-closed Eureka Reporter]. It shows the delegation in front of Eureka's famed Carson Mansion. On the far left is Masami Nagai, City Clerk Planning Division; second from left is Mitsuko Sunouchi. We regret not learning all the names of the delegates. (Send us names! We'll post them!)
More Eureka Reporter links to stories about Kamisu-Eureka sister city relations

Update 11/12/08 The Eureka Reporter has folded and taken down its website as part of an agreement with the Times-Standard (see North Coast Journal).
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