Sister Cities members and friends gathered on a very rainy night in the beautiful offices of Neal & Harwell. Guests enjoyed a welcome poem by Vice Mayor Jim Shulman as well as highlights from the year presented by Executive Director Heather Cunningham. Board chair Marieta Velikova introduced the new board member candidates and asked for a motion to approve. Five new board members were officially voted in to Sister Cities: Kate Bentley, Amy Bryan, Aaron Fiske, Catrina Bell and Amy Karaman.
In December 2018, a group of physicians from Taiyuan Number Two Hospital visited Nashville to study best practices in senior care. They visited with the CEO and surgeons at Centennial Hospital, toured the ICU and rehab facilities: met with executives at Brookdale (senior care provider) and toured one of their senior living communities; and toured Abe's Garden, a unique community supporting Alzheimer's patients.;
Sister Cities of Nashville hosted its 10th Annual World of Friendship in November 2018 and enjoyed its most successful fundraiser to date. More than 225 guests enjoyed international cuisine, an amazing silent auction, and a live music performance by Cuba's Sweet Lizzie Project. Our honoree was Gail Vaughn Ashworth, an attorney and long-time board member and past president of Sister Cities of Nashville.
Three artists from our sister cities Magdeburg and Mendoza participated in a ten-day artist exchange in Nashville. The three were paired with local artists for a day to see their work and studios. Our visiting artists also toured Galleries and museums such as the Van Vechten at Fisk University and the newly opened Tennessee State Museum. They toured local artists' studios who are sculptors and painters.
Sister Cities partnered with the Arts & Business Council of Nashville and hosted a "Creating Community: An International Artist Panel Discussion" and guests were able to hear from visiting and local artists about their inspiration, the impact of the artist exchange, and the arts community in their cities.
More highlights included a visit to an arts school in Nashville where they presented and talked with high school students. The artists also collaborated on a mural painted on a fence, in which neighbors helped paint.
Throughout the week, the three created their art and then donated their pieces to Sister Cities of Nashville to use in its signature World of Friendship fundraiser and silent auction. We hope to expand this artist exchange to include more artists from our sister city partners.
In October 2018, Nashville’s current Mayor David Briley headed a delegation of 23 members of our Kamakura-Nashville Sister Cities Committee for another glorious visit with our friends in Kamakura. Mayor Briley was joined by two Tennessee Supreme Court justices, a retired Davidson County chancellor, two members of Nashville’s Metro City Council, and a host of other community leaders. This disparate group was for the most part unknown to one another, thus all were taking a chance that new friendships would form. Did they ever! Laughter, shared experiences, delight with Japanese cuisine, and of course a passion for Japan and its friendly people bound the group together forever.
The magic emanated from the thoughtful, meticulous planning for our group by the Kamakura-Nashville Friendship Association (KNFA). Some of us who participated in the October delegation have gotten to know this amazing group over the years, and we were excited to introduce them to new friends. Their detailed planning exceeded our expectations the moment we arrived in Kamakura.
The KNFA arranged a charming combination of history and modern experiences for the group. Kamakura was the capital of Japan from 1192 until 1333 and is replete with stunning temples, shrines, and merchants. Our delegation donned slippers to visit shrines, participated in meditation in a temple with a Buddhist priest, folded our knees to experience a tea ceremony, gazed in wonder at Kamakura’s famous Great Buddha, and devoured flavorful and traditional Japanese cuisine – palatable to all! Of particular interest was a visit to a woodworking enterprise whose ownership has been transferred down the same line for centuries. Kamakura’s Mayor Matsuo also invited the delegation to his office allowing the two mayors to develop a friendship that will last for years to come. Certainly, finding unique Japanese souvenirs for friends and family at home was an easy and enjoyable task!
The highlight of our visit to Kamakura was an evening of celebration with toasting, dining, games, and entertainment.! The KNFA prepared an abundant feast of Japanese and American cuisine. They took great care to mix our delegation with new Kamakura friends at the table for dinner. They served every wine and form of spirit imaginable (of course including sake!). They planned a program that was high energy and filled with love and laughter. In sum, they provided an experience that will forever be a part of the heart and soul of the 23 Nashvillians who participated.
Fortunately for the 23 on the mission, the trip extended into a several days tour of the Tokyo area thanks to arrangements led by group participant, Tokyo native, and Nashville Metro Council member Mina Johnson. An amusing and fascinating side trip was a stop at the Ramen Museum in Yokohama. There we learned the history of ramen and toured a reproduction of a Tokyo neighborhood from the ‘50s where a variety of absolutely delicious ramen was served in small shops.
The highlight of the Tokyo visit was a special audience at the residence of Nashville native and U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty. We arrived 30 minutes early for our visit, and Ambassador Hagerty’s wife Chrissy stepped in without missing a beat! Chrissy took us on a special tour of their beautiful home and led us out to their expansive garden for photo opportunities. The residence is on prime real estate in Tokyo and is indeed an island unto itself. Following our impromptu tour, the ambassador emerged from a meeting and graciously spent almost one-half hour briefing the group on U.S.-Japanese relations and developments in East Asia. He also bravely opened the floor for questions from the inquisitive group.
Most visitors to Japan do not have the opportunity to visit Japan’s Supreme Court, but the judges on our trip were thrilled to be able to do so thanks to Mina’s help. Particularly illuminating and unusual was a visit with a Japanese Supreme Court judge. He was a friend of group participant and Supreme Court Justice Sharon Lee and happily led a conversation and fielded questions about his court.
A visit to Japan is incomplete without the opportunity to view Mt. Fuji and Hakone, and we were not disappointed! The weather can be iffy with abundant clouds. We lucked out and were able to have a beautiful view of this iconic Japanese mountain. The visit to the Mt. Fuji area was enhanced by the opportunity to take a cruise around beautiful Lake Hakone and walk on a brand new suspension bridge that offers a view of Mt. Fuji on a clear day.
Sister Cities of Nashville received an invitation from Sister City Taiyuan, China to attend its 2018 Taiyuan Energy Low Carbon Development Forum. The forum consisted of a summit, six sub-forums, and a conference. The event featured 48 international guests in attendance including representatives from the energy field sector, United Nations, scholars..
The Conference, which was first held in 2016, was co-hosted by the Shanxi Provincial Government, Ministry of Technology of the People’s Republic of China, Ministry of Commerce, and National Energy Administration.
The group was warmly welcomed at the Intercontinental Hotel in Taiyuan’s new business sector. The group was amazed to discover the amount of development that had occurred to make this segment of their city come into fruition. Less than 10 years ago the area was farm land. However, the area is now a completely developed metro area with a brand new seven-story mall, multiple museums, housing sky scrapers, and more.
The delegates were invited to the Opening Ceremony which set the ground work for the six sub forums. The conference theme “Energy Revolution Benefits Mankind” provided a focus on the global transition to renewable energy, primarily summarized as a third energy revolution. As per Sun Haichao, deputy secretary-general of the Shanxi provincial government, “the theme of the forum is in line with energy being the cornerstone and motive force behind society's development, in line with the trend of the changing times, and in line with the values of building a community that decides the direction of human destiny.”
Outside of the conference, the group saw many impressive features of the area. The delegates visited Xishan Mountain, a former coal development area that has had over $1 billion of government contributions to restore the area in terms of low-carbon impact. With a combination of a public and private partnership, the area has been replanted with thousands of trees and intentional efforts have been undertaken to make this area the “lung of the city.”
Additionally, the group visited the Jinci Temple and also a local vinegar company. Taiyuan is known for its specialty vinegar production, with a tradition dating back more than 2,500 years. It is as much of part of culture as it is the cuisine. Lastly, the group visited the Shanxi Museum to learn the rich history of the area.
Delegates from Nashville traveled to Edmonton, Canada for a VIP experience in this "city of festivals." Upon arrival, our group was whisked off for a visit to the Heritage Festival, an incredible festival showcasing the foods, art and culture of the many nationalities represented in Edmonton.
With two delegates representing Caterpillar Financial in Nashville, our group spent a morning with Cat Financial and Finning executives where we received a briefing on Canada's operations before getting to "test drive" some of the equipment.
Meetings at the University of Alberta allowed delegates to learn about their initiatives in connected vehicles, rehabilitation robotics, future energy systems, and their Smart Condo project (one of country's most advanced examples of remote monitoring capability to assist seniors to 'age in the right place.'
The group also received thorough briefings about Edmonton's LRT (light rail transit) and SMART transportation plans as well as met to discuss the Edmonton Declaration, an outcome of the Innovate4Cities - a Global Climate Action Accelerator -- that encourages global mayors to amplify the message that cities urgently need the tools and data to address climate change.
Other highlights of the trip included watching Canada's youth hockey team take on Slovakia at Rogers Place arena; touring Edmonton's arts and culture venues and the Telus World of Science Center This exchange was the first one between our cities since 2015 so it was very exciting to reconnect and plan for the future, particularly with the 30th anniversary of our twinning on the horizon in 2020..
Through Sister Cities' Student Ambassador program, Nashville area high school students had the opportunity to represent their city in four of our sister city partners this summer. Groups traveled to Mendoza, Argentina; Caen and Paris, France; Magdeburg and Berlin, Germany; and Tamworth and Sydney, Australia. They stayed with host families, attended school a few days, enjoyed sightseeing and mayoral receptions. In Mendoza, the students loved their mountain excursion where they went ziplining and caving. In Caen, they attended a D-Day ceremony at American Cemetery and Omaha Beach and visited Mont St. Michel, the Bayeux Tapestry and beaches in Deauville as well as spending a few days in Paris seeing the major attractions. In Magdeburg, they spent time volunteering, learned how to row in a dragon boat, visited the Magdeburg Zoo and Magdeburg Cathedral and toured sites in Berlin including the Border Museum, Jewish Museum and House of Parliament. Our group in Tamworth enjoyed an Australian cooking workshop. horseback riding and rugby and closed out their trip in Sydney, visiting Bondi Beach, the Sydney Zoo, and the Opera house. They all represented Nashville well and gathered a lifetime of memories and new friends!
Eleven delegates from Caen, France joined us for a week of cultural and educational activities in May. While these have typically been legal exchanges for many years, a potential new outcome emerged from this recent visit. There is an initiative to begin a pharmacy student and medical student exchange. The delegates also enjoyed Nashville's dining scene, a Sounds baseball game, a visit to the Civil Rights room at the downtown library and a tour of Belle Meade Plantation.
This spring, Sister Cities hosted student and teacher groups from Taiyuan, China; Mendoza, Argentina; and Magdeburg, Germany. Students stay with host families, attend school a few days, volunteer with a local non-profit for a day, meet Nashville's Mayor David Briley, see key historic and cultural sites and attractions, attend a sporting event and just generally have fun learning what life is like for teenagers in Nashville.
Sister Cities of Nashville
Sister Cities of Nashville connects the people of Nashville to people of the world, promoting peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation - one person, one community at a time.