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Sister-city relationships more than worth it
Re: KTW’s front-page story of Oct. 10 (‘Are sister city unions worth the investment’) regarding primarily Kamloops’ sister city of Uji, Japan.
In short, it is.
I was an English teacher for four years, from 2001 to 2005, in Uji through our sister-city arrangement.
Kamloops is very lucky to be affiliated with Uji, which is a beautiful historic city located 20 minutes from Kyoto, the cultural heart of Japan.
Uji has numerous historic sites and historic connections: Byodoin, the Tale of Genji, Fushimi Inari (the red gates featured in Memoirs of a Geisha) and the oldest green tea store in the wold (Tsuen Cafe), to name a few.
Check out this youtube site for a recent video on Uji: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCs8O-DuIQQ and http://wikitravel.org/en/Uji.
Uji is also close to Osaka, the second-largest city in Japan.
There remains great potential for cultural and business exchange with Uji, but there is a bigger picture here: Our life in Kamloops, and in Canada generally, is often skewed to a North American perspective that fails to account for the real and varied ways of life for billions of other people in this world.
The more ties we have to those worlds, the better off we are.
Uji City recognizes this benefit when it annually expends over three times more than our taxpayers costs ($40,000 this year, as cited in the KTW article) just on assistant English teachers, who are also cultural ambassadors for Canada and Kamloops at Uji schools and local events.
This is the real benefit of having sister cities and Kamloops is very fortunate to have maintained such a close relationship with Uji and its generous people.
A better sister city is not out there.
The current known economic benefits are:
1. Three full-time English teachers from Kamloops being paid well (by the City of Uji) annually and returning to Kamloops with their earnings and savings.
2. The annual paid delegation of students for the exchange program.
3. University and high school students who come here on exchange and to get degrees.
4. Tourists and councillors from Uji who come specifically to Kamloops (rather than the typical Vancouver/Banff flights many Japanese adhere to) because of our arrangement.
I benefited from my experience by being able to save sufficiently to then return to Canada, go to law school and return to Kamloops to develop my law career.
Future opportunities for even more economic and cultural exchange remain within the reach of those who choose to look for it.
I’m all for reducing taxes but, if you know Uji and you’ve been there, we’ve got a good deal.
Rather than thinking about how we can cut costs, I hope Kamloopsians will put their mind toward how to strengthen this valuable sister-city union.
Kevin A. Walker