2012-01-04 / Front Page
Marlboro welcomes new sister city
Officials sign agreement with Wujiang City, China
MARLBORO — After nearly three years spent building a sister city relationship, Marlboro Mayor Jonathan Hornik and Vice Director of the Standing Committee of the Wujiang Congress Shen Jianwei signed an agreement on Dec. 9 that formally established an association between Marlboro andWujiang City, China.
The agreement formed an exchange program that will allow teenagers from the two municipalities to experience life in the other country, under the guidance of host families.
“We have opened up the sister city to allow our residents to go over and learn about the Chinese culture, the Chinese experience and to see what it’s like on the other side of the world,” Hornik said. “This will allow them to experience one of the biggest, fastest-growing cultures in the world. It will open up their eyes.”
Although officials have yet to outline the program’s details, Hornik said the planning process will not take too much time.
The Marlboro-Nanto youth exchange program, which was established in 1991 to form a similar situation with residents of Nanto City, Japan, may provide a loose basis for the new sister city program with the Chinese municipality of Wujiang, Hornik said.
“Right now the program is being developed. If it’s modeled after our Nanto City program, it will be for teenagers who will need chaperones. … We are going to make some changes to both of our sister city programs,” the mayor said.
Hornik said he hopes for the exchanges to take place when the weather is warm. He said Marlboro and Wujiang share similar climates.
Wujiang’s proximity to the metropolitan center of Shanghai is comparable to Marlboro’s location near New York City, Hornik said.
Students from the Wujiang Experimental Middle School were the first beneficiaries of the sister city agreement.
When the Chinese youngsters visited Marlboro in February, they attended the town’s middle schools, ate hamburgers and played miniature golf. The students also visited Washington, D.C., Manhattan and Trenton, Hornik said.
“They had a great week,” the mayor said. “They got all the experiences of an American child in the United States, and they got to feel what it’s really like to live in Marlboro.”
Marlboro Township Council President Randi Marder said that first visit by Chinese guests will better prepare members of the council and residents to accommodate future groups of Wujiang students.
“With a little bit more planning and a little bit more experience, we can improve upon what we did before, which was well-received,” Marder said.
Some residents believe the program will benefit students in ways that the classroom cannot.
“They will open their eyes and see what the world is all about. It’s not just this little, small nucleus,” said Fran Bauman, a resident of the township for 43 years. “More exposure means more learning.”
Members of the council celebrated the signing of the agreement with six delegates from Wujiang, which is part of China’s Suzhou region, by exchanging gifts.
Wujiang City officials offered a silk woven sign, a common local product, decorated with the Chinese characters for harmony and cooperation to Marlboro, along with a silk portrait of Hornik.
Members of the Marlboro Township Council presented Wujiang delegates with a commemorative glass plaque, along with bottles of liqueur shaped in the image of the Statue of Liberty.
Hornik also gave Jianwei a fossil.
“This is a special gift,” Hornik said. “This is a fossilized rock from an area of Marlboro Township, so you will always have a piece of Marlboro in Wujiang.”
After the signing ceremony, officials sipped champagne in the municipal courtroom before eating dinner at Sam Vera restaurant.
The Chinese delegates returned home the day after the signing ceremony, Marder said.
Despite the short duration of the visit, Jianwei said she enjoyed her stay and she is confident her constituents will feel the same.
“It’s a big thing for Wujiang residents,” Jianwei said through Marlboro Deputy Mayor Huimin Shen, who acted as a translator. “I love Marlboro Township.”
Shen brought the idea for the exchange program to township officials after a 2008 visit to China.
Hornik, Shen and councilmen Frank LaRocca, Scott Metzger and Jeff Cantor traveled to Wujiang in June 2010 to familiarize themselves with the city and advance relations with government representatives.
Hornik said he was impressed with the city’s cleanliness and the significant number of residents who spoke English.
Wujiang has similar arrangements with cities inAustralia, France, Japan and South Africa, Jianwei said. She said Marlboro is the first and only American town to partner with Wujiang.