Sister Cities

Peter with Students In Weihai
Dr. Peter Haslund with Students in Weihai

Evolving Our Sister City

I first visited Weihai in 1987.  I was engaged in taking students from Santa Barbara City College on our second Study Abroad adventure to Shandong province.  We were visiting Yantai, and while the students visited the Penglai Pavilion, I took a taxi over a bumpy road to Weihai.  I had made arrangements to visit with city officials and to initiate discussions about becoming a Sister City.

I toured this beautiful fishing village and admired the lovely red-tiled roofs and nearby rolling hills.  There was even an off shore island as there was in Santa Barbara!  Both the architecture and geography reminded me of our area, so this began to look very promising.  Still, the most critical element that convinced me was the genuine friendliness of the people, underscored by a meeting with the city’s mayor and other officials.  They embraced the idea with complete enthusiasm, so I returned to Santa Barbara and made the formal proposal to our city’s “Sister City Committee” and to the City Council.  We were on our way!

One of the most influential people I contacted when I returned home from my first visit was Dorothea Coryell, whose father was a founder of Qinghua University.  During the Japanese occupation, Dorothea and her father were held in an internment camp located near Weihai.  She was, by far, my most enthusiastic source of support in this venture. (I attach a short article about Dorothea, a most remarkable human being).

My next visit was in 1989 with over 30 students.  We continued the discussion about becoming Sister Cities, but this was a stressful time for China so we postponed any further formal effort.

I returned in 1991 with even more students from Santa Barbara City College, a process that was repeated about every other year from that time to 2006 when I decided to invite others to lead these academic trips.  Two years earlier, I had begun bringing high school teachers to Weihai.  I was eager to bring and expose our teachers to the culture and history of China so I brought faculty from all of the high schools in our area to teach conversational English to Weihai students.  We began teaching at the university and wound up teaching at the No. 1 Middle School.  I assembled a book of reflections about that last trip in 2009 which I have shared with our community as well as with Weihai.

Because of these trips, supported by the Freeman Foundation, our teachers were able to share their knowledge about our community as well as help increase the English proficiency of many Weihai university and middle school students.  As important as anything else, they returned to their home campuses, able to share their newly acquired knowledge about China and, especially, about our Sister City.

Director Yu and I are now developing an MOU that will hopefully continue and expand on that idea.

(by Peter Haslund)


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