International friendships start hereIn two languages, the name of Superior’s sister city means friend. “Ami” is “friend” in French; “amigo/amiga” is “friend” in Spanish.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
In two languages, the name of Superior’s sister city means friend. “Ami” is “friend” in French; “amigo/amiga” is “friend” in Spanish. In Superior, the friendship with Ami-machi, Japan spans 17 years, links dozens of families and blooms in both gardens and hearts on both sides of the globe. When Superior’s delegation returned from Japan last year, they brought with them a tangible sign of that friendship — a check for more than $3,000 to help the city recover from the June 2012 flood.
“For me that’s really the proof of the pudding in these sister city relationships,” said Kim Habig, Sister City Commission secretary, following the visit. “If an earthquake or a flood happens in a country far away and you know someone there or have visited yourself, you have more of a connection.”
The key to the close relationship with Ami-machi comes from annual exchanges. Last year, Superior youth and adult flew to Japan. On Aug. 21, delegates from Japan come to town. While the adults stay in hotels, youthful representatives will live with families through Aug. 25. It is an opportunity to form new friendships.
“Hosting an exchange student is a great way to expand knowledge of the world,” said Jane Anklam, who is opening her home to one of this year’s students. Her son Andrew lived with a host family when he took part in the 2012 delegation to Japan, and he’s eager to return the favor.
“The learning occurs around the dinner table, sharing special places and events as well as day to day family rituals,” Anklam said. “It adds more to understanding than reading a book or watching a TV show.”
Hosting can also be addictive. Linda Emmert, chairwoman of the Sister City Commission, has hosted Ami-machi students three times. The first year, she welcomed two students into her home, which already had three boys and two dogs.
“It was kind of crazy,” she said, but the kids loved it and “It was enough time to form a friendship.”
She was initially concerned about the language barrier.
“With having boys, they didn’t have to say much when they were playing,” Emmert said.
Language usually works itself out, said Anklam, who has hosted soccer players from Sweden. And, she said, there’s more to communication than speech.
Emmert’s sons told her the visits raised their cultural awareness and showed them that “different isn’t better or worse, just different.” Each of them traveled to Ami-machi, as well, and had a blast. One even got to see what life was like in a family with three girls.
The family went on to host three full-year students along with German students through the Muenster Exchange and soccer players from Sweden. Each time it was just like throwing another teenager into the mix, Emmert said, and it opened their home to the world.
“The world, I used to think it was so small,” she said. “You never know what it will open up.”
Currently, the Sister City Commission is seeking host families for Ami-machi students from Aug. 21-25.
“I would encourage others to host, as over the years, I have seen that families that have hosted get great pleasure from having the students be part of their family for the few days that they are here,” said Rani Gill, executive assistant to Superior Mayor Bruce Hagen. “Not only do the Japanese students learn the American way of life and culture, but when they leave, they leave behind a part of their culture also.”
Activities are planned for the students during the days they are visiting and host families are welcome to join them. In addition to hosts, the Sister City Commission is looking for local businesses and organizations interested in having delegates visit their site. For more information on the Sister City Commission, upcoming delegation or host family applications, look it up through the city’s website, http://www.ci.superior.wi.us/, under the community tab, call Gill at 715-395-7212 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.