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Cities of Sisterly Love


Across the street from City Hall is a mileage signpost with arrows pointing to Los Angeles' 21 sister cities. Can you name any? Neither could we until last month. President Dwight Eisenhower began the Sister Cities Program in 1956 to promote cross-cultural understanding, thus launching one of history's great gift exchange programs. We visited the first annual Los Angeles Sister City Festival at the Page Museum for some sororal fun.


Jeffrey Cheung

President, Los Angeles-Guangzhou Sister City Assn.

Why be a sister city to L.A.?

L.A. is one of the biggest ports in the world; Guangzhou is the center of China's exports. The earliest immigrants to L.A. came from the Guangzhou area.

Should Guangzhou be more like L.A.?

I would like to see more of L.A.'s cultural diversity.

What should Guangzhou avoid?

Part of the Hollywood stuff, the over-sexual activity. China has over 2,000 years of Confucianism, and should keep its traditional beliefs.

What city would you be?

Paris. Paris keeps its culture and history very well. At the same time, it encourages creativity. You see the design of I.M. Pei at the Louvre. Few governments would encourage a foreigner to do that to the crown of their culture. L.A. should do the same. Disney Hall and the new cathedral are the best things this city has ever done. That's what America's about, getting good ideas from every corner of the world.


Ahmed Sharaf

Press counselor at Egyptian Consulate in San Francisco, representing sister city Giza, Egypt

Why is Giza a good fit with L.A.?

There are similarities and differences. This is a land of opportunity. We also are a land of opportunity. Egypt is an emerging economic country. We love movies. There is a huge international film festival in Egypt. It's the most famous film festival in the Middle East.

Did you ever see "Cleopatra," starring Elizabeth Taylor?

Of course. It was very nice acting from Elizabeth Taylor. Egyptians like the film very much.

What misconceptions are there about Egypt?

When I did a lecture about Egypt at a school in San Francisco, a student raised his hand and asked, "Do you still wear the pharaoh dress and ride camels to work?"

Why sister city, not brother city?

A city should be more like a woman ... beautiful and fascinating.


Birute Prasauskas

Retired nurse, demonstrating weaving of sister city Kaunas, Lithuania

Why is Kaunas a good fit with L.A.?

I grew up near Kaunas. It's the most cosmopolitan city in Lithuania. We both love concerts, we love culture, we love shopping.

How could Kaunas be more like L.A.?

I think they need investments. We would like students from here to go there, and students from there to come here. Kaunas has several universities. They're very into biotech.

Does the world really need hundreds of sister cities?

Why are there wars? Because we're afraid of each other. Every president should come to a Sister City Festival.

When an Angeleno visits Kaunas, what's the strangest thing he'll see?

The leftover high-rise block apartments from the Soviet era. The way they were built, I don't know how they're still able to stand.

There are many Lithuanians living in Chicago. Why isn't Kaunas a sister city with Chicago?

I think they're already sister cities with Vilnius.


Dr. Earnestine


President, Los Angeles-Lusaka (Zambia) Sister City Committee, and Kersten Malama, festival performer

Why be a sister city?

Thomas-Robertson: No one nation has the resource or monetary capability to sustain itself. Every nation needs every other nation.

What do the cities have in common?

Thomas-Robertson: Lusaka and Los Angeles are important commercial centers. There is ethnic diversity in Lusaka, as in Los Angeles.

Should Lusaka be more like L.A.?

Malama: I would love to see Lusaka have some of the beautiful roads here. The Ronald Reagan Freeway, the 118, is beautiful.

What is a big difference between Lusaka and L.A.?

Malama: In Lusaka, we have original, natural food. Chicken is straight from the village. Here, everything is processed. [Here] on Friday we order pizza or Chinese food or go to HomeTown Buffet. I would love to introduce HomeTown Buffet to Lusaka!

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