The “Sister City” Visit

Speeches. Handshakes. Hugs. Kisses. Banquets. Wine. Cultural shows …. Repeat!

Visiting Chile as part of a Sister City delegation has opened my eyes to a new mode of travel, for at every turn we were welcomed, greeted, kissed, and hugged. The reception has been very warm indeed!   The women in the AGEP group are very organized and fun-loving. And, there’s always another opportunity for a group photo!

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Viña del Mar and Sausalito have been sister cities for 50 years, but the relationship has blossomed over the past five years due to the focused and dedicated efforts of many volunteers who are with me on this trip. Everyone is not only committed to helping the city-to-city relationship thrive, but has focused on the people-to-people aspect as well. As a result, we have been welcomed as true celebrities in Viña Del Mar and Valparaiso, the city next door.  Monica, the gal on the left in the photo above, has been instrumental in organizing this trip and making it a success.

There are several men with this sister city delegation. Two are ex-mayors of Sausalito;  so they are experts at schmoozing and handshakes that seem to be universal to politicians worldwide! Ray introduced our delegation to the Governor of the Valparaiso state.

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While Herb described the significance of the sister city relationship. (As a confirmed bachelor, he loved being around all of the women!)

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The Mayor of Valparaiso loved being part of our delegation! In fact, we saw him 4 times in 3 days.  Below, he invited us to the opening day of a Picasso exhibit at the Museum of Bellas Artes.  Nice!

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I'm honored to have new "sisters" (including the male sisters above!)

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We’ve enjoyed many musical performances as well as interpretations of the “cueca”, the traditional Chilean dance.

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At the second show, Ray even joined the cast!

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The main goal of the trip has been to support the women entrepreneurs. They organized their first “trade show” to highlight their wares. They’ve coined the term “Hecho in Valpairso” and  branded this fair with a new logo. Impressive!

The necklaces flew off the shelves for these gals.

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And, the handmade dolls also made a splash.

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Sausalito and the Marin Marine Mammal Center each had booths to educate the locals about the sister city relationship and the potential of rehabilitating sea lions and other injured sea life along the Chilean coast.

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And as part of the fair, I invited a current “Startup Chile” entrepreneur to talk about his business. Chris Naveen, from Bangalore India, wowed the audience with his work on a low cost intelligent cane for the Blind. It has built in sensors that detect obstacles that may be in front of the blind person. Lizzie, a Chilean American gal who is traveling with our delegation, provided expert translation.  Chris plans his first test market in Valparaiso, and may work with some of the AGEP women to make it a reality.

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At the end the week, the AGEP ladies threw us an elaborate party, complete with masks!

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These gals (in purple) were the original members who founded the group 15 years ago.

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These business women have come along way since their group's founding in 2000.  They have had five exchanges with Sausalito (three in Chile, and two in California). As a result, the women are more confident and their businesses are more sophisticated and successful.  Hats off to them!

As if we had not had enough wine during our "official visit", we visited the Veramonte winery in the Casablanca valley en route to the Santiago airport.  During this delicious tasting (paired with French cheeses), we toasted our successful week and the accomplishments of the past year.  Salute!

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