Pinehurst Mayor Signs Sister City Agreement on China Trip
The mayor of Pinehurst has signed a sister city agreement with a town in China.
Mayor Ginsey Fallon is in Changsha, capital city of Hunan Province, with state Sen. Harris Blake and others.
The signing took place during a larger "sister cities" forum sponsored by the province. More than 250 delegates are attending. They come from 50 different cities and more than a score of other nations, including Ghana, Ukraine, Finland, Russia, several U.S. cities and other countries in Latin America and Africa.
Mike Jones, of Pinehurst, is with the North Carolina group and attended the signing.
"The principal ceremonies and events are located in the massive, glamorous Bolton Hotel in Changsha, a 'small' city by Chinese terms - about 10 million people," Jones reported Tuesday by e-mail to The Pilot. "The Moore County delegation has been warmly received, starting with a daylong visit to the World's Fair in Shanghai and then a brief flight to Changsha City, the capital city of Hunan, for the actual forum."
The day began with welcoming speeches and then a private luncheon followed that was hosted by Qing Feng Yuan, the magistrate of Guidong County. That county and Moore signed a similar agreement in 2007 when Blake led a delegation to Guidong for the dedication of a monument to Lt. Robert Hoyle Upchurch, of High Falls.
Upchurch, a fighter pilot with the famous Flying Tigers, was shot down during combat in World War II, buried with honor on Santai Mountain in Guidong - but known only as "American Pilot" for more than 60 years.
After DNA identification and the return of his remains to High Falls, Guidong proposed the county-to-county link. That led to a sister state agreement between North Carolina and Hunan Province.
Several of Hunan's vice governors have since visited the state, and a number of delegations came to High Falls to pay their respects at the Upchurch family plot.
The sister city forum is the most recent event in the growing connections between the two sister states.
In addition to Blake, Fallon and Jones, other local members of the delegation include Chip Fallon, Tom Stewart, Richard Mandell and his wife, Mary, retired Navy Capt. Mike Covington, of Green Equipment Solutions of Southern Pines, and Bill Edsel, retired CEO of Pinehurst Surgical. Jones is with MicroCare Corp. in Southern Pines. There are also seven other representatives from North Carolina.
Jones said he is intrigued by some of the Chinese customs he is encountering on the trip.
"Food on the table is served on a 'lazy Susan' and rotated among the diners," he said. "The food is amazing in flavor and overwhelming in quantity."
On Tuesday evening, there was a massive banquet with 400 delegates and guests. All of the speeches were delivered in Chinese and then translated into English, Jones reported.
"Some of the servers wore traditional garments from the Hunan province, which was quite charming," he said. "Early in the evening, the main doors slammed open and servers entered the room in a march, with music and traditional drums, reminding me of students filing into the dining room at Hogwarts (in the Harry Potter movies).
"The air conditioning failed to keep up with the festivities, but the energy of the evening was intoxicating."
Toasting, Chinese style, is rather different from American and English traditions.
"There is an odd custom at Chinese banquets of making toasts - innumerable toasts," Jones said. "To make things slightly more complex, the waiters pour only small drops into each wine glass, which are emptied at each toast. Staff then scurries around each of the 40-odd tables, refilling everyone's glasses. To my eyes, it's a lot more work than it needs to be, but it certainly keeps the staff busy."
At the actual signing, eight cities in North Carolina formed partnerships with cities in Hunan province.
"In the case of Moore County, our partnership is with the city of Zhi Jiang, in the western part of the province," Jones says. "Zhi Jiang was the site of one of the largest U.S. air bases at the close of World War II, and it was in this area that Upchurch was killed in 1944. The residents of the area built a small tomb for the unknown aviator and respectfully tended it for 61 years, before his body was repatriated to Moore County."
The sister cities forum features meetings on tourism, economy co-operation and education. A separate program has brought students and teachers from North Carolina to take part in the first of what is to be an annual summer camp program co-sponsored by Hunan and the Carolina China Council. Heather Seawell, of High Falls and a student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, is among them.
"I don't know what their agenda or schedule might be," Jones said. "If it's anything like our program, they'll be worn out when it's over."
Contact John Chappell by e-mail at email@example.com.
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