Students extend olive branch to sister city
March 23, 2009
By Warren Kagarise
Clark Elementary School fifth-graders recently embarked on a diplomatic mission with cedar planks, copper strips and a message of friendship. Students used the materials to craft journals that will be sent to children in Chefchaouen, Morocco.
Teacher Julia Landa, whose 24 students undertook the project, said the assignment kindled an interest in the African nation.“The wanderlust and the cultural intrigue were immediately sparked,” she said.
Chefchaouen and Issaquah inked an agreement in 2007, binding the distant municipalities as sister cities. Issaquah residents Dan and Portia Anderson, who will vacation in Morocco later this year, plan to deliver journals produced by the Clark students. The Andersons will also deliver art supplies to Moroccan students.
The students planned to visit the Blue Door, an arched doorway sent by Chefchaouen officials as a gift for Issaquah City Hall. They were scheduled to deliver the journals and sample a Moroccan tea during the March 24 event.
Students fashioned the journals from cedar planks — which became the covers — recycled paper and copper accents. Landa said a parent volunteer planned to bind the journals with leather cord. The students also wrote inscriptions for the title pages. Landa integrated art, science, social studies, reading and writing into the journal project.
“I thought this would be a really good chance for them to make something and put their hearts and souls into it, and to share something with people on the other side of the world,” she said.
She said the idea for a sister-city project came from City Clerk Tina Eggers, whose daughter Morgan is in Landa’s class. Landa and her husband, Brent Johnson, visited Morocco last year. They toured Marrakech, Casablanca and the capital, Rabat. Chefchaouen, nestled in mountainous, northwestern Morocco near the Mediterranean coast, was a last-minute addition to their itinerary.
When she launched the unit on Morocco in early March, Landa showed a slideshow of photos she and her husband snapped during their trip.
“I had always wanted to go” to Morocco, she said, adding that she also wanted to retrace part of the route her parents traveled when they drove a Volkswagen van throughout Europe and Africa during the 1960s.
“Anywhere their V-Dub would take them, they went,” she said.
In Chefchaouen, Landa and her husband spent three days sightseeing, shopping and listening to the Islamic call to prayer.
“Walking around the town, you feel such a connection to where you are, because the people have been there for so long,” Landa said.
Mayor Ava Frisinger, who has traveled to Morocco twice in the years since the sister-city agreement, said Chefchaouen’s long history permeates the town and the identity of its people.
Moreover, the sister-city initiative provides an “opportunity for people in our community to be introduced to a culture that is significantly different from what we have here,” she said.
She said the ties that bind the two cities are deep.
“We’ve experienced such a great friendship between one another,” she said. During her visits, “we found ourselves welcomed, embraced and treated as family.”
Reach Reporter Warren Kagarise at 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.