Neighbors Abroad at a crossroad? | February 1, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - February 1, 2013

Neighbors Abroad at a crossroad?

Palo Alto's sister-city program celebrates 50 years — and contemplates its future

by Sue Dremann

Mary Ashley's eyes twinkled. Tall and athletic, with smooth white hair, she wiggled her hands beside her ears as she sang the Små grodorna, Swedish for "The Little Frogs," a traditional dance and song performed midsummer around a maypole:

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Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be emailed at


Like this comment
Posted by Carroll Harrington
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 1, 2013 at 10:43 am

Kudos on this excellent article about Neighbors Abroad, an organization that had consistently worked hard on both local and international levels to foster understanding between countries and cultures! Congratulations, Neighbors Abroad, for 50 years of especially enriching the lives of many children in your Sister Cities!

Carroll Harrington
Melville Avenue

Like this comment
Posted by Debbie Ford-Scriba
a resident of another community
on Feb 1, 2013 at 11:07 am

I echo Carroll Harrington's comments above, and join her and the community in congratulating Neighbors Abroad on 50 years of global service and vibrant cultural exchange. Love the Foreign Friends sculpture story from the one-and-only Greg Brown; it does help assuage the guilt!

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Posted by Skype-Diplomacy-Rocks!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Organizations like the ones identified in this article may have had their place at some time in the past—but in this day of global, and instant, communications—their contributions are difficult to see as meaningful.

With services like Youtube, Skype (including video chat), email, Instant Messengers, VoIP, Google Circles (Video conferencing) —just to name a few—people can communicate with people all over the world very easily, and for the most part—for free.

There are any number of web-sites that are dedicated to “making new friends”. Pick a name, email that person, and “make a connection”. Start talking—without the interference of some sort of parent organization—and start your own instant diplomatic program.

Youtube allows folks the opportunity to visit any city in the world. You and your new “foreign friends” can up load videos out of your digital cameras/phones, and show each other your cities/towns and homes. (This is true with the exception of China, at the moment. However, the Chinese version of Youtube is open to non-Chinese, so you and friends in China can exchange videos on that web-site.)

While the need for these pre-Internet service organizations is mostly over—they could perhaps adapt to the fact that people-to-people interchanges are available to everyone in the world, and help folks make those sorts of connections.

Otherwise, maybe it’s time to consider sun-setting their operations.

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