A lot of this first trip is to formalize the relationship,” Shorb said as one of 20 people who left for Ethiopia Feb. 12 for a six-day tour of Adama. “We’re doing a number of tours so we can get to know the city, their needs, and things we can help them with and work together on.

By Rachel Sapin |

AURORA | The card game is called “Five Tricks.” There is no talking allowed and each team gets a different set of rules to play by. After a few minutes, some members switch to the other team, not even knowing the rules the other team has been told to follow.

Sound impossible?  It’s supposed to be, said Karlyn Shorb, the executive director of Aurora Sister Cities.

Shorb was part of a group who took part in the card game as a communication-building exercise at Aurora city hall to prepare for a trip to Adama, Ethiopia — Aurora’s first partner sister city in nearly a decade.

“A lot of this first trip is to formalize the relationship,” Shorb said as one of 20 people who left for Ethiopia Feb. 12 for a six-day tour of Adama. “We’re doing a number of tours so we can get to know the city, their needs, and things we can help them with and work together on.”

Last August, delegates from Adama, which included the city’s mayor, visited Aurora and took part in Global Fest at the Aurora Municipal Center, a celebration of Aurora’s sizable and growing international community.

Shorb is touring Adama with a group that includes 14 Aurora residents who have ties to Ethiopia. In addition to those people, Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan and Ward IV Councilwoman Molly Markert are joining. Chanell Reed, a management analyst for the mayor and city council; Kim Stuart, a spokeswoman for the City of Aurora; and Chris Tombari, who is chairman of the Community College of Aurora’s English as a Second Language department are also touring the East African country.

Shorb said Aurora’s delegates will tour Adama’s parks, its water treatment facility and a sugar manufacturing plant.

“The type of industry they have there is agricultural. They also have manufacturing, wind and solar farms,” she said.

She said the group will also be visiting the Adama Science and Technology University, the Adama Medical College and the city’s health department.

“We will be meeting with city and regional government officials, including the regional president of the Oromia regional state,” she said.

The tour will conclude with a visit to the city’s tourism office and down time at Adama’s Sodere Hot Springs.

“On the last day they’re doing a large farewell dinner and reception that will feature traditional food and dancing,” she said.

Adama and Aurora both have roughly 350,000 citizens, one of the similarities they share. It sits on the outskirts of Ethiopia’s largest city, Addis Ababa. Today, Ethiopia is considered to have one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, after government investment in industrial mega-zones and public projects attracted foreign investors, including China. That’s in addition to growth in agriculture and transportation.

Hogan said the trip is an opportunity to make both social and economic connections.

“It’s our understanding while we’re there, they will be naming a park in honor of the City of Aurora,” he said. “They are also making plans to name a future building in honor of Aurora. We have one of the largest Ethiopian constituencies in the state. When Ethiopians come to Colorado, they’re going to come to Aurora, and that’s going to be good for our economy.”

Hogan added that he plans to talk with government officials in Ethiopia about zoning and planning processes during the visit based on feedback he received from the Adama delegates who came to Aurora last summer. 

“One thing they mentioned when they were here is they don’t have a very real grasp of a planning process or a zoning process,” Hogan said. “They are the second largest city in Ethiopia. This isn’t a small town, but they’re still doing things in some respects the way they were done 100 years ago. They recognize that fact, but they have no experience in how to do it differently … We can help them understand why you need zoning and planning processes, and why you want to let citizens comment on what’s being built where.”

Aurora resident Hassan Ararso is looking forward to the trip because it will give him an opportunity to help Ethiopian residents better understand processes like a public comment system. Ararso, 42, came to Colorado from Ethiopia through political asylum in 2002 and is one of the 14 local residents visiting from Aurora.

“It’s a developing country where people are complaining about human rights (issues),” he said. “People are struggling, the poverty is high. I want to see how we can help. When I left the country, we didn’t have any public libraries. I’d like to see if we have any public libraries now.”

Ararso said he is also looking forward to seeing his parents when he visits.

“It’s been very long time, more than 20 years,” he said.

Aurora residents and city officials are paying for their own airfare and travel insurance, which cost about $2,000, according to Shorb. Lodging and meals are being provided by the Ethiopian delegation, she said.

Source: Aurora Sentinel

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