IVLP 2010: Arrival in Washington DC
International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) 2010
Arrival in Washington DC
Feb 18, 2010:
We arrived in Washington on February 8th when the US federal capital was encumbered with snow. It was a long journey that started from Karachi and took us to Dubai, London and finally to DC. Only three of us from Pakistan, Shah Mohammad , Quetta bureau chief of the Associated Press of Pakistan based in Quetta and Amjid Warraich, Pubjab bureau chief of News TV One, had managed to arrive while a group of other five journalists had been stranded on the way due to the heavy snow in DC. In the first place, their flight had been cancelled and secondly they had been instructed not to fly to DC until the weather improved.
On the arrival at Washington Dulles International Airport on February 8th, we were received by our English Language Officers (ELOs) Tasnim Rizvi and Greg Backer. Washington Dulles Airport is located in 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of Washington DC in Virginia. We drove to our hotel Washington Plaza in the District of Columbia. The hotel is located at 10 Thomas Circle in the Northwest of Washington DC.
While driving from the airport, one realized that it had been snowing heavily in the recent times. Roads in Virginia had still not been fully blocked due to the snow as we were told that the government in Virginia was very efficient and resourceful to grapple with such situations.
As we entered Washington DC, we realized how badly it had snowed in the recent days. All roads were weighed down with snow. Scores of parked cars has been dumped in heavy snow. The local administration had not managed to clean the roads as it was learnt that it ran out of resources to deal with a situation like this. It was in fact the worst blizzard in the past 90 years and it broke all previous records the next day. The government had announced a public holiday for the next day in the wake of more expected snow. Daily life was likely to become utterly paralyzed in the coming days because of the blizzard.
Washington DC is located on the north bank of Potomac River and is bordered by the state of Virginia in southwest and Maryland in the other sides. This city is very similar to Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital city. It is properly designed. The only business that takes place here is politics. A lot of people who work at DC do not necessarily live there owing to exorbitant living costs. They prefer to live in Virginia and come to work by catching the subway. Most people in the US have their own cars to drive.
No one truly owns DC. Since it largely depends on federal funds, its civic amenities and ability to clean roads during snow time often comes under severe criticism.
I checked in my room # 437 at the Washington Plaza Hotel. I like the room as it was very clean and seemed very comfortable. I was going to have free access to the internet in my room and watch a number of TV channels on a stunning plasma TV.
On my arrival, I was also provided a folder comprising of instructions and a detailed description of our four-week long trip to the United States of America. Honestly, I was very excited to come to the US. It was like a dream come true. I have always wanted to explore the American success story as to how a country of three hundred years developed so rapidly to become the world’s sole super power. I have wanted to see the American progress more closely by talking to the people of this country and those who monitor the day-to-day affairs of the country.
Succeeding in getting through the IVLP was a greater achievement because this program was going to extensively introduce me with very vast sections of the America media and number of organizations that play a significant role in shaping and following the US foreign policy. It was a wonderful opportunity to see closely how the American’s formulate their foreign policy and how the local media cover it.
Meridian International Center, a private, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting international understanding through the exchange of people, ideas and arts, was responsible for administering the whole program.
Highlighting the primary objectives of our trip, our program documents stated:” The US Department of State helps to shape a freer, more secure and more secure world through formulating, representing and implementing the President’s foreign policy. The Secretary of State is the President’s principal advisor on foreign policy and the person chiefly responsible for a US representation abroad.
The Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs (ECA) fosters mutual understanding between the United States and other countries through international educational, professional and cultural exchanges. The Bureau promotes personal, professional, and institutional ties between private citizens and organizations in the United States and abroad, and presents US history, society, art and culture in all of its diversity to overseas audiences.
The office of the International Visitors manages and funds the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). Launched in 1940, the IVLP seeks to build mutual understanding between the United States and other nations through carefully designed professional visits to the US for current and emerging foreign leaders. These visits reflect the visitors’ professional interests and support the foreign policy goals of the US government. Each year, over 4,5000 IVLP participants from all over the world are selected by US embassies to travel to the US to meet and confer with their professional counterparts. Through these encounters, they gain a greater understanding of the cultural and political influences in the US society and enjoy a firsthand experience of the US, its people and its culture. Visitors represent government, politics, the media, education, non-governmental organizations, the arts, public health , international security, business and trade and other fields. Over 225 countries current and former heads of government and state and many other distinguished world leaders in the public and private sectors have participated in the IVLP.”