Monday August 2, 2010

We were all supposed to meet at 8:30 a.m. in the lobby of Holiday Inn Express, where rest of the Humphrey Fellows were staying. There is one thing the Americans are complimented about: Punctuality. They say if you are on time then it means you are not on time. You have to reach in a meeting at least five minutes before. Arriving late amounts to offending the person you are meeting. So, Mukesh and I arrived on time to the hotel. After all, we wanted our first impression to be positive.

For a moment, I was delighted that our American hosts had still not arrived “on time” whereas we had made it on time. However, they, Dr. Bill Silcock and Ivy Bohnlein also came within five minutes. While I had met rest of the fellows the other day, I met Chevaan Daniel, the head of Sri Lanka’s largest electronic news media network and Daria Marjanovic, a veteran journalist from Croatia.

We all walked from the Holiday Inn Express to Walter Cronkite School of Journalism building which was at a walking distance. The Cronkite School has been named after popular American broadcast journalist Walter Leland Cronkite (1916-2009). In 2008, the school moved to its new six-story impressive building which is spread at 223,000 squire-foot at Downtown Phoenix, which is the center of new Arizona State University downtown campus.

We went straight in to the Cronkite Room # 355 which was kind of a conference room. Normally, the first sessions or classes are marred with nervousness and uncertainty. I did not feel very nervous with the new class because we were all familiar with each other for the past some time. While five fellows had already taken classes together for at least one month in Tuscon, the remaining five of us also knew each other through email interactions and Facebook activities.

Dr. Bill welcomed us all in the very first session of a program which was going to tie us all for the next ten months. In the introduction, we were asked to mention our names; what we did back home in our respective countries; how we would say good morning in our native languages and who our individual role models in life were.

It was exciting to learn about morning greetings in different languages. More interesting was the exercise of repeating it many times with the others until one learned it.

Unlike my friend from Peshawar, I did not use the Islamic greeting of Aslam-o-Alikum as my morning greeting. I preferred to introduce the participants with my Balochi greeting of Che Hal inth. I said my father was my role model as he had educated me in spite of being a poor uneducated man. Though we were asked to only chose one role model, I insisted being allowed to mention another role model who inspired my professional life: Robert Fisk.

Christopher Callahan, Dean of Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communicaton, welcomes the Hubert Humphrey Fellows

Soon, we were joined by Christopher Callahan, the founding Dean of Cronkite School who welcomed us. Callahan, who had previously worked with University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism, which hosts the other program of Humphrey Fellows in the US, said he was very excited about Cronkite School winning the stiff competition to host the Humphrey Fellows.

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