Journalists are supposed to be able to write easily and smoothly, without any forced effort, even when we don't have much to say. Yeah right! That’s only the way it’s supposed to be. Here I am, almost at the end of one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had. I should be writing for the blog like every other fellow on tprogram, but my mind is empty. It should be just the opposite.
Six weeks into this overwhelming program, I just don't want to miss anything. I’m curious about every meeting, trying to explore each person, understand their background. Always trying to be well informed and supported by good questions. Even more, trying to steal any bit of knowledge and know-how and work out how to apply it in my own country.
Then, when the second or very often the third meeting has finished for the day, we just start exploring the city we’re in, sightseeing, boats on some river (gosh, how many boat trips we've taken), bars, food, nightlife. Everybody wants to feel that sense of being in the USA. And yeah, it's hard when every region and even state has its own identity, charm and character.
The overwhelming New York was far from my expectations of a great city for working and living. It might be good for the former, but not the latter. The whole busy smashing machine can swallow you if you don't know how to swim. The great Washington with such lovely charm and so many things to see. Rich with museums, public events, green parks, spacious roads and streets, greatnightlife and places where I can imagine to raise a child. The small Atlanta where there's nothing much to see and do, yet still is a puzzlepiece of the whole grand American picture. And Austin, which successfully confused metwice. First with its colourful, diverse and rich nightlife, bars and swarming streets. And then with its disturbing quietness during the daytime, which is even on the boundary with boredom. And San Francisco, not last and definitely not least. A tremendously beautiful city, winning you over with its architecture, parks, the Golden Gate Bridge and of course, its shining bay. The city with so many homeless people on the street, who add to its charm instead of detract from it.
Often we speak to each other about how time is going so very quickly and how sometimes it’s hard to remember what we had for lunch yesterday. Days are rolling into one, everything is mixed and even melted together.
One day we can be sitting next to New York Times columnist Tom Friedman talking about Syria or ISIS and how his wife is his best critic. The next day we can visit a public school in Brooklyn and meet the most amazing and inspiring woman who is a principal, teacher and de facto mom for one for her students. She teaches children used to family violence, street abuse, rapes and guns that there is a different world out there. A Teacher with capital T, who tries to help students grow into self-confident young people with their own unique, strong personality and values.
Then we walk through the door of the Wall Street Journal or CNN and... LOL! For one brief hour we jump into the deepest and highest media waters. Where money and time are more than valuable, they are ultimate prerogatives. We see firsthand the media's challenging future as the web takes over. We realise that we need to change our work, habits and ways of thinking because that's the only way to survive this new world of easy, free and entertaining news streams. Then there's the curiosity I felt when we met Edward Snowden's lawyer Ben Wizneror, or the former deputy NSA director, and spent time debating all the privacy issues in terms of the digital era.
And everything is just happening so quickly that my mind doesn't have enough time to process what has been done and seen. All the cities, restaurants and different kind of cuisines like Vietnamese, Venezuelian, Indian, Ethiopian, Turkish. And American as well of course, with the most tasty steak and pork ribs I've ever tried.
This whole experience is also flavoured with many new contacts and people who I consider some of the most valuable and treasurable items for any journalist. Just because someday the time will come to reach out or to learn something new from them.
Now when I just write all this in one breath, with all the thoughts in my head exposed in black in white on a screen, I must say that I'm going to miss this 9-week experience. None of the memories would have been the same if the other fellows were anyone else. With Mandakini's singing and cheeriness, she's able to make me laugh even if I fell out of bed on my backside, Ivo's kindness, Denis who is always trying to help and always concluding "This is a good one", Valentina's way of saying "disgusting" and relentlessly asking questions to which she knows she won’t get answers, Jonatan's laugh and his constant burger hunger, Camilla's deep philosophical conclusions about random situations and of course her magic bag in which you can find anything from medicines to stain-removing wet wipes. Sumeera's smile, usually on the other side of the table during some meeting (she tells me a lot) and Shailala's funny stories. David constantly asking "Are you having fun?" And me... I will leave that description to the others.
Simply the best group ever.