Island News

Great America

Written By : SERA JANINE. Seventeen nations, 21 individuals, three weeks and several American states the objective of the East Asia and Pacific (EAP) group of the Edward R Murrow
27 Nov 2010 12:00

image Written By : SERA JANINE. Seventeen nations, 21 individuals, three weeks and several American states the objective of the East Asia and Pacific (EAP) group of the Edward R Murrow Programme for Journalists was to learn as much as we can from the trip.
This programme is one of the most revered for journalists from around the world and I was privileged to have been successfully nominated by the US Embassy in Fiji.
The US Department of State’s 2010 Edward R. Murrow Programme for Journalists brought together 150 emerging leaders in the field of journalism from around the world to examine journalistic practices in the United States.
Edward Roscoe Murrow was an American journalist who set the trend for broadcast journalism. In the United States of America most of those from the World War 2 era remember him as the voice that brought the happenings from the war into their homes- through the radio.
Our group of the East Asia Pacific consisted of Australia, Brunei, Burma, Fiji, Hong Kong (Special Administrative Region), Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, People’s Republic of China, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Timor Leste, Vanuatu and Vietnam.
My trip into the United States of America began on the early hours of October 23 as I caught an early morning flight from the Nausori Airport to Nadi International Airport.
Walking into the unknown I did it with great trepidation not knowing what was in store for me.
From Nadi I took an Air Pacific flight to Sydney and then on to Los Angeles.
It was at the Los Angeles Airport (LAX) that the realisation dawned on me to brace myself for a major change from Fiji’s comfortable and easy lifestyle.
I got an early taste of the faster way that the rest of the world moves.
And I had to move fast as my 15 hour flight from Sydney had not left me in the most energised state.
When I got past US Border Customs and Security, I was continuously waved on as I carried the seal of the United States’ International Visitor as part of a US Department of State programme.
LAX or Los Angeles World Airport has nine terminals including the Tom Bradley International Terminal where my flight came in.
The good thing about the airport is that there are signs to guide us all throughout the place.
There are also guides to assist us in getting to our respective airline check-in booths.
It was only when I headed for the check-in booth for the airline that I was going to travel in to Dulles Airport in Washington DC- my final destination on the two-day trip, that I realised that I was living October 23, 2010 twice.
At the airline booth I was quickly ushered through so I could make my next flight- I was already running late.
I got worried when I saw the long line at the security check booth as the hands of the clock were ticking close to 1.10pm- the flight departure time.
This was when the duty free bag I was holding in my hand came to my rescue.
A lady who was part of airport security checked my boarding pass and told me to rush on through as my flight was already boarding.
I went to line up to go through the first phase of the security check when I saw the same lady staring intently at me.
Being new to the US I was worried that I may have breached some kind of security law or something.
Then a smile broke from the Indian lady’s face: “Fiji? You from Fiji?”
“Yes,” I replied, with a questioning look which she correctly read as “how do you know?”
“The bag, the duty free bag,” she said with a bigger smile.
And it was through Kamni (originally from the Western town of Ba) that my prayer was answered.
“Come, come on through,” she said taking me to the head of the line.
On our way to the head of the line she was full of questions for me which I gladly answered and Kamni proved to me a saying me and my mates like to jokingly throw around : “You can take a person out of Fiji but you can never take Fiji out of a person.”
She explained to the other security people that my flight was already boarding and that I was from Fiji.
As soon as I got past security I rushed to my boarding gate.
My only regret that day was that I couldn’t get more out of Kamni due to time restrictions. I only managed to thank her after she gave me her best wishes and she ensured me that I would enjoy the US.
After I left LA everything went smoothly and I was greeted at Dulles Airport by my designated English Language Officer, Bob Acker.
It was also where I got to meet fellow participants from Australia, Brunei, People’s Republic of China and Pakistan.
The four of us remained close buddies during the three weeks.
The 150 participants of the programme were billeted at the Dupont Hotel in Dupont Circle, Washington DC.
Our second day in Washington saw the EAP group take a tour of Washington DC.
In Washington we were introduced to the US’s home for the federal Government. There was a tour of several historical and famous landmarks of the area. We got to see the White House from outside the gate and also the Capitol- the nationally recognised symbols of democracy.
The group also visited the Lincoln Memorial and the more adventurous ones visited the Washington Monument.
But the highlight of the tour was the visit to the Newseum. This is the museum of news that blends five centuries of news history with up-to-the second technology and hands on exhibits.
There was a section dedicated to the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Virginia.
There was a section dedicated to American journalists who made a difference in their profession, such as Murrow himself.
Award winning pictures and stories also have pride of place in the Newseum with a plaque in the front hall with the names of all journalists who lost their lives doing their jobs.
While in Washington, I got to see that in America, everyone thinks you are American.
One would be stopped by an American and asked for directions or information.
It was flattering and our ELOs told us that the diverse make-up of the US makes people think that everyone else is an American.
Travelling on the metro railway was also an experience in itself as well as the bus rides as we had to drop our fares into machines.
There was also a trip to a theatre in the state of Virginia where I watched the play: Walter Cronkite is Dead.
The highlight of the trip was the visit to the Harry S Truman Building where the US Department of State is located.
It was also where we got to have lunch at the Benjamin Franklin State Dining Room where foreign and American guests are usually entertained.
There was also a session with Pulitzer Prize winning American journalist Bob Woodward.
Mr Woodward, while a young reporter for the Washington Post in 1972, was teamed up with another great American journalist, Carl Bernstein and did most of the original news reporting of the Watergate Scandal.
He also wrote investigative pieces after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre’s twin towers and the Pentagon in Virginia.
While in Washington, I was constantly answering questions about my country.
But one thing that stood out is that Fiji WATER is making waves there as it was supplied as the official bottled water for the US Department of State’s receptions.
And I just had to point out when asked about Fiji WATER that it was sourced from my province.
That is all for this week, next week I will talk about my trip to Minnesota and visiting what is considered the world’s biggest mall, the Great Mall of America.

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