This is my first visit to the US. Everything I knew about this country was what I saw on television or what I read in books. But thanks to the World Press Institute fellowship, I have the opportunity to see it first-hand. Before I came here, I stereotyped Americans as people who don’t give a damn about foreigners. After all, many Americans are expatriates. How wrong I was that I actually feel a bit embarrassed.
Being the home of WPI, our first stop on our two month fellowship is the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul found in the state of Minnesota.
Here people are very warm. It surprised me when I got a couple of ‘hellos’ every time I walked the streets of St. Paul during my first week. They call it ‘Minnesota nice.’ I have also met the loveliest of people here in Minnesota. David McDonald, the Executive Director of WPI is such an amazing guy. He always asks, “Are you having fun?” It’s always a unanimous “yes” from the fellows because indeed we are having fun. Every day has its stock of surprises. I cannot fail to recognise the whole WPI team that is working tirelessly to ensure we enjoy our two month sojourn in this great country. Thank you very much guys.
All the fellows have host families who ensure they have a good time during their stay. My host families are Euan and Jane Kerr, David and Judy Ranheim as well as Frank and Retta Fifo who hosted me in Ely. These couples are a perfect example of what ‘Minnesota nice’ is. They have made my stay in Minnesota very comfortable. I have enjoyed three course dinners, gone to the movies, enjoyed boat rides etc. I am very grateful for the hospitality.
I am now looking forward to visiting other states. The Minnesotans warn that all Americans are not as nice. “Be careful when you go to New York; it’s a crazy city,” cautioned one of my hosts. David McDonald narrated to us an experience where his laptop was stolen from him in New York and another story where one of the WPI fellows lost her bag with all her crucial belongings including her passport. I wonder what she thought about this country after that. Not so nice after all huh?
Well, for me that’s another expedition to explore.