Phoenix: Oh, what a time!

Two scholars embrace affectionately

I have a confession to make. 

I struggled quite a bit in putting together this blog post. I struggled, not because I did not have anything to write about. Rather, it was because there were several ideas running through my head, and I did not know which one to pursue. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, I was somewhat emotional about how this was my last full day in Phoenix, Arizona and I was trying to make the most of the day, while mentally digesting the entire experience. 

It was finally sinking in that there would be no more lectures in Room 444, no more breathtaking mountaintop sunsets, no more walks to Fry’s for that fresh turkey salad, no more exclusive meetups with the city and state’s political and administrative leaders, or light rail trips across different parts of the city.  This was it: the end.

Tears and joy were the order of the day during the last session in Phoenix

The day started off on a very exciting note: we were talking about sports. The main presenter was Andrés Martinez, a professor of practice in the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and a scholar at the Global Sport Institute. Andrés is also a Special Advisor to Arizona State University President Michael Crow. His talk focused on sports communication as culture, and he gave insights about his lived experience consuming and writing about sports in the US since his family migrated from Mexico over thirty years ago.

Andrés made some very interesting arguments about sports journalism and sports communication. I was fascinated by his research, which among other things, examined the place of US sport in the world. He shared interesting insights about his experience of seeing how football (or as it is called in the US, soccer) has grown in the country. 

In concluding the academic part of the programme, we had an interesting and heartfelt session with Prof. Gilpin in which we reflected on what we liked on the program, what surprised us, and what we will never forget. It got emotional quite quickly.

Listening to some of my scholar friends was incredible. For instance, Dr. Firly Annisa (Indonesia) talked about how she had made new friends she never thought she would make in her entire life. Ms. Shang Fang Hsu talked about how the program and interactions with fellow scholars helped her overcome her shyness, and she now felt safe and comfortable articulating and speaking her thoughts without fear of criticism or shame. I was happy that we were all able to get along well and that we found so much common ground, and I think the world needs a lot more of this. 

In the afternoon, I was invited to tour the PBS Arizona facilities by a new friend I made in the Cronkite building, Alexandre ‘Alex’ Rukashaza. Alex is the director of Digital Media and Broadcast Operations at the station. He is originally from Rwanda and His family moved to North America in the 1990s. He has worked in the broadcasting sector for 20 years in the US and Canada.

A scholar in the Arizona PBS control room
Elastus Mambwe (Zambia) in the Arizona PBS control room

It was a tour that I completely looked forward to. It was great learning about the work of PBS and how valuable the organisation is to not only the US but to the world. I was given more details about the broadcast technologies that being used, and how PBS took advantage of digital migration to now have five channels. After the tour, Alex and the team at PBS were kind enough to share some PBS ‘merch’ with me. It mostly included children’s books and stuffed cartoon characters such as Daniel Tiger and Arthur. I am supposed to give them to my kids but that Daniel Tiger one is up for negotiation.

Elastus Mambwe (Zambia) poses with Molly from Denali, star of a show he watches with his daughter

In the evening, packed my bags and interacted with some of the scholars. It was great. Before bedtime, I took time to reflect on my time in Phoenix and how I would sum up my experience of the city in last four weeks. At that moment, I was drawn to the great mythical bird, the Phoenix and the spirit it represents. I got my answer: the spirit of Phoenix is what I am going away with. 

What is the spirit of Phoenix? 

The spirit of Phoenix, in my opinion, is the idea of resurrection, rebirth, regeneration, and purpose. The spirit of Phoenix is to not give up when they say yours is a barren desert area where nothing can grow or live there. It is a spirit of innovation and forward thinking that finds solutions of future problems because you know what the past problems did to you. It is about going against “you’re just a woman,” “you’re way too young” or “you should have tried when you were younger” and showing that anything is possible. The spirit of Phoenix is putting together a score of people from different countries, creeds and values, getting them to learn, laugh and live together, and making it work (and wearing kickass shoes while doing it).

Phoenix, you will be missed. But your spirit will live on in me.