USA: Phoenix, Arizona

I landed in Phoenix last Saturday with most of my belongings packed in two very heavy suitcases, a carry-on bag, and a purse (a giant purse stuffed full of things). I keep saying that I want to get rid of more things, but I really want all of the things in these bags. I am not a very good vagabond.

The week was filled with training sessions for my new position, good meals that caused me to gain a few unwanted pounds, and networking opportunities to make new friends. It was much more interesting than I anticipated, and I didn’t meet one person I didn’t like. On top of that, downtown Phoenix is a really cool city with a big heart!

The training – the training was almost all very targeted so I was able to learn more about the company I’ll be working for, the philosophy of education, the educational goals, and the expectations for my position. They also included some sessions to prepare us for moving to China which was very helpful, and I was able to meet people whom I’ll be working with. This was probably the best part because I made connections with a few people, and, I will admit, I’m a bit nervous about the move. Knowing I’ll have a few friends already helps immensely.

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Although I spent most of my time in the Phoenix Convention Center, I did have an opportunity to wander around here and there for a few hours, eat at a few of the restaurants, and go to the symphony. It was interesting that most of the waiters had tattoos and that graffiti art was everywhere – even on the side of a credit union, advertising the building. Something about the tattoos and the graffiti art go together, as though art is a part of showcasing everything and everyone to their best advantage.

The art, the symphony, and the buildings revealed what kind of city Phoenix wants to be.

The graffiti art – the murals were amazing! There was a skeleton with a black hood holding a sign that said, “Love Life.” There was an area with a wall of kindness for encouraging messages with a mural behind it that honored the homeless who had died in the city. The messages were mostly positive and life-affirming which made my heart happy.

 

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The symphony – the music was BEAUTIFUL! It wasn’t a full symphony, but a quartet just for us as the symphony has the summer off. If you have a chance to go, there is some serious talent in Phoenix. They only played for about 45 minutes, playing music from old to new, ending with Jimmy Hendrix! Corinna, one of my new co-workers, and I both cried during several of the songs, including “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Granted, we were both jet-lagged and emotional but, still, they were good!

The symphony has also done a study that shows that listening to music improves Alzheimer’s. They are the only symphony that has promoted and participated in a medical study of this sort and have published a paper on it. In addition, they have created a school program for elementary students that pairs music with learning. They also did a study on their school program which showed increased scores in the classes that used it and the students’ scores remained higher beyond the classes they took using the music program. Bottom line: music is good for the brain and the Phoenix Symphony is out to prove it.

The buildings – I took a picture of a building with Westward Ho on the top and had to look it up because it also had ASU on the side. I learned that it was a low-income apartment building and ASU decided to partner up with Westward Ho and use students to offer services to the tenants – social services, nutrition services, medical services, etc. Arizona State University wants their students to be part of the community rather than an isolated institution of learning and they are acting on their words. That’s why we educate and get educated – to make the world a better place.

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I enjoyed my time learning about the city and my new company, but, after a little less than a week in Phoenix that was packed full and just when I was recovering from my jet lag, I left the most comfortable bed in the world at the Renaissance Hotel and hopped on a plane to head East to see my mom.

See ya again one day, Phoenix, but I’m moving on to something else for now.