January 27, 2005

And You May Find Yourself...

I know that when I go back to where I grew up, which during nostalgic moments, is home, and when I'm there, is Springfield, NOVA, or even sometimes, Traffic Town, I am submerged into an instant but grateful culture shock. Northern Virginia has people of every nationality. I am glad to once again acknowledge how lucky I was to grow up around so many cultures. In NOVA (Northern Virginia), you may find yourself a minority if your ancestors have been in the United States for more than a generation.

In Tennessee, I have experienced the reverse of NOVA. Whereas NOVA, which on a punchy side note can mean so much - for example: NOVA: 1. the big bang or "super nova" of mass immigration which occurs within and without the beltway of Washington D.C. on a daily basis; 2. in Spanish - "no va", which translates to English as "don't go" as in don't go to Northern Virginia during morning (5:00 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.) or evening (3:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.) rush hour if you don't want to have a stroke from the stress of driving in the area; and/or 3. N.O.V.A. (neverending overload of northern virginia) is constantly building apartments in every farmland, ex-industrial area and mall median just to keep up with the growth, the particular area of Tennessee in which I live now, seems to be (from what I hear), a much better microcosm for the rest of the United States - in not too many more words - a whole bunch of Caucasian and African-American (herein "white" and "black") people.

Now when I see someone who is anything other than white or black I uncontrollably notice. I hear myself in my head say, "there's a Chinese person" or "that person looks Hispanic". What is my deal? When I first got here I felt very strange. I mean very. I felt like the word "NORTH" was tattooed on my head and that anyone who wasn't white or black was being "taken away". (I got bangs). Then I just got used to everything as humans are apt to do. My world is two-dimensional now with the occasional warp in from the rest of the world's population.

Well, who cares? you say. I'll tell you who. Me. After 20 plus years of being submerged in a world of couscous, curry and spanakopita, I've landed into the world of white bread. Where do I buy good hummus? Who has my baba ghanoush? Has anyone seen a good Indian or Afghan restaurant in Chattanooga? To be fair, I have not explored thoroughly enough the beauty of this town, but I think I made my point.

And truly, the people are extremely wonderful and often metropolitan here. Just because you're not a melting pot town doesn't mean anything is wrong with you. It's just a very strange feeling that one day when walking through the mall you realize - as if you were inside a Talking Heads song - "this is not my beautiful..." traffic town or "you may find yourself..." living in a southern town.


  • At Friday, January 28, 2005 at 4:41:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    And then there are those of us who have lived in beautiful traffic town for 40 years. It seems that the traffic has always been bad. The road system never keeps up. But 40 years ago there were two primary colors to the area - black and white. Now there are 4 o5 five plus one or two new languages. One day learning Spanish will not be optional. And it's a shock when you wake up one day and say to yourself, "This is not my beautiful ... etc" And when you drive by a place where you once lived - you may find yourself ... driving by a another world.


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