Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Nashville Tennesseems New

The Room in the Inn and the Nashville Skyline
(And apparently my square body...?)
Courtesy of Emma-Lemma

            It’s that dreaded first entry. The one I will cringe at when I look at it later on in the year. After I have more of a grasp on Nashville’s struggles, after I know its geography better, after I can list stronger comparisons/contrasts between midwest and southern culture, after I’m no longer honeymooning, and after I’m no longer transitioning back into the States; I will undoubtedly look back at this piece and make fun of myself.
What I’m trying to say is bare with me. This blog is coming at you only after living here for a week and not officially starting work at my placement yet.
Now, when I say new in the title of this entry, I don’t just mean Nashville is new to me. Natives and locals alike have been telling me how progressive this city has become and how Nashville sticks out from other southern cities in America. I haven’t been to many other southern cities, but based on observations and hearsay, I’m going to take their word for it. Some of the choices Nashville is making are new. Many Nashville communities seem eager to give back, there are enough nonprofit organizations here for 8 YAVs to serve with, the population is steadily growing, many restaurants are focusing on healthy meal options using local areas as food resources, and even recycling habits seem to be on the up and up. Obviously Nashville still has plenty of needs, but has been passionately tackling issues involving education, racial division, gentrification, homelessness, refugees (and so much more) head on.
            Nashville is also warm, both with the weather and with the culture. I love Chicago, but I’d say Chicago is just polite, which isn’t a diss. People are nice there for such a big city, and you can find kind people who will make enjoyable small talk with you, or help you find a place you’re trying to get to. But Nashville is warm. The people are friendly. Small talk often begins with a smile rather than a stationary face, and it ends with a laugh rather than a chuckle.
            The pride here for the Music City is fascinating, too. If it’s not originally someone’s home, it is now their home, and they’re here to stay, and they’re going to tell you about all the places to eat, and all the people to meet, and all the places to perform or see great live music. Many celebrities even reside in Nashville because they get harassed less and there isn’t as much of an alarm for paparazzi disturbances.
            I think it’s also a testament to Nashville about how they treat their music scene. Although I’m sure it can be competitive—what music scene isn’t?—cutthroat is not a word I’ve heard tossed around. From what I hear, in Nashville, collaboration is key. Weaknesses are not looked down upon, because maybe if you’re a great songwriter but you aren’t the best singer, someone else in Nashville will happily sing the song for you, allowing both you and the other artist to benefit. It sounds like the musical artists of Nashville don’t always try to be everything at once, which sounds so humbling to me. Maybe that’s why so many of the stars that come from Nashville are known to be humble.

A Splendid Hike Around Radnor Lake
(Bob, Alasia, Me, Emily, and Marsha)
Courtesy of Marsha

            Oh, and speaking of stars, a couple of country music stars live in my neighborhood. There’s no denying it. We live in a nice area, a stark contrast from Skegoneill’s grit in North Belfast. Skegoneill is, without a doubt, an extremely safe place to live, but you may not feel that way when you first walk through it judging by its looks. Green Hills is sooooo nice. Everyone is really friendly, and we live right on church property.
Our place, owned by 2nd Presbyterian Church, who sponsors the Nashville YAVs and enrolls us into their Nashville Epiphany Project (NEP), was even fixed up by the church this summer right before we arrived. Our house was endearingly nicknamed The Tool Shed by former YAVs because, well, it felt like they lived in a tool shed. From what I hear, it was a bit dim, rather dingy, and infested with bugs (including the poisonous Brown Recluse Spider). The Tool Shed has been thoroughly cleaned, painted with brighter colors, has more lights installed, more storage space, and the bug infestation is all gone. It’s a super nice place to live in a super nice neighborhood. We’re aware of how nice we have it, and are going to keep it that way. We plan to clean up regularly, especially dishes and food items, otherwise the Brown Recluse Spiders will come because they are attracted to food sources.
By “we”, I mean me and my two YAV roommates, Emily and Alasia. If you’re interested in their stories, and you will be, you should hit up the “Other Tales” tab at the top of my page. I have links there that lead to their blogs. Emily, from Kentucky, is a second year YAV who just spent a year in Denver working with refugees. She’ll be working with refugees again this year, volunteering at an organization called Nations. Alasia, from northern Minnesota, spent the last two years as a veterinarian, and is at Preston Taylor Ministries, working with at-risk youth. They’re cool roommates, and thus far, we’re all on the same page about loving Nashville.
            We’re also in love with our support system here. We have people from the NEP Board, local churches, and the Young Adult Volunteer Alumni looking out for us. In addition, our site coordinator, Megan, has been really excellent with leading us in orientation and introducing us to Nashville. This is two years in a row where the YAV program has blessed me with people who care about what we’re doing and who we are as people. They’ve taken us out to eat, made us dinner, hiked with us, showed us where they live so we can stop by, and paraded us around the hotspots of the city. Since I’m new, it’s really nice to know that people are already going to be there for me, even though I don’t really know them.
            That’s it for now! I’ll update “ya’ll” later.

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