I am starting my Lumos award in Mexico City on June 28th. I have just spent nine months in Mexico in the city of Querétaro, completing an English Teaching Assistantship grant. I arrived back in Nashville at the beginning of June, giving myself four weeks to spend time with family, get some rest, get some work done for my food tour business, and stare in amazement on how much Nashville has changed in the nine months I was gone.
Amongst the many things I have learned in the last two years, it’s that things don’t always go according to the we planned, for better or for worse. When I planned my trip back home, I had planned on having a whole month to spend with my parents and sister, who had been in Yemen visiting my grandparents since March. Due to complications with travel in and out of Yemen with the ongoing civil war, they were not able to come back to Tennessee until the third week of June.
While many of my siblings and extended family live in Nashville, those first three weeks in Nashville made me question: is Nashville still home for me if my parents aren’t here? Nashville is changing so fast, and not all the change has been for the better. As I spent more time in the city, saw my friends, family, and went back to my favorite spots, I remembered more of why Nashville will always be home to me. It’s not and likely never will be a cosmopolitan destination like a New York, Chicago, or LA, but it’s still a place where communities have formed to make a home. In the different neighborhoods of Nashville, you see different enclaves where immigrant groups have put their restaurants, grocery stores, houses of worship. From almost anywhere in Nashville, you can access a beautiful green space in fifteen minutes or less. And not to mention, the food scene is incredible, if you know where to look.
On the flip side, the pandemic also changed the sequence of my plans with Fulbright and Lumos. I had originally planned to do Lumos first immediately after graduating in May 2020, and then the Fulbright after. I am so glad that I was able to do the Fulbright first now. I don’t think I fully prepared to take on Mexico City and my project here prior to my Fulbright experience. I feel as prepared now as I ever could be going into a new program and a city with a metropolitan population over twenty million. My Fulbright placement, Querétaro, is only two hours away from Mexico City, so I was able to come to Mexico City often during my grant. As one would expect, in nine months in Mexico my Spanish improved immensely and I now have no issues communicating. That’s not to say that I am not constantly learning still of course! One aspect about Mexico I have come to appreciate so much is the regional differences and diversity. With that, each region has their own colloquialisms and slang that has added so much richness to my conversations with locals.
While I could use another four weeks in Nashville, I am going into this next project feeling prepared, grateful, and excited for a new experience in one of the most culturally rich cities in the world!