Where I Have Been Map

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Growing Appreciation for Country

As a new Corporate Communications Intern at Scripps Networks, I get the opportunity to work with HGTV, DIY, Food Network, Cooking Channel, Travel Channel, and Great American Country (GAC). As my internship continues I am learning so much about the country music industry and what it means to its fans and singers. I wanted to share my journey of finding an appreciation for country music, which helped lead to this internship. This channel might stand for Great American Country, but for someone like me who had to find out what was so great about country, I took GAC as Growing Appreciation for Country. Because that’s what I have found working with Scripps Networks.

There is something about country music that brings us home. Maybe it’s the soothing voices and country twang. Maybe it’s the simplicity of a banjo that can make you tap your foot to a catchy country song. Maybe it’s even the southern gentlemen ideal that comes with every sweet word sung that gives us women hope. All of these traits bring me back to my Country I-Pod Playlist when I’m searching for something more, or something familiar. But looking back, I realize I found something greater in these songs that drew me to this genre. I found stories. I found stories about love, happiness, losing faith, gaining faith, memories, and future goals… stories about life. In times of trouble the singer found meaning in their life. In times of trouble, they helped me find meaning in mine.

Living in the South for over 17 years… my culture, my taste in foods, and every now and then even my accent is soaked with southern influence. But I was not always a country music fan. Sure, I’ve lived in the south the majority of my life, but my family heritage was as far away from sweet tea and grits as you can get. Being raised by a Hispanic mom and an anthropological dad, I wasn’t really sure where I fit in this Country Music City.

I remember riding in my friends’ cars and rolling my eyes as they turned the dial and the voices of Kenny Chesney and Reba McEntire rang out through the speakers. All I could hear back then was the crying of the steel guitar that, coupled with the sad, slow voices, made every song seem like the singer was complaining. I heard no meaning, I heard only repetition... Repetition of the instruments and melodies that didn’t move anything inside me except my gag reflexes.

As life would have it I never appreciated a country song until I traveled thousands of miles away from the Music City. While lying in a hammock by the Amazon River, wooden hut with a palm leaf roof blocking the shade of the intense sun, and the mighty rainforest hiding hundreds of chirping parrots and chattering monkeys, I was experiencing one of the most defining moments of my life. However, at the time all I could think about was being home. I was enduring intense culture shock. Depression overwhelmed me and I was lost in confusion, confronted with a different language, poverty, and culture. I could not grasp the Amazonians way of life because I, in fact, did not have a concrete way of life back home to relate to.

At what could have been the breaking point on my adventure in the Amazon jungle, one of my best friends sent me a playlist. When the first song started playing, all the chirping and chattering of the jungle drew silent for just a moment, and was overcome by the strumming banjo. I grew silent with the rest of the animals in the jungle and together we all learned just how Eric Church goes about “Livin’ Part Of Life”.

“Tomorrow I’m takin me fishing. Hang a sign on the door of my life. Tell the world that I’ve gone missing and I won’t be back for awhile.”

The more I listened to that playlist, the more comfort I found from it. I found a little piece of home in every song. I realized just how much the southern lifestyle, including country music, was a part of my life and who I am. I found something to relate to. And through that I began to relate to where I was, and appreciate the people who live there… who were not so unlike me as I thought. I truly realized this as I sat on the bank of the Amazon River with new Brazilian friends, water bottle in hand, fish line tied around the middle and a hook at the end… taking a break from life to sit down and go fishing.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Land of the Free

On the first day of my African Students class, I was given an assignment to define what freedom means to me. My first thought was, a paper assigned on the first day is not my idea of an "easy A" senior semester, what had I gotten myself into? My next thought was, well wiki-pedia... looks like you will come to my rescue again! But then when I put all laziness aside and actually wrote how I feel about the country we live in an the opportunities we are given, this is what came out.

Freedom, to me, is both a great opportunity and an extraneous challenge. As Spider-man once said, “With great power comes great responsibility”. Although we do not have really cool tights and webs that shoot out of our wrists (However AWESOME that would be), I believe each one of us as an American citizen was given a great power of freedom, and have a great responsibility to uphold what that means. Living in a land of freedom, and being brave enough to take the challenge and responsibility that comes with it.

Our nation is split in almost every controversial issue. We are racially diverse, and religiously divided. To most people, this would sound like a negative trait, as if we are not a united country. But in reality it is the opportunity for us to learn how to be the person we want to be. It is the opportunity to learn from those different than us. It is an opportunity to exercise an open mind, which I truly believe in the only way to truly understand your own beliefs and yourself.

However, that freedom comes with responsibility. Think back to your freshman year. The year of confusion, nocturnal behaviors, excitement, freedom, and so much fun you never want to have again. When you attend a school like ours, the University of Tennessee, you are greeted with so many opportunities… the Greek Community, Honors College, Service Groups, Intramural Sports, Religious Groups, and Student Activities Organizations. Your opportunities to succeed and grow in this school are endless. However, at a school our size, no professor is going to hold your hand through your transition. No one is going to tell you what path you need to take and how to get there. At our school we have the opportunities of a lifetime, but the risk of failure. We decide which path we take. You make your own way, and if you succeed, you are rewarded an ultimate form of accomplishment that you can say you earned completely on your own… a diploma.

But college is just a practice for life. A place where we can grow, and take what we learn in the real world. And once again, no one is going to hold your hand through this journey. Once in the real world, the gift of freedom comes with learning to accept that everyone is different, that is the beauty of freedom. And to understand that you can learn something from every single, different person in the world.

So next time you get in a political argument, religious debate, or racial struggle....  Don't try to change anyone's believes. Because the most beautiful thing about our country and that we HAVE our own beliefs. What works for us. And through that idea, no matter what you believe, everyone is right.

An open mind will lead you to the ultimate reward of freedom… the diploma of life.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Foreign Land of Tennessee

When I travel, I get inspired to write. Being confronted with different ideas, cultures, and people opens my mind and allows thoughts to enter that never would have if I had kept the door closed.

But then I realized, you don't have to travel to get inspired in this way. All you need is a door stop on the entrance of your mind to keep it open and a constant awareness of what is different, and how you can learn from it.

Just in our University, there are plenty of opportunities to learn about another culture. Last semester I befriended an exchange student from South Korea. Through the semester I'd like to think I taught him about the ways of American life, but somehow I feel I got the better end of the deal. I learned so much about a place I couldn't even point out on a map 6 months ago.Through him I learned I could have turned 21 a whole 7 months earlier and celebrated two Valentines Days in one year.

In Korea you are born 1 years old, and birthday does not dictate how old you are. If you are born in the year 1989.... you are 21 years old for the entire year of 2010. On New Years day of 2011, you turn 22.

As for Valentines Day... Koreans, not living in a Christian based country, celebrate the holiday very differently. Instead of religious, Christmas is celebrated as a day to spend with your significant other.

                                          (Taking Ram and friends hiking in Gatlinburg)

There are so many opportunities to learn something new about another culture on this campus, and the International House is one very easy way to get involved. Their facebook page is a convient way to find out what events are going on. Every week they have cultural events which are hosted by international students. They also have a program called, "The Friendship Program" in which you are paired with a foreign exchange student for the semester to be their American guide and their new friend. A group of my sorority sisters decided to join the program together this semester.

Through these discoveries this past year in college, I realized I have been a bit bias in my blog. How can I write about traveling and learning how differences can be inspiring, if I cannot find those differences and inspiring moments in my own hometown?

I get inspired everyday by people I have known for years, talked to for only a few minutes, or maybe have never even met. So I thought it was about time I start sharing my experiences.

After all, what is our home of Tennessee but a foreign adventure for everyone else in the world.

So, friends... start exploring.