When I put out my call for blog topic suggestions, one to the topics suggested was five lessons I’ve learned living in the east. As someone born and raised in LA (county and city), I had more than five quick observations.
1. Winter is long and a 40 degree day is nice.
Northeast winters aren’t actually about three months. It’s cold from November to April. Fall and spring are nice albeit rather short. I honestly didn’t have difficulty adjusting to cold weather, I just found it difficult to adjust to the fact that I’d be experiencing it for 5-6 months. Also, my scale of what is cold and what is nice/not that bad has totally shifted.
2. It’s easier to be a sports fan on the west coast.
Time zones suck. I lost sleep during the playoffs and World Series because so many games went into extra innings. I love my Dodgers, but I also need sleep!
3. Northeast states are tiny and geography is funny.
And west coast states are BIG. From LA I could drive five hours north or west and still be in California. If I drive five hours from Ithaca I’ll be in one of a few different northeast states or even Canada. I still find it funny that the quickest route from Ithaca to my MIL’s house in Long Island takes us through Pennsylvania, New Jersey and back to New York.
4. There’s a lot of diversity within Latinx and black communities.
In LA my world was dominated by people like me: mestizo Mexicans and Central Americans, often 1st or 2nd generation immigrants. Although I knew it existed, I didn’t critically think about the racial diversity within the Latinx community. My time in Ithaca has coincided with more awareness thanks to people on social media and podcasts. I’ve become a lot more aware of anti black and anti indigenous sentiment among Latinx people and more specifically Mexicans. In my work I’ve seen this diversity somewhat. There are students who identify as Latinx and can pass as white, others who strongly identify as Afro Latino, and some who are like me.
My concept of who was black expanded beyond simply African American. In LA I knew some people who were immigrants or children of immigrants from African and Caribbean countries. In New York, that’s changed. I’m around my husband’s Jamaican family much more and at work I’m around many students who are 1st or 2nd generation immigrants from African or Caribbean countries.
5. We are on indigenous land.
Well, duh. I’ve known this. I knew there were Tongva springs just a few miles from UCLA and was well aware of the many indigenous tribes in California. However, there’s something about being surrounded by names and reminders that in many ways center the original peoples of this land. The first street we lived on was named Seneca, Ithaca sits at the foot of Cayuga Lake, and when I drove in to Syracuse I saw signs for the Onodaga reservation. Seneca, Cayuga and Onodaga are part of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (aka Iroquois Confederacy). In my role I’ve been around students and staff who begin meetings and other events with the reminder that the university is located in the traditional homelands of the Gayogohó:no (Cayuga Nation), one of the six Haudenosaunee nations. The other five nations are: Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca and Tuscarora.
6. Bonus: Racism doesn’t stop at the Mason-Dixon Line.
Ithaca is a very liberal college town. Despite this, I’ve seen confederate flags in the city and just outside in the surrounding counties. It’s a bit jarring to see a pickup truck drive through the main route through town flying a giant flag on an otherwise nice Sunday. In Sean’s job he also comes across people with hats, shirts, and sweaters featuring the confederate flag. Of course, I know racism isn’t limited to regions or symbols. But I never expected that the first time I saw one of these signs in the wild would be in New York. I was wrong!