When I lived in L.A., I didn’t feel that far from home because Nashville is a little L.A. in some ways, what with the entertainment and music industry. So living in L.A. was like a warmer, bigger, more ethnically diverse Nashville (this a loose comparison).
But Dearborn feels more real, normal, honest, everyday. It actually fits the blue collar, industrial stereotype that I’d associate with Detroit. And it freaks me out a little bit because it’s unlike the life that I’ve become accustomed to, dealing with entertainment, artsy-type people.
Not that my personal life is all that opulent but I feel a little more white collar professional than the community I’m now living in. (Which is still kind of funny because I own a home in Old Hickory, surrounding by a few of Nashville’s greatest rednecks.)
And in 10 days, I’ll fly to Chicago to watch my friends’ kids while they go to Spain. I will make good money while staying in a big house with keys to a luxury car in my pocket. And that will feel more normal than this does (probably in part because they are like family and I’ve done it before).
I experienced some culture shock on my first day, last Saturday, as I drove to my supervisors’ house for a visit before a community outreach hayride. I knew coming into this that Dearborn has the highest concentration of Arab Americans in the country, and that quickly became real to me as I drove through Dearborn and saw mosques, storefronts with English and Arabic writing, and veiled women (women wearing head coverings/scarves). Seeing the people and the mosques made it most real. But I’ll be honest, seeing all the authentic mid-East restaurants made my stomach real happy. I’m really glad that I finished the book Miniskirts, Mothers & Muslims before I arrived. It helped me understand the veiling of women and gives me a whole new level of respect for the meaning behind it.
Mostly I’ve spent time exploring Dearborn, finding the coffee shops with wifi and the nearest Target and Costco. I’ve gotten to spend a little time with folks from the church but haven’t gotten much beyond basic introductions. Mostly I’ve just started to collect research for my ethnography that I have to write on the city. No time like the present to start researching!
Tonight I’m going on a tour of mosque and out for Yemeni food for dinner with a couple people from church and a missionary visiting from Morocco. I fully expect to have more to say after that experience.
All of this to say, I’m adjusting slowly, learning my way around town just fine and hoping to find all the best information for my paper. I feel good about this project and hope to share about the church and its vision soon.