April 5, 2017

Discussion Session 4.05.2017 – Place-Based Lifestyles & Everyday Life

Thinking of the places you placed on the Google map before class, pick one place that has a particular “sense of place” to you and write a short vignette about that place. Feel free to share a short story or moment or a description of that place. You may also upload pictures/sketches using the “Choose file” button below the “Post Comment” button. 

If you have time, please add your vignette to the Google Map as well:

Discussion Leaders: Jeffrey Chou, Theora Kvitka, Lauren Miller and Hajira Qazi

35 Comments
  1. Thank you all for indulging us and playing outside today! We hope it was an enjoyable experience and helped shake up your routine a bit, while also instilling a more concrete understanding of why place is important to design.

    Our discussion group briefly touched on how connection to place can be muddled for immigrants or children of immigrants, and I mentioned I would share this poem. If this speaks to you, I’d love to hear your thoughts and how you grapple with being caught between two worlds. You may also be interested in this piece from NYT: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/09/21/opinion/sunday/exposures-children-immigrant.html?_r=0

    “So, here you are
    too foreign for home
    too foreign for here.
    Never enough for both.”

    —Ijeoma Umebinyuo, “Diaspora Blues”

  2. Thanks to everyone, again, for coming outside on Wednesday. It was really nice to get some fresh air and maybe some fresh perspective, too.

    The place I’d like to share about is my hometown of Phoenix, AZ. Like many people, I didn’t appreciate the beauty of where I was from until I left and went to college in a very flat region of Ohio. Phoenix is a strange place, not quite a city, not quite a collection of suburbs and cul-de-sacs, and not ever separate from the desert environment from which it grew. The city relies heavily on the efforts of immigrants (predominantly hispanic, both legal and illegal) yet refuses to offer bilingual signage or services and has made it illegal for teachers to use Spanish in public school classrooms. It’s a place full of contradictions: there might be the largest number of personal swimming pools per capita, yet all of the city’s water is “borrowed” from the Colorado River (which CA also uses). It’s an urban landscape that wouldn’t be thriving if it weren’t for the invention of the air conditioner. However, hiking in the desert and watching the mountains turn purple as the sun sets has got to be one of the most beautiful sights in the world.

    Attached is a photo of a Phoenix-specific practice. It only gets below freezing a few nights per year, so people simply cover up their frost-sensitive plants (or cacti).

  3. Michelina Campanella April 7, 2017 at 1:19 pm Reply

    I have talked a lot about growing up on a farm, but I think for this exercise I want to share with you my experience living in Southern California.

    I moved to Irvine, CA in the spring of 2013 for my job at the time, and I was excited to leave behind the cold, dark and gray winter season in Boston. I lived in a beautifully manicured (and extremely artificial) apartment complex with palm trees, lush grass, flowers, and 4 different pools. It seemed like a movie set or something too nice to be real. The complex had everything you needed for a convenient lifestyle – a grocery store, bank, dry-cleaner, Starbucks, all within feet of each other. My office was only 1 mile away, which cut down my commute from 1.5 hours to 10 minutes. I thought I had it made and that I would never get sick of it.

    At first, I enjoyed the novelty of it all and took advantage of all the amenities, which didn’t take more than a few weeks to explore. I started to get into a routine there, became bored and lonely, and after about a month some things started to catch my attention that concerned me in a subconscious, primal way. Right away I noticed there were no bugs. NONE. I didn’t see a single fly, mosquito, spider, or any other insects for that matter. I had never experienced a summer night without the buzz of crickets or the glow of lightening bugs, and the absence of bugs was a bit disturbing.

    One day I went on a hike in a nearby state park, and realized that the native plants on the trail were mostly dried brush and a few cacti. It was dusty and sandy and I had a smack-in-the-face realization that I was living in the desert. This juxtaposition to my lush apartment complex highlighted to me that human beings could not survive here without irrigation, chemicals, and human intervention, and that I missed having the security of fertile soil and a fresh water supply back in PA.

    On top of that, in the 8 months that I lived there, it rained only one time. The days were all exactly the same and when fall rolled around and there were no changing leaves, no cold weather, and no rainy days, I started to lose my perception of time, like I was in the twilight zone. I never understood how the changing seasons of the northeast were so critical to my perceptions of time, and without them it was almost as if my animal brain was altering me to something very wrong in my environment.

    Moral of the story here is that I didn’t understand how my experience of my “home” growing up effected me until I experienced something vastly different, and that living in a place that supports a human connection with the environment was more important to me than I ever knew.

    • Michelina — thanks for your vignette! I grew up in the central coast of California and while it wasn’t the desert like Irvine, seasons were still not super perceptible. When I moved to the East Coast for work, the presence of seasons was one of the things that stood out to me the most. You’re totally right about how it changes your perception of time — in a good way I think. I like having real seasons and actually think I’d miss them if I moved back to the central coast. As much as I loved being in the outdoors all the time growing up in California, when the weather doesn’t change you stop noticing your surroundings as much because they don’t change either. Having a literal change of scenery forces you to notice your surroundings in a way that I’ve grown to appreciate.

      All the other places I have lived, besides DC and Pittsburgh, have been in either Mediterranean or tropical climates, so I’ll share a vignette from one of those places. After college I lived in Kampala, Uganda for just over a year. The equator literally runs through Uganda, so the climate was very tropical. There was a rainy season and a “dry” season (it still rained pretty often in the dry season). Most of the roads in Kampala are paved, but smaller, less trafficked areas like the road outside my workplace weren’t paved. My work heels from that time still have red stains from the mud. I usually got to work on the back of a motorcycle taxi. I got really good at sitting sideways when I wearing a skirt or dress!

      My apartment was on “Church to Church” road, so I often awoke on Sunday mornings to worship music, sometimes gospel, sometimes African drum music. Uganda is mostly Christian, and Pentecostalism is fairly widespread. While I was living there, the government passed an anti-homosexuality bill (later repealed), which speaks to how conservative the country is, in large part because of strong religious beliefs. Coming from the Bay Area, it was a pretty drastic adjustment in that sense.

      One of my favorite parts of living in Kampala was how often I got to travel to other parts of the country and surrounding countries. Uganda is one of the only places in the world where you can see mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Trekking through the Bwindi national forest for eight hours in the rain to hang out with them for a few hours is an experience I’ll never forget! I also had the chance to go Kigali, Rwanda as well as Goma in the DRC. Goma sits at the bottom of an active volcano, and the city is still visibly recovering from the last time it erupted. I also spent a weekend in Bujumbura, Burundi, and while there swam in Lake Albert. I was later told by a friend that a few weeks later hippos were swimming in the same area, which was kind of terrifying to think about in retrospect. When I think about my time in Uganda I think about it in terms a piece of my experiences throughout East Africa, and I hope I can go back to the region some day.

    • Scott Dombkowski April 7, 2017 at 5:37 pm Reply

      I spent most my childhood not too far from Irvine, CA in Temecula, CA. Like what Michelina experienced, the subdivisions have walking paths, pools, and parks with basketball courts and tennis courts that are manicured at least once a week by landscaping companies. You can notice if a house’s landscapers haven’t visited that week because their grass is longer than everybody else’s.

      Michelina and Delanie’s comments inspired me to think about how I kept track of the seasons. I came to the realization that I don’t think I did, I never had to worry about them I could go outside in a t-shirt whenever I wanted and not have to think about the weather.

      Temecula is also interesting because it is full of families, but is also home to the #1 casino in the US voted by USA Today and 40 plus wineries. My high school was caddy corner to the casino and I saw how it transformed from a temporary tent-like structure to a humongous Vegas-like casino with two hotel room towers and a golf course that costs $150 plus to play. I also expect that every time I go home that I will see at least one new winery being constructed. I’ve never known how to really think about the casino and the wineries, I do know that we tried to make them as usual as possible. Whether it was by walking over to the casino after practice and eating at the all you can eat buffet or running through the vines playing tag.

    • Thanks for sharing, Michelina! I grew up in Irvine, California, so your experience really made me reflect on my own experience in reverse: starting there and going elsewhere.

      Like Michelina said, Irvine is beautifully manicured and that, along with a good school system, was at the core of my parents’ decision to move there. In many ways, it’s the complete opposite of where and how they grew up in Taiwan, where there were mosquitoes galore, had a low cost of living, and kept moist temperatures for a majority of the time. Irvine, instead, is a homogenized, strange city: there’s an 11 p.m. city curfew for people under the age of 16, residents of certain neighborhoods need to get neighbor approvals when wanting to repaint their house (beiges, taupes, and the occasional fun, tan orange). I remember my dad cutting down one of the trees in our front yard and, two days later, the city committee sending a letter telling us to plant a new tree, since the neighborhood committee guidelines mandates one tree on each side of houses to maintain the neighborhood aesthetic. Still, I loved growing up there because it was comfortable; the parameters and absence of things (bugs, for example), never made me realize what was missing. Because I never knew what wasn’t there, I never had a chance to miss it. Instead, it was a very cushy place to establish an identity and by the end of high school, I thought I had a sense of who I was, who my friends were, and what I wanted. Because Irvine offered such a secure facade, it felt solid — and because it was so solid, it became an invisible factor, one that I (and many of my peers) never truly thought about. However, it wasn’t a blank slate to create something; instead, Irvine was a curated backdrop that influenced creating an identity that rests comfortably specifically in Irvine.

      After high school, I moved to Brooklyn, New York to start my first year at an art school. That was when sense of place came to the forefront for me. Everything felt dramatically flipped: I had to use the subway or walk to get anywhere, the weather became a huge part of daily decision making, and the clean, wide streets in Irvine became sterile-seeming in comparison to the Clinton Washington neighborhood. Sense of place, all of a sudden, became the disruptive backdrop for every aspect of my life: every day, I was acutely aware that I was in Brooklyn and that there were more disparate socioeconomic backgrounds living amongst each other, and that what I had thought of as confidence of myself was really confidence of myself in one place. Because I was so uncomfortable during my time in Brooklyn, I better realized how the identity I had built was specifically within an Irvine context. Being in Brooklyn made me realize how much more I could grow, and how I didn’t even understand what that space looked like yet.

      • Irvine is also one of the many places I lived in. My family moved from Toronto to Torrance, CA when I entered high school. During my junior year, my parents decided to buy a house in Irvine. Just like Tammy’s parents, my parents loved Irvine because it is beautifully manicured. I however, did not transfer schools because I wanted to graduate with my friends. At that time, my mom also still worked in Torrance; therefore everyday, the two of us commuted back and forth between Torrance and Irvine. During the rush hours, a single-way commute was 1.5-2hrs. It just goes to show how many other people were doing similar things as us. Because the Greater Los Angeles Area is so large with large margins between real-estate pricing, people often times don’t have much of a say in where they lived verse where they worked. They could be working in downtown LA CBD area but actually live three or even four cities away because the cost of living in Santa Monica is so high. People like me, have problems getting attached to either neighborhoods because their time is really divided into two. All the people I know, my classmates, lives in Torrance but I can’t really hangout with them outside of school since I lived in Irvine. And I don’t have any friends in Irvine because I don’t go to school in that area. Therefore, I have hard time identifying with either city.

        But now that I live outside of SoCal, I find myself identifying with Irvine a bit more because my parents, our house is there. My friends from high school have also moved on from that area and carving their own niche in other places.

  4. I’ve lived in a few Pittsburgh neighborhoods, but for this discussion I’d like to share the experience of living in Vina del Mar, Chile in 2007. It’s a coastal town, about 90 minutes from Santiago. I moved there alone to teach at a Montessori school after college. I’d never been to South America before, so everything about the experience was new. Very few English speakers lived n the city (signage, menus, etc. were all in Spanish) and my Spanish was high-school level and pretty terrible, so I had to make a real effort to listen and try to communicate. The city had two distinct areas, an older side that had dirt roads and small markets, and a more modern side with high rise apartment buildings and modern amenities. I lived in a modern apartment building that was owned by the couple who ran the Montessori school, but often went to the market and visited the families of my students (who lived all over the city) for meals. I could walk to the school from my apartment and sometimes travelled by cab. The income disparity in the city was apparent, but all chileans that I met during my time there were incredibly warm and generous people.

    The city is situated on a fault line and there was one earthquake while I was living there, and the topography was very hilly. The beach was prominent, with huge waves, and outside of the city were rolling hills and avocado farms, and ceviche was a staple food. The next town over, Valparaiso, was much more laid back and full of public art and I spent a lot of time there walking around the neighborhood on days off. I didn’t have a cell phone, and wifi wasn’t a thing yet, so I had to go to an internet café or call center to communicate with people outside of Chile, and I think that lack of technology helped me really immerse myself in my life there and be more connected to my surroundings.

  5. Really cool perspective Michelina! While winter tends to not be my favorite season (fluffy, snowy days, aside of course) I believe I base more of my life around the seasons and that activities that normally fall within each of them. While I’ve never lived outside of the east coast, I’ve often wondered what effect a climate such as the one you experienced in southern CA would have on me. What sense of place would I loose with out the changing of the leaves and temperatures? I found that when I left sunny Pittsburgh for Maryland, I really began to miss it here and came to appreciate all that I had here, which played a big part in returning. I almost didn’t realize it until I thought about it more, but the weather impacts my activities so much. Many of you could likely relate to this, but cold and rainy, I want to be indoors! Beautiful sunny warm day, I want to be outside for the entire day. Warm and rainy summer day, on the porch with a blanket and a book. But because the seasons are so connected with everything else, holidays, parties, festivals, it really reinforces the yearly cycle that I’m in here. It isn’t suddenly Christmas day, it’s been colder for months, day light is shorter, Halloween comes, then my birthday, then Thanksgiving, and finally, Christmas. This process of events wouldn’t nearly be the same without the changes in the weather that I’m accustomed to. In addition to that, there are a lot of familiar sights, sounds, and smells that accompany the transitions of seasons.

    Theora, your comments reminded me about a time when I visited Phoenix a few years ago in October. I found it odd that many of outdoor public swimming pools and parks were closed for the season when it was still in the 80’s (27° for you Celsius people..) Certainly different.

  6. We take care of the land and the land takes care of us!

    The place I want to share is the farm I lived on and worked for the last few years before moving to Pittsburgh. The Corbin Hill Road Farm is in the center of upstate New York and was built in the late 1700’s by the Brown family. The farm originally was self-sustaining, producing everything the family needed. As later generations of the family took over the responsibility of running the farm, the place shifted to run more like a business, specializing in milk production.

    80% of the economy in upstate NY is agricultural based, and most of those receipts relate to the dairy industry. As the family, herd and property grew older the business began to show signs of failing. The younger generation was not interested in milk production and the industry was rapidly changing. Farms were consolidating with other farms to produce and pasteurize milk to fit USDA safety requirements. The federal government set a flat price for milk across the country, which stabilized the market, yet did not allow for free market competition. The family decided to sell the farm and their herd and move on from the family estate their elders built from the ground up.

    A sad story, until the non-profit I worked with purchased the house and property (~100 acres). The Corbin Hill Food Project was set up by a group of concerned residents to address healthy food access in the Harlem area of New York City. The group purchased the Brown family farm with the idea of producing enough local fruits and vegetables to feed the neighborhood of Harlem. Altruistic but naive, they had never grown food at scale before and had no idea how much work is necessary to convert a dairy farm back to land which produces produce.

    I moved to the farm to take over the upstate operations and manage and coordinate the distribution of local produce. Quickly realizing the farm would not be able to do what CHFP wanted, we began to network with local, family-owned farms to support our mission of providing healthy food access to Harlem residents. The farms loved the idea of aggregating their harvests at one central farm. This allowed us to combine produce from over 30 small farms and delivery on one large tractor-trailer. The residents of Harlem loved the fresh, healthy & affordable produce. The farmers loved their new neighbors and their networked expansion into a new market of New York State.

    Place, and pride of place is central to what CHFP does.

  7. Like others here, I only came to appreciate my childhood town of Hanover Park, IL after moving away (to Johnstown, PA). Johnstown was a huge culture shock because Hanover Pk was very diverse; my classmates were from the Philippines, Turkey, Japan, Guatemala, Mexico, Bosnia, Kuwait, Thailand, India, and of course America. My teacher was Irish, and my neighbors were Laotian. It was common for kids to walk to school, and we never took a bus. The street I lived on was filled with kids, and we would all spend our days playing outside—jumping rope; playing kickball, baseball, hopscotch, and Chinese jump rope; going to the park; and riding our bikes all over town. Our friends down the street used to come over to our house nearly every day. We’d play and watch cartoons together. We all knew each other in the neighborhood, and there was definitely a strong sense of community.

    Later, more gangs started moving in, so my parents decided to move to Johnstown when I was nine. The population was much older, so there weren’t other kids on my street. In fact I never saw kids playing outside, and it felt eerie, quiet, and isolating. No one played kickball (my favorite!) there. The population was also wealthier, and kids my age seemed more involved in organized activities than they did in Hanover Park; aimless play didn’t seem to be a thing in Johnstown. I missed walking to school and riding my bike (there are no sidewalks), I desperately missed the diversity. I lived there until I was 18, and much later, I came to appreciate how safe, peaceful, and quiet it is. My fondest memory is walking outside on serene summer nights and being able to see so many stars and fireflies. My mother loves to garden, so we always had plants, flowers, and vegetables growing at home. Having lived in cities for the past 14 years, visiting my parents in Johnstown now always feels like a retreat—the slow pace, the small population, the abundance of nature, the simplicity, and the quiet all lend themselves to one of the most tranquil places I’ve ever known.

  8. When I moved to Minneapolis for college, I didn’t expect to fall in love with the city. But I immediately felt at home there; it’s a relatively diverse community with interesting food, the Mississippi, and many beautiful lakes, but spring and summer made me fall in love with the place. I found that the intense difference in seasons mixed with the vibrant culture of a large metro area created a strong sense of place I had never known before.

    The people and infrastructure in Minneapolis wholeheartedly embrace the spring and summer; I have never seen larger patios and more people clamor to be outside. There is something about the way the city awakens in the spring that is immensely satisfying; runners get out when the temperature hits 45 degrees, and everyone is smiling. Summer storms are intense, with giant drops of water, booming thunder, and flooded streets, cutting the intensity of the heat and making way for kayaking down the street (we also ski and sled down the streets in the winter). I think there is a special type of gratitude one feels from living in a climate with extreme variation. We band together to help each other dig our cars out of snowbanks so deep your car disappears, we hunker down in the winter together with warm food because it’s too cold to go outside, and we enjoy the tranquil quiet that comes after a particularly heavy snowstorm. Indeed, the winters can be difficult, but we are rewarded with feeling extremely alive in the summer. And we carry the bonds we make during the winter to more carefree days and warm summer nights on patios, lakes, and porches.

    The sense of place in Minneapolis is so strong that there is a movement growing to redefine Minneapolis as “the North” rather than the Midwest. Residents are proud of their viking blood and ability to thrive despite it all.

  9. Thanks so much to everyone for sharing such awesome and nostalgic stories so far! I wanted to mention that although we weren’t able to get the “upload image” function to work, you should be able to embed images inside your comment. Just grab the embed code from any sharing platform (Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, etc) and paste it here.

    Here’s mine to test it out:

    New uses for Styrofoam- cactus frost protection. #onlyinarizona #whereigrewup #eyeroll A post shared by Theora Kvitka (@theorangefedora) on Dec 28, 2015 at 10:56am PST

  10. I was born in Iowa and I think the space, courtesy and humanity of the midwest had a profound effect on my soul. That said, when someone asks where I’m from, I usually say DC. That actually isn’t really accurate either, but people aren’t usually familiar enough with Maryland, so I just say what’s most recognizable.

    Especially when I was younger, I spent a lot of time adventuring with friends. Maryland has a beautiful variety of natural landscapes and ecosystems, none of them are famously iconic like the rocky mountains or the southwestern desert of the US, but places like the Chesapeake Bay, The Potomac River and the beautiful forest lands had more than enough interest, mystery and wonder for me.

    Maryland has a lovely seasonal range, and every fall I would go with my friends to climb a short, rounded mountain (which was not particularly impressive, but I really loved it) to see the riot of colors in the trees. Here’s me on the mountain:

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/153549306@N07/shares/51Fi4p

    I also spent every summer in Annapolis living on a sailboat. I think there’s some primal, calming and authoritative about large bodies of water. The ocean is overwhelming both in it’s ability to soothe and destroy. The bay flows into the ocean over a relatively short distance, and sometimes hurricanes would roll up the coast and straight into the bay. We would hunker quietly down in the boat, tie everything carefully in place and listen to howl of wind and slash of rain against the deck. Anytime a wind comes up among a group of sailboats, there is a particular sound of ropes clanging against metal masts, it sounds like an odd collection of mistuned orchestra bells, and closing my eyes I can still hear that familiar chorus in my mind.

    The bay was exposed to the elements, but it was also protective and sheltering. I remember sailing into quiet side creeks, launching our little dinghy with my brother and exploring. There was so much exciting wild life: blue crabs, rock fish, cormorants, tadpoles, frogs, seagulls, clams, pike, perch, and my favorite the great blue heron. We would try to catch some of them, especially crabs, and then let them go. But mostly I remember just watching, paddling the boat a little further and watching more, not saying anything.

  11. Manya Krishnaswamy April 8, 2017 at 11:09 pm Reply

    The place that I’m going to share about is Bangalore. While I’ve only spent maybe 5 years there between the ages of 1 to 7, I typically visit at least once a year.

    When I think of Bangalore, I think of having tea with my grandmother as she awakes from her afternoon nap. I think of taking a evening stroll while chatting with my cousin. I think of disconnecting from the world (and the internet!) and re-connecting with my family. While Bangalore has no shortage of things to do, places to visit and amenities of a vibrant modern city, what makes it special for me is the time I get to spend with my extended family.

    Unlike other cities I visit when I travel, when I’m in Bangalore I don’t feel the need to chase after new experiences that make me feel like I’m making the most of being here. Being there puts me in a completely different frame of mind where I no longer feel the need to constantly check my phone and laptop. While this may be prompted, in part, due to unreliable wifi at my grandma’s house, over the years I’ve learnt to embrace it. I love it for the fact that it lets me step outside my daily routine and spend more time reflecting.

    I recognize that most of the things I associate with Bangalore are probably not what other people associate with the city. It’s this little alternate universe I’ve created for myself that consists of my grandma’s house, my aunt’s house and the people that reside within them. Whether I spend a week or a weekend in (my version) of Bangalore, it never fails to leave me refreshed and energized.

  12. My sense of place is just outside of Orlando, FL — in it’s own little world. It’s been in my life on and off for many years now. It holds one of my earliest memories, a vacation with all three of my grandparents. I have flashes of that time, sharing a house, taking pictures, swimming in the pool, and for some wild reason a vivid memory of me sitting in a shoeshine chair at the airport. After that we shared the experience with many of my family members, each visit making more and more memories. This place has been rooted not just in me, but my entire family. Family is extremely important to me, and while I’ve never lived close to my extended family before, I always felt like we had a home together. Even when we weren’t there, we could reminisce and be transported back home. It’s a place we took my grandmothers after my grandfather passed, we went there the summer before my grandmother passed. When I visit now, I feel like I can easily retrace my steps and vividly imagine them and our memories together.

    This home of mine is Disney World. I know it may sound trite, but it’s baked with rich and meaningful memories at every turn. The family trips and memories led me to work there for a brief time. People from all of the country and the world converged at Disney to participate in the work program, I formed lifelong relationships and created a new layer of memories on this place. It’s where my sister became engaged to her husband, right under a bridge connecting Paris to England. And now, it’s where get to take my grandmother and my niece (my sister’s daughter) this fall and form a new wave of memories. While it’s not perfect, it is home in a way. It’s a place I have be fortunate enough to return to, a place that for a short time, removes me from the world and allows me to live in a sense of wonder and magic.

  13. First of all it is really nice to step outside of the classroom and be immersed in nature… So thank you for arranging that~
    The place that I feel “a sense of place” is Beijing. I guess what I remember most vividly about Beijing is actually the shopping district that is called Sanlitun. This district is one of the most active zones at night in Beijing: so many bars, coffee shops, tea houses, restaurants, KTVs, night clubs, brand stores…no matter what kind of person you are, you can always find a corner that you love in this area. I can’t count how many times I have been in Sanlitun, and every time I go there I am with someone new, and also doing something new. I was born in Beijing, and was raised as a city kid, so the qualities that will make me feel a sense of a place is the qualities that a metropolitan city has: crowded, noisy and colorful. Yet New York City does not give me a sense of place. I guess this is because Beijing has another side that I love too: historical, and full of informal beauty. While Sanlitun is such a modern area, it still maintains a taste of the past: the courtyard architectural planning, the Chinese food stands in nearby Hutong, and the old Beijing grandpa squatting on the street curb. So if I only sense the modernness of a place but could not see its historical traces, that place would have less connection with me.

    • Thanks all for sharing such personal and intimate memories of your past homes and experiences. For me, home, or sense of place, can only be found where my family (biological and chosen) lives. That’s Costa Rica. Growing up in there was really a privilege in many ways. As a tropical country, there are really no seasons, in San José (the city where I used live in) the temperatures range 25C-18C all year long. It does rain quite a lot, almost everyday for about 7 months and when it rains it really does pour, which can be annoying for people not used to it, but most people appreciate the rain because we are very aware that that’s the only way to have such a green and lush country. The nature in Costa Rica is really breathtaking, you are constantly surrounded by so many shades of green and everything seems louder: the birds, the bugs, the trees, the wind, the rain smashing against the tin roofs and even the people are a lot louder than they are here.
      Being able to watch the sun rise over the Caribbean and sun set on the Pacific Ocean, seeing slots hanging from the trees on my college campus, riding the bus to anywhere and seeing a couple familiar faces every single time, having a random conversation with the stranger waiting in line next to you at bank, not eating lunch in front of you computer ever, having coffee with friends sitting down and drinking it from actual coffee mugs (not paper cups with plastic lids); those are some of the things I miss the most about Costa Rica. Everything seems to move slower there, in a good way.

  14. The place that I feel “a sense of place” is Shanghai, a 24/7 energetic place. I was born in Taiyuan, where I spent my happy childhood and middle school life. Then moved to Shanghai after I entered in college. It’s first place I lived independently—moved into a totally new environment with no family relatives and few friends. Everything was new and waiting for me to explore, in the process of which I encountered difficulties and overcame them, gradually became strong and independent, as well as making a lot of friends.
    I appreciate the atmosphere in Shanghai. It’s place where ability counts. I love this city of possibilities, people can live their lives in their own way rather than just following others and suffer from social pressure. The life in Shanghai is colorful, I am a college student in work days but can shift into a curator/translator/illustrator on weekends.
    There is a saying called “Bejing’s Autumn and Shanghai’s night are the best”. I love taking a stroll during the night. It feels very wonderful to take a drink in a cafe after one day’s work.

  15. I am going to talk about New Delhi, that is where I have spent all of my life. One reason of choosing New Delhi is perhaps my lack of exposure. My father was in the military when I was young, he moved a lot but mother ensured that we stayed in a city and made long-time relationships like friends and relatives. I guess that makes sense but gradually I grew over living in Delhi. For the person I am and the exposure I have received by traveling, made me realize that there are new worlds to explore. That is one of the reasons why I came to CMU as well.

    However, I have created a sense of belonging to that city. Yes, it is because of people, places, food, etc but most importantly it’s because of memories. Memories of four seasons (i miss smell of the rain), of stray dogs, beautiful bio-diversity park around my home, crowded metros, food walk in old delhi, the sun, the fog, all these comprise of memories associated to the city and they are distinctive to New Delhi. I know in my lifetime I will go places and live in various cities but Delhi is where the heart will always remain.

  16. First off, I want to comment on what a beautiful discussion thread this is. Thank you, Jeffrey, Theora, Lauren, and Hajira for opening up this space.

    Having lived as a “nomad” before, I get my sense of place from many different places. However, I want to talk about Allston, MA, which is a neighborhood in Boston. For the most part, you’ll probably never meet anyone who was born in Allston. Everyone is just passing through. You’ll hear a lot of, “Oh I lived there during college, I remember this one party in Allston when Johnny vomited his brains out and…” and “Oh, Allston, was a good time, my band used to play in the basement of this sh*tty apartment…” Allston’s one claim to fame is that Aerosmith originated from there. Probably in the basement of some said “sh*tty apartment.”

    I was born and raised in Allston until I was 18. I loved every minute of my childhood. We had all four seasons in Boston. I remember playing badminton, biking, rollerblading, and hopscotching on the sidewalk with my sister and cousins in the summer and building igloo forts and sledding in the snow in the winter. I remember trespassing into my neighbors’ gardens and getting yelled at. I remember walking to school with the kids in my neighborhood. I remember in 4th grade when Jessica tripped on ice and broke her ankle walking to school, so we stopped walking to school and decided to take the bus.

    Back then, I knew that my neighborhood was surround by many universities (Boston University, Boston College, Harvard, MIT, Tufts, etc.) but I never noted as much as when I started college myself. I remember in college (Tufts) people starting to refer to Allston as the party neighborhood. I began seeing “Keep Allston Shitty” stickers everywhere. Familiar buildings were being knocked down for condos and trendy hipster restaurants.

    I used to take my baby sister trick or treating and started noticing some of the thoughtfulness of the holiday gone. Growing up, I used to have neighbors commenting on our halloween outfits and giving out neatly packaged bags of candies. Now it seemed like a lot of the houses were throwing halloween parties and have forgotten to buy candy for the kids of the neighborhood. One time someone drunkenly offered my baby sister a beer (so wrong). A lot of the family has moved out and the neighborhood is getting younger and younger. I remember the family next door moved out and a fraternity move in. After observing some of their “strange” traditions, my mom asked innocently, “Are they in a cult? I saw them lining up and puking last night…”

    With all this being said, I am still very proud of being from Allston. I have so many fond memories. When I come home from where I am in the world (I always come home), I’m definitely sadden by the direction that the neighborhood is moving in, but I also feel a sense of love. Some of my child hood friends are still there. My family is still there. My parent’s house is there (even though it has changed many colors since I was born). I’m in a very complicated relationship with Allston. Ask me more about it, if you’re interested. I have so many stories.

  17. I have stayed away from home, from Bangalore for the last 8 years. To be honest, I did not, or at least did not think I missed not being there. I loved being in different places and that’s what I was doing. However, whenever there used to be any talk about cities with my friends (there are always a lot of ‘which is a better city’ conversations), I went all in to support Bangalore.
    Since I have been living in the city from when I remember (since I was 4), but not in the same house, the city (and not a particular house) comes to mind when someone says home. I feel so comfortable being there (even thinking about it now makes me feel good). I guess the fact that my family still stays there is the biggest reason.
    When you talk about Bangalore, you have to talk about its weather. While my parents have been complaining lately about how the summers are really hot, I remember the weather of maybe 10 years ago (before I left the city to study), and wow! It had the best ever weather – pleasant all year round.
    I think of all my friends who I played with, growing up. I think of my school.
    For the last 10 years, Indian Premier League (a cricket league between different cities in India) has given me an opportunity to feel this strong sense of attachment to Bangalore.

  18. Thanks to everyone for sharing so far. It is such a pleasure to read these vignettes and understand a bit more about each of you and your places. One of the things that strikes me in many of the posts so far is how much weather plays a part in or experience of and/or description of place. I think that is interesting because no matter how “artificial” our world has become – spending most of our time buildings or driving in cars, not connected directly to the land – you still can’t escape the weather. In a society that is predominantly segregated from the natural world, the weather is the one connection to an ecological system that we can’t escape. The weather is a reminder that nature is there, and that a places weather can make you feel the spirit of a place. Even if your town is full of McDonalds and strip malls, it is still going to have weather that is unique.

    Reflecting on this dynamic in my own experience, it dawns on me that living in a severe drought in Northern California for 5 years may have actually helped me better connect to the place and the geography. With mandatory water restrictions and visible markers of drought throughout the landscape, it was impossible not to see the connection between what was happening “in nature” and your every day life. This happened not just at an individual level, but in larger public consciousness as well. You could have random conversations on the street with your neighbor about the rain (or lack their of), and I think it forced people to understand our connectedness to the place, reservoirs, rainstorms, and plants in a deeper way. Its funny, though, to think about extreme weather events and possibly helping to create a sense of place.

  19. I lived in Santa Fe for four years during my undergraduate studies. My college was on the side of a mountain, allowing easy sojourns into the woods behind my dormitory.

    Some of my most exploratory and formative experiences were in in those woods.

    Santa Fe’s altitude was such that sunlight from from many horizons away was heavily refracted by the time it reached my eyes and the clouds in front of me. This deep, deep red bled into innumerable sunsets, spectacular and normal there. Here are a few photos of such sunsets http://imgur.com/a/S6BGJ

    The city developed along lanes formed from cattle shepherds through the woods, following the terrain. There is absolutely no grid system, and as the city has developed and modernized, the relationship of its layout and the necessities of automobile transportation and storage has not been ideal.The thin roads allow for little parking on the sides, and its reputation attracting tourists clogs the streets more than they should handle.

    Essentially every building is made to look adobe. Not actual adobe, mind you. Most are stucco’d and painted to appear. The city passed an architectural ordinance mandating that any building visible from the streets had to be visible adobe. Thus the city attempts to perpetuate a certain “look” that originally developed during a time before machine conditioning of air, when resources were scarce and houses were built out of local materials/mud. The residents, increasingly aged white retirees, desire a certain rustic charm indicative of the city even though it is entirely ersatz.

  20. I just realized that it is really difficult to decide one place I have the strongest sense of place. I have to say that all places I tagged on the google map are parts of me, to be more specific, the places have shaped parts of my self. For example, my hometown Yongam-ri is a small rural town consisting of 50ish house hold. I lived there until when I was 15 years old with my parents, sister, and gradma. My value set and personality, such as diligence, grown up here with constant engagement of the place. The time I spent in Seoul for 10 years for college education and work nourished my unique perspective toward the world as an individual and a professional. Going deeper into the neighborhood I had had actually lived within Seoul, the neighborhood bridged me and my friends. 3 months in London broaden my perspective and understanding of the world and helped me embrace diversity particularly. I deelply love all these places and I’m creating similar attactment with Pittsburgh now.

  21. Till now, I have lived in 6 different cities and somewhere near to 15 different houses. At this point in my life, If I don’t move every 2 years I get restless! But this has made me learn to adapt to different places and in a sense, carry a feeling of home with me. Whenever I do shift to a new location, the first thing I immediately do is surround myself with objects that comfort me – pictures, pillows, my favourite blanket, cards and postcards from family and friends, books written in etc.

    But to have a sense of belonging to a particular place, I would say its Bombay. Maybe it’s because I was born there or maybe because I have always returned to it after my many relocations. I have memories of different stages of my life with that city – and I say the city as a whole because of the multiple houses I have lived in it. Being near the sea, amidst the crazy chaos of the infinite number of people, and the unpredictable rain – it’s where I feel I belong. And it’s the memories! Memories sprawled across the streets and places in this city with my parents, my grandparents, my sister, friends and my pets. I guess it’s the city I will always go back to!

  22. I would like to share about my hometown Pune. Like most people I love my hometown and I am really proud of its culture. It’s one of the places in India that still has one of the strongest culture heritage. Many cities in India are losing its charisma and turning into skyscraper cement cities but Pune seems to resist such changes, atleast the part of Pune that I belong to. It has folk dances, plays and theatres that put up plays are as full as IMAX and multiplex. It has a history of warriors conquering forts and steep hills. Even though I was not born here, I feel the most at home as that’s where my parents live. I am sure if they move to a different city, that will be my new sense of place as I probably love Pune so much only for the people who live there.

  23. Thank you Jeffrey, Theora, Lauren, and Hajira for giving us an opportunity to play outside last week. I really enjoyed having the opportunity to reflect outdoors. When I was younger, I moved around a lot, so I’ve always grappled with the question of “where is home?” I was born in Boston, Massachusetts. When I was eight, I moved to Brussels, Belgium. After that, we spent several years in the Bay Area before moving to Hong Kong, where I attended high school. I spent the last 10 years in New York where I attended college and started my career. My idea of “home” has changed throughout my life, however, home has always been where my parents are located. For now, that’s back in the Bay Area.

  24. Discussion leaders, I congratulate you guys for changing the entire experience of the class. I absolutely loved it!

    To answer the question, I haven’t moved around a lot but one of the places that makes me absolutely nostalgic, every time I think about the time spent there, is the place where I moved out from my hometown for work. It’s one of the most vibrant and colorful cities of India. It was this place where I achieved my independence, struggles through hardships to find my own ways out of them. This is the place I was accepted in the industry and achieved success in what I was doing. It was here that I made friends from all over India and bonded with them over our sudden travel plans every other weekend. In a way, the experience helped me grow as an individual and more aware of the outside world.

  25. The very one place means “sense of place” for me was and is Beijing.

    Beijing used to be a city where the sky was blue; the air was fresh. When I was little, there were not so many automobiles on the roads, and most people used bicycles for transportation. Thus, even though the road were relatively narrow and the city was smaller than it is now, there was no much traffic jam at that time. In the central city area, people lived in quadrangle dwellings built in Qing Destiny located in Hutongs (traditional streets which are very narrow). At that time, the standard high buildings in the city were 6-floor ones which were made of red or gray bricks. The pace of life was pretty slow, people seldom worked over time and spent most of their leisure time on companying families and friends. In summer evenings, people gathered under huge trees and chatted with neighbors while the kids were playing around.

    As time passed by, Beijing has been changed into a whole new city in the last 30 years. The number of citizens is over 30 million now. The buildings and avenues have been rebuilt that they now look pretty and fancy, but most of them look similar to others. The environment and traffic are terrible just like any other huge cities in the world. A huge amount of immigrants entered the city looking for opportunities to succeed. The city is like a modern jungle where people still have dreams and drive for better lives but never feels like “home” to me anymore.

  26. Thanks guys for organizing this great activity! I really enjoyed exploring the nature and surroundings that I did not even realize until that time. To answer the prompt, I have moved around a lot. I was born in Buffalo, NY but moved to South Korea. I came back to LA to attend high school then moved to SF for undergraduate. The unique experience for me was working as a graphic designer in NGO, located in Cape Town South Africa. I had a biased perspective on Africa before I visit the countries, mostly influenced by the media. But once I got there, I realized that people are strong, independent human being and nature is absolutely stunning. I’ve only lived there for 6 months, but it made a huge impact on my design philosophy and perception on developing countries.

  27. To echo what has been said, my home is where my parents are. Therefore Ankara is the place for me. I have lived there almost all my life but in Ankara, there are also places that I can define as home. My hometown, Elmadag, with its harsh weather and rural life is one of my homes because of my lineage. As the oldest one’s of my family fade away, I and other family members are also losing our sense of belonging there. Although I have memories in Elmadag, they are not quite powerful as my Ankara-central one’s because I have grown up at Ankara metropolitan. In Ankara metro, I had three districts that I have called home. Two of my prior home’s were in Ankara-west and my latest two were in the almost center: my school campus and my home while I was studying and working there. As my school campus in Ankara is a big self-sustaining ecosystem, I can definitely say that I have left some of myself and have the sense of belonging because of memories with my friends, teachers, stray animals freely roaming in our campus and other livings. This prompt made me realize that I haven’t formed a similar attachment with Pittsburgh yet and that’s why I can’t call Pittsburgh as home at the moment.

  28. Thanks to discussion leaders! Last Wednesday class was so great and pleasurable.

    I was born in Japan, lived there with my parents for 4 years but mostly grew up in Korea. Since my father had career dynamics, my family had to move to new places very often. I don’t think that I have a deep sense of place or attachment to Japan, because I don’t have any actual memories. But I think my personality was somewhat formed by my family moving in Korea, because every time I tried to have attachment to a new place, I had to realize/accept the fact that my family would be moving to other new area. That was too tough for child me. Even though I knew that some of my family’s moving had something to do with me and my siblings’ good quality of education, I gave up having deep and sincere relationship with new friends anymore. That moment was the toughest one in my childhood life.

    I think this kind of tough situation really depends on what kind of situation you were in, what kind of personality you had before, and how much attachment you had with prior life.

    But the final destination in Korea where my family settled, which is called Yeouido (a beautiful island in Seoul), taught me how to overcome those difficulties, and of course my personality changed a lot. I still had hard time having open mind to strangers, but came to know I have to give it a try. Since then, I kept pushing myself harder to being exposed to new environment, saying to me, “Don’t afraid of talking them! And maybe having a good relationship!”. This process was very slowly happening, and maybe still going on. This part of my identity came from Yeouido, where I think I deeply belong to.

  29. My ‘sense of place’ is strongly rooted in Pittsburgh. I have lived here my entire life, with the exception of four years in Boston for college. I have also lived in the same house since I was born. I feel a real connection to the topography, flora and fauna, and even weather of the area. I feel truly ‘at home’ at my parents house. I am very familiar with every divot of the yard, placement of every tree, and how/where the sun hits throughout the day. It is truly ingrained in me and definitely feels like a part of my identity.

    No matter where else I go in my life, I will solidly identify myself as a ‘Pittsburgher’. It has also struck me – I didn’t realize this until college – that generally, people from the surrounding metropolitan areas of Pittsburgh strongly identify themselves as being from Pittsburgh – not the borough or township in which they actually live. I would tell people that I was from Pittsburgh, and they would ask me questions about living the city center which would always surprise me! I think that this may be because for a long time now, Pittsburgh has not been a very residential city. Growing up, most people commuted to the city to work, but lived in the outlying areas. Even though I grew up in one of the surrounding suburbs of the city, I would never think of myself as not ‘from Pittsburgh’.

  30. I grew up in Taipei City, the capital of Taiwan. After graduated from high school, I continue studied university and then worked in the same city until I moved here to Pittsburgh to study design at CMU.
    The interesting part is that my recognized scope of the city keep expanding through time. In elementary school, I only know about the neighborhood. During high school, I started to explore the city more. First the nearby area of my commuting path, then expand to any area that accessible by public transportation. After I entered the college, I got my first scooter. As a result, I started to explore the urban area of my city. It is amazing that you can’t totally understand this city. There are so many to explore and places also changed over time. When I started to work, there was a movement about seeing our own Taiwanese history. Some many materials either physical or digital comes out, I began to explore the history of Taipei city and found out even more interesting spots in the city.
    I think my interest in history actually came from a field trip in elementary school. When my teacher guide us through a historical area and try to explain the context of the site. This small event affects me so much that I didn’t realize at that time. Even when I moved here to Pittsburgh last year, I started to systematically explore the city and its history.

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