Thursday, November 01, 2012

Starting from Scratch

Lila as a slice of veggie lover's pizza: Halloween 2012
A few weeks ago, I left St. Louis with a heavy heart. We called it home for nearly 6 years (2006-2012) and they were some wonderful years. The funny thing is that I arrived in St. Louis with no intention of liking it at all. I left with a little more humility and a good life lesson in giving everything a chance and not making too many assumptions.

Six years ago, V beat me to the graduate school finish line by a few months and got dibs on choosing the next place we would move to. He found this job that he really really wanted to take in St. Louis. He had job offers in Seattle and Chicago too, and I was appalled that he wanted to move to St. Louis. I knew nothing about the place. Most of our New York City friends has a low opinion of the Midwest in general. A cousin of mine had attended a year of college and St. Louis and told me, "Oh, it's a wonderful sports town- great baseball". "But I hate sports", I bawled. In the end, I agreed to move to St. Louis knowing that it would only be for a few years. I made up my mind to tolerate it and get out of there as soon as possible. All this was before I had even set foot in the place.

My very first connection to St. Louis was Alanna of A Veggie Venture. Back then, there were not as many food bloggers and we all seemed to know each other quite well. I reached out tentatively to Alanna and mentioned that I was moving to her town. From then on, things started looking up rapidly. When we flew to St. Louis for a weekend to look for a rental apartment, Alanna invited us home to dinner. This is fairly typical among food bloggers and other close virtual communities. You've never met this person before, but they invite you into their home and feed you. Then it is like you've known them all your life. That same visit, V's future boss and his family took us out for dinner too. Sensing the genuine warmth of those connections was an auspicious start. I suddenly got a feeling that everything was going to be just fine and of course, it was more than fine.

The first time we met, Alanna told me these words of wisdom that she heard from her friends who've lived in a dozen different places: When you move to a new town, invest in the place as if you're only going to be there for 6 months but invest in the people as if you'll be there for a lifetime.

We definitely tried to follow this advice. Over the years we built ourselves such a vibrant community in St. Louis; I'll have to tell you about my interesting friends in another post. And we went out and did lots of fun stuff- saw all sights and attended all the events we could.

I have absolutely and without a doubt loved my years living in the megacities of Mumbai and New York City but there are many not-so-great things about living in a big city. Often, the cost of living is so expensive that you have to work ridiculous hours and have little time to relax. The traffic and distances can keep you from going places within the city. The congestion and the noise can be mind-numbing. I would say that St. Louis is a "Goldilocks" city: not too big, not too small; just right. Big enough that you have plenty of things to do, restaurants to try but small enough that you can actually find time to do these things. Small enough that you can afford to live near work and not have to battle traffic on a daily basis. Big enough to support useful businesses like a cloth diaper service. Small enough that you can barely enter a grocery store without running into someone you know.

When the time came to leave and move to yet another unknown town, I can assure you that I did so with a more optimistic and happy heart. We have to build a community from scratch but I think we'll manage. Well, we don't even really have to start from scratch. When V was being recruited for this job, we were blown away by the warmth and generosity of his future colleagues. They became our first local friends. Then a friend in St. Louis introduced us to his good friends who live here, and now this couple and their two little girls have become our friends. One of my best friends from high school lives only 45 minutes away and I'll get to see her on occasional weekends. And V's niece lives an hour away- she's in her early twenties and Lila adores her just as we do. That's a solid community already. 

Yesterday was Halloween- a day when it is socially sanctioned to visit the neighbors, at least, the ones who welcome trick or treaters by keeping their porch lights on. So we took Lila (in her costume as you can see at the start of this post) and went over and met a couple of our neighbors, who warmly welcomed us to the neighborhood and told us they love it here. And so the community hopefully grows.


By the way, this was my first post for National Blog Posting Month. See everyone who's participating here. There will be a new post on One Hot Stove every day this month. Leave a comment if you have a post topic to suggest.

58 comments:

  1. You are here!!! Let me know if/when you come to Atlanta, so we can meet up... :)

    Lakshmi

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    1. Yes, I'll e-mail you this month or next! Please consider driving down to Athens to see us.

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    2. Nupur - I have been a follower of your blog for years..from NY to St, Louis and now to Athens, GA. You will love Athens. Small college town, it will get under your skin. My daughter went to school in UGA and it was very hard for her to leave. Looking forward to your musings about Athens. We lived in ATL but were often in Athens. Miss the people and the state. Don't know much about St. Louis but if a San Francisco "native" of 25 years can come to love this city, there surely is hope. ATL became very cosmo after the Olympics. So you may find a bit of St. Louis tucked away somewhere in ATL. Have fun. Good Luck

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    3. Thanks for the lovely note, Genera! We're loving Athens so far- small town with progressive people. It seems to fit us.

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  2. Omnom-nom-nom! That is one delicious slice of Pizza!I want to hold her tiny hands and play with her tiny toes! Muuuaaah!
    I am glad you have settled in the new place and making friends. I felt like you did on leaving NY- when I moved from Los Angeles to Peoria ,IL. But as time passed, I like it there too. New people, new experiences.

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    1. LOL yeah that's why I wanted to dress her up as food- because I keep nibbling on her anyway.
      I can imagine that leaving glamorous and happening LA must have felt like you were leaving all that behind.

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    2. To own the truth, M and I still at heart, want to be back in LA, not because of the glamour-shamor... we are plain dull folks for a happening city! but everything about LA is welcoming, friendly people, smiling faces and the weather! oh! the weather! beaches! sigh :)
      hugs to Lilazza!

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  3. Sniff, sniff ... but at the same time, big smiles because I am so happy that you are embracing your new home with the same openness that you did here in St. Louis. An especially good thing? I had NO idea that you felt uncertain about coming to St. Louis until this very post. Hugs to Lila and V and D, not forgetting your own dear self. (Yes there's a story there, another time. :0-))

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    1. Huh- I'm glad I had the good sense to not blurt out all my uncertainties to you! But honestly my feelings changed SO rapidly once I met you, and after you drove us around and showed us how lovely STL was.

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  4. Lila looks so cute in that pizza slice. Nupur did you make it?

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    1. Yes ma'am- this pizza slice is homemade from scratch. Combination of sewing felt and the tomato and onion slices are crochet.

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  5. This is such a beautiful post! I've moved around quite a bit. The first move was certainly full of anxiety, regret, anger and fear..but as you said, it's only a matter of creating your social bonds until the place is 'yours'. And you are spot on with the 'small yet big'. I have started paying attention to so many things I didn't notice while in NY.

    The costume is adorable!

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    1. Yeah moving from NY can especially feel like you're moving from the center of the universe to some forgotten corner! But of course it isn't so. And yes, you don't take things for granted. Glad you felt the same way!

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  6. Awww!! Lila looks Adorable!!!! I knew you will make her costume but didnt know it could be this cute since you must be busy with setting up your new home. Nupur you are simply great!!!

    I am sure you'll make lots of friends and have a loving community in your new town as well. When I was in my teens my family had to move from the city I grew up to another city far away and I remember crying all night in the train. Silly me! I made so many new friends in this new city that leaving it later after getting married made me cry bucketsful again. It has made me realise (or you can say I comfort myself by thinking this) that we are meant to meet some more great people in our lives that is why it is time to move again!

    - Priti

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    1. Yeah making this costume was lots of fun and a welcome break from setting up home.
      That's an excellent philosophy for welcoming new homes- that we're meant to meet more great people.

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  7. Hi Nupur,

    Its been ages since I left a comment on your blog (even though I read it all the time). Lila looks so sweet in her Halloween costume - that is the best slice of pizza that I've seen in a great while. I am glad you are starting to feel at home in Georgia already. I remember your initial misgivings with St. Louis ;) Having been on the move since I left home almost 18 years ago, I can say that the advice you received about investing more in the people than the place is the best ever. I would like to think that's what I did too, even though I couldn't phrase it so succintly...
    Methinks November is looking up already, thanks to your promise of a new post everyday.

    Love,
    Shoots :)

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    1. Oh thank you Shoots! No idea what I'm going to ramble on everyday for a month but you'll get to read it ;)
      The advice was to invest deeply in people but the other part (to invest in the place like you're only going to be there for 6 months) was a reminder to be a tourist in our own city and take full advantage of the sights and the events. Otherwise you leave a place after living there for years saying, Oh I never got around to seeing that place or whatever.

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  8. Adorable costume! I love it when the kid's at the age where parents decide the costume--and eat the candy. It's mostly downhill from age 4 IMHO.
    Good luck with your new home--sounds like a wonderful community. I hope they know how lucky they are to have you!

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    1. You're absolutely right- I got to do what I liked! Next will come the princess phase (I'm told) and then it is all over :D

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  9. What a wonderful idea to dress up Lila as a Pizza slice! She is super cute. Tons of hugs to her!
    - Rehana

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  10. Lila is the cutest ever. I am sure you will love GA to bits to Nupur. You are one of those rare people who find good in everything.

    Looking forward to reading daily.

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    1. Oh thank you for saying that. I'm not really overtly optimistic but have to say I've been very lucky in the people I've met in life so far! Thanks for reading along!

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  11. Love Lila's costume. She is a cutie pie! Your post made for a lovely read, N. Happy settling down in your new place. And cheers to already having a community to start off with!

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    1. Thanks Vani! I know you yourself went through this phase not too long ago- building a home in a new place.

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  12. You made that pizza slice ? She looks so cute in it. With such an open mind and you seem like such a warm person, you are bound to make really good friends wherever you go. All the very best and enjoy yourself wherever you are

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    1. Yes, I did make the pizza, I wanted a costume which could be just tied on any existing dress so she wouldn't hate it too much :) Thanks so much for your wishes!

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  13. What a costume?! and what cute little pizza piece. This little piece is supercalifragilistic :). Sending good vibes your way to settle well into your new place. All the best for NaBloPoMo

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    1. Thank you so much! Need lots of good vibes to find inspiration to post every day this month!

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  14. Aww...Lila looks adorable in the pizza costume and if I'm not wrong you have stitched it.. loved it :)

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    1. Yes, I did make the costume- so glad you liked it!!

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    2. I love the costume. Its so simple to wear. MY son hates the store-bought halloween costumes. If you can put a small tutorial of how easy/difficult this one was it would be a great help.

      Thx
      Suparna

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    3. Suparna- I'll post a tutorial very soon!

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  15. I'm so glad you're settling in! Although, we miss you here in St. Louis already! This weekend is Charity Stitch, I'll knit a baby hat in your honor. :)

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    1. Aww- Charity Stitch is the BEST (still remember that clothesline of baby stuff hanging in the window). I am so sad to be missing it. Good luck and have fun, Holly!

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  16. So you are in Athens, Georgia....Come to Nashville sometime. I love how you write about giving everything a chance and not making too many assumptions. I love Lila's costume!

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    1. I certainly hope to visit Nashville some weekend! In fact my husband stopped over there overnight with the dog on the way from Missouri.

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  17. Nupur, I have already commented above but wanted to make a special comment here. I would really appreciate if you could do a post or give some tips on how you go about making friends. I am having such a hard time doing so in the new neighbourhood we have moved in (in our old neighbourhood we had very friendly neighbours). This is a 'richer' neighbourhood with award winning school district. I find people very un-friendly and tight lipped here. I have tried to approach both Indians and non-Indians but everyone is only polite upfront and never wants to take the friendship forward. We exchanged phone numbers and every time I call and leave them a voicemsg they don't even respond before 1-2 days and the response is always negative. I am so disheartened, no one seems to return a smile here. It'll be 2 years this Thanksgiving since we moved here and I am sad to say I've made no friends here yet. We both work so are busy with our own lives but I often wonder if we are doing something wrong or less than we should? There are lot of kids in this neighbourhood but I never see them playing with each other or neighbours interacting with each other.

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    1. I wrote a little post on making friends yesterday but I highly doubt it contains anything you haven't thought of yourself.
      No idea why your neighbors don't interact. All I can say is- continue to smile and say hello because that's the polite thing to do. If there is any event in the neighborhood, try and attend. And look for friends outside your neighborhood. Neighborhoods seem to have their own culture. My new neighborhood is also so quiet; we're still getting used to it.

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  18. Oh and I must add, I was expecting a lot of Trick or Treaters as there are lots of kids in the neighbourhood...and I was well prepared, infact I was eagerly waiting for them and looking out of the window. I saw my neighbours kids all dressed up for halloween but no one went trick or treating in the neighbourhood, their parents just took them in their car somewhere else...maybe to some party or event, I don't know. This is not with one family but all families here, no neighbourhood kid went trick or treating in our neighbourhood, I was waiting and watching by my window. We did get trick or treaters but they were from different neighbourhoods and I was happy to have them visit us but I felt sad for my own neighbours.

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  19. Aw...How can you not eat that slice of pizza, OMG she looks SO cute! I wish I could just pick her up straight from that photo. She's SO SO SO adorable. Glad that you decided to participate in NaBloPoMo, will be a treat for us readers. Looking forward to your daily posts.

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  20. Aww Nupur,

    A move to another place is always a very difficult thing to do. We also moved from St Louis to Plano, Tx. Its nice and a better school disctrict and all that, but I LOVED STL. Hope your transitiion is a lot more easier. Happy halloween!!!

    Shobha

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    1. We never did get to meet in person in STL, Shoba! I'm sorry I let the opportunity go by. I hope you'll come to love living in TX too!

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  21. Yay for everyday posts! Hope you enjoy living in GA.

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    1. I'm loving GA so far. Come visit us when you're hereabouts to see the 'rents.

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  22. Oh and I LOVE Lila's outfit. It is super creative...and who doesn't love pizza ;)

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    1. Yup, instantly recognizable and a well-loved food!

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  23. The lil' slice of pizza is super cute Nupur :-) She is so adorable..i love kids ..they are so precious :-)
    Glad you've moved to ATL and getting settled there...you'll never have lack of friends/people in life coz you have us ..your big fans through blogging :-) LOL and yes, I wish you settle and enjoy the new place, new life and everything and believe everything happens in life for a reason :-)

    Take care and huge hugs to Lila,
    Mina.

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    1. Aww- Mina- you're very sweet. And you know what, my virtual blogging friends are a HUGE part of my life. I'll never be alone wherever I go.

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  24. Good luck in your new home! I'm glad we had a chance to meet and share a meal while you lived here in St. Louis.

    Cheers!

    Bruno

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    1. I'm sorry I didn't get to say good-bye, Bruno!! I'll be reading your blog though. Good luck with everything!

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  25. Hi Nupur,
    Just wanted to wish you luck, I have been reading your blog for a very long time now..now I am in the same situation as you.. I was living in a city which I hated in the begining and then loved it more than anything else, now I am in a very different city, feeling helpless. Luckily we are blessed with friends and family in the new city, but I still miss my old home. I wish I had more of the optimistic attitude... Good luck!
    Archana

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    1. You can never help missing the old home, right? But I hope you find good people in the new city and you'll never be lonely. Good luck to you too!

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  26. Nupur,
    That piece of veggie pizza is looking so delicious that I can gobble it up:-)
    This is such a wonderful post recounting your stay in St. Louis. I remember I had stumbled upon your blog in late 2006 and have been following it since then.
    Have a lovely life in the new place.
    Cheers,
    Swapna

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  27. What a lovely post! As someone who has moved around for most of her life, I can definitely relate to the desires of wanting to stay when one finds a beautiful community to be a part of. I think it's so nice that food blogging allows you to find a community where ever you might find yourself. I hope your move is a safe one.

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    1. You're so right- food blogging has given me a community everywhere I've been.

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