This is perhaps the most predictable title you’ll ever expect from someone who writes about his first impressions and living experience in the state of Alabama. But in all sincerity, I have found sweet home in one of its humblest cities, The Au-some City of Auburn.
The two greatest days of my life are the day I was born, and the day I was in Auburn. Okay, I might be exaggerating a little here. :)
Part of the YSEALI Professional Fellows program is for the participant to be placed in a US community where the programs and services they implement match the Fellows’s interests and line of work. But I will not be discussing any work-related stuff right now.
Leaving home to find home
Prior to my US trip, my long time home has been the humble town of Los Baños in the province of Laguna in the Philippines. The Fellows program requires a month-long stay in a US city which meant I have to temporarily leave my home.
"I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself." ~ Maya Angelou
It might really be an innate tendency for anyone to search for home in an unfamiliar territory -- for reasons of solace and natural propensity to find serenity. True enough I have found home, albeit ephemerally, in the city of Auburn. And I would like to list some of the reasons why, to the best of my recollection.
Home is where you find affection and security
Being in Auburn is like being brought home. The city bears the nickname “The Loveliest Village on the Plains.” And it is. Its ambience feels a lot like Los Baños, Laguna. Well, at least for me. Auburn is far from the stereotyped notion of a city. While this is not a metropolis, the city offers the best of both worlds:
It has the necessities of what makes up a city and at the same time it gives you the sense of oneness with the natural environment.
Best of all, Auburn provides you a sense of safety. It has been said that the chance of you being victimized of a violent crime 1 in 478. And in the past few weeks that I have been here, I would say that issues on security have never bothered me. Did I mention that it’s one of the best places to live in the United States?
Home is something familiar
Auburn is a small city with a little over 60,000 people and home of Auburn University. My hometown Los Banos (LB) is also small municipality with a population of 101,000 people and home of the university called UPLB. Auburn is a college town, while UPLB is casually referred to as College.
A lot of other stuff in Auburn resembles that of my city back home. The vegetation here is subtropical which is reminiscent of our landscapes: the greenness of the grass and the vigor of the forests. People here are very hospitable and welcoming; I guess the city has to thank my hosts, Mr. Chris Graff and Mr. Jim Buston, and everyone that works in the city office.
Home is where people are being cared for
Auburn has a city management style that maintains closeness to the people. It is also said that most of the meetings tend to be informal, whether they are internal or involve citizen participations. This seems to be a manifestation of how the city gives value to their relationship with the community.
As a matter of fact, the City’s Mission is “to provide economical delivery of quality services created and designed in response to the needs of its citizens… not by habit or tradition.“
“Hospitality is almost impossible to teach.” ~ Danny Meyer
My preferential impression of the people of Auburn is largely credited to Mr. Christopher Graff and Mr. James “Jim” Buston. Basically, Jim was the first Alabaman whom we ever met. And first impressions, as they say, do last. Mr. Jim has been a very unassuming man from the get-go. Albeit him working for the city as the assistant city manager, he has been very modest about it. For one, he managed to drive for six hours, back and forth, just to collect us from the airport and to drop us off to our new home.
While in Auburn, our host has been Mr. Christopher Graff who works as the city GIS manager under the supervision of Mr. Jim. Chris, despite his busy work schedule, has been a hands-on teacher and a fun tour guide. Everyone in the city has been making sure that our stay in Auburn is going to be worthwhile and memorable.
Home is where you feel you belong
When you are in a city where the people you meet tend to be welcoming and show interest in your background, you do not feel left out. For me who works in a university where sights of students and professors are commonplace, being placed in a college town like Auburn makes me feel I did not really leave UPLB. Probably these are the reasons why I never felt homesick since my first day here.
In a place where you have the sense of belonging, you truly are home.