Saturday, November 29, 2008

Meeting People by Getting Involved

One way that you may think about getting involved with your community and meeting new people is by volunteering. This year, Liz and I, stuck around Cincy for Turkey Day and became involved with Give Back Cincinnati's Fall Feast at the Duke Energy Center. For most of my life, I have been involved in some type of volunteer activity, but ironically, when i moved to cincinnati, i became very busy with work and somehow volunteering got left off my activity list. But what better time to volunteer than the present, so I began searching for volunteer organizations in the area. I was first introduced to Give Back Cincinnati by a guy I had a "first date" with almost a year ago and thought I should check it out. Prior to Fall Feast, Liz and I decided to attend one of Give Back's informational sessions in West Chester. The event occurred at a Wine bar and was quite low-key but perfect as an introduction to the group. We met several of the group leaders and decided this would be a good group to join.

So, Fall Feast 2008. What can I say? It was a wonderful, fulfilling, and fun experience. We arrived at the 9am scheduled time where we signed up to be servers for the meal. Now the only downside to the event was that we had quite a bit of waiting around to do and probably didn't need to really arrive until 10am. Doors opened at 11am to the public. We were in groups of 3 to serve approximately 6-7 tables for each group. What was really interesting about this event was that there were 200 volunteers whose primary job was to sit, talk, and eat with community members who needed hot meals. It is important to note that this event wasn't just for homeless populations, but for anyone who wanted to eat turkey dinner with the community. In fact, runners from the Thanksgiving 10K run, trotted over to the DukeEnergy Center to check out the event and hydrate themselves. I met several wonderful volunteers and several individuals from the community. Some of the most rewarding experiences stemmed from conversations with people in the community and I will definitely volunteer for this event next year.

Friday, November 28, 2008

meeting people in cincinnati

the only people who i have become good friends with here have all been people who are either not from here or who moved away and came back. that was not the case in previous places i have lived.

what confuses me is whether i have just met a series of people who i wouldn't have liked anyway, and am just stereotyping them unfairly, or whether there truly is fundamental incompatibility between people who are from cincinnati and have lived here their whole life, and people who have lived in other parts of the country or world. i am never going to feel like everything i need in life can be found in this city, and i am probably going to move away at some point. based on what i have observed, most people who have been here their whole life do not understand that. am i being unfair or is this a fundamental disconnect?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

about me, by liz

i like avani's idea of introducing ourselves so i will do it to. i am liz. some of you may know me from my other blog, getinmahbelly. i moved to cincinnati in 2006 for my job. although i spent a good chunk of my childhood in michigan, moving to cincinnati was a total culture shock for me since i had just spent the past 3 years living in NYC. i remember the first time i went to a drive through (wendy's) when i moved here... i was like "how the hell am i going to read the whole menu and pick what i want in the next 10 seconds?"

when i moved here, i knew very few people. there was tom and linnae who i had known in college, and my good friend kathleen who i had met in guatemala and traveled with. kathleen moved away from cincinnati a few months after i moved here, and tom and linnae had been here for years and already had their own circle. so i was pretty much on my own to meet people.

one of the first new people i met in cincinnati was emily, who was my first roommate here. i could not have asked for a better person to meet. emily is really social and was from cincinnati (so she knew a lot of people) but had lived in a few other cities as well (so she understood the importance of connecting with others in a new city). my first weekend in cincinnati was spent moving into emily's apartment. we bonded quickly since i came down with dengue fever right after that (i had just gotten back from a trip to thailand) and she had to take care of me. she invited me to everything she did, introduced me to her friends, and had regular dinners at our apartment where she invited all kinds of fun people. my first few months in cincinnati were great thanks to emily.

i had to move out after about three months when my sublease was up and emily's former roommate came back to town. after that i went through a string of crazy roommate situations that did not work out and ended up moving into my own apartment. during that time, i was meeting people but not really finding a group. i kept meeting all these people who i would become close friends with but then they would move away (kathleen to st. louis, emily to LA, celia to north carolina, dahrika to boston, etc.). the fact that all my friends kept moving away made it really hard to feel connected here.

fortunately i have always had my book club, which i joined a few months after i moved here. members have changed over time but right now, the book club consists of me, avani, and seven other girls who are either not from cincinnati or who spent a good amount of time away from the city. book club has been my only (more or less) consistent set of friends here.

the thing that has always really bothered me about cincinnati is that i feel like most people just are not that open to really welcoming new people to their social groups. when i moved to new york and was trying to meet new people, everyone i met was constantly inviting me out and introducing me to new people, and i did the same for them. any time you met someone new, you exchanged phone numbers or emails. then you would invite each other to your parties and social events. they would bring their friends and then their friends would start calling or eviting you. the phrase "i feel like i have enough friends," which i have heard a number of times since moving here, was unheard of in new york.

here, it's totally different. there are people that i have been out with ten or fifteen times that still seem totally like superficial acquaintances. when i ask new people for their phone number, i've gotten the "is she crazy?" look on many occasions. groups of people who have known each other for a long time almost always treat me like the "friend of a friend" no matter how many times i have hung out with them. it's all very strange and incomprehensible to me, since i am always interested in meeting new people and expanding my circle. i get bored when i only spend time with the same people all the time.

cincinnati has a lot going for it. there are interesting neighborhoods, really good restaurants, a great arts scene, lots of awesome parks, and low cost of living. but this city is never really going to become what it could be if it can't attract and keep new people in the area. cincinnati needs to get past the insular, we've known each other forever type of social networks that i feel characterize it right now. and instead of bitching about it the way i have been for the past two and a half years, i want to do what i can to change things.

So Who Are We? A little something about Avani

Now that Liz has explained what our goal is in developing this blog, I thought I could start by telling you a little bit about myself so you understand why we think this type of a group could be fun. I moved to Cincinnati from Florida in 2003. As you can imagine, it was a major shock to my system. First of all, I didn't own any coats or closed-toed shoes. Wearing sandals in the middle of winter: not a good idea. Second, I only knew 1 person in Cincinnati when I moved here and he was a medical resident (medical resident=no time), so really my social circle was zilch in Cincy. Third, midwest culture is really different from southern culture (i grew up in Georgia and North Carolina). The first time I went to Kroger, I said hello to the person in front of me and asked them how they were doing, and the person stared at me in utter disbelief....I am not saying that is how everyone is in the Midwest, I am just saying that it is more commonplace to talk to people at grocery stores in the South. So all of these things combined, it was clear that I needed to make some efforts to meet new and interesting people.

I was very lucky because I made several great friends from work, but as we all know, it is important to hang out with people outside of your work environment otherwise you wind up talking about work all the time. So, this led me to pursue several different options, which I will list below, along with the results of the endevour:

1. College alumni association - Went to one event where everyone was either an incoming freshman or a 40-50 year old alumni. I was 28 at the time so I did not fit in....

2. I was single (and still am by the way), so I tried online dating. Now remember, online dating was a bit taboo and new in 2003, but I will say I met several really wonderful and not so wonderful guys. I had many first dates (i could have my own separate blog about that) but very few second dates. This was mostly due to the fact that I or the other person just "wasn't feeling it."

3. Party in the Park - I went to that with some co-workers and thought I had stepped into a meat market and felt that everyone hung with their own cliques. I am not saying this is not worth trying again at some point, but it just wasn't for me at the time.

4. Bars in Hyde Park - I lived on Hyde Park Square (above the Vineyard Cafe) when I first moved here. Always nice to live above a wine bar. Great drinks but conversations often started with questions about where I went to high school. When I would answer "North Springs," people become curious about where that was in Cincinnati. After explaining that the high school was actually in Atlanta, GA, people became dumb-founded...

So such was my experience. I tell you this so that you will know that if you are new to Cincinnati and have experienced any of these situations, you are not alone. This is the whole purpose of Cincinnati Imports....

Well, back to work for me...

This is just a few of the many things I tried to do to meet new people.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

what is the point of this blog anyway?

i was just looking at our blog and i realized that it is not exactly clear what we are doing here. basically what we are trying to do is expand our circle of non-cincinnatians (or people who are from here but are a little more openminded and looking to meet people outside of the group they went to high school with). we decided the best way to do that is to start a blog, and soon we will be organizing a happy hour or something like that where we will bring all our friends together, including new friends who found us on the internet (like you, reader!).

ideally we would eventually like to expand our group until we are a starting and connecting point for people who feel like we do in the city. but that will take a while so we are just going to start with this for now. there are other groups in cincinnati that have similar goals, such as all the young professionals organizations, but we wanted to be more casual and more social. we wanted to have this blog to communicate with people about what we are doing and also be a place for us to talk about our experiences as outsiders in cincinnati and all the ups and downs that go along with that, and also allow for others to share their opinions (via comments). i can't speak for avani but i would be open to adding other bloggers if anyone else wanted to write on here.

if you are interested in what we are doing, keep checking this blog. we are hoping to have a happy hour in january after all the holiday insanity is over.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

below zero and gay men galore

last night we went to a party at below zero. it was a birthday party and the theme was stoplight party. you were supposed to dress in the color that represented your relationship status. red = taken. yellow = unsure (this confused us). green = bring it on!

we both dressed in green. our fellow non-cincinnatians dressed in red.

we got to the party and scoped out the scene. almost everyone was dressed in red. on top of that, they were mainly gay men. this left us with pretty much no options. nevertheless, we had a great time. avani saw friends she had not seen in a while. liz tried to find someone who was wearing green, male, and straight. this kept her busy the entire night until she finally gave up.

in the meantime, there was much drinking, dancing, and apparently thievery. when we finally decided to call it a night, we realized our coats were missing. the bartender and security guard helped us search the bar but they were nowhere to be found. whoever took our coats had really good taste because they left the ugly red vest seen above but took the cute ones next to it!

although neither of us took home any men ourselves, what's better than being the meat in a gay sandwich?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008