When I left the fir trees and free spirits of the PNW and moved to the Bible Belt in 1999 I had no idea that Chattanooga/Collegedale/Ooltewah would become my town. And so when the opportunity to study in Turkey presented itself, and our house sold, and the car was all packed, it was a bitter-sweet departure. This is my farewell.
I first knew Collegedale as a university student. It was here that I was blessed to live with and love my grandparents. In those first summer days I succumbed to the sweltering humidity, thankful for the backyard pool and the sweet smell of Little Debbie’s in the air. I worked as an announcer at WSMC where I learned how to pronounce Ooltewah, Chickamauga, LaFayette. I switched my major from Occupational Therapy to Mass Communication with a minor in Near Eastern Archaeology. I met and fell in love with my first boyfriend and now husband of 8 years. I also fell for the natural beauty of the Tennessee hills, and the southern charm right out of Gone With the Wind. I learned that I loved boiled peanuts, okra, and sweet tea. And I even picked up a little southern drawl, y’all.
After graduation I spent a year in Ventura, CA studying Visual Journalism. Yet not even a full 12 months later I was back in Collegedale working as a photographer for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. When we got married we moved to Michigan for a year while Justo finished his Masters in OT Archaeology. And then yet again we found ourselves back in Collegedale, this time for 7 years. We were definitely meant to be there!
It was during these years that I began to call Chattanooga my home (we even bought our first home!). My work as a photographer, librarian, archaeologist for three summers, and Communication Director gave me the opportunity to connect with my community on many different levels. I did a lot of volunteer work, shopped every week at the Ooltewah Farmers Market, ate at Aji Peruvian Restaurant, and attended the Worlds Longest Yardsale with my cousin Laura. The Lord always brings people into our lives when we need them the most. For the last few years I have enjoyed attending two book clubs, and in 2014 I made a ladies bible study group my top priority. By the end of our time in Collegedale I had experienced so many of the things that make Chattanooga a great place to live.
To Monika, Evonne, Stephanie, Faith, Cheryl, Joanne, Paulette, Emily, Milli, Susan, Elaine, Debbie, Gretchen, Jim, Tony, Keila, David, Raquel, Pilar, Uncle Jim, Le, Frieda, Andrew, Shirley, Tony, Erin, Sharon, Sally, Debra, Keith, Linda, Joey, Gwen, Rebecca, Stephanie, Laurie, and Nikki – Thank you for being a part of my life in Collegedale. And, come and visit me in Turkey anytime! I may be an Oregonian but I’m now also a Southern gal at heart.