Here’s the next big move for our little family: we are moving to Tampa, Florida!
There’s a sentence I never thought I’d say, then again most things that have happened in the past years have not been imprinted in my life plan. Just riding the waves of life. That’s right. I am giving you wave metaphors although we haven’t even reached the Gulf of Mexico yet.
Simply writing that makes me so happy!
The fact that we are moving to Tampa isn’t coming straight from the bushes though (to use a Finnish idiom meaning as a total surprise).
For quite a long time I have had the urge to continue my studies at some point. I received my Master’s in 2010 and have since then always held the possibility for completing a PhD, but never really managed to formulate a topic that would interest me enough to dig in it for four years.
Ethiopia changed that.
I became so fascinated by its food culture I decided to start investigating it further. This is a food culture which is very stubborn in the sense that Ethiopians, or Habeshas, as they call themselves, even carry their beloved injera with them when they travel abroad.
Food is a crucial part of the Ethiopian identity, and a culture of fast food and other global diets (ultra processed, sugary and fatty products) have not made their way to Ethiopia as quickly as to many other developing countries, making it an interesting and different country case for the global nutrition transition.
Does the Habesha food culture remain as strong in a permanently foreign setting? Do Ethiopian immigrants hold on to their food culture? And if they don’t, what are the health and social impacts of a food culture lost?
But I didn’t stop there.
I thought: what if I did similar research on a totally different nationality. I could then compare these two groups.
I have proposed this second group to be Finns, allowing me to learn a little bit more about my own roots.
In the late 19th and early 20th century over 200 000 Finns travelled across the Atlantic to search for a better life. Many settled in Minnesota, many in Florida, and a lot of them worked on construction sites as jobs were ample during the Gilded Age.
Did these Finns and their descendants have a strong connection to their own food culture in a new environment? How does that relate to their identity as Finns in America?
What I am hoping to shed light on with my comparative research during these four years (and this is not in order of importance):
- The connection between ethnic identity and food culture;
- Immigrants’ reasons for adopting or rejecting the new food culture they find themselves surrounded by (in more fancy terms: what is their level of dietary acculturation);
- The role of food cultures and culturally sensitive nutrition in preventing non-communicable diseases, such as type II diabetes and obesity, among immigrants.
The research question will be refined as I go on.
But what matters the most to me is that the people at USF have seen the potential of my research question and want to help me create it further.
This will be an intellectual leap for me from the field of natural sciences (I am an agronomist specialized in agroecology) to social sciences and honestly I can’t wait. It is time for me to learn more about The Human Experience.
What will not change is my fascination towards food. It remains the overarching theme over all of my professional interests: the way it is produced, distributed, appreciated, consumed, loved, hated, debated – my passion for this topic does not waver, in fact it only gets stronger by the year.
And now I will get to go back to school to learn more about it.
My feelings: Proud! Jumping of joy! Ecstatic! Mirthful! Exuberant! Boisterous! (Those last three words I put there just to remember them, part of my learn-new-words-every-day campaign).
So, in about three months from today, our family of mom, dad, son and two cats will fly across the Atlantic and start a new chapter in Florida. My husband will stay at home with our son for the first semester.
And the whole bonus of it all is that my dear sweet big sister and her family will now be living on the same continent.
I can’t wait for this adventure to begin.
So what should we know about Tampa?