Monday, March 19, 2007


I don't think I'm ready to tackle talking about my trip yet. It was pretty fun, but I am still jetlagged! I've never had such a hard time getting back on US time... usually it is easier for me, but I haven't slept in once since last Sunday. Robin asked me to talk about Norfolk, so I figured I could write a post about my new home. I'll write about my trip to Europe later, although I think that my pictures speak better than I can.

So, Norfolk! First of all, Norfolk isn't quite the American South, but it is close enough to fool the unsuspecting Northerner. On the local news, the anchors speak with the usual "Received American Accent," but when they come to the work "Norfolk," they say Nawf'ck. That is apparently the correct way to pronounce it, and pronouncing the "l" (as one would when saying "folks") will label you as a Northerner. However, Norf'k is also an accepted pronunciation.

Norfolk is part of Hampton Roads, a conglomeration of 7 or 8 cities around where the Chesapeake Bay separates Maryland from Virginia. There are innumerable rivers and inlets and estuaries that separate cities and neighborhoods from each other and
make the weather humid and changeable. The seafood is great, but the air sometimes smells marshy, no matter how far away you think you are from the nearest body of water.

Norfolk is also home to the largest naval base in America. That means that the military has a very strong presence in the city. During the recent midterm elections, all of the political commercials focused on what the other side was doing for military families. Shops advertise "free credit for military families!", and you can't go into a bar without overhearing a conversation
with (or falling into a conversation with) a member of the military. Old Dominion University provides many services for actively serving military and veterans; several of my colleagues fell into working in higher education after 20 years in the Navy.

What's more, Norfolk is a very diverse city, with no race being in the majority (although Whites come close, with 49.2% of the population). This is partly because of the military presence and partly because Norfolk is close to the South. ODU is a diverse campus as well, in part because it draws most of its students from the region.

Downtown Norfolk isn't a bad place to be. When I visited a year ago, it seemed very industrial and boring, but I have discovered that there is a little harbour with a dock that is charmingly situated near a one-stop-shop kind of restaurant/bar/nightclub building. After Ohio, Norfolk is a new slice of Americana. After France, Norfolk is a typically ugly American town with some nice features.

I will say one thing: arriving back from Europe, looking out the plane window at Norfolk rushing closer, I thought, "How glad I am to be here!" I never thought I would feel so happy to be coming back to Nawf'ck.


Geggie said...

I just stumbled across your blog. I just moved to Norfolk last week, although my boyfriend has been here since June. Good luck to you!

Gem said...

Thank you, Geggie! I hope that you settle in to Norfolk as well as we have.