My name is Anna Nita Duda. I come from a small town in New Hampshire – where I still spend time in the summers and find a sense of peace and grounding from a place that changes slowly. The community I grew up in though in many ways was more like growing up in say a Brooklyn, NY kind of reality. I come from a family of artists and social activists. My grandfather Jack O’Leary is considered one of the leaders of the American Ceramics Movement in the 1940s. My grandparents instilled a legacy of art and social activism in all of us. My childhood included driving in a graffiti-covered truck on business trips with my dad to art galleries across the Northeast, having dinners at art collector’s homes, playing with the other kids of artists at craft fairs, and generally being surrounded by musicians and creative individuals of all walks of life. My parents are innovators. They are always stretching the boundaries and pushing themselves outside their comfort zone.
I learned from this upbringing that one of the best educations attainable is being immersed in other cultures. The first international trip we took as a family was Mexico when I was seven. It was intoxicating from the moment I stepped off the plane – the thick humid air, hibiscus, power of the sun, and warmth of the people. There is a saying written by Neil James, a travel writer who went to Ajijic in the 1940s which captures the power of this experience for me: “Once the dust of Mexico settles, on your heart, you can never go home again.” I not only fell in love with Mexico on this trip; I fell in love with exploring other cultures. I encountered a world so different and layered with mystery – I felt there would always be more to discover. On this first trip we traveled from Mexico City through the mountains of Guerrero to the coast of Colima and Jalisco. We encountered festivals, folk dancers, ancient caves, mask shops, smells of burning trash mixed with forest pines, the ruins of Teotihuacan, the hills and beautiful silver of Taxco. The layers upon layers of colors, tropical sounds, trucks filled with marigolds, time moving in an entirely new way, all captured my young heart.
Later on, I move to California to attend Mills College where I studied International Relations. From there, I ended up living in Chile, Spain and then Mexico for the next five years. Working in non-profit organizations, start-ups and large corporations over the last ten years has taught me about stepping into and working across cultures.
The place I call home now is Saint Petersburg, FL – also known as the Sunshine City – where I live with my husband (the best part of my journey so far). We live a few blocks from the water where manatees, pelicans, and dolphins roam. It is a beautiful city to call home with a rich history that I’ll share later on in this blog. But it is also a city undergoing an enormous amount of change and is attracting entrepreneurs, start-ups and has a growing innovation community.
There is beauty in the fact that places are constantly changing before our eyes and always more to learn if we stay open to the change. I find joy in connecting people to other ideas, cultures, and ways of engaging with the world that make us feel more fulfilled.
I hope you will join me on this journey…