Year two of be:longing – Looking back and looking forward

Here we are, at the end of year two of be:longing.  And what an amazing year it has been!  After the unexpected but exciting success of our first year, we weren’t sure what to expect from our second.  We wondered – were people still interested in exploring multidimensional cultural life?  In delving further into themselves, each other and society itself, to learn about and examine what it means to be a migrant or cross-cultural individual?

To our extreme delight, our community returned – then swelled – and more and more fantastic contributions kept flowing in.  This was a year of growth for be:longing.  A year of stretching and consolidating.  A year of new categories, new boundaries, new events, and new connections.  And we have marvelled at every step, and every new piece!

Home not home kicked us off with a cogent reflection on how it feels when you’re not sure where you belong, and found echoes in Pre Posle and Bridging two worlds: Identity crisis of a returned expatThe Fence Sitter and Na raskrsnici svetova / At the crossroads of two worlds asked, ‘do I have to pick a side?’; while  Paths and Origin Story asked, ‘but how can I?’  Solace and Belonging or be-longing – for all that is familiar found ways to bolster oneself against these difficult experiences – sometimes through memory and other times through new connections.  The 7L, The Reserve, and Kunang Kunang took us on journeys to joyful past experiences we have lived, while Ritorno: Riflessioni e osservazioni varie / Coming back: Reflections and observations reminded us how quickly things can change – or not.

Uspomene / Memories and Witness looked at the changing nature of seemingly-key moments in our lives, and Equinox / Ravnodnevnica described how some reactions, once learned, can continue to signify special events for us, wherever and whenever we are.  In Kisah and Postcards from Beirut, we felt the strength of historical bonds emerging through an engagement with newly-discovered physical materials through art and poetry.  With The Language of Health, and Talking “Jurassica” with director Bridget Balodis, we were taken into the personal interplay of long-shared cultural and linguistic histories, and saw the centrality of these bonds to stories that touch on family, home and community.

Chinese Fried Noodles and Putting love on our plates: Cooking with my father showed us how reproducing foods that are imbued with vivid, precious memories can help infuse familiarity and comfort into far-removed surroundings, while Orthodox Easter eggs: Coming together to share traditions demonstrated how traditions can be passed down  generations and strengthen cultural connections.  Poha and Chai and In other words, Figs; In other words, Anise explored the conservation of meaning across language and place – that although the land may have changed, a culinary landscape can traverse this distance with an exchange of terms, and by broadening the ways we think about categories themselves.

Follow me and Sint-Pauwels, summer of 2018 described the deepening joy and excitement of wandering through places that mean so much to you alongside friends and family, and Mother, please tell me… and Gratitude wondered how a new place could be fully embraced in their absence.  Claim me, home grappled with the fear of not connecting – not belonging – to any place, while Don’t we eat the antelope? dealt with the real, persistent sense of unwelcome that can hamper cross-cultural children.  Flying Home and Talking migration and belonging with Nathan Gubler dove into this mix of happy and exasperated feelings, and A tongue (un)tied and Where are you from? wondered about the universality of our experiences in cross-cultural spaces.

Outside of our published pieces, the year saw be:longing itself branch out into new and exciting territories.  We launched our Instagram page early in the year, paving the way for new connections, collaborations and friends, and after another excellent live event featuring the performance of poetry and stories in May, we delved more deeply into the site’s themes and issues through our first ever live panel discussion event, focusing on that mysterious, magical feeling we call nostalgia.

Throughout 2018, we have had an incredible range of perspectives on such a huge range of topics, and through so many creative media, too.  We are so lucky and so thankful to each of our contributors who shared their work with us; who taught us at every turn.  Each piece has inspired us, and reinforced to us the importance of a space like be:longing.

We would like to thank you all from the bottom of our hearts – our community of contributors, readers and live audience members.  Your ongoing support and engagement with be:longing has meant so much to us.  We thank also our incredible acquisitions editors for 2018, past and present – Anita Patel, Vesna Cvjetićanin and Abeir Soukieh –  the year would not have been the same without your hard work and support.

To finish off, we once again extend to you all a very open and warm invitation to contribute your personal stories and reflections.  Your experiences and feelings about living in and amongst cultures are important, and we would love to hear from you.

Until next year, we wish you all a safe and happy close to 2018, and we look forward to seeing you again in 2019.

All the very best,

Dunja and Jasmine