To be a Bristolian, or not to be a Bristolian…

One of the great and most difficult things about being a third-culture-kid is that when people ask you ‘where is home for you?’, you rarely know (1) how to answer, and if you’re lucky enough to have an answer, (2) where to start.

What this means is that you are born in one place, your mother is from another place and your father is from yet another. You’ve also, probably, moved around the world a lot. Finally, more often than not, your friends are scattered all over the world, keeping in touch with them depends on your possession of a smartphone, and you could probably never really settle in any place knowing your childhood friends will be there because they will probably have moved by the time you’ve bought the plane ticket and moved out to where they are. Going ‘back home’ is an unfamiliar concept to you.

Everyone will say ‘you’re so lucky! you’re like a true citizen of the world!’ and you will answer, out of politeness ‘yeah, I’ve been very lucky!’. But deep down, you might think to yourself, ‘I’ve been lucky, but I still wish I felt that I had a home’.

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Do you know that saying, ‘home is where the heart is’? Well, good news, recently in my own third-culture-kid life, when I was visiting Mexico, I read something wonderful “Mi casa tiene alas” (my home has wings). Thank you Edward James.

Mi Casa Tiene Alas – Edward James, Xilitla, Mexico

Although what the artist may have meant is very much, open to interpretation. Coming across this thought was in a way, very liberating for me, as I had been struggling for several years to come to terms with my identity and the idea that I may never settle because wherever I am, I am a foreigner. So this phrase spoke to me almost instantly. It marked the moment that I realised I was free from my past and could chose to settle anywhere, any day. Realising this is easier said than done, people tell you all the time, but it takes a lot to pack up your things, leave your past behind you and start afresh.

So now I now wander with a greater sense of freedom than I had before, or at least I’d like to think I do… perhaps that is why I am writing this.

I brought myself to Bristol at the end of last year (not so long ago) and have instantly fallen for it.

I’d like to tell you that I don’t mind the incredibly strong gusts of wind that have almost blown me over on my bike several times… or the fact that I was walking down the street on Sunday and literally experienced about three different weather conditions in the space of about 20 minutes; shining sun, pouring rain and hail. Anyways, I guess that’s English weather for you, in all it’s glory.

On the other hand, one of the first things I came across on my arrival here is the Bristol Cable, a newspaper that is “created and owned by the people in the city”. A media co-operative that you can join and support for £1 a month.

On the back of the paper the Cable explains:

This isn’t a charity appeal. This isn’t a one off campaign. You’re investing your money and getting a return: community ownership, quality journalism and free education. No other city’s media is owned by it’s residents. 

Within the pages of the 6th issue (my first read) you can find reports, discussions, opinions and visuals covering all sorts of topics relevant to defining the quality of life of Bristolians. From questions about sexism and the council, addiction, the city’s historical composition, taxing, the changing role of the media in the city and more. These are topics focused on issues within the city that real people can relate to in their day-to-day experiences.

If you think about it, this is quite refreshing considering the alternative, which are issues on either confusingly irrelevant or overwhelmingly depressing events, both of which you can do little about, except perhaps engage in intense discussions that leads to the even more generally deceptive conclusion that: “Our world is a little more depressing every day… “

As I scanned the pages, smiling at the mere idea of a ‘people’s paper’, I came across an article that made me smile even more, Desde Barcelona a Bristol; Una historia de la migración de España ¿Qué se busca – y que se encuentra- en esta ciudad? (From Barcelona to Bristol: A story of migration from Spain to Bristol: what do people look for here, and what do they find?). Yes, it was written in both Spanish and English.

The article’s title is pretty self explanatory, but in a way its presence in both Spanish and English mirrors a small reality of the city, which is that of a comfortable habitation with diversity.

My initial impression is that the city thrives on its diversity. The people’s paper is for everyone. Much like the city of Bristol, anyone is welcome, can contribute to and be a part of it.

And so I return to my original question…

To be or not to be…

Urban Dictionary tells us…

A Bristolian is someone from the city Bristol in England.  As some people may think that all Bristolians are chavs, they are in fact not ALL chavs. Often known to bring a warm presence into a room unintentionally.

As a constant foreigner, I know the feeling of being foreign. Yet here, in Bristol, that feeling is not so obvious. So I would add to the above definition, a Bristolian is someone who is from or lives in, but also contributes to the city; as the city seems to welcome anyone who will contribute to its thriving culture and energy. It probably takes time and perhaps some practice to be a Bristolian, but it seems like that’s a decision that you get to make as an individual, irrespective of where you were born, who your parents are or what language you speak; which to a third-culture-kid is quite a welcoming feeling.

 

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