Hello and welcome to the 68th issue of Place! As the days of summer settle in around us, we are feeling the need to get outside, reset, and take some time to reflect on all that Place has sent out into the world so far. Which is why this week we are continuing our summer series – dispatches which, instead of introducing topics entirely new, will bring you back to several stories we’ve already published, all connected by a common thread. Our fourth summer series focuses on the connection, tension and interplay between two disparate places.
Have something you’d like to write about for Place? Or know someone who might? Check out our pitch guide. We really want to hear your stories, and the great news is, we can now pay our contributors thanks to our generous subscribers who have supported us through our membership program. Even if you’re unsure if you idea fully fits Place, please do drop us a line – we’d love to chat.
At Place, we believe that the experiences, sensations and conversations we have as we move about the world stay with us, stacking up as the years go by, forming who we are and the way we view the world. If you’re the social type, follow us on Twitter (@place_letter) where you can share your favourite pieces and Instagram (@placenewsletter) for a visual feast. Yours, The Place editorial team.
Summer Series #4: Between two places
The paradox of being somewhere is that you’re not somewhere else.
Whether it is for travel, family, work or immigration, there is a reason for the movement and an inherent tension when we can’t occupy both spaces at once.
For some this tension leads to a joyful discovery, as Gloria Kimbulu found upon arriving in Cuba, after struggling with reconciling her Congolese heritage with her Spanish and Nebraskan upbringing.
“As humans, our sense of smell is closely linked with our memories and emotions,” she writes in Finding a Homeland. “We can walk past strangers and catch a whiff of our friend’s cologne or smell food that suddenly takes us back to our childhood home. This is what I thought about as I inhaled and exhaled upon my arrival in La Habana for the first time. The smell of the humid air carried the weight of familiarity.”
If we leave behind a place that does not fully accept a part of our identity, as Tomris did in To Walk and Not to Run, it still played a role in shaping us, and understanding — and accepting — those contours is key to accepting ourselves.
“It is perhaps a perpetual process to uncover your identity in a new environment while dealing with the recurring ghosts of your old selves,” writes Wentao Lu. “For those of us who are captivated by Europe’s friendly LGBT environment and the freedom to choose who we love, nostalgia is not fully kept at bay. There are moments when the remnants of the places we grew up in come back to us – at times even, the same remnants we tried to run from.”
This movement will inevitably lead to a change — both in us and elsewhere, as the places we leave behind evolve in our absence. It can feel like we are missing out, but what we are creating is a story of that place that is uniquely our own.
“My new perspective is that the construction of the memory layers did not stop every time I left, it simply paused,” writes Hansen Tsui in The Inked Brush. “And each time I set foot back in Taipei, the construction recommences once more to help me build the most up to date picture of a place that I hold dear to my heart. For me, accepting this narrative - disjointed, perhaps, but mine nonetheless - might be enough for now.”
Gloria takes a trip to Cuba which opens up her eyes to a hidden history and helps her discover a new meaning to home.
Through an initial miscommunication over housemates’ drinking habits, Tomris and Wentao start to unravel deeply winded threads of judgement, homelands, and what it means to truly be free – in society, and, to yourself.
Hansen reflects on his upbringing between Canada and Taiwan, and how to accept the changes in a place and within oneself, a building process that we must shape ourselves.
A year of grief and rage,
Albania’s sworn virgins push back.
Join us next week for a new journey.