By Ifeanyi Emesih
Family means different things to different people. For some, “family always comes first” and “blood is thicker than water.” For others, the phrase “you can’t pick your family; thank God you can pick your friends” better describes the relationship. Whichever camp we fall into, nothing has a greater impact on who we are and who we seek to become than our families.
Our family is our first teacher. We pick up our first clues about how to react to society and to other people by watching our parents, older siblings and other family members. Our early sense of humour develops from seeing what makes them laugh. Later, we define ourselves by which pieces of our family’s teachings, we reject and which we adopt.
The stories we feature talk about how a person’s family has played a role in their decision to make Halifax their new home. In some cases, they were supportive, and in others not so much. However, the theme of family has always been present.
Present, but perhaps not always central. The stories we’ve told have been about individuals and their personal journeys. Their family played a role, but always as a secondary character. That’s about to change.
In this month’s issue, we’ve expanded our perspective and bring the family to centre stage for a change. Our featured stories strive to look at how the decision to start a new life in a new city plays out across the family as a whole, and not just one member. We’ve sought out mothers, fathers, siblings, and even extended family members to get a better idea of the impacts of such a life-changing decision.
Starting with our cover story (see page 12), we learn how Najwan Al Bagmoth’s family dealt with the opposing forces of cultural expectation and individual fulfillment, years of separation, and eventually the achievement of all expectations.
The story of Charlene and Emmanuel Anon (see page 18) shows how this couple didn’t let their disparate backgrounds stop them from building a life together. They show how two cultures can be blended together by choosing to emphasize the best of both.
Mercedes Ruiz and her husband, Carlos Berumen, made the decision to move to Halifax with lots of family support and even previous experience to draw upon (see page 26). That doesn’t mean everything ran smoothly, but it did give them a greater appreciation of the fact not everyone has the same experience. So, Ruiz and Berumen have started reaching out to other Mexicans interested in coming here to share their knowledge and ease the transition.
As far as the My Halifax Experience family is concerned, the year is ready to shift into overdrive. Believe it or not, there’s only a few months left before our annual live event. This year we’re also rolling out our Top 25 Maritime Immigrants showcase. For the first time, we will be honouring those who not only chose to make the Maritimes their new home, but have unfailingly given back to the communities that embraced them. Our judges have a mountain of nominee submissions to evaluate to find our 25 finalists. Work also continues behind the scenes on our planned television series, announced on this page in the last issue.
I’m sure it’s a busy time for all of you, too, but I hope you can take a few minutes to spend with our latest issue. I know you’ll enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed putting it together. From the My Halifax Experience family to yours, thank you for joining us.