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Sunday, November 06, 2011

Long Distance Love

My office's phoneImage via Wikipedia

One of my biggest challenges in attempting to maintain meaningful relationships with Argentines is dealing with latinos who have feelings but aren't overly expressive. Argentines break every stereotype that could possibly pop into your mind about latinos and overly emotional behavior.  In fact there are situations when the level of emotion shown was much less than what I've experienced in the Canadian culture.

For example, whenever I leave or come back to Argentina, when my friends see me for the first time there isn't any hugging or crying. Its more like eyebrows get raised and their faces beam with almost a glow when they see me for the first time after not having seen me for months.  Or if I am parting, then they'll just give me a brief beso and nod with some polite parting words to wish me a good trip.

Long distance love gets tough when you know in your heart that these people do have very deep emotions but you aren't quite sure how its going to manifest. And when it does, what response would be appropriate to offer solace? My biggest mistake would have been to assume that just because they seem unaffected outwardly by my departure that they will be unaffected. The opposite is true, they may actually be profoundly affected if the right steps aren't taken.

On my 2nd departure from Argentina, I knew I would be dealing with the emotions of both an Argentine mom and a sister....Marisa and sister. These two are not biologically related and at the time of this writing do not know each other. God simply gave them to me to be part of this new family he is creating for me in Argentina.

For Marisa, it would be her 2nd time round having me abroad. We've been through this before but where things got a little complicated is that while in Uruguay, she got into a situation where she has no access to internet nor a cell phone. This is why you haven't heard me talk about her for awhile, we have been out of contact. But being out of contact doesn't mean out of mind. Every so often I get a FB message from Marisa's mother asking how I am and telling me that it would be GREAT if I would give her a response in spanish. I am suspecting that Marisa is using her mom to connect to me to check to see how I am doing to give her some peace of mind until we can be together again.

On this trip, it was Ceci that I was very concerned about. You see, Argentines may be reserved but they are accustomed to sense of community. She saw me every week for two hrs while in my classes. We text each other . She hears my voice and feels my presence. And suddenly we go from this regular routine to one where she cannot see me, hug me, kiss me, hear my voice, text me etc. The only communication we have is through social media.

You must remember that you are dealing with people who are use to the closeness of community and who are unlikely to ever have had a foreign relationship with someone who lives abroad. There is nothing within their life experience that they can draw from to help them cope with this situation. Although the two of them are quite different in their personalities, experience has taught me that for people coming from that culture, its really important to let them know that you haven't forgotten about them. It may sound really cheesy to be sitting down writing a FB message to someone to let them know that you think about them and you haven't forgotten about them while abroad but it does work wonders.

 At the end of the day, each person is different and will react in different ways. And even they don't know how they are going to react to this strange new situation until it actually happens. Sitting in that classroom with Ceci as we talked about our relationship, I let her know that it would be challenging but i knew that there was no way she would know what it was going to feel like until it actually happens.

Maybe the one good thing about the 10 hr flight from Buenos Aires back to North America is that it gave me plenty of time to rack my brain on ways to deal with long distance love....

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Amorous Alpacas

Amorous Alpacas