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Monday, December 27, 2010

Cross-Cultural Caring: Extreme Makeover

This is part 9 of the "Cross-Cultural Caring" series. The series deals with tips and tricks that you can use to succesfully make a cross-cultural relationship work.

Last year when I landed in Buenos Aires for the first time, everything was new and exciting. I spent the first 6 weeks enamored with the city as I participated in a whole host of tourist activities. There were feelings of excitement all day everyday in my first few weeks here. But feelings don't last forever and as you know, things begin to change when you settle in and things are no longer new for you.

After those weeks here, my relationship with the city began to change because like an onion, I was going deeper in and experiencing the city no longer as a tourist but more or less like a local. And as that happened, my feelings changed, my expectations and the things I wanted from the city changed. The experiences I wanted to have changed. I didn't feel giddy feelings of delight all the time living here. In fact there were moments that things about the city annoyed the living daylights out of me!!!

But I continued to open my heart and when I did, something even more amazing began to happen. Love began to take root. I began to actually love the people and pay attention to the issues that affected Argentines. As I spent time time with ordinary everyday local folks and engage in conversations, I could feel my heart grow a little bit bigger each time with each conversation. A desire began to grow in my heart to make a difference here in the city. What happened? Love happened :)

What in the world does this have to do with relationships or Marisa? I'll explain it to you. Relationships happen the same way. When you meet someone for the very first time, everything is new and you feel excitement and anticipation. Some people may mistakenly call it "love" but it is not. It is feelings and sensation and they always happen in a new relationship whether it would be friendship or romance.

But in the same way that my relationship with the city began to change after a few weeks, my relationship with Marisa began to change after a few months. The feeling of newness wore off like it always does and excitement and sensations weren't always in the air because we were fast becoming used to each other. And it is at this stage that you will find out whether love was actually there all along or if it was all just excitement and sensations. I was beyond blessed to discover that there truly was potential for a real relationship.

Although there aren't always feelings of emotions or excitement in the air all the time, I can honestly say that we are in the best part of our relationship. Because we gotten to know each other a little bit and continue to establish security for each other. Love is not an emotion, it is an action. Love isn't hugging and kissing, those are just manifestations of love.

True love manifests when I'm taking that time out to talk to someone who understands both cultures and asking questions so that I understand her and her culture better. Love is when Marisa gives me space and consideration knowing that I'm more reserved and she holds back from sometimes from being more exuberant even though that is what is natural for her.

Emotions and sensations are great! Hugs and kisses are wonderful! Just don't count on those things as the only defining factor of what makes a relationship. Relationship is something that you have to plug away at consistently day in day out. There isn't always excitement, emotions or sensations but there is always love 24/7.

This past year being part of a cross-cultural friendship for the first time ever has made me feel kinda like my life is one big episode of "Extreme Makeover: Friendship Edition" There is nothing in the world that will cause your life to have an "extreme makeover" the way a cross-cultural friendship can. It forces you to have a good honest look at yourself and re-examine everything you have been brought up to believe culturally. It challenges you to be creative and invent new ways and strategies for coping and overcoming obstacles in your relationship with the other person. Most importantly, it teaches you that there is one thing cultural & language barriers cannot hinder.....LOVE.


Amorous Alpacas

Amorous Alpacas