4 Not-So-Radical Ways to Maintain Strong Relationships from Abroad Posted on 28 Jul 17:34 , 0 comments
By Rachael Leonie.
I have my asado, Sunday’s beautiful San Telmo market, the tango, and a never-ending supply of chimichurri. Yet for me, there’s still one thing Argentina lacks: my tight-knit circle of friends and family back home. For a girl who’s spent a lifetime enwrapped in close circles (with my family just a short car ride away), living 6,310 miles from home can be difficult…to say the least.
A few months ago, I took a trip back home to California, and it was incredible. I saw my beloved family members, hung out with my friends, and traveled to all parts of the state to catch up with more of my favorites. Then, I returned back to Buenos Aires with the intention to stay here for a good chunk of my life: this time, very aware I wouldn’t be returning home to the states for a while.
Since then, the transition has been rough: attempting to find the balance between friendships here and those back home; allocating appropriate Skype time between family members; trying to not take it to heart when I don’t hear back from a contacted friend for days, weeks on end.
And then I realized: if I want to change the way others back home communicate with me, then I need to revolutionize the way I’m connecting with them. It takes two to tango, but every dance partner has a strong lead. With the four following changes, I’ve gone from missing my closest friends and family to feeling satisfied in the strong relationships I’ve managed to maintain.
I bought some stamps.
Yes, the postal service is tricky. Yes, putting pen to paper takes longer than typing. Yes, stamps get expensive. However: I am lucky with the porteño postal service. In Peru, I sent out 8 postcards, only to be received by friends 4 months later, after I’d already traveled through 2 more countries. And yes maybe writing letters does take a while, but you’re probably not a leftie like me who, in addition to luscious lumps on my writing fingers, also gets silver ink down the side of my hand. And finally, I agree: stamps are expensive. But that letter I’m sending back home to my mama is less expensive than the equivalent I’d spend to get a coffee with her. And it’s thoughtful, and personal, and different.
I made an address book.
I collected e-mail addresses, mailbox numbers, and Whatsapp contacts from friends and family far and wide. I make my Mondays a bit brighter by choosing two friends and sending them an e-mail “just to say HI” before opening my work account. Their cheerful responses make my day (and, I’m hoping, put a smile on their faces as well).
I deactivated my Facebook.
Facebook is the easy way out. When I missed a friend or felt like I’ve been abandoning her for too long, I’d “like” her photo. When I wanted to feel closer to an amigo mío who I hadn’t connected with that month, I’d post a funny picture on his wall or re-tag him in a pic from the good ol’ days. Messaging became un-obligatory because I knew I could ignore a friend’s message for days as long as I didn’t click on it to give him the feared “message seen” notification. This “easy way out” of connecting with people resulted in weak, and sometimes strained, relationships. So, I forced myself to put in more effort on both my part and theirs, and deleted my account. No more “liking” photos or “pokes”: both parties were now forced to resort to Skype dates and e-mail correspondence.
Make the effort.
Sunday is my Skype night: I play catch-up with my pop as we both sip our evening glasses of red wine, then later coral my friends into a rambunctious Google Hangout. Monday, as mentioned before, I send two quick e-mails just to say “hi” and remind my family how much I love them. I leave no message unanswered, no Google Hangouts request ignored. Because these people –these family members and amigos I form relationships with—are ones I want in my life…for life, and that’s worth the effort to me.
Time is the best gift I can give, and the greatest I receive. I will always remember the 3 hour conversation with a friend back home, even though what she bought me for Christmas 3 years ago fades into the fuzzy corners of my mind. I know the letters and postcards I send are pinned to bulletin boards and refrigerators, much like I do with those I receive (the sole decorations on my otherwise barren walls). And with each conversation I have and letter I read, I’m piecing together memories and bonds to last until that next trip back home…whenever that may be.
Rachael Leonie aka The Wanderita is a spunky twenty-something-year-old who found her way back to Buenos Aires after a series of misadventures through South America. She spends her free time talking porteño with taxi drivers and taste-testing choripán. Follow her as she bares her soul to Buenos Aires at www.TheWanderita.com.