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Gap Year Abroad

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conversion of the 'non-hugger'

I was known in my friend group as the "non-hugger."  I love my friends, but they grew to realize that I was not one to display my love through touch.  Ever since I was little, I was never a big hugger or cuddler or anyone that showed affection in that way.  Of course, there are times where I need a long hug from a best friend, but for the most part, I have always been like this.  And, I never really thought it was a problem, I just thought, it's the way I do things.

In Chile, personal space is different in a lot of ways.  The normal greeting for every single person you meet, no matter if you've never met them, is a hug and kiss on the cheek.  It is a normal occurrence for my whole family, all 5 of us, to get into my parents bed and watch a movie.  Touch and closeness is how I have found Chileans show love, connectedness, togetherness.  And even if some of these things are different than everything I know, it's how to display love.  And I love these people.

I was with some of my Chilean friends, and they were telling me their interactions with other "gringas" have been more cold and very much so non-touchy.  They were surprised that I would even give hugs, and I'm glad to change their perspective, even if just a little bit.  It's normal, and in fact healthy, to give a friend a long hug, to hold their hand when they're hurt, to cuddle and watch a movie.  And, I've grown accustomed to living in this more affectionate way, and in-fact, even enjoy it.  I know my parents won't believe it.

So, I've found myself hugging more, cuddling more, pushing myself more.  Not because I'm trying to change who I am, but for love.  Because they deserve to know, in their own way, how much they mean to me.

I've noticed that people here express emotion on the outside.  You tell someone if you've hurt them, if you're upset, if you're grateful.  Words are powerful.  And throughout the past two months, I have had to apologize in Spanish, explain myself in Spanish, express how grateful I am in Spanish, make people feel better in Spanish, and all in all, show emotion in Spanish.  I'm not using my second language to take a test or have a conversation with the automated lady on the AP exam.  I'm using it to make friends, to apologize for being a bad sister, to stop the tears of a little girl at volunteer, to express my love.  And, this is a tool.  A tool that makes expressing emotion in English seem almost easy. Because if I can do all of that in Spanish, I can certainly explain myself to my grandparents, tell my parents how much I love them, and apologize to my friends for not always being there in my first language.  And, relationships really do grow when you start talking (and I mean really talking).  About how you feel, about how sorry you are, about how much you love the other person.

I've still got a long way to go.  Whether it's through words or touch, I will keep making mistakes.  And not show enough affection, and hurt people and not have the words to apologize.  But, I know that it gets better. I know that a lot of people have given me second chances.  And for that, I'll go give a few more hugs and say a few more 'Thank you's."


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