Sunday, February 24, 2013

Body Language

  There's many things about other cultures that you may know from being told about them in a textbook. However, some of these things are impossible to understand, especially as an Aspie, until you experience them first hand.
  One of these things that was definitely initially out of my comfort zone when the Argentinians were here was how affectionate they are. Living in the United States, people have definite "personal bubbles" and don't really hug or touch a lot. Not so with the Argentinians. I was really out of comfort zone initially when they came. My Argentinian student told me it's common there to kiss someone on the cheek when you first meet them, even between different genders. It's just how they greet each other and is considered normal. He also told me the first few days they continued greeting each other in this manner and thought most of the boys at the school probably thought they were gay.
   Even as funny as that was, it was initially hard for me to handle the affection. It wasn't normal for the other families, but because of my Aspie sensitivity to touch, I was really freaked out when, upon meeting the other Argentinians the first time, they all started hugging me. I'm more used to shaking hands, and these people I had just met five seconds ago were in my personal bubble and touching me.
  I had to find a way to handle this. I decided to try to force myself to relax into the hug and smile, after all, I didn't want to offend them. And if I really was not wanting to hug, I put my hand out quickly, and usually they understood, even if they might have been a little confused. However, as I managed to become friends with the Argentinians, it became easier to hug them and I was fine with greeting them that way.
  Some people out there, like my Argentinian friends, are more touchy than what some people are used to. It may freak you out, Aspies, the idea of hugging a complete stranger, believe me, it freaked me out, but try to relax and and smile. It may offend the other person who may not understand your love of the personal space. And eventually, you may even come to enjoy it as you become closer to the person. As crazy as it sounds, it became almost normal for me to hug these kids, and if I can do it, so can you!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

"Our" Party

 These last two weeks have been very memorable, to say the least. Showing our Argentinian student, let's call him Joaquin, around has been an absolute blast, from him trying his first smoothie to presenting him to my little brother's class has been really fun.
  However, two Thursdays ago, I was not so keen. Every family is required to 'host' a gathering for all the Argentinians and their host families. We had decided to go bowling because it was something everyone can do and is really fun. However, I was nervous to be surrounded by my brother's friends and families who I didn't know so well, and their Argentinians. There was no way I could get out of it, so I was dreading it.
  We were the first ones there, so my youngest brother and I started bowling while my other brother, Connor, and Joaquin started playing pool. Soon, all the families began to arrive, and my 'freak out' nerves started working.
   However, I had no reason to be afraid at all! As soon as they came, the kids started bowling, which made it so I didn't have to talk to them. However, I struck up a conversation with some of the Argentinians about how to work out the scoreboard. We gave up, but kept playing, cheering each other on and high-fiving each other when we hit a large number of pins. By the end of the night, we all had become pretty good friends and I discovered how nice and polite they all were and how they were just as nervous as I was to meet the other families. They were all amazing and great people and at the end of the night, I was so glad I had been to have met them all!
   If your parents are forcing you to go to a party and you think it might be the end of the world, trust me, it's not. Even if you don't know anyone, try to find something fun for you to do. People may join you in your activity, be it bowling or karaoke, and you might be able to strike up a conversation with someone and be able to make a new friend. As scary as this sounds, I know you can do it because I was terrified of talking to the Argentinians, but in the end we became friends. I know you, Aspies, can do it, just have faith in yourselves, because you are fantastic and interesting. People will want to become your friend, but you have to give them the opportunity to get to know you first.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Argentinian

   My sixteen year old brother, let's call him Connor, is known around our house as "the talker". He talks a lot, and not just about himself, but everything going on around him, even secrets he is supposed to be keeping. Never will I forget the year we were getting our father a bike for his birthday. It was going to be a huge  surprise and my mother had sworn us both to secrecy. But the instant my father came home from work, Connor was on him, screaming: "Dad! We got you a bike for your birthday, and it's a secret!"
   So, talker as he is, it was a shock last December when Connor announced that he had forgotten to tell us that he signed up for an Argentinian exchange program and we as a family had one day to decide whether we wanted to do it or not. We eventually decided we would because it would be a great experience for Connor and something new for the rest of the family.
   However, as the exchange grew more and more real, I began getting nervous. What had I been thinking, I wondered, to have agreed for a total stranger to live in my house for three weeks, then take my dear brother off to Argentina for all of June? The kid was bound to think I was a bit strange and quiet, to say the least, and he would be invading my home, my sanctuary, and my mind palace, where I unload at the end of the day. What was I going to do?
  I was so nervous as the car pulled up to me for the first time, picking me and my mom up from the other side of the airport. (We had come home the same day from a college tour) I took a deep breath and climbed in.
  My worry was unnecessary. The boy was as nervous as I was to be meeting his "sister" for the first time. With my family around me, I was able to feel comfortable talking to him. A few days later, he patiently sat and told me about the history of his country, showed me the University he wants to go to, and talked about his future. I realized he is funny and loves to talk about history, which is also a great love of mine. Our conversations became easier and easier, and suddenly I realized this kid was now a part of my family. We talk about everything from language classes to our after school activities, and it is genuinely a ton of fun to get to know him. My whole family and I have become great friends with "our" Argentinian, and I can't wait for the next two weeks because I know all of us will have a ton of fun introducing him to our strange American customs and sights in our country.
   Aspies, don't be too afraid of any outsider coming into your home, even an exchange student. Yes, it disrupts routine a little, but it's really fun experiencing a new culture and teaching them yours.  You can make a lifelong friend out of this person and help be their guide to wherever you live and whatever language you speak. Imagine if you were alone in a foreign country, wouldn't you want someone to be your friend? I can tell you it is rewarding to help and becoming friends is easy as, as my Argentinian brother would say, un pastel*.