Tuesday, January 31, 2012

International Friends

We have this saying in Romanian that family is a gift from God and that friends are a personal choice (always considered this a good motivation to stay cool about the inlaws :D) but in my case I think the friends I made and touched my life are God's blessings also.

It all started when I was 11 years old and got my first German Popcorn or Bravo magazine. That was pretty exotic to get in Romania so was very thrilled my Austrian aunt gave me something to help me practice my German (always preparing to move abroad:D ). However after reading it about 10x I decided to go through the pen pals section (no emails back then, no social networks) and even started exchanging letters to a girl in Ravenna, Italy (EMILIA was her name- just like mine) and a guy in Morocco (forgot his name cause he ended up proposing me after 3 letters and I was too outraged to even reply)- just for practicing my Italian and English skills. Anyway, this Emilia was sending me the most beautiful letters ever- colorful paper, ink, stickers, stuff we never had back home. Was fascinated with her details on Italy and I think I still have all her letters in a wooden box at mum's house. I can't remember when we stopped writing to each other, it lasted for about 3 years but at some point we changed addresses etc.

I have always had this dream about moving abroad and travelling, maybe because I never had many friends in my own country but mainly cause I am simply fascinated by cultural experiences and finding completely different people or soulmates in different corners of this world. And it is cool!!!
So after concerting around Europe with various choires and getting to know and have fun with people from other countries, I decided that what I want is more than travelling, and that 4 days are not much to discover a culture so I should move someday in life. Then it started happening...first for financial reasons I went to flip burgers and clean toilets during nights at McDonald's in Germany (in college). No regrets, except being apart from my Bog, it was a very educative experience and except learning about the crap that comes in the burgers some people still eat (God knows why!!!) i managed to make my first real international friend: Asya Duzen, from Turkey (vermisse dich sehr, liebe Asya!). Lots of foreigners working there but I guess like everywhere else some become your friends and some don't. Sadly we have never seen each other ever since, but with the help of Facebook we are back in touch :)

Then I went to study in Germany and the discovery happened. With 21 I learned that the Western side of the world is not that happy and friendly...only talking personal experience. Above being a Romanian, which never helps mentioning when in Europe, one can hardly meet people to accept you in their circle of friends and families. Especially in Germany. Or maybe we, Romanians, are in a rush to get people to join us for dinner, meet our families or hang out :) Anyway the magic never happened! So after about 3 years of studying in Germany and later on working there for IBM I don't think I can say I made too many local friends (except 2 who also came for my wedding :D).

But then came the surprise: the job I have been doing for over 2 and a half years now. And suddenly my life was full of REAL people from REAL corners of the world. I've always been connected to IBMers from other continents but now I was actually getting to meet them, visit them in their environment and make our friendships stronger. A pretty awesome feeling.

And this is how I got a dancing partner in Kenya, two mentees in Uganda, a couple of very nice people and friends in South Africa (hope to see you soon:) ), a wildlife friend in India and his blonde master traveler from Switzerland :), an Indian poet?, the machangs in Sri Lanka, my Bulgarian bridesmaid, Miss Slovakia (by that I mean you Adelka), a mummy in Brno, some geeky friends to visit in Singapore soon, a very otaku Japanese one, an Argentinean cook and another lovely dancer...and of course my second home away from home- the big Egyptian FAMILY! I know I forgot many (like UK, Australia, Hungary,US, Brazil- Maria Izabel do you want to be classified as rocker, virtual worlds mistress or also otaku :)? ), forgiveness!!!

So thankful and and happy about it. There is nothing like a cultural bonding, a good piece of advice you get from distant places, the discovery and the love coming from miles away (maybe the love sleeping 40cm away while writing this but that is another thing:D ). There are just so many kinds of people out there, with so many lessons to teach us and stories to tell, a life worth spending to explore that.

Plus nowadays technology helps us keep in touch, no more monthly calls or letters, we can grab to chat, Skype video, share pictures, organize some awesome vacations together, exchange delicious recipes and priceless books, discuss politics and learn their language, complain about the weather and get together in precious moments.

We'll miss a birthday or two, may have some challenges with the time zones or even discover the friends are not what we imagined them to be cause in the end we might have gotten the cultural differences all wrong (however don't use this as an excuse not to make friends from abroad- know some who do that, no fun) but in the end we'll feel happy with the ones we managed to keep in our lives.

I hope life will bring me to new places and give me the chance to make so many more friends, I wish I will see you all someday, get welcomed with a hug, share tears of sadness when saying goodbye at the airport but knowing we'll only be one Skype away for a big SMILE!

the Happymaker