Internationals have had this figured out for years. How to use technology to stay in touch when separated by distance? How to keep friendships going when you can’t be face to face?
Yet, us ‘stay-at-home nationals’ have never had to figure it out! Having taken it for granted that we could just pop in to see neighbours and friends or road trip to see siblings or parents, the world of separated relationships is new to us! Obviously our international friends love visiting home, sharing hugs & physical food together. They know, more than we do, that the internet is no substitute for real contact! But we have much to learn…
Regina has been in England for 4 years and 8 months and tells us her story.
What is it like being apart from family?
“Being apart from your family is hard but also it can teach you and you can learn many things.
In Bolivia I used to spend most of my time outside of the home. But when you are alone and far away from your family, you understand how beautiful and important the family is and finally you think things like, I wish I spent more time with my family and feel guilty.
It is now when everything you believe will come to practice, especially when you have to start in a new country with new rules and even when we speak the same language but have different meanings or don’t speak the same language. My prayer for every day was and is, God, never let me go away from you; I do not have another place to go. Your faith and dependency in God will grow. Mum was the one who suffered more than me, sometimes she used to dream that I was on the street and begging for food. And when we had time to talk with her, she used to say come back home, even if we have to eat stones because that’s all we can afford, we will do it together. God is always good and faithful. He always puts lovely people around me.”
How do you keep in contact?
“Before moving to the UK, I was living in Spain for 9 years. I remember saying to myself I will go back home in 5 years but here I am after nearly 14 years. The first 4 years I really wanted to do so but later; things changed.
In Spain I used to go to an internet & phone café (locutorio) every single week for an hour and talk with my family. They (my family) did not have internet, so I could not make a video call, but they did have a mobile phone. I used to spend months or years without seeing them. I think the first time that I saw them by Skype was after 2 years being in Spain. I had to pay for every minute and even second, it was expensive.
I am not good using technology and at that time (2007) I do not think we had WhatsApp either, anyway, I also did not feel confident in getting a contract phone (I heard my friends complain that they pay too much) for it to be easy for me to contact my family.
Thanks to God for the technology that we have nowadays. I just use WhatsApp to contact them, but I can talk with them every day if I want and even make a video call. Seeing them through the screen makes me feel happy because I know that they are doing well. God in His love and mercy is keeping them well.”
How do you do ‘normal’ things with your family? (Meals, celebrations, playing games, watching kids grow up?)
“Well because of technology it is much easier for us now. Sometimes we have long conversations, laughs, cries, etc. but we feel that we are close to each other in many ways. When it is someone’s birthday, we make a video call and sing a Happy Birthday in English and Spanish. Also, if they need help with any information, we always can help.
I am auntie of 4 children. It is lovely seeing them growing up, we are miles away but we can see them through the screen.
I think I am the only one who asks “Did you have lunch? What did you have? What did you do today? Can you send me a photo of the meal?”! I really enjoy knowing about them or maybe they are tired of me hahahahaha?!
As a Christian, all these years in Europe, God was teaching me every day. I owe my life and family to Him, it is because of Him that I am who I am, because of Him I have what I have. If you trust in Him, He will guide you. No matter where you are or how far from your family, He loves you and will help you to go through this difficult time in being far away from family.”
May 4, 2020 10:00 am