In Cape Verde, personal space is nonexistent, unheard of — it’s outright rude. I never thought I would say this, but they are on to something. Without untouchable territories, intimacy is nurtured, along with an immediate sense of belonging that transcends language, culture, even generational barriers. Yesterday, as I visited with my student’s family, I was immediately introduced to aunts, uncles, grandparents, sisters, brothers, cousins, neighbors, and even the family goat. I was given more food than I could eat, a chair to rest my feet, and an open invitation to txiga (visit; stay; eat). I was taken into their home, immediately mixed-up in their lives. My hands were held, my cheeks were kissed, my hair was brushed, and my lap was sat on. I was swept up in a new world before I had time to hesitate.
This intimacy is something you can’t hide from, or hide behind. It’s guided by intuition, rather than schedules, appointments and time. Relationships, people take precedence — no multitasking, no buzzing electronics, no clock ticking the minutes away. Yes, it can be frustrating when you’re waiting for two hours while the waitress chats with a customer; yes it can be uncomfortable, and scary at times when your neighbors sit and watch you pick the bones out of your fish; however, a relationship is established that prevails over differences. A relationship that reminds us we are all people — individuals attempting to find our place, to be loved, to be nourished. It’s a feeling that warms your insides, forces a smile on your face, and makes you feel a part of something bigger — something greater than yourself, your world, your personal space. And all of this is accomplished in a thirty-minute visit.