Alright…I can’t possibly cover it all here, but I have a few hours to spare, while sitting in a room with thousands of people, until I (we) officially become a US citizen.
You see…I arrived here in 1992. Yes…wow…and while I may not have lost my accent, I guess we can all agree it’s been a while.
I’m sure every person here has a different journey to tell. Just talking to my smiling “seat… neighbors” I’ve heard several stories. Not to mention the very polite Vietnamese brother and sister who were asking me, in their limited but charismatic English, how to answer the questions on some paper we received.
I arrived here…a 15-year old…coming from a very comfortable socio-economic situation in Brazil, with my brother, sister, mom and dad. My brother wanted to study music and my parents would NOT have us separated. So we all came together.
A few months into what was going to be one of the HARDEST adjustments of our lives as a family…we found ourselves really short on money, on food, on friends, and everything that was familiar. I guess my parents were right…the “family” presence was critical to our persistence and subsequent success.
We went from riding the best cars to stalling every other day in our rusted, filled with holes, stanza (nissan?).
We went from being competitive swimmers and eating the best/freshest food to making pancakes with flour and water (not kidding), getting food in some pantry that looked like those things they drop in war zones, accepting the kind donations of food from “angel-like” strangers who could see the deep desperation in my mom’s eyes. Trying to feed athletic children with their raging hunger.
My mom? Well…went into depression for it was the first time ever she had ever been away from my dad, who stayed behind in Brazil to support us.
We went from having velvety hands to working as housekeepers in hotels, washing filthy sheets from hotel rooms, opening and closing Burger Kings and Taco Bells (if you’ve done it you know what I mean…), cleaning commercial buildings after hours, overnight, walking in the cold for about 2 hours to work because that shitty-ass car would never work…you name it…we did it.
All throughout…struggling with the adaptation process, language, linguistics, new friends, new culture, dad far away, very little food to eat, feet and feet of snow…
All throughout, excelling in school, volunteering our service, knowing that somehow that would alleviate some of the challenges we were facing.
This lasted through high school and university…pretty much. To this day I am not sure how we managed to get my brother, my sister, and I to finish our bachelor degrees.
At one point I remember almost being asked to stop my bachelor program because I hadn’t paid…the ONLY thing that saved me were my nerdy, pristine grades, my volunteer research work at MGH, and the generosity of some of my friends (Amy, and the likes), professors, and research mentor. (Side story – I was really really skinny then, and one thing really stuck in my memory…the finance lady I was talking to to figure out whether I’d have to stop studying or if they could find me some financial help – after finding me some money in merit scholarships, after I had cried and cried saying I wanted to continue studying, looked at me as I stood up and said “hey, <sassi the spider>, do you need any help to buy food?” She had this look I can’t really describe. She probably thought I was skinny from not eating. I thanked her and said I didn’t need the help. If she only knew that I had only been eating rice and sometimes beans for the past few days…months.)
I finished my bachelor with a ridiculously high GPA, and 2 Epilepsy research publications, as co-author, with Harvard University. First publication at the age of 20.
Meanwhile, always going through multiple student visas, OPTs, H1Bs…etc…lots of money, paperwork, limited access to financial aid…having to work full-time AND attend school full-time —> to be able to eat and keep my visa status…the list is long!
I finished my master in public health. I still like to volunteer, and Thankfully have created a good positive momentum towards professional success. My fridge has plenty of food :o) , I can travel and do the things I love…life is good. Above all, I am healthy – physically and emotionally.
My family? Well…my dad, mom, brother, and sister are the most amazing human beings I know.
My mom, a psychologist, has done all the “immigrant” type of work your “free association” can imagine…out of love and dedication. My dad, a borderline genius neurologist, had a “dishwashing” experience to help out while my mom returned to Brazil because her father passed away. All OUT OF LOVE! (Knot in throat right now)
Today…we’re all good. We’re happy and successful (our definition of success). We’ve always contributed and served and continue to (although I’m pretty sure it’s a family trait).
I’m sitting here…in a room with well over 4,000 people waiting to be sworn as an United States citizen. For me…it means all these things and much much more. It has been a long and challenging journey, but well worth it. I am also VERY happy and proud to keep my beloved Brazilian citizenship.
Trust me…this is the seriously concise version of my story.
Some people may think I’m a bit “rough around the corners”, straight shooter, low fuss, “balls to the wall” kick ass (uh huh :o) )…and you know what? I am! And I’m not apologizing for that…it is what got me through the hard times and here.
Gotta go now…the Justice guy is here.
Sassi the Spider – the Brazilian and soon to be American girl!