Part 1 – I nearly wasn’t allowed to travel!
Before I dig deep on how I felt about going back to my home city after 12 years away, I thought I’d give you a little background story on how, when, and why I left in the first place.
I come from the Northeast part of Brazil, which is a very conservative, patriarchal, and sometimes even chauvinistic region. I never felt like I fit in, as I was always “too much” for those around me: too loud, too honest, too straightforward.
I was 20 years old and halfway through my law degree, which was a degree I liked but didn’t particularly love. My thing had always been fitness and exercising, but in our society, studying exercise science wasn’t good enough—so I settled for law. (Law in Brazil is a bachelor’s degree, and I got it when I was 17ish.)
We had lost my step-dad (who raised me and who in my heart will always be my dad) a few years prior to my move to the US, and after his loss, my relationship with my mom became a bit strained…So, I decided that it was time for me to move on.
I sold my car, a white Fiat Uno. I paid some pending bills. Then, I bought my plane ticket and came to America, with just $300-$400 in hand and a dream in my head.
I struggled A LOT in the first few years. There were times when I had to pick between putting gas in my car and settling for the dollar menu items from Wendy’s or having a decent meal.
But those struggles made me grow, those struggles made me appreciate hard work, those struggles showed me that life has ups and downs and you just need to learn to keep on moving forward. Those struggles showed me a resilience I didn’t even know I had, and most importantly those struggles showed me that, if I was up for it, life could be pretty amazing…I just had to be patient.
I know, I know: you’re probably asking what all of this has to do with my recent trip to Brazil. You’ll understand soon… patience, little grasshopper!
One thing that influenced my decision to move from Brazil was working as a law student intern in the courthouse. There, I witnessed firsthand the flawed “bureaucracy” of our system, and the “Brazilian way” of doing things—which is basically trying to achieve something by bending the rules or social conventions. This is something that ALWAYS rubbed me the wrong way.
So… back to my trip now!
It was May 22nd, 2019…THE day that I was going to go to my home city after 12 years (Yup: 12 years!) It was 11 a.m. at the Miami airport, and we had just arrived with the kids and all our luggage from Dallas. We headed to the check-in desk of the airline, and we handed all our documents to proceed with the check-in—and that’s when we were told I was not going to be able to travel to Brazil.
Let’s now jump back a bit…
Two weeks prior to leaving for Brazil, I realized I couldn’t find my Brazilian passport. So I called the Brazilian border control office and asked them what my options were. I even asked about getting a visa given that my American passport was up to date, but because I am a Brazilian citizen, I can’t apply for a visa for my own country. Instead, the border control office told me that I could use my expired Brazilian passport to prove my Brazilian citizenship and my current American passport as a travel document.
I double-checked the information on their website, and it said the same thing. I even called the airline help desk to confirm the information.
Great! Everyone was on the same page! No need to go to Houston (where the Brazilian embassy is in Texas) at the last minute to try and get a new passport. #Winning
And yet, here in 2019, I wasn’t allowed to return to Brazil. I couldn’t understand why and I was extremely frustrated with the lack of reliable information coming from all sides.
According to the airline, the Border Control office could fine them for allowing me to fly to Brazil. But at the same time, I had someone from the Border Control office on speaker phone saying that the information was incorrect.
In other words, it was all a freaking mess, with no apparent proper rules.
I wasn’t asking for my situation to be fixed “the Brazilian way.” I just wanted to be able to travel given the information I was provided with two weeks prior.
After a lot of back and forth, A LOT of tears, and me having to beg the airline manager, we were finally able to travel…and that was my first experience with the “Brazilian way” after so many years not going home.
Next week, I will be talking about my first impression when I arrived, the cultural shock, and some emotions that went through my head before and during my trip!
Make sure you check back next week!