My Math skills are not that poor – it is complicated Math, in my case. I first moved here at 17 years old as a foreign exchange student, for my Senior year of High School. After the school year was over, I went home to prepare for the Vestibular, the big, bad, Brazilian college entrance exam. If you think the SATs are unfair, think again. While I took preparatory classes, on the side, I worked on a little project.
While in the US, just like an American high school student, I received dozens and dozens of college brochures in the mail. My High School teachers encouraged me to apply, and with my family’s support, I took the plunge. My mom traveled to Sao Paulo with me so I could take the SATs (and the TOEFL, to prove that I could keep up with classes in English). I prepared my applications – typed on a typewriter in my grandfather’s office – and entered Boston University as a January Freshman. Even though I could pass for American without really trying (or so I heard, frequently), I was officially an International Student. with every intention of returning to my native country once I had my degree.
After graduation, I worked for less than a year (Practical Training) and went home. Home. I moved back in with my family, got a job, started a relationship, and felt mostly unhappy and sorry for myself. I acted like that time was a mere interlude, which, not surprisingly, is what happened. My college friends had moved to New York after graduation, and I joined them about two years later. I started graduate school in 2000, and by 2002 I had met the man who became my husband and the process of settling down for good, creating our own home, began.
Even with all the comings and goings, I suspect if I were to make a spreadsheet with the chunks of time spent in each country, the sides would be at least equivalent by now. Do I feel different having crossed this meridian? I am not sure. I feel more settled in my adoptive home, having amassed a significant reservoir of American memories and experiences. Yet, I still get homesick for the other home, and sometimes we throw around the idea of going to Brazil for a little while, for the children to learn proper Portuguese.
Sometime in the past decade I realized that I don’t have to choose an allegiance. I don’t have the means to live in more than one country, but home has become a more fluid concept for me as I age. Home is where my mother is. Home is where my husband and children are. Home is New Year’s at the beach. Home is taking the train into work and walking fast like a Manhattanite. It’s feeling displaced and feeling at home in completely different places.