Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Accidental Immigrants: 13 Years and Counting

Ten days ago, June 20th, marked the 13th anniversary of our arrival in the U.S. back in 1996, when we were two young "kids," recently married and graduated from college (1.5 year earlier) who wanted to:
1) (in the K's case) learn English;
2) (both of us) have an experience of life abroad -- this was particularly important for me, already fluent in the language and an English teacher in Brazil.

We never imagined that we'd stay for so long and keep on "staying." I once wrote (4 years ago!) about being an "accidental academic," but I think that now one of the most defining aspects of K's life and mine is that we accidentally became immigrants as well.We're still struggling with that thought. I think I've said here before that becoming permanent residents somehow "changed everything" for us in a sense and prompted us to make a decision to stay here a little longer. When we tell our story to people, however, as it happened in the past month or two with Klebert and a lab partner of his, it sounds very strange to people that we never planned to become immigrants in the first place!

As a matter of fact, for many years I used to shock (with great pleasure!) people who had recently come from Brazil to "the promised land" in saying that I didn't like it here. I would kind of boast that I spoke the language flawlessly, that I understood the culture, that I had never problems adapting to life here (except some minor issues such as being depressed for not having any money for years and years -- which turned out to be "forever" since it's still the case!), but that I didn't really liked the country, that I didn't think it was this wonderful thing that these people thought it was. I wanted to go back to Brazil, I really did.

Longtime readers also know from one of my key, most heartfelt posts, that a large part of the reason why I became a happier expatriate and stopped talking about going back to Brazil is the fulfilling, meaningful interactions and friendships that I experienced once I started blogging. So, yeah, you can it blame a little bit on blogging -- the fact that I'm here today ;-). In any case, we stayed... and the initial loss of K's "big pharma" job was the event that ultimately brought us to the residency.

So, what now? As I recently wrote, I'm becoming slightly uncomfortable with the fact that I'm slowly, but surely, embracing my life here. It's understandable that I have these feelings right now because we just found out that we'll probably be able to keep the house. That is a HUGE deal. It's only now that I can finally begin to think again about the "positives" -- the things I like about this house and this region. I just couldn't allow myself to do that after the initial two months of "peacefully" (if stressful for the novelty of it all, and living in an ungly, fixer upper of a house) living here, before it all collapsed when K lost his job. After that, I could not allow myself to enjoy this house because I knew that we would probably not get to keep it... In any case, I'm a bit shocked at the fact that I'm hesitant to go to Brazil.

On the one hand, I want to go, I don't want to stay and then regret it, but on the other hand, we've just gone through so much, that all I want is to stay put for a while. To process and enjoy our new-found stability and peace with K and the boys. So, yeah... that's part of it. And these are some of the thoughts in my mind as we "commemorate" 13 years in the U.S. We've been here long enough, and we might just be reaching the point in which we'll be calling this place "home" too -- not that Brazil will no longer be our "home" country, no... Yeah, we'll always feel that in-betweeness. It's inevitable, that much I know, and this is not an "accidental" feeling, it's part and parcel of being an immigrant.

Monday, June 29, 2009

"Should I Stay or Should I Go"

Yeah, I realize that I'm dating myself a lot with that 80's song title (I'm offering a link to the young kids out there), but... whatever, I'm not shy about being almost 38 (b-day next week).

So, I have an extremely difficult decision to make in the next few days or weeks:

Should the boys and I go to Brazil or should we stay have and my parents come instead?

I know, this is supposed to be a no-brainer, I've never had to think twice about booking flights to go to Brazil (except to decide how long to stay and such), as a rule, I'm always dying to go. For some reason, maybe for several reasons, this time is different, however. I'm very undecided. One side of me (and the boys who love flying on airplanes) wants to go right away, but another side wants to stay.

First, the pros and the cons of each decision.

Pros of Going to Brazil
- Seeing dear friends and family members -- particularly my youngest nephew who I saw at one month and then never more (he'll be one on my birthday, if you recall) -- my BIL and family are moving to Brazil from Turkey.

- Traveling around a lot to beautiful places (to Parana: Curitiba, Maringa and Foz do Iguacu -- the world-famous, beautiful, Iguazu Falls, Sao Paulo city and coutryside and, possibly, Goias - the hot water springs place).

- Less daily expenses because everything is shared with my parents (and perhaps uncle) who actually usually foot most of the bills (including two plane tickets out of three).

- Flying with the boys (it's tiring, but always fun, I'm a pro at flying solo with babies and kids).

Pros of Staying Home
- Enjoying summer with the family, going to the pool (at friend's houses and, possibly, at the Y, if we can join at at discounted rate -- I don't know if they do that), driving to the beach (Jersey shore), etc.

- Enjoy the house and gardening, do projects on the house with my parents if they come.

- Possible trips to Florida (to pick up my parents and stay a few days in the Orlando, Cape Canaveral area), to Montreal -- we'll go whether I go or stay, though, K's youngest brother and wife just immigrated to Canada, and to Massachusetts (we might go either way also).

- Visits with/from family (parental aunt and uncle who live in the U.S.) if my parents are here.

Cons of Going to Brazil
- Experiencing cold weather there (it's winter) while missing hot weather here.

- Although my parents will be paying for two tickets, the expenses may hinder a possible trip in December/January for K's cousin wedding.

- Being away from K (I've been OK with that in the past, but I feel differently now, perhaps because of all we've been through this year).

- Missing possible job interviews (for adjuncting or whatever) -- this is a serious con.

Cons of Staying Home
- Much bigger expenses if we travel to Florida as we'd like to do (to make up for not going to Brazil).

- Not flying (this is a huge con for the boys).

As you can see, the cons of staying home are not that many (and I cannot really think of any more), but the pros of going are very strong...

I've been waiting for months and months to make this decision -- we were waiting for a definition on the house, selling or something, to decide what to do and during those months I was really eager to go. But now, that it's almost certain that we can keep the house, all of a sudden I want to stay... and not be away from K or from the house and my flowers (I'm yet to plant veggies -- it's too late, but I will anyway).

And there's one thing that bothers me just slightly (but not a lot, at least not enough): perhaps I'm getting too comfortable in my life here and I don't feel a strong urge to return as often to Brazil anymore. That is really sad, but I'll write another post about it shortly.

So, if you were me would you stay or would you go?

Monday, June 22, 2009

On Paper

The mail carrier just arrived and rang the bell because I had to sign for a delivery and there was an express UPS envelope by the door. It was from the bank, with the paperwork for the renegotiation of our loan. So after it's signed, notarized and mailed back to them, we will remove the sign from the front lawn. It will no longer be the "tombstone to our buried dream."
(taken on April 24)
The dream is alive again. And I have no words to express what a gift that is to me, to our family. I no longer have to choke back tears when the boys ride their bikes on the driveway all day long or wonder what things I have to give away or pay to store (not that we don't need de-cluttering, we do and I will get rid of things, I promise ;-). In sum, we live on, waiting for the next challenge, looking forward for K's job searches this fall and next year (if needed). Hopefully we'll move only when he has a full time job, exactly as we've always wanted, but only dared to dream about.

What a relief... Thank you so much for all your well wishes, your prayers and positive thoughts on our behalf. I'm so glad that we never got an offer on the house! It wasn't meant to be, we were meant to stay. Wonderful!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Incredible News

So, thanks to our Dear New President, the bank came through and most probably we'll be able to keep the house.

I can't write much (and there's not much more to tell anyway) because I'm "escaping" from the camp for one night because we didn't have enough clothes to deal with the endlessly rainy and unseasonably cold weather. It feels great to be in a warm, spacious house instead of stuck inside a "barrack" style tent whose sides are getting damp from the incessant rain. I arrived late (11 pm) and will be driving back early tomorrow, so I have to go to bed. Good thing it's only 1.5h away.

Anyway... Last Tuesday K was able to talk directly to the bank representative who is dealing with our case and the terms of the renegotiation just blew him away (e.g. temporary 2% interest).We just talked briefly about this and his feeling is that it does not seem fair that just because the timing was "right" (I've written here before about how it was kind of wrong) we're going to benefit from this "bail out" that the government is putting out. K feels that the fair thing in our case would have been selling the house, but of course it'll be great to get to keep it until he has a permanent job.

My reactions are a bit different. First, it's taking time for the news to sink in, it feels too good to be true. Then, I feel this light euphoria, the realization that the house is, in fact, still ours (with it on the market, I felt much less entitled to it) and that I can go back to planning my life in it for a bit longer (e.g. planting more flowers, perennials even!). Tonight as I came in after a few days away I just looked at it with fresh eyes and pondered how beautiful and comfortable it is. I also reminisced about the things that we liked about the house from the start.

It feels like a new beginning, in a sense. And I know I need my sleep, but I also "needed" (OK, wanted) to share the good news with you! I'll be back on Saturday night or Sunday.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Cure for Baby Lust

I can't say with conviction that I'm fully recovered from this "ailment" that has plagued me repeatedly in the past, but I'm slowly getting there. :-)

Last week I randomly picked up one of the journals that I kept when Kelvin was 4-6 months old and reading those entries was a powerful reminder of how hard it is to have a baby. All I could write obsessively about were how many hours Kelvin had slept and how many times he had nursed every night... I never found anything so effective in inhibiting any desire that I might still have of having another baby. I was really impressed by that!

This was last week and today I had the chance to test my resolve and whether this shock treatment was really effective. A close friend of ours gave birth yesterday morning (this was a birth that I wanted to have seen, but the baby was born in the 24h that I was away visiting my BIL's family in MD) and this afternoon I went to the hospital to see the baby and my friends. While I was holding him my friend asked whether I wanted to have another baby and I confidently answered: "No, I don't want to have another one." I passed the test! Babies are incredibly lovely, but require incredible patience and work too. This little guy is less than 48h old and his mom is having a hard time sleeping and doing anything else because he wants to be constantly at her breast. I spent 2.5 hours in the hospital and in this brief period I could totally see why I just cannot go through this again. So, there you go... I may agree to have K be "snipped" after all... Let's see. I'll be 40 in a couple of years, so I'm sure this is a good path to take.

OK, I'm going to bed now, we had a long weekend, with K's youngest brother visiting from Canada. This week I'll be mostly offline, but I'll try to post if possible.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Hope, Again

The bank (ok, a bank representative) left a message last Friday, but K only listened to it this morning. Apparently we can qualify for a renegotiation of the mortgage terms, but we need a tiny bit more income. K called back today, but the person wasn't there.

Keep your fingers crossed for us. My employment with the school is actually over (one more paycheck and that's it), so technically our income now is even lower than what we claimed it to be when we filed the paperwork. Sigh. They don't need to know I no longer have the job, do they? Well, we're trying to think of alternatives. I hope we don't have to wait until one of us has another job (K is looking for a part-time teaching gig on top of his postdoc) in the Fall for the payment to be lowered.

Maybe we can keep the house after all. At this point, I'm so disillusioned and I've grieved so much already that selling it would have been kind of a relief, but maybe "we're meant" to have it a little bit longer.

We'll see.

Monday, June 08, 2009


No, I'm not saying goodbye to you or blogging... the silly title is just to say that this is a quick, "Hi" "Goodbye" kind of post.

Still busy, still trying to make some slide shows (particularly a pregnancy one!! yes!) and really wanting to post tons of photos (ongoing wish), but even busier times might be coming.

I sent out a second application last Friday and I hope to send a few more, along with some query letters. Wish me luck!

Other than that... things are the same and we're happy for the prospect of having family (youngest brother-in-law & wife, recent Canadian immigrants) visiting later in the week! Oh, and parents-in-law currently "stuck" in Brazil (visa situation -- lack of an important document -- if I have time I'll explain more later).

Many things I want to blog about -- how reluctant we are to really feel like we're immigrants too.

OK, bye. Hopefully more soon.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

One Down...

... a couple (or a few more) to go.

Phew! I have finally sent out my first job application, not that I expect that much will come of it, but at least I tried. (the last one I sent became a fruitless lead :-(, remember?)

What I didn't want to do is what I have not in fact done until now although I intended to. I haven't sent out any "query" letters about adjuncting to each and every college and university in the area.

Should I try that? I have lots of doubts that it would work. And it might be too late anyway at this point (those are some of the excuses I use).

I do think that now I have a general enough "Teaching Interests" section in my CV that might help me out, but I cringe just thinking of sending those uncalled for "applications." This is precisely what my husband did when he finished his Ph.D. and was looking for a postdoctoral position. He sent out 50+ letters to researchers he was interested in working with. And he did get three offers and one interested researcher (who actually had him fly out to Atlanta to give a talk, but whose financial help for the offer never materialized). But that's in the sciences, not in the humanities, so... I feel safer applying for actual positions.

Oh, I did send out one such email, but that was it. Well... I'm glad at least I'm doing something. Remember my new year's resolution? I'm not fulfilling the part about "looking into anything," but I guess it's just that I don't know how some of those "things" (curatorship, editing, etc.) work.

P.S. [a long one, sorry!]
And for those who may be wondering about this announcement from last April regarding another "career" path. Well... I have given up even before I began. The problem is that because of the uncertainty of our lives right now and pressing the need for me to work and help pay the mortgage, I cannot be sure that I will be available in September when my friend is due. This friend is the one who would have helped me financially to pay for the course andcertification in exchange for my support as doula at her daughter's birth. I still want to go and be with her and help her, but I don't need to be a doula in the process of certification to do that, right?

Another friend is due in two weeks and I really want to be at the birth of her son too -- I've never seen a birth except for my own births, so it'd be lovely! I hope I can make it!

And finally... it would have been cool to have doula certification, but I've already spent 10 years of my life pursuing the PhD and I think I should try to use it for something, right? That's why I feel leery of abrupt career path changes. E.g. I think I'd love to work in librarianship, but the thought of having to PAY to get another degree (a MLIS master in library and information science) when I already have a PhD is too depressing...

And it's more the paying than anything, let me tell ya... I would gladly go back to school [I loooooove to study, I really do!] provided I didn't have to pay and could even make some money (such as in an assistanship). Maybe I should get another PhD! A-ha! I joke about that with K, but it's true... I really wish I could keep on studying.

Do you think I'm crazy? OK, time to go back to the other applications. I'm just happily procrastinaging here. :-D

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Still Busy, Still Waiting

Thanks for commenting in the last post, my friends, you know it does mean a lot to me to know you're out there. It makes everything easier and the experience of blogging more meaningful.

I'm still busy, this time trying to send out a few job applications. Surprisingly there are several adjunct, part-time and even a couple of full time openings in area colleges! They're not exactly in my area, but I'll try.

The weekend was busy too, we went to a state park where a family of friends was camping and we all went canoeing and kayaking in the lake and then later ate delicious grilled veggies (and other goodies) at our friends' campsite. On Sunday the same friends had a birthday party for their son. Oh, and Saturday was my younger son's fifth birthday. I do want to post photos to celebrate the day, but I'm also busy trying to empty out the hard-drive of tons and tons of photos (upwards of 72 GB, from 06 to now), leaving them only in the external drive. I do take too many pictures.

And the waiting continues -- yours for my photos, us for the house to sell. I have a feeling it is NOT going to sell after all and that we'll need to figure out something to keep on paying the mortgage. The saddest thing for me if that happens is having to probably give up on my dream to home-school (cyber-school, actually) the boys... :-( But we'll see.

The market is unspeakably bad right now. It really couldn't be worse. Which makes the timing of our tough situation so discouraging!

I don't want to keep complaining about this, though, I really don't, mostly because I'm feeling OK now about all this. Phew! It's a relief not to be in the depths of despair all the time anymore. In fact, I can't remember when I last felt hopeless despair (well, all I have to do is to check some blog posts from last month, I'm sure!). It's a welcome change, this feeling of peace and... numbness? Life has got to go on, right? That's why I have to go to bed now. Bye.

P.S. I can't believe June is already here. Time's flying. Mercifully.