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in⋅vo⋅ca⋅tion: (n) the magic formula used to conjure up a spirit; incantation.

Friday, July 1, 2011

on homesickness

I don't think I was ever expected to miss things too much.

I didn't grow up with my dad and my mom was always at work. From an early age, I was expected to accept that this is "just the way things are and have to be" and that there is nothing you can do about it. It wasn't something I even thought about. One year, my mom left for three or four months for some sort of master's program in Sweden. It was her first time in Europe; she was 43. I was about 8-years old and I didn't want her to go. I resented her for leaving us for so long and then taking 3 extra weeks off once her program had finished to tour Italy. I suppose my older brother and sister enjoyed it but I was upset. This was long before the age of Skype and Gchat eased the pain of being away from loved ones, and years before Facebook allowed us to follow us someone's travels from the comfort of our own homes. There were three or two phone calls while she was in Sweden and they took place at 4 AM. Her trip was important. This is just the way things were.

Another year, my mom had to commute to a city three to four hours away for work. She would stay there during the week - sometimes weekends - and live at a hotel. She would sometimes come back to town. I don't even recall missing her.

There are some things you ask about and there are some things you feel you can't ask about. As a child, I resented my mother for moving to Nicaragua after her divorce. I resented her for not staying in Brazil, where I imagined our future would have been much brighter: beaches, malls, large apartment buildings, and my dad's family. I asked her often why she had moved to Nicaragua. Her answer was always something like this: "I didn't know what to do. I just felt like all I could do was come home."

I remember thinking that she was selfish. I thought that she had sacrificed us by bringing us to a place with little infrastructure like Nicaragua. To me, infrastructure meant malls, buildings, all sorts of restaurants, beautiful houses, beaches, and the possibility to take drama lessons if I wanted. I did not think I had fulfilled my potential because I had grown up in Nicaragua, while my sister had had ballet lessons in Brazil. I had had no lessons. I had no memories of growing up with my dad or doing anything with them. I didn't speak Portuguese properly. I felt I had gotten the short end of the stick.

I remember toying around with the idea of living in Brazil with my dad for a while. Part of me felt like it would be perfect but part of me was scared I wouldn't fit in.

The truth is I feel like I don't really fit in anywhere anymore. I was born in Brazil to Brazilian and Nicaraguan parents. I grew up in Nicaragua where I attended an American School and then I went to college in the U.S. I feel very Nicaragua but I know I'm not your average Nicaraguan. I identify as Nicaraguan but I feel like I am world's apart from people I went to school with and grew up with mostly because of the way I am and the way I think. It wasn't because I was Brazilian, I don't think. To this day, only a few people know I was born there. I don't feel like I fit in there because I didn't grow up there. Even though I now understand Portuguese and could probably have a decent conversation with any Brazilian in Portuguese, I still don't feel comfortable with it. I have an accent. I'm embarrassed of claiming to be something I'm not.

But, the truth is I am. I am Brazilian. I'm just not your average Brazilian.

I think traveling extensively - to Europe, Asia, the U.S. - when I was growing up opened my mind completely. Living in the U.S., where the cliche "melting pot" comes to mind, has made me more aware of my Latin identity. But even here, I feel the Mexican-Americans cling to Latin America much more than I do, even when they have never visited and when they don't speak Spanish. It's not that I'm not proud of where I came from but I don't think I want that to be the one thing that defines me.

"Where are you from?" or "Where are you spending the holiday?" usually require long answers. When I was studying abroad in Paris, I usually said I was from Nicaragua, but then I'd be asked why I spoke English so well. I'd explain I go to school at Penn. Oh, I spend holidays in Brazil because I was born there. When I'm in Asia or even here in the U.S., I sometimes just say I'm from Brazil. It saves me a lot of explaining on where Nicaragua is and why I live there.

It gets a bit more complicated when I explain where my sister lives or where my brother lives and why. For a while, she lived in England and he lived in Germany. Just for work. While my dad was in Brazil and my mom in Nicaragua. Right now, she's outside Paris and he's in Sao Paulo.

I don't want to say I don't know where home is. Home is in Nicaragua.

But I haven't been there in 2 1/2 years. Soon to be 3. That is too long.

I've never felt homesick, except for one time when I was 7 and I was sleeping over at an uncle's house and I asked my dad to drive in the middle of the night to pick me up. I am able to move away and leave people and places because that's the way it has to be. We can't be in the same place with the people we love all the time. My sister moved out and went to college in the U.S. when she finished school, and so did my brother. Then you are suppose to find a job somewhere in the world (not Nicaragua, not Brazil!) and live there for a while. Meet up with family for holidays. Meet up for graduations.

I've come to expect movement and changes. I've come to expect to leave a place and go somewhere else and take nothing but my three suitcases with me. I've come to expect to see my family twice a year. I've come to expect to talk to my mom once every month.

This is just the way things are. It doesn't upset me or bother me. This is the way I think we can better ourselves. There's no better way to be independent than to try it out. I was raised this way.

So, I can't reconcile feeling homesick right now with the way I was raised. It doesn't make sense to me. I know I can't leave the country until I have an actual job and then I probably can't leave because I have to start working. There's nothing but my mom in Nicaragua for me right now. Maybe some scattered friends I've not kept in touch with for a while that I should probably email after I'm done writing this. Maybe it's the food? I'm not sure. I just think I need some time in Nicaragua.

Where else could my mom have gone?

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