Have you ever felt like that? Even though I was born in Brazil and spoke the language, I still was raised the American way. My friends had blond hair and blue eyes, so it was easy to identify them from a Brazilian’s point of view, I just blended in with my skin color and hair. I was exotic looking like everyone else. No big deal. When I was in the States, I was always the “foreign” kid in class. The question I got most of my life (and it still continues) is “Do you like Brazil or America better?”. As long as I can remember, kids would always ask me that question. As I’ve grown up hearing this question, my answers have matured as well.
As a child, my answer would be “America” if I was with someone who annoyed me and I’d know they’d be happy with that answer and walk away. If I wanted conversation, I’d answer with “Brazil” and brace myself for the second question which usually was comical to the extent of “Do you wear clothes down there” which I then would answer with, “No. We wear banana leaves”. My favorite was, “What animals do you eat?” which I would then anwer with “Barbequed Snake ribs”, which was untrue, of course, but it was fun to see how long I could keep a straight face after saying that. Of course, my friends and I would have laughed at this because we all went through the same questions, we just enjoyed seeing the expressions on the kids face. One time I remember I was asked to talk in front of a class about my life in Brazil. I was only 11 years old and so nervous. I didn’t want to do it, but we were visiting someone in the States and they had already told the class someone from Brasil was coming in. This was my first experience talking in front of a large American class about my culture. Little did I know this would prepare me for being involved in the Student Council in High School and numerous school plays. I survived this little lecture, but I just felt like an alien standing up there. I didn’t feel like a normal kid, but more of an “experiment or specie of another dimension” to be stared at. I know I wasn’t suppose to feel like that, but that’s how I felt. It was nice to be asked normal questions like if I had a pet parrot (yes I did) and how hot it was down there. At this time, I felt closer to Brazil so my answer was Brazil.
In Junior High, my answers got a bit grey in answer. I was a teen by now and I was the only girl who had an American teen magazine subscription. In the magazine, I got to read about the latest shoes (L.A. Gear) and so on. I was getting more and more into the American culture and my friends called me the most “American” out of all my friends. My other American friends spoke fluent Portuguese yet considered themselves more Brazilian. Yet, one year at a Junior High School in the States, I felt out of place.
By High School, I was was still being asked which country I liked best (almost as if I was to proclaim my loyalty to either country on the spot). By this time, I said “I don’t know”. I loved both countries, but I felt bad if I chose one country over another. Sure, my heritage and roots are down in Brazil, but I’m an American Citizen too.
Now, when people still ask me this question, I just answer them and say, “I love both countries and they both have their good and bad points.” I have good and bad memories in both countries. When I went to the Bahamas this summer, it was so wonderful and I felt like I was away from both countries where I didn’t feel the need to have to compare the two. I feel as though I’m a citizen of the world. I’m use to being surrounded by international people. I can relate to them. If I see a foreigner appearing lost in the city, I’ll go up to them and help them out. I know the feeling of being lost and no one offering to help me. When I was in Brazil and saw Americans looking lost, I’d approach them and ask if I could help them. Even though I’ve lived here for the past decade or so, I can see the American culture from a foreigner’s point of view, but also go to my own country and see my own culture from an American point of view. I remember I use to wonder, “I just want to feel like I belong somewhere!” The constant questions while growing up of feeling forced to choose a country, made me feel as though I couldn’t be happy with both countries at the same time. My friends and I use to have long discussions about this (this would happen to them too) over campfires on the beach.
I’m not sure when I came to terms with this whole situation, but I know now that the feeling of “belonging” to any place really begins with how you feel at that very spot in your heart. If I were to head up to Europe (I hope to go there and see Mont Saint Michel) or anywhere in the world, I’d get a longing of wanting to stay there a bit longer. I could pack up right now and live overseas and know I could adapt there. I’ll always have the American and Brazilian culture with me as I travel- that will never leave me- but to feel like I “belong” at that very time and place is all that matters anywhere in the world, just as long as I am happy. I think that’s why I consider myself a citizen of the world.