Tag Archives: immigrant

Saint Juls

16 Apr

Grab your vomit bucket. Yes, the trash can will do.

I’ve decided to volunteer my time to someone else. I don’t know whom just yet, so I figured we could embark on this journey of discovery together. Like a reality show. A reality blog post of love and unity and benevolence. Robin at TwentySomething Test Dummies is a Big Sister to one lucky little girl and, after reading her post on what volunteering does for her, I was reminded of the extent of my self-absorption and how, if I want to go Heaven, I better use my spare time wisely.

I’d searched through Volunteer Match before but never made the commitment. Now I’m ready. Maybe because I’m getting old and afraid of dying without having lived a life with purpose, or maybe… I don’t know, I don’t care, I feel good about trying to be good, so let’s get on with it.

5K Run for Success
WOAH THERE! I mean, I wanna help, but preferably while sitting. Next.

Tutoring ESL to Adult Learners
I’d be good at that. The memories of answering “YES!” to “Which bus are you taking home, sweetheart?” are vivid still, and working with adults who wipe their own noses sounds noble and hygienic. We’ll save this one.

Personal assistants
Fuck… You. Next.

Food Pantry Volunteer
Food pantry run by Catholic Charit… NEXT.

Help at the 12th Annual Charles River Cleanup
Last summer, after a couple of hours of kayaking on the Charles, my partner and I flipped our kayak on purpose and swam to dock. I got a rash from that water. Now I just feed ducks from afar. Next.

Get Crafty as Top Cookie Sellers are Honored
Trust me, no one wants me in charge of cooking anything to be consumed by strangers without their signatures on liability waivers. I’m a good veggies chopper, table setter, and (albeit reluctant) efficient dish washer. Next.

[break for facebook check; Barbara commented on my link]

Assemble Lego Science Kits
That sounds fun, until I act out the first day in my head:
Welcome, go ahead and jump right in! Little Timmy needs to finish his DNA model, will you give him a hand?

Right… DNA is the double-stranded one, unlike the RNA, which is not double. It’s single. So, there you go, Timmy. Think of two snakes having sex while on  adderall somewhere without gravity. What, amino acids? OK. Hold on, Timmy, I’m just gonna go to the bathroom for a second and I’ll be right back.

Volunteer for the EMA Fund
We are an all-volunteer reproductive justice organization, committed to making abortion services accessible to everyone in Eastern Massachusetts.
FUCK YES. Save. My goddamn uterus, goddamn it. Vagina power!!

Host Families for International Students
Do Tori and I count as a family? Will the student be a very attractive heterosexual male? Oh, they’re underage? Fine, next.

Dog Walkers at Local Shelter
Fuck. I was bound to come across it. A kennel filled with neglected pups desperate for a belly rub and a cookie. They will bark and cry when I pick one over the other, and will be sad when I put them back in their cages. I’m not sure if I’ll feel fantastic for giving the little guys some love, or if the whole experience will only help me drop 20lbs with depression-induced starvation and fatigue, but… I should give them a call at least. Save.

ESL Tutor in Wellesley
If you’re familiar with the town of Wellesley, you will have laughed as I did. It’s one of the most affluent towns in the Metro Boston area. How about they help me?

I’ve had enough, and I haven’t even done anything. Stay tuned as I hope to recount my first day helping a chico spell out “lovely breasts, young lady,” harassing protesters with words from the Satanic Bible as I enter an abortion clinic, or as I get dismissed from my dog walking duties for depressing the dogs with my nonstop crying.


An experiment: three cups of coffee, one muffin and one cookie. And a pipe.

15 Mar

Oooooh Panera, how I adore thee. You have a large parking lot, filled with SUVs that mask my presence inside a tiny hatchback, engaging in illicit behaviors. There’s one of you in nearly every town, and you all have wi-fi. You also offer free refills on coffee (I think. If you don’t, sorry, I didn’t know), delicious vegetarian options, muffins, cookies… comfy seats one can almost fall asleep in, but not. You have Brazilian cooks that speak amongst themselves in Portuguese, thinking I don’t understand what they’re saying. It is true that you have child-proof thingies on every outlet, but it’s OK; I was only embarrassed once, and learned how to operate them from then on out.

I’ve caught a glimpse of the future, thanks to you. I saw myself as one of the elderly in mid-day café gatherings, sporting my very own distinguished-old-person hat, laughing quietly at the 30-something middle manager guy who pretends to listen to his dull boss while he’s really taking peeks at the cute girl who may or may not be slightly intoxicated while staring at her laptop for hours, enjoying the day off courtesy of a little plumbing issue at the office.

Thanks to you, Panera, the soundness of my “sorry, mom, I don’t think there will be any grandkids for you from me” position is reaffirmed. The mother of two who can’t get any reading done because the little ones haven’t mastered a fork just yet is a reminder that dogs make better babies for me. I’d hate to give my child salmonella for feeding it milk in a dirty bottle. Is that possible? I don’t know, but it’s one more thing I’d have to learn before deciding to sign up for many hours of agony and vaginal stretching followed by a lifetime of extra responsibilities.

You provide me with peaceful space to people-watch, eat, put my feet up and think about Mark Twain quotes, such as:

The difference between a perfect word and a near-perfect word is like the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.

About 60% of the time, most people would agree that Mark Twain was right like, all the time – this is no exception.  Carefully chosen words have helped me connect with many minds, enter different worlds, feel a myriad of emotions, and have been the tool for sharing my own. Reading and writing never get boring. Sometimes I do, though. Sometimes there’s no juice left to be squeezed out of my foamy brain; then I’m forced to recount the time I fabricated a story to make up for my lack of real-life excitement.

It was an eighth grade statewide writing contest;  students were informed that whatever they came up with in the next thirty minutes would have to be the basis for contest entry. I always loved writing. I just didn’t enjoy being forced to do it.

Does it have to be the truth?

No, I guess it doesn’t.

Awethome. While everyone blabbed away about soccer tournaments that changed their lives, I decided that to win, I’d have to give these common people a little sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. I was tired of using the immigrant card and I didn’t trust the white judges to pick the is-she-hispanic-if-not-what-is-she kid. Inspired by my viewing of Christiane F., I made up a story about suffering through a close cousin’s battle with heroin addiction. In shocking detail, I recounted unreal tales of discovering her passed out on the bathroom floor and finding condoms in her backpack – she was only 12 at the time. Ooooh!

I like to think that it was my writing – my careful word choice – that brought these silly people along for that roller-coaster ride. That and maybe the fact I gave them a happy ending of a recovered and back-in-school adolescent fighting to salvage her innocence. When word got around that I was a semi-finalist, I, the immigrant kid with an accent, was hounded by my white peers for details on my cousin’s sleazy affairs.

Oh, I made it up. I couldn’t think of anything to write about, so I made it up. They said I could.

My English teacher asked me after class if it was true that I’d made up the story. I confirmed. I wasn’t reprimanded for it, but I didn’t win either. Some other kid did, just because he wrote about a Jewish grandfather who fought in the war. Yawn. And stupid me; I should’ve lied to everyone or at least gone with an embellished version of my hard times as an immigrant with too much coca-cola and candy at my disposal.

Ignorance is bliss

19 Sep

It would not be the first time – nor the last, I hope – that I would be labeled “ignorant” for what I’m about to say. I have no shame, as these words are ingredients from the heart, sprinkled with accoutrements of humor. And besides, if I am never ignorant in life, then by default I will know everything, and that is not only impossible, but infinitely uninteresting. I’ll take dumb over boring any day. I think.

When I was in middle school, I walked the colorful hallways of a culturally rich institution. What I mean by that is we had a lot of immigrants. I’m pretty sure there was a higher likelihood I would hear Chinese, Spanish or Portuguese being shouted down the hall than English (those Spanish and Portuguese speakers sure are loud people. Jeez). So instead of shooting themselves between the eyes as the school’s funding drowned in ESL and other foreigner-centered curriculum expenses, the administration boasted in its annual production of a Multicultural Festival. It took place in the spring; a lovely time when no one gives a crap anymore, and we all walk around counting the minutes until the final bell of the school year. We had a half-day of classes only, and directly after lunch, the student and faculty bodies were welcomed to join the festivities outdoors. Booths were set up to represent different cultures and languages; the Hebrews had their dreidels, the Brazilians had cheese balls and naked women (just kidding. Not really, I’m sure there were a handful of inappropriately dressed 13 year-olds), the Italians had boche, the Haitians had… I’m not sure. You get the idea. We all walked around, listening to songs, sampling food, trying games, laughing, and co-existing in a rarely seen, guards down, open hearted, human connecting manner. And of course, it was warm out and we were not in class.

I know I was in the 6th grade when this happened because I don’t remember interacting with any American kids. My grasp of the English language was satisfactory by that point, having moved to the country eight months prior, but I still existed in the sub-culture that was the ESL program. This essentially meant I had no idea what the white kids were doing, listening to, talking about, etc. But that’s all right, we had the Multicultural Festival, and I’m pretty sure they were stuck in class, so go us! After walking around for a bit I stumbled upon the German kids’ booth. My education thus far had mostly centered on Brazilian and South American history, but I had read Anne Frank and was well aware of the fact that Germans were Nazis. Regardless, I thought I might use the day’s theme of open-mindedness and socialize with them, especially since they looked pretty lonely in their funny clothes. Their corner lacked the nakedness and loudness of the South American style I was accustomed to, and when a teacher monitoring the booth noticed my side-stepping away, she asked I stay and invite a couple of friends over to hear the song the Germans were about to sing. Never capable of saying ‘no,’ especially when I’m not entirely sure of what is being said to me, I motioned for a couple of friends to join me and we stood there. Moments later, the Aryan kids were singing at the top of their lungs and in perfect unison, some kind of angry song (their national anthem, I later learned) that I translated to: “RUN AND HIDE, brown child.” As they Ichted and GutenTaggended away, I avoided making eye contact, carefully put back the flyer I’d taken from their table and walked away. Fast.

“Are you kidding me? Did you hear that? I was pretty sure Hitler was gonna come out from underneath the table and Zig Hail the hell out of everybody out here,” I whispered in Portuguese to my friend. She didn’t get my joke, as I should’ve expected, because she was very stupid.

How young and inexperienced I was. The fact of the matter is that frequenting a private catholic school in Rio had me interacting with just a few varying shades of white and light brown. It all depended on the combination of Native, European, and African blood your family had. Sure we had the occasional Asian (I remember a Chinese transplant in my 5th grade class who was ostracized for the better part of the first semester until she learned to pronounce her L’s. Yeah, catholic school girls are bitches), but for the most part, we were white-to-manila colored and either Catholic or some other type of Christian. Say what you will about the US, but moving here definitely exposed to me to a greater piece of the pie than I’d seen before. I had the to share my views in a very intimate setting when my 8th grade teacher proposed the following in-class writing assignment: “Reflect upon your journey in middle school and share an important lesson you learned while here.” It was near the end of the school year, and my heart was filled with mixed emotions; I was scared to be moving on to high school so soon, I was excited that my breasts might finally grow over the summer, but most of all, I was proud to have adapted so well and so quickly.

I thought about the multicultural festival, now a distant memory in my adolescent mind. I laughed at my naïveté in associating German culture with Nazi mentality. I was inspired at that moment by my recent history and wrote a heartfelt essay that went something like this:

When all of you guys were gearing up to start middle school with each other three years ago, I was struggling to reconcile with the fact that my family and I were moving to a completely different country. I left all of my friends and extended family behind. I left my dog behind. I was scared and I had no idea how things would turn out. I worked really hard, despite feeling so homesick, and I joined the green team by the beginning of the seventh grade. That’s when I met you guys. Back in Brazil, my friends all looked like me, dressed like me and talked like me. But the friends I made at Fuller Middle School come in all different sizes, shapes and colors. The most important lesson I learned in middle school is to be open-minded. For example, I had never had Indian friends before. At first, I thought it was really strange how Indian people don’t shower every day and they use that oil on their bodies that makes them smell really different. However, I kept an open mind and my Sri Lankan friend explained to me what it was all about and I grew used to the smell. Back in Brazil, I had never had any Jewish friends, but here I learned that they too can have fun in the holidays even though they don’t celebrate Christmas. I learned a lot from many different people, and I can honestly say that I’m happy you are all my friends, and I can’t wait for all the new things we will experience in high school.

I stepped down amid faint applause and open jaws and sat back on my seat. Mom would’ve been proud… I wonder why I’m not friends with any of those kids anymore…