Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Great Immigration Post

Great as in volume, certainly not in excellence.

I'm not going to share every detail of our immigration journey because, to be honest, it's personal and long. 

A little while ago we received some discouraging news. It turns out that on our immigration journey, we missed a court date. We didn't know about it, otherwise we would have gone - obviously. But because we missed the court date, my husband now has a 5 year ban, no waiver, before he can enter the country again. The ban was triggered when we left the country. As my friends and family know, our tentative plan was to return to the States in two more years after moving down here to care for my extremely sick mother-in-law. Since we've already been in Brazil for 6 months, that means we are forced to stay here for another 4 1/2 years or return without my husband and the little expats' father. Splitting up the family is not an option. I won't do that to our marriage or to my kids. 

We could file a motion to reopen the case and repeal the ban and we would almost certainly win. But the Catch-22 is that the courts are so backed up, that by the time the ban is repealed, we would be close to the end of the 5 years. It would also cost us a minimum of $3,500 in lawyer's fees. No thanks.

I had a nice, long cry when I got the news. Because the system isn't fair, but even more so because I know the system isn't fair and I should have expected something like this. My husband has never been in any criminal trouble (or any trouble) and was an outstanding resident while in the US. He voluntarily built houses for low income families, was (is still) annoyingly helpful to anyone who needs assistance, regularly bought meals for the homeless he encountered, and taught himself English. I could go on and on about how he's exactly the type of immigrant you'd want in the States. But it really doesn't matter. Because the United States has a broken immigration system that doesn't care about families or its own citizens. Whatever your political affiliation, if you understand how immigration works, you understand that it's broken. We have children being deported to countries they don't know and families being torn apart.

On the positive side: our house is almost sold and we have no debt. We have no mortgage or rent payment here and our car and motorcycle were purchased in cash. All we have to do is basically survive for the next 4 1/2 years. (Unfortunately jobs and money are not easy to come by in Brazil and we didn't plan to be here that long so... we're definitely stressing out about money). The kids love it here and they'll still be young when we move back to the States. And to be honest, I don't mind living in Brazil. I love that the kids are getting a world experience and my and Maicon's Portuguese has improved considerably. There are a lot of things about Brazil and Brazilians that make me crazy, but there's a lot about this place and its people that I love

We're a perfect example of how a technicality within the system hurts immigrants and their families. I'm not exaggerating any details - my husband can not reenter the country for 5 years because he missed a court date. (That he didn't know about). You can look online and find family after family in the same situation. Missed court date for one reason or another. A date translated incorrectly, a notice never received, whatever, it doesn't matter to "the system." My disappointment and anger towards the lawmakers that refuse to touch immigration policy like it's a poisoned apple is too immense to describe in a single blog post. So my family will live in Brazil for another 4 1/2 years. And we'll have a cultural experience that many others can only dream of. But even when we return, I won't be able to forget that there are still hundreds, thousands, of families fighting to be together and a system that's abandoned them.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Farewell, First Home

This post has nothing to do with expat life. We're almost at the closing table with our house back in the States. It's been bittersweet. We loved our house. It had a huge yard, 40,000 gallon in-ground pool, and incredible character. It needed a lot of updating and we had accomplished a lot in the three years that we lived there, but not nearly what we wanted to. However, we I did paint almost every single wall, which was a huge undertaking. The paint really did transform the house. I don't want to go on and on about the things we did and didn't get to in this post. I'm solely here to share paint colors with all of you. I love bright colors, but I went for an earthy, neutral (to me anyway) palette in our home. I repeated colors in different rooms to try and tie the house together. I think I've been asked a million times what colors I chose, so here's the be all to end all post for you! (I use a satin finish in all my rooms because it's easy to clean).

Living Room: Rockport Grey, Benjamin Moore

Bedroom & Sunroom/Dining Room: Balmy Seas, Behr

I stole some photos from our listing, sorry about the poor quality!

Library: Down Pour, Behr

Switch expressions and it's their current relationship.

Down Pour has a much bluer tone than Rockport Grey.

Alessandra's Bedroom & Kitchen: Grass Cloth, Behr

Bridesmaids at our backyard wedding, a second ceremony since we eloped!

Before the room became Alessandra's room it was our spare room.

Maicon's Bedroom: Porpoise, Behr

I would have used Down Pour in here as well, but the gallon of Porpoise was in the house when we bought it,
so I opted to use it up and save money. It's a lighter grey, but I think it worked well in the smaller space.

Hallways & Mud Room: Sand White, Glidden

This was the only picture I could find of one of the hallways!
Maicon went through a "naked all the time" phase. 

Trim: Ultra Pure White, Behr

Thursday, March 3, 2016

A Night Without Electricity / All The Stars

Sorry about all the power lines!


Last night the entire city of Governador Valadares, Brazil lost power for about an hour. Our house has lost power a few times before, for a few minutes at a time, so I didn't think anything of it when our house went dark. Then my husband came inside and said, "Come out if you want to see the most beautiful sky in the world." I stumbled out and stared in awe for a few minutes before declaring that I had to get my camera. I wasn't sure how long it would last or if I'd ever see the sky like this again. The nearest town is about an hour away, so when I say it was dark - it was dark. I've never taken photos like this, so I played with the settings slightly and did the best I could. I tried to avoid the power lines, but I was too nervous to run back inside and get my tripod, because I was afraid the power would come back on. So I had to set my camera on the table under the lines. I'm really impressed with my camera, actually, because you can see the trees and clouds in the picture, but outside you could not see anything! When motorcycles would drive down the street everyone would be completely blinded because their tiny front lights were so bright in the darkness. Everyone poured out of their houses and hung out on the sidewalks and talked and joked and looked at the sky. I think everyone was looking upwards last night. These pictures don't even do it justice, because every single square inch of the sky contained a star. I didn't see any shooting stars, but I think it's because I couldn't focus on any one point, it was all so incredible. There are a few places in the United States that are "light free" zones, so you can experience a view like this. We wanted to take the kids to the one at Cherry Springs State Park in Pennsylvania, but we thought they were too young to appreciate it. After last night, we know we will absolutely be taking a family trip there.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Centavos and Reals

Well, I did it again. I knew four rolls of bread were R$.60 each, so I counted the money out before I left home. I hate trying to count out change while balancing a baby expat on my hip. She loves to swing her hands out and knock whatever is in her reach. I gave the nice cashier the money and she gave me R$2 back. I am a strict believer in karma so I tried to give her the R$2 back, at which point she told me I gave her R$4.40 instead of R$2.40. DAMN YOU BRAZIL AND YOUR TWO REAL BILL! (I thought I gave her two singles, but I gave her two R$2 bills). Okay, I like the $2 real, but it messes me up all the time. There is no penny here. There is no one real bill here. It's so weird paying for things when change is rounded. Total is R$23.52? Give them R$23.50, no problem. It's so weird. But it's made extra difficult because Brazil has very similar and very different looking centavos! I still haven't gotten them down because, well.. let's look at the 5 and 10 centavos..

Bruh. Could you make it any more difficult for me? Do you know how difficult it is to sift through a pocket full of change with a baby on one hip and a four year old chewing through a package of candy as you're trying to pay. True story. Reals on the other hand are colorful, different sizes, and easy peasy:

The kids love the animals on the bills.

Back to the centavos. They underwent a change at some point and the 1 centavo was eliminated (I'm not sure when, and google hasn't been helpful, but I've never seen one in person). Here's what they used to look like on top and what the newer circulated coins look like:

At some point I'll replace this with a higher quality photo, sorryyyyy

If you pulled this group out of your pocket, would you know which coins those silver ones are immediately? My guess is no! So to all the cashiers of Brazil and all the people standing atras de mim in line, give me just one minute!