Translation by: Sofia Lopes
Editor: Jessica Milsom
I was born in Brazil in a city called São Mateus in the state of Espírito Santo, but when I was 5 years old we moved to Fortaleza, also known as the ‘Land of the Sun’ and the capital of the state of Ceará in the northeast of Brazil, which is so well known for its beautiful beaches and welcoming, caring and kind people.
Today, I live in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. The idea of moving to another country, continent and hemisphere came from my latent desire of having a quieter, safer and more pleasant life. Because although I grew up in a good city in a beautiful country, Brazil has always suffered from poor public policies that have resulted in social differences, poverty and violence. I had been coming to Portugal for a long time on several trips and each time I became more and more attached to the place, its customs and inhabitants, and after a long period of planning my family and I decided to move to Lisbon.
My journey to where I am today has been guided by good education and being surrounded by good people. But would I say I am truly successful? Well, the concept of “success” is a funny thing, because I believe the best achievements are the good memories you make and the people you meet. Even If I’m away from my home country, I still have great contact with people from my childhood and I have made great friends in all the places where I have moved. Creating these connections and bringing positive energy to every encounter I have, I would say this is my greatest achievement.
Despite moving countries being incredibly rewarding, it has also been one of my biggest challenges. Changing country and culture, and having the life of an immigrant is not easy. Despite the many similarities between Portugal and Brazil, I am still a guest in a house that is not mine. However, moving to a new country is like being reborn, here I feel like I’ve been given a fresh start. Migrating helped me understand myself better; I came to know who I am, what I like, what I don’t like, my values and it has given me the space to constantly reflect on those values. Feeling like a Fernando 2.0 and starting everything from scratch was a really strange yet refreshing experience.
Besides starting a new life in a new city, what has shaped me the most are actually my losses. Losing family, friends and other things along the way. But this gave me more awareness of what to truly value and enjoy in life. If I have learnt anything over my time, it is to enjoy the moment, try (easier said than done) to take something good out of every experience.
Another thing I’ve learnt and has stuck with me over the years is “it’s impossible to get different results doing the same thing”. If something is not working, change it. You can achieve positive and unexpected results, and if you don’t get that (this will also happen) then at least you will have learned something.
Another mantra of mine is “a calm sea never made a good sailor”, because even the bad experiences will shape your life in a positive way. Which is why it’s so important to learn, learn, learn. We learn from the moment of our birth and are exposed to so many different scenarios as we evolve, but it seems over time sometimes our ignorance can become greater than our curiosity. I had a good life so far, but I want to do more and be better, and I know that if it were not for my losses and failures I would not have learned and become who I am today.
The Pandemic SPEAK
Finally, let’s talk about the pandemic. The pandemic is something I’m sure we would all rather not go through. It’s a rather frightening moment in our history. I felt the true weight of the pandemic as I moved to Portugal just 1 month before lockdown was decreed and this just added to my stress of being in a totally new place.
But, I would like to point out that whilst in quarantine, I focused on improving my professional skills which included improving my English. After much research and conversations, I discovered SPEAK. SPEAK has, in my opinion, a very good and “light” approach to integrating people through cultural exchange, needless to say, I was intrigued. I ended up taking the plunge and signing up for the English Basic I language group. Even though it was online and the digital video conference format takes away from some of the experience, the human connection factor was still everything to me, even through a computer. I was able to meet people here in Lisbon and even from other countries which was very important to me, to feel part of something, to be heard and learn in the process.
In such a delicate moment as we are living right now, SPEAK was vital for me to maintain social contacts and feel somehow part of the community. I ended up making friends that I still talk to. It was, and still is, very important to me because it made me be able to bear this sad moment in a lighter way. It made me remember how much I enjoy being around people and how I feel good being who I am and learning about “other worlds” through the eyes of other people.
I am grateful for the help SPEAK gave me and I’m not even sure if SPEAK is aware of how important it was to me when it came to providing social and emotional support.
I’m grateful to the whole SPEAK team, it may be that in your daily life as workers you may forget, but the link that you provide is very important to people, just like me!
I would also like to highlight the attention of the SPEAK team here in Lisbon, I had contact with some of these people through Instagram and/or WhatsApp and they were always very attentive and even kind.
I would really like to be able to repay the help and attention they have given me and to be able to help other people like me.
-Sincerely, Fernando Freitas
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