Category Archives: USA

Immigrant Visa to the USA – The sequel

Even though the first part of the process was done very quickly, we did not hear back from USCIS or the American embassy in Brussels for a very long time. After two months of waiting, on July 26th, I wrote to an immigration caseworker at MN Senator Amy Klobuchar’s office. I had been an intern at the Minneapolis office in 2014, and witnessed our staff helping numerous people in all kinds of situations. Within 10 days the American Embassy in Brussels broke the silence. They had contacted me to announce my application package was on its way. This means I can apply for the green card!

Protip:  Tap into the vast resources your government officials have to offer.  Your local legislative office does more than take in complaints over the phone, they can also take compliments and help you solve things.


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Immigrant Visa to the USA – Part 1

Over the years people often asked me “Why don’t you just apply for citizeship?” Well, cuz it is not that simple. There are a few ways one can acquire citizenship, such as by joining the army, having American parents, marrying an American, making a large investment that creates jobs, the lottery. But it is never that simple.

Last year Forbes wrote a piece on how slow immigration processing times had become, particularly so in spousal sponsorship cases, such as mine. The process often takes about one year. Today, my greencard was approved. Nick and I reached the finish line within 4 and a half months (even after some missteps). 

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Campanha politica em Minnesota

Desde que eu me graduei em maio da Universidade de Minnesota com um bacharel em Ciências Políticas, e Francês, eu tenho trabalhado na campanha do partido Democrata (Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor Party). Eu sou o Organizador Comunitário para os latinos no meu distrito e no resto do estado.
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Graduation Party

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After 1364 days, 25 international flights, 14 transcontinental flights, 7 host families, 4 colleges I am finally graduating from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelors degree in Political Science.

Only 7,9% of Brazilians graduated college. Come celebrate this overrated occasion with me and my Brazilian family!
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Tengo un mapa que me lleva a otro país

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Querido lector,

Aunque se supone que este trabajo te habla sobre todas las ventajas de ser bilingüe en el mundo globalizado de hoy, si no sabes ni la importancia, ni el valor de este atributo, puedes parar de leerlo justo ahora. En mi artículo no voy a tratar de convencerlo de las ventajas de saber más de una lengua. Voy a suponer que entiendes y estás de acuerdo conmigo y con mi actitud positiva hacia los idiomas y la diversidad de culturas.

Mis hijos serán educados, y estarán rodeados, por una cultura global. En mi casa, quiero tener presente las raíces y tradiciones de Brasil. El hecho de que mis hijos hablen mi lengua maternal a la perfección y que conozcan y practiquen las costumbres brasileñas. Soy consciente de que estos son de los mejores legados que les puedo dejar a mis hijos. Pero sé también que no será fácil, en la realidad esta hazaña requerirá mucho de mi tiempo y energía. Pero quiero que sepan de dónde vienen, quienes son, y además de sentirse orgullosos de ser brasileños, contarán con una herramienta bicultural para desarrollarse en el futuro.

No basta ser bilingüe o multilingüe, aparte del idioma, la educación en otra cultura también es esencial. Ciudadanos multiculturales de alma presentan una mayor disposición a conectar con otras culturas. Todos mis amigos hablan al menos otro idioma, compartimos el gusto por el aprendizaje de diferentes lenguas. Son jóvenes que decidieron cambiar sus vidas y dejar sus zonas de conforto, y así fueron a vivir a otro país. Son jóvenes que así como yo, toman riesgos, rompen las barreras para jugar un juego a la altura de sus sueños multiculturales. Están dispuestos a enfrentar desafíos para crear una vida que amen, como embajadores mundiales de buena voluntad y comprensión. Es por eso que mantengo a mis amigos cerca, pues valoran mis orígenes, y siempre estamos aprendiendo unos de otros. Ser multilingüe y multicultural es una parte muy importante de mi vida. Es una pieza que ilumina mi camino, que constantemente me presenta nuevas oportunidades, define mis intereses y objetivos, y me llena de alegría.

Hoy en día, una comprensión global es casi un requisito previo. Creo que si alguien no tiene ni la paciencia ni el interés en aprender sobre otras culturas o una lengua extranjera, probablemente no tienen mucho que añadir en mi vida. No soy elitista, de ninguna manera, pero me siento optimista de que actualmente, todos tengamos la misma oportunidad de ser bilingües y ciudadanos del mundo. Las herramientas están disponibles para aquellos que las quieran usar, y déjame decirte que vale la pena.

Sinceramente,

Marcos Carvalho

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Not a ‘Coming out’ story

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Let’s get one thing straight, I am not. That is not up for discussion, my personal life is not a subject for a debate, and neither are my rights as a human being. This isn’t a Coming Out Of The Closet greeting card. This is an effort that I am making for my LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community, to spread awareness. As a Rotary international ambassador of goodwill and understanding, that is what I’m here to do.

I have spent enough time studying how harsh and destructive the suppression of speech or other public communication can be, and I am strongly against it. However, it is not because you have the right to say something, that you should, or that I will listen.

I won’t debate “gay rights” with you because it simply implies that you have the ability to dictate what I deserve and what I don’t. And let me tell you something: You don’t! No one does. I won’t debate “gay rights” with you because I don’t want to hear about how – in your narrow mind – you truly believe you deserve more than me, that you are righteous, rightful. Lastly, I won’t debate “gay rights” with you because individual rights just aren’t a matter of opinion, and shouldn’t be subject to a public vote. This is human rights for everybody.

If you are against civil rights and marriage equality, than you are against my personal freedom and individual happiness. And if you are, I’m sorry, but subscribing to this privileged way of thinking is IGNORANCE. Unfortunately, your lack of knowledge, information, and capacity to accept, hurts me. It just happens that we live in a world where you get to decide my future. The political function of rights is specifically to defend minorities from oppression by majorities. Yet, I have been put in a position where I am subject to your approval, or as it happens to be, your rejection.

It was difficult growing up in a reality where I wasn’t part of the majority. Hatred isn’t something you’re born with. It gets taught. It comes from the fear of the unknown, from the inability to understand and love. As a child, and as a teenager, I didn’t know that. I didn’t understand how or why somebody could hate me for something I didn’t choose. So, I always assumed it was my fault, that I could do better, and that I had failed.

This isn’t a Coming Out Of The Closet story, because if it were, it would be followed with the question: “For how long have you known?” Well, the answer is obvious to me, I don’t know and I couldn’t tell you. But I can tell you about my “firsts.” First time I was “diagnosed” by my peers as being gay, as if homosexuality were a disease. First time I was the target of a trivial, hollow homophobic joke. First time I got beat up in front of my house for being “too flamboyant,” and unusual. And the first time I realized I had wasted a lifetime, trying to be someone I was not.

As a majority, you were unfairly given the ability to decide my future. But as bystanders, you have the power to join me, in changing that. Remaining silent, oblivious, or ignorant won’t change your life. But it will doom mine. I demand equal rights, not just for myself, but for my children. I couldn’t bear the thought of them ever thinking they are inferior, that they are worth less – if they just so happen to be different – like I did. No! It is embarrassing and heartbreaking that parents somehow find it acceptable to reject their children out of bigotry. The next generation will enjoy equal rights, without a fear of this predetermined idea of what it all means. They won’t struggle to understand and embrace their sexuality in families who do not welcome them. They won’t grow up in the same toxic, alienating, personality inhibiting, environment as I did. And I’m here to make sure of that.

Now I beseech you to fight on my side. To be my Ally. Let’s talk about marriage equality, about civil rights, and about loving thy neighbor as thyself. There is no commandment greater than that. Grant me the rights I so justly deserve. Give me the respect you so greatly treasure, and make the unfair, fair.

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Couldn’t miss Mika’s concert

After opening the show with the song Grace Kelly, Mika began telling us how much he loved the piano on this stage. He said he even dressed up just for us and put on a bow-tie especially for his fans in Minneapolis.

And I put one just for you, Mika! – I yelled from near stage.

Look at that – Mika said back to me – and you have the suspenders. You look like one of these guys on stage. I’ll have to put you up here with two maracas so you can help me!

My heart just melted right there. At the end of his performance he mentioned his bow-tie again, and looked directly at me. He made my legs feel like jelly, what an amazing live performer.

I couldn’t stay for the autograph session after the concert. But before leaving the Varsity Theater I asked one of the ladies helping taking down the stage if she could give Mika my bow-tie, and my Rotary card. I hope he got it.

Here is a little taste of his work:

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Can’t be constitutional

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Dear Minnesotans,

I’m well aware that you all have your rights to believe in what you want, and vote for what you believe in. But if you voted “YES” on the Marriage Amendment ballot, I would love to hear from you next time we meet, so you can explain to me why you believe you are more worthy of the right to be happily or unhappily married to whomever you want you, and I’m not.

Sincerely,

A Brazilian who just wants a chance to be happy,

Marcos Carvalho

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Can’t wait to see them again and again – Part 2

I couldn’t be luckier, and I know it. All the people I have met throughout my life have touched me somehow. They have all helped me grow and become a better person. But there are some that understand me better than others and as I mentioned before, they are the Rotary Inbounds I met in Minnesota on September 12th, 2009.

Being stranded somewhere, out of your comfort zone, forces you to expand your horizon, look beyond what you normally would, and that was when I found these people. We were all different from one another, definitely coming from different places, backgrounds, we even believed in different things. But that day we were all the same, we were all vulnerable, and we were all open to the new year that was about to start, especially to all the experiences that it would bring.

We had an incredible year, and most importantly, unforgettable. The experiences we shared every time we met and particularly during the East Coast Trip towards the end of our year were the best we could have hoped for.

I can still remember the last time I saw each one of them. It’s true that I have not talked to all of them since, but the fact is that not a day goes by that I don’t think of that year and them. Just the other day I caught myself wondering:

“Is it still worth spending so much time and energy trying to keep these relationships going?”

“Yes, of course it is, you idiot!”

Some of them have made such an impact in my life that I just had to see them again, and I am so thankful that I had the opportunities to do so. Spending a year with them was priceless, intense. Seeing them again one, two years later was in fact, surprising. I realized that even though some of us were in different stages of our lives, all the chemistry we had back in our exchange was still there, just as exciting as our first day together in that middle school auditorium. Some of the people I reencountered, I hadn’t talked to since we had left the United States, while others I have talked to every day that I am able to.

Luisa Teixeira de Paula: Minneapolis, USA 2009 / Sete Lagoas, Brazil 2011

Luisa was the first one I had the chance to see again, and it happened right after our exchange. Once I finished my year I went back to Brazil for two weeks, to get a new student visa and start at Normandale Community College. I didn’t have too much time back home, but it was enough to see Luisa again, and I am happy to say that I have seen her about 4 times since then. It just happens, every time I go to Brazil to visit my family, I must visit her as well. She was my little black sister while in the USA, by “little” I mean younger, because she was definitely the responsible one in this relationship. She is the one I would call when I didn’t know what to do.

Preta, every time I think about going to Brazil I get even more excited because I know I will get the chance to not only see you again but to PARTY, Brazilian style.

Marina Simoni: St Croix Falls, USA 2009 / Londrina, Brazil 2011

Just like it happened with Luisa, Marina and I had a great time in the USA since the start of our Exchange. She lived far away in Albert Lea, so every time we got to see each other was special. We went to her Albert Lea prom together, needless to say that we were the best looking Brazilian couple there. I had the chance to see Marina again after busing for 24 hours from Luisa’s place.  June 29th was when I arrived in Londrina, I stayed with Marina’s family for a week. She sure had grown and gotten a boyfriend, but hadn’t settled down. We danced, went out and enjoyed ourselves to the maximum. I can’t wait to see her again, but I know it won’t take long.

Sofia Silva: Atlanta, USA 2010 / Arica, Chile 2011

Sofia and I never had the chance to talk much during our exchange. When she arrived in the USA, she didn’t know English, and my Spanish wasn’t what it is now, so we just never talked much. But once we started the East Coast Trip, at the end of our Exchange Year, we had a chance to get to know each other. And I am glad we did, Sofia is a smart, strong and independent woman, and I got the chance to see that when I visited her in Arica, Chile.

Wuashi perri, I realize that we didn’t spend much time together, but the little that we did was very important for me.

Dámariz Romero: Orono, USA 2010 / Quito, Ecuador 2011

Dama was the fourth of the Inbounds I got to see again. I made it to Ecuador at the end of July, 2010, more than a month after I had left home backpacking. I stayed with Dama and her family for most of the time and I had a great time seeing her again. While in the USA we went to a Sadies Dance together in Orono, and we had fun in our own way, not only there but at the Rotary events, at the MOA and just about every time we saw each other. With her I learned to be proud of my Latin blood, I learned to love it. I realized it was a part of us, that made us not only unique, but also spicier, if you know what I mean.

Nicole Olmedo: St Croix Falls, USA 2009 / Quito, Ecuador 2011

Nikki and I always have always had this connection. We had a great time together throughout our year, we had a fantastic time during the East Coast Trip, and I just couldn’t wait to see her again. So I got my backpack and left for Ecuador. I couldn’t believe how much she had grown. Between going to college and driving around she was the same Nikki I had met, still responsible but genuinely crazy. Someone I can talk to anytime I need, and that will try to understand my side and rationalize with me.

Bonbon, thank you for being there for me, for never giving up in our friendship and for being the princess that you are. Te amo.

Philipp Roehl: New York, USA 2010 / Bordeaux, France 2012

If it wasn’t fate, then I don’t know what could have been. For an entire year I was oblivious of Philipp, but somehow we got placed as roommates for the East Coast Trip. The differences between us were colossal, or so it seemed like. Independent of that we became friends right away. He didn’t always understand why I did things or my reasoning, but he always trusted me, he was never judgmental, and in less than 4 weeks we had as much fun as we possibly could have had. I got to see Philipp again when he came to visit me in Bordeaux, France. It had been two years since we had seen each other, we were clearly in different stages of our lives, and it was rough at first, but the chemistry was still there, it was just a matter of reconnecting.

Yes, all of us still had our differences, but the bond we’ve created overcomes that. Nothing made me happier than seeing each one of them again and realizing that just like during our exchange year, we will be there for each other for the rest of our lives, or as long as we both want it.  It is not easy to keep a long distance friendship going, it is even harder when the larger part of your relationships are like that. But at the end of the day, it is absolutely worth the effort.

And for the others, just wait for me, I’m coming.

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