Raquel L. Miranda, Brazilian by birth, lived and studied in Argentina. Worked as an international researcher in the USA, before marrying and becoming a Foreign Service ‘hauling spouse’, mother of 3 third-culture children, all under the age of 7! Currently posted in Recife, Brazil - previous posts including Washington, DC and Maputo, Mozambique.
1. Why did you move abroad?
I was born abroad! [smiles!] My parents used to be public servers with the Brazilian government, so we traveled a lot. With a background in science and research, I was always on a plane, traveling to conferences or symposiums. Then, one day, 11 years ago, resting at the beach in Brazil, while taking a break from my PhD research and endless lecture preparation at the university, I met the one who would become my husband – he was a charming 26 year-old pre-grad student, interested in international politics, and (surprise!), who liked to travel around the world. When an offer to work as a researcher at the University of California (at Davis) came along, I felt like it was a great opportunity to give my then-growing relationship, a shot! And, so far, it’s been working pretty well! Every couple of years our family moves to a different post, adjusts to different cultures, different settings – and we love it! It’s challenging, but intriguing, and it can be a lot of fun! We are an adventures group of people, and we tend not to be afraid of new tasks.
2. How do you make a living?
As I mentioned before, I’m a trained scientist – really geeky stuff, biochemistry, physiology (even wrote an online book [http://3rdculturechildren.com/10-yr-old-book/] on that)… things that my husband would say “could bore people to death”, but, it’s one of my passions. Currently, I’m a teacher at the American School of Recife, for middle & high school. I have been very fortunate with the fact that in every new post, I’m always able to find fulfilling jobs, within my area of knowledge, which also allow me time to spend with my family, cooking, traveling, snapping photographs and writing about our experiences, with a very peculiar view – I’m a wife of a diplomat, a mom of TCKs, a committed parent, and an expat who cheers any opportunity to assist other expat women through their adjustment processes… It gives me a sense of responsibility and it’s very rewarding. And I get to do all that in a foreign country, meeting new and exciting people – and blogging about it! Could it be any better?
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
At least once a week, using Skype or Skype phone. Over email, facebook, tweeter updates (@3rdculturechild) as well, and sharing our weekly updates through the blog, where family and friends can take a glimpse at our daily routine, our impressions, findings and photos. Considering we’re currently posted in Brazil, communicating with our Brazilian family is also possible through long distance phone calls – my kids love speaking Portuguese with their Brazilian grandparents!
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat?
Right now, I feel like we’re this, sort of “hybrid” expat family in Brazil. First, because I was born here, and speak the language, and husband is pretty fluent, as well. Second, our kids are fully immersed into the culture, despite the fact they’ve never lived here before. We love the music, the colors the vibe! I forgot how much I liked the Brazilian “way of being”, since I’ve been gone for a long time…
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat?
Sometimes you may have false hopes that things would work in a certain way, and they don’t. The ones who are currently living in and experiencing Brazil, can totally understand that! [smiles!] Obeying schedules is definitely a weak link – at the end, you just have to laugh at life, and let things flow! And another interesting point, is that, because I was born in Brazil, other expats have the tendency to come to me for explanations, and reasoning… and you know, even though I’m “from here”, there are a lot of things that don’t make much sense, you just have to take them face-value, accept, and enjoy the ride!
6. What do you miss most?
I miss the convenience of a reliable public transportation system. Unfortunately, Brazil is working towards that path, but we still have a long way (and years!) ahead of us. The proximity of the World Cup is proving to be a great incentive for Brazilian’s traffic engineering, which is a pretty positive aspect. Oh… and considering we’re living in Recife, Pernambuco, right now, there not a lot of US food chains… boy, I miss a good latte with Dunkin Donuts…
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
I’m currently part of several different social networks in town – due to my work at the American School, and with a local volunteering women’s society. I try to be very involved with the kids’ school activities, presentations, events, field trips, as well as getting together with other school moms, for serious discussions or simply, for fun. Because of work-related activities and events, we get to meet a lot of other expats and/or career diplomats along the way. It’s a very positive spin. You get to meet wonderful, worldly people, as well as some others, not yet prepared for life-on-the-road… They’re both interesting and intriguing groups of people, offering you countless opportunities to learn – about life, what to do, and certainly, what not to do, or how not to behave... You never stop learning, and people never cease to amaze you… [smiles!]
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
My adopted culture? Let’s see… My Portuguese-Brazilian family raised me to be a housewife, with a foot on the Science court. My adopted Mexican-American family has embraced me, and taught how to understand differences. My travel experiences have shown me life can be pretty easy, if you’ve got a positive perspective, and the will to learn… So, what I found the strangest? Maybe people who are not willing to accept change, or are scared about it. Change is good.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
Or adopted countries, I’d say… This one is easy: if one is talking about Brazil, the greatest myth is that Brazil’s only got soccer and beaches (which are gorgeous, by the way!) – but there’s so much more about the Brazilian culture, its society, its economy, totally worthy to be checked out! And, if someone else is curious about the African culture, birthplace of our daughter, holding a very special spot close to my heart, I’d say, despite the difficulties and the poverty, there’s an indescribable beauty beyond its people’s faces; there’s joy and there’s love for life, love for the others.
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
Compared to Washington, DC, here the cost of living is higher. But you’ve got many things to make up for the high expenses… For example, our beachfront apartment is one of these good things – not ours, though! [smiles!]
11. What advice would you give other expats?
Try to learn as much as you can, about the language, the culture. Try to understand the way your host country thinks, and why its people would react in certain ways towards life. Try to learn about the country’s history and its successes. Show respect and offer assistance. That way, you’re not only going to begin making good friends, but also, you’ll receive a lot of respect and admiration back, and remember that you carry the face of your country abroad – try to be the best “business card” possible! [smiles!]
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I initially began the blog (March 2011) to share my impressions, observations and along-the-road experiences with our families and friends, and later other expats experiencing similar challenges/adventures. So it morphed into more than just a quasi-travel and photo journal. I liked the idea of organizing not only our travel notes, but also providing resources for other parents, and encouraging an exchange of ideas through comments, questions and suggestions from viewers. The name for the blog came from the term itself: “Third Culture Children” (as you may find more information from one of its pages) are children whose parents come from distinct cultures, and grow up under a hybrid environment, experiencing diverse cultural growth. My favorite part of blogging is having the ability to convert ideas, impressions and images into stories, shared advice, resources to other parents/families/travelers. The excitement of spotting a routine event and transforming it into a surprisingly positive post. I’m a traveler, a researcher, an author, a mom. With an endless desire to learn, discover and share…
Raquel's blog, 3rd Culture Children
Find out more about being an expat in Brazil with Easy Expat's
To be considered for an interview (as well as other articles), add your blog to BlogExpat!