Gabriel came from Recife, Brazil to live with our family in early August, 2013. His English was still developing, but his giant smile and immediate embrace of each one of us at the airport won over our hearts in an instant. Everything was easy from the first moment with Gabriel. There was never any doubt in our minds that he belonged in our family.
We have so many, many wonderful memories of time spent together despite the fact that we never left home beyond a restaurant visit in a neighboring city. Whether it was laughing together over his first meeting with the school athletic director who thought if he just yelled louder Gabriel’s understanding of English would suddenly improve, spending way too much time waiting on him while he flew around Hollister in search of the perfect clothes for school, or giggling together in the car as we asked Siri answers to stupid questions, Gabriel routinely filled every moment of our mundane life with joy and laughter.
His enthusiasm for life was infectious and his gratitude and love for us expressed every day. I joked with his local coordinator that Gabriel had no idea what “personal space” was, but we both agreed that he represented everything good, fun and lovable about Brazilian culture. He was always cool under pressure, loved and accepted everyone, and never, never found a problem worthy enough to ruin the beauty of being alive one more day.
Gabriel played on the high school soccer team, made best friends with the neighbor down the street, found about 1,000 new friends in and around his high school classes, and fell in love with his first American girlfriend during the short ten months he stayed with us. He managed to encourage his host Dad to commit to intense workouts at the gym and entertained us with his passion for ketchup on pizza and resistance to wearing a winter coat, even during the coldest months because it made him, “look like a dork”. Gabriel introduced us to more people in our community than we had ever known before because of his infectious ability to engage everyone he met.
Gabriel very quickly took over a large part of my ever growing mother’s heart. His grandparents, who only spoke Portuguese, came to visit and travel about the USA with him at the end of his exchange year. Gabriel, interpreting for his grandfather during dinner at our house one of the last nights we were together said, “My grandpa says…..he knows I have always wanted a family with a Mom and a Dad and brothers and sisters, a big family and…he can see, being here with you, that I have found my family. He says he is very thankful for you being my American family”.
One of the hardest goodbyes I have ever experienced was dropping Gabriel off at the hotel room of his grandparents before they left for the rest of their tour of the US. We both cried buckets of tears and promised over and over again we would see each other soon. That was nearly three years ago, and even though we still haven’t had the opportunity to reunite officially, our love and friendship remain strong.
I can’t imagine our family without Gabriel. I am grateful for AYA, for the opportunity to participate in hosting an exchange student, and of course for Gabriel’s family in Brazil who sent him to the USA to live out a dream and meet his American family.
Academic Year in America is currently searching for qualified host families for the 2017-2018 school year. Whether you choose to act as a Welcome family, host a semester student, or dive right in for a full academic year, I promise you, it will be an experience you will never forget.
One thought on “Meet my Brazilian”son”, Gabriel”
Thank you so much “mom”, you know how to touch my heart. It made me remind the first time i saw you guys at the airport, everybody with a big smile and a big poster saying “Welcome Gabriel!”, in the other side , me, trying to talk with you guys and no words would come out, looking around to see if was anybody around speaking Portuguese or even Spanish (haha, no, just kidding, here in Brazil we do not speak Spanish) and suddenly i understood that, that very moment was the beginning of my exchange program in US, was just me and you guys. I remember getting in the car with already that feeling of the “stupid kid” in town lol, everybody trying to talk to me, and me not getting a single word until my mom say “food!”, (that word i had learned very well before i left my country) finally someone spoke real english with me haha, and we all went to wendy’s i think. Felt like i was in some type of game or something, everything very different that what i was used to live in Brazil, other people, other country, other language, other family, other friends. But days went by and you guys made everything feel like home to me. You guys are a very special family cause all of you carry a lot of love, all of you know the real meaning of the word love and that is very important in a real family! I thank all of you for all you did to me. Today i feel like i have two different lives, one in Brazil and one in US just like a game haha, right now im playing Brazil but soon i hope play US and live all of that again with you guys. Miss you all and hope to see you guys soon!