Thursday, April 1, 2010

How we got here

A while back I got an email from a friend who was very surprised to hear that we were moving to Brazil, and wanted to know what lead us to move here. So Scottie-Pooh, this is for you.

1. It is a cold, winter night in December of 1990, Cashmere, Washington. The Ryan family kids were out sledding down our driveway at good 'ol Red Apple Road. After about 50 trips down the slick driveway, I let the sled keep going, and ended up a way down the dirt road by our neighbor's apple orchard. I left the sled, and walked, admiring the starry sky and entertaining romantic notions of what life should be (ah, to be a 16 year old again). Suddenly it occurred to me that I wanted to travel, and it was my hope to one day live in a foreign country. I walked back in the snow toward our house, and vowed to make it happen.

2. I decided to study Spanish in college, to help me get closer to this goal. Unfortunately, I didn't study abroad, but I did get to spend a summer working at an orphanage in Mexico, and having a Spanish speaking roommate helped me immensely. In college I was very involved with a campus ministry that helped me think about the world, culture, language and race relations in a unique way. I made it a point to build relationships with people who were different from me, and was hungry to learn about how these friends operated in their cultures and what it meant for them to live in the U.S. I have friends from Pakistan, Japan, India, Vietnam, and other places because of this curiosity.

3. Matt and I got married in Washington State, lived in Eugene, OR, and we wanted to live in a more diverse community. When the opportunity arose to move to Arizona, we decided to go for it. We worked at ASU. We had three kids. Matt got his doctorate. I stayed at home with the kids, went back to work, tried my hand at several things, but still dreamed about moving overseas.

4. About a year ago, Matt saw the posting for his current position online, and mentioned it to me. I thought it would be cool if he could audition, but it wasn't really feasible for him to fly with his cello to Brazil for an audition. Then in the fall of 2010, as Matt is quickly approaching graduation, he saw that the Orquestra was holding auditions in New York. We had two free tickets from frequent flier miles. And amazing friends in New Jersey who offered to host him. Matt went for the audition, and they told him, "we'll email you." He thought, "yeah, right!" Then a few days after returning to Arizona, he got an email, and was offered a job. Matt was pretty much sold then and there, but I was hesitant. What about the kids? What would I do? Could we afford to move? What about the house in Arizona? Finally, my dear friend Abby asked me, "would you regret it if you didn't move?" And then and there I knew: yes. I would regret it. This is what I've been waiting for.

5. Most days I feel pretty crazy for having made this move. I mean really, who does this kind of thing? I do. We do. It comes at a cost--missing family TERRIBLY, not knowing how to communicate, missing all our networks of friends and dear ones. But I keep telling myself it is worth it. It is worth it to eat mangoes. It is worth it to play with the kids in the swimming pool and laugh with them as George the kitten chases his tail. It is worth it to hear for the 1000th time how "linda" my daughters are, and how beautiful Sebastian's eyes are. It is worth it be stretched and pushed to learn new things, and realize who we really are as people. And it is worth it to be totally lost in a city of 4 million people, not speak a word of intelligible Portuguese, and have a bus full of people ready to drop their plans to help me get home. It is good.


  1. What a good story! Ain't life funny like that?! I also owe you an email, which I will write after we return from Mato Grosso!

  2. Shell, your true calling in Life is to live it to the fullest and then write about it!! What a wonderful story that only YOU could write with such feeling.....I was totally sucked into the story from the starty and I don't want it to end.........KEEP WRITING!!!! Love, Mom

  3. Hey Shelley! Thank you so much for sending me the link to your blog! I am so glad to be able to follow your adventures in Brazil. This post gave me chills! I can't wait to read more. I hope you & the family continue to be happy & healthy! -JoAnne

  4. great post, shelley! i'm so glad you're posting through the days - it's fun to hear about all of these adventures! missing you guys...but happy that things are going well so far!! <3 steph

  5. on 'flowers' I talk about living here under both 'culture shock' and 'culture' lables, listed on the left hand sidepanel.

    if you find posts with no photos - i am working my way through those - started Picasa photo storage and by error deleted a folder - my photos were linked to picasa instead of my computer.... drat - double drat.

    a link to another mother with 3 boys living in Brasil

  6. sorry forgot the link.