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Posted: June 20, 2018
After epically failing at learning guitar as a coping mechanism, my distraction options were somewhat limited. I turned on the TV, I honestly can’t even remember what I put on because my head was just not there. What I do remember is that every time I took a minute to close my eyes, take deep breaths, and pull myself together, my phone would ring. While I know I made and received so many calls that afternoon, all the details from those hours are such a blur.
I asked my sister recently if she remembered what I said to her when I called her to tell her what had happened. She half joking, half bitterly, told me that I never actually called her – even though she was watching our dog – she heard about everything from our father. Yeah, that was my bad… I could have sworn I called her… Oops…
Anyways, back to the story -- although everything was a blur some calls do stand out in my mind:
(1) The Charleston South Carolina Attorney
I called several law firms in South Carolina. Of course, because it was Saturday I ended up leaving messages. One of the attorneys did call me back relatively quickly and was willing to try to help. From this attorney, I found out that another passenger from the same cruise line had been detained re-entering the country a couple weeks back. That was mind blowing to me. How could this have just happened to someone, but they were still so lax about us getting on the ship without double checking our papers?
After filling in the attorney as much as I could, he offered to make some calls to see what he could find out.
Spoiler alert, this was not the first attorney I consulted with, and nowhere near the last attorney I would consult with. Like the majority of attorneys I consulted with, this attorney eventually came to the conclusion there was nothing that could be done. In the event Matt would be able to come back, it would take years for him to be able to reapply for a visa under the immigration laws. Furthermore, for him to come back, we would have to be able to show hardship – which was highly unlikely because it is hard to prove in a case like ours. Let’s just say while this advice wasn’t 100% wrong, it definitely under the facts of our case was not right.
I do feel like I should make a point of saying that UNLIKE the majority of attorneys I consulted with, this one was incredibly kind. He chose his words carefully, spoke to me with respect, and spoke to me like he genuinely cared. I don’t fault him for the advice he provided – he called me back on a Saturday, did what he could on the spot with the limited information he had, and he did it for free. As I just mentioned, the mistake he made was one more attorneys with more information then he had at the time were going to make.
Here is the thing about immigration law in the United States, it is incredibly complex. We have a huge issue in our country where many attorneys do not understand the complexities of immigration law, which ends up being detrimental to their clients. At the time, I had didn’t know that. All I knew was that I would consult with as many people as I could, I wasn’t going to give up, and Matt would be able to come home.
(2) The Immigration Law Judge
One of my best friends had a family friend who was an immigration law judge. Of course, because this friend just an amazing human being, she did everything she could to get me a phone call with this judge. Our hope was that the judge had practiced long enough she would be able to at least provide some guidance as to what my next steps should be.
I feel like I should preface this by saying this judge was under no obligation to take this call. While the call didn’t go as I had hoped, she did take time out of her weekend to talk to me which was incredibly nice of her.
With that being said, that call was absolutely soul crushing.
I was at a point I was mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted – I still didn’t know what I was doing. I had obviously interrupted the judge in the middle of a social event as she was very short and didn’t really seem to attempt to hide the irritation in her voice. I don’t remember exactly what she told me because as soon as I heard her say there was nothing that could be done I just tuned out.
(3) The Brazilian Consulate
I finally got a call back from someone at the Brazilian consulate. The call was in Portuguese at first – that made it incredibly difficult to communicate what had happened. I finally had to switch to English, which the guy seemed to speak just fine. The conversation went something like this:
Consulate: So he has been arrested?
Consulate: We can’t do anything. Call the Brazilian Embassy.
Me: I have tried and left a message. I can’t get a hold of anyone.
Consulate: Try again Monday.
I had hoped he would be able to give me another number, connect me with someone, really anything at all… But nope, it was something that would have to be addressed during business hours by calling the main phone line.
Yeah, there were a lot of deep breaths taken that day.
I felt like no matter what I tried I hit a wall. I didn’t feel like I had made any progress. I still had no idea what was going on or what was going to happen. I felt like I was going to lose it again, but then I got a phone call from an unknown number…
Featured Photo: This photo was taken in June 2013 on a boat ride in Buzios, Rio de Janiero. Since we are getting to a point in the story where we only have pictures when we got to see one another -- I'll be using some of my old favorites!
Posted: May 22, 2018
You can only stare at a phone for so long before you start realizing it is probably not a productive use of your time or your emotions. I got to that point pretty quickly.
I decided I needed to find something which would distract me until a call came in – until there was news or something that I could do.
A quick Google search told me there was an outlet nearby. For me, shopping is always a good way to pass the time. If it deal hunting shopping – like at an outlet – even better! The shopping idea turned out to be better in theory then in reality. I didn’t even make it out of the car. I remember parking, opening up the car mirror to see if I could play off the whole “oh yeah I totally wasn’t just having a mental breakdown” look, and just losing it again. It’s okay though, who was I kidding, after ugly crying for over an hour my face was so swollen and blotchy there was no way I would be able to walk around without people noticing something was seriously wrong with me.
You know how sometimes in desperate situations you come up with crazy irrational ideas as coping mechanisms? Nope? Maybe it’s just me.
At some point during my public parking lot cry it occurred to me I could channel all these emotions into something productive. I could teach myself how to play guitar – yeah, I know, I obviously think very highly of myself. I remember that I stopped crying when the idea hit me because in my head it was genius. I had always wanted to learn how to play guitar. I could teach myself while I waited for news and it would be a welcome distraction. I just needed to find a guitar….
And just like that it was back to the Google! I found the closest Guitar Center and set off to buy myself a guitar – or as I considered it at the time, the solution to all of my problems. About $250 later I had everything I needed for my master plan. I have a very vague recollection of embarrassing myself in GuitarCenter with some tears, but fortunately for me there is no documentation of that, so I don’t have to fully remember.
Anyways, from there I decided to go check back in to the hotel Matt and I had stayed at the night before the cruise. I knew where it was, that it was clean, and that it was safe – so it seemed like the best thing to do at the time.
The first thing I did once I got to the room – after checking the closet and anywhere else a murderer can hide – was open up my new guitar. I picked it up and carefully placed my fingers on the frets just like it said to in the “Teach Yourself to Play Guitar” book I bought.
I strummed the guitar and it made the most beautiful sound – I was a natural. I slowly started to play my first song and despite everything going on, I felt a sense of peace.
I am 100% kidding – that would have been great though. The reality of the situation was I strummed the guitar ONCE. It made a terrible off key noise. I immediately started ugly crying again and audibly said “I suck at guitar. What a stupid idea.”
To this day, my friends and family refer to that guitar as “the Deportation Guitar” – it has been passed around between my siblings who are far more talented than I will ever be.
For those of you wondering, I still do not know how to play guitar.
SIDE NOTE: After a couple of weeks, as a family, we were able to locate the "deportation guitar". I look forward to being able to share some super extra pictures with you once the weather clears up.
In the meantime, you can enjoy a totally unrelated picture from our engagement shoot because I couldn't postpone the next part of our story any longer :)
Posted: May 2, 2018
“Ma’am WHAT is wrong!? You are driving around with your trunk open.”
The officer was staring at me with somewhat of an alarmed look on his face.
I was sobbing – but I know at some point I was able to get out that I had just left the port, my boyfriend had been detained, and that I was trying to figure out what to do.
A lot of this day is a blur to me, but for some reason I can still remember the officer's face and how it immediately softened. The officer told me to take a deep breath and said something to the effect of “here is what you are going to do. You are going to pull over here so we are out of the way. You are going to call the Brazilian Consulate and the Brazilian Embassy. I am going to go get you a water, and then I am going to be in my car over there. If you need anything at all, I will be right over there.”
I have no idea how long I was parked there. I do know that I called the Embassy, and the Embassy told me there was nothing they could do and that I had to call the Consulate. I called the Consulate and got a voicemail – which was all in Portuguese.
Now is probably a good time to mention that my father’s side of the family is Portuguese. My parents moved us to Portugal when I graduated 6th grade in hopes that I was young enough that I would learn Portuguese, and be able to speak it without an American accent. Jury is still out on that…. I am pretty sure at this point my accent is some bizarre mixture of Continental Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese, with a touch of American something. This however, is a topic that can be discussed in a later post – getting back to the story.
In hindsight, my Portuguese at the time wasn’t great – and that is probably an understatement. I am pretty sure I tried to leave the message in Portuguese and then maybe I switched to English?
Anyways, after making both of those calls I was still in the same desperate situation. I had emailed one of my law school professors, called some friends (I think), then called a few lawyers and left messages. Remember, it was a weekend, so it wasn’t exactly the ideal time to be getting a hold of people. After a while, the only thing I could do was wait.
I took a deep breath and walked back to the officer’s car to thanked him for his help and let him know I would be leaving. I wish I could remember his name. The officer was one of the few extraordinary individuals that really made a difference just by being kind – and as you will eventually see, there weren’t very many of those people. He could have written me a ticket. He could have told me to calm down or even just told me to shut my trunk and then drive away. I doubt he knows the impact that he had, but I genuinely am grateful that he was the one to pull me over.
I pulled away with no idea of what I was going to do – but I know that at the time I did think that ultimately, some way some how, I would be able to fix everything. I would get a lawyer, talk to Consulate, talk to my Congressmen – someone would be able to fix this because it wasn’t fair. It wasn’t justice.
In my head, there was no way America, my country, would send someone back to a country where they hadn’t lived ten years. Matt was basically American – he had attended high school and college in the US, he had no accent when he spoke English – he didn’t even fluently speak Portuguese anymore. He didn’t have a home in Brazil. It made no sense. I knew it was just a matter of talking to the right person, I mean obviously there had been a mistake made.
You know when you get to the point that you have done everything you can possibly do in a situation? As I drove away from the officer, that was the point I had hit. I had called everyone I could think of. Now, I was just driving aimlessly staring at the road with my phone in my peripheral, trying to figure out what I was going to do...
Posted: April 30, 2018
This process of sharing our story, even though we are still in the very beginning, has been surprisingly therapeutic. I knew I had suppressed a lot of the memories of what we went through – I purposely tried to forget. For a long time I struggled with dealing with all the emotions that came flooding back when something reminded me about what we had been through – or what we were going through. I guess I rationalized that if I just didn’t think about it anymore I would be better off.
Here is the thing though – writing our story, forcing myself to remember, has made me realize forgetting all this stuff hasn’t left me better off like I thought it would. For almost three years when we were separated I promised myself that if we could be back together I would do things differently. I promised myself I wouldn’t take our time together for granted, I wouldn’t take him for granted, I wouldn’t go to sleep angry – amongst other things. Well, let’s just say I have gone to bed angry, over some pretty stupid things, more then a few times over the past couple years.
I guess what I am trying to say is forcing myself to remember all of this, puts things back into perspective for me. Over the past couple weeks I have found myself apologizing sooner, taking a breath and letting things go faster, or maybe even not worrying about stupid things – because at the end of the day does it really matter if he forgot he isn’t supposed to put the little espresso cup in the sink?
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like we have lived the past three years fighting over an espresso cup. We have been incredibly happy. As all relationships go we have had our ups and downs. We have had weeks where it was like we were on our honeymoon again, and then weeks where everything he says makes me want to throw my coffee at him (yeah my coffee – we all know I don’t waste caffeine). That’s just #marriedlife – also probably just life when you are with someone all day every day – I think I have already mentioned in addition to being married we also work together.
Anyways, writing our story has brought me back to the headspace where I am remembering that I am with a guy who loves me so much he asked me to marry him not knowing when we would be in the same country again – or even which country that would be. I am with a guy who would stay up with me late at night, despite the time difference and terrible Skype connection, to give me a pep talks about how I was going to kill my exams. I am with a guy who, after I moved to Brazil to be with him, was selfless enough to tell me to move back to the states and finish law school because he could see I wasn’t happy there (spoiler alert – yeah I know I’m sorry we will get there eventually). I am with a guy who has proven time and time again he would do anything for me and for us.
So yeah, maybe I can cut him a little slack when it comes to leaving that dang espresso cup in the sink.
I am sure 50% of you are reading this thinking it is sweet and the other 50% of you are reading this thinking “this better not be her post for this week – I don’t actually care about this crap and just want you to get back to the story”. I will get back to the story, and it will be this week.
Posted: April 25, 2018
The cruise itself was pretty awesome. We explored the Bahamas, went snorkeling, ate our weight in food – all good stuff. Our last night on the cruise, we noticed my name on a little framed piece of paper in the ships casino lobby [pictured]. The frame in the lobby was saying I had won a raffle for our bar tab to get paid up to $500. I think our tab was right around $300 so we were pretty excited.
I remember that night, after finding out we had won the raffle, we went up to the top deck of the ship and sat down under the stars. We were the only ones up there besides one guy who was running on the track – good for him right? Anyways, we stayed up there for about an hour talking about what a good time the cruise was, how awesome it was that our cabin was chosen for the free bar tab, and about our future. I remember Matt saying something to the effect of “looks like things are finally turning around”. In hindsight that comment was pretty hysterical – I told you, I have a warped sense of humor right?
Some of you may be wondering why Matt would make a comment about things turning around, well, before we went on the cruise, we had hit a little bit of a rough patch in our relationship.
I feel like in order for you to have the full picture of what we were going through I have to be brutally honest, not only with you guys, but with myself too. I know it would be really easy to look back and strategically pick the parts that would portray us in the best light – but I don’t think that would do our story justice. Also, I don’t think that would be fair to those of you reading along who may be going through this. One of my pet peeves is how people focus on portraying perfection online, even when it isn’t the reality of the situation. So, you have my word, I am going to do my best to not do that.
Back to the story – Matt and I had been dating since late summer/early fall of 2011. We don’t have a dating anniversary because at the time I had just gotten out of a long-term relationship and was hesitant to make anything “Facebook official” or really to have any labels.
We’ve been together so long that sometimes it is hard to look back and remember specific details – unless of course I have filed something in my “never forget this” part of my brain to bring back up later. JUST KIDDING – okay I am partially kidding, but I have gotten a lot better about that.
Even though we weren’t official we fell for one another really hard and really fast. We had so many good times, but really bad fights too. The one bad fight I can remember from that time, that is the perfect example of the unhealthy rough patch we were in. The fight was about him not coming to my apartment one night. We lived about 45 minutes from one another, and spent most of our time together. One night he had gone back to his place to hang out with his roommate and I wanted him to cover over afterwards. He told me he was going to stay in for the night because he had a headlight out and didn’t want to risk driving over in the dark and getting a ticket. I remember screaming at him, pretty much losing my mind because in my head it wasn’t important to him that he come over. I’m pretty sure he had even told me I could come to him – only god knows why that wasn’t an acceptable answer to me at the time.
I’ve known how stupid this particular fight was, but somehow writing it out makes it seem even stupider. I am happy to report our relationship is no longer like that – but that was one of many stupid fights we had around that point in our relationship. When we went on this cruise, both of us were at a point where despite having talked about our future plans, marriage, kids, etc., we were wondering if we were going to make it.
On Saturday, March 17, 2012 the Carnival Fantasy returned to the Port of Charleston SC. The line to go through Customs and Immigration seemed to be taking forever. When it was finally our turn we provided our passports to the agent who asked us the normal questions when you re-enter the country. The agent asked if we could step aside because another agent had to check Matt’s passport. We went to what we now know to be secondary inspection and the passports were handed over. At that point I still wasn’t worried – we had never traveled out of the country together before and I thought it was just part of having an international passport. As we were walking back towards secondary I remember joking to Matt that it looked like he was going to be deported ::WHAT A TERRIBLE JOKE:: -- we both had a giggle at that one since we still had no idea what was happening.
We were called up to the counter where another Immigration Agent asked us questions – where we lived, where Matt went to school --- I honestly can’t remember the other questions. Can you believe at this point I still had no idea that we should be nervous? A third agent came out and asked Matt to follow him to the back room because they “just had a couple more questions”.
Matt looked at me and said he would be right back – or something to that effect. I told him I would take a seat and wait. A few minutes later the third agent came back out and told me I could leave because Matt wouldn’t be leaving with me.
It was only at THAT point that I started to panic. I remember the following exchange:
Me: What do you mean I can leave? We live 8 hours away I can’t come back and pick him up later, so I will wait.
Agent 3: No, he is going to be removed, he won’t be going home.
Me: I don’t understand. He has a visa to be here. What is going on?
Agent 3: This no longer concerns you. You can leave.
Me: I am not leaving without knowing what is going on. I am going to call an attorney for him.
Agent: This no longer concerns you and he does not have the right to an attorney.
Me: Of course he has the right to an attorney -everyone has the right to an attorney! (Note: he actually did not have the right to an attorney, but I will explain that in a later post)
Agent: Ma'am you need to calm down. ::even as I write this I roll my eyes::
Me: Did you just tell me to calm down? Do you have any idea how I feel right now? Have you ever been in the situation where someone you love is being removed from the country?
Agent: Well, no.
Me: Can I talk to him?
Agent: No, it is a matter of national security.
We went on to argue about how I wanted to know where he was going and how I didn’t have a right to know because of national security. The agent told me Matt said I could take all the bags. It got to a point I knew there was nothing else I could do. I think someone helped me with the bags, but honestly I was in shock and it’s all a blur. I didn’t have my phone because I left it in my car in the parking garage before we went on the cruise.
I remember tearing my car apart looking for my phone and then getting pulled over right outside the Port because I was driving with my trunk open….
Posted: April 24, 2018
Yesterday while searching for our legal filings I stumbled across emails between Matt and I in the days following his removal. I had totally forgotten that during his first days back in Brazil the only way we were able to communicate affordably was via email. I was able to read about ten emails before I had to put them away to go back to later. There are so many details that I had totally forgotten (maybe subconsciously suppressed) that came flooding back to me reading those emails. It’s crazy how you can go years without thinking about something, when an email, a picture, a song, can instantly put you back in that moment.
As you know if you have been following, I took Matt on a cruise to celebrate his 25th birthday – now that we can laugh about everything (almost) the running joke is that I got Matt removed from America for his 25th birthday – my family has a really warped sense of humor… okay fine, I have a really warped sense of humor too…
Sunday, March 11, 2012 we made the 8-hour drive down to South Carolina – I drove and Matt slept. You know how you learn “cute” little things about your significant other the further you get into a relationship? Well that trip I learned my boyfriend was essentially a toddler when it came to road trips. Two minutes in the car and he is out like a light --- worst co-pilot ever. I am sure if he had known that our time together was limited, he would have fought the sleepiness and taken advantage of that time together – but you know hindsight is always 20/20. In case you were wondering, that was the last road trip where I drove. We travel A LOT for work and take some SUPER LONG road trips – there is no conversation about who is driving. I hop in the passenger seat and stay awake chatting with him no matter how long the trip is – yeah I’m an awesome co-pilot.
Anyways, this isn’t the story you want to hear. Jumping back to Monday, March 12, 2012 – the first day of the cruise. We woke up bright and early excited like little kids on Christmas morning. We wanted to get to the Port as early as possible so we didn’t miss even a minute of our cruise vacation!
As we were lining up at the port to have our tickets checked and board the cruise, some super fancy gentlemen came to take our bags from us so they could put them in our room. When it was finally our turn to go to the counter, we provided the Carnival employee with our tickets and IDs. The elderly lady checking us in was super sweet, and I feel like I should preface this by saying we do not blame her – she was trying to be nice and provide a high level of customer service.
The lady checked our tickets and then asked Matt to see his visa. We responded that it was in our bag which the gentleman had taken – but we could run and get it because we could still see our bags. She responded – “oh no, it’s okay I am sure it’s fine” – with that she ran our tickets and welcomed us to the Carnival Fantasy.
::Spoiler Alert – it wasn’t fine::
We boarded the ship super excited for what we didn’t know would be the beginning of the hardest chapters of our lives.
Posted: April 20, 2018
For a few years now I have talked about how I want to write our story. I have this little voice in the back of my head that keeps telling me I am going to regret it if I don't.
Until now, I have always put it off and had reasons as to why this should be something I do later. Now a 10 hour flight, as I sit down and open my computer I realize that maybe the undiscussed reason I haven’t done this yet is because it is still hard to think about. I know that may seem silly considering we just celebrated our third-year wedding anniversary and logically all of that should be a distant memory. But when it comes down to it, it’s just not.
I think we have both put it way into the back of our minds as we go on with our lives – I know Matt would rather keep it there, filed away and never discussed. For me it's not that easy. I feel like this story is important to be told, even if I have tried really hard to move past it.
I did such a good job of forgetting, to write this I actually had to dig into my playlist for that “oh skip this one” song that I listened to on repeat while I made the 8 hour drive back from Charleston SC alone, devastated, trying to rack my brain as to what I was going to do to “fix” everything that had just happened.
I can’t explain it, but playing this song instantly brings me back to that day. Hearing the words over and over again and that helpless feeling I felt. I remember only stopping the song to answer phone calls from the few family and friends who I had called in hysterics and were trying to figure out how they could help.
The song is “I want to make you love me” by Andy Gibson. It’s funny because the song is about love, but it was incredibly random. As you’ll see over time through out these blog posts, I did a lot of random things as coping mechanisms – like purchasing my $200 deportation guitar, that to this day I cannot play – but we will get to that later. The most logical explanation I have for choosing that song to play on repeat is that the love I felt for Matt on that day was stronger than anything I had ever felt for anyone. Knowing I could very likely lose him made me want to focus on those feelings. I guess in a way focusing on those feelings in that moment gave some unexplained feeling of optimism as I drove trying to focus on my productive thoughts and drown out the negative ones.
I look at this picture and think about how blissfully ignorant we were. We had no idea what was going to happen in just a few days. I think about how different we are now.
The only way for me to tell this story, from my perspective, is piece by piece and sometimes bouncing back and forth. The story will only be from my perspective and isn't an opinion about the system -- just what happened.
On this website, I will also have a blog about our daily lives, which are still Perfectly Unplanned, because lets be honest, this is some heavy stuff – especially for those of you who can relate because you have been through it, are going through it, or are scared to death you could go through it