If you are a new reader welcome, and if you are one of our loyal readers, welcome back!
Please keep in mind the latest published portion of the story is on the top of the page.
If you are just starting to follow, be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page to "Chapter 1" and start there.
Posted: February 24, 2019
We may be on Chapter 12, but we are still in the very beginning of this story. I have had so many people reach out to me with mixed emotions regarding the story to this point. The vast majority of the reactions I have received from readers, are the same reaction everyone was having while all of this was unfolding: how does this happen?
This reaction wasn’t limited to us, our family, or even our friends – many people within the system who played a part in the process and saw it unfold expressed to Matt they felt the same way. It seemed like once he was passed on from the individuals who initially exercised their discretion to deny him entry, others apologized to him, expressed their disbelief this could be happening to him, and/or assured him he wouldn’t have to be gone from the U.S. for too long.
Maybe Matt’s transport was procedurally relaxed because the people responsible for transporting him had these feelings – or maybe it’s because they just didn’t see him as a threat or a flight risk – maybe it wasn’t procedurally relaxed at all but right in line with procedures, I don’t know, I can only speculate.
Whatever the reason may be, neither one of us expected to be able to speak until he landed in Rio. So obviously, I was pleasantly surprised when his cellphone number appeared on my screen way before any of the flights that I guessed he would be on would land.
I remember asking how he was calling me – which in hindsight was a stupid question since his cellphone number appeared on my caller ID. He explained to me he had been given back his belongings, which consisted of the clothes he was detained in, his wallet, and his cellphone. One officer had put him on a flight to Miami, and another officer met him during his layover. The officer in Miami was pretty laid back and actually decided to take a nap while waiting for the next flight. Matt had been given permission to go to the bathroom and was allowed to use his phone.
You know that little game where you ask your significant other or a friend something ridiculous – it always starts with some variation of “what do you think would happen if….”
If you are not familiar, I am happy to give some examples:
Us walking through the airport: Hey Matt, what would you do if I told you I was going to the bathroom but then I just disappeared, and you never saw me again…
Us hiking and taking pictures at the base of a waterfall: Hey Matt, what would you do if I just hit your phone out of your hand and it got lost in the water….
Us watching some sappy romantic comedy: Hey Matt, what would you do if we woke up tomorrow and I had no idea who you were….
If you’re not familiar with that game, even though Matt may not know you, he’s jealous of you. I fill his life is FULL of questions based on hypothetical situations which he claims would never ever happen – saying he hates when I play that game would probably be an understatement but I mean I live with anxiety so in my head any one of my questions could totally happen…
On this particular day, he was the one asking the ridiculous question: what do you think would happen if I got to the bathroom, kept on walking, left the airport, and came home?
I told him we would probably live our entire lives worried about you getting caught, you probably would eventually get caught, and then a bad situation would get a whole lot worse.
As these things go, we both knew it wasn’t a serious question or even a possibility.
We spent the remainder of our call talking about all the things people had said to him during his transport. We talked about how if CBP officers were telling him he would be back in no time then obviously it was probably true. I can’t remember what else we talked about, but I remember I was more at ease after talking to him during his layover. I now was pretty sure of the flight he was going to be on, when he would arrive in Brazil, and when I should expect to hear from him next.
Just in case it wasn’t clear -- of course, Matt didn’t go past the bathroom, he didn’t walk out of the airport, and he didn’t come home. As always, he did the right thing, he went right back to the officer and when the time came, he boarded the flight bound for Rio.
Photo Credit: Blue Ridge Vantage
Hair By: Total Babe Hair Company
Photoshoot Location: Gaylord National Harbor, MD
Posted: August 8, 2018
Do you know how you reach someone who is in jail? You wait for them to call you.
Yeah, that wasn’t stressful at all….
Our story left off with me dramatically sobbing on the floor of my father’s office after receiving a phone call informing me that Matt would be put on a flight back to Brazil that day. I feel like I should clarify, I was in a private room in the office sobbing – it’s not like a movie scene where I collapsed, and a bunch of onlookers stared at me crying as they whispered judgmental comments to one another. I have lost my dignity many-a-times, but that particular day, I did it in private.
I don’t remember how long it took me to stop sobbing, but I remember my father helped snap me out of it pretty quickly. I remember him coming in and hugging me, and I vaguely remember him saying something to light a fire under me – I can say with a high degree of certainty that it had something to do with emotions not being useful in the situation. I know that may sound bad, but I promise it isn’t. My father is one of my biggest cheerleaders (the other being my mother). To be an effective cheerleader, sometimes he has to tell me stuff I don’t want to hear – like sobbing isn’t going to help anything.
While I don’t remember exactly what my dad said to me, I remember very clearly feeling panicked as soon as I started thinking rationally. I was pretty sure Matt had no idea what was about to happen, and as I mentioned at the beginning of the entry, I couldn’t call him. I knew that if Matt was taken to the flight without knowing I had been notified, and without the opportunity to call me, he would be a mess. I know it may sound weird to some people that in the process of being removed from the country his biggest concern would be me not knowing what was going on – but that’s the kind of person he is.
I kept my fingers crossed that Matt would call while I frantically tried to figure out what flights he could be put on – it was pretty hard to narrow down. Would it have been a whole lot easier if they disclosed the flight he would be on to me? Sure, but where’s the fun in that…
I contacted his mother who made arrangements with a family friend to pick Matt up at the airport whenever he landed – he would stay with them until we could figure out what was going on.
::Side Note:: These family friends are absolute angels. Raphael and his mother Zenilda hadn’t seen Matt in YEARS and they opened their home to him – because that is the kind of people they are. When Matt and Raphael were younger, they were best friends. When Matt moved to the US, they lost touch. That saying “you find out who your friends are” – so true. But in this case, I feel like saying they’re friends is so impersonal. To us, they are family.
Anyways, back to the story – I can’t put into words the relief I felt when my phone rang and it was a call from “an inmate at the correctional facility”.
Me: “I am so happy you called. Has anyone spoken to you yet today about what’s happening?”
Matt: “No, what’s going on?”
Me: “Everything is okay. I got a call a little while ago that you have a flight back to Brazil today. I wanted to make sure that you know that I know, and everything is okay.”
Despite the fact my thoughts were going a million miles an hour, I was able to sound calm and confident as I told him the plans and assured him everything was was going to be okay. I remember that he sounded incredibly calm as well – which was impressive considering he just found out he was officially being sent back to a country that: (1) he hadn’t lived in since he was 15; and (2) spoke a language he didn’t fluently speak anymore.
When I think back on it, I’m impressed with how well we managed the initial crisis – I mean he was 25 and I was 22…. we were babies (relatively speaking).
Literally overnight, there was this seismic shift in our relationship, and our lives. We went from a young couple in love living day to day whose biggest concern was what we were going to have for dinner that night – to questioning if we were in it together for the long haul, oh and if we could do that not knowing if or when we would be able to be together again.
Did we know what we were getting into? We thought we did – at 22, I thought I knew everything [who am I kidding, I still think I know everything].
Did we know it would be an uphill battle that would take 2 ½ years? Absolutely not, we were thinking a couple months tops.
Was it worth it? 100% without a doubt.
Photo Credit: Blue Ridge Vantage
Hair By: Total Babe Hair Company
Photoshoot Location: Gaylord National Harbor, MD
Posted: July 9, 2018
I was at my Representative’s Herndon office way before they opened. I sat in the parking lot thinking of what I was going to say, watching each minute pass until I was able to go in. I remember waiting exactly 2 minutes after opening because I didn’t want to be there the minute they opened the doors – in hindsight, it makes me giggle that I thought waiting two minutes wouldn’t make me seem so desperate – everything about me that day looked desperate.
I went into the building to find the office doors were locked – I thought they were the office doors anyways… So I decided to get a cup of coffee and give them a few more minutes. I ended up calling to find out if the office was open and was sent to the outside doors.
I spoke to the individual who was the point of contact at the time for constituents’ immigration issues. I remember sitting down and pouring my heart out to her. I told her everything that had happened, how Matt attended GMU, how he had been in the US for ten years… everything. I still remember like it was yesterday – she looked at me and said:
I know your boyfriend may think he’s an American and feel like he’s an American, but he isn’t and he doesn’t have a right to be here.
I was shocked at her response. I don’t know if it was the total lack of empathy or the fact I had gone over so many possible scenarios in my head during the 8 hour drive, and this was not one of them… but it was a terrible feeling. I decided to shake it off and keep my composure – I told myself she had to know something that would help.
I asked her if there was anything that could be done, no matter how unlikely it seemed – if there was anyone I could contact, any paperwork that could be filed… I told her I would do anything.
Maybe she realized how serious I was, or realized her job was to assist constituents – me – with immigration issues – me again – because her face softened, and she smiled.
Yeah, I was going to go on a little longer with this bit to lighten this up, but I can’t… she was pretty horrible. What actually happened was she looked at me and asked me if I was looking for a magic wand to wave to make everything okay.
She went on to tell me that if I was even for a second considering marrying this man, to think twice. She assured me it would take years and years and it would end up ruining my life.
::She unfortunately would not be the last person to tell me that::
After a little more unproductive and frankly, offensive conversation, I managed to thank her for her time and left her office. I told myself was still going to be okay. As long as Matt was still here, there had to be something that could be done to stop this.
I drove to my father’s office to update him on everything that had happened. I don’t really remember our conversation that morning. What I do remember though, is that my phone rang shortly after I arrived at his office. It was one of the CBP officers giving me a courtesy call to let me know they had found a flight back to Brazil for Matt and that it was scheduled to leave later that afternoon.
This call made it official that Matt was being sent back.
I had run out of time.
I asked if she could provide me the flight information so I could make calls to figure out where he would go once he landed. I was told they would be unable to provide me with that information for security reasons.
After we hung up I dramatically collapsed sobbing on the floor thinking to myself that this was it – I didn’t stop it.
I knew everything had just gotten A LOT more complicated.
Kathleen Hertel Love and Adventure Photography
Posted: June 29, 2018
The drive back home to Virginia seemed so much longer than it had on the way down.
Saying the drive back up was long says a lot considering Matt – no joke – fell asleep like 20 minutes into the drive on the way down. I remember as soon as he did that my internal dialogue went NUTS. I kept glancing over his way with daggers silently cursing him for getting me all excited for this road trip together and then passing out.
I am pretty sure I have mentioned this already, but just in case I haven’t, Matt was and still is the world’s worst passenger… Not to worry though, we don’t have that issue anymore because he drives, and I ride – not to toot my own horn, but I am a great passenger.
Anyways, as I was saying, the drive back to Virginia was a long one with a lot of time to think.
I have always loved driving. I’m the person who goes for a drive when I need to clear my mind, calm down, or just get it together. If you have ever heard the song “My Church” by Maren Morris, I feel like that is my spirit song when it comes to my therapeutic driving. So you can imagine my disappointment when all of that “feel good driving” stuff almost went out the window after that solo drive back to Virginia.
When I think back on that drive, I can instantly feel what I felt --- but articulating those feelings is more challenging. I can close my eyes and see 95 North stretched out in front of me. I can put myself back into my old Black Mazda 3 sedan – the car was a mess because I had torn everything apart trying to find my forgotten phone once I left the Port… I can hear “Wanna Make You Love Me” on repeat – weird choice I know, but in that moment I clung to the song for some reason. I can see them empty passenger seat, which I must have glanced over at a thousand times during the drive.
I remember switching between thinking about how we could have prevented this, what we were could do to fix this, and swearing to myself everything would be different if we got another chance to be together. If I am being honest, it was hard to be alone with my thoughts – it was incredibly overwhelming. Even after it was over, the drive really stuck with me.
I remember almost a year after the fact I was driving my mother and sister back from vacation up North. It was dark out and everyone else in the car was sleeping. I don’t know how or why, but I zoned out at the road and mentally felt like I was back on that 8-hour drive by myself. My youngest sister woke up to me silently sobbing and had to console me. Unfortunately, that happened to me more than just that one time. I can’t really explain it, but it really took the fun out of long road trips for a while. Luckily it doesn’t happen to me anymore – which honestly makes it easier to share.
Now, for all of you that are rolling your eyes thinking “oh come on…” – and I know there will be a few of you – this is just factually recounting what happened to me. I don’t think anything about the drive was particularly traumatic, but that was my involuntary reaction to it.
When I finally got home it felt so good to hug my family – even though it didn’t make anything that was happening any easier – I was able to finally take a deep breath and know I wasn’t alone anymore. Isn’t it amazing what a hug from loved ones can do?
In hindsight, I made the right decision driving back that Sunday to handle stuff from home where the hug supply was endless. Monday was going to be a big day, and little did I know I was going to desperately need those hugs.
Photo: From our honeymoon in Italy, the day we spent in Pompeii -- because this picture is so much cuter than a picture of a car
Posted: June 26, 2018
“Hey, it’s me”
I cannot even put into words the relief I felt just hearing his voice.
Matt told me he was at Charles County Adult Detention Center. I don’t remember too much of our conversation, except for him telling me he was okay and that I would be able to come see him at 8:00AM the next morning during visiting hours.
I barely slept that night. I tossed and turned. I woke up multiple times to check my alarm clock to make sure it didn’t somehow turn off causing me to oversleep. It finally got to the point where it made more sense for me to get up and get dressed for the day – a lot earlier than I had anticipated.
When I showed up to the Charleston Adult Detention Center, I remember I had no idea what I was doing. I walked into the front room of the facility and was looking around trying to figure out what I was supposed to do, when an older woman walked up to me and asked if it was my first time there.
I explained to her that I was visiting my boyfriend who had been detained the day before and that I had no idea where to go. I remember she smiled warmly at me and told me where we should stand so we would be first in line when we were able to start our visit. Before we went to our separate visits, I vaguely remember her telling me it would be okay and I would know what I was doing in no time. I don’t remember what she looked like, or the rest of our conversation, but I remember how much her talking to me meant, how much she calmed me down without even knowing.
I was finally called back and told to go to one of many booths that were all in a row. I sat down to see a small screen. Honestly, I don’t know what I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting a video screen with a handheld phone. I remember panicking questioning whether jail video chats for dangerous criminals? Was he in there with dangerous people? My mind was racing a million miles a minute.
When he finally showed up on the screen, he was wearing a baby blue uniform and he looked terrible. There was one split second where I thought I was going to lose it. I felt my chest tightening and the tears welling in the back of my eyes. In that moment, Matt looked at me and said very calmly,
“if you lose it, I lose it. I can’t lose it.”
I don’t know how, maybe it was my desperate need to make everything seem okay, but I was able to immediately put on a smile. I assured him he didn’t need to worry because it was going to be okay – everything happening was temporary and we were going to fix it. If I remember correctly, we only had thirty minutes to talk. In that 30 minutes, I updated him on all my phone calls, we talked plans, and I don’t know how, but we joked around and got some giggles in. I remember telling him how lucky he got that his uniform matched his eyes. Joked about how he obviously planned all of this so he could have a couple extra vacation days… Some pretty stupid stuff, but we both use humor to cope so it works out perfectly.
I was really hard to say goodbye when we got the message our time was almost up. Even though neither one of us said it, we both knew we didn’t know when the next time we would see one another would be. I remember doing the whole back and forth – “it’ll be okay, I love you” when the machine cut us off.
I guess that’s one good thing about prison phones, you don’t have to do the whole “you hang up first…. no, you hang up first...” forever. If no one wants to hang up first, it’ll do it for you.
Before I left the prison, I went to go get information on how to put money in Matt’s account so he could not only go to the commissary but make calls. I had promised him I would do it as soon as we were done talking.
I walked up to the guard at the front desk and asked him if he could give me the information. Despite me smiling and trying to be as nice as possible, he coldly handed me the pamphlet. I started to walk away when I saw there were limited hours – they were closed for the weekend. I wouldn’t be able to put money on his phone until the next day…
I turned back around and went back to the desk (this was the general conversation):
Me: Hi, I’m sorry I just saw that this brochure won’t allow me to put money on his account for calls until tomorrow… Is there any other way to put money into the account?
Front Desk Guard: No.
Me: Oh okay, would you be able to just let him know he won’t have money on the phone today but it’ll be there tomorrow as soon as I am able to talk to them?
Front Desk Guard: No.
Me: Oh, well you see I promised him I would load it. I understand because of the hours it can’t be today, I just want him to know I couldn’t. I don’t want him to think I forgot about it.
Front Desk Guard: We don’t take messages.
Me: (trying so hard not to cry now) okay, so there is no way then.
Front Desk Guard: No.
This was another one of those moments where I had the brutal realization that to these people I was just another criminal….
I turned to walk out, at least managed to turn around before the angry tears started – yeah sometimes I cry when I’m really angry – don’t judge me.
I got back in the car to start the long drive back – but this time alone.
The plan was for me to leave and drive straight back to Virginia. I just knew if I was able to talk to my Representative’s office they would be able to do something. I mean it wasn’t fair. It wasn’t justice. There was no way they would send Matt back to a country he hadn’t lived in 10 years. They couldn’t send him back somewhere he didn’t have a home or speak the language fluently anymore. It obviously all a mistake. I knew it was just a matter of me straightening everything out. It knew it would all be over soon.
Photo Credit: Kathleen Hertel Photography -- this is one of our favorites!
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