My name is Olivia Jane Gillespie. I was born in Phoenix, Arizona on January 31st, 1994. I was over a week late.
I take my time and no one tells me what to do.
Time lapse: I grew up in a tiny shell of a beach town in south Jersey. It has an area of just over 10 square miles. It’s clean. It’s wealthy. It’s safe.
As a child, I was chubby, goofy, generally well-liked, and creatively intelligent. I dug reading, writing, and drawing. I was described to my mother at parent-teacher conferences as “mature,” “independent,” “advanced.”
I’m sure most of that was true but I can’t really remember thinking about much in school except for lunch.
I grew up speaking English and English only until I entered first grade. I studied Spanish grades 1-12.
In my final year at the University of Scranton, when my Fulbright advisor suggested I study Portuguese in conjunction with Spanish to increase my chances of winning an English teaching grant to Brazil, I did.
(Think of Portuguese and Spanish as friendly cousins at a family reunion. They resemble each other in a roundabout way, they have the same roots, and they sound increasingly similar to each other, and to everyone around them, the drunker they become.)
Think of the cheshire cat smile that overran my face in April 2016, when I found out that I’d won a Fulbright ETA grant to Brazil, the most prestigious grant in the United States of America, to teach college students my native language.
A fully funded life in a warm, welcoming Latin country.
Think of me drunk, speaking Brazilian Portuguese.
I graduated in May of 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and minors in Theology & Religious Studies/Modern Spanish Language.
I’m still goofy and generally well-liked. I still think about lunch throughout the work day.
I don’t know anyone in Brazil. Its national language is my third language. I sound like Yoda when I speak it. I will be without my doting family. My little sister. My little brother. The boardwalk I run along for mile after mile after mile. 10 miles.
Brazil is larger than the continental United States.
Fortunately, this blog spans all of that space and more, and I’ll carry you with me while I live abroad in a prepossessing, completely foreign country.