Posted on Monday, August 22nd, 2016 at 11:27 am by Alyssa
A Place I Once Called Home...
As the 2016 Olympics come to a close this weekend it felt like it was the perfect time to share a personal story that would eventually be the career I have today.
Have you ever lived somewhere long enough to call it home? You are watching a sporting event and your "new home" team is playing the team you used to love and root for, mostly because it used to be home...? I certainly had mixed emotions about my native home team USA these past few days and a place I certainly grew very fond of. Most everyone who has heard me speak, knows that I am from somewhere in the Midwest and while I call that home and the place that I grew up, I rarely share the one place that I once called home and ultimately may have shaped my true passion for gemstones, jewelry, and ultimately my career.
I had just turned 16 when in July of 1983 I boarded a plane for Brazil. This would be my home for the next 13 months. I was to spend my Junior year of High School in Bauru, Sao Paulo, Brazil with the Host family of Wilson and Ignez Quevedo. As I greeted my host family at the airport, who spoke no English, it became clear to me that a year of High School Spanish would not be of much help in communicating in Portuguese. While I may not have been eloquent or perfect, such a total immersion into Brazilian Portuguese would be my only chance of survival into my new culture. I wasn't shy and I made plenty of mistakes with words but I quickly learned and still today... it evokes so many memories when I hear it spoken.
As I reflect, this incredible family took on the responsibility of a young teenage girl from Iowa. Having raised four children of my own, who are well past their teenage years, I would not do that again! This all to say, while I was a "good kid" per say... I was still a teenager. These people became my family and this home became my home. To this day I look back upon it and feel truly grateful for all that they gave me and taught me! I called them family and when I refer to them today, it is still my Brazilian Mother and Father, sisters and brother, affectionately.
My year in Brazil was filled with time as a student but it also was a time when I was able to experience some incredible sites. In many cases, as an American, I was considered and treated like a celebrity. From family members and friends who eagerly reached out to me quickly included me on trips to many of the beautiful sites in Brazil and showered me with gifts as a token of their gratitude for visiting their country.
I remember the first time one of the family friends opened a small drawstring bag and dumped what appeared to be hundreds of stones in various sizes on the table for me to pick from as a welcoming gift to their country. I don't even think I realized their value or understood what people were really giving me but I dreamed of someday making one of the stones into Jewelry.
My year flew by at lightning speed and I was returning to my home in Iowa. I was a changed young lady. I understood people and cultures in a way that at 17, I could not describe to friends or family. I had traveled all over the country seeing sites only a handful of people in my circle might ever get to see in a lifetime, much less in one year.
As one might expect from a one-year adventure, I returned to the United States bearing gifts... which included a large Amethyst I gave to my mother, a handful of Citrines that were smaller and a pretty good size Aqua Marine I gave to my Grandmother. My mother quickly had a local jeweler set the Amethyst in a ring which she wears today but my grandmother set hers aside for such a time that she would find a mounting she would like to put it in.
It wasn't until I had been married to John for a few years when she handed me the stone and the gold from her wedding band and a few little diamonds and asked John to make her a ring. I remember holding the gemstone in my hand and for a moment I was in a trance as I was flooded with memories of a place I once called home. I realized at that moment how full circle this had all come. This past December she passed away and she left the ring to me.
It has been 32 years since that year in Brazil. I have returned only one time but again, I could hardly get back on the plane for I had fallen in love with it all over again. Over the years I have traveled to shows here in the US and approached a booth that had gemstones found in Brazil and spoke to them in their native language of Portuguese. It was always a sweet moment where I was proud of what I had learned and a moment that while they were in my home country, they felt more at ease knowing I had an intimate connection to theirs.
You see, I believe all along, I was destined to be working in the Jewelry industry. It is evident by the journey that God certainly always has the Master Plan as we travel through this thing called life!
A Travel Down Memory Lane!