How An American Learned to Love the World Cup

Watching the World Cup brings back so many memories of visiting my family and being exposed to new cultures. I was in Central America for the ’98 and ’02 tournaments. Growing up as an American we knew about the World Cup, but experiencing it was something completely different.

In 1998, I was in Panama and every business that you walked into had a game on. The broadcasters were so energetic and would scream GOAL until they ran out of breath, and then do it again. I remember watching the days replays and being blown away with the incredible goals that were scored.

I returned home before the end of the tournament and was shocked to find that the American stations were not showing the games. Thankfully the finals were broadcast, but even then the atmosphere was completely different. I was at Lacrosse camp and watched with all the other American teenagers attending. I felt like we were watching it just because it was the World Cup, not because we loved the game. It would take another four years before I learned how to really watch a soccer game .

In 2002, I was in Costa Rica and they had made it into the World Cup. It seemed like the entire country had World Cup fever. On every conner, street vendors had carts stuffed full of Costa Rican flags, shirts, hats, wrist bands, whistles, horns, and anything else they could print the flag on. That year the Costa Ricans were facing the extremely dangerous Brazil. My sister invited a couple of friends over to watch the game.

The “Ticos” where not favored to win, but you couldn’t tell that from the way they cheered. Every time the ball was on the Brazilian side they screamed at the TV, trying to will the ball into the goal. Brazil went up 3-0 and things didn’t look good. Then out of no where Costa Rica scored two. The country went crazy. You could hear everyone cheering, cars honking in the street and fireworks in the distance. They ended up being eliminated, but seeing how they got so into the game left a lasting impression on me.

Today I have a new appreciation and love for the game. I admire the skill and artistry the world’s best players bring to this tournament. I love the way each country gets so into it. I wish that Americans could experience the game the same way I did. We would be great fans. If we brought the same passion and intensity that we have for American Football to Soccer, we would go far.

Our Family Celebrates 12 Years Since We Were Reunited

If you are unable to see the video click here.

Yesterday, 12 years ago our family was reunited for the first time. It was an incredible experience and to celebrate we did an online video and chat. It was a lot of fun and it was great to hear everyone share their experiences.

For those of you who could not stay for the entire show, or were unable to join us, we recorded the whole thing. It is about 2 hours long but I bookmarked each section to make it easier for people to watch in parts.

We would love to hear your thoughts and feedback because we are thinking about doing it again.

Saying Goodbye to My Grandmother

About a month or so ago I found out that my grandmother was sick. At the time we did not know what was wrong with her, but she seemed to think this was the end for her. They told me she was tired and was ready to move on.

This was something I was not expecting to hear from her. Over the past couple of trips I had started to notice her aging more than she had before. I had a lingering feeling that one day I would have to say goodbye. However, it wasn’t until I heard what she said to my sister that it actually hit me.

I am going to miss her. Now, I can’t say that I am very close to her. Since my Spanish isn’t the greatest, we don’t talk much.

When I see her it’s for a few hours each trip. She greets me with a smile and asks me about the rest of the family. She never asks me about my life or what I am doing. She loves to cook for me, and I definitely enjoy her food. It’s so simple and in some ways so meaningful.

It’s not talking, it’s not judging, it’s not questioning. It’s just being together.

I’m not exactly sure why this is affecting me this much. I’ve had other grandmothers whom I loved pass away, and I didn’t feel like this. I don’t think I was that close to them either. Maybe it’s because without her I would not be sitting here in my sister’s house.

I don’t think I can put into words what she means to me and how I feel about her. All I can say is that she never gave up on me and because of her hard work I have had so many happy memories.

She is doing much better now, but I know that one day I will have to say goodbye. Hearing those words was a wake up call in some way. I suddenly knew that each time I see her it might be the last. It’s a little sad to think about, but from now on I will appreciate so much more every moment I get to spend with her.

On the Road Again

Next week I will be flying down to Central America again to work on a project with my father’s business in Panama. This will be a little shorter than my last trip which was a month long. I’ll be down there for 3 weeks.

On the trip I will be doing work for a business that I am trying to start up. As part of this business I am trying to show the impact that technology has on developing nations. If you are interested in learning more about the work I am doing take a look at my company’s site

I’m excited to see my brother and sisters. My grandmother was sick a couple weeks ago so I am looking forward to seeing her as well. Maybe I will get a chance to do a few more video interviews!

How Do You Make Impossible Decisions?

How do you make an impossible decision? The type of decision that can forever change your life and the lives of the people you care about the most. How do you walk away from a husband who drinks to much? Or leave your comrades at arms to raise a family? How does a teenager find the strength and courage to run away from his or her parents? How do you leave a business that has been your life’s work knowing it might fall apart if you do?

I don’t know how we make these decisions. We think and think, yet no matter how hard we think the answer eludes us. We are faced with a choice of doing what’s best for us or doing what’s best for those around us. You ask yourself a never ending set of questions as you struggle to make the right choice. Should you honor your commitments even when you are no longer happy? Are you being selfish or doing what’s best for you? When is enough, enough?

I wish there was some easy way to know what the best course of action is, but there isn’t. These are things that you must decided for yourself. You can ask for people’s advice and get their input, but at the end of the day you have to live with your choices. You must be accountable for your actions and accept all consequences no matter how undesirable.

Sometimes I feel like our story has been one impossible decision after another. I admire the courage and strength that each of those decisions took to make. There is no right answer. They are impossible because it feels like no ones wins. Even when you know you are doing the best thing for yourself you can’t help but feel bad for the people it is going to effect.

The Moment it All Changed: When I Let Go of My Past

Through most of my life I struggled with the fact that the family I lived with was not my biological family. I am sure this is something that many adopted people go through at some time in their lives. I think much of that came from the fact that when I was younger I knew so little about where I came from and who I was. Your birthday and background are such an important part of your identity and for the first 15 years of my life this was surrounded in mystery.

I think this also stemmed from the fact that I could see my little brother as the child of my parents. He was like them is so many ways and I was so different. Not having people in my life who were like me and who understood me was hard. Then I found my family and I found a piece of myself. However, part of me would not let go of those childhood dreams of seeing my mother again. How are you just supposed to let go of the one thing you wanted all your life?

In the last interview my sister asked at what point did it all start to make sense? When did everything change for me? I can remember the day. The day where I was finally able to let go of my birth mother and accept who I was.

It was May 2003 and I was in Central America visiting Eva. I was talking with her about our biological mother because May 19th is the day that she was taken from us and a day that I always think about her. It used to be a very difficult day for me. For in my mind, this is the day that my world was ripped apart.

I was talking with Eva about this. I was so sad and trying desperately to understand why this happened to us. Then Eva said something that I will never forget. She said that I had a great mother in Margaret and behind her, looking down on us, was our mother.

A few days later I was back in Boston. I think I was still feeling a little down. When I got home Margaret had something for me. It was a letter she had sent me while I was in school. The letter was part of something the school was doing and was supposed to be posted somewhere in school. For whatever reason they received the letter too late and ended up sending it back home.

I opened it up and started to read. The letter said how proud she was of me and what a joy it was to raise both Derek and myself. On the back she wrote “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. Do you remember I used to sing that to you when you were little?”

I broke down. I remembered very clearly when she used to sing that song. I remembered all the difficult times we had. But most of all I remembered how she loved and cared for me over the years. How both my adoptive mother and father gave me so much when I was little. How they stood by me when I struggled to understand who I was and what had happened to me. How they always believed in me. How they taught me right from wrong and so many other valuable life lessons.

It was exactly what I needed to hear. My sister was right. Behind my mother was…my mother. I couldn’t believe it. This letter I was supposed to receive during school got sent back but arrived when I was away, so I ended up reading it just when i needed it the most. I guess you might call it fate, but from that moment on things got easier. I felt a sense of peace about the situation that I had not felt before.

Looking back years later I can appreciate so much more what my adoptive family was able to give me. Perhaps my longings for growing up with my birth family came from my youthful ignorance. Or maybe it was easier for me to dream of my perfect family then face the difficulties that every family deals with. Whatever it was, I know now how fortunate I was to have them. After getting to know my biological family more, I see how they struggle with the love and understanding that was given to me unconditionally. How they have a hard time looking past each other’s short comings and just love each other for who they are. What I realize now, is that the perfect family I longed for in my youth, I had all along. Not the family that was my blood but the family that became my blood.