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Hello Everyone!!

Paula (first left, white top) during Creating a Fulfilling Life in America workshop.

Hello everyone!! We are starting to blog! Yay!

I hope this can be really fun for all of us! I assume that writing this first post was a little frightening for me… What subject to choose? We are living such different situations; it isn’t that easy to decide which one I should share with you…

So here I am with a special subject that comes along with me since the last two years: my baby. I mean, for the rest of the world, he is already a toddler. For me (and thanks to a couple of brands that also considers the age group 0 to 36 months as a baby), he is still my BABY. As you can notice from this description, he is our first child.

We are Brazilians. In 2011 my husband thought it was a good time to take a break from his job in Brazil and to move abroad for a year. We are teachers and it wasn’t that hard to take a license from the universities we are attached with there and join here as visiting scholars.

When we arrived in Washington DC, in January of 2012, Mateus, the baby, couldn’t speak a lot of words in Portuguese… so we thought that he could easily develop the English as a second language. However, at that time of the year we didn’t find any places in the childcare centers close to our new home.

Then we hired a baby sitter. In fact, the third that we hired was okay (in 4 months we had three different experiences).

As we had to go the university, Mateus used to spend his afternoons with the sweet lady from Colombia. And we just loved it!

In a while, we realized that the baby was a sort of confused; parents speaking in Portuguese and some words of English, baby sitter in Spanish, TV and little friends in English… Hard to understand this world!

After 8 months living in Arlington, Virginia, we moved to Berkeley, California. The first question to help us on taking the decision of a childcare for Mateus was: Does he need a childcare? From his stage of socialization, we thought it would be very helpful.

Yes, we could just keep him at home and maybe hire again a baby sitter to help us here and there… But as he was turning 2, we felt that, first; his social life and communication skills could be better developed if he had the opportunity of interacting daily with other children of his age.

Second, we will be in Berkeley only for a few months, so seeking for play dates and similar isolated activities could not be that efficient for our purpose – starting an improvement in Mateus’ socialization.

On the other hand (certainly there are the disadvantages); he would be away from home for a long period of time (at least for us).

We kept the idea of the Childcare Center.

UC Berkeley has a childcare Center for the staff’s children. But there are very few places and we couldn’t apply anymore for this year. So I went to Google to look for some childcare centers lists and the best one I found was at Berkeley Parents Network website.

To be honest, the website needs a serious update, but it helps. I need to write down my experience at the Childcare, for example  🙂

From the information I got there and on Google, I called some 15 childcare centers and finally I found a place in a Childcare Center, 4 blocks away from the house we were renting.

Our principal criteria of selection were:

– It should be close to our new home;

– Their method should be, at least, similar to the Montessori one, which I think is a very complete system of education for the first years in school.

Mateus is very outgoing happy child, always smiling at everyone, friendly… So his adjustment time at school would be easy. …… NOT.

It was just a nightmare. At least for me. The boy just didn’t want to leave our arms, legs, us! Do you know everything we read on magazines/books/internet and people tell you about tantrums, drama, screams, etc? It just started to happen with us! Why? Are we spoiling him? Does he need more/less attention?

When it is happening, the drama may lead you to a surreal and irrational state: You cannot think because the little human being of yours is screaming and you just can’t hear or understand your own thoughts.

After a while (maybe when the child is sleeping…) you realize that there is always a reason for this “out of control” behavior. And it is up to you (sometimes with the help of someone else – teachers, friends, psychologist) to identify it and think about the best ways of dealing with the situations.

The adjustment phase was hard. The staff at the Childcare Center is great and patient. He is doing better, but there is still some drama.

As parents we usually hear: ‘it is just a phase, you are going trough it, you will see’.

And it is true.

The children are really in a constant development. It might be one of our challenges as parents: adjust ourselves to the child’s phases.

Do not forget to live and enjoy your own “phase”, though. We are in a beautiful country, with a LOT to know, to see, to visit.

Hope you all really have a great time here.

Thanks for your patience.
Paula LS Varella 

On The Road


A FOOT and light-hearted I take to the open road!
Healthy, free, the world before me!
The long brown path before
me, leading wherever I choose!
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune,
I am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more,
postpone no more, need nothing,
Strong and content, I travel the open road.
Walt Whitman (1819 – 1892)

Susanne Wolf enjoying the nature’s beauty!

I blame it all on my grandmother.

As a young woman, in 1923, she came to the United States. Born and raised in Tübingen, Germany, she had to, because her family was in severe financial difficulties in a time of depression. Her father, being a doctor, hadn´t learned anything useful – like gardening, milking cows or anything of the kind – nor had my grandma. She had her good education, though, and an innate curiosity. So she and her sister were sent to the USA to earn hard currency and send it home in order to support the family. Her sister got married in the USA, my grandmother came back after three years.

Later, when I was a kid and listened to her stories – being a help, a nanny in rich families’ houses – I always thought that she must have had hard times, but then I saw her eyes shining with joy and contentedness. So, to me –ever since – the USA were a wonderland, a desirable destination, a place where I wanted to go.

And now I´m here – finally! I might soon be a grandmother myself, having a 25 year old daughter. My husband is a Visiting Scholar at UC Berkeley, and we settled down for half a year in a nice home in the Berkeley Hills. I´m not much of a risk taker. At home, I have my job as a teacher. A husband, a house, a garden, my family, friends, a very structured life. Coming here, I expected to see a lot of nice places, landmarks, meet new people (which I did) – I did not expect to meet this adventuresome person– myself.

How fun it is to travel! We have been on the road for many weeks in July and August. From my hometown, Hannover (Germany), I flew to Seattle to meet my husband there. He had left three weeks earlier in order to get things fixed over here. With our car and a travel trailer, we took the 101, the coastal highway. Our first destination was the Olympic National Park. Amazing! Snow covered mountains, all kinds of animals, a rich vegetation. We went for some hikes and enjoyed our stay on a State Park Campsite (they are very well maintained up there in Washington), although it was pretty freezing at night and we got to know this coastal morning fog that sometimes doesn´t disappear until sunset.

Driving on the coastal highway with a 42 feet long vehicle was a bit of a challenge sometimes, but all went well. California welcomed us with sunshine. We were so impressed by the Redwood National Park, I´ve never seen such big trees before! After a short “Hello” to Berkeley a few days later, we turned eastward. Of course we had all these National Parks on our agenda. I can highly recommend a visit to “Canyon de Chelly” – a not very well known National Monument in Arizona. Not only is it a beautiful place, but it is also Navajo tribal trust land with a resident community within the canyon.

One of the places Susanne Wolf
mentions in her story

Bryce Canyon was a fairy-tale-like feature. We saw the most impressing starry sky when camping in the Mojave National Preserve, whereas Las Vegas bedazzled us with all its synthetic beauty. We travelled on the Colorado River in a rowing boat for one week (breathtaking geological lessons included), and we watched dolphins close to a beach near Santa Barbara.

Now I´ve some stories to tell – to my children and to my (not yet born) grandchildren …

But most importantly: It´s not only about arriving. The journey is the reward 🙂


Susanne Wolf rows a boat 🙂