I was born and raised in Brazil. I was born in Sao Paulo, SP. My parents are both educators. My dad is a Biologist, a Zoologist to be more specific, and my mom, a Portuguese language teacher. Both graduated from University of Sao Paulo, around 1964, were able to raise me and my brother, despite of all the difficulties of a third-world Country: corruption, violence, economic instability.
My childhood was surrounded by typewriter sounds of my father finishing his PhD thesis (which took him 6 years to complete), and images of my mom correcting tests, and her frustration every time she had to put an "E" on someone´s composition.
Because of the fact my dad had taught in a high-society middle-school, I was granted full scholarship there until my 5th grade. I grew up in the middle of spoiled, rich children, surrounded by their - and I repeat: their - Barbie dolls and remote control toys, in an extremely disciplined education program, while I was, in fact, a low middle-class child. My parents always strived to give us the best education possible, exposing us to all kinds of courses we wanted (I attended everything I wanted, from judo to music classes.
I remember our family camping trips on weekends - how great were those times! Swimming, riding bicycles to get oranges and fresh milk at the vicinity farms.... too bad vacation was over too soon, and I would go back to reality, feeling as if I was a modern Cinderella around rich princesses.
When I was 12 years-old, my mom explained to me I could not keep studying at that school since my scholarship was over and we couldn't afford it. I would then start attending a public school. I remember asking my mom whether we were rich, while feeling confused and scared, and getting the classic answer: "We are rich in love" - said my mom.
That was a huge school, where middle-school and high-school students had the same buildings and shared the same break times. Most of the student's parents worked at the automobile manufacturing facilities all over the city (Ford, General Motors, Volkswagen and later, even the French Renault opened a plant, with the fiscal incentives at the time). But there was also a big portion of the students who were much, much poorer than I could imagine. I started meeting kids who would frequent classes just to eat the "merenda", or snack, served for free. My mom, at the time, worked there as a Coordinator, and I had the priviledge of staying around all the teachers while they had meetings. My self-esteem by then went up: I wasn't Cinderella anymore. I started to become the princess myself, to the eyes of others. I built friendships which last until today, and I learned to respect people and their differences. Very early, I realized the gap between the poor and the rich in Brazil, the struggle of the middle-class, and the happiness of being a teenager who had the best of exposure to the extreme sides of the society. I started being grateful for the fact I wasn't neither wealthy nor poor. I was then 14 years-old.
Soon enough, when things were really beautiful in my life - I had a reasonably big group of friends, and we were just starting to really bond, my dental braces coming off, and I was smiling with my whole soul - , my father got a new job in Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul (Center-west of Brazil), to become a professor in the State's Federal University.
But that, my friend, is another chapter.