Starting schooling at Marcelly

After my time at Ste Marie, I was ready for my new chapter. In the meantime, to ease the pain of my dad’s departure, we started Focolare movement, founded by Chiara Lubich. The Focolare movement, is a Catholic movement and it is an international organization. The headquarters are in Italy. Few years later, I would often travel to Italy. I was reminded that our faith in God, not only helped us settle in Geneva, but also soothed the pain of my dad’s departure. The Focolare movement was one of many activities my mum signed us up for. We also started scouts (which I will write about in my next post), as well as sol-fa (music education), my mum also signed us up for instruments lessons (I learned how to play piano) and more.

Keeping us busy was great for me especially, to forget the constant racism I was facing in Geneva and my dad’s departure. I was still attending sessions with the psychologist which helped dealing with my pain and anger.

I was ready to start school again. Having now lived in Geneva for 4 years, I was slowly adapting to my life in Geneva, even though I still didn’t feel myself at home. Our new school of Marcelly, was just 5 minutes away for where we lived. Before even starting school there, my aim was to fit in at all cost. At first I was shy, my sister too. No matter my strong character, I wasn’t confident especially in a new environment. I was only 9 years old. My early memories at Marcelly was me and my sister holding hands, reminiscent from our horrific memory in Bissau when we were brought down in the hole. We were not scared, but intimidated to a brand new world. So many kids, yet you could count the coloured kids in one hand, us included.

After meeting our new classes, we always met each other at play time so not to be alone. One day, a girl, dark skinned, came towards us.

She was so friendly and made us feel so welcome. She was definitely in a class above me. From then on, each time we met she often joined us at play time. Obviously, me and my sister knew we had to familiarize with our classmates. At times, I was so jealous of my sister. She’d fit right in. Given she is so light skinned, made it easier for her to fit in. Also, because of her friendly personality. My sister, at the time and even now, can befriend anyone. Of course, I was the complete opposite. I don’t let people in so easily, once I am familiar with you, I would open up completely. However, if the person then is not nice to me or does something bad to me, I am someone who doesn’t forgive nor forget. I was and still am a very resentful person.

I started to get to know my classmates. Many in that class will be lifelong friends. At first, however, I quickly realized there was a clique with girls. So those girls, about 4, would only hang around together and no one was allowed to be part of their group. Or, they would cruelly pick whoever they choose to play with them on the day. As a new classmate, I stood no chance and I was never picked. Also, at the time, I was the only person of colour in my class. I thought that history was repeating itself again. Then I looked at the boys, obviously I couldn’t play with them yet because they didn’t know me. Then, I befriended a girl who was the class reject just like me. As a mixed race and new, that was my reason to be the class’ outcast. However, for her, it was deeper. She has been in the school for years, since kindergarten, yet she didn’t have any friends, or hardly. Well, me and her began to hang out. I witnessed first-hand how she was treated by the others. She was mocked and ridiculed on a daily basis, in class or at playtime.

I was also advised not to play with her. I felt like I had no other options. Beside she was nice to me. I felt bad for her treatment, yet again I was powerless to do a thing. We began to grow very close, she used to share her snacks with me, our bond formed deeper as we were the weakest in the classroom. This stigma seemed to follow me everywhere, I wish I was good at something academically.

At that point, my mum was made aware of our friendship. As I started to go on playdates at her grandma’s house, her grandma revealed to my mum that my new friend hardly has had any friends. She also revealed that she didn’t have any siblings either. We also found out why she was a victim of constant cruel jibes, her father was a janitor. Also, in my opinion, she wasn’t very pretty either but for me she had a heart of gold. It seemed I was her first and only friend. My mum didn’t like her much because she was so spoiled by her parents and grandparents. Being an only child is understandable. Despite being super close to my new and closest friend, since my American friend at Ste Marie, our friendship was about to change for good.

It started as a day I will never forget. As I was walking to school, I saw my closest friend approaching with her dad. I was so excited to see her, so I walked quickly to her direction. Once I saw their facial expression, my excitement vanished as soon as it came. I looked at my friend for a sign, or some explications. She was looking down the whole time. What was the matter? Hesitantly, I looked at her dad. Her dad’s facial expression was of anger and hostility. He was quite fat and definitely ugly. Nevertheless, I was still perplexing as to why my friend refused to give me eye contact and her dad threw daggers at me with his angry look. Then, her dad finally spoked to me. He angrily demanded I stopped eating her snacks or stealing her snacks which he stated I do all the time. Hesitantly, my friend spoke, saying I do so only sometimes. She didn’t even look at me when I turned to her, desperate for some clarifications or understanding of the situation. Shocked and hurt by the accusation, I was shred apart by confusion. Why would I be accused of something I do not recall at all? She is the one who shares her snacks with me. I would be playful trying to steal her snacks but always gave her back. After they left, I just remember standing there in a pool of questions.

I eventually made my way to school. I don’t even remember if I played with her that day or not, but I was shocked at being falsely accused for something I have no idea about.

Years later, I would finally be able to connect the dots; her dad was simply racist and he used this pathetic excuse so I stay well clear of his daughter. Ironically, as I was settling in well at Marcelly, without anyone reminding me I was different because of the colour of my skin, reality slapped me in the face so hard I came to realise once again I was and will always be reminded of the colour of my skin. Sadly, I also started to be ashamed to be a person of colour and fed up of encountering racism everywhere I went in Geneva. All I knew and what was crystal clear to me was that my friendship, with someone who I thought would be my bff, was strained for good.

My personal perception of life and death.

When I was a child, despite my often turbulent life and struggles, I must say I lived a carefree life. So you wonder why my post this week is quite dark? Well, the first mention of death struck me. Well death wasn’t explained to me, but the signs were there.

In my previous post, I mentioned how we used to go to auntie Gloria (our adoptive auntie from Argentina). She lived opposite the school and we went to her house so often. I remembered fully that her only child, Maurice, passed away very young probably from cancer or another illness. When we used to buy sweets, she used to buy an extra pack and once we returned to her house, she went to Maurice’s old room. His old room became a sort of memorial. So, she used to leave the pack of sweet on his desk. She said that it was for him. I thought that behavior was odd, as we knew he was dead. But somehow, this was her way to keep his memory alive. I was so transfixed with death therefore I asked my mum during dinner, what happens to our body when we die. She explained quite graphically that once we die, we are buried and insects and worms eat us. I instantly became petrified of death. The discussion put me off my dinner completely. I began to have nightmares. Then I had this crazy idea of confronting my fears.

One thing that would always link me with my dad is we never do things by half. When I like things, I would over like it. Well, the pattern was similar as when I didn’t like something I would hate it, and when I was curious, I was just transfixed. Obviously, each time, the phase would die down eventually. But, just like my dad, I would go all the way. When I started hearing of famous people death, I would read extensively articles about it and when I hear a relative passing away, I would ask so much details. That was my first step of confronting my fear of death. Confronting my fear, became a sort of obsession. Few years later, I would start visiting cemeteries around my area. I have no idea why I did that, especially visiting graves of people I didn’t even know. Eventually, I wasn’t afraid of death anymore, but curious about the afterlife. In other words, my curiosity lead me to cemeteries. I would sit sometimes on the benches and see people coming and going. What I will state next seems weird, but somehow I enjoyed the tranquility cemeteries offered. Despite being located right next to a busy street, the silence in cemeteries was deafening.
Today, the same cemeteries I visited when I was younger, I would now go and visit friends or people I met during my life in Geneva.

To my delight, and to distract me from death, a new show made its way to television in the early 90s. A show that would become so huge; Beverly Hills 90210. I was a fan immediately despite being only 8 at the time. I also spotted the very handsome Dylan and quickly identified myself with him as he was at first an outcast before being part of the group of friends. To quickly summarise Beverly Hills 90210, it was a show at first based on the transition from Minnesota to Beverly Hills by twins Brandon and Brenda. Despite the first season being centered around Brendon and Brenda, it was the other characters such as Kelly especially which catapulted the show to worldwide attention. Other characters important to the series were: David, Donna, Steve, Andreia and of course the handsome Dylan. All of the characters mentioned, were starting to gel and form a strong friendship. However, David at the beginning wasn’t really part of the group of friends but always tried to be part of it. Him and Scott, his longest friend, were outcast looking in. As David started to date Donna, Scott was simply left out. I remember feeling sorry for Scott, because at the time I was left out myself and felt quite lonely, just like him. Very similar to Scott, I would look from afar to people enjoying themselves wishing I was part of it. In other words, I knew and could see what Scott was feeling.

Beverly Hills 90210

As I forgot all about death for a while, thanks to this show, I became to realise the show was dealing with many issues faced by young people. Back then, I didn’t quite understand the issues as I would many decades later. One episode brought back the topic of death. This episode marked me so deeply and in a way moved me too. The episode, rightfully entitled ‘The next 50 years’ began with Scott as ever looking from afar at the group of friends and perhaps realizing that him and David were no longer close. Scott’s mum, realizing it too, implored David to bring the group of friends to Scott’s house as it was Scott’s birthday. Reluctantly, David agreed. At Scott’s house, the group of friends became bored quite quickly of the childish theme birthday party and wanted to leave, not before David saved the party. Once the group of friends started to leave, Scott, finally accepted that him and David have become distant. He even allowed David to leave. But David stayed and to his horror, he witnessed Scott accidentally shooting himself while playing with a gun he found on his father’s desk. Scott was meant to get a lighter, as requested by his father to lit the candles. David was deeply affected to the passing of his friend and became withdrawn. Everyone tried to comfort him, but he bottled everything up. The tipping point came when Brandon, who was working for the school’s paper, wanted to ask David more details about Scott’s life for an article to commemorate Scott. David lashed out at Brandon at first, but then, David said something quite powerful regarding life and death; ‘it is not how you remember someone when they are gone, but it is how you treat them while they are still here’. That episode marked me to this day and gave me a new perspective on death. Despite finding death scary, we should embrace life to the fullest and appreciate people in our lives while they are still alive; once they are gone, they are gone but we should still cherish the memories. At the time of writing this, my favourite actor in the show, Dylan (Luke Perry) sadly passed away in 2019.

Writing this today, I realise that I have lost so many people along the way, people I met during my childhood in Portugal & Switzerland as well as in London where I am currently living. I embrace life much more as tomorrow is never guaranteed. I try my best to appreciate people around me today. To keep the memories alive, I visit the graves of my friends, relatives or key people who made an impact in my life especially in Switzerland. Despite the awful experiences I faced up to that point, I finally accepted Switzerland as my home. I realised I wasn’t returning to Portugal.

Today, I appreciate everything I experienced in Switzerland; the good, the bad and the damn ugly. Switzerland will always play an important part of me, wherever in the world I am. Switzerland is part of my identity and will always be part of me, even though I no longer live there. In later post, I will reveal all about a man who has played a huge part in my life during a trouble time during my adolescence and whom I visit his grave each time I go back to Switzerland.
This post is dedicated to all the people I have met in my life and who sadly have passed away, especially the people who played a huge part in my life. Last but not least, this post is dedicated to all those people I cherish and always will until I pass away myself.

Characters I identify myself with

After my dad’s brutal and heartbreaking departure, I started to binge watch TV with so much frequency. I was getting addicted to TV. My TV addiction couldn’t have come at a better or worst time (for my mum): During the 80s, especially the late 80s, Japanese animations were simply perfection. For me, it was a blessing, so many great shows and series in animation. Hands down, I was a massive manga fan, the Japanese mangas were just amazing; the drawing and colours caught my attention. You wonder how was I made aware of the Japanese mangas? Well in France, during the 80s, mangas were on the rise and such a hit with television audiences. I had access to most of the French channels which is why we watched it so frequently, dubbed in French. Some of my favourite Japanese mangas were: Sailor Moon, Ai Shite Knight, City Hunter, Saint Seiya (Kinghts of the Zodiac), Dragon Ball Z and the list definitely goes on.

Sailor Moon
Ai Shite Knight
City Hunter

It was also during the end of the 80s that the Simpsons were created. Needless to say I enjoyed the Simpsons.

The Simpsons

At the beginning of the 90s, to my absolute delight, Tintin was created as a cartoon series. I read all the books and now I was able to see one of my favourite character on TV too.

Tintin

I guess watching TV, enabled me to forget about my troubles even briefly: I was missing my dad daily, my weekly visit to the psychologist and of course my ongoing troubles at school. To my mum’s chagrin, I would watch TV on a daily basis instead of doing my homework. The only thing I did for homework was reading, which was becoming more of a passion than a hobby. I especially loved reading fairy tales. I realized no matter how hard I tried at school, I wasn’t able to succeed, so what was the point? I must admit I learned in my own time and in my own terms. Perhaps that was also the reason I didn’t fare well in school. Perhaps my stubbornness and strong character were the reason I didn’t get along with my classmates as much as I should have. These qualities of possessing a very strong character enabled me to identify myself with 2 important characters in my childhood: Ikki in Saint Seiya and Vegeta in Dragon Ball Z.

Vegeta
Ikki

Ikki, in Saint Seiya, at first appears as an antagonist, gradually he became a hero. He always seems angry, when in fact he was misunderstood because he has been through so much, which shaped his strong character. Despite being part of a group, he often goes on battles alone. Arguably he was the odd one out in Seiya’s circle and an outcast by choice. However, he always remains loyal until the end as well as fulfil the saints code to protect earth and Athena. Ikki always seems upset, but deep down he is very sensitive. He had to endured being adopted and a brutal training in Death Queen Island to become a saint.

Vegeta, on the other hand, is extremely arrogant, proud but (unlike me) hardworking. Just like Ikki, Vegeta at first appears as the antagonist but as the serie progressed, he became an antihero and finally a hero. His rivalry with Goku never changed nor stopped. Although he is part of a group, he also prefers his own company, therefore being an outsider by choice and close allies during battles . I love that contradiction to his character. I like that just like me, Vegeta is not very sociable. Ikki is the same in that matter. Vegeta always seems upset, like Ikki, but it is due to his seriousness. Just like Ikki, Vegeta always remains loyal and fights for justice. Of course, Ikki and Vegeta share many similarity but they are so different: Ikki is sensitive unlike Vegeta, although on rare occasions he displays his sensitivity. Vegeta’s anger comes from his arrogance as he feels he should be regarded as the best. Vegeta is also the son of King Vegeta of the Saiyan race. Being a prince by birth perhaps deepened Vegeta’s arrogance. Ikki’s anger comes from pain and protection for his younger brother Shun. Both animations (Dragon Ball Z and Saint Seiya) were popular and well known, but Vegeta’s character has been hailed as the most iconic character; not only in Dragon Ball Z, but also in manga and anime history. Now this fact will finally give Vegeta something to be arrogant about! The reason why those two characters struck a chord with me was because of their personalities which I felt so connected with. I always seemed upset, moody, stubborn, angry and of course, I had a very strong character. Needless to remind you I have always felt like an outsider. Just like with Ikki and Vegeta, I fought a lot, but they fought for better reasons than me obviously. Despite this strong character I still possess today, beneath it all, I was very sensitive.

Dragon Ball Z and Saint Seiya were my favourite mangas of all time due to identifying myself with such iconic characters. One feature that separated me from those characters, was the fact that when I like something, I would over like it. I would get carried away. It is good and bad at the same time. Another trait as well is that Ikki, Vegeta and myself have such complex character and full of contradictions. For my part, I hated school yet I loved reading (still do). I hated Switzerland yet I enjoyed the beauty Switzerland possesses. I was rough, strong but also very sensitive to comments about my colour and figure, especially coming from girls. Watching cartoons, especially the Japanese manga, enabled me to escape my reality into a world of fantasy. Those characters stayed true to their strong and contradictory personalities. At the time, Vegeta and Ikki reminded me that despite the hardships they faced, they kept going. Literally in the animation, their lives was a constant battle. It is visualized through their daily battles per episode. At times, they had to take on adversaries twice their size as well as superior. When all seemed impossible, they always found a way by fighting until the end.
Life in Switzerland for me was a constant battle, though it was hard, I kept going despite all the things I faced so far; sadly more was on the way. However, I had to face those battles heads on by adapting to my life in Switzerland, therefore accepting that Switzerland was my home even though I didn’t feel like it. Also, I was hoping that people would accept me for the way I was. Vegeta and Ikki finally were accepted for who they were. After all, our complex and strong personalities is what defines us.