On Saturday night, Andrew and I watched Brazil and Argentina face off in the Copa América final. Brazil v Argentina is a long-standing rivalry, and this was an important match. While I didn’t care for the commentators waxing poetic and droning on and on about Messi and this historic victory for him, or watching another team hoist a trophy into the air yet again, on Brazil’s home turf, I did enjoy watching the match, and splitting a small bag of Brazi bites and a can of black beans with AJ for dinner.

Reesee the Cat was not amused as we cheered and ugh-ed our way through 90 exciting minutes. And even though Brazil didn’t win, 1-0 is way less painful than 7-1 (GER v BRA 2014). It got me thinking about growing up in Brazil, the joy of simplicity in how delicious black beans and cheesy bread can be, and about my favorite World Cup of all time, World Cup 1994.

I was in 4th grade, living in Brazil with my missionary parents and my sister, and it was my birthday.  I spent the morning of my birthday in the corner, “thinking about my attitude and how I could be more loving,” after my mom overheard me talkin’ trash about the Cameroon team, who would be facing off against Brazil later that day.

I did think about it, and repented of my unseemly behavior, but still knowing in my heart that Brazil would win. And while “World Cup Sara;” as AJ refers to my less- than- classy soccer-watching ways, emerges from time to time in the heat of an amazing match, I’m more compassionate and gracious to other teams especially when they play so beautifully.

I’m more compassionate to the world around me through experiences of growing up in Brazil, tagging along with my parents in their service, all while sporting a finely tuned palate that delights in really good food. If you’ve never tried Brazilian food, it’s never too late to start.

When my time in the wilderness, er, corner, was up, I got ready for the party: A fun striped-shirt, and casual blocks of green, blue and yellow painted onto my face with watercolor. These are the sacrifices we make for the beautiful game, people.

That’s a (hideous!) painting of the Brazilian flag

My whole class came over, and the other MKs on my parents’ team. I greeted them all at the door, and then we headed downstairs where a giant soccer field birthday cake with figurines of all the Brazilian players awaited us.

We played party games, had snacks, sang happy birthday, and then watched Brazil v Cameroon together. The 4th grade constructed social divisions that kept us apart at school melted away as we cheered for our team, and celebrated a win.

I probably got a talking to afterwards about using kind words, etc. But what I mostly remember was my awesome World Cup birthday party and how cozy and at home it made me feel in my own life.

I’ve been reflecting on that recently, as the Copa América, CONCACAF Gold Cup, and World Cup qualifiers are underway or on deck. Memories of that cup are never far away. And as things begin to open back up and masks begin to fall away, the pace of survival has slowed to a pace of reflection. I don’t love it. Time to reflect on all that’s happened over the past year reminds me of all the sadness and loss the world has had, and continues, to endure.

That ratchets up my anxiety and is exhausting. But, I stayed up late on Saturday to watch Brazil v Argentina, then again on Sunday to watch USA v. Haiti. I will do the same tomorrow for Mexico v Guatemala (two places I have spent time in and love!), then again on Thursday for USA v Martinique, and I’m not tired at all.

Somehow, the connection to my upbringing in a land where the pace of life is slow and hospitable, has lessened my anxiety and stress, and energized me with great memories – in my mind and on my taste buds – and gratitude for my loving family of origin, a partner in life who understands Third Culture Kids and accepts those weirdo nuances, the house on Rua Nunes Vieira, Brazi bites, and soccer.

Thanks be to God.

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