The Untold Reason to Get Dual-Citizenship

The Untold Reason to Get Dual-Citizenship

We Americans are lucky to hold the strongest passport in the world. There are few places we cannot openly travel to, and many of the restricted ones simply require some paperwork and a fee.

However, many of us also have a right to dual-citizenship, an incredible opportunity that’s not to be missed. I’m here to tell you one reason that you may not have considered for getting your citizenship:

Family Drama.

That’s right, you heard me. Now, let’s put aside the real reasons to get a passport for a moment. Forget that European citizenship, for example, gives you the right to work and live in 28 incredibly beautiful countries. It allows you to work with employers that guarantee nearly of a month vacation, respect worker’s rights, and give 6 months-1 year of maternity leave. Citizenship buys you the ability to get medical treatment should you get sick, and the peace of mind that comes with never having to wonder if your children will be able to afford a good university. If you’re a travel-nut like me, it also allows you to get reduced-fee or free visas, depending on the country you decide to visit.

Story 1: Reunited And It Feels So Good

Recently, a family member of mine decided to get their Portuguese citizenship. He was originally born there, so he took a quick trip to the embassy one afternoon. 20 minutes, 25 dollars, and a fingerprint later, he became a citizen of 2 countries with rights to 27 others.

The paperwork he was given in return held something of interest: The name of his biological father.

This individual hadn’t seen their father since he was a child. Consistently throughout his early life, he had been told that his biological father had left him and didn’t care about his existence. He was raised, instead, by a good man that his mom married later whom he called ‘Dad’. When he grew older and became an adult, he felt little need to reach out and find this man who left.

That was, until this little piece of paper showed his father’s (unexpected) last name.

That name combined with some Facebook searching didn’t lead to the discovery of a father, however. Instead, it led to the discovery of a sister he didn’t he had. Before long, the two began talking.

“She said that my dad would talk about me all the time growing up. She knew she had brothers somewhere.,” he told me one afternoon. “He searched for us for so long but lost track once we came to the U.S. because our names changed.”

A few months later, he found himself on a plane, nervous for a 20+ year family reunion.

The photographs he took on that reunion don’t tell the full story – a man sits at a crowded table with new family. Beside him are his father and new sister, and smiles fill the air. Behind those photographs are difficult conversations that piece together a broken, misinformed past. The tears are not reflected in the images either, but instead in his recounting of that day.

“We told him a bit about our upbringing. He became so emotional that he needed to leave the room.”

Story 2: Woes in Different Area Codes

I also went to get my dual-citizenship.

That morning, I walked into the embassy with confidence and excitement. Wanting to settle abroad, I didn’t think twice about taking advantage of the opportunity.

A funny aspect of getting Portuguese citizenship is that in addition to needing to have both of your parents be born in Portugal, you must also have their marriage registered there. So, I showed up with the necessary documents in hand:

One birth certificate. One marriage certificate.

The receptionist took my paperwork and began typing away. After a few minutes, she paused, looked up at me and said, “I can’t run this through.”

“Why is that?” I asked.

“Your father is already married to someone else in Portugal.”

Now, this is shocking for two reasons:

1.) My father isn’t alive.

2.) Wait, what?

Apparently, my father had a previous marriage that we didn’t know about. Presumably, this legal marriage was left untouched when he left the country.

I thought getting broken up by text was bad, but this man just hopped on a one-way flight. Hot-damn, Dad!

Story 3: Insert Yours Here

So, there you have it – two dual-citizenship trials led two a reunited family, new sibling, and an old marriage. And all I wanted was access to a job with a few extra coffee breaks!

If you have right to a dual-citizenship, I urge you to consider applying, even if it’s not something you think you need. It’s still easy to do, and change happens fast. The ability to get up and go is much easier if you have countries with open doors for you. Besides, I promise if you travel abroad enough, you will fall in love with one other way of life you never knew could be yours.

If nothing else, you may just learn a thing or two about your family and have a good story to tell.

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Air-Goo

Air-Goo

There are few things I find more comforting than being on an airplane.

Once the HI-SEAS mission ended, the running around began. Our mission doesn’t end with stepping out of the habitat. Instead, we jump into debrief week – an opportunity to speak with all of the researchers to talk about the mission, improvements to the research projects, and to learn a bit of information that we were not allowed to know during the mission.

The week consisted of in-person interviews, Skype calls, and difficult goodbyes. Once it was over, I raced around Hawaii with a few friends to explore. After all, I had been living on the Big Island for 8 months without actually seeing any of it.

I stayed with various friends in different locations ranging from small cabins in the middle of the centipede-filled forest to the busy home of a native Hawaiian family and their pack of dogs. I was surrounded by gracious hosts and loving people, yet it felt very overwhelming. I would sit at a kitchen table, TV blaring in the background complimenting three or four people speaking to me at once. In these moments, my mind told me to smile but my gut told me to jump out the fire escape.

Though my trip around Hawaii was a fun-filled one: cliff-diving with a stranger, standing next to active lava flows, and giving a talk at a major National Park, there wasn’t much opportunity to decompress and process.

I couldn’t help but feel a bit guilty at feeling strangled by the warmth others were showing me.

In fact, I didn’t feel like I could breathe until I was sitting in the warm embrace of a cheap plastic RyanAir chair.

Between Past and Present

Flying always feels like home. As soon as I sit down, it’s as if I have touched air-goo: finally safe.

There’s no more security to go through. Maybe for some unknown reason, I will be tackled to the ground at my destination – perhaps I brought gum into Singapore or something.

Either way, for the time I’m in the air, there is only the comfort of a familiar routine.

The stewardesses and stewards will give their safety speech. I will stow my tray table and bag below the seat to avoid making them remind me with disappointed eyes. Within a few minutes, the plane will begin racing forwards before lifting, almost unnoticeable at first, into the sky. Seconds later, my stomach will register the drop and my mind will imagine myself what it would be like to fly without a machine. The plane will climb, turning the airport into just one small square among other geometric shapes of cities, farmland, and mountains.

I will look forward to the complimentary drink alongside an ice-filled plastic cup. I will be inexplicable excited for the meal whose contents are individually packed, and will give each one special attention. It’s Lunchables, for adults.

Traveling is about transformation – leaving one world and entering another. You may embark from one location to reach another where words are no longer understood, or where offensive behaviors become compliments.

The transit, however, is about routine. For me, it’s a kind of home.

When we’re up in the sky, we are hanging for a moment in-between a past and future place of existence.

Need (less) Input!

Need (less) Input!

I’ve been out of the habitat for several weeks now and have been lucky enough to have a small sampler platter of the western world – some time in the U.S. (Hawaii), France, and the U.K.

Surprisingly, seeing people on exit-day itself was not as overwhelming as I had expected. Instead, my time re-entering the world has brought contrast to the life I lived in the habitat and the one I have ahead.

When returning to a home country after living abroad for a while, it’s natural to try and hold onto the parts of the culture that you felt were fulfilling. These inherently clash with social norms at home, making pulling this off quite difficult since you are ultimately left with two options:

  • Integrate back into the culture and only talk about the differences as an idealistic impossibility
  • Alienate yourself to a degree and keep behaviors that conflict with your society

Coming back from HI-SEAS isn’t much different. We developed out own culture and rules/behavioral norms for life inside the habitat. We were restricted in our resources, which in turn influenced how we conducted ourselves. After our release back into the wild, there is one thing that is abundantly clear:

There is a lot of input to be had.

Our schedule was booked with media appearances as soon as we left the habitat : radio interviews, t.v. spots, and podcasts. Newspapers released their own interpretations of the mission. One of my favorites was a doodle about us:

HISEAS Cartoon

I left for 8 months. Just 8 months! I don’t know what the heck you guys did, but this is why we can’t have nice things.

My first experiences included traveling around Hawaii and rediscovering Facebook. The sentiment communicated in this doodle was echoed by those around me. “Thank God you were in there, and missed everything!” people would say. “Everything’s falling apart out here…”

Social media was all noise. Each morning I would fire up the app in hopes of catching up on my friends’ and family’s lives. Instead, I was met with political statements and articles/videos that helped solidify their stance. My feed was now made up exclusively of advertisements and reasons why no one should have guns, why everyone should have guns, or why trump was the worst or best thing to ever happen to the U.S. I wondered how long it had been that way.

I lived in a habitat, but it seemed that everyone had been living a bubble of their very own.

I wouldn’t recommend to anyone to be uninformed about what is going on. However, what I now notice is how much we are affected by constant input and relentless media from our respective bubbles. The resulting angst and frustration is plentiful, but conversations rare.

Within a few weeks, I already began finding myself slipping back into mindless zombie mode- scrolling through the same Facebook posts several times a day, or checking my phone whenever there was a small lull in a conversation or uncomfortable silence.

Recently, I was traveling around London with a friend. They used their phone’s GPS for finding and navigating everywhere. It proved to be quite useful – guiding us from place to place in a busy city. Then, my friend left and I found myself without the same modern tool. Instead, I went back to the stone age –  looking up directions, writing them down on a piece of paper, and asking strangers when I lost my way.

Surprisingly, I found that I made it to places much more efficiently. I began getting to know my surroundings and subtle cues. I began to understand how neighborhoods were ordered and work out bus stops and street layouts within a few minutes. I realized just how much information was lost by relying on the devices.

I had walked all throughout London, but my sightseeing was 95% made up of an iPhone 5.

When you tell someone that you’ll be going on this sort of simulation, the typical response is something along the lines of “you’re crazy”, or “I could never do that.” The average response from space people is “How do I sign up?”

After finishing the mission, people ask what you missed while you were inside, or how it is to suddenly have all the freedom.

The truth is that I’ve been spending my time thinking about how to keep some of the restrictions I had in the habitat. How do I find balance between being informed and filtering out noise? How do I make social media and technology a tool, rather than a distraction?

Despite a packed schedule, my HI-SEAS Mission V experience was one of the most productive periods of my career, in no small part because of a lack of distractions and an abundance of attention to my surroundings.

I’d like to recreate this environment to the best of my ability outside the mission. Between tv, streaming services, constant connection, social media, texting, etc… we all need just

need less input.

Talks Offered

An aside – I am offering talks about my experience at HI-SEAS and life lessons learned. If you know of an organization looking for a unique speaker, please feel free to reach out to me at:

brian_ramos@my.uri.edu

Final Patch Newer.png

 

 

Exit Day

If you’re reading this when its posted, then I’m currently leaving the hab. No really – check the news! I’m leaving, and I don’t even have a suit on.

Yesterday was our last day in the habitat. I laid down by the window after the crew had gone to bed and tried to predict what the next morning would be like – hearing footsteps and chatter from news reporters and mission management setting up for our ‘release’. By the end of the night my emotional currency was well spent and processing everything wasn’t an option.

Instead I thought of a story I read somewhere once. It was about a young child walking out of the grocery store with his mother. Innocently he asked, “Why does the sign say exit”

“Well, because we’re leaving, honey” the mom replied.

” But aren’t we entering the world?”

I’ve thought about that story many times this week. Now our crew is re-entering the world.

Some said we were crazy to step out of that world.

Now I’m waiting to say goodbye to a simpler, focused life here. A part of me isn’t ready to let it go. Another part of me is ready and just watching the clock count down. And instead of going to sleep, I write – sheltered by the habitat canvas blowing softly in the wind and in the silence of miles of empty lava fields around me.

Cursed Rocks and Lava Bombs

Cursed Rocks and Lava Bombs

Pictures are funny things. Despised in some cultures and adored in others, pictures are an incredible invention that’s taken for granted. We have the ability at any moment, to capture that moment simply by understanding the physical laws of our world.

I’ve gone through several phases with taking images as I’ve grown up. At certain points of my life, I refused to take any, convinced that being in the moment was impossible without it. At others, I viewed the world mostly through a lens, desperately trying to keep a moment forever. I’ve even gone on a completely photo-free trip, wanting it to solely be shared by myself and my companion.

Recently, I gave myself a small writing assignment. I sat in each room in the habitat and wrote freely about everything I saw. Unsurprisingly, stories, memories, and moments began making their way to the surface of my mind. Still, some details caught my eye. Even after a nearly a year spent in a single building, there were details to be discovered.

This exercise caused me to photograph everything I could. This time, I didn’t nicely frame the images or worry about lighting. It didn’t matter if my ‘subjects’ were centered. Instead, I wanted comprehensive coverage – photographing every nook and cranny of the habitat I possibly could.

And what both of these exercises taught me was that when your whole world – work, family, friends, hobbies- is crammed into one location, every item is tied to a network of neurons. Each snapped photo came with a complementary platter of thoughts and memories:

*snap* – a photo of the pantry reveals a bag of whey protein. Attached to it are memories of the crew doing p90x, jumping up and down synchronously while trying to fight the urge to rest and the urge to laugh at a funny exclamation someone made in desperation. A song plays loudly in my head: “This ___ is Bananas! B-A-N-A-N-A-S”. I remember hearing its bass through the hab canvas and watching the crew dancing around on the other side of our small port window. Their excitement was fueled by the receipt of bananas in a resupply – enough to make protein shake smoothies for the rest of the mission.

*snap* – A photograph of our labeled helmets in the airlock reminds me of army crawling through a tight space in a lava tube cave, eventually leading me to a long undiscovered tunnel system. Its scratches are marks of the tumbles taken in the name of adventuring through untouched spaces.

*snap* – A picture of a router with inconvenient sound effects. One night in the hab a few months in, the crew sat together hanging out after dinner. In a lull of the conversation, a sound pierces through us, seemingly from outside, “YAhooo!!!”. The crew falls silent. Some grab heavy and/or sharp objects. Others froze. We’re a diverse team.

Some silently decide the voice was in their head and effects of isolation are worse than they thought.

Not long after, we begin scanning for signs of people outside. After some more “Yahoo!” and some investigation, we come to find out that one of our routers has an alarm that some genius set to sound like people yelling out loud. We put down the cutlery and continued our isolated hanging out.

*snap* An ipad with UILA, our ‘watcher’ program that monitors the weather, power levels, C02, water levels etc. I remember early on in the mission when we were short on water. We made a crew decision – we would re-use plates and silverware, limit water use, and not do laundry until we received a water resupply. That resupply would come…..well, that was ambiguous. That was, until we received an email that read, “The water truck is coming”.

A bunch of scientists and engineers considered the options immediately – the tank will be filled either way, so let’s save some water to avoid this situation again. Within minutes, the crew raced around storing water and catching up on water heavy tasks.

That continued until we received a second email (40 minutes later with delay, of course),

“Just to be clear, they’re just coming to look around.”

*snap* – A photo of fold out chairs. These are pulled out every time the crew watches a movie together- half of the crew lays on a collapsible couch and the other half in these egg chairs. The first movie we watched together plays in my head– Alien. It’s loud volume sticks with me – we have no neighbors to speak of to complain. This movie would later become inspiration for our drone, Ripley. The warm memory is immortalized by our “domeawayfromhome” crewmember in a beautiful watercolor painting.

I could go on for a long time. There is barely a single object in the hab that wouldn’t bring up a memory at this point.

Those haphazard pictures, I’ll keep for myself. Instead, here I’ll show you a few photos of some more interesting oddities of the mission:

Lava Bombs

Around the lava fields are areas with cooled lava rocks referred to as ‘lava bombs’. These are chunks of lava that were once ejected from a vent and cooled in the air before hitting the ground. On a long EVA one day, the crew found a different kind of lava bomb.

According to Wikipedia, in 1935, the military here attempted to bomb a lava flow that was heading towards a city to try and divert it. This type of operation would be attempted again in a future eruption that threatened resources.

This isn’t the only time lava has presented an issue. During World War II, another eruption caused issues for the military that feared that the illumination from flowing lava would give Japanese bombers a target.

While I cannot confirm this shell is from those 1930-1940’s bombings, it seems reasonable:

IMG_2123

Cursed Rocks?

Taking rocks from the volcano is a forbidden practice. This volcano is heavily tied to Hawaiian culture and the Goddess Pele. Some even believe that doing so will bring a ‘curse’ of bad luck.

How do I know this?

Well, we received a nice package in the mail one afternoon. Excited to see what it was, we sat around the kitchen table and opened it together. I shook the envelope for a moment before pouring out the contents: two rocks and a letter.

“Please return these to the volcano,” it pled.

For at least one person, the curse was real enough.

In respect for both the Volcano and the poor soul whose life was presumably falling apart enough that they felt the need to mail rocks, we obliged:

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Exiting a Hab, or Entering a World?

7 Days left.

Filming for the Times has resulted in a ton of footage to look back on, including the first day of the mission. I recently re-watched the clip of our initial entry, immediately after the doors were shut. Our actions portrayed excitement, but our faces are clearly more aligned with the realization of “oh, I’m really doing this…” That day was hectic – running around getting computers set-up, bouncing back and forth between moving in and talking to reporters. It was a rat race all the way up until the closing of that door.

Looking back, that was an incredible leap of faith we took. We had known one another for about a week and were complete strangers otherwise. It was only over the course of the next several months that we began discovering who each other were. I would walk into the seacan to learn that our Google IT specialist was also a violinist, or that another crewmember was also a video game enthusiast. I would also come to learn who has the lightest step, sings most often, cleans their dishes right away, or goes to bed early.

For the past 8 months, I’ve only seen these same 5 people. In a few days, I’ll be leaving the habitat to be greeted with a sea of cameras and curious reporters. We’ll be leaving confinement and jumping straight into a crowd, followed by welcoming at a Comic-con type of event. Talk about being thrown in the deep end.

For the last couple of weeks, my mind is always parallel processing checklist items to complete before the mission and processing the emotions coming up now as it nears its end.

It’s easy to understand the source of that uneasy look on everyone’s face that first day we were locked in. After all, we had little idea of what life inside the habitat would be like. We had no experience to go on.

But now, we’re heading out into a world we’ve spent our entire lives in. It’s the world that has raised and challenged us throughout child and adulthood.

So why does that feel more intimidating than getting locked in?

Perhaps a part of it is simply the fact that life is simpler in here – no crazy daily doomsday news stories or social media distractions. The people who stay in contact with us are the ones that truly care about us. There’s no traffic or unnecessary distractions. We’re not so much leaving a habitat as we are entering a much larger world.

Before the mission, I thought that by now I would be looking forward to things missed in here- feeling the sun beating directly on my skin, perhaps a particular food. Instead, I’m focused on wondering how it will be like to walk into a Walmart – the general public, social pressures, and all. It’s a different kind of culture shock I have yet to experience.

These last few weeks have been some of the most difficult. Group tasks and personal goals require morning to night work schedules. The mind and heart are constantly trying to balance these tasks against taking it all in – spending time with the crew, or sitting by the window and looking out at our beautiful view.

On some days, the sun seemed to shine the entire day. Even when it left, it left behind a sunset so beautiful and unique to that day. Other time when it rained and the clouds took over, we were reminded of our limitations and confinement. I’ll miss watching the volcanoe’s fog slowly roll in, slowly stealing away my view of the lava layers.

So, when I can during late nights and busy mornings, I write. Because in less than 7 days, we’ll be back into a busy, crowded world causing mission memories to grow fainter each day as the fog slowly rolls in, obscuring this life.

Reddit AMA

Hey! We’ll be hosting a reddit Q & A Session tomorrow. We can only answer questions after 40 minutes have passed due to the delay, but go ahead and ask what you want!

Featured will be every crewmember including Alfred, our Betta. Be warned – his answers may be a bit…..fishy.

Here’s the teaser post:

Looking forward to seeing what you come up with!