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Interview with Jan Campbell

Campbell, Jan
Foley, Fran
Date of Interview: 
Overcoming Obstacles; Relationships with People and Places; Then and Now; Cultural Identification; Tolerance and Respect
Jan Campbell speaks about her move to the United States, her family, her life in Brazil, and her life in the US
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Fran Foley interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
JC (Jan Campbell): When I was a little girl, I used to dream about I wanted to come to United States. Um, it was all about how the things you saw on TV, how the peoples talk about the United States, the freedom, the freedom we don't have. And I was so small, and I remember my daddy used to tell me I was so stupid to dream such a big dream, I would never go nowhere. I would never get out of there. So, and I continue to dream. Everywhere I went I was hide dream about. The, my dream was so big, I couldn't concentrate on anything really.
FF (Fran Foley): Uh-huh.
JC: And, uh, my daddy said, "Why are you doing that? Why are you doing that? You are never going to become nobody." So, I said, "I don't care but I will go to the United States. I'm going to be free." And, and, um, moving from one, Victoria to Rio de Janeiro and at the age of 18. And never lived at home with my daddy that much, but I when moved to Rio de Janeiro, um--
FF: Did you move there on your own or by yourself?
JC: Yes, with my sister. My oldest sister. We didn't know nobody. We moved to Rio de Janeiro. We went to live with this family and work in the home and get a place to live. That, her son, our son. When her son got married, my sister and I had to separate. She stay with this lady and I went to the son when she got married. I went to work for them. For him and his wife. So as, uh, as the time go by, his wife was my age. She was 18 years old, very child and, both was, but it was a great people. And when they got a divorce, no time at, up, after three years they got a divorce. So, uh, he, they're fighting, who am I going to live with, who am I going? I said, "I'm not going with nobody."
FF: So they both wanted you to live with them?
JC: Yes. Yes. Because I, you know, I knew more than, them, she did as a wife to take care of the house, other things. But anyhow, he, um, he went to work for Pepsi-Cola. And I was working at another house. He call me, he said, "Jan, I got somebody from other country is here. They need somebody desperate. I could not think anybody better than you. His name's Sergio Zima. He's the president of the Pepsi-Cola. He's from Mexican, and his wife is going to have a baby in one month." So there I go working with those people. They didn't speak any Portuguese, only Spanish. So that's how I pick up my Spanish by being with them.
FF: Oh, OK, I didn't know that.
JC: Yes. And, um, I work with them and help them. When she had the little girl I was the nanny.
FF: Now where were you living then?
JC: In Rio de Janeiro.
FF: Oh, OK.
JC: And we live in Rio de Janeiro, um, Ipanema. I think about three years.
FF: Uh-huh.
JC: And, um, I went home to get married. I decide to get married, left them. And my marriage did never started, just ended. So I said, "That's it." I'm moving back to Rio de Janeiro, moving back to Rio de Janeiro, Sergio Zima. I was very close to Jennifer. Jennifer is like everything I had. And Jennifer, we just, I did everything for Jennifer. The parents went out of town and I had to be not just the nanny but the mama too.
FF: Uh-huh.
JC: And, um, I miss Jennifer and I went to visit her. And Sergio and Becky said, uh, "Jan I got a proposition for you." He said, uh, uh, "Pepsi-Cola is transferring me, going to transfer me to NJ. Not NJ, but Ridgefield, CT, in the United States." I said, "Oh my heaven, I'm going!"
FF: That was your dream.
JC: My dream, [laugh] there is my--. He said. "Are you going?" And I said, "Yes." I only had to sign the paper for my passport. They did everything. My dream and the only thing came into my head is that my dream came true. But my dreams when I got here was to make enough money so I can give a better place to my mama.
FF: Uh-huh. Was your father still living when your dream came true?
JC: Yes. Yes. He did not talk to me from 10 years.
FF: Because?
JC: I, because he thought I was so crazy to leave home.
FF: Oh.
JC: Um, after 10 years, been calling home, my daddy would never talk to me, you know, my mama said, "You want to talk to him?" I said, "I will." He's no. He didn't want. So after 10 years being here, I got married, and moved up to Atlanta,GA, and still baby-sit Jennifer.
FF: Oh, so they were in Atlanta then?
JC: Yeah. We moved to Atlanta,GA. Um, and I moved to Myrtle Beach after I got married.
FF: Uh-huh.
JC: And they would fly me to Myrtle Beach to Atlanta,GA to baby sit, uh, Jennifer. When they traveled a lot.
FF: Uh-huh.
JC: And I had to be there. And my dream came true, but not exactly how I dream about it.
FF: What was different from the way you dreamed about it?
JC: Well I dream a lot that my life, my life really would be a whole lot, it is a lot better.
FF: Uh-huh.
JC: I'm thankful for, you know, this. I get very upset because people over here don't appreciate what they have. Most of the students and the teachers I see, when I look at and I see how can they consider themselves with such education people. And they, they see the children throw those books on the floor and they step on it.
FF: Uh-huh.
JC: And the pencils and they never say a thing. That is depressing--
FF: Uh-huh.
JC: Because a book in Brazil was like a, a piece of gold.
FF: Um.
JC: We used to put covers, bags on, grocery bags and put the cover on them.
FF: We used to do that when I was in school.
JC: So the next, the next one be using.
FF: Uh-huh.
JC: That's how special the book was. And, and when I see this over here and I goes, "I can't imagine live in a country so rich so beautiful and have everything and waste that much."
FF: Uh-huh.
JC: You know, and then I go, "What, can't," you know, "Why can't they do better?" People tell me, "Why don't you go to school to become somebody?" I say, "I am somebody. I am what I am. I like, I like the way I am."
FF: Uh-huh.
JC: And I do what I do because I like it. Not because of the money, but because I like it. Because I learn the cleaning, my, my family taught me to clean. My mama always said, "The cleaning is be close to God."
FF: Uh-huh.
JC: So, and cleaning for me is everything. You, you rich, you, you don't have the cleanness on you, I don't want to be around you.
FF: Uh-huh.
JC: I don't want to be rich. But going back to my dream. Was, I didn't make the money when I start, when I came back, when I came here, I got over here the things wasn't like I was told. I was making a hundred dollars a month. And, uh, pay off for my phone calls, didn't have a day off.
FF: Um.
JC: Work until three or four o'clock in the morning. And I was making a hundred dollars. A hundred dollars a month.
FF: Now, who were you working for then?
JC: For Serge and Becky.
FF: Oh, OK.
JC: Just the two of them.
FF: This was when you were flying back and forth?
JC: Yes. But it didn't matter. I was happy. I was able to come over here. But I had a one dream. I had, I had two dreams. One, I'm here. But one day, I will give to my mama what she needs. I always dream to go to Washington to visit the President. [Laugh] I haven't had a chance yet. But I got an offering anytime I want to. I can get to go.
FF: Oh, how so?
JC: Ah [laugh], one of those the senators from Salisbury. When I went to Brazil he helped me get my children a passport and the papers.
FF: Uh-huh.
JC: I had to go to Washington. They saw how hard I worked for those papers. And I was telling him about it, how my dream was to visit to, to go meet the President.
FF: Uh-huh.
JC: Just meet the President. I didn't say where and how, just meet him. But I did, I went to Washington. He said, "That anytime you wanted to go you tell me. I'll get you a pass."
FF: Neat! [Laugh]
JC: But I'm waiting for the right time.
FF: Uh-huh.
JC: So I will go and, uh--
FF: So that was your other dream, to go to Washington?
JC: My other dream-- Yes. Yes. I, and, and it's very interesting how where you get over here, you know, and see the things from here and there, things are shocked. But I got used to. Now all I do is work and do the best for my children.
FF: Uh-huh.
JC: I give to my children what I couldn't give to my mama. Uh, I really, everything goes to my two children.
FF: When was the last time you saw your mother?
JC: Uh, I think I seen my mother two years ago, two years ago. It took me 13 years to go back. Didn't have the money.
FF: Uh-huh.
JC: After 13 years, I didn't know that's what my mama was. She was very, very, very poor.
FF: Um.
JC: Didn't have I didn't believe that's my mother at age 72, how bad she looked.
FF: Was it, um, when you went back to Brazil, was it like you remembered it or did it seem to be poorer than you remembered it?
JC: Better. A whole lot better.
FF: Um.
JC: It got better. I couldn't believe it. Where I was 13 years ago and when I, you know, when and I went there. I couldn't believe that that place didn't have nothing but trash where the people put trash so they can cover the mud so they can build them.
FF: Uh-huh.
JC: When I went back all it was houses. And had, the school has park for the children to play. It was a complete different. I couldn't believe that how much change.
FF: Uh-huh.
JC: It was change for better.
FF: Good.
JC: It was, was complete different. They had, they had a field special for the boys to play soccer. They build it, build and, uh, unbelievable how much change. I couldn't believe. I couldn't. I keep asking my mama, "What's happen to this place?" My mama said, "You're standing on it."
FF: Oh. [Laugh]
JC: And I didn't know that's how much change.
FF: Uh, do you still get homesick for Brazil or your mom?
JC: I do get homesick just because of my mama.
FF: Uh-huh.
JC: My mama is, she's just a very special person and she's just suffered so much. And having 13 children--
FF: Ooh. [Laugh]
JC: And, you know, and a husband, which doesn't, did, never and still doesn't appreciate her.
FF: Uh-huh.
JC: He's treat like a dog.
FF: Um.
JC: And, uh, when I went back, and when I look at him and I look at mama I said, "He hasn't changed."
FF: Um.
JC: And he's still the same. And she always treats him the same. They've been married forever. But, and I don't believe in that. So I'm very, very hard [laugh] when it comes for a man treat a woman ways. Because I told my mother, "A man will never treat me like the way he treats you//
FF: // Uh-huh.//
JC: //Because you deserve a better." That's what I always tell mama. "You're going to get better, you will have better." But she's happy no matter what.
FF: Uh-huh.
JC: You look at her I can never remember her with the tears.
FF: Um.
JC: Even for the beatings. You know, my dad used to beat us very much. And, and all the things she went through, she never, she never//
FF: //Uh-huh.//
JC: //Complain to us. Never did.
FF: Uh.
JC: Never once told us how bad Daddy was. All she said was, "Please be good so your daddy don't whip you."
FF: Um.
JC: And always had a smile.
FF: Um.
JC: I always remember her with a smile. When the last time I saw her, mother she got bone cancer now.
FF: Oh she does?
JC: Yeah. And she been, she been OK, but she's so poor. And, uh, I told her, "I doubt I ever come back here again." Um, "If I don't see you alive, I'll see you in heaven." Because I don't want to see her dead.
FF: Uh-huh.
JC: Because I remember her with a smile.
FF: Right. That's the way you want to remember her.
JC: Always look at her picture and I see her smile. It don't matter where you turn she was smiling. 13 children and didn't know from one day to the other what we were going to eat tomorrow.
FF: Um.
JC: She never once throw things or broke things. And, uh she was a great, a great mother.
FF: A very special lady.
JC: Very special. And I tell you one thing, my mama is everything.
FF: Uh-huh.
JC: She's the only reason I went to visit home.
FF: Right.
JC: Not my sister and my brothers, but her.
FF: Are you the only one that, left out of all your sisters and brothers?
JC: No. I got a sister in Portugal.
FF: Um.
JC: And I got one sister in Amazon River. And all the rest live close to home.
FF: Uh-huh.
JC: Just, just three of us. //
FF: //Yeah. //
JC: //Decide to, to try something different.
FF: Uh-huh.
JC: But I'm glad that sometime I feel lonely. //
FF: //Uh-huh. //
JC: //Because I, and I got my children. I have my family but I still miss something.
FF: Uh-huh.
JC: It's never the same.
FF: Uh-huh.
JC: But I will never go back. //
FF: //Um. //
JC: //Because I got my children here. So I stay here.
FF: Uh-huh.
JC: This place, the United States is wonderful, but compared to what I came from, you know.