Advantage in Exile

This post originally appeared at the blog of The 50 Women Project

I could not stay in that country club room a moment longer.

It was overcrowded, the people talked loudly and senselessly and I was having a difficult time forming a genuine connection with anyone present.

I escaped into the elegant bathroom with the intent of isolating myself for a few minutes to collect my thoughts; continuing to feel a strong sense of detachment even in this new enclave. Standing in front of the marble sink with warm water tricking over my cold hands, I contemplated my next move when a woman appeared attempting to sell me weight loss products.

I spoke to her in attempt to ward her off until another woman with stunning green eyes turned to me said: “You know, you have a beautiful voice”.

Let it be known that I am always grateful for any comment on my voice. Its low tone was always a point of teasing in my childhood. In fact, I grew up being terribly self-conscious that it was significantly deeper than most girls my age. Anyone who has met me in person can clearly attest that it does not even come close to matching my physical size. It was only in the last few years that I learned to appreciate it and the unique advantages and versatility it lends me in performing arts. I digress.

I quickly glanced at the woman’s name tag, reading that her name was Monica and she was there to represent Spanish One Translations. We spoke about her services as I explained the amount of upcoming translations I will need for “50 Women”. Upon learning of the strength and perseverance theme of the book she instantly told me: “I’m from Argentina and I lived in exile”. That was it. An instant connection. An instant understanding between us of something so much larger than this posh bathroom with tulips resting next to the sink. I knew suddenly why I came here after all and it must have been to meet her.

We met again the following week for a hearty breakfast at a German style café. There we talked for hours about our lives, goals and visions. The more stories about her I uncovered, the more I hungered to hear others. She had such a boundless, vast life of rich cultural experiences any travel maven would be envious of.

Monica owns a translation business because she is innately gifted with languages. Having lived in several countries and even exiled in Israel during her childhood with her political activist mother, she currently speaks five fluently.

“I feel as if my life officially began in exile” Monica told me that morning. “My earliest memories are more like snapshots- when we left Argentina for Brazil and then received asylum in Israel. Regardless, I have always held on to these visions as they are who I am”.

In Monica’s early childhood, her mother was an assistant to one of the revolutionary leaders in Argentina during the dictatorship of Jorge Rafael Videla, the country’s de facto president from 1976-1981. Around 30,000 people went missing during the revolution that resulted from this dictatorship and most of them were under 40 years of age. Monica described to me the year the 1978 World Cup was held in Argentina: “It was this big show- there were parades in the streets and people dancing in all the restaurants when close by there were people locked in military areas being tortured at the same time all this celebration was going on”.

After spending her childhood in constant transition between Argentina, Brazil, Israel and the United States, Monica returned to Argentina at the age of 15 and found herself teaching English as a Second language classes (ESL). “Returning to Argentina was difficult because in my mind, I was years ahead of my peers. I felt like no one could understand what I had been through so I focused on finding work in the language realm”.

At the age of twenty-one she already had her own business teaching English to CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Recently, she was named the 2011 Business Woman of the Year by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Sacramento, California for the exemplary work of Spanish One. To date Monica has translated hundreds of movies and TV shows over the past few years. As we shared chocolate raspberry pancake soufflé, she explained how difficult it was starting her business after settling in the United States and how her perseverance to succeed meant traveling to reputable Los Angeles production studios with a laptop in her arms and a sales pitch of one simple sentence: “How have you been successful without me”?

To give back to the Sacramento Latina community, Monica currently teaches Yoga to Spanish speaking women in a program called YogaLatina where one of her students suffering from depression and insomnia quoted in a past publication: “ Monica, you have the ability to awaken and discover the best in each of us. Thank you for opening up a world full of possibilities for all of us”.

I found a personal connection with Monica through one common denominator: she channels earlier life experiences, including the negative, to mold her future path in the best possible direction. She used language talents acquired from a youth in exile to produce a solid business, used her need for respite to teach Yoga to the Latina Community and in her youth used her sense of not belonging to start her first company. I have come to realize the reason we have certain experiences in this life is for the purpose of summarizing them and using that energy to positively recontribute to the world at large or even our own communities on the micro level. I am doing this with “50 Women”. I have learned to manifest fragmented memories and experiences in order to produce something profound and necessary- something that will serve to elevate women around the world in the long-term and in the short term provide realistic, tangible glances into their lives, countries and cultures. Monica manifests this energy in the same way as I do. Who would ever think that a life in exile could have so many advantages?

My “exile” into the bathroom that evening is essentially what introduced us. The condition of how we met is not new to me. I recognize that it may sound far-fetched to the average person but I have met many other women in the same “purely by chance” encounters. It’s something that I see in certain people that I cannot explain. Perhaps it’s a form of energy, or a look in their eyes that says they understand “it all”. It’s a form of part understanding, part compassion flowing beneath our exteriors. That is sometimes how I know. Granted it’s hardly a logical explanation, it’s the true one…


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