Jimena, Costa Rica




I was born in Costa Rica in 1980. I grew up middle or upper-middle class. There were high tariffs so one thing that was different about my childhood than from those who grew up in the United States is that there were a lot fewer consumer goods around. We didn’t have a hundred different kinds of chocolate. We had one chocolate factory that was state owned and there were six or eight kinds of chocolate. I remember jeans and tennis shoes being hard to come by and Strawberry Shortcake dolls were hard to get. Whenever somebody would travel outside the country they would bring in stuff.
Growing up was typical middle-class experience. Went to school. Most middle class kids in Costa Rica go to private school, which is where I went. Then I came to the States when I was 9. My mom wanted us to learn English and to experience another culture so she did a whole bunch of stuff to get herself a second Fulbright scholarship. She had first come for a masters and then she came for a second masters and she brought us so I spent years nine to eleven in Wisconsin. That was a big part of my childhood. I went back to Costa Rica.

I came to the US again for three months when I was twenty on a program by which you could get a work visa and I worked at a call center at a ski resort in Colorado. Then I got the idea that there was another program that you can get a six-month visa to go to Canada. So my goal was to go to Canada for six months and earn a lot of money and then go traveling through Europe with it when I graduated college. That was age twenty-two. But it turns out that there were no jobs in Canada so it didn’t actually do me any good. I barely, barely broke even. Then while I was in Canada my mom told me about this program, “It’s in Women’s Studies, my friend teaches there, you need to apply. The deadline was last week. You should apply today.” I applied and I got it. And it was a very difficult point because I did not want to live in the States. I wanted to go home to Costa Rica. I was really homesick. I called my best friend. She was at a party late at night and she gets this call out of the blue saying “I don’t want to go to this program that I got but it’s a scholarship. I want to go home.” She very wisely said, “You’re gonna go because we don’t get to go.” And I said, “Oh yeah, right. I’ll go.”

And so then I went to the masters program in San Diego, very determined that I was going to get my degree and then go home. And then I met my ex. And the first week we started dating I told him, “You may not want to date me because I don’t live here. I live in Costa Rica. I’m leaving in a year and a half so I do not think we should start something.” He said, “I will follow you,” but having never left the country. I took him down to Costa Rica and took him on every chicken bus and he didn’t whine. And so I said all right.

And then he needed to stay in the States because he had school debt. And of course I realized that there’s no way that we could ever earn enough to pay that back working in Costa Rica so we decided to stay on a few more years to pay off school loans. But I was very determined to come back. I stayed around and did my PhD. Turns out in hindsight that we could have left a long time ago. He didn’t ask the right questions when talking to the loan officers and there was a contingency thing and you just don’t pay anything back. I could have been back. That was really hard. Years and years of my life spent in the United States. Then eventually he decided not to pay off the school loans with the contingency thing.

Finally I got to go back to Costa Rica. Finished my PhD, spent years and years of planning and saving for the move. I shopped. I garage sale-d for about two years straight. This is something that my mom had done when I was a child. When we moved back from Wisconsin she had filled a container full of stuff that we took back and is still in my house to this day. A shipping container. Pots and pans and blankets and furniture and appliances and all the things. Anything that could be useful for the next twenty years was shipped. Likewise for my move. At that point I was also planning on having children, so that included anything I thought would be useful for kids. Cribs, cloth diapers, books.

That is something that is different about my childhood. There are no libraries in Costa Rica. As a middle class kid I had an allowance. I figured out that if I saved my allowance for two and a half weeks, that would buy me a book. And so every three weeks or so I would have an adult take me to the bookstore to buy a book. Having constant access to libraries was amazing, just week after week going to get piles of books. And so when I moved back to Costa Rica I took twenty boxes of books, including five or six boxes of children’s books.

I bought all the things for the move, saved for years, paid for a shipping container. Filled it with a tub, a toilet, a couch, beds, mattresses, linens, pots, pans, books, patio set, grill, two tons of clay because I am a potter and I can’t get white clay in Costa Rica. Moved to Costa Rica. Went back home, got settled in, this was the dream all along. I was never an immigrant that wanted to be here. I never ever wanted to live in this country, particularly because of the history of this country. This country steals from mine to this day. Being here feels very difficult. It feels like a betrayal. It feels like I’m living fat off my privilege. Like I’m not paying back what I owe to my folks in Costa Rica. The brain drain is something I’m particularly concerned with. Those of us with the degrees and the knowledge and stuff, whenever we can we get out. We deplete our countries.

I went back home and settled in and then my relationship changed. I wasn’t able to have kids. My relationship with my ex ended and I started a relationship with a woman. It is tricky to think in terms of timing because this partner transitioned after our relationship ended and so he is now male and uses he pronouns, but when we first started, he identified as female and used she pronouns so the timing and the wording gets tricky here.

Our relationship began and it was overwhelming being confronted with homophobia after not having dealt with it for eleven years after partnering with a guy. My ex was new to relationships with women and so dealing with homophobia was entirely new to her. We were both shocked at the loss of privilege having both partnered with men previously. The homophobia in Costa Rica was wearing us down. It was a daily occurrence. Relationships with friends and family and work and all the things were intense. I had to get back in the closet having been out for a very long time in order to protect my partner. She had never been out to her family and had been trying to push being gay away for a very long time. So trying to deal with the internalized homophobia was intense and the work all around us was pretty heavy.

For me closeting again was intense. Figuring out what stories to tell, particularly around her job and her family. Who was I? Would I get introduced? What was our relationship? I think first I was introduced as a friend, but then she moved into my house, so then I was a roommate, her landlady. I remember being terrified the first time I went over to her mom’s house and literally sitting on my hands so that I wouldn’t reach out to touch her. Virtually not speaking, which was unusual for me. I was worried I would give something away, or call her honey, or just say a detail that would give it all away. Sitting next to each other without touching. I had forgotten how hard that was. Having dinner in a restaurant and putting both of our hands on a table without letting them touch was hard. And then there were some spaces where you felt a little bit more safe being out of the closet. When we weren’t with her family or her work we might try holding hands or kissing in public, so then we would get harassed on the street, yelled at, insulted. Walking down the farmer’s market holding hands, having the entire farmer’s market stop and yell and insult us. One difference between us is that I had never felt a lot of internalized homophobia, I never felt bad about being queer. I had a really sex positive and supportive household. She grew up Evangelical so every single time somebody said something the internal shame would be triggered and she would reel and recoil and have to deal with that for days. And so the same incident that both of us would be at I could brush off easier and it would send her into a spiral.

Closeting at work was tricky. I would call her on the phone and the thing about Spanish is that you don’t use gendered language just to refer to people in the third person, like “she was there,” but also when you speak about yourself or to somebody else. Every word gets conjugated differently. I have to say I am female-happy today, instead of just happy. So speaking on the phone when she was at the office she would have to switch to male language when she was talking to me. So hearing that on the other end of the line was bizarre and for her was very tricky.

There were scary incidents as well. There was one time we were out late on a dark street and we were making out in a quiet area. Very happily making out, a very typical Costa Rican thing to do and next thing I know I look up and there is a man standing not even a foot away, pretty much face to face with me. It was absolutely terrifying. It was midnight or 1 am, dark, lonely street. Completely terrifying and I remember whipping her around behind me, I was bigger than my girlfriend, and getting in between the two of them and yelling and screaming at him. Is he going to mug us? Is he going to attack us? Is he going to kill us? Are we going to get beat up here?

And the everyday stuff, getting stared at was exhausting. Trying to figure out what restaurant to go to, which restaurant is going to be safe. I remember when she was turning thirty trying to decide what to do for a celebration. “All right, it’s your thirtieth birthday, it’s a big deal, where do you want to go, how to do you want to celebrate, where do you want to go out?” There were one or two restaurants we felt safe at, so we could go to those, but then that would mean that wasn’t special, just an every day going out. Or we could try a new one and risk being mistreated.

We once went to a roller derby event and we thought roller derby was a safe bet because there was non-typical gender, right? It’s women beating on each other so we figured that would be a great space. And it was, and we were happily making out, which again is a very Costa Rican thing to do. We had been at the event for about an hour and some when this woman in a referee suit comes by and yells us and says, “There are children here, you can’t be doing that here, you need to be decent” or something like that. It caught me off guard because we had been there over an hour and had nothing said to us then quickly going into a complete shock realizing that she was wearing a ref uniform. I said, “Are you one of the organizers here?” And she said, “Yes I am one of the referees.” And so I grabbed on to that and started screaming, “You’re a homophobe, you’re homophobic, and I’m going to make a splash and tell everybody in Costa Rica that roller derby is homophobic and you’re going to see your name all over facebook and social media.” And she’s yelling back, “I’m not homophobic but you can’t be doing that in front of children.” We keep yelling at each other and finally she yelled “Well fine then, I apologize.” That just threw me off guard. I said, “Well fine, only if you mean it.” Eventually she backed down and she said, “I’m not homophobic because my best friend is gay.” “Then why the hell are you doing this?” At this point my girlfriend is crying and the whole day is ruined. Eventually she came back later and I said “Listen, what you did was really bad and you need to never do that again. My girlfriend is crying because you were mean to us.” And she got it and she apologized and I think she learned from that.

It was just overwhelmingly exhausting. My girlfriend’s job was incredibly, horrendously homophobic. Just atrocious. Fag jokes left and right. Fag jokes fifty times a day was not unusual. She was an engineer and she worked at a national company and all the engineers who worked there were men. She was the only woman at the job so there was a lot of masculinity around and this was demonstrated through that as well. Any female who did anything outside of the norm was punished. So yeah, we got worn down. She came out as gay and part of her deciding that she could come out as gay was knowing that we were leaving.

We decided to get out of the country for a little while and take a trip. This is where privilege comes in. I had enough money saved that I could pay for a trip for us. I had US citizenship at the time, so I could get to countries and stay. She was able to get a US visitor visa, which is a really hard thing to accomplish. She was able to get it because she had a stable job as a government engineer. That gave her enough standing. She was low risk for staying. The question that you get is pretty much is there a risk that you are trying to immigrate to the United States. She could prove that she did not want to move, she was just taking a trip because she had such a good job in Costa Rica.

I had US citizenship through marriage. And that is another way that queerness plays into this. In 2003 when I came into the United States I came on a student visa. When I met my ex we got married.  Since I was partnered with a guy I could get married back in 2004, but if I had been with a woman the story would have been entirely different. I got married, went through the entire process of residency and citizenship. That takes a lot of years and is incredibly expensive.

I had a lot of privilege, not the least of which was having been in the States for two years when I was a child. That helped me get my original student visa. Once you’ve had a US visa it is easier to get another one because you came back and you are low risk. One part was my mom bringing me to the States as a child so I could learn English. My class standing, my parents being highly educated upper middle class, that made us low risk. If you have money and property back in your home country the expectation is that you are going back. The first visa made it easier to get a second visa as a teenager. My grandmother on my dad’s side was a domestic worker in California. Dad’s side lived in extreme poverty. My mom’s side was old money aristocracy. So, visa once, visa twice, then worker visa, then student visa at twenty-three.

Student visas were hard to come by. I had an acceptance letter and a scholarship letter in which they would do a low stipend and a tuition waiver for me. In order to get a student visa you have to prove that you have enough money to cover your entire stay and expenses in the US. You have to prove that you have money for the tuition, the books, housing and food for the entire duration of the program, two years. I had to prove that I had about thirty-five thousand dollars in a bank account. My family did not have that kind of money, but class privilege meant that we knew enough people who did have some money that we could all pool it together in one bank account for one day, print that off, and then apply for the visa and give everybody their money back.

I got the student visa. What I didn’t realize is that my student visa wouldn’t allow me to work. My expectation was that I would come to San Diego and I would work while I was in my master’s program. I realized that I could only work 10 hours a week, on campus. So I made seventy dollars a week and lived off that. And so when I was a grad student I lived in poverty. I had four hundred dollars a month, and three hundred went to rent. I lived off of one hundred dollars. I supplemented by selling plasma, which was not considered a job so that gave me twenty dollars here and there. My choices at that point were either to go to back to Costa Rica after having spent all this time and energy and money to get into this master’s program, or to get a job under the table, undocumented, or to live in extreme poverty. I didn’t want to risk my future in the US, I didn’t want to ruin my future by getting a job that could get me deported, and so I chose to live in poverty.

I met my ex and we dated for a while and when the relationship kept looking like it was more significant, we wanted to stay together. He needed to stay in the States, the only way I could stay on in the States was to get married. Otherwise we would have gone back to Costa Rica. Married, residency, citizenship. My pristine immigration record in the US made it much easier to get citizenship.

Logistics — any kind of visa or immigration paperwork is horrendously expensive. Medical exams, tuberculosis tests, this is all stuff you pay for out of pocket. Each application is hundreds or thousands of dollars, at each step. There are many steps you go through. Change of status request was eight hundred dollars and twenty different documents that you need, birth certificates, immigration records, dates that you came in and out of the country for the past ten years, which is hard to track down, every address you’ve ever lived at. Thousands and thousands of dollars of documentation. Maybe fifteen hundred here, two thousand there, eight hundred there, many different stages. I remember the first time I requested residency there’s a period of limbo in which when they are deciding whether you get the residency or not, you can’t leave the country because they are checking you. Unless you pay an extra three hundred dollars for an extra permit for that temporary time. I could not conceive of not being able to leave the country. I remember thinking that if there was an emergency at home, that I would need to get there. I was willing to pay three hundred dollars for those months.

Again, I never ever wanted to live in this country. I remember the day I had to go in for the swearing in for the citizenship as a really, really difficult, humiliating, shameful day. There’s this story of the American dream and all these immigrants that want to come to this country and be Americans is deeply offensive to the Americans who are from other parts of this continent. America, when I went to school, is a continent. North, Central, Caribbean and South. We consider ourselves to be Americans. Many Latin American folks feel this way. It can be pretty offensive when folks from the States call themselves American. It feels like usurping of the term American, because to us it is a continent, not a country. It seems incredibly conceited to say that these folks are American, but we are not. It is particularly offensive for folks who know the history of the US exploitation of Latin America.

I never ever ever ever wanted to be a citizen of this country. My choices were to be a permanent resident or a citizen and if I stayed a permanent resident that meant I had to be coming back into the country once a year or lose everything and start over. I was not willing to be tethered to this country, to have to come back every year. And so, I went for citizenship. This very end day was very difficult because you have to renounce your ties to your home country, which for Costa Rican folks is not a big deal because Costa Rican citizenship can never be renounced, you never lose it. It is a way of guaranteeing rights. I could say whatever words I have to say, but I will never stop being Costa Rican. For other folks from other countries it is more difficult because they do lose origin citizenship. And so the swearing-in ceremony had me saying things like I renounce my citizenship and I can’t even remember what else. I had to lift my hand up and say these words. I just mouthed different words.

I have, throughout my life, played just inside the lines, sometimes just outside, but in ways that won’t get me caught. But at every step I have resisted as much as I can.
I remember once when I was renewing my tourist visa, I must have been nineteen or twenty. I had the best tourist visa that you can have, which is a ten-year visa. Once you get a ten-year visa you almost automatically get it renewed. They don’t even check you. You just get stamped through. The woman ahead of me in line was really nervous. She had all of these documents put together proving that she would come back to Costa Rica, would not stay on in the US. Her dream was to bring her kids to Disneyland. Each application for a visa was one hundred and fifty dollars or so, which is a lot of money considering a minimum wage job in Costa Rica is four hundred dollars per month.   She had applied for herself and her kids and her husband, a total of five or six visa applications — a lot of money just to apply. In the visa interview they sit you down in a chair in front of a glass wall talking to someone behind a window. I was sitting next to her and I could hear the conversation in which she was being humiliated and being told no. She was begging, “I just want to take them to Disneyland.” And me, getting rubber stamped for another visa. I feel a lot of bitterness toward this country’s immigration system.

And back to being thirty-six and my girlfriend and I decide to leave the country for a while and travel. We both had these visas and I had money to pay for the trip. We decided to leave for a year just to get a rest and then go back to Costa Rica. We started out in the States, there was this job I applied to out of the blue. It came into my email inbox a few weeks before we left Costa Rica. Throughout the trip I kept getting accepted into another part of the interview process. So when I was in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam I would be doing different parts of the application, video interviews, documents. And I was told I got the job, which is the job at PCC that I have right now. We decided that she would continue traveling for a few more months and that I would start the job. I got to Portland and I have a ridiculous amazing crush on my job and it makes me happier than I ever thought I could be in a job.

My girlfriend joined me in Portland and we got to stay on. One of the big reasons I stayed on is homophobia. The reason I left Costa Rica this time around was homophobia. One of the main reasons that drew me to Portland is that it is a queer magnet city. We are currently the second queer per capita city in the US, only after San Francisco. Two things hold me in this country right now. One is the job and the other one is the queer community. I could be fine in Costa Rica. It would be ok. It would be more uphill than it is here. It would be exhausting. It is a relatively safe country. I am not really at risk of getting beat up on the street. I am at risk of being fired from a job or having to deal with casual homophobia, being yelled at. I’m not at risk of being killed. It is bad enough, exhausting enough.

But it is hard being in the United States. The US has a long history of economic exploitation in Latin America. When the US has an economic interest, for example if they really want bananas, they will go into a country and make it so that labor laws keep the bananas artificially cheap. Then people get paid very little money and work under unsafe conditions and the environment is not protected and that makes the product much much cheaper so that they can bring it into the US and they get a nice price for it. When people in the country, sometimes it is called a Banana Republic, try to get better labor rights that’s going to drive up to price of the banana. And the US has a long history in many countries of stepping in and rigging elections, killing candidates, killing elected officials, and putting into place someone who is more convenient for the US. My country was in some ways an exception and in some ways not. The US intervention in Costa Rica was a lot less violent than in other countries.

Costa Rica has an unusually large middle class. Through a series of reforms that were issued by the communist party in the 1930s and 40s, we have socialized health care, socialized education, good telecommunications and electricity, excellent utilities services. As a country we were doing pretty well. We did away with our military in 1948, which saves more money for better citizen services.
The US intervention in Costa Rica was about being able to invade Nicaragua and using Costa Rica as a base, a military base even though we don’t have our own military. More recently in the 1980s there are these things called the structural adjustment programs, things like the International Monetary Fund in which countries are pushed to remove taxes and lessen the size of the government, for example, doing away with the great socialized healthcare and education. They do this in exchange for a loan to build infrastructure. The impact of this is crashing the local economy. Usually one of the conditions of the loan is that you remove tariffs, remove taxes, so that international goods can come flooding in which tends to crash local businesses. This is called globalization, which the US very aggressively drives across the globe. That was the 1980s, then we have what are called “free trade agreements.” The US has NAFTA, which was in the 1990s with Mexico and Canada, crashed the Mexican economy. More recently the US pushed this on Central America, CAFTA. In 2005-07 the US pushed this down the throats of Central American countries. Costa Rica was the only country that was able to resist actively.

Even though I was in the States, I played an active role in resisting this. We actually had a referendum, which is something we rarely do in Costa Rica, directly vote on laws, so this was a big deal — a national referendum on whether to join CAFTA or not. Even though I was in grad school in Portland I went to Costa Rica for months and worked on educating folks. It is really hard to understand this stuff, and it’s really really boring. It is hard to get people to vote no on something they don’t actually understand.   So I wrote educational materials and went all around the country and deep into the rural areas and educated folks on the US role in globalization and what this CAFTA thing would do to our country.

The US government pushed really really hard against our resistance movement and did all kinds of illegal things to pressure people into voting yes on CAFTA. Factory owners would routinely tell their employees that if CAFTA doesn’t pass, don’t come to work on Monday, the factory will be closed and you will not have a job. Illegal intimidation tactics. One of the rules that we have in Costa Rica is that three days before an election you cannot campaign any more to give people time to reflect. The yes on CAFTA campaign not only ignored this completely and continued campaigning, but the US government, the ambassador, actively threatened Costa Rica and threatened embargo-like restrictions. We will kick you out of these and these trade deals and the wrath of god will come down on you unless you decide to join CAFTA. And so even with all these dirty tactics the vote was very close. It was forty-nine to fifty-one percent. And so CAFTA passed against a lot of resistance.

This severely affected my country. My country’s economy is crashing as we speak. The cost of living is horrendous, outrageous. Generally you can assume that a salary is about a third of what it is in the United States, so a minimum wage job is about four hundred dollars a month. My job as a college professor would be about a third of what it is here. Cost of living is through the roof. Right now in Portland I can buy a gallon of milk for about two and half dollars, in Costa Rica it costs five dollars a gallon so it is literally double the cost. Likewise for beans, rice, chicken, beef — it’s about two to one. I’m just talking basic staples, not anything fancy like wine or cheese. So, two to one, but when you factor in about a third of the salary effectively you are looking at a six to one cost. That gallon of milk ends up being about fifteen dollars a gallon.

And so the economy is crashing, my peers who are middle-class, highly-educated folks are having a hard time moving out of their parents’ houses. That’s also a problem in the US, but more so in Costa Rica. People aren’t able to move out anymore. Our economic gap grows wider and wider. And this is all connected to the US and their economic meddling in my country.

In the US I am very light skinned and my accent doesn’t give me away so I am often perceived to be local, so I don’t get the worst of the racism and xenophobia. Some of the more outrageous ones happened soon after Trump was elected, this would have been a month or two after I was at a social event, potluck thing. I was spooning dip onto my plate when this person I just met twenty seconds ago and I mentioned I was from Costa Rica laughed and said, “Aren’t you afraid of being deported?” That’s one of those microaggression moments when there is no way of handling it well. Whatever you do you are handling it wrong. If I laugh it off then I feel like crap and feel internal disgust. Or, if I confront him on it then I’m the one who is making trouble. That split second moment in trying to figure out how to handle it I decided to not laugh it off and I just stood there silently staring at him until he got uncomfortable. His response was very defensive. He said, “Well fine then, I guess it wasn’t such a funny joke.” I said, “No, it wasn’t.” I remember being incensed at the callousness, the fact that so many people were actually terrified of being deported in that moment, knowing that I had no risk of being deported, but imagining how that would land for somebody else.

My experience of racism is really mild. I get really tired of how incredibly ignorant folks from the US are about what migration is like. Even people who are very very close to me have no idea what it is like to get a visa into the US. Last year we applied for my chosen sister to get a tourist visa to come visit me and see my new house. This was a big stretch. I wrote letters about her being able to come, she got her documents together. We were really worried that she wouldn’t get this visa and remember that once you get rejected it is really hard to get another one. So I’m crossing my fingers, being tense at work all day that day waiting to hear back if she would get it or not. The people around me, my close friends, were surprised that it was so hard to get a US visa. And me being just bitter and angry and resentful and tired and telling them, “You know that it is hard, you just haven’t thought it through. If it were easy to come over into this country why would people cross the desert and die. Think this through! How are you actually surprised at this?!”

It is really exhausting being around people who have no idea what my experience is like.
Queerness comes into this. Sometimes I think my experience as more of a refugee than that of a migrant in the fact that I don’t consider myself a completely willing immigrant. Refugees have the feeling, in many cases, of not being able to go back, or being trapped here and wishing they could go back. I have the privilege of being able to go back whenever I want, but not feeling like I would really be well if I go back. So I feel a little stuck here in many ways.

Being from Costa Rica I have this problem. Somebody meets me, I say I’m from Costa Rica, and in less than a minute and they laugh and say, “Oh my god, Costa Rica, it’s paradise there. Why would you ever move here?” Either I laugh it off, or sometimes I actually go ahead and say, homophobia. They really don’t understand what I’m talking about. They think I’m making a joke and they laugh. It happens often enough that I kind of brace for it. Eventually they get it and see that I’m serious.
People who have never lived with homophobia, haven’t felt what that’s like, often haven’t thought that you would need to move somewhere else to be better off.

Hearing comments from my colleagues, other college professors. One talked about going to Vietnam and killing Charlie. That was the first week on the job. I was absolutely shocked. Oh my god, what did I get into? I thought this place would be better. Another colleague was having a showdown in the lunchroom, somebody I didn’t know who was in my same building, talking about how immigrant students were pushing out the domestic students, because they pay more, the college wants them more, so they get preferential treatment.   Those are some of the more blatant ones.
It’s hard not being home. It is hard feeling split.

Right now in Costa Rica we had our first #metoo movement, and I’m not there. My mom died while I was here. And I missed out on years of being with her. I miss my house — I made the sink, I made the tiles, I made mosaics. One of my closest friends in Costa Rica is a gay activist and he has a really hard time with homophobia and he really really wishes he could migrate. He can’t come, so a couple weeks ago I sent him a thing about some queer things happening in Portland to give him some inspiration, some ideas, and his response was “don’t rub it in.” I’m sorry. I get to be here and you don’t. Chosen family is difficult because it is not blood family and I’m estranged from my brother and pretty much from my father as well. But if I wanted to, I could sponsor them into this country. It would be really difficult and really expensive, but there is a way. My chosen sister and this close friend, even though they are my chosen family I cannot bring them.