Former University of Montana dance professor and choreographer Amy Ragsdale sought to make balance and joy more central to her life, and continue to raise a pair of “global children” when the family decided to spend a year in northeastern Brazil.
Their adventure seems to have accomplished those goals, but not without its share of struggles.
Ragsdale attributes her wanderlust to a childhood that took her to Thailand, the Philippines and Egypt. When she married writer Peter Stark, she found a fellow adventurer, “the ‘hard-traveling kind,” and together they explored China, Greenland, West Africa, and the Tibetan Plateau.
Their children have already lived in Indonesia, Spain and Mozambique. “Our theory was that if our kids were to feel at home in the world” they needed exposure to places where English was not the primary language, white wasn’t the primary skin color, and people lived with less.
The kids – Mollie would be a junior and Skylar, a seventh grader – asked for a “small town with a local school … Peter and I wondered if they understood how challenging that might be.”
The family landed in Penedo, “a charming hill town with colonial architecture, a lively market, friendly people,” where Portuguese was the dominant language.
With vibrancy, humor and insight, Ragsdale describes the triumphs and obstacles her family faced navigating cultural differences and language barriers. More than a chronicle of a year spent in a foreign land, it’s a thoughtful examination of the challenges of parenting, of America’s penchant for over-achieving, and how to cultivate simplicity and balance wherever we are.
– Kristi Niemeyer