Bianca Piza: Feijoada With A Side of Hugs

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Bianca Piza holds her signature bag of Glad trash bags.

It was the second week of school after summer ended. Homework had already piled up on my desk and next to it a list of upcoming tests I would not have time to study for. I heard a knock on my door and, flustered, I got out of my chair, prepared to yell at whoever it was.

“Why be mad, why be sad, when you can be Glad?” In front of me, a girl in plaid pajama pants holds a box of Glad trash bags.

Bianca De Toledo Piza, a Brazilian native and an 11th grader, is beginning her third year in America.

When someone rolls the salt across the lunch table, Piza says, “I hate when people drag the salt on the table. It is so bad in Brazil and when people do that, I have to throw the salt over my shoulder, and they stare at me like I am the craziest person alive, but I guess that’s okay.”As for her dream job, Bianca says in all seriousness, “I would like to be the President of Mars.”
Tentatively, I asked her about Peter Pan and how she felt about growing up. She replied, “Did you know there is a conspiracy theory? That in the movie Peter Pan collects the bodies of dead children?”
Bianca comes from a family that holds humour as a combatant against the normalcy of the world. Her family nights in Brazil consist of stand-up comedians and good food. Through intervals of giggles, Bianca’s eyes constantly glance down at her phone. She is waiting for her aunt, visiting from Brazil, to text her to let her know she is here.
Living in the dorms for three years, you learn through every smile and every sparkle in someone’s eyes there is a story to be told. Having moved to Bolles when she was 15, Bianca knows a little about growing up away from home, including learning to fear solidarity. “When we don’t have anything to do, when I’m just sitting on the couch, homesickness hits me the hardest and when somebody tries to comfort you, they don’t really know how to help you.”
Bianca looked down at her phone another time, still no text. Her demeanour seems to have changed and sensing an opportunity, I inquired about what she would like to do when she grew up, wondering if her answer would be different. “I would like to be a psychiatrist.” Piza said.
“I would like to help people who have just come out of jail go back to living normally. When you come out of that kind of situation after a long time people treat you differently, and they need someone to help them so that it does not become too overwhelming.”
Bianca’s phone pings and she looks down excitedly but her face becomes downcast. It’s not her aunt.
A girl away from home, Bianca knows the overwhelming feeling of being out of place all too well, and she sees it in her friends around her. Her life has been characterised by intervals of sticking encouraging notes on room doors of her dorm mates, hugs for students who look like they have been having a bad day, school, homework, swimming, and homesickness.
She is known to her friends as the girl-who-refuses-to-grow-up, the one-with-lame-puns, and the selfless one. She wakes up to her roommate’s alarm ringing, runs to catch the bus, occasionally forgets her school shoes and eats cafeteria food morning, noon, and night, and, just like every other boarder, has more to tell behind her bright brown eyes.
Bianca steals another glance at her phone, sees a text and her face breaks into a smile. They are here. Maybe they brought feijoada. Later when they leave, the feeling of incompleteness will take its usual spot like a monster under her dorm room bed, ready to creep up on her unexpectedly. “This is just how it is,” she says when I ask her about homesickness, “I used to feel homesick all the time but after a while you get used to it and keep going.”
Tomorrow Bianca will make her usual rounds. Knocking on her friends doors with her cleaning product jokes, leave a reminder for another dorm sister that she is loved, and goes out of her way to make sure another boarder does not feel the same way she does.
The girl in plaid pajama pants at the door grins. Her eyes are tired from late nights and a Brazilian cross hangs around her neck. “I have Pacoquinta,” she calls to my roommate and me, “or do you want a hug?”
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