Revere teacher describes life before America

Michael McKee, Staff Reporter

At the age of nine, living in Angola was a paradise with no worries in the world. But tensions in the region grew and civil war was on the horizon. When war broke out, many fled to safety in other countries The only way to escape with any valuables was to melt them into gold and wear them out on a flight to Portugal. This kind of experience is one of many that Maria Fela has lived through. Country-after-country, language-after-language, experience-after-experience. Traveling and moving to different countries and meeting new people are all blessings not everyone gets to experience, but they do not always come easily.

Maria Fela, a Mathematics and Spanish teacher at RMS and RHS, has traveled to several different countries since the age of two, and in the process has endured lots of different exploits. Fela has lived in four different countries and moved many times while learning languages along the way.  

Born in Porto, Portugal, Fela learned Portuguese, her native language. She lived there for two years before her family moved to Africa, where her traveling adventure began.

“I began traveling at the age of two with my parents and sister until the age of thirteen when we moved to the US for our final destination. We moved to Luanda, the capital of Angola in Africa, we lived there for seven years and traveled back and forth to Portugal to visit family and keep in touch with my relatives,” Fela said.

After Fela moved to Angola at the age of two her family stayed there for seven years. In that time Angola declared its independence from Portugal. Very soon after civil war broke out in the country, forcing Fela and her family to flee the country.

“Civil war broke out and we lost everything [when the war started] except for what we could carry out on our persons. We left behind our home, dog, cars and possessions.  All we could do is exchange some money into gold and wear it on ourselves since we could not go out of the country with cash, but we could have jewelry and personal belongings,” Fela said.

After Angola, Fela moved several more times before coming to the United States. Fela discussed the other places she lived after Angola.

“We then moved back to Portugal for one year.  One year later, we moved to Caracas, the capital of Venezuela in South America for three years. It is there that I learned Spanish and a little bit of English due to my attending a private school (Campo Alegre) where my teachers were mostly American and spoke Spanish and some English when they taught,” Fela said.

Fela discussed why she and her family finally moved to America.

“We came to the United States due to my dad’s job. He is a chemical engineer.  He worked for General Tire International and was asked to come to the U.S. to help out with tire quality control,” Fela said.

While moving throughout her life, Fela had to adapt to new situations and experience new things. Fela talked about the effect her experiences have had on her.

“Everything I went through affects who I am today. We are a result of the experiences that we live through. I learned to appreciate my many blessings in life by seeing all the poverty that was around me in Africa and Venezuela. I learned to appreciate differences in people and that those differences is what makes us unique. How boring our world we live in would be if all of its people were alike,” Fela said.

Fela’s sister Maria Gomes-Schleich also reflected on how traveling as a child all around the world has affected her.

“I think I have a much more global view of everything, much more open minded to new cultures and achieved a very high level of learning new languages,” Schleich said.
Fela’s daughter Elizabeth Anne Maria Fela explains how her mother’s traveling impacted Fela and her personality.

“All the traveling she did has given her a different perspective on life and she is very appreciative of America. I also know it shaped her because she had to adapt to many situations with all the moving around she did, that it makes her a strong and more adaptable person today,” Elizabeth said.

Through all of her experiences Fela has learned to adapt and have a better perspective on life. Fela plans to teach at Revere for more years to come and is excited about all the new things life has to offer.