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Moraes finding new home through Mustangs swimming

West Fargo Sheyenne's Antônio Bahia Fonseca Moraes is a senior swimmer from Brazil. David Samson / The Pioneer

Antônio Bahia Fonseca Moraes got his tattoo of an exploding hourglass last April. The representation is hard to explain for Moraes, at least in English. Moraes says he initially had to learn English through the Internet. His natural language of Portuguese might've been easier.

Sometimes the hardest part of life, he said, is not taking up every opportunity but rather choosing the right opportunities.

"It's kind of hard to explain, but I will try. There are some things in life you can only do and feel at a certain age," Moraes said. "There are some opportunities you have only once in your lifetime. It's like the opportunities are disappearing."

Moraes is a West Fargo Sheyenne senior transfer student from Brazil who's on the Mustangs boys swimming and diving team. Even how he arrived in North Dakota is hard to explain. Moraes moved between states in Brazil when he was 10 years old. He said he became depressed after moving as he tried to adapt to a whole new world.

But now he saw the move as better for Moraes because he was given more opportunities. Now in America, another range of opportunities is open to him. Moraes swam for three years in Brazil but stopped. Moraes wanted to pick swimming back up in whatever country he was going to move to. He went to a student center agency to try and go to another country—and Moraes wanted his destination to be random—for a year.

"I really wanted to know where I was going," Moraes said with a smile. "But I was calm. My mom was more nervous than me."

Moraes was given the United States, and more specifically, North Dakota. Moraes said the United States was romanticized in Brazil, but Moraes said he's come to learn that every country has its problems.

One of the first things Moraes searched was the average temperature during the winter, and he said -45 degrees Celsius came up.

"I thought I was going to die," Moraes joked.

Moraes wrote an essay, added some pictures of himself and sent it before waiting for a host family to pick him, which took months and finally happened three weeks before he arrived in America.

This led Moraes to the family of teammate Benjamin Vetter, also a Mustangs senior swimmer. Moraes was in America for five days and in town for two days before he started school in the fall.

Vetter said his family, who had never brought in a foreign exchange student before, was contacted this summer to see if anyone on the swim team was willing to take him in. The Vetters had a spare bedroom and thought they would be a good fit.

The first time Vetter ever spoke with Moraes was at the airport. Moraes only liked a small amount of foods right away, Vetter said. Moraes also carried himself differently with a few cultural differences.

But Moraes is smart, Vetter said. He reads seemingly constantly, Vetter said, and his English is getting better all the time. Vetter and his family tried to incorporate as much of his home into theirs. Vetter said Moraes has fit right into the family morning routines.

"It was weird. We didn't know how to talk to him," Vetter said. "It was hard at times to pick out some of the things he was saying. But since then he's gotten much better."

Mustangs head coach Erich Richardson said Moraes knew the basics of swimming but had some differences like in his technique. Richardson feels Moraes hasn't been an outsider to the group much if at all.

Richardson said his English was good enough for people to understand Moraes right away but some phrases or words came out in different ways. For example, Richardson said Moraes, trying to explain he was sick, once said he was going to "erupt" like he was about to vomit.

"It was hilarious, but that was the word he could think of," Richardson said. "He's a good kid. He seems really smart. It's nice to have a fresh face."

Vetter said Moraes, even if he's just getting back into swimming, is very competitive and consistently checks to see where he stands in the state rankings.

"It gives him a community he can talk to," Vetter said.

After graduation, Moraes plans on going to Minerva Schools which he said would mean he would move around the world as he gets his education.

Moraes isn't sure exactly what he wants to do for a career. But he knows he wants to solve problems.

"If there is something you think you could change for the better, don't just shut your mouth," Moraes said. "You can choose to be extraordinary. Everybody can make a change and an impact on the world."

Colton Pool

Pool is a reporter for The West Fargo Pioneer covering city sports and community news. He was the sports editor for The Dickinson Press covering Dickinson State athletics, high school athletics and Southwest Speedway. He graduated from North Dakota State with a degree in journalism and a minor in English. You can reach him by phone at 701-451-5715 or tweet him @CPoolReporter. 

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