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Family’s move from Brazil takes adjustments

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When Claudia and Donald Jackson rolled into Columbus for the first time, they could see that it was a small community.

“It’s 15 minutes from corner to corner,” Claudia Jackson said.

They traveled last July from Sao Paulo, Brazil, for Donald Jackson’s job interview. He was being considered for a position with the corporate treasury department at Columbus-based Cummins.

“They asked him to bring me,” she said, “because it was so far away, and it was such a big decision.”

Besides the distance, there was also a significant difference in market sizes. Sao Paulo, with a population of 11.3 million, is the largest city in North or South America.

The couple decided to make the move, another in a series of moves that have taken the Jacksons to different places in the Americas.

Claudia, a native of Bogota, Colombia, moved to Texas to learn English, working for an international brokerage house.

Donald, who was born in England to Scottish parents, spent his high school years in Peru and found himself working for a Mexican bank in Houston — for Claudia’s aunt. The aunt invited a group of people out for a Latin dancing night — and that’s when Claudia and Donald met.

They have been married for 18 years and have four children — Ian and triplets Julian, Colin and Camila.

In 2010, Hewlett-Packard sent the couple to Brazil.

“It was a good opportunity,” Claudia Jackson said. “We took it immediately. In Latin countries, it’s easier to find help when you have a bigger family.”

The family lived in a suburb of Sao Paulo, in a suburb with a population of 60,000 — in a very integrated international community.

After Cummins came knocking in 2013, Donald accepted a position as the company’s assistant treasurer. The family moved to Columbus in September, just months before one of the harshest winters in recent memory began.

Despite a co-worker’s suggestions that the Jacksons move to Greenwood, the family opted for a house in Tipton Lakes.

“You can imagine,” Donald said. “After being in Houston and Sao Paulo, to get the worst winter in 40 years.”

The winter and the sudden shift in social scenes were difficult for Claudia, who went from having a sizable group of friends to spending her first birthday in Columbus alone.

“The first two to three months were rough,” she said. “In Houston, in Brazil, we left a wonderful group of people. It was lonely, and (Donald) had to work immediately.”

Little by little, life in Columbus got better. The weather got warmer, and they made new friends.

The children, after speaking mostly Spanish at home and Portuguese in public in Brazil, adapted well at St. Bartholomew Catholic School and in June attended an English as a Second Language camp.

And they loved the snow.

Not only did the children pick up much of their English at school, the family also found some new friends at St. Bartholomew Catholic Church.

“The church in Houston was in and out, and we didn’t socialize with any of them,” she said. “It was a big church. Because of school and church, you run into people everywhere; to be able to run into people and seeing the same faces, it gives you a sense of belonging. That’s a good feeling.”

Although they mix largely with Columbus’ Latin community, the couple is used to and prefers a wholly international setting.

“Cummins is very international,” Donald Jackson said. “The diversity is amazing inside the company. We’ve found some of that diversity outside of the company.”

The family likes to dine out at ZwanzigZ Pizza and travel occasionally to Indianapolis, Chicago and Cincinnati.

They bike on the People Trail and often head to Mill Race Park.

“The little ones have participated in many activities through parks and recreation,” Claudia said. “Here it is so accessible, and the information is there, and everybody participates. We never did this in Houston.”

Donald Jackson looks forward to coaching children’s soccer.

“I’m a huge soccer fan,” he said. “Or, as we call it back in the U.K., football. I grew up playing soccer with my dad coaching me.”

They also look forward to making this a real home, with a few exotic flourishes, such as a churrasqueira, a Brazilian outdoor kitchen.

Although population size is one of the the major differences in comparing Columbus with other cities in which they have lived, Jackson said he likes the 15-minute commute to work.

Claudia Jackson’s friends and family in Houston often spend hours shuttling kids from activity to activity.

“I find it safer and cleaner,” she said of Columbus. “For families with little kids, it’s a wonderful place to be.”

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