Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Wishing you the best from the Island of Magic

Hey Guys!!!!

E ai or what's up!?!
So I was supposed to post last week and with the wifi at our house, it was a struggle for the computer to come on (that's an exaggeration). I can go on about my problems and the things I have to do without, however my focus here is going to be on the opportunities that have presented themselves. After all, I am on the Island of Magic. This is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. 

So what has happened since my last post?

In the above picture is Bella, my tri teammate and Mariana Andrade, a famous Brazilian triathlete. They are both with the team equipetime (team time) and how I met this fantastic team happened several weeks ago thanks to a bloody leg. For those of you who follow me on instagram, you may remember me posting a picture of the gore. I was out for a run and tripped on the uneven sidewalk. Instead of letting that ruin my fun, I got up, collected myself and continued for a 2.5 hour slow jog. 

Oh, are you asking about the lab? Yes, I forgot that's the main reason why I am here. Lets explore what is going on at the labs in Floripa.

Oh God, what is that you ask? I would be asking the same question if I didn't take the picture. So on an off day in my lab I headed to the lab of Winter Beaton, my fellow MHIRT friend and we learned how to put rats in the holders above. Wait, don't tell me I am cruel to animals. I am a vegan-leaning vegetarian after all. These rats are SO, I mean, SO docile! They handle so much. If I was forced into a tube where I couldn't wash my face, I would be very upset. These rats dont try to bite or anything and when you let them crawl on your shoulders, they cuddle with you. I LOVE THEM. 
The sad part for me is that some are used for a different purpose, all together. Their sole purpose in life is to live and grow within the walls of a lab to hopefully provide the human race more knowledge with the contents of their bodies. I witnessed a terminal rat blood pressure recording from the carotid artery. This experiment was what is called vivisection. Basically dissection on a living animal. The good thing in this experiment was that it was terminal and the rats would not have any memory or have to deal with any pain from the experiment as they would be humanely put into a slumber once the data was collected. For me, this was difficult to swallow, but hey, it's an experience nonetheless.

Wow! that was a brainload! You say I need some relaxation after all that. Yes you are right!!! So what does one do in the Island of Magic for fun?
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In the above pictures show one thing that interests me about life. EXPLORING. I can be anywhere, downtown Memphis, in the Mississippian country, or on an island in Brazil and I just love learning of the things around me. The first image is of some interesting graffiti I had to snap a photo. Isnt it lovely? The second picture was from a relaxing day on praia Canasvieiras. And the third, was a scrumptious chocolate cake, That pink yumminess tasted just like pink chocolate with no fruity hints. Amazing!

In addition to the information shared here, come along with me on my journey via instagram.


Look forward to seeing you there. Also feel free to message me via here or instagram.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Passions of Belem

First month of work has been sweeeeeet.  I've been hanging out with my friends and colleagues at the Nucleo (Nucleo de Medicina Tropical)  Joyce, Railson and Terezinha.  They love to practice their English and I my Portuguese so there is a lot of give and take. I have met all of their families and have thoroughly enjoyed becoming friends with them.  I also pass this homeless elderly man Pedro, who lives at a bus stop everyday on my way to work. He still remembers me too. Tomi and I had become friends with him last year.

Givago, Leticia and I talk about politics pretty frequently too. Givago explains how politicians get into power all because of corruption. To get to a certain level they must accept bribes and influences from different groups and companies. It all comes down to who they choose to get their influence from. Givago told me how Brazilian politics really reminded him of House of Cards, as it's all just different ways that people get themselves into power. He also told me that he was happy to hear that I was returning because he knew I wouldn't really be too stressful for him as I already speak the language and I wouldn't really be at risk of getting homesick and wanting to go home. Then we rolled into talking about research. First he wanted me and Tere to do a new research project rather than a continuation of last year. He wanted us to do experiments based on pyschophysiology rather than electrophysiology.  

One day after work I headed home and was just relaxing hella as it gets way too hot here when Camila, my host, told me that a bunch of her friends were coming over and that I was more than welcome to hang out with them. So later on I joined Camila, and her friends Felipe, who was from Sao paulo and a few other people. I greeted them all and then I remained quiet for the most part as I was scared to try and speak with a lot of them! I finally got up the courage to ask how they all met and I guess it was through music and playing in different stages as Camila is a singer in Belem. There was a moment in the conversation where Camila was talking about how she just couldn't identify with Samba as she isn't 100% Brazilian. I asked her if she identifies more as Japanese or Brazilian. Her response was fairly similar to mine in that we are both biracial and have a culture totally separate from that of the majority of the population so our identity can vary with the situation. 

This one guest was telling  many stories about her dreams in agonizingly perfect detail too. She said she remembered her dreams so well because they're scary. Overall I was proud of myself for keeping up with the conversations. As the night went on guitars were pulled out and people started singing more. It was fun listening to all these songs and conversations!

Moments like these happen frequently here. I am happy to be immersed in the culture of Belem again and to be able to keep honing my Portuguese skills. I learn something new and get into another adventure each and every day. Will keep you all updated. 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Covering Grounds (Research and Literal) of Uganda!

So surprise, we reached the equator at Uganda! 

Liz, Daryl, Kinnon, and I are up bright (not quite) and early ready for our day safari at Queen Elizabeth National Park! Going to one of our many outings during the weekend is quite a treat! Especially when we get hot, running water at our safari lodges.

Tembo (Elephant) Galore! Did you really go on a safari if you didn't see an elephant? We also had a great driver. Shout out to Vincent!

Although we love our outings, research has been an exciting part of our time here as well. Here we are interviewing our new friend, a midwife at Bushenyi Health Centre IV, on her perception and knowledge of HPV and cervical cancer. 

This marks our first group interview with all the midwives in the maternity ward at Ishaka Adventist Hospital. We naturally are overshadowed by the stunning poses of the midwives. & you can barely see me. But, these ladies deserve the shine. Love getting the group together and interviewing over sodas! 

Transitional Justice and Forensic Science

It's been three weeks since I arrived in Gulu, Uganda and its been an amazing learning experience thus far. I've met prime ministers, village chiefs (rwot), and community leaders who have openly welcomed me and the rest of the research team. The people of Gulu are some of the most hospitable I've ever met. I've been living in Lou House where we have a personal cook named Oscar who has made it his personal mission to teach me to speak Lou, the local language. I have learned a few words and I hope to build upon my vocabulary along the way.  I've had the privilege of meeting a singer who advocates for equality for children born with physical disabilities and uses his music as a tool to empower and educate their families. Then I encountered a female prime minister working toward youth development and gender equality so that women are protected against domestic violence. As an advocate of human rights and equality, it was inspiring to have an enlightened discussion on how they plan to address these issues within northern Uganda.

The research project has introduced me to the world of forensic science and anthropology as we conduct interviews and focus groups to understand the implications of the war in northern Uganda. The twenty year struggle between the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and the government of Uganda has resulted in thousands of missing and dead, and numerous mass graves and the need for exhumation and identification of unknown remains. In the context of transitional justice and the potential of forensic investigation, the team hopes to understand the perspective of the community members on what should be done to help the nation move forward from the atrocities committed in the Internal Displacement (IDP) camps. The people are accepting of scientific methods to resolve improper burials, and a national policy to provide support to survivors in the form of education, hospitals, and cattle for farming. At the same time we are not an NGO and do not have the resources to provide services related to excavation and reburial. We are only able to collect information and disseminate our findings to other agencies/organizations who do have the capacity to provide interventions to these communities. Most people we interview understand this limitation but it is also frustrating for some who believe that we are telling them that we have the solution to their problems but fall short of supplying the needed resources. An ethical dilemma, I'm sure, many researchers face while working in under-resourced communities.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Week 2 Adventures

We spent the last week in the campo (countryside) in the rural community of Fila Grande. After spending a week in Nejapa at the AMOS campus learning about the model of community based public health care and community empowerment, I was excited to get into the field and see it in action. After an 8 hour trip on Sunday, we arrived in Fila Grande and got to meet some members of the community. Then on Monday, we got right to work. Our group split off to hike to different water sources and collect water samples for testing. On Tuesday, we saw about 75 pregnant women and children under the age of five at health stations where we checked their height and weight, as well as their hemoglobin levels (for anemia). On Wednesday, we went door to door in the community and surveyed people about their water consumption and storage habits.  Finally, that afternoon, we were able to share the data we had collected throughout the week with the community health committee. That was definitely my favorite part of this experience. The model that AMOS uses to approach community public health is all about empowering the community and allowing them to have ownership of the work that is being done. By sharing the information directly with the community health workers, we were able to see them begin the process of brainstorming solutions and implementing them to address the public health issues we presented. After only two weeks in Nicaragua,  I have learned so much about public health and have been inspired by the other students and community members I have gotten the opportunity to work alongside!