Saturday, June 23, 2012

It's Brasil, not Brazil

Well... Where do I begin? Whatever I write down I feel will not do justice to my experience over the past several weeks. It has already been 3 weeks here in Sao Paulo, and it seems time is flying. Brazil is a very interesting place, to say the least, and the first week certainly took some adjusting. I think I finally have my feet back under me. We are blessed to be surrounded by so many awesome people, who constantly go out of their way to help and provide us with anything we need. Without them I don't know if I would survive haha. The fact that most everyone in USP, including our lab, speaks at least some English is an added bonus. Wish we spoke Portuguese better; however, eu estou tentando apprender. Our neighborhood has everything we need and is very close to campus. We have some great neighbors; the first night here they cooked dinner in the community kitchen and invited us to eat with them. The food was great! Already in our brief stint here we have done so much. Immediate cultural immersion is the best way to put it; with our list of activities so far including: salsa dancing at Club Azucar with Dr. Russ and friends, USP college parties, museums at Butantan with Dr. Chris, traditional restaurants, beautiful parks, a night in a hotel suite (at a huge discount thankfully), great malls, one of the largest gay pride parades in the world on Paulista Avenue, and last but not least, some great times at some local bars. The work has been great; techniques I am familiar with from my research at St. Jude. My research focuses mainly on the identification of genetic markers, SNPs, and their role in diabetic retinopathy.  The food is right up my alley, a whole lot of bread, cheese, and meat. I have quickly fallen in love with Pao de Queijo and tapiocas, the latter resembling crêpes. For the past 2 weeks, Justin and I (Hopefully Ellen can too soon!!) have been able to eat on campus at the student restaurant. We pay less than $1 American for lunch and dinner at this place, which is a great way to be frugal in a city that is very expensive! We get a lot of food. My mentor, Daniella Bonci, is a great teacher/mentor and is an even better person. She is so smart and I am so glad I have the opportunity to work with her. Thankfully, we are also now permitted to use the athletic facilities at CEPEUSP. It's awesome to be able to play pickup basketball again on a regular basis, feels like home. Sometimes we walk to work, which takes around 30 minutes; when it rains we take the bus. The campus is enormous but pretty, so it’s a nice walk. A quick side note: people drive crazy here and I'm convinced the bus drivers try to knock people down by slamming on their brakes and gunning the accelerator haha. This makes for a tough time when standing in the bus. Last weekend I went with Flavio, Daniella, and Daniella’s mother to a Festa Junina party at a local elementary school. The children from the school did some traditional dances and later we all danced. Justin’s friend Diego and his girlfriend Tati have showed us many parts of the city as well and taken us to some great places to eat. Next week I will be going to Campinas with a long time friend, who I went to elementary and high school with, to visit his family and stay at their house for the weekend. Anyways, more to come with pictures in the near future as this adventure continues.

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