Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Summing it up

Last weekend I finally got the chance to meet up with my longtime friend Guto. He’s actually a Brazilian citizen, but ever since the age of five he has lived in the United States. We grew up playing competitive and high school soccer together back in the States. I hadn’t seen him in a while, so it was great catching up with him this past weekend. I couldn't believe he was actually working here in Sao Paulo with the US Consulate!! We went to Campinas, which is only about 45 minutes outside Sao Paulo. We stayed with his family and it may have been the best weekend of the trip so far. On Friday night we went to an amazing restaurant called Giovannetti Campinas where an enormous St. Bernard, appropriately named Beethoven, roamed around ducking under tables cleaning up any food that was dropped. The food was unbelievable. Saturday proved to be even better. We fished and played on a private golf course, owned by his family, for most of the day. Afterwards we went to another great restaurant in the countryside. I honestly don’t know how anyone can even find it, but it was truly a hidden gem. It was a great weekend, but it was even better reconnecting with an old friend.
Work is going great as well. I have been very busy, which has been a good distraction while Andrea has been out of town. Both Dani and I have been going every week to sequence samples at the Einstein Institute, which I am told is the top hospital in all of South America.  I feel the hard work is finally starting to pay off.  Justin and I probably work between 50-60 hours a week, but it is time well spent. Dani and I are getting great results with the sequencing and are requesting for more patient samples. Recently, I was asked if I would be available to present our work as first author next May in Seattle at the ARVO conference. This is very exciting and I am truly grateful for the opportunity to represent everyone who has worked so hard on this project. Though this also means more work, especially when it comes time to write the paper and abstract, I know it will be a great learning experience and I will have help along the way. My uncle signed me up for the Memphis marathon in December, so I have started to train down here. Thankfully, a friend from our lab is also training for a half marathon next month so she has been a good training partner.
It has truly been an amazing experience. I feel I have made lifelong friends here that I expect to see in the future, whether it is in the United States or back here in a little more than a year for the World Cup. I think Justin and I were blessed to have so many awesome people in our lab. Sure I have had my ups and downs over the course of the trip, but all in all what a great time I have had. Brazilians are constantly asking, “So, how do you like Brazil?” My response is always the same. “I love it here; in fact I like it more and more every day. However, I have never stopped missing my family and nothing here or anywhere is going to change that, no matter how great.” I can’t even predict what my reaction will be the first time I see them all at the airport. After traveling to New Zealand, Costa Rica, and Brazil for a combined 5 months over the past 3 years, I think I am ready to hang my traveling shoes up for the time being and enjoy, in my opinion, the greatest country in the world. About halfway through my time here on one of those "down days" I came across a quote in a book I’m reading about John Adams.  The quote is from Abigail Adams in response to John Quincy’s request to return home from Europe.  What she said truly spoke to me.  After denying his request to return home, she responds, “A judicious traveler is like a river, in that it increases its volume the farther it flows from its source.” And that is where I will end my blogging for Brazil. Tchau, Stephen.

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