Friday, August 16, 2013

Até mais!

It's almost surreal to think that my time in Sao Paulo is over. The last few days with my lab partners as well as the other MHIRT students were very sentimental. I will definitely cherish the new, life-long friends that i've made as well as the valuable professional experience i've acquired while working in the lab. Though this was my first time in South America, this will definitely not be my last! 

 Akeem, Me, JD, Elton (MHIRT students) as well as Catch (our Brazilian tour guide) - Luz railway station

 Our fabulous neighborhood, Butanta! The neighborhood is full of students from the University of Sao Paulo as well as up-and-coming young professionals. It is a very safe, quiet, and neat neighborhood. 

 Me finishing my last primary cell culture

 MHIRT 2013! The Sao Paulo students came to visit the students in Floripa. 

We decided to take a trip to Rio de Janeiro - this was definitely an experience to remember!

Elton, Ellen, and I decided to go hang gliding over Leblon beach in Rio! 

 The sunset over Sugarloaf mountain was breathtaking

Buying traditional Brazilian items from local vendors in Embu!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Brazil- A recap of an adventure that changed my life!

 There wasn't a day that passed that I was astounded by the beauty of Floripa, even the rainy days.

 Everyday I went to work at LABCAI and learned something new about the world of science.

But there was plenty of time for relaxation and fun.
Many acais were eaten.

And friendships and memories were made that will last forever.

Having a chance to travel and to LIVE and to work in this amazing country has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I am forever thankful for the people that I meet who taught me something new about myself and about life. I will always remember Florianopolis, my MHIRT-Floripa-crew, and the people of Floripa who call themselves Manezihos. I hope to one day return to the Magic Island and reunite with the people that changed my life and once again exchange our thoughts and ideas about the world. Friendships have no boundaries.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Hardest Part: Saying Goodbye

The complete MHIRT Floripa '13 team with our mentors;
by far some of the most amazing people I've had a chance to know.
After nearly 24 hours of traveling around the world, I've finally made it back to my hometown (Cullom, Illinois), and the shock/realization of being back is starting to hit me. Once I got over the beautifully surreal nature of Floripa, it started to truly feel like home. From taking the buses and going to lab, to relaxing on the beach, eating pasteis, and speaking Portuguese, I realized how difficult it was going to be to leave at the end of our experience. 

Last week, with the help of my labmates, I completed my research project with Dr. Padua Antonio Carobrez. Over the course of the summer I was able to learn and conduct my own behavioral studies, after having learned the stressful surgical technique of stereotaxy. However, my experience in my lab extended far beyond simply conducting experiments. I had the incredible opportunity to learn about all aspects of Brazilian life from my labmates: Frank, Cris, Camila, and Karina. From going hiking and marching in protests, to having lunch and wandering through parks, my amazing labmates helped make my experience once-in-a-lifetime. 

Saying goodbye to all of the awesome people I met in Floripa was harder than I ever imagined. In such a short period of time, I managed to create amazing friendships that I'm sure will be able to withstand the distance between us. I also realized that someday, without a doubt in my mind, I will return to Floripa (once I learn a little more Portuguese). 

Até logo Floripa!

For five days me and the rest of the Floripa crew took a trip to the beautiful and famous city of Rio de Janeiro! We were so thankful to have to opportunity to see the Cristo Redentor on a clear day!


My last day in the lab with Alice Schappo, Kiuanne Lino Lobo, me, Dr. Beth Linder, and Giovani Caroletti! I was trying so hard to not cry! I enjoyed working with them so much and I am definitely going to miss them

This picture perfectly sums up the ten weeks here in Floripa. Our mentors invited us to a barbecue! Nothing but laughs, great food, and great company.

A picture of the last beautiful, Brasilian sunset that I'll see for a while. This will definitely not be the last time I go! Até logo, Floripa!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Farewell Belem, until next time...

Meet the lab 

These guys were a great pleasure to work with.  Always joking and always willing to talk or help.  

 Meet The Amazon

Leap frog any one? Unfortunately, I was parted from my camera (long story don't ask) but here's a few pictures of the Amazonian fauna and flora.  Check out the jaguar sleeping on the left, thats how one survives the heat of the day! 

 Meet the City

These were taken from a penthouse apartment overlooking the Plaza da Republica. Some nights started clear and ended in a blur (effects of the heat of course).

 Meet the Festivities

 The month of June has parties and parades all day everyday.  Every Sunday has a street party with bands and vendors.  The people with me in the photo are studying acting at the Federal University of Para.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Time Has Come

Goodbye Uganda. Thank you for all that you have taught me. I have never had an experience like this. Visiting you was life changing, eye opening, and awe-inspiring. I have had a wonderful time meeting your people and seeing the beauty of your land. It has been great having Susie, John, Justin, and Amanda as my companions on this journey, and I hope that I have the opportunity to join them again to visit you. My departure has been bittersweet, but I will always keep the lessons that I have learned from you with me throughout my life. Thank you for the adventure, but it has come to the point of saying farewell. Thus, farewell Uganda and all that you encompass. I may not be with you physically, but hopefully we will still have a connection spiritually and mentally. You will be missed.

Our last field visit with the Kizinda Farmers Group at the Ishaka Health Plan

The wonderful cake that our co-workers surprised us with at the farewell dinner that the Ishaka Health Plan coordinated for us

All of us reunited again on the Nile River for our last few days in Uganda

The beauty of Uganda, sunset over the Nile River

 Justin, Susie, John, and I in the Amsterdam before we split to go on different flights or into the city
Farewell my friends.

This journey has been everything that I imagined it was going to be and more. I can only thank God, MHIRT, and my friends for giving me the opportunity for going to this beautiful country and allowing me to broaden my knowledge of the world and who I am as an individual.

Goodbye Uganda. Until we meet again.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Saying "Goodbye"

Justin and I have reached the end of our research project and spent a couple days purchasing final souvenirs and just being a tourist in Jinja, a city just southeast of Kampala, Uganda. We learned so much during the course of the project: from one another, our host the Centre for Reparations and Rehabilitation, and Ugandans. As we return home, I want to leave some few words of advice for those coming to Uganda after Justin and I.

1) The struggle is real!!! Every day is a struggle in one way or another. Maybe you will never have hot water while you're there, a boda almost runs over you, no one shows up for a focus group or interview, the translator doesn't show up, you get bitten by an unknown insect, there's no transport, or any other number of things can happen. Just remember the struggle is real and it is DAILY. This is completely normal and okay, just roll with it as best you can.

2) Patience is a virtue every MHIRT participant in Uganda needs. It takes a LONG time to get anything done. No, really. Research is a process with delayed gratification. Everything in Uganda takes a long time, so it's no surprise that research here works much the same way. Just be patient, trust in your supervisor and colleagues, and know that everything works out in the end.

3) Learn from locals. Locals have a lot to teach us about all kinds of things. Stop to listen, ask questions, and think critically about what you've been taught in the U.S. and what they are telling you. Some of the best information comes from casual conversations.

4) Love and trust in the other MHIRT participants! Justin and I didn't know each other before we started the project, but after all the struggles and the wonderful things we experienced together I think I can speak for both of us when I say we have developed what will be a long-term friendship. Other MHIRT participants can be a rock for you when the struggle gets real (see #1).

5) Enjoy the experience. Some folks get caught up in the struggles (see #1) or have difficulty being patient (see #2), never bother to learn from others (#3) or fail to trust and love their supervisor, colleagues, and other MHIRT folks (#4). Remember to take a step back, remember where you are, why you are there, and that there are times to be serious and focus on the work and there are times to have fun and enjoy the moment.

Our time in Gulu and our work over the northern districts was truly amazing. We are preparing our final reports for the organization as we also prepare to return home, see our families and friends, go back to school and work, and experience that reverse cultural shock of being home again. A huge thank you to MHIRT, NIH, the Centre for Reparations and Rehabilitation for hosting us, all our research participants, advisers, and colleagues!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Meu ùltimo post

Dear MHIRT Journal,

With only a few more days left here in Brazil, my mind reflects back on all of the experiences that I have had in this country.

My stay in Brazil has truly been an amazing experience and I am so grateful for the opportunity that I had to do research in the lab of a renowned scientist as well as explore this beautiful country. I have learned a great deal of things that will stick with me throughout life, and I have also met many people whom I hope to stay in contact with.

I especially appreciate my mentor, Dr. Luiz Britto, and my direct contact, Deborah Azzi-Nogueira, for all that they have done for me while being here in Brazil. They have made me feel very welcomed and it was as if I was a normal part of the lab family. With the help of the various research students in the lab, I have learned many lab techniques and procedures to add to my repertoire.  Since the project that I have been working on is entirely new, I have learned a lot about various tests, trials, and error that accompany research experiments. Oh, and let’s not forget about Portuguese, a language that I have learned embrace while being here. If one wants to buy/order food, find directions, or catch a taxi, then knowing some basic Portuguese is a great benefit. I have also spent many hours translating lab protocols from Portuguese to English. Muito obrigado Google transdutor!!!

Aside from my lab experiences, I was able to travel to many different places in Brazil. My peers and I traveled to Florianopolis, Ubatuba, and Rio de Janerio. All of these places were absolutely beautiful and we had a lot of fun. We swam in the ocean, dove under the water while being engulfed by huge waves, sand boarded down the sand dunes of Floripa, hang glided from a mountain top in Rio, hiked to the top of Sugar Loaf mountain to see the sunset, and saw the Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) statue! IT HAS BEEN ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL!

I am truly going to miss Brazil, but all things must come to an end. I will forever cherish the memories and friends that I have made.  I will always think of this research experience as part of a stepping-stone and a foundation for my future goals in science.

P.S. Acai is one of the best desserts that I have ever had in my life. I am going to miss it oh so much!!!

My last words from Brazil

               WOW, what a time I have had here! In two very short months, I have been given the chance to experience and learn so much that it is hard to describe in words. From the endless amounts of food at a Churrasquearia to seeing Pope Francis, there is not a price that can be placed on the memories I have made. Many of these experiences have been external in that I have seen them or been present for them, but they did not necessarily effect my character. However, something that stands out to me and that I think will help me the most as I return to the United States is Patience. As someone who has very little of this virtue, I see the great value it holds within a person. I believe some people are born with more patience than others (in my case, little to none), but I also believe a certain level of patience can be acquired. This level is something I strive for because I know that patience is one of my greatest weaknesses. Since my arrival here in Brazil, I feel that my patience has been tested. Whether it was the frustrations of traveling with a group (which if you have done before, you know can be exhausting), mistakes made in the lab, or waking up to a cold shower every morning I always kept repeating to myself "PATIENCE". This was a subtle reminder to calm down and that everything was going to be just fine. I hope to hold to this acquired trait and bring it home with me to apply it in my everyday life. If I take away nothing else from this trip to Brazil (which will never happen), the least I can say is "patience was my friend there".

So what do I think was the coolest thing I have done in Brazil?
              By far, it has to be the JMJ....or as we Americans call it World Youth Day. My last post was about this event and it truly was an amazing event to attend. I do not necessarily want to do it againa nytime soon, but I do not regret it at all. In being there, I was able to get this feeling of being a part of something larger than myself and that in itself was rewarding enough to me.

What do I miss the most from home? 
             1. Hot water...the hot water tanks are solar-powered where I live and so when I take a shower                      early in the morning there was never hot water (not to complain though, because at least I had                        water)
             2. A regular internet connection...on any given day ours did not work, which made contact back                     home difficult
              3. English...after being here awhile you become exhausted of having to convey a message to                          someone in a mixture of Portuguese and English
             4. in such a big city as Sao Paulo everything is far to us, therefore it is                             unmotivating sometimes to even leave your residence

Overall, my experience has been a great one. I am thankful to my fellow MHIRT students (past and present) for helping me along and going through this with me. I thank those who are in charge of the MHIRT program for working so hard in preparing us for coming here. And, of course, I thank all of those here in Brazil (co-workers, friends, etc.) who have treated me so well and taught me so much.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

JMJ in Rio de Janeiro

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Rio de Janiero. This was more of a great experience than a vacation for it was a bit overwhelming. All in all I had a great time and was amazed by things I saw. As my time here in Brazil is winding down, I am definitely glad I had the chance to participate in some great things. Here are some pictures illustrating my awesome time in Rio....

This is a video I took as Pope Francis arrived to celebrate mass on Sunday morning. I had previously spent the past 24 hours camped out on Copacabana beach with 3 million people in order to have a good spot to see him and participate in this amazing event.

 The 5 mile trek we made to the beach for Mass with the Pope.
 The Lasallian High School I stayed at while in Rio....I was able to meet many Christian Brothers from all over the world.
 The beach near where I stayed in Niteroi....just outside of Rio
This is a picture I will never forget. I was able to participate in mass with close to 4 million other catholics from all parts of the world...truly an amazing experience.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Bonita..Linda..Beatiful Florianopolis, Brazil

MHIRT-Florianopolis will depart for Rio de Janeiro in less than 48 hours for 5 days, then return to Floripa for another 7 days before returning back to the U.S….. and back to reality.

Rio de Janeiro is hands down the most famous place in Brazil and is known throughout the world for its beautiful beaches, people, and festivals. So of course, upon knowing my placement in Brazil I made plans to visit this celebrated city! However after spending two months in Florianopolis, I have acquired such a strong affection for the city and the people here, that I’d rather skip my flight and miss all the sights of Rio to spend every available day on the magical island of Floripa. But, I’ll still be going to Rio on Thursday, for I already started planning a trip back to Florianopolis in January ;)

Okay, since I saw that Miriam wrote about losing her wallet, I wont feel so embarrassed to write about losing my iPhone. Yes, it happened, I lost the one device, that our generation has grown obsessed over, including me. I am not even going to lie, it was great having an iPhone in another country: it was easy to communicate back home using Skype and Facetime, I was Instragraming the beauty of Brazil making all my friends jealous, it was my accesses to gmail, facebook, and Twitter, and I was even using Whatsapp to communicate with the Brazilians I met here. Brazilian life without the iPhone…….not bad at all, and its not because my parents can’t get a hold of me anytime they want either, its because I feel more at ease, I am not bothered by life outside of Brazil. I am enjoying as much as I can with the little time I have left in this wonderful city and country.

Florianopolis has been truly magical. The memories I made and the people I met will forever change the way I see the world and myself. My host laboratory, LABCAI Laboratorio De Biomarcadores De Contamincacao Aquatica E Imunoquimica made all the difference. The other MHIRT students worked in small department labs at the main university’s campus. I was placed at a joint lab, which is stationed in the middle of a mangrove forest on property all by itself. At the lab +30 people work there some with shrimp, oysters, and others with fish, all with their own individual research. The people I met were some of the smartest I know, and so much fun to be around. It was because of them, I experienced so much of Floripa, and I am forever grateful for their friendship and guidance while working and living here in Brazil.

All right. Currently I have 1 day left in Florianopolis before Rio, 5 days in Rio de Janeiro, and only 7 days left in Floripa when I return, then back to boring U.S.A. My time left is short, but I know within the next 13 days the memories I make will last a lifetime.... BBBRRRAAAAZZZZZIIIILLL I will miss you when I leave, but I will definitely return to you again!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Kindness: A Universal Method that can Remove All Barriers

Thursday, August 1, 2013, will mark my eighth full week in Florianópolis, Brazil and sadly, my time here is coming to an abrupt end. During this timeframe, the only conclusion that I continuously re-evaluate, is that "time is like a handful of sand - the tighter you grasp it, the faster it runs through your fingers" (author unknown). I can vividly remember stepping off of the plane and marveling at the sight of the mountains and landscape; now, Britney and I are formulating a master plan on how to tuck and roll our belongings back into our luggage. This experience has been unlike any other, and the word "amazing" cannot quite sum up the magnitude and impact that it has had upon my life.

Over the course of my time in Brazil, I have encountered many people, but the lasting memories reside in the children that I have seen. I have concluded that the thoughts and expressions of children are universal, and most importantly, genuine. Often times I find myself reflecting upon one particular experience. Britney and I were at the bus terminal, when a woman and her energetic daughter, around 5 years of age, sat near us. The woman seemed frustrated, as the child continuously asked random questions to pass the time. I laughed and thought to myself, that only16 or so years ago, I was that very child. Boredom struck Britney and I, as it always does, and we found ourselves fully engaged in our technologically advanced gadgets, playing games of course! I was playing Temple Run, when I felt the little girl move closer to me to get a better view. I glanced down at her, and she looked up at me, uneasily, and it seemed as if her eyes were saying, "I'm sorry for sitting so close to you, but I really want to see what's going on in the game." I smiled, moved my iPad down to where she could see, and motioned for her to play the game. She gave me the biggest, brightest smile, and began to play. After a couple of seconds, we all were in tune to the game and cheering for the little girl. After a short time, their bus arrived and the woman gathered her things. She thanked Britney and I, and the little girl smiled and waved goodbye as if she had known us for a lifetime. Even though, this snippet of the many encounters that I have had may seem very common, it reminded me of how similar all people are and how easily connections could be made. This small encounter was so profound to me because, regardless of the huge language barrier present, I made new friends through a very simple act of kindness. Logically, the only barriers that exist are the ones that people create and allow to exist.

More importantly, during my time in Brazil, I have had the opportunity to conduct behavioral experiments. My task has been to replicate a protocol, in which a positive bias must be created in rats. This has been more complicated than expected because so many aspects of this replication, have required multiple re-evaluations, and trials. Nonetheless, I am grateful because I am fully aware of the strenuous efforts and patience that research entails. With the help of Dr. Cilene, the proper changes are underway and we believe the second testing phase will be much better. Unfortunately, the second testing phase will occur after I have left, but I am excited because I will be able to collaborate with Dr. Cilene and my lab mates concerning the experiment via email! It is still hard to believe that time has passed this quickly, but I have learned to embrace the time that I have left here, embed this summer experience into my memory, and use what I have learned to make my dreams a reality.

My time is winding down....Love Always Belem, Brazil

                               This is a beautiful sunset picture taken at the Algodoal Island with a horse carriage in the background.

As the sun sets in the picture above, so is my time here in Brazil. I am still shocked at how quickly time has gone by, because it seems like I just arrived. I guess that’s what they mean by, “time flies when you are having fun”.

I have made a lot of friends that will forever be a part of my life. They showed and taught me things and truly increased my outlook about life in general. The education I got from the people of Brazil has enriched my life and there are things I have already incorporated into my life.

My time in Brazil has again reinforced my belief that people are alike all over the world. We all want similar things - love, happiness, family, friends, and good health.

My experiences have been rich with enjoyment, excitement and much learning.

It is with great sadness I write this because it signifies the end of my time in Brazil. This was a place; I did not know nine weeks ago. I did not know how to say much in Portuguese but now, I can carry small conversations with people in Portuguese and functional in my everyday life. I had been told that it would be hard to find English speakers here in Belem. To the contrary, I have met a lot of English speaking people. The key was to go out and meet people and that is how I was able to not only meet English speakers, but also practice my Portuguese speaking.

My research has wound down to the final phase of putting finishing touches to the report so I have had the time and opportunity to go on some adventures.

I went to Algodoal Island and it was an amazing place. It entailed me taking a ferry to get to the island which was my first time doing such. The island was filled with people from different cities around the State of Para, mainly from Belem who had come to spend their vacation. The island had no motor vehicles but carriages being pulled by horses.

I am very grateful for the opportunity I had to spend my ten weeks of summer vacation from medical school in Belem, Brazil. I made a connection with Brazil and have started seeking ways in which I can be a part of the medical community here in Brazil long term.

This is the first of many more visits to come…I am excited and looking forward to being a part of the Brazilian culture and people as it is something everyone should get a glimpse of if nothing else.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Brazil...till we meet again

Well this is my last official blog. As I reflect on my time here I get sad knowing that it’s about to end. I don’t know what I was expecting when I first pulled up to the front gate of my pousada. All I knew was that I was in a foreign country with little knowledge of it’s customs nor language. It was all a bit overwhelming. But these feeling quickly faded away. The people I’ve met here have treated me with nothing but kindness. Many have broken their backs to make me feel comfortable. The pousada Ive been staying in lacks many of the creature comforts of America, but makes up with the warmth of its inhabitants. The people here are almost like one big family. On many occasions I have went to the shared kitchen to make a small snack and been offered more food than a king could eat. They have celebrations every weekend and always seem happy to see you. The people in my lab are the same way. After long days of work they invite me to go out and no matter how tired I am at the time, I never regret going. They are fun to be around and always ensure that I have a good time. Also I have fallen in love with the city of Sao Paulo! Coming from a small school in a small town, this big city is very different then what I’m used to. After two months I have barely seen a fraction of the many joys and sights it has to offer. I will truly miss this city but most of all I will miss the people in it. I have truly made great memories here. Coming to Brazil has been an amazing experience and I feel blessed and grateful to have gotten this opportunity!