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!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Minha vida no Brasil

Brazil, oh Brazil. I love you. I really do. I really don’t think that there is a place in the world exactly like Brazil. Throughout the past few weeks, the Sao Paulo team (with the addition of some friends we’ve made along the way) has been exploring Brazil beyond the city; the rustic countryside is such a contrast from the concrete jungle that we've been living in over the past two months! We’ve taken a trip to Florianopolis where we met up with the other MHIRT students; the beaches were beautiful and we had the opportunity to enjoy the stunning landscape. We’ve also taken a mini-trip to Embu, a small city where many artists go to sell their arts and crafts.  Next weekend we’re planning on taking a trip to Ubatuba, a beach about 3 hours away from Sao Paulo. In about the next week and a half, we’re headed to Rio de Janeiro with some people in our pousada (apartment) and the MHIRT students from Floripa!

A few things have happened since my last blog post: Firstly, I lost my wallet (I know, I know). The last place I remember having it was on the city bus – I took my wallet out of my book bag to pay the bus driver and my wallet has not been seen since then. The great thing about this experience is that I did not have any cash or anything extremely valuable in my wallet; the really bad thing about it is that I lost BOTH my credit and debit card and I had no access to my bank account for a few days. So, I’ve learned my lesson the hard way – I need to be much more careful and I should never carry everything (especially bank cards and important documents) at once.

Secondly, my project is almost complete! I’ve run my second-to-last immunoblot last week, and the proteins that I’m testing are consistently present in my samples. The PhD student that I’m working with has gotten food poisoning and has been out of the lab for a few days, so I’ve been reading a lot of academic papers; I’m trying to completely understand the mechanisms behind what I’m doing because i'll be presenting my research project before I leave! While I never thought of neuroscience as a career choice, I’m becoming more and more interested in what I am studying each day – I’ve actually began looking at neuroscience masters/PhD programs.

Thirdly, I’m not ready to leave Brazil. While I miss my friends and family, I’m definitely going to miss the relationships I’ve fostered over the past two months.  

Until next time.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Reflections for the Near Future

The days are going by so quickly now. With only a week and a half left from the time we leave Ishaka, I feel like there is so much more that I could do. I have met some pretty great people here. I have made some lifelong friendships with the students at Kampala International University (KIU). Some have already gone back home to Kenya for their summer break. The best of these friends told me that he will never forget my face, and I am sure that I will always remember his as well. Also, I have had a lot of support from people in the Ishaka Town Mosque, which is a five-minute walk from the hospital. Since this is the holy month of Ramadan, this trip has been even more of an experience. I have sat in a circle with children, teens, and adults around a large plate of rice that we all shared after we break our fast. They are all very supportive and have taken me in as one of their own. I hope to see many of these people again someday.
            I must give a special thanks to the housekeeper we have named Mareen. She is one of sweetest women that I have met in Ishaka and has a really big heart. She helps us out so much. She has had some problems in her life, like all of us, but she is different because she always keeps a positive attitude. I am always happy to see her, but sometimes she can talk you to death. We all really love to have her, and she will definitely be someone who is missed when we depart.
            Meeting the four medical students from Loma Linda (Sunny, Drew, Sarah, and Hannah) has also been a great experience. They are a fun bunch of people and a means for John, Susie, and I to stay sane by giving us a chance to conversing with different people. They are all energetic and playful. They taught me this pretty fun Korean number game that they turned into Swahili for the locals called Janga I’ll have to bring it to the U.S. when I get back.
            Meeting my co-workers (Kakunta, Ms. Kakunta, Isaac Newton, Susan, and Emmi) has been a great time. I’m going to miss all the times that John and I go back and forth in Ruyankore to insult one another while Isaac and Susan laugh. They have taught us all the abuse that we know in the local language. I also will miss the jokes and light-heartedness that Emmi brings whenever he shows up at the office. Mr. Kakunta also tells us a few jokes occasionally, and being in his presence is always a learning experience.
Finally, John and Susie have been great people to live it. I have enjoyed the time that I have spent getting to know them and having them as research partners. They have done a lot for me. They even held a birthday dinner and bought me a surprise birthday cake. I couldn’t imagine the people that I would meet and the experience that I would have prior to applying to MHIRT. This has been an experience of a lifetime, and I hope to see all of these faces again and come back to Ishaka someday.

Life Thus Far

The first few weeks of living in Florianópolis, Santa Catarina felt like a blur. I think I can speak for the rest of the Floripa crew in saying that we were definitely tourists of the island. Cameras in hand, searching for the popular sites of the island and gawking at maps written in Portuguese. However, those days are long gone. We have completely submerged ourselves in the routine and culture of this amazing city. We've gone from speaking hardly any Portuguese to having entire conversations with little problems. 

The week of July 4th I had the amazing privilege of having my family visit me here in Brasil. I got to show them in person everything that I had been marveling at since arriving here. I do admit that I was a little homesick and having my mother and brother visit me was a blessing in the skies. 

That same week I presented plans for the research I am conducting to Dr. Elisabeth Linder and the master's PORTUGUESE!  When the other students in Dr. Linder's lab present their research, they must present in English and I thought it was only fair that I present in Portuguese. At the time I volunteered myself for this task it didn't occur to me that I would have to speak scientifically in a completely different language! Even though I tried not to show it, I was super nervous. To provide me some assistance, Dr. Linder introduced me to Dr. Marcos Lopes a clinical psychiatrist, researcher, and professor at Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (UFSC). Dr. Lopes was invited to present his findings at a conference in the United Kingdom (in English of course) and asked Dr. Linder if she knew of anyone that could help him practice his English. What perfect timing! So for the past two weeks I met with Dr. Lopes to assist him with his presentation in English and for him to assist me with my presentation in Portuguese. I successfully delivered my research to Dr. Linder and the rest of the students and I'm sure Dr. Lopes will do a wonderful job presenting his research in English.

In the lab, I have gotten so comfortable conducting my experiments that I am actually training incoming pharmacy students how to perform the experiment successfully! I have found that body language is such an important tool in communicating because Google Translator can only do so much. However, I will say that my improved Portuguese has earned me the title of "honorary Brasileira" by my lab mates and I don't mind one bit. Até logo! 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A experiência continua

Imuno-histoquímica (Immunohistochemistry) has been one of my most recent tasks in the lab. The procedure involves making sections of brain tissue (for my specific project), incubating them in a primary and secondary antibody, staining the sections, mounting the sections onto microscope slides, and dehydration of the tissues. The procedure takes some time, but I think that immunohistochemisty is more straight forward than immunoblotting.

This is one of my panoramas from a weekend trip to Rio de Janeiro that features Ipanema beach. The weather was wonderful and I was able to catch up on some much needed relaxation. It was great!

As I was walking down the street, I saw this little guy and I said to myself "Oh, let me take a picture of this so that I can post it on the MHIRT blog! Well, here it is! In the meantime, I went on a google search to determine what type of caterpillar it was. From what I found, I believe that it might be a Tetrio Sphinx caterpillar, which will morph into a moth (not a butterfly).

In the middle is Flavia. We were invited to her going away party at restaurant called Atelie do Espeto. The food was great and we had a really good time!
This was my first time trying coração, which translates to heart. Specifically, they were chicken hearts. If you look at the heart 2nd from the bottom, you can see the tip of the aorta! The texture was a little different but I enjoyed it.
Overall, I am still having an awesome time in Brasil!