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.

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