Monday, June 30, 2014

a bit of this and that

Synthesizing and analyzing data in lab

Riding out

que legal

My trip to the favela, solo dolo

Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Ilha de Floripa

I have had a wonderful 4 weeks on this beautiful island. I enjoy my time in the lab and out exploring every day. The best part has been meeting the wonderful people along the way and I am so excited to build new relationships and continue to grow the ones I have already made. Here are a few pictures of my time here so far.

 A beautiful sunset at Barra de Lagoa. I played soccer and made 
new friends on this beach day. The food was delicious!

Professora Marques invited us to eat feijoada downtown. It was 
a peaceful and fun day- with live music too! Samba!

I am preparing my primers for Real Time PCR. I always have a smile 
on my face in the lab. I love LABCAI people :)

Exploring the famous Praia Joaquina!

Some of the delicious Brasilian and American treats we had during the 
U.S. vs. Portugal game. Obriga pela convite, Professora Marques!

Até logo!

Oi, tudo bom?
 So I knew before coming to Brazil that my time here would pass quickly, but it doesn't make the truth any better. I've now had time to find my way around the city, get into my research, and make a few friends on the island... I'll share some highlights and lessons I've learned along the way.

Lesson number one: Know the bus routes, be on time, and know which bus you're getting on to...but being too early helps no one. Direto and Semidireto are absolutely different buses. One, Semidireto, allows you to stop at your destination between two bus terminal stations. The other, Direto, will trap you in the bus/cage as no stops or pickups are allowed between the stations. It will pass your destination right on by and drag you all the way to Centro (for those unfamiliar with my city layout, that is MUCH farther than I need to go. Ever. Maybe a place for some feijoada and culture, but never for work.) These buses are just five minutes apart, and full bus names are often just be careful.

Lesson number two: There are several Portuguese words similar in pronunciation, yet entirely different in meaning from one another. Two paired examples: words for coconut, then poops, and the word for a sweet treat and the word for butt. It's inevitable that non-native speakers will make mistakes with words like these at least once-- I personally have to pay a lot of attention at work (the rats poop a lot)-- and people WILL laugh, but so should you! It's funny! Can you imagine hearing "the rats have a lot of coconuts in their cage?" The best part is that you will get a chance to hear some funny English mixups too! The 'th' pairing is not shared in Portuguese, and r's are a softer letter, making words like third quite amusing. There is also no conception of "it" here, so everything becomes a he or a she!

Lesson number three: Rats jump well and they have good grips. They are fast, and they like to explore. Keep the lids tightly on.

Lesson number four: Dance every chance you have. In the streets, in a dance bar, wherever. Other dancers will be drawn in, and then you have a party! Leave just enough energy to walk home at the end of the night. And bring your own water--it's not free.

Lesson number five: (in an environment that feels safe) meet all the people you can. Florianopolis is quite an international city, especially when Curitiba and Porto Alegre (two game cities) are close, but more expensive to stay in. I've actually almost met more Australians than Brazilians! Although not everyone turns out to be the greatest person with the best intentions, I still find it really important for me to give all these conversations a chance. After every 5-10 people that put me off, I find someone I like that refreshes my outlook on people and life. These are the people that make Brasil more than a destination for me, but a home with new family!

Ate mais! - Elizabeth

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Greetings from Sao Paulo! We are just over three weeks in and I am falling in love with the city. It is very busy but the people are so friendly and we have made many friends. We are a subway ride away from FIFA Fan Fest, and it is by far my favorite place to watch the games. It is always packed with diehard fans that throw their beer in the air when a goal is made! No matter where you are in the city, you will always hear fireworks and cheering.

My research is going really well. I work with colorblind patients and am usually running tests (CAD and CCT) on them throughout the morning in a clinic. In the afternoons, I work in a lab and take their blood to extract the DNA. Next week, I will be working on gene sequencing on both colorblind and control patients. I have always been dead set on one day becoming an optometrist, however this experience has made me realize that I may actually prefer working on the research side--in a lab!

It seems as if I have developed a nickname in our Pousada (given to me by one of our Brazilian friends). It’s “The Grinch.” Why? Not because I stole Christmas or because my heart grew 10x, but because my hair has started to turn green. After some research (and a little harmless teasing from my lab group), I found that it’s most likely due to copper in the shower water. At least it’s Brazil themed. (:

A festa não vai parar por causa da chuva

Time has been flying lately! I can't believe it's almost been a month already. Belem has been great and I have met so many people during my time here already. I think it's amazing that people from so many different parts of the world are here. I have met people from Germany, England, Spain, and other various cities in Brazil.

I have been becoming more comfortable with my Portuguese ability since I've been here which makes it a lot easier to communicate. I have also been experimenting with more foods.

Last week I visited Mangal das Garcas which is like a large park with many different birds and plants. My favorite area was the borboletario which is the home of the butterflies.
A picture of some of the birds we saw
The butterflies were so pretty and friendly

The park is located on the water, so it was very peaceful and had a great view.
This is a picture facing the park from the pier 

Before visiting Mangal das Garcas, we went to eat at Point de Acai and tried acai with a platter of fried fish. Ever since then, I have been craving acai. I found a restaurant that has it close to the lab so I will be able to go more frequently. I'm not sure how many people drink their acai here but my friends like it with sugar and tapioca. That is the way I like it as well.
This was my lunch of calabresa, another meat, feijao, rice, and acai. 

Today, I went to watch the game with some friends and, as it usually does, it began to rain. It's amazing how much it rains here and I've been told that this isnt even the rainy season. While it was raining, some people ran outside and danced while the band played. I didn't go out this time and was only a spectator but it was fun to see. I did stay inside and dance though. There was a live band playing samba.
Some friends dancing in the rain

Ate logo, 

Monday, June 23, 2014

"Here in Africa, we do not worry about the time so much."

Hello again from Uganda! Alex and I are at the beginning of week four in Ishaka, and have been in the office this past week collecting data and observing the day-to-day activities of the health plan staff. Last week, we were able to purchase an electric kettle for the office, so now we can enjoy some "mid-morning tea" (when the power is on, that is). Most nights when we go to sleep the power is on, and most mornings when we wake up the power is off. The power has also gone out on us in one supermarket and one restaurant so far, but all in all it is something we can live with. :) Our mentor, Susie Acuff, managed to introduce us to many of the locals before she left last weekend, and they have taken great care of us since she's been away (and fed us tons and tons and tons of food- sorry Susie, you're really missing out over here). One thing that the locals like to remind us is that "here in Africa, we eat a lot." Being "fat" is desirable, and they all say they want Alex and I to be fat when we leave. They may just accomplish that.

Another thing they like to remind us I have quoted above- Ugandans are notoriously bad timekeepers. It can be very frustrating when you are waiting for a ride that has come half an hour late, when you are kept waiting for food for over an our (but no worries- it's coming "now"), and when someone says they are going to step out of the office and they don't make it back until closing time. It has been a learning experience to adjust to this way of life and to be patient with them when their timing is way off, not to mention it's been hard not to fall prey to it- we have even been slipping on time lately, and it's not a great habit (even if they tend to do it more often than not). It can be relaxing to let the time slip away from you- in America, we let ourselves get so stressed about the limited time we have in the day, or if we're running late to this or that. It has been a very new experience to not be in a rush to get anywhere, with the exception of getting to our favorite hotel (restaurant) Charona for some quality Ugandan TV and goat with chips before dark. I feel much less stressed and much more relaxed here, and I can understand why we suffer from so many more stress-related, chronic illnesses in America. Not to say I won't be rushing around soon enough to do things when I am back, but I will certainly take my experiences here in Ishaka home when I need to remember to slow down and enjoy my day.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Unthinking the idea of comfort zone

This past week has been a whirlwind of amazing. I made a promise to myself to make sure I find a way to un-think the idea of comfort zone. I’ve been making connection after connection and gaining new perspectives on the world around me. I made a lot of great friends that have really helped me do this. One of the more prominent friends I made was Eduado, I honestly think he might be the next Cesar Chavez. He's a 29 year old accountant at Nestle, who is rethinking his life and wants to better understand the world. He put in his one month notice last week. We shared lots of books, ideas, and helped each other process the world we live in. We’ve had lots of great conversations during our guitar jamming sessions about the parallels of race and socioeconomic issues of both of our countries. To compliment our conversations, there was some interesting research presented during a debate on the implementation of an affirmative action like policy at USP: of the 3000 professors at USP less than 20 are “black”. Comparative studies show that in Brazil while socioeconomic status limits one’s mobility, a great influence is one’s perceived race. I say perceived because in Brazil everyone has almost the same mix of “race” in his or her background, and so it just comes down to individual’s complexion, which may be very different from his or her other relatives.

I’m not going to say no to a chance to take in Brazil’s culture through the more cliche approach of tourists going through a museum! It was great time with my Sao Paulo Crusaders. 
I recently turned 21 and so I’m finally legal. I really really really enjoy wine haha. Most of my friends are a little thrown off by this. But it’s okay, I made some new friends that appreciate wine as well. Here’s a great group picture after a long day of wine tasting. A few doctors, dentists, nuclear physicists and then there's me. 
I felt pretty classy in this picture. And so I made it my Facebook picture. 
I’ve played soccer for the longest time in my life and I was so sad when I decided to turn down my offer to go collegiate with the University of Michigan. After my failed attempt at skateboarding with Eduado I played pick-up soccer with some Brazilian about 20 years old. I’m an extremely defensive player but I found a way to two put three pretty sick goals into the back of the net. 

That being said! There’s no way I was not going to support my Nigerian troops in their first game vs. Iran. I went to Curitiba by bus.

The atmosphere was amazing. Honestly, when you take some time to really understand the message of the FIFA World Cup there’s no way you cannot support it. I feel as though it’s one of humanity’s best attempt at peace and love.
“Develop the game, touch the world, and build a better future” – FIFA’s Mission statement 
I met a new friend at the game, Wheezy, who took me to get some Nigerian food that I’ve been craving for the longest haha. And then paid for me! Thanks bro! 
On my bus ride to Curitiba I saw a glimpse of life in the slums and not a surrogate experience. Today, I took a short bus ride 10Km outside of Sao Paulo and explored this area. Does society not realize that anyone can be born into the injustice that we call poverty? 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Sao Paulo Chronicles

We are going on our third week here in Sao Paulo.  We have been pretty lucky with the weather, today was the first cold day with the temperature around 60 degrees Fahrenheit. We haven't been too many places I would consider picture worthy but I'll be glad to share the pictures that I do have as well as some observations after two weeks into our trip.

Arena de Sao Paulo on opening day of the World Cup 2014

This was about as close as we could get to the stadium.  There wasn't much to see around the stadium for people without tickets.  For being a World Cup opener there weren't as many people around the area as I had expected.   This is because FIFA Fan Fest is in a completely different part of the city, which was over capacity as we would find out in the moments after taking this picture.

Future World Cup 2014 Champions: United States of America with their match against Ghana at FIFA Fan Fest in Anhangabaú

Lots of people at Fan Fest, sadly we didn't meet any Americans

Parque da Luz.  One of the only non-soccer pictures I have taken.

A few observations:
  • If you are a dog in Sao Paulo, you bark at precisely 6:30 PM for about 5 minutes until you realize there isn't really anything to be barking at.  Just like there wasn't anything to bark at the last night, or the night before.  
  • There is no grass anywhere aside from the USP campus.  Definitely a change from rural Kirksville, MO.
  • Rice and beans with meat is a great meal.
  • Sharing sidewalks doesn't happen.  Most people walk right down the middle of the sidewalk instead of staying to one side like I thought was the norm.  It's like a game of chicken and the loser is whoever moves off the sidewalk first.  I have yet to win.  
  • You're not cool unless you bring your dog to the mall.  Seriously, everyone does it. 
  • I have been in search of a gym since the day we moved in and am unsuccessful to this point.  It has been a journey.  It almost seems that Sao Paulo doesn't want me to find one.  The university is on strike so the rec center is closed.  I accidentally wandered into a slum looking for one another day.  Today I finally made it to one but the price was $400 US a month, no thank you.  I took the bus to one last gym and it was closed because today is a holiday.  Bad luck.
The research is going great so far.  My lab mates and mentor have been very inviting are hospitable. I look forward to seeing how the project develops. 


Olá a partir de São Paulo! The trip so far has treated me fairly well. We have had a lot of stories in our group that have kept us all laughing, most of which I shouldn't discuss in detail here. All I can say is that the São Paulo group is certainly a strong one; we're survivors. São Paulo is not exactly all I expected it to be, but not everything I expected was positive either. A plus is that I have not felt too in danger here as I expected to feel. 

One of the main things that surprised me when I arrived in São Paulo was the hostel. When I checked out the website before I left the United States, I imagined that we would be living in an apartment style home where each person would have their own somewhat small room and there would be a shared kitchen, bathroom area and perhaps a common room to hang out in; however, after dragging our suitcases up and down hills and stairs, we were each shown to our individual rooms with individual bathrooms, connected only by outdoor paths that we can follow to find each other’s rooms. We are all somewhat close to each other though; I can find Victoria right next door, and I can find Hope and Josh by following a narrow staircase down to the next floor. I appreciate having a room of my own where I can have some privacy. The room and especially the bathroom are not the cleanest, but I have worked hard to clean both a little to make a not great living situation more comfortable. 

We do, indeed, have a shared kitchen, but it is more of a shared kitchen than I had imagined prior to arrival; we share our kitchen with every one living in this hostel. Of course this seemed strange to me as I had never experienced anything similar in the US, but I have met so many nice people just by going down into the kitchen, people speaking English; Spanish and Portuguese. It is mostly through these connections that I have gone out various times to explore the party life in São Paulo, and I must say that parties are quite crazy and very enjoyable here, often causing me to get back at 6 AM. 

Another convenience the hostel has offered me is that it is only a 10 minute walk from my lab in the Institute of Biomedical Sciences. I have greatly enjoyed my work in that lab, and it is the first time that I have been so independent in lab work. I look forward to going to work and learning new lab techniques every day. 

Living in São Paulo has overall taken a great deal of adjustments, and these adjustments have often been very visible to us. We’ve seen many changes in our bodies from the water turning blonde streaks in our hair green and our toenails taking on a brownish tint to our bodies rejecting the food we’ve eaten here and the water we’ve drank here; however, every day the 2014 MHIRT São Paulo group sits outside our rooms and we tell each other about our days and we enjoy each other’s stories and we laugh. São Paulo has been a great place to grow and learn, and I’m enjoying my experience in and out of lab greatly.
After about an hour of cleaning the tiles. A
little hard work to make the bathroom more
comfortable to be in.
What my shower looked like before I cleaned it (although I forgot
to take a picture of my actual shower before it was clean, so this is
a picture of the shower next door)

Now, you’re probably wondering about the title of this post if you’ve noticed that it isn’t quite fully in Portuguese. Well, this is one of our little group stories. One of the nights, we went out with “hot Ed” (Eduardo Oliveira: another story for another time), whom we met in the kitchen, and we ate and afterwards went out to bars/clubs. At an outdoor concert we stopped at, a slightly intoxicated Hope yelled out “DONDE ESTA MI FRANGO”, referring to the large amount of chicken that he tried to have put in a box to take as leftovers but was never returned to him. Of course, all the Brazilians around us stared questionably at him, and the English-speaking Brazilians in our group informed him that he mixed Spanish and Portuguese to yell his still ridiculous phrase of “Where’s my chicken?” It was quite amusing. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Saturday, June 14, 2014


View of our neighborhood from my window

USP campus

This is the guard gate that we go through to get to and from campus. Since the strike, many roads and paths are no longer available to the general public.  

Neighborhood street art

Our neighbors

A bonita cidade de Floripa

I have been in Brazil for a week and a half now and it has been a wonderful experience. Since the moment we arrived to Floripa people were warm and have graciously welcomed us to their country. Our mentors Dr. Marques, Dr. Padua, and Dr. Linder have shown us around a lot, specially the first few days. I have enjoyed exploring the island (even when it’s raining, which it has been often). Amaka, Elizabeth, and I learned to take the ônibus (public bus) almost as soon as we got here. Riding the ônibus is a must here. I have officially worked a week and I have already learned many new techniques and planned my project for the summer, well winter here. I enjoy the research a lot, but specially like meeting all of the people that work at LABCAI. I get to practice my Portuguese with them all day and I feel like I learn new words or phrases every day. I think I will end up saying “cara,” which is “dude,” by the end of the summer. The World Cup has officially started and Brazil won the first game! I watched it with my friends from lab at Juliana’s place. We had pinhão (hot pine nuts) and cachorros quentes (Brazilian hot dogs). The hot dog had corn, mayonnaise, cheese, ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, and thin potatoes. It was delicious!! I wake up in the morning sometimes not believing that I am actually in Brazil meeting great people, doing interesting research, improving my Portuguese, and learning about a new culture. I am so thankful for this opportunity to do what I love and amplify my experiences in this beautiful country. Now we are off to our first festa junina- it should be a lot of fun! Até logo! J
The view of the Lagoa da Conceição on a cloudy day. It is beautiful and peaceful.

A Animada Cidade

I've been in Belem, Brazil for about two weeks now and things have been going great!

My favorite things about the city are the people and the food! It's very easy to meet people here because everyone is very friendly and loves to practice their English or to help you with your Portuguese. There's food everywhere! I don't believe you can walk more than a few steps in any direction without coming across a place to get something to eat...and that's not including the many street vendors!

I've met many people through friends of friends and also through going out with my new friends. Last night we went to a place called the Red Pub (entry fee was half off with a college id) and they were having a celebration for Chico Buarque.
He is a famous samba and bossa nova musician from Rio de Janeiro. Samba music was played the entire night and everyone was dancing and singing the words. It was definitely a great time!

As far as food goes, some of my favorite new dishes are picanha:
feijao tropeiro, which is essentially beans, eggs, farina, and fried pork skins:

arroz (rice) e vinagrete (tomatoes, peppers, onions, and vinegar, and other special seasonings):

as well as calabresa and onions.
The first time I had calabresa, it was on a very delicious pizza that I got from the Boulevard shopping mall close to my apartment. 

Here is a map showing the location of the Boulevard mall:

Some of the more interesting foods I've tried are tacaca

It is shrimp, jambu (which numbs your mouth, quite an interesting sensation), and a sort of broth. I would recommend trying it "sem goma,"which is without the tapioca gel substance. I tried it with goma and didn't end up finishing the dish. 

Additionally, there is a popular ice cream place here called Cairu. There is one in the mall and there are others in various locations around the city. I tried the Romeo e Julieta flavor. Romeo e Julieta, usually, consists of a sweetened guava type paste and cream cheese. In this ice cream, it seemed that there were small pieces of cheddar which was a very interesting surprise. It had a sweet and salty effect but I definitely wasn't expecting the large pieces of cheese that were in the ice cream.  

So far it's been a lot of fun and there are still so many things to experience! 

Ate logo, 

A magical journey thus far

Bom dia e bem-vindo! Vem comigo na minha viagem brasileira. Aqui, voce vai encontrar algumas fotos das duas semanas ate agora.

Hello and welcome! Come with me on my Brasilian journey. Here you will find photos that I have taken during my first two weeks in-country.

My aerial view on the descent into the Island of Magic, Florianopolis. This city lives up to its name.
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A marina a few blocks away from our pousada in Lagoa da Conceicao. Fisherman and leisure boat riders alike can be found here.
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A garden nestled behind the Faculdade da Farmocologia, Universidade Federale de Santa Catarina, where my lab is located.
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First Brazilian pizza at Pizza da Pedra. My half was topped with sauted onions and charque, a salted, dried meat.
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Myself with one of many mural paintings to be found in the area. The island is made colorful by both nature and art. I am loving it!
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