Thursday, August 10, 2017

Sharing my Reflections with you

It’s been exactly a week since my landing in the Memphis International Airport. The first day I got back I wanted to observe American life as an outsider, someone who has never heard the distinct Memphis accent, felt the suffocating humidity, and seen the rundown apartments along the interstate. This strategy worked for so long. Trying to cling onto what I learned in Brasil, I quickly learned that in order not to slip into depression, this was going to take adjustment back to my home. There are still days, restricted to moments, that are paralyzing for me. All I want to do is cry and go back to Brazil. But then I think of my sustainability and know that without MHIRT’s backing I would have not been able to survive there. Maybe I would have found a job, but without a nice apartment to fall asleep every night, things would have been a lot different.
My experience in Pr. Riso’s lab was mesmerizing, truly captivating. Once I got acclimated to the lab, it seemed that I had to leave. Living with Aminata and Winter, I found myself constantly comparing my experience to theirs. Having a competitive spirit, since they were working more on their own, it was very hard for me to have to work under someone else in the lab. In addition, the only times I could initially go into lab was when Lucas, aka the one who taught me what to do in the lab, was there. And that happened only 2-3 times a week as he was a college student as well. However once I met more people in the lab, I started going more days and started feeling included in the lab and things started looking great.
I have never had an experience in a lab outside of workstudy and CBU classes. The closest experience to being self-sufficient I had was Organic Chemistry Lab with Dr. Peer. Wanting to be out of there early, I was internally forced to work at break neck speed and not experiencing this at a real working lab was refreshing.
The challenge for me during my stay in Florianopolis compared to the struggles Aminata and Winter shared was having to work in a group setting. Not being the one who was in charge was a little frustrating. It was also freeing as responsibility was shared among many people and showed me how labs are structured to also be learning centers and many times Lucas taught me things while we were running a test.
In addition to what I learned in the lab, there were many things that I learned about myself in Brasil. The first weekend I was there, I learned of the South American Ironman Championships. When I was getting my bags in the Florianopolis airport I had seen huge bags and once of them said triathlon. Now it made sense! I had to learn of a way to get there. I had arrived in the Hercilio Luz International Airport on a Friday and the triathlon was the coming Sunday. I also needed a bike to get around the area and to train for triathlon. So I went to work. I searched for nearby bike stores and found once less than a mile away. So I went around 6:00 pm, already dark in the winter of this city. I didn’t take much with me as I had been warned this was Brasil. However, since I am very trusting, I wasn’t scared. I felt safe. Fast forward to getting to the bike shop and being shocked by the prices when I was looking for a very cheap bike to aid me for about 2 months. Not knowing how to speak much Portugues I tried my hand with Google translate. Something was lost in translation and the salesman referred me to a kind English speaking brasileiro. I asked if he knew where there were lower priced options. We talked. And then we exchanged numbers. It was through his help that I was able to procure transportation to the Ironman. This was my first Ironman. I was stoked. When I got dropped off, it was still before the sunrise and I didn’t have any idea where I was. I freaked out a bit. However I soon saw people and started following them and then I saw the headquarters for Ironman and felt comfortable. I continued to find a place for myself to watch the swim. I ended up at the front where triathletes were saying goodbye to their families for the whole day while they try their hardest to bring closure to many months or years of intense training. It was an amazing feeling to be surrounded by people who cared about this sport as much or more as I do. Once the last swimmer was done, I wanted to know where the bikes began. Right in front of me was a very irate person with Ironman. Not seeing anyone else, being tired, and not wanting to search for anyone else, I got this person’s attention and asked if they spoke English. She said so-so, and I was off to the races at her amazement. Quickly I realized she was not understanding and remembered the word for biking “pedalada” and tried the best Portugues I had at that point. Somehow she understood and told me where it was. Before this, there was the swimming finish, I had no clue about and it was straight across the beach past an official barrier. She invited me into behind the scenes territory and the rest of the day was a blast! On this day of Sunday May 28, 2017 I had my first moto ride, my first acai, my first ironman I spectated and made my first very close Brasileira amiga.
Going forward to my future time in Brazil, I had many adventures including a trip to Curitiba and Foz do Iguacu with Aminata and Ashley along with Ashley’s roommate Camila. All the while I was exploring the island of Florianopolis and training with my triathlon team Equipetime as much as time and space allowed me. In addition, I also had a week in Rio where I met the most amazing guy for whom a girl could ask. As I type this, he said he is traveling to Mexico because it is closer to where I live.

I have many more stories to share about my MHIRT Brazilian summer and it was an amazing time, indeed!

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