Monday, July 6, 2015

Top 5 things that have happened in the last two weeks

1. My team and I got to leave Ishaka for a weekend and went to a really nice resort by Queen Elizabeth Park.  We got to live in a little bit of luxury and enjoy some fine dining, laps around the pool and a tour of some really nice hotels nearby. 

 My beautiful room at Twin Lakes Hotel.

 View of Queen National Park from far away from our hotel.

Relaxing by the pool area at King Fisher Hotel with a great view of the Park in the background.

2. I went on my very first Safari last weekend at Queen Elizabeth Park and it was amazing. I was able to see an elephant, hippos, water buffalo, crocodile, many types of birds and so much more. Our safari experience also had an afternoon with a boat ride around Lake Edward, which is located in both Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. We were able to see different animals that live by this lake and learn about their history and characteristic. It was an amazing experience and I am really happy that I had the opportunity to experience these things.  

The Uganda team on our Safari ride for the day

View by Lake Edward. Apparently hippos and water buffaloes get along so they are often found together.

 Elephants on their way to get some water and bathe. It was really amazing to see how all the older elephants watch out for the baby one. They were guiding the baby by their trunks the whole time. Quite a fascinating view.

3. We have already conducted over 16 in-depth structured interviews with the local community along with numerous unstructured interviews and observations. We are making a lot of progress in our research. It is really exciting to learn surprising things through these interviews and let that guide our next steps.

4. I have FINALLY found the most amazing baked good in Uganda this weekend. It is really hard to find good deserts; at least of the kind they have in the U.S, so my sweet tooth had really been suffering. Good thing the supermarket that had this delight is at Mbarara (an hour away) or I might have indulged in this every morning.

5. I am completing this MHIRT opportunity as my practicum requirement for my Masters of Public Health (MPH) program. As such, I have had a mid-practicum meeting this week with Julia who services as my preceptor and my Faculty Adviser at UNC-Chapel Hill. I have really enjoyed those meetings and my passion for the research that I am doing has gotten reignited and reenergized. It is really great to have supportive and knowledgeable people guiding me through this process that can otherwise be somewhat difficult to navigate.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Muito prazer São Paulo

   This is my first visit to South America and I’m so glad São Paulo was my first city.  Its people and its culture, amidst the pollution, poverty, and water crisis, share a mysterious beauty that no other city seems to have mastered.  The buzz of the streets and the winds from the metro have become an integral part of the music of this city.  My experience here has helped me grow into a more appreciative and observant person.  Moreover, I have learned of how the city functions with its every-growing but somehow limiting resources.  And even though the São Paulo struggles with its own problems, she never fails to surprise me with her overpowering love and her ever-growing appreciate of culture. 

   While I did struggle at first with the language, the amount of walking, and the social etiquette of a sweet kiss on the cheek, I quickly was drawn into the Brazilian way of life by my own fascination and curiosity.  Because I am a romantic and I love rain and food in general, this city has treated me very well. From beans and rice to a salad of just lettuce to green oranges, I have grown to love everything edible here.  The Saturday and Sunday morning food truck parks weren't so bad either.  Props to my girl Malika. 

   But the best part: the people here are incredible.  I have found my spirit animal and a sense of family in my mentor and an unconditional love from all of my friends.  My stomach flips over twice and my heart flutters every time I get a congratulatory smile for my rough Portuguese or an invite to a celebration of the end of a good week or even to a celebration of two people’s love.  From weddings, to birthdays, to hang-outs with the people who have, in such a short time, become so important to me, I have made a family here who sees, loves, and almost always makes fun of, a whole new side of me. 

   This experience has, for lack of a better phrase, been a roller coaster ride.  From Fourth of July celebrations in a city that celebrates Japanese culture and tradition to dancing to Jai Ho in a bar with coworkers to 3am bus rides home with the people I've grown to trust, I had the most unforgettable and truly revolutionizing experience.

   While it makes me sad that I've only a month left in this home away from home, I am excited to see what else I can stumble upon during my stay here.  More to come!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Real talk though….

Everything in Floripa and in Brazil has been beautiful so far, and it has definitely been an experience of a lifetime. I cannot believe that it is already the 5th week, and that half of the program is over! I have certainly enjoyed the live music in the restaurants, tried many different foods, tried many different snacks, and I have also been blessed with the opportunity to travel to Rio for an international brain research conference next week! Of course, working in the lab and analyzing my data is keeping me extra busy, too :).

BUT, it never occurred to me how important the ability to communicate really was until I was not able to converse effectively in a different country, a different continent. Here I am, an Asian American that is fortunate enough to know one of the most widely known languages in the world, English, as well as the ability to understand my parents’ native language, Indonesian, because that’s what is spoken in our household. However, upon arriving the Brazil, the people spoke what sounded like an alien language, Portuguese. In some instances, it sounds like Spanish. But things can go completely awry when trying to translate from English to Spanish to Portuguese. Not only were things difficult for me to understand, but the people speak so quickly in Floripa, and apparently they have an accent. I guess the experience could be compared to a foreigner going to New York and hearing them speak with their accent.

Anyways, the inability to properly communicate my ideas really put things into perspective for me. I could not even buy a bus pass or print out business cards without someone shaking their head, sighing with frustration, or having a look of impatience on their face. It was hard to not get frustrated; it was as if I was a tiny infant that could only make sounds and wave my arms around to try and convey my ideas and needs. It made me think about all of the people that come to the United States hoping for “better” opportunities, only to realize that their inability to communicate hindered them from even getting the simplest tasks done.  

This experience also reminded me of my mom, who often has me check her grammar in different pieces that she writes. In the past, I would begrudgingly do it, groaning with each sentence I read and corrected. Now I understand what it’s truly like to live more than a week in a country where the language is completely different from your own, and you only have your family to talk to. Now, I understand WHY people tend to stick with people from their own culture and communities. Now I understand why people like to keep their cultural roots. Overall, I think this idea, this concept of the difficulty of foreign communication, has truly opened my eyes. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Uganda Team Goes on a Safari!

Driving down "Channel Track", this road follows along the Kazinga Channel

Came upon a big family of elephants while on a boat ride on the Kazinga Channel! They did not want to get close to the water until we finally left. Everyone needs their privacy,

We had a GREAT time on our safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park!

Ahh, enjoying the beauty of Queen Elizabeth National Park #retreatstyle. Nothing like a little vacay.