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By marisalgado94

Through my research project, I have had a really great opportunity to spend time with some very dedicated, inspiring people in the community of Nordeste, a barrio that is made up of three different neighborhoods and that is plagued by violence, drug trafficking, and a lack of support from the government.  In looking into how community programs help to keep kids out of the negative influences, I have interviewed coaches of a community body boarding/ surf team and they have been so incredible to learn from.

All of these guys were born in the community and many of them still live there; they are very familiar with the lives of the kids they coach because they have lived that struggle themselves.  They know what its like to have parents that are alcoholics or involved in drug trafficking.  They have seen friends get sucked into gangs and have lost people close to them to the violence that surrounds the community.  Despite their struggles, they all found a way to rise above their circumstances and have now turned around and invested back into this community.  For many of them, the beach and body boarding was what kept them off the streets and they have gone and done the same by creating a community body boarding team that is free, open to all kids as long as you are enrolled in school, and gives them a space to have good roles models, be in a safe environment, and grow into responsible, caring citizens that give back to others.

I wish I could write up all of their stories and share them with you, but for now I'll stick with one.

One coach's interview struck me the most.  One of the first questions that I typically asked them was, "What is the biggest problem that is facing your community today?" There being no right answer, many coaches said drugs, lack of education, mistrust of police, but his answer was just one word- Prejudice.  The look in his eyes when he answered spoke more than any words ever could.  His answer has begun to shape the way that I look at all the interviews and stories that I have collected throughout my second week of research.  Those other problems- drugs, violence, lack of education- they are all just symptoms of a greater underlying issue.

I am slowly coming to the conclusion that the underlying issue is prejudice.  Nordeste is an almost entirely Afro Brazilian population and race is a very sensitive issue in Brazil.  Yes, there are gangs, drug traffickers, and a lot of bad things and people in this community.  But, there are also good, kind, intelligent people who just need someone to look at them and say, "You are worth investing in because you are just as much of a person as I am".  Sadly, this community is looked down upon; outsiders see everyone that lives here as being the same... thieves, vagabonds, hopeless.  I have learned how important community programs like Amaralina Kids Body Boarding Team are.  They are taking charge of the community's future and deciding that it is up to them to change the perception that people have.  They are working tirelessly to show these kids that they are worth someone time, that they can be good people who change the way outsiders look at the community.

Instead of being upset, dejected, and angry about the lack of government assistance and the racism and prejudice towards their community, the coaches and kids of the team are doing their best to make a change.  To some, it may seem like something small, but for them, its everything.  This is their team, their family, their home.  It has been amazing getting to know these kids, learning from the coaches, and seeing how they are making waves for Nordeste.

By marisalgado94

After almost 3 months of being in a classroom, becoming knowledgeable on theory, and having the chance to travel through field excursions, the hallmark part of an SIT program has finally arrived- the Independent Study Project (ISP).  When this program first started, the ISP seemed like something that was far off and removed... yes, I understand I need to conduct a research project but first, let me get acclimated to an entirely new country and learn a whole new language.  But as time went by and assignments for research prep were due, the project became very real; I was terrified.  I have written many long research papers before, understand the format and goals of a project, and have taken research methods classes to make sure that all parts of my study are ethical and giving something back to the community.  However, I have never really conducted research in the field, where all of my information is primarily supposed to come from first hand sources, interviews, observations, and analysis.  The way that SIT work's is that for the last month of the program, you are set free for three weeks to do your research independently.  While you are matched with an adviser to guide you, your project is very much dependent on your own motivation and dedication to your work.  All of this was intimidating at first but guess what y'all?  Today was my first day in the field, and I am happy to say it was a successful day!

Let me tell you a bit about my project.  I have always been passionate about helping kids, bottom up community development, and health education.  I have found a way to combine all of these things into my project.  I will be spending time learning about Nordeste de Amaralina, a community in Salvador that is characterized by low socioeconomic status, racial discrimination and marginalization, and high levels of violence, drug use, and drug trafficking.  I will be familiarizing myself with the community through a drug research and treatment center through interviews and determining what the risk factors are in the community for drug use among teens.  Then I will be doing observations and interviews with instructors and parents from the Amaralina Kids Body Boarding Team, a team that focuses on giving kids a positive environment to spend Sunday mornings and providing them with positive role models.  My hope is to see how this program is addressing and helping reduce the influence of the risk factors for drug use and what ways community programs could be expanded in Salvador to better serve this population.

Today was spent doing observations of the teams structure, team member/ coach interaction, and attitude of the teens during the program.  While at some points it was difficult to understand some of the things that were going on in Portuguese, I felt like I was able to overcome the challenges by asking questions and using context clues to define words I was unsure about.  Through this next week, I will be attending a parent/ coach meeting where I will hopefully conduct interviews with individuals.  While I am nervous since these interviews are a large part of my ethnographic research project, I am excited to learn from these families and coaches and see how their lives have been impacted by the environment they live in and what is being done to make life better.  One day of research down, 25 more to go!

By marisalgado94

As classes for my program have ended and we have moved into the field learning portion of our program, I had the opportunity to spend the last two weeks travelling to different parts of Bahia, live in a few different settings, and see the public health system in Brazil, the good and the bad, in action.   This last week, we spent time in Ilhéus, a city along the coast about 10 hours south of Salvador.  While on the outside the city seems like another one of Brazil’s beautiful tourist destinations, there is much that lies below the surface.

After learning about the history of the city, the influence of cocoa plantations on income disparities, and becoming acquainted with different neighborhoods that we would be observing and visiting, we got to participate in one of my favorite conversations that we have had: talking with a Cuban doctor who is a part of Brazil’s Mais Medicos program.  One of the downsides of SUS (Brazil’s medical system) is that there is a lack of doctors, especially for lower income communities.  The basic health centers are broken down into teams that serve specific communities; a team consists of community agents, nurses, and a doctor who oversees them.  In Ilhéus, there are many teams of community agents who do not have a doctor, causing long waits for patients.  That is where the Mais Medicos program comes in.  The Brazilian government has a contract with the Cuban government through which Cuba sends doctors to Brazil for a 3 year period in order to fill the gaps that Brazilian doctors cannot or do not want to fill.  Part of the requirement is that you have been practicing medicine for 10 years and have experience working outside of the country in the field of medicine.  The doctor we were able to speak to had been a doctor in Cuban for over 20 years and had spent 3 years in Venezuela on a similar program.

I had many questions about how this program worked.  Did the community receive the doctors well?  What was it like having to learn an entirely new language and practice medicine in that language?  Was leaving your family for 3 years worth it?  She explained to us that many of the patients she worked with had not been to a doctor in years and had no idea in what shape their health was; they were extremely excited that finally something was being done to get them care and that there was someone who wanted to do whatever they could to help their community.  Although she had never spoken Portuguese before coming to Brazil, our doctor said that she had amazing support from other Brazilian doctors that she worked with and they were extremely helpful in teaching her in any ways they could.  Although she missed her family, she explained to us that she felt she was where she needed to be and she was doing something that she loved. Although the Mais Medicos program and other Cuban doctor exchange program like it are somewhat controversial, from my perspective it is providing communities with resources and care that they otherwise would go without.  These doctors see a need and they do what they can to fill it. Since the doctor we spoke to had entered that community, she was able to see roughly 35 patients a day, work with community health agents to get people's diabetes and hypertension under control, and has delivered multiple babies over the last 6 months with zero complications.

While this program is working well, why is it that doctor's need to be brought in to begin with?  A big issue is that since medical school in Brazil is extremely expensive (so expensive that many doctors chose to leave the country in order to attend medical school), doctors who do invest in their education have no choice but to search for higher paying jobs in order to pay off their schooling.  The lack of willingness of doctors in Brazil to go and work in lower income communities speaks to a need for restructuring the system and allotting greater resources to medicine in these areas and creating incentives for doctors to want to work there.  Once again, while SUS is a great system in theory, there is much that still needs to be worked out in practice.  Hopefully through my next few weeks of research, I will be able to see how community organizations are taking the health of their communities into their own hands and, doctors or not, finding ways to make life healthier for themselves and their families.

I am spending this next week prepping for my research project and setting up my interviews, so look forward to my next post as it will likely have some great stories on my challenges in interviewing in Portuguese, what I've learned from the organization I am researching, and some reflections on the implications of my findings on healthcare in Brazil!

By marisalgado94

Last week was week one of my research project.  I am spending my 3 weeks researching the effect that community organizations have on reducing risk factors for drug use among teens in a low income community in Salvador called Nordeste.  My goal is to spend time with a body boarding program that works with kids from that area, interviews parents and coaches, and use the Center for Study and Treatment of the Abuse of Drugs that is at the Federal University of Bahia to get information on the history of drug use in the community and what sort of resources are available, how the community takes advantage of those resources, and what the challenges are in treating and reducing drug use in the community.

Let me tell you, conducting research in a foreign country is full of challenges.  As this is more of an ethno- grafic research project and most of my information will be coming from primary sources and interviews, my biggest concern was getting the contacts I needed and making the connections to be able to carry out these interviews.  This last week, I had a really hard time getting in touch with people and getting them to commit to an interview or to a meeting time... Brazilian's definitely have their own concept of what doing something in a timely manner means and that has been a cultural difference that I have learned to accept and work around in my research.

Another challenge that I am facing is the language.  While my research adviser speaks English fairly well, most of my contacts, interviews, my background readings, and any prior research I am drawing from is all in Portuguese.  While my comprehension of written Portuguese has come along quite well in the last 3 months and I speak it well enough to get by in day to day life.  However, when interviewing people, I have to simultaneously listen, take notes, understand what they are saying, and then process and come up with follow up questions.  I have been able to do it with the few interviews I have gotten so far, but at the end of the day, you're brain is definitely exhausted.

Although the project started out slower than I would have liked it to, I am really enjoying this.  I have never done field research before and this is a great experience.  I feel like I am learning so much about a topic that is relevant not only to Salvador, but the places all over the world.  It is opening up my eyes to how drug use here in Salvador isn't just a disease or an addiction in and of itself, but rather a symptom of a greater underlying issue.  My hope is that in this next week of interviews and research, I will continue to get a greater overall picture of how drugs impact the community of Nordeste, the ways that the Amaralina Kids Body Boarding Team is working to get these kids off the streets, and explore ways that the government can begin to provide more support to community organizations such as those that are here in Nordeste.

I'm excited to continue learning and hopefully, this research is the beginning of something that I can continue in the US, back here in Brazil, and in other countries as well.

By marisalgado94

While most of my friends back in the US are wrapping up midterms and are counting down the days until Thanksgiving break, it feels weird to say that I am done with classes and took my final exams this past week.  My program is broken up into two parts- the first half is theoretical and lecture based, the second half is all based on field study and application.  For the first half of the semester, I was in class every day for morning sessions of Portuguese and afternoon sessions of either seminar classes on race, public health, and human rights or research methods and ethics.  Although this past week was stressful turning in a 7 page final paper, a 17 page research proposal, and studying for my portguese final, I am happy to say that for once, I did not procrastinate (mom, you would be so proud)!

Tomorrow, the field study begins.  We will be embarking on a two week journey through various parts of Bahia, vistining rural communities and immersing ourselves in the culture.  Upon return, we begin our independent research projects, the capstone of this program.  I am so excited to begin my research.  I will be looking into a community program, Amaralina Kids Body Boarding (go like them on Facebook!) which is ran by my host brother, and evaluating their effectiveness in reducing the risk factors for drug abuse among teens in the Nordeste community of Amarlina, one of Salvador’s neighborhoods that knows all to well the impact of drug trafficking, gang violence, and a heavy police presence.  Through interviews with parents and coaches and participant observations at team practices, I hope to present concrete evidence on how the program has had postive benefits in the community.  My goal is that with this research, the coaches and organizers of the program will now have a qualitative analysis of all the hard work that they have put into this program and be able to use the findings to open doors for partenrships with other community organizations and health professionals to be able to expand the resources  they are able to give to these kids.

Although I have written research papers before, the idea of conducting field research and coming out on the other side with a 40 page write up of my three weeks is a little daunting.  We are moving out of out host homes and into apartments with other students, responsible for getting to and from project sights, and most stressful of all, conduct out interviews and interactions all in Portuguese (my two months, while heavy in the language, are definitely going to be put to the test!). I am so excited, however, that I am able to conduct my research with an organization that is trying to make a difference in their community and hope that through this project, I will be able to give back as well.  Stay tuned for stories and reflections on my two week travels and the beginning of my research project!



By marisalgado94

I woke up and immediately knew that something definitely wasn't right.  My vision was a bit blurry, my eyes had this sore, sandy feeling, and the sunshine that was bursting through my window seemed way brighter and harsh than it usually did at 5 in the morning.  I sleepily stumbled into the bathroom and my fears were confirmed- my eyes definitely had some sort of infection. I had been battling a cold for the last week and assumed that my latest symptom was just another progression of a particularly aggressive cold.  I called up my academic director and being the wonderful woman that she is, she told me she would take me to the doctors that afternoon.  This made me, and my mom back in the States, feel much better as part of my hesitancy of going to the doctors earlier in the week had been not knowing how to use my month of Portuguese to get myself through Brazil's lovely health care system.

My classmates joked that now I would have a chance to see healthcare in Brazil in action... the ultimate "case study".  As studying health in Brazil is the main focus of my program, I too thought it would be interesting to make observations on the type of care that I, along with others in the doctor's office I was going to, were receiving.  After arriving at one of Salvador's many hospitals, one that is a part of SUS (Brazil's healthcare system), we were told that an eye specialist was not available for emergency care.  The receptionist told us that the best place to go would be to a private medical center that was just around the corner.  As I looked around the waiting room, I saw a crowd of people scattered about, each waiting their turn to be seen for free as public healthcare services in Brazil are free for everyone.

Long story short, I went to this private eye center and after paying quite a bit of money up front and a little wait time, I was brought in for a consultation, told I needed antibiotics, given a prescription and sent on my merry way.  Walking back out to our car, we passed by the hospital’s waiting room again.  It was still crowded and full of people who probably wouldn't be seen for quite some time.  Like I said before, SUS is Brazil's public healthcare system.  According to Brazil's 1988 constitution that was written post- military dictatorship, healthcare is a citizen's right and it is the government's responsibility to provide universal, equitable, and decentralized healthcare to all citizens for free.  As you can imagine, in theory this sounds great but in practice, there are a lot of issues with the implementation of the system.  In Bahia, for those that are of a higher socioeconomic class and have money, access to quality care is never an issue because they can afford private medical insurance.  For those who are living in poverty however, this is not a luxury that they can afford.  Of those living in poverty in Bahia, 84% of them are afro Brazilian, resulting in the health of the Black population being some of the worst.

Yes, I got to see some of Brazil’s healthcare in action, but I really only got to see what it’s like for those who live a privileged life.  It made me aware once again of where I come from, how my race plays into my experiences here in Brazil, and how healthcare in Brazil still has a ways to go.  In 3 weeks I will begin my research into the effectiveness of community organizations in preventing drug use among adolescents.  Because there is a lack of care for the afro Brazilian population, prevention of health problems at the community level is key for ensuring the health of the population until something can be done structurally to change the racial stratification that plagues the healthcare system. As I plan out my research, I use every experience to build a foundation on which I will start from.  Everyday here has something new to teach us, we just have to be open to learning.

By marisalgado94

As a freshman, I lived on the Vern.  It was a great experience and I really loved the community that I was a part of.  One of the Vern's hallmark characteristics, the Vern Express (aka the Vex), was a pretty big part of my life.  It's how we got to and from Foggy, bonded over traffic jams, and listened to whatever music or funny jokes the wonderful Vex drivers had for us that day (so many thanks to them for being such wonderful people and dealing with us college students!!)

Flash forward 2 years and I have taken to thinking of buses here in Brazil kinda like the Vex.  Buses in Salvador, while convenient, are quite an adventure.  For many people, they are the main source of transportation.  I take at least 3 buses a day getting to and from school, going to meet up with people, and exploring places around the city.  As spring has finally hit in full force, the sunshine and the humidity are constants the second you step outside of a building.  Let me tell ya, when everyone is trying to get around on buses carrying backpacks, grocery bags, and all sorts of other things, it get pretty crowded, hot, and sticky on buses.  I usually leave for school when rush hour hits and depending how late my classes go, don't head out until its rush hour.  That leaves a lot of time for me to be standing up on a bus, trying to keep my balance among people getting on and off, jostling around as the bus flies over bumps and potholes.

One thing that is extremely common for people to do here in Brazil is to hold your things for you on the bus if you are standing and they have a seat.  That could seem like something that is really small and simple, but I love it.  I'm so grateful when a kind stranger offers to hold my backpack or my books so that I don't have to worry about someone taking anything from it when its behind me or feeling like I'm going to tip over at any moment as the bus whips around corners.  I usually can find a seat when my school bus (BusUFBA, you're my savior) comes and as it fills up, readily offer to hold some things for my fellow students.

Like I said, its something small, but its a way to make life a little easier for those around you on the bus.  Although I'm sure there are people who already do this, I would love if this little act of kindness was something that was picked up by students at GW while on the Vex.  We all know how Foxhall is during rush hour, and its no fun with that backpack that has your notes, computer, and a million other things in it weighing you down.  Next time you are on the Vex and you see a fellow student standing with a ton of stuff, offer to help them out! Its a little act of kindness that, in my mind, can go a long way.

By marisalgado94

Its past 5pm here in Brazil, meaning that voting for the 2014 national elections is officially closed. My first month in Brazil has also been the last month of campaigning and debates, meaning that from the second we touched down in Salvador, propaganda- political posters, music, banners, and fliers- was absolutely everywhere.

Elections and politics as a whole in Brazil are quite a bit different than they are in the US. In Brazil there are over 20 political parties whose candidates have the potential to fill open seats and positions, not just the typical Democrat/ Republican split that we have in the US. Eleven candidates are on the ballot for the presidential position, but the race has truly been between incumbent president Dilma Rousseff of the Worker’s Party, Marina Silva of the Brasilian Socialist Party, and Aécio Neves of the Party of Brasilian Social Democracy. Earlier in August, the Brasilian Socialist Party’s original candidate, Eduardo Campos, was killed in a tragic plane crash. Prior to the crash, he was extremely popular amongst Brazilians and in many people’s minds, had the potential to not only challenge but beat Dilma and become Brazil’s next president. At this point, it is anyone’s game and if no candidate receives over 50% of the vote, a run- off election will be held October 26th

Voting is compulsory for all Brazilians between the ages of 18 and 70 and optional for those 16-18 and over 70 years of age. From the moment that campaign season begins, people are bombarded with political messages. I can’t get through Imperio (a Brazilian soap opera), walk take the bus to school, or walk along the beach without watching at least half a dozen political commercials, hearing political music being blasted from stereos mounted on top of cars, or having multiple people shove pamphlets at me telling me who to vote for (one of the downsides of being tan and having dark hair... everyone thinks I’m Brazilian).

If it’s been overwhelming for me, it has definitely been overwhelming for Brazilians. Many are politically involved, but most, especially in the community that I live in, are tired of politics. Although it’s been almost three decades since the end of Brazil’s military dictatorship and it is classified as one of the largest democracies (presidential republics) in the world, things still have a ways to go. There are very few Afro Brazilian leaders at the level of the federal government, corruption has made politicians untrustworthy characters, and reforms in areas such as healthcare and education, while progressive in theory, are rarely enforced to the level they need to be in order to be making life better for Brazilians.

As the ballots are being counted, Brazilians waits anxiously to find out the course of their country for the next four years. Will it be another term of Dilma backed by Lula? Will Marina Silva’s quick but forceful campaign have what it takes to win the presidency and be Brazil’s second female president? Will right- winged Aécio Neves put a man back in power and conservative policies at the forefront of the political agenda? In a few hours, we will know. For now, signs are being taken down and painted over, fliers are being swept up, and political jingles have faded into the background. May the best candidate win and here’s to, hopefully, four years of growth, reform, and changes for the better in Brazil.


By marisalgado94

Universidade Federal de Bahia- UFBA

I have now completed three weeks of classes at the Federal University of Brazil in Bahia and in that short time, I have learned so much about Brazil's education system.  UFBA is just one of Brazil's many different public universities and in Salvador, there are multiple UFBA campuses located in various neighborhoods around the city.  Universities in Brazil are much different from the US because students don't live on campus and each campus is centered around a specific area of study.  For public health, we have been attending the Escola de Enfermagem en Canela (the Nursing school that is located in Canela), but there is also an architecture school, a polytechnic campus, and a music school.  The most interesting thing that I learned about universities in Brazil is that public universities are much better than private ones because of the amount of government support that they receive and because they are better educational institutions, spaces are limited and highly competitive.  How does a student get into the university?

It all starts with what sort of primary education you get.  In Brazil, most public schools are only half day and have two sessions- kids either go in the morning or in the afternoon.  Public schools across the board lack the proper resources, funding, and support from the government, and as a result, a lot of students just get pushed through the system.  Private school on the other hand, provide a top notch education for a price that only those in the highest socioeconomic levels can afford.  At the end of your time in high school, all students who wish to attend the government funded and supported public institutions must take an exam.  The results of the exam determine your acceptance to the public university and as a result, those who are better prepared through private primary and secondary schooling take up the spots in the public universities.

For those who do not gain a spot in the public universities, if they still want to attend college they must pay the extremely high fees and costs that private universities charge.  What's interesting is that the elite in Brazil who can afford to pay for private schooling for 12 years then get to attend universities for very low costs while someone who is from a lower socioeconomic level who wants to further their education has to find a way to pay costly school fees.

This educational system has, for many years, privileged the wealthy and marginalized the poor as private school students funnel into public universities, leaving little space for students who did not have the same type of access to education.  Because social class and race are so intricately woven together in Brazil, a large number of Afro Brazilians who wanted to attend universities were unable to because of their inability to shoulder the financial burden of a private institution.  Some universities saw this as an issue and have for many years instituted quota systems in order to diversify their student bodies while also providing opportunities for hard working students.  On a national level, however, affirmative action laws were only instituted by the Brazilian government in 2012.  Although it is still early to tell, the hope is that this will level the playing field and allow for a new and diverse group of students to be attending universities and create a new generation of leaders in Brazil whose backgrounds are more reflective of the population as a whole.

While education in Brazil has a ways to go, I believe that the tide is turning for the better.  I have enjoyed my time at UFBA.  In the next few weeks, I hope to find ways to get more involved on the campus, find ways to take advantage of academic resources as I begin my research, and make some more Brazilian friends!  Every single day here has been a new adventure and I continue to fall in love with the people, the culture, and slowly but surely improve my Portuguese. Fingers crossed for my first exam tomorrow... espero poder passar!

By marisalgado94

The theme of my abroad program is Public Health, Race, and Human Rights.  The past three weeks, we have spent a lot of time grappling with the idea of race, of how we identify ourselves, and of how that dictates our interactions with people in Bahia.  One of the biggest challenges that I have had to work through is that in Brazil, race is defined as being phenotypical- people are classified and also choose to identify by the color of their skin.  Brazil is a country where the majority of the population is Black.  Before arriving, I knew that many people were of African descent and that Brazil had the highest concentration of Africans outside of Africa, but I did not know that this group made up a majority of the country- 97 million people to be exact.  In Salvador specifically, 82% of people identify as “not white” according to the most recent census, meaning they either identify as being Preto (Black) or as Pardo (mixed race).

In Brazil, although Afro Brazilians are the majority, discrimination and inequality are prevalent.  Race and social class are extremely intertwined in Brazil and the lower socioeconomic classes are made up predominantly of Afro Brazilians.  Many advances have been made in the fight for equal rights for all Brazilians, but there is still a ways to go.   Because of the connection between race and social class, the lighter your skin is, the more privileged you are perceived to be.  The background of students on my program is extremely diverse: African American, Hispanic, White, Sri Lankan, and Indian.  What we have learned in our 3 weeks here is that our different skin tones have, whether we want them to or not, places us into very specific racial categories here in Brazil.  The racial makeup of Salvador especially has made us all very aware of the color of our skin.  If I am just walking down the street or on the bus, my dark hair and facial features allow me to pass as a Brazilian.  The interesting thing, however, is that because of my lighter complexion, I pass as a white Brazilian.  Being classified by Afro Brazilians into a minority group of elite in Salvador can be a bit weird; my identity in Brazil is no longer tied to being Mexican American like it is in the US, but to having light skin and the privilege that gives me here.

Our academic director, after debriefing our first three weeks here, asked us a question: “Did you come to Brazil to fix something, or did you come to let Brazil shape you?”  The Brazilian concept of race and identity reveals a lot about the history of the country: it shows the legacy that over 350 years of slavery has left, it shows how the Black movement has some uphill battles ahead, and it shows that the stereotypical images that most people have of Brazil- of football, Carnival, and happy people on beaches- is not the reality for the majority of people in Brazil.  In order to get the most out of my time here, I need to set aside my own world view and preconceptions and understand the lenses through which Brazilians, especially Afro Brazilians, see the world.  When I begin my research into health care systems, conduct interviews, and interact with people who have been marginalized in Salvador, I need to be sensitive of how race plays a very real factor in the kind and quality of access to healthcare people have. Instead of being uncomfortable with how Bahianos may initially view me because of my own skin color, I need to allow Bahia and its people to teach me things about myself.  I need to embrace cultural differences and use this time to open my eyes even more to the world around me.  My hope is that through my time in Bahia, I will gain a new understanding of my own identity and be exposed to questions that I have not yet had to wrestle with in the US.  I hope to get a new perspective on the struggles that people who face inequality and racism confront every day.  Brazil still has much to teach me, and I am open to learning.  I am ready to let Brazil shape me in a way that only Brazil can.  Three weeks down, twelve more to go, and I can’t wait for what they have in store.