Author: Melissa

Some Here And There…Pics and Musings (Originally Posted: July 8, 2013)

More iphoneshia for you!  I’m ruminating on a few blog posts of more substance though i know my family (and friends!) love the pics.  One will be titled “always being black in brasil”.  It’s my fourth time here and I’m still always a little surprised how the stuff i read about in journals and books plays itself out in real life…my life.  Every summer I’m here it’s something different and I know it’s just the nature of the beast…Brasil is what it is.  And while me being a smart scientist from America in some circles puts me into the Brasilian “white” box (which comes with certain privileges), for many,  most, none of those things matter.  In Rio, I was made to change eating venues for a dinner meeting once a professor and potential collaborator realized I was black (yeah, it’s not happening); In Salvador, I was not allowed entrance into a restaurant until I forced them to allow me to eat there since they were clearly serving people and was seated in the rear of restaurant when I requested seating in the front so I could watch the sun set; and now in Sao Paulo, I have had the most ________ (I still can’t find the word for it) ongoing interaction with my lodging host that reminds me everyday about the racial relations in Brazil.  It also has me thinking sincerely about what a year will be like (living-wise) here when I return.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Brasil and all of its ongoing contradictions.  It continues to fascinate me and I admit to the sadomasochistic relationship that we’re in.  As a friend reminded me — this is the life I chose.  God knows its a good and blessed one.  And as another friend reminded me:

so I’m trying.  I’m being respectful and I’m actively looking to move for my last 3 weeks…because at the end of the day I deserve peace of mind and kindness too.  We’ll see how it goes.

In the meanwhile!  I’ve been adventuring all over town.  This should have probably been split into two posts, but here it is…CH-ch-ch-check it out.

some here

near the end of today’s (sun, july 7) day after visiting parque ibirapuera

pretty, ne?  it's like the central park of sao paulo
pretty, ne? it’s like the central park of sao paulo


Fela on side of Afro-Brasilian Museum
Fela on side of Afro-Brasilian Museum


some here and there...

some here and

some here and and

some here and and musings

Brazilian Elvis...everyday.  same spot.
Brazilian Elvis…everyday. same spot.


sisters!  same mom.  same dad.  isn't genetics cool?
sisters! same mom. same dad. isn’t genetics cool?


true story
true story


i came for the popsicle, the drink was extra.
i came for the popsicle, the drink was extra.


we're with the band...
we’re with the band…

Sao Paulo’s Street Art (Originally Posted: June 22, 2013)

Sampa has a pretty vibrant street art scene as evidenced by this link:

I’ll be adding all the ones I come across when I have my phone/camera here. None of the ones I’ve seen so far are even catalogued above.

Check it.

São Paulo's
São Paulo's Street

UPDATE: On my last day in Sao Paulo, roomie, classmate, friend Andrew and I went searching for the street (name escapes me) that was known for street art before samba.  We found it!
On my last day in Sao Paulo, roomie, classmate, friend Andrew and I went searching for the street (name escapes me) that was known for street art before samba. We found it!

São Paulo's Street Art 1
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Settling In Sao Paulo (Originally Posted: June 15, 2013)

I just arrived to Sao Paulo and it’s not like Rio, Salvador, Belo Horizonte, Fortaleza, Brasilia…
Some compare it to NYC, but I haven’t picked up on that vibe just yet.
I’m here to learn more about Brazilian history, take portuguese classes, pre-lim interview, finish IRB, apply to two fellowships, meet with Paulista oral historians, and maybe get some samba on?

In the moment of getting my stuff unpacked, I took out my new Zoom recorder…Cuz I’m serious ’bout my scholarship and my iphone will no longer do!

Listen. You have to go to my new cowbird profile. WordPress won’t let me embed.

Son Of A Biscuit! (Originally Posted: May 6, 2013)

son of a biscuit!

Guess who’s moving to Brazil for a year? This girl.


As per usual, I’ll be chronicling my international antics here. I’ll be in São Paulo June and July for language training and research purposes. Then back to the States for a month or so and then off again for the year!



Brasília is the first stop for 1 month, followed by Rio for 3 months, I’ll be narrowly missing Carnaval, but will be experiencing my first one with friends in Salvador, where I’ll be for 6-8 months. Carnaval, World Cup, oh and interviewing and researching and stuff too!


Are you coming to visit?! You should.


It’s gonna be an adventure!

Escola (Originally Posted: August 13, 2012)

Here are some pics from the school…


vocab lesson via breakfast
vocab lesson via breakfast


this is a corn meal type breakfast dish...forgot the name. so much for the lesson. update:  it's couscous de milho!  Thanks Kristen :)
this is a corn meal type breakfast dish…forgot the name. so much for the lesson.
update: it’s couscous de milho! Thanks Kristen 🙂

escola 3

Professora Graca. She owns the spot. This is the one who walked me to Ondina when I thought I lived there and not Federacao.
Professora Graca. She owns the spot. This is the one who walked me to Ondina when I thought I lived there and not Federacao.
more corn meal thingy and carne do sol
more corn meal thingy and carne do sol

escola 6
escola 7
escola 8
escola 9

master coordinator Felippe
master coordinator Felippe

escola 11

folks come in and out of the school with great frequency. i'll be there 5 weeks this week, but Susie was there for only 1. almost everyone who was there when i started has left.
folks come in and out of the school with great frequency. i’ll be there 5 weeks this week, but Susie was there for only 1. almost everyone who was there when i started has left.


Professora Kelly
Professora Kelly


after class tour with Sayuri
after class tour with Sayuri


Martinalia concert at Teatro Castro Alves...see her in action below
Martinalia concert at Teatro Castro Alves…see her in action below

amazing view at classmate Justin's place in Pelourhino...too dark to see the ocean and square unfortunately
amazing view at classmate Justin’s place in Pelourhino…too dark to see the ocean and square unfortunately

Un-Educated (Originally Posted: August 8, 2012)

The story of race and Brazil is a long and complex one.  Not unlike the story found in the US.  What makes it especially complex is that Brazilians find their stance on race to be superior to that in the US, mostly because they tout the lack of lynchings and other brutalities as successful mixing of the races…to over-simplify.  Note:  they also never had a real civil rights movement which lends itself to some real identity issues in a lot of “blacks.”  There is a fascination of many “white” brazilians with being “black.”  They are proud of their mixed heritage and are proud to be part “black.”

I use quotes because there is no “black” and “white” race here.  The binary does not exist.  Instead, it’s a spectrum of color.  My quotes contain what race folks would be considered as in the US.

When I was in Morro, I received several comments about how people wish they had my hair, wish they could tan more, wish they could be more “black”…it’s really something that is wanted on some level here, but of course… on many levels to be called black, considered black, associated with black is everything undesirable at the same time.  (Don’t get me started on how many brazilians of ALLL colors have touched my hair.  The memo has not reached this far).

Many things here are fluid and can be negotiated into and out of:  marriage, sexuality, and race in particular are ones that I’ve studied and to see the fluidity here almost everyday play out in front of my eyes…it’s fascinating!  The boundaries between race and class are so distinct to many brazilians, but i can’t really tell the difference.  The influence of race is too great to me.

For instance:

While waiting in the area to catch the 2:00 ferry a sound alarmed and gate doors swung open.  The mad rush to get through those doors was AMAZING!  It was loud and chaotic and a big push to get through.  Eduardo sat still with his sunglasses and I pondered to him if we should be attempting to get into line with the rest of the push.

“Pssssh.  These people from Salvador are so uneducated.  Do not worry.”

As SOON as he uttered those last words, the gate locked with a click and the crowd’s new anxiety took form of fear of being left (especially after one had already paid!).  I thought to myself…”guess these uneducated people knew something we didn’t…”

What was interesting was that 98% of the crowd was “black”…certainly a darker color than Eduardo who would be considered “white” by US standards.  I’ve learned that “un-educated,” “poor,” “sick,” are often code words for “black” or blacker and so when he said the above…he seemed to be making a comment about education, but was it probably deeper than he knew it to be.   I am “black” and yet he considered me equal–which is the negotiation part I was referring to…being educated, American, a scientist…all these things trump being black (when you know that i have these characteristics) and I move out of the “black” box.

Still trying to process the real life and the academic knowledge…

Dor (Originally Posted: July 28, 2012)

living with sickle cell disease, i think in prevention mode everyday. how can i prevent the most pain today? i have a baseline. what i can deal with and what i don’t even notice. this is my everyday. but above that threshold, i enter a place i don’t want to be. mostly because i don’t have the time for it and mostly because having pain sucks.

in the states, i live a pretty cushy life: i have a car, i have friends who understand and go out of their way to help me prevent pain, and worse case scenario will drop what they are doing to assist me if i need it. prevention means always having a sweater and several umbrellas in the car so i don’t get cold or wet, always having pain pills on my person, borrowing vanessa’s shawl at work if i need extra warmth. my preventative actions are so ingrained in me that i don’t even think about it anymore, nor do i ever really actively think about me actually “having” this disease.

in brazil, it’s different. i have to always have my umbrella and sweater/raincoat in my book-bag just in case. i don’t have a car and i can’t be caught in a sudden rain and cold burst (though it still happens). this makes my book-bag heavier and can cause me pain in my back, but i don’t have a choice. the vibrations of the bus depending on where i sit and how my body wants to act that day can cause me pain as the repetitive and jarring motions must agitate the shit out of my insides. today, i tied my bikini top on too tight which caused me to sickle, but i couldn’t take off the top to adjust until i got off the bus and into a restroom somewhere. and of course, i packed pain pills, but decided to change my bag at the last minute and they were left behind. i always adjust for the presence or absence of prevention and i knew that if the pain persisted i would buy some pills and keep it moving. most times, my above-baseline pain is transient and doesn’t last that long and luckily, once i adjusted the bathing suit and got in the sun, it went away.

all of this to say, i actively think a lot more about my pain and having sickle cell disease here. i feel more mortal here.

i don’t like it, but it also makes me think about all the people who have a more severe variant of the disease or those who in general don’t have a cushy life that can be made malleable around their disease. and i am thankful through it all.

i met a researcher last night at a samba concert who did research on pain and all i thought about was how difficult it must be for her. how hard it is to measure. and then i thought about today and how simple it is for me to measure.

i’m not writing this to worry anyone (francine, nush, and countless other concerned friends). this is a variant of what i go through everyday in the states, too. i just don’t speak about it or ever really articulate it into words. i’m writing to release it tonight, though.

i get to live an amazing life and experience so much and i never let this disease define who i am, but i do have it. sometimes i think it’s good to give it the weight and respect it deserves. you just can’t sit in it. so tonight, i pop a pill and do some work, but if i’m up for it tomorrow – I dance!

One monkey don’t stop no show…unless said monkey jumps from trees into the apartment. then all bets are off.


ps i think i should give my pain a name. Like, “TYRONE is back in town. He’s making me stay in tonight.” damn you, tyrone. leave me some suggestions.

UPDATE:  My sister said naming it gives it ownership and we don’t own what pain brings.  Wise beyond her years!

It’s A Small World After All… (Originally Posted: July 24, 2012)

I am living in a friend of a friend’s house here all because I sent an email inquiring about a meeting.  Who knew the person who works on all the things I’m interested in would offer me a place to lay my head.  Grateful.

Who knew that I’d have a roommate for 6 days–a friend of my host’s who lived here for 2 years, while she was on her Fulbright– and is in town for meetings throughout the country?!  Who knew that she studied Portuguese at IDIOMA like me, got a Fulbright like me (I’m claiming it), works at the CDC (!!!) like me, is collaborating with the CDC Brazil Field Office Director like me… She said to me, “Wow, it’s like you’re living my life!”

Man, small world.  So funny.  We’ll have lots to talk about for sure.

What’s also funny?  Christin works in AIDS (before and now at the CDC) and while she lived here, also worked with an orphanage.  It’s not often she’s back so I’ll also be living with Mateo, a 9-year-old, for the next 6 days, one of her beloveds.

Me, Mateo, and Christin.  Never a dull moment.

Lost And Found (Originally Posted: July 17, 2012)

I got lost again today.  It’s to be expected.  I’ve only been here a few days after all.  When I was in Belgium, Jennifer and I got lost so much.  All the time.  And I got frustrated.  Sometimes because when we got lost we ended up in not so nice neighborhoods.  Sometimes because I just didn’t feel like getting lost.  Sometimes because I just expected me to be better at being directionally competent.  Each time was a lesson in patience, retracing my steps, and getting over my expectations.

Yesterday, it was less about being lost and more about being hesitant.  The buses do not allow for hesitation and despite me planning an hour for mistakes, I was still late to the first day of class.  No biggie.  On the way from school to the house, I took the wrong Pituba bus (there are 2) from school to the house and landed who knows where.  But the kindness of strangers put me on the right track.  No biggie.  Today, I gave myself an hour and twenty minutes, figuring if I got it right I didn’t want to be too early-before the schools doors even opened.  Well, turns out, I needed the whole 1:20.  Sigh.  This morning, no hesitation.  I got directions that from home to school I could take three buses:  Pituba (R1), Nordeste, and Aeroporto.  Well as soon as I saw the words Aeroprto, I raised my hand, boarded the bus, and was confidently on my way.  Until it made a turn that I knew was not going towards the coast and the school.  Ruh-roh.

The bus driver was not so friendly and I was at the end of the line, but turns out if I can get to shopping Barra then I can get to school and just asked which bus would get me to shopping Barra.  Mission accomplished.  Until I started walking in the wrong direction, knew I was walking in the wrong direction, checked my watch-with 5 minutes to spare and hailed a cab.  Which took me 3 minutes to my destination.  Sigh.  I shoulda went left and went right.  No biggie.  2 minutes to spare.

In conversation with our professor, she asked what we did in the morning and we were supposed to respond in Portugues.  I told her I spent the morning getting lost.  She asked me where I lived and I told her Ondina.  “Ondina!  That’s close!  You don’t need the bus-you can walk!”  I was surprised.  My friend, Luisa, told me I could walk, but it would be at least 30 minutes.  Graca (minha professora) offered to walk me home after lunch so she could show me how close it was.  How sweet of her!

We ate lunch together and then had a lovely walk all the while talking in Portugues and she pointing things out to me in her (soon to be mine) language.  I was so appreciative.  We came to a crossroads and she wanted to know how much further.  I had NO idea where we were.  I was thinking, “you’re the one who told me this was doable!”  We stopped at a gas station, asked for directions and turns out…I don’t live in Ondina at all!  I live in Federacao!  OOOOOOOPS!

Now, I roped my professor into my chronic lost-ness.  Desculpe Graca, desculpe!!  OK.  No biggie.  We grab a cab and eventually make our way back to my house.  Frustrating, but she was great about it and we laughed.  The good things:  I found out Ondina has a beach and I can walk it easy from school!  And I like it tons better than the beachy strip at Porto de Barra.  Score.  I made a cabbie friend who I can call whenever I need him.  Score.  I had a great walk on a beautiful sunny day.  Score.

You gotta get lost to find your way, right?

Somewhat related post from my favorite blogger:  Don’t Be Buried Alive.  Exploring my edges…


Briefly Being Bahian (Originally Posted: July 15, 2012)

I am in Salvador, Bahia for six weeks to participate in more intensive language training and conduct some preliminary research.  In the 36 hours I’ve been here, I’ve navigated the route between school and home, had my first guarana, ingested pao de queijo, and of course got lost.  Actually, I knew exactly where I was, I just couldn’t find my dinnermate.  Alas.  Since then I’ve arranged lunch for next week with a friend of a friend and dinner with my history professor who is in the archives from 8am-6pm everyday here.  Who knew Kristin Mann was such a beast?!?  She’s going to show me the archival ropes!  #nerdalert

I am so fortunate to be staying in the abode of a fellow scholar who is interested in all the same things I’m interested in.  Wanting to have a meeting with her lead to me house-sitting for my stay.  I’ll take it!  And I’ll also take all the books in her library!  Seriously.  The historian on my exam committee suggested I round out my exam list with more Portuguese authors, but I had no idea where to start.  No problem-I start with Elena’s bookshelves!  I was so excited!  She’s a medical and cultural anthropologist and her shelves are full of books about genetics, brazilian black health policy conference publications, stuff on race, science, and society…this chick is right up my alley!  Can’t wait to meet her.   #nerdalertx2

It’s my second time here, though in a completely different neighborhood.  I was apprehensive before arriving, especially since my stateside incident, but once I got here, I felt pretty comfortable.  My Portuguese?  Oh Lord, it sucks.  I have my dictionary everywhere I go though and I know barely enough.  I miss not being so near the beach, but I’ve planned my route so I have to see the coast to and from school for my commute every day.

So far from my open windows I’ve heard early morning school band rehearsal, classical music, a samba concert (tonight!)-I wish I knew where it was.  And it smells like home.  This morning smelled just like my mother’s kitchen on any given Sunday.  Deelish.  I don’t even know how to work the stove yet, so it’s canned tuna and bread, butter, and guava jam until my lesson this week.  UPDATE: Lesson occurred this evening.  AFTER I blew out half of the house’s electricity.  oops.

The hardest thing is going to be for me to remember NOT to flush the TP.  I’m going to cause a problem soon.

Here are some pics from the house and my personal jungle.  I hereby dub my house:  the jungalow.

Yes Please
Yes Please
My bedroom. I share it with a contraption called a gyrotonic machine. Pilates-like. But not quite? Freaky.


Living Room
Living Room




Kitchen leading into a space that has washer and plants...I don't know what this space is besides a back room.
Kitchen leading into a space that has washer and plants…I don’t know what this space is besides a back room.
briefly being bahian 3


Den? Study? My host is a minimalist. I can dig it. great dancing floors.
Den? Study? My host is a minimalist. I can dig it. great dancing floors.


View from my room
View from my room


My personal jungle. Monkeys are everywhere, but luckily not in my trees.
My personal jungle. Monkeys are everywhere, but luckily not in my trees.


There is a huge mango tree in my jungle. Hope someone is enjoying them when they drop.
There is a huge mango tree in my jungle. Hope someone is enjoying them when they drop.