This is just the beginning.

On our last full day in Salvador, we had our farewell lunch. It is a wonderful way to begin to show our gratitude for the people and places that have touched our lives while we were here. The magic that happens on the trip is hard to capture in words or pictures. As a group and individually, we have all grown and been changed by this experience.  I know that this part of our experience, the closure of our in-country stay, is just the beginning of our understanding of how much impact and transformation will occur. The changes will  be felt far into the future as this trip is just the start of what this experience has to offer. So, we will have to say goodbye or see you soon,  and bring a piece of this wonderful city and its people with us back to the U.S in photos, souvenirs, warm memories and a few extra pounds in our suitcases, (or because of the moms’ wonderful cooking). There, when we unpack all of this, we will really digest all of what we consumed here – and finally begin to understand its impact. 

Ate em breve,




Day Trip to Praia do Forte

Today was our final excursion, a day trip to the northeastern coast of Bahia. Here we explored the historic village of Praia do Forte. Though it has been modernized and catered to a more “touristy” crowd, the rustic culture of the town still remain evident in its buildings and its citizens.

We began by visiting D’Ávila Ruine Castle, the last remaining building from the 16th century in all of the Americas. Not only is the castle the oldest on the continent, but it also served an instrumental role in protecting the state of Bahia from invaders. No ships could pass by without being spotted and smoke alarms were sent from a special tower on the home. It was truly amazing to see the construction of the home (or what is left of it) and imagine what life must have been like for the family. The land,  at one point, stretched all the way to the northern tip of Brazil, and was one of the largest private-owned properties in all of history.

After the castle, we headed to the Tamar Project to view the sea turtle preservation. The presence of sea turtles and humpback whales are just beginning to reemerge in the region and it was very nice to see the graceful creatures before they are released back into the wild.

The turtles came in all sizes and the baby turtles were adorable! We then had a delicious lunch before our final beach trip in Brazil. Tomorrow is our final full day in Salvador and then it’s back to the states to begin processing all of our experiences here. Time really does fly when you’re having fun.

Presentation Day!

Wednesday was our last day visiting the Institute of Collective Health (ISC). Students gave group presentations on the following topics: Genesis of Collective Health, The Brazilian Health System and Collective Health, Research in Collective Health (Leptospirosis), Practice in Collective Health (Bolsa Familia Program). Two students gave individual presentations for independent projects that they were working on. One of the students analyzed the difference in the critical race praxis framework between the U.S. and Brazil. The other student presented on the urban health index methodology developed by U.S. researchers and showed how it was being applied in research studies throughout Brazil. Everyone’s presentations were well received by the visiting staff and student. Each group did an amazing job recapping some aspect of Collective Health. To tie it all together, we had practical discussions about how Collective Health differs from Public Health. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to have learned from the professors and students at ISC, our professors from GSU, and my classmates. Based on everyone’s presentations, I think it’s safe to say that we will return to the U.S. knowing far more about Collective Health than we knew before coming to Brazil! 🙂 

After the presentations, we were served lunch and we took the time to show our gratitude for having us at the institute. It was more bitter than sweet that the presentations were done because it meant our time there was coming to an end. 🙁 I really enjoyed learning about collective health and the research projects that were happening at ISC and am glad that the staff and students took time to speak to us. It’s been a pleasure!!



Examining African Culture in Brazil and The United States


This study abroad program has been amazing, as have all the opportunities I have had to travel, learn, and facilitate learning in other countries and cultures. However, this trip to Salvador, the City in Brazil with the largest number of people of African-descent outside the continent of Africa has awakened a new perspective on what it means to embrace and understand the complexities of the African identity and culture that colonization and slavery sought to destroy in the Africans brought to the Americas. As a person of African descent living in America, I am very proud of the people I derive from. They were artisans, landowners, farmers and one point of specific pride is that both sets of great-great grandparents could read and write. To know what it took for slaves to be able to read and write, and that I come from people that could, gives me this heightened responsibility to take my intellectual ability and continue to use these gifts to improve education and opportunities for others. However, travel here to Salvador, where there are such strong ties to Africa through food, dress, dance, and religion makes me want to know and understand more about my African History.  For the first time I actually gave reflective thought regarding how organic and engrained African traditions and customs are in Salvador, where I believe in the US we are still struggling to get an understanding of African history and traditions. Having had the opportunity to watch the students learn about Afro-Brazilian dance and religion during the cultural activities at ACBEU have really been uplifting and informative. I will admit that my strongest curiosity on the trip has been to gain a better understanding of the Candomble religion. This is not an “African” religion per se, but a syncretic religion with a foundation in the Yoruba traditions. I am grateful to continue to learn alongside these amazing Georgia State Students.                                                                                                                       

Mercado Modelo-Souvenir Shopping!

Today, we had lectures on infectious diseases and chronic diseases in Brazil. We had to pick a lecture to attend, and I chose the one about chronic diseases. The speaker was Dr. Sheila Alvim, and the lecture was on the first longitudinal study of adult health in Brazil: ELSA. She focused on the study design of the project in her presentation. ELSA is a longitudinal study that focuses on contributing significant information about evolution and progression of chronic diseases in Brazil. We took a trip next door to the building where follow up examinations such as ultrasonography, electrocardiogram, clinical and anthropometric examination were measured. It was very interesting to see the data collection stage of an ongoing study.

After class, we visited Mercado Modelo with Professor Edna. The purpose of this visit was to practice what we had learned in Portuguese class through conversation with the sellers. It is located at the bottom of the elevators near Pelourinho. The building was originally a customs house built in 1861; nowadays it contains more than 250 stalls filled with arts, crafts, and souvenirs that represent Bahia and Brazil. I bought meaningful items that would serve as reminders for the great time I had Bahia; these were some of the items I purchased

As I was walking down each stall looking for more items to purchase, I felt a wave of sadness because I was reminded our time in Brazil was coming to an end. I will forever cherish the experiences I had in Bahia, until next time! Ate Logo!

Dammie O.M

Elevate Yourself

Today we went from sea level to the mountain top! We met at ACBEU with big lunches packed by our host moms, boarded a giant bus, and drove out of Salvador at 7 A.M.  As we passed thru Salvador we saw the contrast in life styles that coexist side by side in the Brazilian urban environment.  We finally left the outskirts of town and were in the countryside.  The landscape here is low and tropical, palm trees, bogs, lush shrubbery.  As we ascended the coastal plane the land began to dry.  There is evidence of cattle ranching.  I glanced out the window and saw three black vaqueiros riding horses in a field. 

We continued to enter the foothills.  The landscape changed to a dry ecology.  Cactus, small scrubs, no palm trees.  In the distance mountains began to appear, dramatic isolated rock mounds.  Half Done the right, Uluru on the left.  Then we drove higher into the hills, and once again we were in palm trees, groves of fruit and nut trees, tropical plants, and cacti mixed together.

Finally the bus turned off the main road onto the entrance of Pai Inacio.  This is a high rocky mesa, over 1000 meters above sea level.  We hiked up a steep trail, then met the birds, clouds, and wind on top of the world!

CIDACS- an innovative health data collection technology in Salvador, Brazil

Today, my classmates and I visited a different campus – the CIDACS campus. The primary focus within this building was data collection. Our lecture was led by Dr. Mauricio Barreto, who is a well-known epidemiologist that focuses on determinants of health and health inequalities, along with the effects of social and health interventions on health. 

In 2016, Dr. Barreot co-founded CIDACS which is Center for Data Integration and Knowledge for Health. We learned that this is the largest health data collection in Brazil housing cohorts of over 100 million Brazilians. The primary goal of the data collection is to create a safe, concrete foundation for innovative studies and research that may have new investigative methodologies as well as improve scientific and professional training. Studies and research are centered around investigating the role of social protection programs on environmental and social determinants of population health. Some covered topics are such “The impact of a governmental cash transfer programme on tuberculosis cure rate in Brazil: A quasi-experimental approach”, “Effect of Brazil’s Conditional Cash Transfer Programme on the new case detection rate of leprosy in children under 15 years old”, and “On the Accuracy and Scalability of Probabilistic Data Linkage Over the Brazilian 114 Million Cohort”. 

Learning about this “big data” was very impressive because this shows the zeal for many countries like Brazil to want to be the driver of investigating ways to improve the health of the population. CIDACS seems comparable to strong data collection in places like the U.S., U.K., and other technologically advanced countries. The work that is being done in Brazil can be represented as a model for countries that may not have anything in place due to lack of resources and/or other issues. 




I found this decorative art in the refectory at the Third Carmelite Order in Pelourinho.  It seems to be two busty mermaids under a rock cave.  The rock cave is shaped like a looking glass.  This is interesting because the busty mermaid is a symbol for Yemanja, the mother goddess in Candomble, who lives in a cave under the sea, and loves looking glasses.  The five pointed star is a symbol for her daughter, Oshun.  The filigree framing the oval looks like a Moorish screen, the design feels Arabic.  It reminds me of artwork found in Islamic mosques in northern Africa.  This ceiling decoration appears to be an example of syncretism, the aggregation of religious beliefs or expressions, in a Catholic convent.  I wonder, was this done with the nuns understanding and consent, or as a covert action to subvert the dominant doctrine?  

Instituto Cultural Steve Biko & Bale Folclorico Da Bahia

Today we had two great opportunities to visit the Instituto Cultural Steve Biko in the Pelourinho neighborhood of Salvador and attend an amazing show at Bale Folclorico Da Bahia. The Steve Biko Institute was created in 1992 by a group of Black students who were active in the Black movement. At the time only 2% of Afro-Brazilians were attending classes at federal universities. The visionaries of the Steve Biko institute saw this as a problem and wanted to raise the number of Afro-Brazilians in public universities by providing classes that would help prepare students for national exams required for entry into public universities. Steve Biko himself was a South African activist who fought against apartheid through education. He also created the black awareness movement and founded the South African Students Organization.

The Steve Biko Institute seeks to promote ‘Citizenship and Black Consciousness’ or CCN. CCN is a subject created to teach the history and importance of the African population in Brazil. This subject is meant to rebuild African history in Brazil and encourage Afro-Brazilian students to push themselves beyond the limits placed on them by a white-centric Brazilian society. Often public schools within Brazil do not teach all subjects required for the ENEM exam, a national exam used by the top 100 universities for entrance evaluation. The Steve Biko Institute combats the limitations placed on low-income Afro-Brazilian students by preparing their students for the ENEM exam, guiding them through any necessary registration processes, and offering computer access for students who need it. Additionally the institute offers talks from professionals to help guide students towards their career interests and has also established OGUNTEC, a science and technology initiative geared towards increasing the number of Afro-Brazilians in the STEM field.

While visiting the Instituto Cultural Steve Biko, we had the opportunity to hear from several students who are currently enrolled in classes at the institute. While a few were unsure of their future professional tracks, others mentioned that they wanted to be lawyers or work in the criminal justice field. It was awesome hearing about their future aspirations as well as learning about how they are navigating their current obstacles.

After visiting the Steve Biko Institute, we had time to walk around Pelourinho and by 8pm we were seated for Bale Folclorico Da Bahia. The origin of folklore within Brazil encompasses influences from the European (Portuguese), African, and Indigena (Indigenous) cultures. The show was a display of the Candomble religion in Brazil and showcased the symbolic personalities of each Orisha. I was able to identify some elements connected to different Orishas. Oxossi, the God of hunting, distinguished himself by displaying his power within a bow and arrow. Iemanja, the Goddess of the sea, was distinguished by her wave like movements and fluidity throughout the stage. The show was vibrant, animated, and it filled the entire room. The smooth sounds of the Yoruba singers created a familiar environment for me. The men playing capoeira during the show exhibited the rhythmic coordination needed for such an intense martial art. All in all it was a breathtaking experience that you cannot find anywhere else and I am thoroughly amazed by the authentic culture within Bahia, Brazil.

“Terreiro da Casa Branca”

Today we had the opportunity to visit the first and oldest Candomblé temple in Salvador, Bahia. The house was founded and created by three Nigerian women who were thought to be very cultured and intelligent. In the beginning, they invited all Africans from different ethnicities who were associated with Catholicism. Then eventually, Candomblé came under and flourished from there. In the entrance of the building, the first object that stood out was this huge boat that is used as a fountain of water at times. The boat is precisely faced towards the continent of Africa, since that is the origin of both their religion and culture. Upon entering the temple, the practitioner poured water out the entrance of the door. He later than explained that the water is a way to clean out negative energy. The fact that we were coming from outdoors, we may be carrying different types of energy or  negative emotions. However, once you’re inside the temple all the negative energy you may be carrying is blocked and only positive energy is radiated. That’s particularly the reason why guests should wear light colors because they allow for good energy to be received. Whereas, dark colors, especially black, blocks the energy and represents the absence of life. Musical instruments are also vital to their religion. They are seen as sacred objects so not just anyone can touch these instruments. They are also fed once a year in order to bring contact from the universe to planet earth. 

In the picture posted, the main color that takes away from the eye, is the color light blue. At first, I thought the temple is always decorated this color but turns out, they frequently change the color of the papers before each ceremony. The color is changed depending on the orixas. It may be red at times, white, or green. I found this interesting because each color represents something different and is also linked to a force of nature. Everything in nature is respected, therefore the colors are also highly respected as well.