Waking up at 6 am seems to be getting slightly easier four days into the start of class. My body has gotten into a perfect rhythm of showering, getting dressed, making the bed and grabbing my notebook before stumbling into the dinning room for breakfast. As Mae (mom) runs around gathering all the food in the house to present to me, I start to think of what this day will hold. As I reflect on the days that have passed, I have been nothing but amazed, challenged, intrigued, amused, and positively exhausted!
Our bus ride to UFBA (Federal University of Bahia) is nothing short of thrilling everyday. After almost a week in this country, I am still amazed at how the drivers manage these narrow streets, loosely followed traffic laws and crazy pedestrians!
Our topic of discussion in class today involved the Health Care System of Bahia: SUS (Sistema Unico de Saude). Following the end of a 20 year old military dictatorship, the Brazilian Constitution of 1988 wanted to ensure the rights and freedoms of the population was well protected. A major area of focus was improving the health care system. The formation of SUS has been greatly beneficial as 80% of the population now receive medical services through the system. Some of the objectives of SUS include formulation of the health policy, organization of the human health resources, sanitation and health vigilance, and occupational safety and health. Areas that still need improvement involve decreasing the queues at many units in addition to decreasing difficulties in schedule appointments.
Our second lecture by Prof. Paulo Barreto discussed education and affirmative action in Brazil. With a similar history of slavery to the United States, Brazil has a population that is not binary (black or white) but rather a spectrum. The inequality that exists between white and “negro” (em portugues) (black) Brazilians is appalling, still yet again very similar to what we see in the United States. Recently, the Brazilian government has looked to Affirmative Action as a way to combat this injustice. Public Universities are now required to fill a quota to serve students from low-income families and Afro-Brazilian backgrounds. Although the United States has abandoned its efforts with affirmative action programs, Brazil might stand to benefit greatly from the use of these programs.
We had a panoramic tour of Salvador on Monday. Tuesday night, we went to see the famous Jeronimo perform on Tuesday. On Wednesday, we walked up and down Pelourinho until our backs gave out. Today, however, was our first free evening. Nothing was planned; we weren’t expected to be anywhere or do anything or meet anybody. So what exciting adventure did I embark upon today after class?!
Nothing. Nothing at all. For the first time in a LONG time, I felt satisfied not having any plans or being tied down to a schedule. I felt okay with going home and kissing Mae on the cheek and getting in bed. I have welcomed this break from my hectic city life. The Bahian way of life is simple, yet so beautiful. I am not oblivious to the fact that the hardships people face here are very real, indeed; however, they persevere with such elegance.
I have noticed myself grabbing for my phone less and less as the days pass. I find myself asking what truly matters to me in this world: is it money? is it material possessions? or is it that calling to do something substantial with my life…to change the world for the better. As I ponder the more philosophical questions of my life, I am slowly becoming more and more mindful of my everyday thoughts and actions. I am reflecting more now than I have ever before. Salvador, my host family, my class mates, and this entire experience has been nothing short of life changing already….and it’s only the fifth day!
I hope each and every day that passes brings me closer to understanding my role as it fits into the mission of Public Health. I hope it helps me become a better citizen of the world!
Boa noite a todos!
P.s. Here are some of my favorite pictures from the trip so far! Enjoy 🙂