Language “Struggle”

salvador lunch

Que? Não. Sim. Obrigada. Não sei, have all been my frequented go to responses to any and every question or situation since my arrival in Brazil. My use of Não sei, came to a head this past week though. My understanding of Portuguese has made some ground so when my mãe asked me if I was having lunch at the apartment my undecided response was identical to my English response; I don’t know or Não sei. She repeated herself. I replied again Não sei. She asked if I understood and said it another way slower. I responded Sim, não sei. Mãe proceeded to holler for my sister who was chit chatting with her friend in the living room. Mãe walked me with her to the living room and repeated herself yet again. My sister’s friend who speaks English translated mãe’s question and I answered her, “Yes I know I’m just undecided. It’s ok I will just eat here for lunch.” In my haste I said in English what time is lunch. My sister’s friend immediately asked in Portuguese for me. I said to myself, geez luweez I know how to ask that.

To take things to another level I have to ask myself, how and when else can a challenge with language impact communication? My lunch misunderstanding is an ordinary example of when a breakdown in communication can create unnecessary confusion. As a public health professional I need to be able to understand information spoken and provided to me, as well as convey information in an understandable manner. Relying on the simplicity of my American vernacular is not appropriate for any and every question or situation. My audience is not always like me and I have to conduct myself accordingly. I need to make the conscious effort to be understood, and not force my way of understanding on another. Taking the time to reflect, digest, and speak more conservatively with a foreign language was a lesson learned for me.

“The struggle is real, because you make it real”- Dr. Kim Ramsey-White

First Lectures at ISC Institute of Collective Health, Federal University of Bahia: Monday May 11

Monday May 11, was our first day at the Institute of collective Health, Federal University of Bahia (ISC or UFBA) and we learned a lot about the schools research initiatives and the background/history of the University. I found the information on their programs and research regarding nutritional diseases in youths, infectious diseases, and the impact of policies on health, to be really interesting.

When we learned about the history of the University, I found that there were a lot of similarities to educational discrimination that occurred in the US prior to the civil rights movement. For instance the Black population in Salvador is estimated at about 90% yet in prior years only about 10% of the students enrolled in the university identified as Black. A common practice was to administer admissions exams to the Universities. Black students usually did not pass these tests which kept them from being accepted into the University. This reminded me of the test that were administered at the voting polls that prevented Black voters from being able to vote.

Today we learned a lot about how social determinants such as income, education and race intersect to impact health. We also learned more about what collective health is. One of the administrators described public health as one component to collective health and gave an example of the government passing a policy that provided free HPV vaccinations for young girls. That was considered a public health intervention. The collective health approach would be to educate parents and youths on what the vaccine is, what HPV is, why it is recommended to be vaccinated, how HPV and other STDs can be prevented, etc. Collective health is the community response for health promotion and disease prevention.

Today was very informative, and very long. But a great start to our educational experience in Salvador.

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Day 1 in Salvador Brazil

We arrived in Salvador, Bahia Brazil safe and sound, and hungry! We needed to get checked in and settled, but food was on our minds. My first reality check was when I attempted to exchange money at the Airport. Myself and the lady behind the glass both spoke, shrugged, smiled, and said I don’t understand. It was a funny moment, but I knew there would be more encounters like that. She held up the calculator with the exchange amount displayed. I was thankful for the simplicity of her cooperation.

As we made our way to town, we took in the scenery. The land had greenery all over, including a bamboo archway that extends the equivalent length of a few street blocks. When we made it to the historic district, I realized that drivers drove on the right hand side, just like the US. Also, there are several extensive walking bridges for people to pass over main roadways safely. I’ve scene a couple of walking bridges here and there, usually by transit stations in the US, but feet apparently do a lot more walking in Brazil than in Georgia come rain or shine. When we finally made it to our day 1 destination, I ate good and napped hard. Beautiful and enthusiastic are the two adjectives I would use to describe day 1 in Salvador. My biggest limitation as of day 1 is the language barrier. I hope that by the first day of Portuguese class I can remark to people about how highly I think of Salvador, without turning to google translate first.

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