Ola! It has almost been a full week in Brazil and I’ve already experienced more than I anticipated. This study abroad has opened my perspective on the dynamics of cultures, language, religions, health issues, social issues, food…and the list goes on. Our Maymester schedule has been as follows; Collective Health class in the morning; then lunch at our homestay; then Portuguese class and guest lecture or tours in the afternoon.
This morning we had the privilege of Dr. Ines Dourado speak about the HIV/AIDS and Health Disparities Research among Key Populations in Northeast Brazil. She is a highly intelligent woman who shows a passion for the health of MSM (men who have sex with men) and transgender population of Brazil. Her findings supported what we have previously been learning which is that the black population of Brazil is disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS. I find this to be similar to the epidemic in the United States. And, I’m really impressed with Brazil’s initiative to reform their health system and meet the needs of vulnerable key population, similar to the United States. Though there are many similarities between Brazil and United States, there are also many differences.
One of the biggest differences between the United States and Brazil is definitely the dance culture. Today we had the pleasure to learn both the history and the technique of Brazilian Afro dances. Our historian and dance instructor was Antonio Cozido, who instructed us in Portuguese only. Because I’m still a novice in Portuguese, I couldn’t understand everything he said but I think I got the gist of it. We learned about African dances from the religion, Candomble, and also the Samba. It was very inspiring to see the dances for the religion, the motions that we made with our legs and arms really depicted the idea of receiving the spirit. We were drumming with our feet on the stage and waving are arms around in loose motions. The drumming seemed like a summoning of the spirit and the waving of the arms seemed like receiving the spirit. I am a terribly shy dancer but I tried to feel the motions as much as I could and felt at first silly but then a peace like trance for a few seconds. We also learned a little bit of Samba, which has strong African influences because it was originally a traditionally African dance. It’s different from other Samba because of the African influences. The moves were influenced by the fast pace of the music which was mostly drumming and the dance focuses on characteristics such as strength and power. I really admire that AfroBrazilian dances have so much history and charisma and they are still popular to this day. I was able to witness this live a few days ago at a concert. I am so inspired that these dances are still part of the cultural norms currently in Brazil. In the United States, dancing seems to range from being oversexualized to monotomous, depending on the occasion. Here in Brazil, there seems to be a sense of genuine enjoyment, passion, and a sort of spiritual transference.
This study abroad trip has already changed my perspective so much in the past six days. My mind has not only been opened but I’ve also been informed of public health issues. I’ve been exposed to such a rich culture and have been educated on the importance of health on a sociopolitical level. When our professors said that this trip would change your life, I believed them but the extent of how it’s already changed my perspective is both unexpected and humbling. I am looking forward to being immersed more in the culture and public health issues of Brazil. I now anticipate that my perspective will be even more broadened.