Wednesday, October 29, 2008

next stop Recife and Maragogi

After the 3 day stay in Rio, next will be a stop in Recife (pic on right), a coastal city more modest than Sao Paulo. Recife is the 5th largest metropolitan area and is located on the Atlantic, where Beberibe and Capibaribe Rivers unite. Recife means "reef" and it has a feel of a "Brazilian Venice". The stay here will be short however. Just enough time to take in to take in the wonders, hit the Boa Viagem beach and leave with a lasting impression of nearly naked Brazilians basking in the sun. This city brings the richest culture due to traces of native Indians, Portuguese settlers and black slaves, also the Dutch.

A ride on the hotel bus will bring us to Maragogi, the tropical paradise complete with clam-wave beaches, huge natural pool Gales, coconuts and sunshine. Here I will spend a significant portion of my time being a beach bum, hanggliding, learning to flirt in Portuguese, and of course working on my tan. This will be my Caribbean/Brazilian adventure never to be forgotten. Loding will be right on the water! Can one ask for more?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

first city to be trampled upon

On Nov. 1, as the plane will be landing in Rio, I will be scoping out Christ the Redeemer and praying that he will keep us safe on this trip. As everyone knows, Rio has an extraordinary crime rates, and a tourist is susceptible to muggings, narcoterrorism, or random acts of violence. The murder rate for 2007 was 37.7 cases for every 100,000 people. One does have to take into account that the city population is about 12 million, so its no a surprise for such a metropolis. The police are not very prepared to take care of tourists and contribute to the crime as well. I knew I should have taken some self-defense classes! This will be my opportunity to test my kickboxing skills if the situation calls for it. All I ask is that I return with all my limbs intact. But I have all the faith that all will go well.

We will spend three days here while lodging at the Rio Othon Palace. And yes, 3 days is insufficient to truly take in this magnificent city, but good enough for initial exposure and a decision on weather I will ever return. Plus having a native Brazilian with me the whole time is bound to make life easier!

The best part will be the practice carnival held during our stay. As fantastic as it would be to observe the actual one in January, watching hot Brazilians parading around in exquisite outfits at the Sambadrome will be quite entertaining and memorable.

Monday, October 27, 2008

communicable diseases overview

from just a traveler's curiosity, while getting the vaccinations in order, one wonders what diseases torment the locals. the triple threat being malaria, yellow fever and typhoid. however from an aspiring/emerging epidemiologists's perspective, especially if you truly have a passion for such info, one naturally wants to know more. here is my quick middle-of the-night analysis.

factors contributing to epidemics:
1. climate change and El Nino have effects on vector-borne disease and rates of parasite and virus development in hosts in temp-dependent. aka watch out for those damn mosquitos! snails are also decent vectors. gross.

2. pervasive processes: urbanization, land and water resource developement, habitat fragmentation all increase pop density and bring wild mammals and birds into overlapping areas aka new diseases emerge. co-habitation doesn't always work!

3. high disturbance levels between two states of ecosystems. dont fuck around with chronotone disturbance!

4. migration rates, frequency and rapidity have huge affects on the spread and transmission AND (for all u geneticists) on the spread of genetic resistance to chemo agents.

5. globalization actually has adverse effects on infectious control. and we all thought globalizaiton is the greatest thing.

Now what are the most cool Brazil diseases?

1. HIV-who doesn't like AIDS? Unfortunately it reached epidemic proportions.

2. Chagas' disease (American trypanosomiasis). Named after Brazilian physician Carlos Chagas in 1909, caused my a parasite, transmitted by insect vectors called triatomine bug, that are found only in Americas. Not endemic in US, but I do remember admitting a kid w/this. Could lead to cardian and intestinal complications in the chronic phase.

3. Leprosy in high poverty areas. In 1996 on average a 100 new cases reported, and about half mil suffer from this now. This is just sad.

4. Bilharzia. First time I hear of this condition, so naturally I investigate. Caused by parasitic worms and become infected upon contact with contaminated freshwater snails that carry schistosomes. NOT found in US (thank goodness) but 200 mil around the world are infected. There goes snorkeling! This is when you love chlorine.

5. Rabies. I didn't get my shot because they're all out. The rabies virus is actually pretty awesome. ITs nonsegmented, with negative-stranded RNA genome, bullet shape. So what am I at risk for? If I encounter a mean bat, I would just shoot the sucker. But potentially I could suffer from encephalitis and outcome is almost always fatal. Transmission starts with mucous memberane penetration, and following primary infection, the virus enteres your CNS via retrograde axoplamic flow (basically through your neurons). This sounds horrid. I'll stop here.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

what makes one a world traveler?

I have been pondering over this for some time now as I'm getting ready for my first South America trip. Most of us love to travel, and of those that travel outside of the US, most likely consider them-selves a world traveler to some extent. and yes its a very subjective definition, but what makes one a true world-traveler? How many languages would you have to be sufficient in? Which countries have visited? What length spent on each adventure? What remote villages have visited and how many natives be-friended? These are the thoughts occupying my cerebral cortex at this moment as I'm sitting here in the ER pretending I'm working when I'm really dreaming about becoming a solid world traveler. Develop my taste for particular cultures while allowing my perspicacious nature to be developed. Eventually I will get to that state. My experience so far is a good stepping stone and now being on the brink of a sweet adventure to fulfill a childhood dream, one can only smile and count the days down! The voracious spirit in me will be finally pleased!