<![CDATA[Adventures in Brazil - Blog]]>Mon, 21 Dec 2015 14:21:19 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Back in the U.S.A.]]>Thu, 16 May 2013 15:22:32 GMThttp://jennasue.weebly.com/blog/back-in-the-usaThe past month has been such a whirlwind that I kept putting off updating my blog, but the time has finally come. I am now back in the US and staying with my dad in PA for another week until moving back to Chapel Hill, NC. 

My departure from Brazil was bittersweet and I'm still having a hard time processing it all. It was great to find a place where I finally became comfortable with being myself and speaking my truth and to leave it and all of the wonderful people that I met was difficult, but it was the decision that I had to make in order to start my life anew back in the homeland. 

I am especially grateful to Elizabeth and Luiz Schelb in Cataguases, MG, who adopted me as their own granddaughter and made me feel more at home than I have ever felt. And of course to Taciana, who did so much to bring me to Brazil and to make me feel at home in Vitoria and at UFES, where I met so many incredible people. Saudades. 

<![CDATA[Last night out in Vitória - Photos]]>Sat, 20 Apr 2013 19:48:06 GMThttp://jennasue.weebly.com/blog/last-night-out-in-vitria-photos
Last happy hour with my fellow environmental engineers
My friends in mechanical engineering - these guys are a riot
LOVE these guys - the waiter's at Pezão (the bar we go to every Friday evening) - they are the best!
<![CDATA[On being selfish]]>Tue, 26 Mar 2013 15:15:27 GMThttp://jennasue.weebly.com/blog/on-being-selfishOf all the things I've learned in Brazil, I think the most important one has been how to be unabashedly selfish; how to look out for my own interests above all others. Sure, it's the attitude we all have as children but after years of conditioning and being told how we "should" act, we actually begin to believe that being selfish is something to be looked down upon. We are taught not to inconvenience others with our ideas especially when they are in opposition to the status quo. 

Don't get me wrong, I am a strong advocate of doing things in service of others, and you know why? Because it's selfish. Don't believe me? Think about the last time you donated money to a cause or held the door open for someone. How did it make you feel? A little self-righteous? Probably. Because doing things in service to others is a great way to make you feel better about yourself.  The best part about it? You make their day better too. It's a win-win. 

Instead of running away from being selfish and spending my entire life trying to prove that I'm not, I much prefer to embrace my selfishness. It's a wonderful gift to give yourself, to put your own oxygen mask on first, and to always trust your own intuition above the opinions of others. I wish I had discovered this gift sooner, but you know what they say, better late than never. 

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." — Howard Thurman
<![CDATA[Tough Decisions]]>Sat, 16 Mar 2013 18:43:48 GMThttp://jennasue.weebly.com/blog/tough-decisionsFor some time now I've been thinking about what exactly to write in this blog post, wondering what the best way to explain myself would be. I'm still not sure, so I'm just going to go with the flow and let my heart do the typing. 

When I made the decision to come to Brazil to do my PhD, it seemed like the obvious choice to make. I was working at Squid's, an amazing restaurant to work at, but I knew that my life needed to progress and that I had to start getting serious about my future. After applying for a few jobs and not hearing anything back, the PhD was starting to seem like an attractive option and when Taciana invited me to do it in Brazil, I was sold. 

Now let me just say that I've never been a big fan of doing research. While doing my master's at UNC, I went through a lot of psychological stress trying to write my thesis, and for those of you that are close to me, you know that's an understatement. Sure, many of you might be thinking that this is normal and of course I know that's true - graduate school and scientific research can be incredibly challenging for anyone, but I knew that something wasn't clicking for me. 

I decided to overlook the fact that I didn't really enjoy doing research in my decision to come to Brazil because, in the end, finishing my master's and even having my thesis published was a big accomplishment for me and one that I felt proud of. I thought that this renewed sense of confidence in my ability would be enough to carry me to the next step up on the ladder of achievement. Well, like all external motivators (money, success, fame, etc.) it faded very quickly...
You must give up the life you had planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.” ― Joseph Campbell
Coming to Brazil was still the best decision I've ever made. For the first time in a while, or maybe ever, I was really able to take a step out of my comfort zone and learn a lot about myself in the process. Given the time and space to really reflect on myself and my life to this point, I was able to grow faster than any other experience in my life. I truly believe now that this is the greatest gift you can give yourself - the gift of really taking the time to know yourself - your strengths and weaknesses, light and shadows.  

One of my weaknesses was never really doing things for me, but in pursuit of the acceptance and admiration of others. This was my driving force for such a long time that without it, I felt lost. I didn't know how to really stick up for what I believed was right in my heart because I was afraid of how others would view me. Brazil taught me how to find the inner strength to do what was right for myself and to stop worrying about what others thought. This was the most important lesson I learned in Brazil - that at the end of the day, I was the face staring back at me when I looked in the mirror, and for once I wanted to look at myself and be proud that I had lived that day for me and no one else. 

And so came the change of heart that I can no longer ignore or keep from the world: that I do not want to do my PhD. I have been given so many gifts to share with the world in this lifetime and I can't inhibit them any longer, even if it means that I have to leave Brazil. 

Because no matter what, happiness does not exist in a certain location or in any place outside of ourselves - it exists inside of us and only when we are ready to go searching for it do we discover that there is a treasure inside each and every one of us. We all have a gift to give to this world and only when we stop looking for happiness outside of ourselves will we find it.

To be continued... 

<![CDATA[Photos of our apartment ]]>Sun, 10 Mar 2013 21:13:28 GMThttp://jennasue.weebly.com/blog/photos-of-our-apartment
cozinha - no dishwasher, which is also very rare to have here, but I really don't miss it.
sala de estar
banheiro 2
<![CDATA[This is the way we dry the clothes]]>Sun, 10 Mar 2013 20:35:17 GMThttp://jennasue.weebly.com/blog/this-is-the-way-we-dry-the-clothes
I wanted to share this really efficient way of drying clothes that we have in our apartment. They don't use dryers in Brazil like we do in the U.S. because the weather is so warm all year round, at least where we live, so it's common to hang your clothes to dry inside using a pulley system and I just think it's the coolest thing. I really want to have one of these in my house some day. 
You can see in the picture below that the windows are always open in this room so the clothes dry remarkably fast unless it's a rainy day and then the clothes take longer to dry.
<![CDATA[Sao Paulo]]>Mon, 04 Mar 2013 04:32:20 GMThttp://jennasue.weebly.com/blog/sao-pauloTaciana and I just returned home to Vitoria after 11 days in Sao Paulo. We're both happy to be home after traveling so much throughout February but it was a really great experience to be in Sao Paulo and to see some of the people I know from the U.S. We were joined by researchers that I know from UNC's Institute from the Environment, who hold a CMAS conference in Chapel Hill annually but decided to bring the conference and training to South America in an effort to share the modeling software they provide globally. We were joined by Brazilians from environmental agencies and universities as well as students from Colombia and Peru. English was spoken throughout the entire conference, which was a relief for me but it was also a relief for many of the Spanish-speaking participants who also struggled with Portuguese even though the two languages have some similarities. This made me feel a lot better about my difficulties with the language! 
My very good friend Evan also joined us from Chapel Hill, and it was really a blessing to be able to hang out with one of my closest friends from the U.S. here in Brazil. We ate a lavish meal at a famous Churrascaria (Brazilian BBQ restaurant) one afternoon and shared many other meals that included Brazilian staples including exotic fruits and, of course, pão de queijo. We also enjoyed a variety of music and visited the famous Municipal Market in downtown Sao Paulo as well as Ibirapuera Park, which is pretty much the Central Park of Sao Paulo. 
We stayed in the "Nahu Hostel" in the Butanta section of Sao Paulo near USP and frequently visited the nearby Michelli Padaria (bakery). One of the men working at the padaria was so incredibly friendly and we bonded with him instantly. If the intention was to keep us coming back, it definitely worked because we went back almost every day! The people working at the hostel were really wonderful too. They had a Brazilian BBQ on Evan's first night in Sao Paulo and it was a lot of fun, food, drinks, and lots of conversations. 
Sao Paulo was an incredible city, and by that I mean that it was huge! So many people, as the largest city in South America, the traffic was terrible. I don't think I could ever live there, it's really just too big for me, but it really was a cool experience to be there and visit the school (USP) and experience the culture there. 

<![CDATA[Sao Paulo Photos]]>Mon, 04 Mar 2013 04:15:51 GMThttp://jennasue.weebly.com/blog/sao-paulo-photos
Enjoying a ton of Brazilian fruits and wine and bread from the local padaria with Evan at the hostel we both stayed at.
My Poster at the 1st Annual Community Modeling and Analysis Systems (CMAS) South America Conference (ya, that's a mouthful)
Fellow colleagues of mine from UFES at the conference
CMAS Conference group photo at the end
<![CDATA[Carnaval in Maceio]]>Sun, 17 Feb 2013 03:13:24 GMThttp://jennasue.weebly.com/blog/carnaval-in-maceio
Last Friday in the wee hours of the morning, Melina (a fellow student that barely speaks English) and I arrived at the bus station in Vitoria and awaited the bus that would carry us north for 28 hours to Maceio. The bus was four hours late, and we were both really tired, so we ended up sleeping on the chairs for those four hours which seemed like an eternity but finally our bus arrived and we took off. 
We arrived in Maceio around 1pm on Saturday and met Taciana who was already there and rode to our beach house in nearby Paripueira. Well, on the way Taciana explained that the house was not in fact on the beach as had been promised, but that it was "really close." Oh well, not the end of the world by any means. Our anticipation grew as we approached the house which ended up being beautiful on the outside with a beautiful patio and luscious coconut trees, but the inside was rather murky. Oh, and the water pump was broken so we had no running water. 12 people in a house with 3 bedrooms and no running water. Most people would have ran for the nearest hotel. 
But we had come way too far to worry about sanitation, it was time to enjoy the party. The first night we took part in a parade (a picture of our group during the parade is above) and it was quite an experience. Lots of people dancing to loud samba music lots of kissing going on, which Taciana warned me about as we neared the parade. Apparently it's common for random strangers to kiss during Carnaval! 
We had a great time though and once we were too tired to dance anymore we came home. Some of the people in our group recharged and went out to a concert but I was exhausted and in bed by 11! The next day was a slow one at first. Melina and I walked to the nearby beach which turned out to be a rather far walk and it wasn't exactly what we were expecting. The water was shallow for what seemed like a mile off the coast and it was separated by bits of land. It was still beautiful and scenic, but since it was incredibly hot we really were hoping for water to swim in to cool off. We drank some agua de coco and decided to walk back to this house and sit in the large inflatable pool we had. 
That night we went out walking among the streets again and for some reason there were tons of men dressed in drag. It was really interesting to see considering from my experience the straight men here have been rather homophobic. Two of the guys in our group dressed up in skirts, bikini tops and had full makeup - it was hilarious. 
The final two days we did go to a nearby beach that Taciana's aunt and uncle have a beach house at and it was gorgeous. Thankfully we were also able to take showers there. Taciana's Aunt fed me so many delicious foods I can't even remember the names but she also fed me lots of cachaca and then we played dress-up and danced the day away. It really was the life. 
We returned to Maceio the day after carnival ended and recovered from the previous 4 days. The following day we visited Gunga Beach and it was absolutely gorgeous. Needless to say I definitely got a tan! 
I'm back in Vitoria now packing up to leave for Sao Paulo tomorrow. Although I'm sure it will be much more tame than Carnaval, I know it will still be a great time and I'm super excited for my very good friend Evan to be visiting for the conference as well. 
<![CDATA[In the Meantime...]]>Wed, 06 Feb 2013 02:49:52 GMThttp://jennasue.weebly.com/blog/in-the-meantimeWow, it's been a while since I've posted. Time to do some catching up! 
Around January 20th I moved everything (by bus) from Cataguases to Vitoria and moved into my new apartment with Taciana. I'll post pics of the apartment sometime soon, but it's really nice and big and really close to the school. It's also super close to a Walmart which is kind of funny except I really wish there was a more local supermarket I could walk to but alas, Walmart put the other ones out of business... 
I really hit the ground running getting ready for the upcoming CMAS (air quality modeling) conference in Sao Paulo. I dug into research and in just a couple of weeks produced a poster to present at the conference. Some interesting stuff going on here in Vitoria with regards to air pollution but while doing the poster I had some realizations. 1) I have a big problem: I have a very hard time organizing my brain to do research and unfortunately Brazil does not carry the medication that I take for my ADD. 2) I really fell out of love with doing research at the end of my master's because of the grueling hours spent in solitude in front of a computer and I'm afraid that love is not coming back to me. I was hoping that after taking a break from school and then being able to come to Brazil and study in a new place I would find that love for research again (maybe it wasn't ever there to begin with?) but it's really just not there anymore. It's not that I don't find the subject interesting, but I want to do more practical work and this just isn't cutting it. 
Yikes. Tough realizations to come to after I've moved my whole life down south for this. But when I came to Brazil I really didn't know what I wanted, I just new that I had to take the opportunity to spend time here because I had such an amazing connection to this country. I'm so grateful to have had this opportunity no matter what, and so regardless of what I decide to do, I know I will have no regrets whatsoever.