Thursday, May 19, 2011
The end is nigh... of the trip, that is. Today is our last day in Brazil. We are heading to the airport after lunch to catch our flights home, except for Brenda who is spending a few days in Sao Paulo with a former exchange student from Brazil.
As for Laurie, Keith and myself, we are heading back to Canada but not before a solid 24 hours of flying time.
We have all enjoyed our time in Brazil, the wonderful hospitality of the people we have met and the opportunity to meet with Rotary Clubs.
I didn't have a picture of just the four of us for this blog post. I seemed to forgot my camera existed over this trip and didn't take that many photos. However, Laurie was a shutterbug and I will have to grab some from her camera.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
"I wish I could wax my chest hair." Keith G. Fonstad.
Last full day in Brazil! We began the trip with a tour of a unique school in Fortaleza. Edisca combines dance, theatre and education for free to disadvantaged students. Students attend the school either before or after going to their regular schools.
The school provides tutorial services, dance, theatre, medical care and meals to students. Additionally, they provide the opportunity for student's parents to learn skills, such as sewing for costumes that they can parlay into an chance to earn income.
We watched part of a student performance from a previous year. I am a huge fan of the arts, including dance. I really enjoyed the video of the performance; such an interesting take on contemporary dance.
We then hit the beach for our last afternoon. Laurie found the perfect relaxation spot on a giant bean bag. Keith, decided to try his luck at surfing. Here is something I learned about surfing, the board is covered with glue so that surfers can grip better. Here is something Keith learned about surfing... glue sticks to your chest hair.
Late in the afternoon, we packed up and headed to our respective families.
Now... to attempt to pack all my stuff. Where did I put my shrink ray gun?
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Monday, May 16, 2011
Upon arriving we went to the district governors house for a snack of fresh fruit and bread and then off to an irrigation agricultural farm where we saw 4 types of bananas, limes, oranges, pears and apples being grown. The manager of the farm gave us a tour and explained that banana trees are cut after they produce a crop and another tree grows next to the initial tree and the new tree grows the next crop.
We also saw one of three pump houses on the property, and the manager explained how fertilizers and pesticides were injected into the water based on the needs of each fruit tree and then the correct mixture was sent through the irrigation system to the trees.
After the tour we headed back to the district governors house for lunch, we had a BBQ outside and relaxed at his house for a while afterwards. We then boarded the bus for another bumpy ride home.
We were sad to say goodbye to our friend Marcelo at the end of the ride. Marcelo is heading to Canada next week on the Brazilian GSE team so we will see him again soon. We spent 10 days with him in Sao Luis and now 5 in Fortaleza, since he has been with us for half of the trip we have inducted him as an honorary member of our team! We would not have survived without his great translating skills!!
We are all now at our respective hosts houses and getting ready for Beach park tomorrow. Our days in Brazil are numbered now so I thought I would share a few things that I have noticed about this country over the past few weeks:
1. At restaurants it is automatic that they bring you beer, you have to ask for water
2. Eating 6 to 8 types of meat in one meal is totally normal
3. Stop signs are just suggestions and roundabouts are racetracks
4. Pot holes create driver training simulations
5. Cake, even chocolate cake is a breakfast food
6. Work seems to be optional in the afternoon for most people
7. Everyone speaks some English even if they claim not too
8. Ketchup and mayo are for pizza not hotdogs
9. Whisky bottles must be emptied completely as soon as possible if opened
10. It is acceptable and apparently legal to carry your entire family across town on either a bicycle or motor bike
11. They eat food family style....enough food as though there were 4 families (we have yet to even come close to finishing the food that is served to us, despite Keiths efforts)
12. Happy hour can start anytime after 8am
13. Soccer (football) is a religion, there are more soccer fields than churches, and brazil is the most catholic country in the world
14. 'Jesus' comes in a bottle here and tastes like cotton candy....it's a bright pink coca cola product
15. Hammock hooks are built into the walls of every house, inside and out. Genius!
16. Jeans are warn everywhere....even the government buildings, they are acceptable but shorts are forbidden
17. And in Brazil always LOCK THE DOOR!
Day 27 came very early... too early for me.
We begun the day with an early wake up call and hopped in a few cars to head to the city of Aracati. The father of my host family is from this town and they own a beach house there as well. Before heading to the beach house, we stopped and had a quick taste of the local industry; shrimp farming. We then headed to the farm to see where shrimp are raise. Imagine, if you will, giant ponds for all the eyes can see. This is how shrimp are raised and farmed in this part of Ceara. They use salt water for the holding ponds from the sea. Since it was Sunday, the farm was very quite however, it was interesting to see how ‘livestock’ are raised in this part of Brazil.
We then had a wonderful lunch at Ivan and Lucina’s beach house. After a quick change, the team headed to the beach to test our strength again the ocean’s waves. It was rather overcast but my fair skin enjoyed the break from the sun's rays. Keith and I spent the entire time in the ocean where the water is always around 27 degrees Celsius. Lauire tried to work on her tan a bit and Marcelo eventually came in the water although he was slightly concerned that the tide would pull him out (he can’t swim). No worries, Keith was practicing his defense against the waves and Laurie has the pictures to prove it!
After a long, rainy drive back to Fortaleza, we all hit the hay for a good night’s rest.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Afterwards we headed to the University of Fortaleza where we had a tour of the campus and the athletic facilities. It was a very nice campus and is the largest public University in the state of Ceara.
Lunch on day 23 was similar to several meals we have now had in Brazil. An all you can eat BBQ restaurant. For about 13 dollars Canadian you are first greeted with an immense salad bar, and buffet with several choices of hot food. Once you fill your plate and head to your table you are inundated with waiters (garçons) offering every type of meat imaginable. This is soon followed by the largest desert cart in existence. Needless to say, lunch is the 'big meal' in Brazil.....or in a case like this, the only meal you need in a day. Most brazilians take a two hour lunch break so they have time for a much needed nap afterwards.
Unfortunately and afternoon nap wasn't in the cards for us this day, we headed straight to our next vocational visit. A local Rotarian took us to two of the private schools that he owns. At each of them we had the opportunity to tour the facilities and visit with students at various levels. Both schools were very nice and well maintained. We spoke with some staff members and had the opportunity to see the administration office, which was in a converted house across the street from one of the schools (very similar to the set up of the old board office in Kenora). At the second of the two schools we were invited to their weekly assembly and introduced to the senior students, we also fielded some questions about Canada for some very shy grade 1 students.
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Yes, we are alive. No, we didn't forget to post. We ran into a few hiccups over that last few days. The Blogger site has been down and we have been away from the internet. Details will follow in the forthcoming posts. So here is what we did on Day 22:
We began the day by touring the healthcare campus at a private university. The Univeristy of Foratleza (UNIFOR for short) is a sprawling campus in Fortaleza. Roughly 60 000 students attend the university. That is larger than the city I grew up in! Here is a nod to Brandon, Manitoba... keep to dry land!
The healthcare faculty includes medicine, dentistry, nursing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech language pathology, audiology and dietitian faculties. Due to time restraints, we only had the opportunity to see the therapy portion of the campus. Although I would have loved to see the nursing facility, the opportunity to see the facility was fantastic. In my practice in Canada, I refer patients to these specialties all the time so it was nice to see what happens there.
An interesting part of the tour was the services available for free to the public. Students practice their specialty on campus and provide health services for free. The day we visited happened to be very raining. Hardly anyone was in the building. I guess it is like a blizzard in Canada; everyone stays home.
We then had lunch at one of Fortaleza’s Rotary Clubs called Oeste. They meet in a beautiful yacht club by the ocean. Oeste is the second largest of the 22 clubs in Fortaleza. We were fortunate to meet a couple leaders from previous GSE teams that traveled to the USA and Scotland. They also spoke English, which we always welcome.
After lunch, we headed a local market to do some shopping. Anyone on this trip can vouch for my love of shopping. If only I had more room to bring home my finds... The market was enormous at four levels high with too many stores to count. It was hard to contain my impulses but Laurie kept me honest. We did pick up some hammocks to bring home. So now we need to find a shrink ray gun to make it all fit. I wonder if they sell one at Walmart?
Following the market, we headed to the Dragao do Mar Cultural Center. This centre host numerous cultural activities like dance, theatre and museums. We had the chance to see the contemporary exhibit. May we suggest Googling Sergio Vega’s piece entitled Genesis According to Parrots (2004)? In case you all we wondering, it is the book of Genesis as told by parrots in a mixed media installation piece. Very interesting work...
Another intriguing exhibition was a collection from several artists in the style called Xilogravura. The artist carves an intricate design into a wood slab and then using pant and what looks like a newspaper press from yesteryear, transforms the image onto paper. The detail was amazing and often featured very dark images.
To round out the day, Laurie, Keith and I headed to the mall and caught a movie and had popcorn. The movie happened to be set in Rio so we all considered it an extension of our cultural experience. Slightly problem in that the there was Portuguese subtitles as the movie was in English. However, there were no English subtitles when the characters were speaking Portuguese or Spanish.
Monday, May 9, 2011
Just to catch everyone up to speed, we are in our final city of Fortaleza, Ceara, Brazil. We caught a very early flight on Sunday to the capital of the state of Ceara, called Fortaleza. We spend Sunday with our host families doing low key activities and family time for of the occasion of Mother`s Day.
Back to 'work' today! This morning, we met one of the Brazilians heading on exchange to Canada next month. Carlos was our guide for the day. We began with some change in plans. Originally, we were suppose to visit some government facilities but that fact that three of our four team members were wearing shorts prevented us from participating. Strangely, jeans are a very acceptable dress code for everything, including work. We explained to our host that jeans are rarely every worn to work in Canada. Potato, potato.
We did have an opportunity to visit a political history museum. We learned about the changing political environment here in Brazil and the basics of their governance. No matter what country of the world you are in, someone wants to run it.
We then had the opportunity to meet with The Federacao das Industrias do Estado do Ceara. In English, a branch of the state federation of industries. Eduardo de Castro Bezerra Neto and Paulo Studart Filho spent time with us discussing international trade agreements and how their state and federal federations of industry try to increase trade with other countries. We learned about the main exports (shoes, fruit) and imports (wheat) to and from the state of Ceara. In this ever changing economic climate, growth is heavily sought. Of particular interest of our hosts was developing trade with Canada, as it experiences the least exchange compared to the USA or Mexico. Any interested persons should contact Keith for more information, as my business savvy ends with three bananas for a mango.
After a delicious lunch at the Coco Bambu (big thanks to Carlos for helping with the menu selection), we headed to a public hospital for a tour. Now, I must thank my team members for the patience while I asked a million questions about healthcare. We had a tour at a public hospital. Very interesting and surprisingly similar and different than Canada. I won't rehash my thoughts on dual system health care. Our tour host is a radiologist at Fernades Tavora Hospital in Fortaleza. I am slightly embarrassed as his name is escaping me and that is unfortunate as he was wonderfully patient and provided a wealth of information.
At any rate, we had the opportunity to see the imaging department. The hospital has two portable Xray machines, two standard Xray machines, one CT scanner and three ultrasound machines. The bed capacity of the hospital is 175. All examinations are preformed by specialist. Completely different than in Canada. Most people have had some exposure to the healthcare system at home. In Canada, exams such as CT, MRI, US and Xray are preformed by very skilled technicians and sonographers and then the reports are interpreted by radiologist. We explained how our system differs and the concept of cost effectiveness. Is one better than the other? Too hard to say. In Winnipeg, the current wait time for a non-emergent MRI is 6 months. The idea of a wait time was foreign in Brazil. Again, potato, potato.
We also toured the adult ICU and Dialysis units. I had the opportunity to discuss the healthcare challenges that Canadian's experience. It is interesting to note the similarities (hypertension, diabetes, cancer) and the vast differences (equipment, tiers, cost). One area that I noted a particular difference in is the idea of preventative care. In Canada, we spend roughly 5% of healthcare dollars on preventative medicine. That includes screens like mammograms, colonscopy, pap tests, routine bloodwork, immunizations, education. We talked about the importance of this type of medicine, the two physicians agreed that this is an area lacking in Brazil. People do not often screen for issues before they are problems. I often use the analogy of pulling people out of a river downstream but never going upstream to see why they are falling in. Why not prevent a problem instead of trying to fix one that exists?
In short, I really enjoyed the opportunity to discuss healthcare. Gaining an understanding, however small, of what healthcare means to people in other parts of the world only stand to improve my ability to provide care... plus, I love to talk so bonus!
Sunday, May 8, 2011
For my vocational visit, I went to a private hospital for a brief tour. Firstly, the concept of a two tiered healthcare system is something completely foreign to us as Canadians. With the recent election, there is always platform issues surrounding the privatization of healthcare. I have always been a strong advocate for the improvement of a universal system compared to the creation of private and public systems. Even with the elements of private care we Canadians have to provide either out of pocket or through private insurance (dental, vision care, pharmaceutical), we still have the right and access to quality medical care. This is something we should treasure and use appropriately for other countries are not as fortunate.
My tour guide was Dr. Teresinha Carvalho, who is my host mom Gina's mom. She is a pathologist at the hospital. Our first stop on the tour was the pathology area, where she showed me our tissue samples from patients are prepared and analyzed. Now I know what happens to my biopsy samples! We then visited some of the wards of the hospital, which focuses particularly on specialist services (ie heart surgery, cancer care, transplants).
Of interesting note, the emergency room had three stable patients. Three! And loads of staff. Apparently, this is not an uncommon occurrence in private healthcare. I still can't believe it! I tried to explain what Health Sciences Centre's (the largest hospital in Manitoba) ER department is like, but I don't think it translated.
I had a few minutes to chat with an American nurse who has been in Brazil for the last 40 years. She currently works in administration for the hospital. We had an interesting discussion on why private health care is necessary. According to her, health care dollars are given to the state from the federal level. What is done with them next varies greatly. A private hospital will receive 60 cents of every dollar from the government for each health care dollar they spend. As such, private insurance/money makes up for the difference. And of course, there is greed and money disappears before it ever makes it to patient care.
Additionally, out of state persons often receive care at a public/private hospital but the money allotted for their healthcare doesn't move with them. In Teresina, the river is all that separates the states of Piaui and Maranhao. Translation, people from the other side of the river contribute to the stress of the public system because the hospitals receive no healthcare dollars for treating them. This concept of 'Portability' is part of the Canada Health Act and allows us Canadians to receive medical care anywhere in the country.
I have worked in healthcare for the last ten years in many roles and facilities. It was surprising to draw so many comparisons and differences between the Canadian and Brazilian healthcare systems. It was apparent that the concept of universal healthcare didn't translate to the Brazilians or Americans I met, and I can understand why... it is as foreign as ice hockey and curling!
Saturday, May 7, 2011
The next school was also a private school, but was only for grade 12 students. Its focus is specifically to train the students to prepare for the entry exam for the state universities. University here in Brazil is public, but entrance is based on the test and is limited in numbers. The intent of the school, which just opened this year, is to have a high volume of students pass the exam and gain entry into the publicly funded University in the hopes of expanding next year from 3 classes to as many as 10 classes. I also had the opportunity to speak with some teachers and staff here and get an idea how the staffing and 'business' side of the schools operates, it's very different than in Canada.
The last school that we visited was another school that Wildermeir teaches at, this one is a public school. The differences in the public vs private were immediately apparent. As you can imagine the private schools were a step up in every aspect, including air conditioning and audiovisual equipment that was non existent in the public schools.
After touring the schools we met for lunch and then I headed home to study for my exam.
Friday, May 6, 2011
In a bit of a lost in translation momment, it was assumed that because I was an auditor, that I worked for the government collecting taxes, as in Brazil that is all auditors do (this is the assumption made by my guide for the morning anyways). I was was visiting the equivalent of the Department of Finances for the state of Piaui. Here, I was guided by an auditor who collected information from business' computers and modified it to be looked at by other auditors. The building hosted many departments, and the ones I visited were the energy tax, legislation, and justice departments of finance as well as the tax collection audit department. Here in Brazil, every business must buy the exact same till receipt software/hardware (although supplied by various businesses, it is law to use one specific type of machine) and report to the government their sales - this department takes the info from the machine and analyzes it - looking to make sure the proper tax rate is used, sales trends are consistent, and to compare the receipt information to credit card company information (this part was a surprise - the credit card companies must provide the government with the information). There are a lot of taxes in Brazil, and many of them are quite high - 15 to 25% - consumers aren't aware of the tax amounts as they aren't posted on the receipt. 80% of the states taxes come from the enegy sector due to such large corporations (hydro electricity being the largest sector).
In the afternoon, I visited the local state chapter of the accounting profession - basically the Brazilian version of Institute of Chartered Accountants of Saskatchewan - here they provide permits to work as an accountant in the state, provide training for both students and members, and provide guidance for changes - we interupted a meeting on IFRS implementation...this was a quick visit and was basically a tour and pictures...
Thursday, May 5, 2011
Early in the morning, the team loaded back into the van to head to Teresina. We bid adieu to Pedro II and hit the road for a three hour ride. After a short stop for some ice cream (yes, if you can drink in the morning in Brazil, ice cream is completely acceptable too) we met our Teresina host families and headed home for an afternoon of rest.
I spent the evening with my family as their son Pedro had his 16th birthday party. In Canada, my mom would make our favorite meal on our birthday (at our request, of course). In Brazil, there was about 20 people and fine china! What a difference!
The rest of the team headed out to a few bars for a drink with one of the Rotary Clubs in Teresina. I hear a good time was had by all and some team members made it home at 3:30am!
Day 17 (May 5th, 2011)
Today was our first day of vocational visits. We started the day with a tour of a company that manufacture mattress and couches. What a process! All the creation and assembly is done at a plant in Teresina that has been in operation for 36 years. We were able to see all the stages of construction from beginning to end. The wire that is coiled for springs, making foam for the mattress, assembling and packaging the completed products. A very interesting process.
The second factory manufacture bicycles. Orginally started as a computer manufacturer, it now is the largest producer of bikes in South America. Similar to the first company, we saw the process from beginning to end. The warehouse space was unbelievible! Bikes, in various stages, for all the eye could see. They plan to expand in the next year to produce one million bikes per year. And interesting project that just began, involves the government and education. The company is completing the first order of bikes for children to ride to school. The kids that receive these school-bus-yellow bikes must be enrolled in school. The idea is to decrease the barriers to accessing education.
After a delicious lunch at a churrascaria (re: BBQ) buffet, we headed to the last factory on the tour. Here they manufacture clothing. Originated in 1975, the company has been creating clothing for domestic and export use. Currently, they have retooled operations to focus on designing, creating and manufacturing clothing for the Brazilian market. From concept to completion, we saw how the clothes we wear are made. The process is amazing! I had no idea so much work went into getting clothes to my closet. The plant employs 850 people and makes 16000 pieces of clothing per month.
All three factories are owned by a family company. It was evident that they strive for improving the conditions and lives of their employees. Health care is provided onsite for employees and their families with the goal of having healthy workers. Because my professional background is in health prevention and promotion, it was good to note that hearing protection was used, egronomic equipment was in place and the health of employees was addressed. They have many long term employees, which indicates that people like their jobs; an important concept to any profession. Compensation and training is dependent on what role an employee has and bonuses depend on productivity. At all three sites, our tour guides noted that finding skilled persons can be difficult even with the opportunity for onsite training. This is attributed to a lack of intrinsic motivation to work.
After a long day, we headed home to our respective host families. We are heading out for pizza! Delizioso!
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
We then went to a beautiful waterfall to cool off and take a swim. A quick climb over a rock and we were able to walk behind the waterfall and swim in the lagoon it created, what a great way to spend some time. We swam and relaxed there for a while before heading back to the hotel for a shower, and some studying/computer time. We then boarded the bus again and headed out to our next destination Pedro II city. We arrived and were greeted by our new hosts and taken to their homes and then to a restaurant for dinner. Milena a member of the Brazilian GSE team that went to India lest year has been traveling with us and translating for us.....thankfully she was with us as none of the members of the Pedro II Rotary club spoke English! After dinner we headed to a square in the town that was packed with people, we were served cervejas (this sort of goes without saying now) and enjoyed the music and the company of the club members. There was an auction taking place I the square as well.
Monday, May 2, 2011
I received a marriage proposal today. Seriously. The only reason I have begun the post with this bit of scintillating information is that Keith threatened to edit my post if I didn’t. Blackmail is a powerful mediator.
We began the day in Parnaiba, Piaui with a boat tour of the delta outlets to the ocean. The city is only one of four located in the state on the coast. We were guided by the host family of Keith and myself. Apparently more Rotary members were scheduled to join us but the whiskey from the night prior got the best of them. Additionally, we learned that it is more than acceptable to start the whiskey again at 9am. The inner medical professional within me would have to disagree.
The ride along the delta channels was fantastic! We were flanked by very luscious vegetation and the odd monkey and crab. Finally the channels opened to where the river and sea meet. We hopped off at a beach to take a swim and play in the sand.
On the way back to the port city of Parnaiba, we stopped for lunch at a local restaurant. We had local fish done three different ways and an assortment of sides including the ever-popular.... white rice. Our hosts didn’t speak any English so translation was needed. However, even with the delay in conversation, we learned about the projects Rotary is doing in the end of the country.
The afternoon concluded with my marriage proposal (yes, he did get down on one knee) and a lesson on why whiskey is better for the body than water from out hosts. Clinical data is still unavailable on this debate so we shall call it a draw for now.
After doning our matching shirts and loading into our rented van, we hit the road for Piripiri, Piaui. The comment was made that in our van, with our matching shirts, we resemble a traveling band. I would like to think we are more like The Partridge Family than the Von Trapp children. But maybe a yodeling lesson would change our tune.
We were met in Piripiri by the tiniest Rotary club. Just seven members! After sorting out some mild confusion about where we were to give our presentation, a very informal meeting occurred at the local restaurant using our laptops. It was a nice change of pace. Best of all... we had pizza! No rice insight!