May 21, 2012
Finally after a grueling 10 hour plane ride, I have arrived in Brazil! And although I was not able to get much sleep on the flight over, the city of São Paulo made my inital sleep deprivation far worth while. The city is not only beautiful, but incredibly unique. As it is not typically a stop for many tourists, the residents are clearly as curious of us as we are of them.
Yesterday after checking into our hotel and grabbing a quick lunch, we went on a walk down Avenida Paulista, the main street more or less. We did some souvenir shopping in a small market outside of Parque Siqueira Campos, and between the music, traditional crafts and the beautiful landscape from inside the park, I began to truly develop a feel for the city of São Paulo.
We woke up early this morning and took the subway to the CREN center for our orientation. We were only there for about two hours, but a woman named Malu gave us a tour of the center and we were able to meet some of the children currently being treated. We needed our friend Thaisa to translate for us, but just by watching Malu speak you could see how passionate she is about the work she does at CREN. The children were all so well behaved and friendly, it was hard to look past their smiling faces and imagine how much they have already had to struggle in their short lives. The CREN center not only provides in-patient care for severely malnourished children, but ambulatory or out-patient care for those that have less severe conditions. Five meals a day are provided to children receiving the in-patient care, along with lessons to stimulate them mentally that incorporate the importance of proper nutrition. There are also many programs provided to the children´s parents in the hopes of gaining their trust, which allows the CREN doctors and nutritionists to gain a better understanding of their struggles and barriers. I left the center feeling anxious for the days to follow when we will be able to work directly with these children and the employees at the nutrition center.
For lunch I got my first taste of authentic Brazilian cuisine at a small local restaurant about three blocks from the center. This restaurant, like many of the others I have seen, provides buffet style service, which I think we all took complete advantage of by piling our plates high with rice, beans, fresh vegetables and savory meats. My favorite dish by far was made with chicken, or frango, and a thick delicious curried sauce. The most shocking thing I saw at the buffet were cubes of fried pork fat! While this is definitely not something I would recommend as a nutrition student, it was very unique! Each table also had homemade hot sauce, some of the spiciest I have ever tasted. The arrangements of peppers and vegetables used to make the sauce also made them beautiful centerpieces for the tables.