Olá from Brazil!

by Allison Reichl

I have been living in beautiful Salvador, Brazil for a month now. My research project is to study stem cell genes in hepatocellular carcinoma, in order to understand whether cancer stem cells (CSCs) are important targets in liver cancer therapy. The resected livers that I study here are unique because of the diverse genetic makeup of Salvador’s patient population—a mix of African, native, and Portuguese heritage. In fact, Salvador has the highest afrodescendant population of any city in the world outside the African continent. It is estimated that over 80% of the population has an African background, heavily influencing the music, food, and culture of the region. Salvador became a major slave trading port after the Portuguese established it as the first capital of Brazil in 1549. It is one of the oldest colonial cities in the Americas, and served as capital until 1763, when colonial administration was moved to Rio de Janeiro. I recently visited Pelourinho, the neighborhood that is the historical center of the city.

Some pictures from Pelourinho:

(1) Olodum band, playing Afro-Brazilian drum music in the streets of Pelourinho. With my lovely friends Carol, Patricia, Breno, and Thiago!


(2) Eating ice cream at the top of the Lacerda Elevator, which connects the historic lower city (Cidade Baixa) to the upper city (Cidade Alta).


(3) Overlooking the Lacerda Elevator and The Bay of All Saints, with Patricia and Carol.


(4) The beautiful colors of Pelourinho, near where Michael Jackson filmed part of his music video for “They Don’t Care About Us”. The music video uses traditional Olodum music.


(5) In front of the very first medical school in Brazil.


My apartment is in the heart of the Barra neighborhood of Salvador, very close to some beautiful beaches and restaurants. I drive my little Nissan Versa 15 minutes each way to work in crazy Brazilian traffic. It was a big day when I successfully purchased gas in Portuguese (my Portuguese is extremely limited and you are required to use an attendant to pump gas here). I walk to the grocery store on my street and use google translate to figure out what food I’m buying. If nothing else, this experience has given me a great appreciation for the difficulties immigrants face when they can’t understand the language. Even basic living tasks become difficult.

Some pictures in my neighborhood:

(1) The view from my apartment (only one block to the ocean!)


(2) The rocky coast along my morning run.


(3) Sunset at Barra beach. Locals flock to this beach on the weekends – it becomes so busy you can’t see the sand.


What I love most about my time here is how welcoming and kind the people of Salvador are. Students and faculty at the lab have gone out of their way to include me, even though I struggle to communicate in Portuguese. Bahia (the state where Salvador is located) is known as the “happiest state in Brazil” and I think it’s really true. There is always something to celebrate here, the food is amazing, people are very caring, and the sun is constantly shining.

Here are some pictures of fun had in Bahia:

(1) Standing under the traditional flag decorations of São João (St. John’s Day), which happens in June and is the biggest holiday of the year for Bahians.


(2) Playing volleyball with some lab mates after work (they were way too good at volleyball for me).


(3) Eating Açai, a favorite Brazilian dessert, with Carol and Renan.


(4) A turtle rehabilitation center in Praia do Forte, a coastal town about 1.5 hours north of Salvador.


(5) Watching Brazil beat Argentina in Copa America semifinals! Some friends from the lab took me to a community watch party in downtown Salvador. Brazil went on to win the whole tournament, which was exciting to follow. When Brazilians cheer for their beloved goalie, Alisson (Alisson is a man’s name here), it’s kind of like everyone is cheering for me!!


Thanks for reading and tchau tchau for now! (I promise my next blog post will prove that I am actually doing research here…)

Allison, MS1




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