Major Life Decisions On The Road

When I originally started writing this blog post, I went into excruciating depth about my inner turmoil deciding between psychiatry and family medicine – about the uncertainty, anxiety, insomnia, and my appreciation for both fields. Deciding between the two was truly a win-win situation, and I think anyone can understand how difficult it is to think you are going down one path for ten years only to realize you prefer something else along the way. An hour-long stroll along the Riverwalk in San Antonio at 98 degrees can help with introspective thought and major life decisions…just make sure you have a water bottle and snow cone handy. The teaching point is that I always need to remain open-minded and flexible to new opportunities, because I am truly grateful for changing my career course.

Since my last post, I alternated rotations in psychiatry and family medicine. I wrote a book chapter on childhood-onset schizophrenia for my capstone project, rotated at Fort Belvoir for family medicine, rotated at San Antonio Military Medical Center for psychiatry, and realized that family medicine is the better fit for my personality and career goals. I quickly changed my rotation schedule around to allow for time at Scott Air Force Base (AFB) and Eglin AFB to check out two more locations for family medicine. It has been a fantastic 14 weeks thus far rotating in psychiatry and family medicine, and I am beyond excited for a career in family medicine in the military. Thank you to all of the wonderful people I spent the last few rotations with!

Sometimes, I find myself grieving for what I’ll miss about psychiatry – long appointment times with patients, neurophysiology of psychiatric conditions, and treating thought disorders. Bright side, I will see plenty of behavioral health in family medicine and get the full latitude of primary medical health care. I enjoy diverse chief complaints and having a broad scope of knowledge. I love learning something new with nearly every patient encounter, even when the presenting problem seems entirely straightforward. Family medicine challenges my mind, keeps me engaged, and managed to warp the culture of medicine to a positive learning environment focused on patient care.

Time keeps flying by, and the rumors are true that fourth-year medical school is a wonderful year compared to third-year. I have gotten involved in way too many activities and projects, am planning vacations/weekend adventures galore, and am looking forward to wintertime when I will take a break from traveling and enjoy my time at home. I have been in 15 states since April with a successful road trip to Florida this past weekend (Hurricane Irma decided to stay out of my way!). Cheers to making major life decisions! T minus 3 months until I know where Andrew and I will be for the next 3 years!

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The Existential Crisis of a Second Year Medical Student

As someone who never intended to be a doctor growing up, I struggle with this crossroads at times where I am losing the side of myself I find most precious and dear. I worry about losing the girl who loves creative writing, reading fiction, watching political discussions, and contemplating the philosophical complexities of humanity and how we fit into this strange world.

My interests go far and are certainly not limited to science or medicine. I could have chosen many professions, but of them all, I most preferred becoming a doctor. Perhaps my reasons are the same as others, for the cliché reasons of wanting to help my patients. And I find the functioning of the human body amazing. Studying medicine is useful both in practice and in my own life. Mostly though – I am inspired by the pain of the human condition and how I can play a part in using my knowledge to take that pain away.

I began the second year of medical school feeling confident in my abilities as a student. I excelled academically and knew how to study for exams. Reproduction and Endocrinology Module set me off on a good start for second year and certainly helped for my first rotation in Ob/Gyn. Multisystems Module felt like the academic time to tie up loose ends, build on previous concepts, and reminded me that microbiology is more complicated than I realized. I had a great run and ended up with a distinguished performance award for pre-clerkship didactics. The first year and half of my medical school career were some of the best times of my life. I figured out a routine and thoroughly enjoyed my free time. I stayed close with friends and family and got to spend time in my favorite area (northern Virginia ie home).

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Jessie and I at her wedding!

My last real break this past winter felt like more work. I spent the majority of my time packing my entire apartment into storage amidst construction due to a flooding/molding issue and catching up with friends in the area before heading out to San Diego for rotations. I spent a few days in Sacramento (Andrew’s first trip to California!) for Jessie’s wedding – first time I was a bridesmaid. I learned about how American weddings normally go and got to wear a beautiful dress and take part in their beautiful wedding. Jessie and Andrew (her husband is also named Andrew) had a lovely ceremony and amazing New Year’s wedding party.

USUHS is unique in that we go out on rotations halfway through our second year of medical school and postpone Step 1 exams until after our “clerkship” rotations (Ob/Gyn, Surgery, Pediatrics, Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Psychiatry, and an elective). 3.5 months in San Diego for Ob/Gyn and Surgery was the longest time I have been away from Virginia.

The first few weeks of Ob/Gyn, I was insanely enthusiastic and enjoying learning. As the days continued, I began feeling the enthusiasm wane a little as my days consistently dragged longer, as I was missing home, as I felt like I was never good enough. Being a medical student at a teaching hospital is being at the bottom of the totem pole. Some doctors want to help you climb up and others will stand on you and ignore you. Ob/Gyn in San Diego consisted of 5 weeks: complicated obstetrics, labor and delivery, reproductive endocrinology and infertility, gynecology, and oncology. I loved getting a taste of everything, but it was exhausting switching teams weekly. As soon as I felt comfortable, I had to start all over. The program director was amazing and the experience was great to start out with as Ob/Gyn exposed us to the wards, surgery, and clinic.

The next 10 weeks were surgical rotations: cardiothoracic surgery (I held a heart – it was cool), ENT (great life experience), and general surgery. My existential crisis pretty much compounded itself during surgery when I began questioning whether I fit into medicine as a culture. I enjoyed my weekend trauma shifts, met inspiring people, and did awesome things in the OR. Something just didn’t click though.

During my time in San Diego, a beautiful friend of mine from college took her life. I think about her in waves of mixed emotions, and sometimes I find myself falling apart at the thought of the world losing such a lovely person. It got me questioning the purpose of life and what I want to get out of it. San Diego represented this new phase in my life where I no longer felt confident in who I was as a person anymore. I survived because of the beautiful weather, my amazing USUHS classmates, and my mom.

On days I question why I wanted to become a doctor, I try to remember what brought me to this moment. When I feel like a failure, or feel exhausted, or wish I did something else with my life, I try to think about the superficial struggles in life that tear us apart. The little things keep us going, but the little things are also enough to break us down.

I define myself by my academics, life choices, dedication, compassion, need to learn, and by my desire to change the world. I want to be a writer, but I don’t know how to write anymore. I want to be a doctor, but I am only beginning to understand what that entails. I want to stand out, yet I find myself hiding as if I am ashamed of being caught, of people thinking that I do not belong in this field because I question it. Is it bad to not love anything enough to want to do it for more than 12 hours a day every day? Is it bad to say that by throwing myself into one facet of my being, I feel like I am losing the rest of who I am? I try to take a deep breath at the end of each day – both the good and the bad – to reflect and remind myself that I am in a microcosm of medicine that is but a small piece of my career and future. I may not be the philosopher or writer I once hoped I would become, but I cannot lose the humanities side of myself and part of me that is so deeply engrained to love my patient more than I love medicine.

I might not enjoy new uncomfortable situations, but I constantly find myself doing things I never planned to. I sometimes think I crave challenges just to prove to myself that I am capable. That probably factored into my choice of commissioning into the Air Force (one of the best life decisions I have ever made). The military forces me to experience the world in ways I never would have otherwise.

Anyway, the existential life crisis continues. Throughout medical school, I assumed I would pursue psychiatry, but I am definitely considering pediatrics. I beyond LOVED my pediatrics rotation at Walter Reed, and it reinstated my faith in medicine. For the first time throughout my rotations, the faculty and patients made me feel like I belonged in medicine, which is a beautiful thing. I had never picked a baby up before nor changed diapers, and now I am pretty much pro at both (nursery week was my favorite). It is funny to think back at the cardiothoracic surgeon attending who kept calling me a pediatrician, because he said I was “too nice to be a surgeon.” Pediatricians definitely won the prize for most friendly field thus far.

So that brings me to now – I am currently in Omaha, Nebraska during this transition to being a third year medical student. Family medicine has been treating me well, and I love being with the Air Force. As opposed to the San Diego experience where I questioned if I should be in medicine at all, Omaha is giving me time to figure out how and where I fit in because the options are endless.

Pretty sure existential crises are healthy parts of introspective awareness. I have been doing way too much thinking this past year and could not figure out how to get it into words, so I appreciate anyone who took the time to read my stream of consciousness written on a late Sunday night.

Beginning the 2015 Chapter

2014 came and went, and along with it a plethora of emotional highlights I felt along the way: unadulterated happiness and relief with my unconditional acceptance into USUHS, excitement visiting close friends around the world, mixed feelings saying goodbye to the NIH, joy traveling to Brazil for the World Cup with childhood friends, stress when I hastily submitted my research paper for publication, anxiety due to sleep deprivation at Commissioned Officer Training, and passion, resolve, plus occasional fits of overwhelming despair during my medical training.

The MSK module ended on a solid note. I beasted during finals and redeemed myself from a post-midterm funk when I felt beyond burnt out for a few weeks. Without a doubt, winter break was well-welcomed. I spent the better half of our two weeks off in San Diego with my mom – we figured out Uber and adventured the city together. First day consisted of decompressing, food, and a lovely walk in her neighborhood where we could see the ocean and appreciate the great weather. Just what I needed after my first four months in medical school.

My family never really celebrated Christmas when I grew up, so lo and behold, I was in for a treat this year. I woke up to a breakfast feast – filet mignon, eggs, yogurt, and tea. My mom is the best cook ever, and I have been missing out since she’s moved to the west coast! After the necessary time needed to digest, most of Christmas Eve consisted of pool time and me appreciating warm weather galore. As for the evening, we were graciously invited to dinner with the Mormon President’s family and some other church-goers. My mom has become a regular attendee at a Mormon church near her and entered this network of lovely individuals I enjoyed meeting during my trip. [Note: I myself am a little confused about the role of the President, but I knew that he is a trained lawyer by profession. I learned a great deal about Mormonism from my mom, who’s working on a project comparing the Book of Mormon in English to the Persian translation to see if the translations are appropriate in Farsi.] Dinner was delish – ham, cheesy hash browns, green beans, followed by pumpkin and banana cream pies (everything home-made, the President literally whipped cream just before dessert).

Our Christmas Eve festivities were unlike anything I had imagined. After we ate, we all sat together and sang Christmas hymns. I had expected this to be uncomfortable, but I was pleasantly surprised. We all sat in a circle and picked our favorite songs (thankfully there were books for lyrics) while the President or his daughter played the piano. As a first-generation Persian American, it almost felt like one of those perfect families featured in the end of a Christmas movie. It didn’t feel like real life, but I certainly enjoyed it. The Elders joined for hymns later in the night to; this is when I learned that “Elders” are missionaries, with all the ones I met recently out of high school.

After singing hymns, we all dressed up in costumes the President’s wife had made to re-enact the nativity scene. My mom volunteered herself to be the Virgin Mary, and I played two roles: an angel and a wise man. Truly one of the most fun and memorable Christmases.

Virgin Mary (mom in the middle), three wise men, and Joseph on the right.

Virgin Mary (mom in the middle), three wise men, and Joseph on the right.

On Christmas day itself (with more steak and eggs for breakfast), my mom and I went to Seaport Village and Coronado Island, enjoying seafood, the warm weather, beautiful views of water, shopping, and a festive evening at Coronado Hotel.

In Seaport Village

In Seaport Village

After Christmas, I spent a good amount of time with family friends in the area, some of whom I hadn’t seen in nearly ten years! It’s amazing how at home you can feel with certain people, picking up just where you left off no matter how many years have passed. My ‘cousin’ took me to La Mer, so I got some face time with the ocean.

My last full day in San Diego was truly beautiful and my favorite day of the trip. My mom and I gallivanted all over La Jolla, which seemed to have all the fun activities packed into one area – with the beach, the lounging sea lions, an outdoorsy picnic area, shops, and restaurants. We showered each other with some much-needed love and attention before we parted ways the following day, when I returned to the real world of Virginia.

The week before classes began consisted of working on my NIH paper and seeing friends in the area, but mostly working on my paper revision. After recently catching up with some friends/former coworkers from NIH, I realized how much easier medical school feels in comparison! It’s nice to be a professional student. I enjoyed the longest lunch ever with my fellow genetics IRTA the other week and had this epiphany that she (along with Andrew and the IRTA she replaced) was one of the few people who were intimately a part of my post-graduation transformation. I don’t know how to describe that post-graduation phase I know many of us experience… It was certainly a time of figuring out my priorities in life and what I wanted from myself, others, and my environment. Few people in the world know you on that deeper level, and seeing her felt like this unexpected reminder of the younger Afsoon before she grew up.

So here we are. Break has come and gone, and classes are in full force. Despite the cold, which generally arrests my sense of productivity as my body and mind become increasingly lethargic, I have been faring pretty well this winter (knock on wood). Somehow I anticipated the cold to be much more gripping coming back from San Diego than it turned out to be. Warm weather was paradoxically a cure to my cold-weather loathing simply because I expected the cold weather to be so much worse.

The CPR (Cardio-Pulmonary-Renal) module has been more unrelenting than others, and yet, I feel like I am managing time better. Maybe I needed that positive encouragement on the first day back to school when I was awarded a free Gray’s Anatomy textbook for getting a 100% on my anatomy exam in MSK [I hate to be the nerd that says good grades are motivating, but they are.] I felt like I was trudging through medical school for a few weeks last module, and I finally have the energy and motivation to manage a better work-life balance that I didn’t have before. Maybe it’s because I started Crossfit too – something about lifting heavy weights and my muscles hurting 24/7 has helped me focus more and take the necessary breaks away from school and thinking too hard about science and medicine. Then again, Crossfit is also pretty intimidating, so maybe med school has simply become less intimidating.

Midterms are in a week, and I need to pick up the pace for our big exams coming up. I went overboard and bought prep books galore – including BRS (board review series is amazing) physiology, BRS pharmacology (pharm is a subject area I need to work on), First Aid Organ Systems, and a book on how to read EKGs. Granted, this might have been a response to well-deserved me-time rather than study-time. Andrew and I celebrated our two-year anniversary last week! Our second celebration at L’Auberge Chez François in Great Falls, where the ambiance and food make the experience worthwhile. I’m lucky our anniversary falls on a three-day weekend so I can carve out time from studying with zero guilt or anxiety. We spent a fabulous Saturday watching Breaking Bad and enjoying our fancy meal at L’Auberge. Grateful for Andrew who’s supported me from pre-MCAT NIH days to military medical school today. He’s the best fake patient for all my practice medical interviews/physical exams.

December and January have been good months to me. I addressed a few long-standing goals of my life. I bought a tablet (feeling pretty fancy as I get with the ages). I learned how to study (it’s an ongoing process, but I think I finally figured it out…for now). I began reading regularly (for fun, nothing with too much intellectual substance). I sleep more than I used to and still make time for Netflix. I think I understand how blood flows in the body and might even identify some murmurs accurately. Most importantly, I got to spend much-needed quality time with my mom.

Week 2 in Brasil: Rio de Janeiro

Apologies for the late update: I have fallen behind on my blogging since I returned from Brasil a few days ago. Towards the end of my first week in São Paulo, I began developing a cough/cold/throat/nose condition, which put a damper on the Rio portion of the trip. My immune system is not the best. Fortunately, I did not get anyone sick, and as of today, I have finally recovered.

We flew from São Paulo to Rio two Mondays ago. While at the airport, Renata received a phone call from her uncle insisting that she go to the Spain-Chile game with her sister, Fernanda. [[Back story: we had not fared well with securing tickets for World Cup games. Lottery and first-come first-serve didn’t work to our advantage. Renata’s uncle (who attended the opening game in São Paulo) gave four tickets for the Spain-Chile game to Fernanda and Renata. Fernanda was bringing her friend, Anila. Renata had three friends though and planned to give her two tickets to cousins on the other side of the family]]. We decided that the fair way to pick who goes to the game amongst Morgan, Olindi, and myself was to put names in a hat, literally. I read my Air Force Officer’s Guide on my Kindle while all of this was happening, as if touching anything would jinx my luck. Olindi and Renata wrote names on papers while Morgan crumpled them into Olindi’s American top hat. Renata pulled out a name, and I thought my heart was going to drop. Even after Renata said “Afsoon” and Olindi and Morgan smiled at me, I couldn’t believe it and continued reading my book. Really, I wanted to jump up and down and hug all three of them. Worst part though, I wished that Olindi and Morgan could come too.

We missed the first half of the Iran-Nigeria game, but we arrived at our hostel in Copacabana for the second half. Both sides played well enough by my account with a 0-0 score, the first tie of the World Cup.

I skipped over a quick detail… when we arrived at Copa Fun Hostel, I could visually see Olindi and Renata’s jaws drop as low as mine. I do not want to be a hostel snob, but maybe I have been in more upscale hostels in Europe. At Copa Fun, the receptionists and staff were lovely. The living area with the television was decent enough. The wi-fi would occasionally work. Our room, however, was possibly the smallest space you could fit three bunk beds. Our sheets were worn. Lumps of cotton formed what was supposed to be a pillow. We had no blankets, which turned out okay because it was too hot in the room for blankets anyway. Only two toilets in the hostel flushed well. Of the three showers, one had cold water, one had mostly hot water but would drip on you as you’re trying to change clothes, and the third had no hooks to hang your things. It was not very functional for the number of individuals staying there. Bright side: the hostel was quite clean. I grew pretty comfortable with the environment by the second day, but my first shower back home was absolutely luxurious in comparison. In the end, Copa Fun Hostel was a fabulous experience with lots of hilarity mixed in. “Copa fun”, being a ratchet version of regular fun, will now be a commonplace phrase in that group of friends.

Because Morgan was leaving early, we spent our first day seeing the big tourist sites. We signed up for an all-inclusive tour of Christ the Redeemer, a walk/drive around the city including Escadaria Selarón and the cathedral, and cable cars up Sugarloaf mountain. Copa fun began at the very start. After already driving up to the line for Christ the Redeemer, the tour guide and driver returned down to the city for a casual one-hour detour to pick a person who signed up last-minute…and NEVER showed. A good chunk of people were getting horribly carsick from the cobblestone drive; I was especially concerned for Morgan. The tour group turned hostile when the tour guide said we didn’t have time for the city tour and that there would be no refunds. In addition, we were previously told we could cut the line to see Christ the Redeemer – no such luck! We made the best of it though and took pictures galore. Although we only had 20 minutes to enjoy the top, the view was fabulous.

Christ the Redeemer

Christ the Redeemer

The tour began to redeem itself a little (heh heh) when the tour guide gave us 70 reais back, due to Sugarloaf Mountain’s closure that day (womp womp). We got to complete the city tour and conclude the day by chanting, “this is copa fun!” That evening, we enjoyed the beach at Copacabana and watched the big screen for the USA-Ghana game (2-1). GO USA!!!!

The next day was the Spain-Chile game. It was an experience I will never forget. The energy of Brazilians and especially crowds in Rio for the World Cup was unbelievable. Chileans made up the vast majority of attendees, and Brazilians clearly outnumbered the Spanish. Sitting six rows away from the action near the goal post, I was rooting for Spain but witnessed the previous World Cup champions be the first country officially out of this World Cup, losing 0-2. The stadium constantly chanted for Chile: “Chi Chi Chi, Le Le Le, viva Chile”. I could see both goals so clearly. I didn’t even need to zoom my camera to take pictures of the action. We were lost in a sea of red and specks of yellow.

Renata and I at the Spain-Chile game

Renata and I at the Spain-Chile game

Interestingly enough, I later learned that a group broke a window at the stadium during the game and tried to break in. I imagined it began from the enormous crowd of Chileans out front begging for tickets, but I never looked up the full story. Throughout the entire experience, I felt really safe, even with protests nearby. The police and military force were strong in the streets and near the stadium. I never encountered individuals disrespecting one another’s countries. The crowds were positive and excited.

Renata’s cousin, Renato, and his girlfriend joined us in our last few days. For the rest of the trip after Morgan had to leave, we enjoyed the beach (where Olindi and I won Miss Boom Boom and ended up on Panama TV), going out in Lopa, and food. I must say my favorite is drinking coconut water straight from the coconut. We met awesome people at our hostel, including three Argentinians who joined for meals and the beach, a German, an Australian/American, a French girl, and a group of college kids from Boston. We also met a couple nice guys from Chile who helped alleviate my feelings toward Chile (the streets of Rio were packed with obnoxious Chileans). Rio had an energy about it, and it is definitely the city to visit during the World Cup.

Gorgeous shot of Rio from the airplane [photo credit goes to Fernanda]

Gorgeous shot of Rio from the airplane [photo credit goes to Fernanda]

We flew back to São Paulo last Saturday. Timing worked out perfectly because we ate at a nice restaurant at the airport during the Argentina-Iran game (the game that our three Argentinian friends from the hostel attended in person). While eating yet another Brazilian buffet, I enjoyed the company of a varied group supporting either side, with my immediate friends supporting Iran for my sake and rooting against Argentina as competitors challenging their prospective favorites. Alas, it was a loss for Iran (0-1), but I was proud to be Iranian American! They kept the tie up until the final minutes of the game. Even though they didn’t make it to the final 16, nobody had anticipated Iran would do so well during the group stage.

Our last couple of days in São Paulo were relaxing before heading home. It mostly consisted of watching games and eating all the Brazilian food we could get. My two weeks in Brazil were copa fun! I had a great time, memorable experience, and enjoyed the fabulous company. Time to get back to reality and start a new journey at home.

Excited for the USA game and for returning back to the states soon :)

Excited for the USA game and for returning back to the states soon

Week 1 in Brasil: São Paulo

Fun fact about myself: I get extreme travel anxiety. Not that it stops me from traveling. The month before, the week before, and especially the day of my flight out to my destination (especially when it’s international), I am in no way excited. Mostly I am unhappy I decided to partake in such an expensive and inconvenient adventure. Once I land, the story changes. It’s such a fabulous learning experience, and I love broadening my horizons, acclimating to an unfamiliar culture, and participating in local activities.

To be fair, Brasil isn’t all too unfamiliar. I visited 8 years ago around the same time (summer for home, winter for here). That time I went to São Paulo, Campos dos Goytacazes, and Bahia, a great mixture of places where I got to enjoy the city, the mountains, and the beach, respectively. I am lucky to have a Brazilian best friend since third grade, Renata, who also happens to have an amazing family, including both her nuclear family in Virginia and her extended family in São Paulo. Another fun fact: her grandfather was a famous politician in Campos, and we celebrated a festival in his honor when we visited before. Give me five minutes and I can easily draw her family free. Definitely cannot say the same for my own family.

Well here I am – back in Brasil again! Like 8 years ago, the World Cup games are the talk of the town. Unlike 8 years ago, I get to experience the games happen around me. Unfortunately, soccer game tickets fell through for my friends and me (we were 2 tickets short and decided to duck out as a group instead of leave anybody out), but Renata’s sister and her friend will go to the Spain v. Chile game while we’re in Rio. So jealous! But I will try to get over it…someday.

Finishing up week 1 in São Paulo. I left to Brasil later than the rest of the group so I could celebrate Andrew’s birthday last Sunday (the poor guy spent most of his birthday weekend working on a proposal project due the next day). I took a red eye Monday to Tuesday, watching movies galore instead of sleeping as per usual, and after successfully navigating out of the duty-free shops to arrivals, I was welcomed by Renata, Olindi, Morgan (childhood/high school friends), and Michael (Renata’s grandmother’s awesome driver slash former security guard). Her grandmother and one of her aunts are gracious enough to house us during the São Paulo portion of the trip. We are leaving to Rio de Janeiro on a flight tomorrow afternoon.

This past week is beginning to seem like a blur. Because my phone pictures aren’t importing properly and it’s 3:30am here, I will simply share highlights.

1) Opening game: Brasil vs. Croatia. The first Croatia goal startled us all, and Olindi came up with an escape plan in case a riot broke out: climb to the roof if possible or leave to the bar atrium near our table and then climb to the roof towards refuge. The plan proved to be unnecessary, as Brasil scored three more times and won the game. Wish I could upload the awesome video I have of the crowds cheering in the streets of São Paulo when Brasil won; I have never experienced anything like it. No matter what jersey you were sporting, no matter what country you were representing, you were just another World Cup fan excited for the games. Everybody got along fabulously, and the caparinhas kept the crowds alive. I also had a headband that day with the Iranian and United States flags to support my motherland and my homeland. Gotta represent.

From left to right, Morgan, Renata, Olindi, and I in our opening game attire

From left to right, Morgan, Renata, Olindi, and I in our opening game attire

2) Food and drinks galore. All natural fruit juices. Cheeses like catupiry and requeijão. Bread and cheese varieties like pão de queijo, quatro queijos pizza, and breaded cheese on a stick. Coxinha chicken dumplings that melt in your mouth. Pastel deliciousness of Brazilian-type hot pockets. Desserts of the condensed milk variety: brigadeiro, beijinho, and doce de leite, as well as many other flavors.

Caipirinhas: passion fruit, lime, and strawberry

Caipirinhas: passion fruit, lime, and strawberry

3) Zoo Safari, formerly named Simba Safari, featured emus that stare viciously into your soul, these hog-type animals, ostriches that bite your fingers, pigeons, flamingos, peacocks, lazy alligators, a hippo, monkeys who attack cars, adorable South American deer who slobber all over your hands for food, tigers, a lion and lioness, albino peacocks, camels, and llamas.

Everyone's favorite: the camel, who's loving up on Morgan

Everyone’s favorite: the camel, who’s loving up on Morgan

4) Sight-seeing: a gorgeous cathedral, the city-center of São Paulo, Paulista Avenue (where we witnessed metro riots over the World Cup), and more! Statues, architecture, and streets in different parts of the city all tell a story. Renata, her sister, and her cousins constantly share information about São Paulo’s history and culture with infinite pride.

Beautiful day in the park of the zoo

Beautiful day in the park of the zoo

Favelas with the best view of São Paulo

A few favelas with the best view of São Paulo

São Paulo skyline

São Paulo skyline

That’s all I have for now. It’s been a memorable week, and I definitely appreciate what São Paulo had for us. Next up, Rio de Janeiro!