Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Abita Brewery

Just a little over an hour from New Orleans is Abita Springs. This charming little town hosts the Abita Brewery, which turns out all of our favorites like Abita Amber, Satsuma, Purple Haze and Strawberry Seasonal. The brewery tour is FREE and it includes FREE beer - yes, it's really true. The tour emphasizes the company's eco-friendly methods and local merit. It's a great way to spend a free day in the New Orleans area.

Find out more about the brewery at

Here is the touring schedule:

Wed,Thurs & Fri: 2pm - 3pm
Tour Time: 2pm

Sat: 10am - 3pm
Tour Times: 11am, 12pm, 1pm & 2pm

Sun: No tours

*Everyone must be 21 and older.
**If you forget to wear close-toed shoes, don't worry, they provide those cute blue booties you see my mom wearing above.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Glass Microbiology by Luke Jerram

Sculptures and Photographs by artist Luke Jerram.



E. Coli


Small Pox

The viruses and bacteria we talk about most often in school, made real through art. How can something so beautiful be so ugly when it invades the human body?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Fun with Where There Is No Doctor

I'm not sure how I didn't spend all my free time as a Peace Corps volunteer enjoying Where There Is No Doctor's crazy illustrations. I really dropped the ball on that one. This book is awesome, full of all sorts of useful advice. I've been enjoying reconnecting with my dusty copy, looking at it through the eyes of a graduate student this time around. The selection I have chosen doesn't even give you the full experience; over half the illustrated characters in the book are naked. I think this is supposed to convey that medical examinations are best done naked, or at least only partially clothed.

Who would ever wrap a scorpion around their finger after it stung them? Sorry the scans are such poor quality.

For free downloads and other publications from the same group go to the Hesperian Foundation. Enjoy!

Interpretation: Portuguese vs. Spanish

A funny story: I had to interpret for a deposition a few weeks ago. I had never interpreted for any lawyer or court case before and I was very nervous, even though my employer assured me that a deposition isn't really like being in court. The questions would be simple, it should be low-stress.

Well, I was still nervous, and even more nervous when they broke out the recording devices and court reporter. The client I was interpreting for was Brazilian. The deposition took place in the client's lawyer's office, but the opposing council's lawyer was the one asking all the questions. Before the proceedings began, I just had to open my big mouth and announce that this was the first deposition I had ever interpreted for.

The opposing lawyer looked at me and said, "I'm very surprised about that." When I asked why he was surprised, he gave me a lecture about how this was a legal proceeding and how I was not to summarize or paraphrase but repeat everything he said perfectly, word for word.

I explained that this was not my first time interpreting, I have been trained. It was just my first deposition. Well, that's my fault for instilling doubt in his mind about my abilities.

Everything was going fine, my employer had been right, the questions were easy, there wasn't any difficult legal vocabulary. And then he asked an interesting question:
"Did the doctor you saw speak Spanish?"

I interpreted the question, word for word, but I was already realizing that the lawyer was thinking the client was Hispanic and that all this time I had been speaking Spanish. The Brazilian man shook his head and said that no, the doctor didn't speak Spanish.

"Well, how did you communicate with the doctor then?" the lawyer asked. I raised my hand and interrupted.

"The client is Brazilian, he speaks Portuguese. Maybe you would like to re-ask your question."

It was if we had blown his mind. "Right," he said. "That didn't sound like Spanish to me. Now I know why." So he repeated the question, asking if the doctor spoke Portuguese. Which, of course, she did not. Very, very few doctors in New Orleans speak Portuguese.

"So again, I'm asking, how did you communicate with the doctor?"

"One of the nurses spoke Spanish." the client said. And now I had to interrupt because the look on the lawyer's face was one of total confusion. I explained that while Spanish and Portuguese are, in fact, two different languages, they are somewhat mutually intelligible. The nurse, interpreting in Spanish was probably able to convey some of the doctor's instructions to the Brazilian.

"But how did you communicate with the doctor when no one at the clinic spoke your language?" the lawyer asked again.

I smiled on the inside. Isn't this the question though? Just how do immigrants receive medical care when no one at the clinic or hospital speaks their language?

Related Posts:

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Yélé Haïti

Yélé, yélé, yélé¡­
Crié, crié, crié¡­
Peuple la yappé mandé,
Qui l'heu ça bral changé!

Partners in Health

Yélé Haïti

Operation Gwamba

Images from Life Magazine: January 1964

From 1961-1964 the Suriame River flooded as a result of a large dam constructed by Suralco. The dam would provide electricity to the bauxite factory as well as the city of Paramaribo. The flood and resulting reservoir, commonly called Brokopondo, displaced 5,000 people from their villages in the interior. It severely damaged the river's ecosystem; the lake is famous for it's eerie dead trees and lack of bio-diversity. In 1964, these photos were taken of Operation Gwamba, an effort to save thousands of wild animals from the flood. I found these pictures intriguing.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Health Fair Fail

Vodou in The Princess and the Frog

I was actually really excited to see that Disney would be addressing Vodou in New Orleans in it’s movie The Princess and the Frog. Vodou is a presence in New Orleans; you might have to look for it, and you might have to accept that the Voodoo you are allowed to see in the Quarter is often commercialized, watered down and synergized in stores with voodoo-esque trinkets from other cultures and sects. But it does exist here and it is part of the city’s history and fabric.

So, after having seen The Princess and the Frog I thought I would write about Disney’s presentation of Vodou. First, if you are unfamiliar with Vodou as a structured religion and not just a creepy mess of stereotypes, Vodou is a legitimate religion. Vodou began with religions brought by slaves from the ancient kingdom of Dahomey, what is now Togo and Benin. It has some Taino and Catholic influences as well. Vodou is an organized religion, with oral histories, ceremonies, deities called Loa. It is not the same as Santería or Candomblé, although there are similarities. Vodou is mainly practiced in Haiti, but New Orleans was once a French colony, with a similar history and after the Haitian Revolution in 1804, many French fled to New Orleans, bringing their Haitian slaves with them.

So, keeping that in mind, let’s look at how Disney portrayed Vodou in it’s movie:

In the film, Vodou is divided, like Disney’s own world view, into Good and Evil. On the good side you have Mama Odie, who seems to meet both the Fairy Godmother and the Mammy archetypes in some commentaries I’ve read. And on the other side you have Dr. Facilier, who deals with spirits for evil purposes. I would like to say that one thing that has struck me about Vodou (from what I’ve read about it) is that properties like Good and Evil don’t seem to weigh as heavily as they do in Christianity. Certainly, the spirits, the Loa, can be fearsome. But they can also be benevolent. Erzulie, the Loa of the Sea, is often depicted as an adored and beautiful woman, but she can drowns sailors and eat up entire ships. It’s not about the spirits being good and evil. They can bless you or curse you, and part of the religion is swaying the Loa to help you achieve what you want, whether it be for good or evil. How you use their power is up to you and whether or not they wish to help you. So it seems to me that few practitioners of Vodou are going to use it entirely for good or for evil.

When Dr. Facilier first enters the movie, we see him at Jackson Square dealing tarot cards. For a fleeting moment I excitedly thought that maybe he would be just a trickster, an illusionist. God knows half the people reading fortunes in front of the Cathedral are quacks. I had one lady tell me I wanted to be a doctor and when I assured her I didn’t, she scrambled and said, well, maybe you want to be psychiatrist or a physical therapist. And then ask me for a tip. But no, Facilier really does have the spirits’ ears. In fact, he is in debt to them. The expressive shadows that follow him may not be Loa, but there are the only real view of the “other side” that we have, and they are decidedly eerie. There are several acid trip-like scenes that remind me of the caterpillar smoking opium in Alice in Wonderland. You know, when you were old enough to know what an opium pipe was and you were like, that caterpillar is NOT smoking opium in a children’s movie. Yes he was, and yes, African masks really do float around and speak and voodoo dolls really do come out of the ground in Lafayette Cemetery and pull Facilier down to Hell at the end.

Mama Odie represents the benevolent side of life. She’s blind, of course, because she doesn’t need eyes to see into your soul. She is surrounded by the peaceful bayou, in communion with the animals; I love her home, with the wicker throne and the bottles in the trees. Dressed all in white, she really does look like a Vodou priestess. But when you think about the actual magic she wields in the story, she doesn’t seem as powerful as Facilier. You don’t have to know magic to tell someone that “what they want might not be what they need.” Or for a trumpet-playing alligator to pass off as human at Mardi Gras time. I’m just saying, the alligator wanted to be human but she couldn’t do that (or didn’t want to) while Facilier turned two humans into frogs.
Maybe she is just more reserved with her use of magic, but her usefullness is more in her vague advice than in her ability to do magic.

Did I think Disney would get this right? No, of course not. Religion is complicated and the greater culture already has a hard time grasping what Vodou really is. The presentation was imbalanced. Facilier was a great villain, but does Vodou really need to be demonized more? I mean, if parents don’t want their kids to see Harry Potter, they are certainly going to find issues with this movie. And Mama Odie doesn’t do enough to counter balance the evil imagery. Facilier does his magic in the Voodoo Emporium, while Mama Odie is not so explicitly associated with Vodou. People could definitely walk away thinking Vodou is all creepy dolls and scary African imagery and not see Mama Odie as the alternative view point she is meant to be.

Mama Odie is probably closer to what real Vodou is about, but she didn’t do enough magic, didn't do enough to propel the story to be as strong a character as Dr. Facilier. So what, ultimately, is Disney's portrayal of Vodou? As scary, as evil, as something normal people do not participate in.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Sand Hill Cranes, Mt. Dora

I saw these beautiful sand hill cranes by a lake in Mt. Dora, Florida while visiting my grandmother.

Fernadina Beach

This past November, Tyree's family had a big reunion in Fernandina Beach, where they had lived in the past. It was a great weekend, here are some of the pictures I took of our trip:

Wild Horses on Cumberland Island.

Gentilly: Tropical Decay III

Last semester I worked at a school in Gentilly, a neighborhood hit hard by Katrina. The school where I worked was a charter school consisting of mobile units in back of an older brick school abandoned after Katrina. I found the older school an eerie shadow over the new one. They should renovate it or tear it down, but to leave it rotting that close to where kids play's as if people really don't think your environment matters, but it does. It does matter.

Most students had been born around 2004 2005. When I worked with their files I saw that most of the copies of their birth certificates or social security cards showed some sort of trauma; they were burned around the edges, showed water damage or were crumpled up like scrap paper. I could just image what had happened to these documents as they were being taken out of flooding houses when these children were just infants.