Cape Town: Part 2 and Kiwi Country

Sadly, my time in Cape Town has come to an end. Though, I can’t complain too much because I arrived on Tuesday to beautiful Auckland, New Zealand. I apologize for the lack of a more timely update on my remaining days in South Africa but I was so busy having fun, I had to scramble a bit to finish up my surveys there. Aside from my 40 surveys in South Africa, I spent my last couple of days shadowing infectious disease physicians in the hospital, going to a Saturday market and the Super Rugby quarter finals!

I’ve been going on in this blog about how large of an issue antibiotic resistance is. My entire summer has been dedicated to understanding people’s perceptions/ideas/beliefs about antibiotics and then hopefully being able to give some insight as to what educational interventions need to be made to fix it. But I won’t lie, this summer has been anything but easy. Every day, I go to a park/market/mall/other public place and approach person after person in the least awkward way I possibly can, hoping they can spare a bit of their day. Conducting the same survey with over 200 people can get overwhelming and repetitive, especially when people show no interest.

But shadowing the infectious disease physicians and residents on their clinical rounds and sitting in on their meetings re-energized me and reminded me why I care so much about this topic in the first place. I heard the stories of patients whose lives were affected by antibiotic resistant infections. One, in particular, a young male who faced possible amputation of his leg because there was only one more antibiotic left that could treat his infection. His body had been bombarded with course after course of antibiotic and the bacteria evolved to survive–just like any other living organism does. However, bacteria do it fast. As soon as you administer an antibiotic, the process of selection begins. Yes, the process of antibiotic resistance happens at a molecular level. But to some extent, we as humans are causing it.

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During the rounds, Dr. Mendelson reminded us of the story above. Before antibiotics, even a blade of grass could be a lethal weapon. Though it’s hard to imagine a time where this might again be the case, it’s not as absurd as it sounds.

The good news, though is that people are noticing. Recently, the US government’s Department of Health and Human Services, Wellcome Trust in London, AMR Centre in Alderley Park, Cheshire, and Boston University are parterning for an initiative called The Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator (CARB-X).

News release from the Financial Times: https://next.ft.com/content/8af200f0-54b4-11e6-9664-e0bdc13c3bef

This is an amazing collaboration between both US and UK institutions with aims to “bring new antibiotics, diagnostics and vaccines through early pre-clinical development to a stage where they can be taken forward by further private or public investment”. Unfortunately, there isn’t much mention of awareness campaigns or social interventions. And, even if we develop new antibiotics, eventually, bacteria will find a way to become resistant to those, too. It’s also important to recognize that antibiotic resistance is a problem all over the globe. When new technologies are discovered (especially diagnostics) they are usually expensive and require a lot of upkeep. It’s important to keep in mind how these technologies might one day be implemented in communities that aren’t prepared to sustain them. However, every piece of this puzzle is equally important and I’m glad to see funding go to it.

THIS STORY! This is so great and so interesting. These  researchers are harnessing the power of our human microbiome and good bacteria to fight antibiotic resistant bugs like MRSA! It’s such an interesting read and if you would like to talk more about it, let me know!

Anyway, Cape Town was incredible. I don’t know when I’ll be back but I really hope it’s soon. I cannot thank Dr. Marc Mendelson enough for all of his insight and passion for this global issue. Field work may get tiring, but you reminded me why I’m doing it.

Auckland, New Zealand

Two words: jet lag. Auckland has a 10 hour time difference from Cape Town so I spent my first few days making sure my body didn’t hate me too much when it came time to start my surveys. However, I don’t have too much time because MY FAMILY IS COMING NEXT WEEK! I started my surveys here on the 28th and aside from the insane weather variations and random rain, all is well 🙂 I am saving all of my adventuring for when my mom and sister get here so all of the beautiful New Zealand landscape pictures will have to wait. I remember reading somewhere that New Zealand is the 2nd most friendly country in the world. So far, I can see how that’s true. Usually, when I approach someone to do a survey and they don’t have time, they just say “Sorry, I’m on my way” and I smile and thank them for their time anyway. On my first day of surveys, I approached a woman and gave my normal speech and asked if she had 15 minutes to spare. She was on her lunch break and did not have time but instead of the normal one sentence response, she offered me her phone number to meet up with her another time because she felt so bad she couldn’t participate at the moment. I thanked her profusely but told her it was okay, there were others I could ask. Then she offered me some of her chocolate. Why couldn’t I do all of my surveys here??

I’ll have more updates in a few days when my mom and sister get here on Friday 🙂 I can’t believe I will be home in two weeks. It will be weird sleeping in the same bed and using the same shower everyday.

All my love

Carlyn

 

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Cape Town Part 1 & Happy Birthday Dad!

I thought for sure that Amsterdam was going to be my favorite city on this trip. As I flew into Cape Town International Airport and saw Table Mountain and the ocean out of the airplane window, I knew Amsterdam had been replaced. For my first four days in Cape Town, I ignored my research and did all of the adventuring I could. I met two amazing girls from Stanford who were nice enough to let me tag along with their plans–s/o Kinjal and Sage 🙂  This post includes a lot of content and pictures so be prepared!

BUT before I start telling you about Cape Town, I wanted to give a very special Happy Birthday shout out to the most important man in my life, my dad!

Sometimes I wonder how I got so interested in research, so excited to make discoveries, collect data and put the little pieces of the mystery together to finally generate something significant. My dad was one of the best sergeants in his department when we lived in Michigan and one of the best detectives in Maricopa County when we moved to Phoenix in 2005. My bed time stories weren’t your typical princess in the castle stories. When I was young, I looked forward every night to my dad telling me a new story about how he caught bad guy and protected the innocent. I mean, I’m sure some of the stories were highly censored, but still. At the age of 5, I knew how to organize a drug bust operation so that gives you an idea about how colorful and unique my bedtime stories were. And for me, they never got old 🙂

My dad always loved a good mystery, a good puzzle, a good challenge to overcome and now, so do I. He always did such a great job of organizing evidence in a logical manner so that trials could run as smoothly as possible and the truth would be uncovered. So, it is without a doubt that I say that I would not be so in love with research if it wasn’t for my dad. I wouldn’t be across the globe living out a dream if it wasn’t for my dad.

I can’t put into words how much of an influence my dad has been on my life. The challenges he has faced in his life have been extreme and to see him fight all of the odds and overcome has been an inspiration. I know he’s constantly worried about me being safe as I travel the world alone but I think sometimes he forgets that the daughter of a policeman is never allowed to forget how to be safe 😉

I love you so much, Dad and I can’t wait to give you a big hug when I see you in only 4 weeks!!!!! Have an amazing birthday, you deserve it.

Now, on to my adventures in Cape Town!

Day 1 (7/12): Lion’s Head

Lion’s Head was a great, short and absolutely beautiful hike with 360 degree views of the city, harbor, ocean and the mountains. I did it a few short hours after getting off the plane and we were able to make it to the top by sunset. Apparently, it was the first day in a while the weather had been so nice (it’s winter here right now and the weather is normally chilly and rainy). Even though I was exhausted after a long day/night traveling, it was so completely worth it. I took a ton of pictures but here are some of my favorites!

Day 2 (7/13): Peninsula Tour

The next day, we went for a full day tour of the Cape Peninsula! We started in Hout Bay with a quick boat ride to Cape Fur Seal Colony on Duiker Island. There were hundreds of seals swimming and playing on the island. I actually signed up to snorkel with the seals this Friday but they had to cancel due to weather 😦 Anyway, it was so fun to see these fun animals in their natural habitat.

Then, we drove along Chapman’s Peak Drive to an incredible overlook of the bay and the mountains. The tour group even brought us a South African flag to take very tourist-y pictures with 😉

Then we continued on the peninsula and went to Boulder’s Beach at Simon’s Town to see the endangered African penguins. They were pretty adorable and they were everywhere! The residents in Simon’s town have to have gates or the penguins will come wandering into their yard at night! The penguins are now protected and cared for in the state park. There were way more than this picture suggests but I can only do so well with my iPhone camera.

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We then went to Cape Point Natural Reserve and did a short 5k bike ride through the park. After lunch, we went to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope (the most south-western point on the African continent).

The day was packed but the scenery I saw was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. If you are ever in Cape Town and want an efficient, fun tour of the peninsula, go with Baz Bus 🙂

Day 3 (7/14): Cape Town city and Hop On/Hop Off Bus.

My third day in Cape Town, Kinjal, Sage and I bought tickets for the Hop On Hop Off sightseeing bus so we could see as much of Cape Town as we could! We started at the District 6 Museum which told the heartbreaking story of the uprooting of 60,000 people from their homes during apartheid in South Africa. Here is more information about the museum and it’s history: http://www.districtsix.co.za/Content/Museum/About/Info/index.php

We took the bus to Long Street and visited an artisans market where I bought even more stuff that I will have to try to shove in my suitcase 🙂 Luckily, I only have to force the zipper shut once more because my mom will be in New Zealand and I’ll unload all of my crap on her to bring back home.

After the market, we had a picnic on the beach at Camp’s Bay. There was a thick layer of fog on the beach so we couldn’t see the ocean very well or the mountains behind us but it cleared once or twice so that we could see the beautiful landscapes.

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It started to get really chilly and rainy so we decided to go to the V&A Waterfront, one of the main shopping areas to window shop and then see Finding Dory. I was so excited to finally see it after how good I heard it was. It did not disappoint. It was also museum night at the Waterfront and the Two Oceans Aquarium was half off. I didn’t take many pictures there but here is one!

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Day 4 (7/15): Meeting my contact at UCT + Circumnavigators unite!

When Sage and Kinjal left, I decided it would be a good time to actually start doing what I traveled to Cape Town to do. I went to the Groote Schuur Hospital (this is where they did the world’s first heart transplant in 1967!) to meet Dr. Mendelson who has been incredible in helping me be successful in South Africa. We have been emailing back and forth since November 2015 and he has been so great and supportive. He is such an important figure in the fight against global antibiotic resistance and I feel so lucky to have met him. I met him at his office to discuss my project and print out some of my surveys. But THEN he invited me to come to their meeting to go over infectious disease clinical cases and I had to try really hard not to start dancing around the room. For those of you who don’t know, I hope to one day become an infectious disease physician so to be able to sit in a room with multiple ID physicians and clinical microbiologists was like Christmas morning. I really could not have been more excited.

After an exciting day at the hospital, I met my new friend Tara for dinner! Tara goes to Northwestern and won the Circumnavigator’s Club Travel Grant as well. She is traveling around the world to help advance the global conversation surrounding GMO’s. It just so happens that we had a few overlapping days in Cape Town so we met up a few times for dinner. If you thought my project was cool, you should definitely check out Tara’s blog because her project is so interesting and so important! Educate yourself about what GMO’s really are, their advantages and disadvantages and how communication surrounding them varies greatly depending on context. Seriously, check it out, you will learn so much! I know I did! Click here for her blog.

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SHARK CAGE DIVING

Yes, you heard me right! Gansbaai, South Africa is about a 2 hour drive from Cape Town and is the Great White Shark capital of the world. There was no way I was going to miss out on this experience. I got in chilly water into a metal cage and was face to face with one of the most amazing creatures I had ever seen. It wasn’t scary as I thought it might be, it was just incredible. I regret to say that I am not the proud owner of a GoPro or other underwater camera and I was not willing to dish out extra money to buy one BUT just trust me, I did it 😉 I did take a few pictures on my phone but none of them do justice to what I experienced under the water! The cage is attached to the side of the boat and 5 of us went in at a time. No scuba equipment was needed and we just ducked our heads under the water when a shark went by. We saw 6 different Great White sharks in the couple hours we were out on the water. The biggest one we saw was about 16 feet long and weighted appx 2000 pounds. There aren’t really words to describe the experience when a Great White is within an arms reach of you.

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I promise that I’ve been doing my research too but I wanted to get your caught up on all of the fun stuff! Even though I checked off a lot of the things to do in Cape Town and the surrounding areas, there is still SO much to see. This city is absolutely amazing and I’m already looking for a way to come back.

I’ll update you on my research in my next post 🙂 Only a few more days in Cape Town then I am off to my last destination: Auckland, New Zealand. It’s crazy that this experience is already almost over.

Until then, sending lots of love–especially to you, Dad!

Car

 

New Delhi

Hostel Life

“Where are you from?” “How long are you here for?” “Are you traveling, working?” “Where else are you going on your trip?” These are the questions in a hostel that are usually asked at the beginning of every interaction. It’s not until 20 minutes later that we realize we never even asked eachothers’ names. Living in a house with 40 other people around my age has been equally hectic as it has been fun. It’s the perfect environment to share stories, travel advice and make connections with people around the world. Whatever the conversation, my favorite will always be “Next time your in [insert country here], you have a place to stay”. It definitely makes the world feel a bit smaller.

I’ve met a lot of amazing people from the UK and I can’t help but ask them how they feel about Brexit. Most of them reply something to the extent of “Probably how you feel about Donald Trump”. Fair enough. Travelers from around the world (especially Europe) have also been floored with the lack of legislation regarding gun control in the US. The rest of the world is laughing at our idleness I couldn’t agree more! Though I don’t want to use this blog as a political agenda, I think it’s important to acknowledge and learn from our country’s recent events and how we might work to alleviate them. “Do you own a gun?” I’ve gotten that question a few times. I usually just say no and laugh it off.

In my hostel, people are usually only passing through for a few days on their way to see the rest of India. Being here for 12 days, I’ve been able to meet a lot of amazing friends but it’s always sad to see them leave! That’s the beauty of social media.

My hostel organizes a lot of great events and cultural activities. One day, we had an Indian makeover complete with henna, bindis, and dupattas. Here are some pictures from that day!

They also have a “Food Walk” where we walk around the city and sample Indian food from all regions of India. To be honest, I don’t remember the names of most of the food but it’s all delicious albeit my low tolerance for spicy foods.

Traffic and Transport

HONK HONK….HONK……..HONK. Walking down the street anywhere in Delhi, this is what you will hear. Every single second. When I hear a horn, I’m used to feeling tense and agitated because usually it means someone isn’t driving very well or I’m not driving very well. In Delhi, it kind of just means “Hey, I’m coming up behind you, don’t hit me”. There are seldom any traffic lines on the road to separate lanes and when there are, people usually just ignore them anyway. Traffic lights are also a pretty rare sighting. But what is REALLY rare is any concept of pedestrian traffic. Sure, in some areas, there are crosswalks drawn on the road but they are completely ignored. Eventually, you just have to learn to stick your hand out, put your shoulders back, speed walk and hope you don’t get hit. Absolutely zero part of me would ever want to drive in Delhi.

Delhi is the 2nd most populated city in the world and the traffic definitely shows it. During rush hour in Old Delhi, you’re lucky to move 20 feet in 5 minutes. Just as in Guatemala, New Delhi has Tuks Tuks (commonly called “autos”) as a budget transportation option. They look exactly like the ones in Guatemala but these are green and yellow in color. Usually, they try to rip of tourists who don’t know the rates but a reasonable price to drive 5km is about 60 rupees (about $0.90). Another good option for locals and tourists alike is Uber! Yup, Uber has a huge presence in India and was a great way to get around. And of course, the metro! I’m really loving all of this public transportation. Though nothing else around the city seems to work just right or be on time, the metro is FANTASTIC. It’s fast and it’s so cheap. Usually for a one way trip, it would cost around 16 rupees ($0.24) where as in Amsterdam, I was paying about $3.00!

On the metro trains, the first cart is always reserved for women. This is apparently to keep women safe and comfortable. One of the most interesting things I saw regarding gender separation in India was when a cab had the words “This cab is safe for women” or “This cab respects women” plastered across the back of it. I saw several of these. It kind of irked me that distinction even had to be made. There is a strong sense of a male-dominated society.

Surveys/Research

For my work in India, I was given help and resources through the Public Health Foundation of India. I met some amazing people that gave me all sorts of advice for navigating India and a quiet, air-conditioned office space if I needed it. The head of the show is pretty much the king of the world when it comes to antibiotic resistance. Though I didn’t get to meet him during my trip to India, I was very lucky and privileged to have his help.

The surveys in India were conducted primarily in Hindi. Because of this, I had the help of a wonderful PhD student at JNU (a local university) named Deep Jyoti. The research in India would have been absolutely impossible and a complete disaster without her. She took me to a different market/park every day to do the surveys, showed me around Delhi and even her university. I can’t even begin to describe how helpful she was.

In India, when we approached possible research participants, about half of the people we asked didn’t even know what antibiotics were. Only 2/40 people surveyed in India had even heard the term “Antibiotic Resistance”. Even they could not answer what it was. They could only say that it means antibiotics don’t work. There is very little public education on the topic in India and most people rely on their doctors and pharmacists to provide that.. Unfortunately, 3/6 pharmacists we interviewed had never even heard of antibiotic resistance. This is problematic as India has some of the highest rates of drug-resistant infections such as Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis. Without awareness as the first step, it would be hard to implement lasting change regarding prescribing behaviors.

The heat and humidity made it tough to get the surveys done without feeling miserable. I was constantly soaked in a layer of sweat and drank water almost constantly. Aside from that, the people that we were able to interview were very generous and kind. I think most people were just really curious about me and the questionnaire. During every interview, a group of 8-10 men would form around us, peaking at the survey and and give me suspicious glares. After a while, it really got old. One of the last surveys we did was with a 26 year old woman in the street selling her handicrafts. A young man had been hovering over us, watching us for the entirety of the interview. Finally, the woman said “If you’re so interested, why don’t you just come sit down?” He was taken aback, shocked that she had said anything. He was embarrassed and walked away but I was quite pleased that finally someone had said something.

Another issue we ran into when interviewing women were their accompanying husbands or sons. After giving our little introduction about why we were there and why we were doing the survey, many women would be interested and agree. But many times, her husband/son/other male would say no, she wasn’t allowed to participate. Frustrating as it was, I knew it was a part of their culture and eventually adjusted and learned not to be annoyed when that happened.

Taj Mahal

I’m gonna be honest when I say that I don’t have too much to say about my trip to the Taj Mahal. It is about a 3.5-4 hour drive from New Delhi to Agra, depending on the traffic. Since we left at 5am, I slept nearly the whole way. We drove through Agra and saw a lot of livestock roaming the streets–cows, chickens, goats. And there were monkeys everywhere! The Taj Mahal itself was absolutely breathtaking. The first time I saw it, it looked fake. It looked like a green screen or something I was just watching on TV. But there it was! One of the 7 wonders of the world. I touched it a few times just to make sure it wasn’t just a cardboard replica 😉 Here are some of my favorite pictures!

Lotus Temple

After I finished all of my surveys, I had a chance to visit some other places around New Delhi with some of the girls from my hostel including Lotus Temple! The Lotus Temple is a Bahá’í House of Worship and is beautiful! Like the Taj Mahal and many other tourist destinations, many families asked me and the 4 other girls to take pictures with their children, take selfies with them, etc. We took a picture of the 5 of us in front of a pool at the Lotus Temple and within 1 minute, there was child after child jumping in so their parents could take a picture.

 

Here’s some misc. food pics

Bye Delhi, hello Cape Town!

I’m currently almost done with my 14 hour layover in Doha, Qatar. At 2:45am local time (4:45pm AZ time), I’ll be leaving on my 10 hour flight to Cape Town, South Africa. I paid $55 USD to relax in the Oryx Lounge in the Hamad International Airport in Doha and it was the best $55 I’ve spent in my life. With that price comes unlimited food, drink, a TV, plenty of outlets, a quiet room for sleeping (definitely took a 5 hour nap) and a shower! The weather in Delhi has been pretty unbearable to me. When I land in Cape Town, it will be 70 degrees and sunny so I cannot wait. I have lots of fun adventures planned for Cape Town outside of my research and I hope I will be able to accomplish them all. Only 4 more weeks of research and then I get to enjoy a 1 week vacation with my mom and sister in New Zealand. I can’t believe I’ve already checked off 4/6 of my destinations. Another day, another continent. Excuse any probably typos that occurred during this blog post. I’m a tad sleepy 🙂

Lots of love!

Carlyn

 

 

Happy Birthday Mommy!

India is going well and I promise to post a very long blog post soon about my surveys, adventures, new friends and of course, some pictures of me at one of the 7 Wonders of the World. But today is a day to acknowledge THE wonder of the world. Without her, I wouldn’t be on this trip because I would never have gained this sense of adventure and wanderlust on my own. I have never before in my life been so inspired by one person. That sounds kind of cheezy but it’s 100% true. My mom is my soul mate, my best friend and the person I call whenever something happens in my life because I always want her included. If I had it my way, she would have moved to college with me (and trust me, she would have been a LOT more fun on Mill than I).

Wherever I am, I always seem to bring my mom up in conversation. Somehow she just always fits in! It just slips out, like word vomit! (If you got that reference, good job). Whenever someone brings up a certain destination in conversation I find myself saying “Oh, my mom says that places is amazing! When she was there she….” This woman has been to almost every part of the world and I’m excited to be on my way to doing the same.

My mom is someone who genuinely cares for others and would do anything to make their lives easier, no matter the inconvenience to her.  She is the hardest worker I know and has never given up, even in the toughest of times. She has shown me how to be independent, how to love, how to laugh at myself, how to adventure and how to be resilient. If only she could’ve shown me how to be as good looking as her 😉

Being a mom to two girls who are complete opposites is no easy task. But with a lot of humor (like you really need a sense of humor in our house or you won’t survive) and love, she made our little family of 3 (plus 4 the animals that outnumber us) work.

Whenever I receive a compliment, my first thought is usually “Yeah, my mom taught me that” (unless it has to do with bacterial cell wall structure, sorry mom). Growing up, I remember my friends telling my how cool my mom was and in college, since I talk about her so much, I hear “your mom sounds so cool”. She is definitely one of the coolest people I know but she is so so much more. She deserves the absolute world. My life is so full of love and happiness that started with her (and my dad of course). She is the ultimate parent and the ultimate human being who never lets me forget how much she loves me. To this day, one of my favorite things to do is lay down on top of her when she’s watching TV on the couch until she can’t stand the weight 😉

If you know my mom, I hope you can send her some love today. I would also love to hear some memories that you have shared with her (leave them in the Facebook comments!). I’ve only been lucky to know her for 21 years but some of you have known her longer and I’m pretty jealous.

There aren’t enough words or enough time to describe how beautiful, soulful, incredible and inspiring my mom is. I could honestly write a book. So, here are some pictures from the past couple of years to show you just how much fun she is! Even though she is super independent and in no way needs a man, if you are interested, you have to contact me for the initial screening process 😉

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Love you always and forever, Superwoman!! Happy Birthday!!!