Thursday, June 9, 2011

Back to Brownsville

I’ve been back in the valley for 8 months now; the time has been flying by. I had full intentions of starting this blog back up 8 months ago, but now is as good a time as any.

I’ve revamped the blog to include most aspects of my new Texas life. I live in an apartment but have a porch urban garden that I’m very proud of. I have grown tomatoes and lettuce all winter long and now I am expanding. I love cooking and trying new recipes and have often thought of starting up a Cooking with Laura show. Most of the time my recipes are a success, but I do test my smoke detector on rare occasions, just to make sure it works and all, of course. I am still trying to dance as much as possible, although it can be harder to find here. Salsa lessons and clubs are easier to find, but I’m going to have to be the one to bring ballroom dancing to the valley, because it does not seem to exist. Lastly, health of course is a big part of my own life as well as my job, so follow along with all of the fun, interesting, gross, and weird things that I come across.

Read along and enjoy my new Texas life on the border with me!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

You know you're in Brownsville, TX when:

  1. You never know what language you will use at the grocery store check out, maybe Spanish, maybe English, yet probably Spanglish
  2. All the local restaurants serve tacos.
  3. Another country is closer than another state.
  4. You can only drive one way on the highway (North).
  5. You live one mile from four different border crossings.
  6. You drive past multiple “you may not bring firearms into Mexico” signs while only trying to drive home.
  7. There are both “hump”s and “dip”s in the road, some are marked... most are not.
  8. Border Patrol vehicles are more common than Police vehicles.
  9. The Texas flag is flown at the same level as both the USA and Mexico flags.
  10. People have fence sales instead of garage sales.
  11. Going to “the island” means going to the beach at South Padre Island.
  12. You can pay in pesos or dollars at the grocery store.
  13. 100+ degree, 99% humidity weather is normal.
  14. Most radio stations are in Spanish, and even if it’s an English station, they still play Spanish music.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Country Dancing, Texas style

This past Friday I went with a group of friends to a Country Bar "in the boonies" outside of Brownsville, it's called Winks. I'd been told that Texas had a bunch of cowboys, but had thus far only seen one, but this is where all of the cowboys hang out. The culture at this bar was really different than much of the culture in Brownsville. I guess this is Texas culture in comparison to Border culture (a strong mix of Mexican and Texan culture). I love dancing, I do ballroom dancing, salsa, meringue, bachata, cumbia, and every once and a while I even do a couple of line dances, but country dancing is way more than line dancing!!

They do the 2 step, the 16 step, the country cha cha, the country polka, the east coast swing (jitterbug), the west coast swing, and then line dances on top of that!! I had such a fun time learning a couple of new dances and even got to show off my swing dancing skills on a relatively empty floor, because it's one of the least known dances among people at Winks. Too bad I didn't find out about this place a couple of months ago, I would have been able to return to Michigan as a Cowgirl country dancer :)

Friday, July 31, 2009

Where is Superman?

With the 100+ degree temperatures down here in the Valley, you'd imagine there would be many an occasion where eating ice cream sounds like the best thing ever!! So I figured that I wouldn't be able to find Mackinac Island Fudge or Traverse City Cherry, two great Michigan flavors, but there would be Superman ice cream.

Yes yes, I know, Superman flavor is for little kids, all the fun colors and weird flavors. But you can't deny that every once and a while Superman sounds like the best idea, or at least Blue Moon, if you want to pretend that you're a bit more of an adult. :) Guess what!?!? No one down here has ever even heard of Superman or Blue Moon, what they ate as I child I do not know, but seriously who hasn't even heard of Superman. After scowling the grocery store, sure that they had to have something with all of the colors and odd flavors of Superman, just maybe under a different name, but no, they don't have it down here, so I came home and did some research on it. And guess what I found...

Superman and Blue Moon ice cream are Michigan things: created, made, and enjoyed all in Michigan, no where else. So where in Michigan you ask... "The best answer I’ve found so far comes from Jim Karnopp, owner of Ypsilanti’s Cafe Luwak, who says he’s pretty sure the original recipe came from Stroh's, the famous (now defunct) Detroit brewery, who began producing ice cream during prohibition." Who knew?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Presentation Day

So this week for the Monday series all of the interns had to present what they had been working on all summer. So here's what I presented:

I found out right after this presentation that there had been some issues in recruiting people for this program, so instead of the intervention being run on the dates listed above it will be run later in September/October.

So with a little over three weeks left of my internship, I've started two new projects, focusing one evaluation. One will be looking at some of the data collected at the Farmer's Market here in Brownsville. This data will be used as baseline data to convince funders of the potential that this market has in this area and the need for their continued support.

The second new project is policy based. The short of a long story is the Southern Texas Counties were given a large amount of money (after they went through the legislature to get it) that goes into action on September 1st. The counties get money for the next two years and is to be used for community health in these counties. Some counties have proper programs already set up to do community health and others will be starting up these programs. Cameron County will be at the forefront of this action, since there is a community-involved School of Public Health in the county. Not only does there need to be programs set up, there also has to be ways to measure how the money is being used in relation to community health--this is where an evaluation program comes in. Within the next year, individuals will have to begin reapplying for the state grant.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dean's Talk

The Dean at the University of Texas School of Public Health at Brownsville is Dr. Joseph McCormick. He spoke on Monday about "The Origin of the HIV Epidemic." Dr. McCormick was involved in the early 1980's with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as part of their AIDS studies. After his involvement in the first African investigation in Kinshasa where they found that the number of partners highly correlated to AIDS. Also while in Africa, he discovered the long history of disease that had been in primates which he connects to the start of AIDS. Primates were hunted for meat and sold in bush meat markets. Dr. McCormick proposes that as humans hunted, cut, and handled monkey meat, a primate disease was passed to humans.

This infection still wouldn't create the HIV/AIDS that we have today. Due to the large diversity and different tribes, there was not much contact between groups. Urbanization in the 1980's created lifestyle changes that allowed for easy spread of HIV/AIDS. Multiple wars also hightened HIV/AIDS and allowed for the epidemic we have now.

Dr. Joe McCormick and his wife Dr. Sue Fisher-Hoch wrote the book "Level 4: Virus Hunters of the CDC" from there many experiences in Public Health. All of the interns here are reading the book and learning about all of the cool things these two have done.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Dodge Ball!!

The Recreation Center here on campus had a dodge ball tournament this past Friday. Since physical activity is emphasized so much at the School of Public Health, the interns all decided that we should create a team and compete. Our team efficacy was low, having not played dodge ball in years (probably not since Junior High for all of us), but we were up for the challenge and just said that we would be happy if we stayed in for longer than 20 seconds. And we did!!! We actually took 2nd in the whole competition, 1st place got a t-shirt so we were fighting for that in our last round. But the opponent team had clearly more experienced dodge ball players. Here's some photos though for your enjoyment. :)

Our Fearless Dodge Ball team-- the "Level 4 Virus Hunters"

Waiting for the whistle

Celebrating a victory!! Woohoo