Critical Section

more from Rio

Wednesday,  11/12/08  05:31 PM

This is coming to you from Rio de Janeiro, my second day here, and I still haven't slept very well.  The effort of concentrating on Portuguese conversations while tired is significant, whew...

So today was amazing; we spent most of the day at the INCA (Instituto Nacional de Cancer).  The INCA has a long history – commemorated in various Brazilian stamps...

Rio de Janeiro - INCA (Instituto Nacional de Cancer)
INCA – Instituto Nacional de Cancer

I must say INCA is in a horrible section of Rio, right near the commercial port.  The taxi ride over was like entering a war zone.  There is an armed guard at the entrance, covering a bulletproof front door.  You begin to realize that Rio is like a movie set; the beaches and the tourist hotels are amazing, but behind the scenes there is a lot of poverty and strife.  There are 6M people in Rio - it is, for example much larger than Los Angeles - and a significant number of them are literally dirt poor; they live in the favelas, the Brazilian slums, which are shanty towns of corregated steel shacks and dirt floors.  Everyone warns you not to get near them, they are rife with drug dealing and gang warfare.

Rio de Janeiro - Ole presents!
I present Aperio's image analysis solutions to a room full of pathologists...

Anyway my presentation went well, attended by 45 people (as with São Paulo, more than expected), and afterward we walked to lunch at a little hole-in-the-wall nearby.  I must tell you I was pretty uncomfortable with that area and would not walk through it again.  Wow.  For the first time I transitioned to thinking of Brazil as “third-world” instead of pseudo-European.  The restaurant featured an interesting innovation, apparently common throughout Brazil; a buffet where you pay by the pound.  My total for a surprisingly good meal was R$5.50, a little over $2.  Seems like an idea that would work in the U.S.; no food is wasted, and you pay according to how hungry you are…

After lunch we had a nice tour of the pathology lab; pretty cool, an interesting mix of old and new technology, e.g. human cover slippers and a spiffy new German tissue processor.  The lab processes about 1,000 slides per day, all [suspected] cancer cases.  The highlight for me was the basement where they store slides; the warehouse in the last scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark was vividly brought to mind.  Check out all the slides and tissue blocks spread out on tables for sorting...

Sorting slides preparatory to filing them in the archive…

Later we returned from the “war zone” back to our first-class hotel in the middle of Copacabana Beach; a pretty weird transition.  And still later we walked down the beach to a wonderful seafood restaurant.  Yet another meal which will require a weeks’ riding to work off, sigh, but it might possibly have been worth it :)

Rio de Janeiro - seafood buffet!
Yes, that is Sevruga, and yes, I ate a lot of it :)

So ends day three!  Tomorrow we travel to Salvador, Brazil's third-largest city...

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