My typical day here goes like this: I start with a light breakfast and dark coffee with Paula, then walk 2 blocks to catch the #409 bus that takes me straight to the Jardim Botânico. I skip the lines at the main entrance and use the gate for researchers at the Instituto de Pesquisas Jardim Botânico (Botanical Garden Research Institute). The guards recognize me and know that my Portuguese is mostly limited to “Bom dia! Tudo bem?” (Good morning! How’s it going?). I say it, they reply, and we smile at each other.
Then I go straight to the microscope room. Poliana joins me and we spend the next few hours identifying what kinds of algae are on my slides. Poliana is a third year PhD student, just like me, and she specializes in the taxonomy of Brazilian algae. Sometimes, I call her my Algae Angel because she is so helpful.
Usually I spend many, many hours at the microscope, only taking short breaks for lunch or cafezinho (very dark, very sweet coffee). This past Friday, though, my day was not quite typical for two very different reasons.
First, Poliana ran into the room to tell me that there were toucans outside. I immediately dropped my lab notebook, grabbed my camera, and followed her. There they were, in all of their comic glory, having a snack on a tree right outside the lab.
This was a great reason for a break.
My second break was also for a very good reason: a short chat with a visiting dignitary! A group of people came in to tour the lab, and they stopped at my microscope to see what I was working on. They were the Ecuadorian Minister of Human Development and his entourage.
They are touring sites in Brazil to establish research partnerships and create more opportunities for Ecuadorian students interested in science. The folks at the Jardim Botânico explained that they currently are hosting a visiting student from the U.S. … me! So the Minister came over to say hello and ask about my research. I showed him some algae, explained my project, and even offered to come to Ecuador if necessary. We will see how that works out…
So, Friday was not quite a typical day. I did get a lot of work done, even with all of the exciting interruptions.