Tips: Precautions When Eating Foods Abroad (Water Safety)

Hi everyone! In my last post on magnetically aesthetic, I shared the fact that I’ll be living in Mexico for the next two months to do some fieldwork to put into practice what I’ve learned in graduate school.

It’s Day 4, and I’m adjusting to the slower pace in Agua Caliente Nueva. My host family has taken me to eat at a couple of seafood restaurants since I arrived, and I got to meet their extended family over the weekend when we spent the day at the beach for el Día del Padre (Father’s Day)!

I share this background information with you because somewhere within the first three days of arriving, I ate what I suspect was contaminated, or unclean food, because I was sick for a day! I woke up in the middle of the night with intense stomach cramping and pain, and had to take it easy on Monday while relying on Pepto Bismol to keep my stomach neutral. I read somewhere that taking activated charcoal can help with upset stomach as well, so I decided to take a spoon of it as well (FYI- it doesn’t have a taste! I just mixed it in potable water and added some honey and it just tasted like honey water).

 

Today, I’m feeling much better with occasional cramping, but overall I’m getting back to my normal function haha. I wanted to share some tips for food safety when traveling abroad (ironic since I’m a public health student, too, and I should know better!)

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  1. Do your research when you travel to another country. Is the tap water potable for consumption?
    • If yes, great! In the US for example, most states (see Flint Water Crisis) have perfectly potable water that you can drink directly from the tap.
    • If no, here are some options:
      • buy only bottled water or the big jugs of water, and make sure you check that the seal hasn’t been broken before you purchase them
      • when you go to restaurants, ask for bottled water or if the cups of water are purified
      • when you get drinks with ice cubes in them, you typically want to have the ice cubes that look like hollow cylinders since those are made with purified water
      • buy 1oz of iodine that you can drop into the water to purify it before drinking **NOTE: I have yet to find a store in Manzanillo that sells iodine that you can put in water for drinking, so make sure you look this up and purchase it before you travel**
  2. When you order salads, ask if they use purified water (agua purificado in Spanish) to wash their vegetables. I have a feeling I may have eaten some veggies that were cleaned with their unsafe tap water.
    • You can also order cooked vegetables or ask if they serve any cooked veggies (vegetales cocidos)
  3. If you’re going to prepare vegetables at home prior to cooking, you can use the tap water, but make sure you cook them well to kill off any bacteria.
  4. When you order or purchase prepared fruit, ask if they use purified water.
    • It’s better for you to get fruit that still have the skin on them, so you can wash it yourself with purified water when you get home 🙂
  5. WASH YOUR HANDS BEFORE YOU EAT! I really should have known betterwhen I was at the beach.
    Frijoles, Guacamole, Salsa and Salsa de Nopales
    pastilla, salsa de tomate, salsa de nopales, frijoles, aguacate (guacamole), y tortillas

    The family members forgot to pack utensils for eating, so all of the tortillas and toppings were handled with our hands. Wanting to fit in and not act pretentious with my Bath and Body Works hand sanitizer, I went into the water, brushed off the sand from my body with my hands, wiped down my hands with a measly paper towel, and chowed down! In hindsight, I ask myself, what were you thinking?! If it wasn’t the washed uncooked veggies, it was DEFINITELY from not washing my hands before I ate at the beach.

  6. (unrelated to food, but still very important) The water is usually safe enough for you to brush your teeth with and shower with, but if you wear contacts, I’d recommend rinsing out the case with purified water so you don’t get any bacteria in your eyes.

March for Science

This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending the March for Science in Washington, D.C. with my fellow Johns Hopkins classmates. This demonstration sends a clear message to the Republican Administration that science plays a role in everyone’s lives and has given us so much as a society and in the world. Without science, we wouldn’t have life-saving medicines or vaccines. Without science, we would not be able to discover new cures and treatments for diseases.

Hundreds of thousands of people around the world gathered on April 22, 2017, Earth Day, to celebrate science! There were scientists, researchers, doctors of different disciplines, supporters of science (young and old) that came together for the purpose of advocating for science. The March for Science page states:

Science protects the health of our communities, the safety of our families, the education of our children, the foundation of our economy and jobs, and the future we all want to live in and preserve for coming generations. 

We speak up now because all of these values are currently at risk. When science is threatened, so is the society that scientists uphold and protect.

When I was growing up, I watched Bill Nye the Science Guy and ZOOM, and had the chance to create that ever cliche paper mache volcanos that erupts with baking soda and vinegar. I knew I wanted to be involved in helping other people, and ended up in Public Health. It was evident that science and research is paramount to making advances towards innovations that would lead to better health outcomes, even when I was a little girl and to this day.

I hope we continue this open dialogue about science and that my fellow colleagues will continue to fight the fight to promote science and support organizations such as the NIH and EPA to protect our planet and our populations’ health. I hope that PBS continues to get funded so the programs can continue to inspire the younger generation to be inquisitive, eager to learn, and get involved in STEM.

Here are some of great posters that I was able to take photos of this past weekend!

Where do we go from here?

I was hesitant about posting something after the elections, but after I saw this article about Trump’s plans to put Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment, in charge of leading the EPA transition team, I felt compelled to write something especially since I’m in graduate school for public health.

Climate change is an issue we need to address. The sea level has been slowly rising and we’ll lose our coastal cities before the end of the century if we don’t acknowledge that global warming is REAL and do something about it. Long Island, Miami, New Orleans, all the tourist/beachy destinations you want to go on vacation to will be lost with the continuing rise in sea levels. Our beautiful coral reefs will die because of the increase in ocean temperatures, as we are already witnessing with the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef.

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The agriculture and livestock industry contributes 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, we’re abusing and depleting our non-renewable energy sources and causing more unnatural disasters history has ever seen. We have the renewable resources within reach (solar energy, wind power, tidal wave power!) but we continue to push on for oil and resorting to unconventional methods such as hydro-fracking and extracting oil from tar sands, all the while bulldozing into sacred reservation lands for our greed for cheap gas… Our environment in America was built for cars and transportation, and we are not thinking of the bigger picture when our population continues to grow and when we eventually run out of space for people. We became so greedy at the thought of having bigger lands to occupy, bigger houses to buy, etc. that we don’t think of the repercussions to our purchases–the bigger homes are in the suburbs, which lead to an increase in personal vehicle purchases, longer drives, and overall a greater sprawl on land that could essentially be used to grow more food to feed us. All of this contributes to greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to the warming of the planet and the gradual destruction of our environments and ecosystems.

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People might not care about this issue because they won’t live long enough to see more drastic evidence that climate change is real, but what about the habitats for the animals and the destruction of ecosystems because of the warmer climates and the melting of the ice caps, of the oil spills and fertilizer runoff that makes dead zones in our oceans where no marine life can thrive? What about the future generations, our future children, our future grandchildren? What kind of earth are we going to leave them when we are gone?

Going into public health and learning more about the global environment, climate change, and what we can do is so frustrating because I see that we have the potential to take steps to correct the massive damage that we have done to the earth over the past century, but that there are so many obstacles that still stand in our way i.e. Trump and Ebell. The evidence is in front of our eyes to prove that climate change IS happening–the too-frequent earthquakes that are happening right on US soil in the Midwest, the devastating hurricanes that are destroying homes in Haiti and cities in the South… We take a couple steps forward with the growing momentum to invest in renewable energy, but I feel as though we have taken an incredible number of steps back with the election results and the change that is inevitably going to happen.

It’s frustrating because I want to be optimistic for our future. I want the progress that we’ve made in America to continue and not be reversed. I want my friends and family of color, immigrants, LGBTQ, Muslims, etc. to not have to fear for their safety or their lives when they leave their homes to go to school or to work, or just to run simple errands in their neighborhoods. I want to trust that our nation has more good people than intolerant people who will continue to foster love and acceptance…

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I’d like to hear anyone’s thoughts on this if you feel like sharing. I apologize for this gloomy post, but as a future public health professional, I felt compelled to share my thoughts on the environmental implications that will occur if conservatives reverse the progress we’ve been making in the environmental health and climate change arena.

Supporting Farmers’ Markets

I have to say, living less than 10 minutes from a farmers’ market in Baltimore is pretty great. It was my first time going this past Sunday and I wanted to curb my expectations in case it wasn’t as humongous as I’d imagined it to be, but I was not disappointed!

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These vendors were literally right below the highway!

Nestled right underneath the Jones Fall Expressway, it’s impossible to miss. If you’ve ever visited Smorgasburg in NYC, or a bustling flea market, this is the impression I got from this farmer’s market when my roomie and I arrived. Three words: it. was. PACKED.

We arrived later that morning when there were still a large number of people walking around browsing each stand, and we quickly hurried to buy our produce. I walked away with two tote bags full of fresh, locally grown produce for less than $20!

Going to farmers’ markets is definitely a great way to support local entrepreneurs and farmers. You are not only helping a small business, but you are buying fresh, in-season produce so you know they’ll be tasty to eat as a snack or in your meals, and most of the time these farmers will not use pesticides or other chemicals on their crops. If you want to know more reasons why you should support your farmers’ markets near you, click here 🙂

Check out some meals made with the produce I purchased at the farmer’s market here:

ALL PHOTOS ARE ©a healthy blueprint. Please do not steal, edit, or use these pictures in any way without my permission. Thank you!

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Why Public Health?

My family and I always imagined that I was going to grow up to become a doctor. I entered college with the intention of becoming a Biology major and completing all pre-med courses and staying on track to take the MCATs before my senior year of college. However, as life can be unpredictable, I think fate sent me a number of signs signaling that it wasn’t meant for me.

I started to see that there was poverty in so many facets of the world and after volunteering with the amazing nonprofit UBELONG, I found my calling. (interviews and videos linked at the bottom!! :)) I lived with a host family in Ecuador for three weeks and watched my host mother boil large vats of water every morning for her family and me to drink for the day. I watched and thought in awe at how fortunate I was, at how lucky most Americans are that we take our water source for granted, that New York City is world-renowned for our drinking water. Why do over 700 million people in the world still not have improved drinking water sources and what can my generation do to alleviate this epidemic? This is something I want to address when I pursue my MPH and go into public health.

It’s funny because sometimes I have a hard time explaining “what is public health?” because it is such a broad topic. I was lucky enough to attend Macaulay Honors College in my undergraduate career and participated in their Ivy League Graduate Schools of Public Health Admissions & Information Lunch event and hear firsthand from Admissions Directors from some of the top public health schools in the nation. The points that stood out to me the most were the way they differentiated between public health and medicine:

Public Health – population, prevention, and health promotion

Medicine – individual, disease, and treatment

After attending this information session, I realized that I had it wrong all along, and public health was the right choice for me. I don’t want to help someone individually, but I want to make a greater, large-scale impact. I want to prevent illnesses and epidemics from happening to populations rather than treat a cold or give an annual flu shot to a handful of patients. I want to be able to touch the lives of people in my community and inform and educate the world about the risks of smoking, obesity, diabetes, cancer, etc. and how they can make better, informed decisions to live healthier lifestyles!

I created this blog in my hopes to share with you my journey as I learn more about public health, as I pursue my MSPH degree at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and as I continue on to becoming a public health professional.

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The undergrad campus is definitely prettier, so I had to take this pic in front of the sign on this beautiful day!

If you’re interested in reading more on my experiences with UBELONG, I’ve documented my experience volunteering at a food bank in Mérida here and in a video interview, and my interview for teaching English in Ecuador can be found here!