Doing Fieldwork

As many of you know, I’m currently in Mexico for the summer! My friends who follow my Instagram or Snapchat can see that I’ve been having a ball of a time with my host family in the little ejido Agua Caliente Nueva. The people in the community are just so friendly and welcoming and have embraced my presence as the only Chinese woman in the town haha! I promise you though, that I actually did come here to do fieldwork for a project for a professor, thanks to the grant I received from the Center for Global Health at Johns Hopkins University (try to find me!).

My project includes two main things:

  • brewing fresh Moringa leaves to make tea samples to be analyzed by my professors
  • assessing the acceptability and feasibility of incorporating Moringa leaves as a vegetable in households in Agua Caliente Nueva through Trials of Improved Practice (TIPs) with community members

It’s Week 4 and I finally am able to begin one of my projects (the brewing the tea leaves) now that I have all the necessary supplies. I didn’t believe my professors when they told me that things in the field may not go as planned or as scheduled, and now I understand!

My first mistake (and hopefully the only one) was grabbing too few leaves the first time 😦 I thought I only needed 15 leaves but turned out I needed 15 grams of leaves! And walking around in the daytime is SUPER hot so it was quite the struggle to go back twice and carry whole branches. I haven’t worked out since maybe April (I KNOW, it’s sad) so my arms are feeling a little bit frail and weak haha. My second mistake was burning my fingers while handling the pots 😩 For some reason, their cookware retains heat for a long time, hence my fingertip burns sigh…

Here are some pictures showing the process of brewing fresh Moringa leaves in the field 🙂

In the center of it all: the moringa site! I think they might have over 1,000 different trees here since every single one is meticulously labeled with numbers and I saw 1,000+ a couple of times :O

Let me tell you, these leaves weigh pretty much close to nothing. I learned from my mistake from taking one little twig of leaves to grabbing whole branches just to meet the 15-gram weight!

This is me with the little manila envelope-full of what I thought were sufficient leaves… Silly me. I had to go back later that day to grab the branches D:

To preserve the Moringa leaf homogenate (tea), I have to add ethanol into the tubitos in a 1:1 ratio.

After bringing the purified water to a boil, I’d add the leaves and turn off the fire when the water started to boil again, and let it steep until 15 minutes were up!


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.