Monday, October 17, 2011

A Bowl of Ants

If I were diplomatic, I'd say Brazil has brought me into closer communion with nature; since I'm not, I'll just say I've grown exceptionally tolerant of bugs-- although, not really by choice. The construction of most buildings (except the really new or really ritzy ones) encourages a general buggy paradise around the city of Rio: windows rarely have screens, most bathroom and kitchen floors have drains that go straight to the sewer and nothing is properly sealed. In the US, it's a seasonal thing. Here, with temperatures only diverging about 30 degrees fahrenheit across all seasons, pests are perhaps the most enthusiastic of all Brazilian citizens.

Mosquitoes- These guys are truly the spawns of Satan. I hate mosquitoes with a passion. Unfortunately, they love and adore me. I've woken up in the morning to just about a dozen bites across my body. No area is off-limits-- feet, hands, face, neck, arms, legs, butt...I've seen it all. Of all Brazilian bugs, nothing enrages me like mosquitoes. I've gone so far as to do research to figure out how to deter these suckers from getting cozy with. I run a fan all night, I spray myself generously with Off! about 3 times a day and I try to wear long pants as much as possible but even those things can't eliminate the midnight snacks that are my big toes.

Roaches- Oh, the cockroach. I was never properly acquainted with them until Brazil. Thanks to our kitty, we wake up to about 3-4 dead roaches per day. They hiss, they fly and they hang out in the nastiest of the nasty places around town. I've seen people stop in the middle of the street as a little family of these suckers walks by. They clearly feel at home here and no one is ever shocked to see them show up at a party, a restaurant or in the shower. I'm really unfazed by them now. I think it would actually freak me out a lot to see them in the US but here, it's just par for the course.

Gnats- In my experience, gnats are something that occasionally build up if you have old bananas or other squishy fruits in a bowl. Once you toss the fruit, they disappear. Not here. Gnats are constantly in the kitchen. We can't get rid of them. No amount of cleaning or vigilance about food seems to make any difference. They congregate on everything-- pots, pans, drying dishes in the rack, the walls, the TV antenna, lights- everything! I've literally seen them having sex on the rim of my coffee cup in the morning. It's insane. In the summer, it becomes like a cloud you have to wave through to get to the fridge. Plus, there are no bug sprays made for gnats so nothing works. Yeah, fun stuff.

Ants- Last, but not least-- ants. These guys are also a constant preoccupation in Brazil. Nothing sweet can ever be kept anywhere but in the fridge-- granola, sugar, juice, bread, cookies, chocolate milk powder, etc. They also seem to migrate incredibly fast. I've found ants in purses that were hanging up on my bedroom wall because I left gum or cough-drops inside (still wrapped-- they get under the wrapper). I'm less bothered by ants, I guess. They don't bite (at least not the local variety), sting or cause any kind of pain. They're just annoying. I admit, I've continued eating something even after noticing a few ants. I literally had a bowl of cereal once that had ants floating in it (just a couple). Whatever. Some cultures actually consider them a delicacy. Who am I to turn my nose up at the caviar of the jungle?

Aside from these four major categories, there are an innumerable amount of bees, beetles, wasps, slugs, maggots and assorted creepy-crawlies that make life in Brazil interesting. I'm by no means a bug fan but one must simply "migrate, adapt or die", as they say. Because, one thing is for sure, the bugs aren't going anywhere.

Until next time...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

So much time, so little to do

I officially have 35 days (5 weeks) left of research here in Rio and....I'm bored. For any other grad student researcher on fellowship, that- what I said just now- it's a mortal sin. But, so help me god, I am. I'm bored. Maybe I'm overly-confident, right? Missing something. I thought so but, after telling my advisors all the work I've already done and asking for leads, they had very little to suggest. So, am I a dynamo-researcher? A genius? Unfortunately, no.

I've learned a few things during my time researching abroad. Strangely enough, very few of those few things have actually been research-related. (Again, MAJOR sin just committed there.) Mostly, I've finally figured out what kind of worker I am. This might sound like no big deal but, let me tell you, that's a make it or break it piece of information in the academic world. Once I return to the US, I'll be entering the, "You-should-know-how-to-do-this-by-now-so-just-do-it" phase. No guidance, no deadlines, no one telling you what to do or how it should be done. Just me....and about 300 blank pages waiting to be filled with magic.

Naturally, the thought of that kind of self-motivating, long-term project often scares the bejeezus out of most people-- including me. In fact, more students drop out at the writing phase than at any other point, according to a study at Amherst College. The author states that students fail to recognize PhD programs as having two separate phases: coursework and writing. Students also fail to realize that stellar performance in the first does not guarantee success in the second. They test your abilities and stamina on two very different levels.

So, this brings me back to my original question: am I a genius for being "done" early? No. Not at all. I've discovered, to my surprise, that I'm a slow and steady worker. I do a few hours a day (generally 4-5) but I do every day, almost without fail. At first, I felt bad about my type. I have grad student friends here in Rio and also in the US that are power-through people; the kind that will work 8, 10, 12 hours a day on something, seemingly without exhaustion, until it's done. I was that person in college. As an undergrad, as long as I kept up with readings, homework,etc., I could write a term paper in one night; I could cram for a final in one day. I thought I was just "good" at school. So, what did I do? I went to graduate school, like an idiot.

***Graduate school is not for people who are "good" at undergrad. Did you hear me potential grad school applicants who want to delay the "real world" because the economy and the job market are bad????? DO NOT DO IT. You will waste your time, your advisor's time and lots of department money that could be much better spent. ***

Now that I've discovered my graduate school working "type", what does that mean? Well, apparently, it means work less. Yes, I said it-- another BIG sin. Well, actually, not a sin. Just a phrase that's easily misinterpreted. According to The Thesis Whisperer, if you set aside a small window per day (every day) that you will be 100% devoted and focused on writing your dissertation, you can get huge chunks done in a shorter period of time. So--eliminate the other innumerable hours of email checking, Facebook updating, Pinterest pinning, and blog writing-- and what are you left with? Work. She even suggests as little as 2 hours a day! Amazing, right? It's so counter-intuitive but basically boils down to quality over quantity. She also says to write fast and only re-write slow. Just like ripping off a band-aid.

These theories appear to be proven to work and are widely supported. Psychologist Paul Silvia's book How to Write a Lot, warns against the power-through, "binge writing" methods of some academics. He suggests being an obsessive scheduler; set aside a few hours, 2-3, per day that are strictly for writing. It's also important to know at what time of day you are at your "peak performance". Apparently, I've stumbled into the self-awareness necessary to complete both my research and my dissertation writing. Now that the first part is coming to a conclusion, I just have to draw up a battle plan for writing when I get back to the US. Willy Wonka was actually completely correct when he said, "So much time, so little to do!" Go figure.

Until next time...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lost in Translation

One thing that never fails to make me giggle here in Brazil is the creative (and often hilariously inappropriate) use of English. T-shirt sayings, store names, brands, you name it-- Brazilians think a little dose of English makes just about anything cooler or more interesting. While some people speak amazingly well, the average use of foreign languages is a bit shaky. Lucky for me, this misuse is often extremely entertaining. Here are just a few of my favorites:

Store names in English:
Mr. Cat (shoe store)
Pink Box (yogurt lie...couldn't make this up)
Enjoy (clothing store)
Rape (clothing store....they clearly have no idea)
Snake Pit (music store)
Folic (clothing the acid?whuh?)
Jungle 44 (furniture store)
Cribb (clothing store)
Between (children's clothing store)

T-shirt sayings:
"I think of you in cool hours"
"The mustache made me do it"
"Wicked oils"
"Snatch sports" (seriously???)
"Exit boy" (hmmm...)
"Arpoador- son of a beach"
"Oh my dog!"
"Carpe diem flavah!"
"Anti" (so, you're just against...everything?)
"It's all about me dude. Have the best blast!"
"It's not too late to love you; to save the water; to save the forest"
"The South Butt" (Had the same logo as the North Face...almost peed my pants when I saw it)
"Pretty kitty pink girl love" (WTF?)

It makes me want to start a business that imports nonsense shirts in English to Brazil and nonsense shirts in Portuguese to the U.S. I could be a billionaire! Why, oh, why am I still in school?? hahaha

Until next time...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Beginning of the End

As I'm sitting at the Charlotte International Airport waiting to board my flight back to Brazil for the last time in probably a long time, it's all starting to hit me. This is the last time I'll be going to Brazil as a resident. I live there now but never will again. If I ever get to go back, I'll be nothing more than a tourist, which is odd. I imagine it will kinda be like running into an ex that you lived with. You can never pretend to not have shared what you shared together. It will be awkward and bittersweet. I'm returning for the very last chunk of my research time in Rio (exactly 8 weeks). My husband and I weren't nearly as teary or heartbroken as we said our goodbyes this time. Two months is no sweat! It will literally be over before we know it.

I've become a veteran of this US-Brazil route with US Airways. I always fly BNA to CLT to GIG. I always arrive at Gate E33. I always leave out of the lovely Gate D13. I always leave around 10:30pm and arrive exactly 12 hours later. I always get a celebratory Starbucks Caramel Macchiato when I arrive in Charlotte. And I always guiltily inhale a Burger King value meal before I leave Charlotte for Rio. I'm always sad when I leave the US and I'm always sad to leave Brazil as well-- as strange as that sounds. I feel like-- after 5 years (consecutively) of going there for at least 2 months-- I think it will feel strange to not be there at all next year. For better or for worse, Brazil and I are connected forever and always.

So, as I enter into these last 8 weeks of life and research in one of the most fascinating, frustrating, beautiful and violent nations on earth, I am happy. I'm so lucky to have been able to learn about Brazil and its people so intimately. I'm happy I've had the experience of really living in another country (it's always been on my bucket list). And I'm happy that I'm returning to a group of friends that I enjoy so much. There are still plenty of wild adventures to cram in before I'm gone for good. Stay tuned!

Until next time...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

When in Spandexland...

I like to think of myself as a pretty health conscious person. I work out regularly, I try to eat right, I get enough sleep, I try to drink lots of water, etc. I can't say that my motivation is physical appearance, I've always been rather skinny; I just like to think that I'll live to 100 with my health and sanity intact and there's really only one way to do that-- take care of yourself. In any case, I'm familiar with gym culture in the United States. The men who groan loudly and then slam weights on the floor, the stinky people, the super hot people looking for a date, the old people with the walking farts on the treadmill....I thought I'd seen it all.

Going to the gym- any gym- in Rio is a sociological experiment I encourage anyone to undertake. As I've eluded before, Rio (as a beach city) has a bit of the L.A. arrogance and a lot of the West Coast preoccupation with appearance. In sum, cariocas (people who live in Rio) love the gym, adore the gym, worship at the altar of all that is gym.

My first day at the gym near my house was, in my mind, very typical. I rolled out of bed, brushed my teeth, pulled my hair back, put on an old t-shirt, running shorts and sneakers and walked a few blocks to go workout. I arrived at the gym, passed through the turnstiles and immediately realized I'd made a mistake. On the line of treadmills that flank the entrance into the gym were some of the best dressed and most attractive women I've ever seen. At 9am, these women were in full makeup, their hair was loose and flowing, and they were wearing the most ridiculously hot workout clothes ever. I was officially the schmuck of the gym that morning.

I thought perhaps it was merely the women at the front (the kind that want to be seen "working out" from passersby) that looked so amazing. Wrong. During my workout, I was slowly transported to a veritable 1980s Land of workout gear and musical selections. "Lets Get Physical" by Olivia Newton John actually came on over the surround sound speakers. Women were wearing neon colors, high-top sneakers and tube socks....yes, TUBE SOCKS. But nothing could compare to the spandex. Oh, the spandex. I saw colors, cuts and prints beyond my wildest imagination. Leopard print, calf-length pants with a bright orange halter top, white socks to the knee and shiny green kicks? Absolutely acceptable. A one-piece spandex suit with a print mimicking Impressionist brush strokes with a huge bow on the butt? Fashion forward and fabulous! I was clearly out of my league.

While I was dazzled by the fashionable hard-bodies that continually entered, I was less impressed with the "workout ethic" around me. People were not working out. They were doing everything EXCEPT working out. And forget sweating. Why mess up my hair and makeup? That's just crazy talk. And talk they did. Women leisurely strolling at a 1.0 on the treadmill (while I waited to use it), casually chatted with their girlfriends on the neighboring treadmill.

" I said to her, why don't you just leave him? You're still young! You need to be happy."
"That is so true. I was telling my sister the same thing the other day. Her husband is just so...."

Men laying on the weight benches with their feet propped up recapped the recent soccer game with their spotter buddies.

"....absolute shit! Seriously man, I don't know what he was thinking."
"No, no, no. He had no choice. I mean, if I were him, I would've..."

It was a an impenetrable wall of mindless chatter all around me. People SAT on machines, people STOOD by the water fountains, people LEANED on the stair was insane! I thought I could simply power through it all. I trucked through my whole routine but, inevitably, someone would suck me into a mindless conversation as I (very unsexily) sweated my brains out.

Running on the treadmill: (looking at the TV in front of us) Do you really think that the U.S. economy will be able to recover after this downturn? I think America is on the way down. Don't you?

Working my tricepts: Where are you from? Santa Catarina? No, wait. Don't tell me....Argentina?

Doing crunches: You are so lucky you are young! Look at all the fat on my ass! Seriously, look at it. I used to have a nice little ass like you when I was 20-something...

AGHHHH!!!! Leave me alone! I just want to wear myself out in peace! I want to be free to get sweaty, look ugly and have no one pay attention to me, damnit!! Is that too much to ask?


So, I've slowly and reluctantly found myself adapting to my strange surroundings. I have indeed purchased spandex. Quite a bit, actually. And I wear makeup....(sigh)...but only powder and concealer...ok, some mascara too. Oh the shame! And....I talk to people. I chat with the guy who first showed me around, I chat with the front desk girls, I chat with the women in the cool-down room. It's ridiculous. I'm ridiculous. But what can you do? When in Spandexland, one can only slap on a headband, pick out that annoying wedgie, be on guard for camel-toe and keep singing along to the 80s pop music.

Until next time...

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Hunt for Boston Cremes

One thing that has surprised me about my time outside of the U.S. is the sudden, urgent desire to eat certain foods. These foods are, usually, things that I know to be nearly impossible to find in Brazil or so out-of-the-way and expensive that it's only worth getting once. I can't help it, though. I get obsessed and check every webpage, ask every neighbor and read every restaurant review I can find just to get that certain "fix". Anyone who knows me, understands my love affair with food. I like to think that I'm a pretty healthy eater. However, my cravings here have channeled the junkiest of American-style junk food. I'm not sure what this says about me, my body or my mental state but, it's been interesting to discover what things are truly "international" and what just doesn't translate across cultures.

Some easy-to-find comfort foods:

KFC- I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE fried chicken. Luckily, KFC has taken hold in Rio and doesn't appear to be letting go anytime soon. And with all the fatty sides I want!

McDonalds- The most international of national fast food chains, this place is almost as easy to find in Rio as it is at home. Hamburgers and fries are so, so common.

Ice cream- Brazilians have an insane sweet tooth. You can find tons of places with a plethora of flavors that still haven't been dreamt of in the U.S.-- sweet corn flavor in a waffle cone, anyone? It's super tasty.

Some you-will-spend-your-life-searching-for-the-real-thing-in-Rio comfort foods:

Mexican food- Ironic, yes I know. Brazilians simply don't get the beauty of tortilla chips, fresh salsa picante, guacamole and sour cream. Forget about Chipotle-style burritos and quesadillas on the cheap. There are Mexican food places but the salsa is more like ketchup and not spicy, the guacamole is runny and the sour cream is more toward heavy cream. All in all, very unsatisfying and supremely disappointing.

Doughnuts- This has been my latest quest. For some reason, I have been absolutely dying for a Krispy Kreme-style glazed doughnut. I was shocked to discover that Brazilians-- the lovers of all things sweet-- are not even aware of the fatty goodness of a good doughnut! After a great deal of research, I found one place, ONE, in the whole city that had them. A kiosk in the malls in Tijuca and Barra called Cafe Donuts. While I failed in my search for a simple, glazed doughnut, I did manage to have a passable Boston Creme. It was enough to hold me over until my next U.S. visit.

Bagels- Again, for a nation that adores bread in almost all shapes, sizes and flavors-- no bagels? Really? Out of all the hundreds of cafes in the city, not one sells bagels-- and forget about cream cheese. Lox? You're dreaming. I recently found a blog that gave me hope; Daily Life In Rio mentions the existence of one place that claims to have bagels. I'll have to check it out and judge for myself. Often, places here say that they "have" something but, when it arrives, it's far from the real thing.

While Brazilian food is undeniably yummy, sometimes you just want a little taste of home, you know? I'm off to get a bucket of Original Recipe and a gallon of Neopolitan! Woo hoo!

Until next time...

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Vomit, X-rays and Patience

There are many things I could say about Brazilians as a people but one thing is for sure, they are patient. Brazilians wait in some of the most outrageous, incredible and ridiculous lines I've ever seen. They wait in long lines for everything-- paying bills at the post office, doing transactions at the bank, anything having to do with the government, etc. Most Brazilians also wait several hours for even the most routine medical attention.

Recently, I was able to experience this last example firsthand. For the past week, I've been battling a terrible gripe (flu). I can't remember the last time a cold had me so messed up for so long. Finally, I gave in and decided to go to the doctor. However, being a poor grad student on a (very) limited fellowship abroad, I opted to give the public health system a try. Brazil has a dual system of healthcare-- public and private. All citizens are entitled to completely free healthcare under the public branch (that dirty word, socialism). Those who can afford to opt out and receive private healthcare usually do, which considerably lessens the strain on public facilities. My previous experiences with Brazilian healthcare have all been in the private sector which is first-rate in every way. I had no idea what to expect from a public place.

Since my condition was not an emergency or very serious, I chose to go to an UPA. These facilities can be compared to something like an Urgent Care Clinic in the U.S. Generally, they operate 24 hours and specialize in minor procedures-- most serious, emergency cases are transferred to the nearest hospital. I scoped out the place the night before and asked the receptionist a few questions...

I'm a foreigner, can I still be treated here? --Yes, of course.
Do I have to pay to see the doctor? --No.
For blood work? --No.
For prescriptions? --No, we have an in-house pharmacy.
So, it's all free?? --Yes, of course. Where are you from anyway?
The U.S. --Oooooh, that explains it. I've heard a lot about how it is there.
Yeah, it's probably all true.
(looking around at the full and over-flowing waiting area)
So, how long is the wait usually?-- (smile) I couldn't really say.
You can't or you don't know? --Don't know. It's always different. But it's never fast.
I see. Is there a better time to come? --Early. Really early.
Like, 6am? -- No, like 2 or 3am.
Oh, ok.

I decided to come back the next day, bring a book, pack a snack and just wait like a good Brazilian would. I got there around 11am (I'm REALLY not a morning person, especially when I'm sick). I went to reception, they checked me in and then told me to wait to be called to another desk to get registered. I sat in the front of the room and immediately noticed that huge flat-screen TVs were being used to indicate who was next in line to see the doctor. A person's name would flash on the screen and a tinny, computer voice would call their name out loud. Beneath the name, the room they were supposed to go to would be written out and spoken as well. Cool system, very efficient. Unfortunately, the computer voice was not used to foreign names. When my turn came, the voice simply said a few syllables from my name and then called out where to go. It sounded something like: Neee-cooo--eh--Mah--ree--Caaah--eeew. Somehow the last syllable of my name received the most emphasis. A resounding "eeeeeewwww" echoed through the room as I jumped up ashamedly to register at a desk in the back of the room.

After about 5 minutes of giving my full name, showing my U.S. driver's license, relaying my address, phone number and fielding the normal questions that follow, "Ohhhh, you're an American?", I was done. I sat back down and waited for the next step-- an intake evaluation with a nurse. As I sat back down, I took a look around to see who my fellow sick-os were. The vast majority of the room (which was about half full) were elderly patients or sick children with exhausted-looking parents. The room was long and rectangular with the usual fluorescent medical lighting. The adult patients ranged from the clearly homeless to several that appeared pretty well dressed. All in all, a very mixed bag. The staff was brusque but friendly and they seemed to all be working diligently. Most people were watching a large TV on the side wall that was broadcasting daytime shows on cable. After quickly taking in the room, I pulled out my eReader and started Water for Elephants. A few pages in, I noticed the distinct smell of pee. To my left, an elderly man was seated beside me and I quickly ID'd him as the source of the unpleasant odor. I changed seats.

My next seat was equally ill-chosen (not that there were many open places); I was stuck behind a lady that was coughing like she had consumption (and not covering her mouth) and beside an old lady that, out of the blue, decided to fill me in on her condition. She persisted in asking my advice although I tried to emphasize as much as possible how I was not, in fact, a doctor but a patient like her. I finally managed to shrug my shoulders enough times to satisfy her and returned to my book. About an hour or so later, I was called by the computer ("eeeeewww") to meet with a nurse.

The nurse did a standard intake evaluation on me (about 10 minutes total). She asked me my age, nationality, habits, symptoms, existing conditions, etc. Then, she checked my blood pressure and looked in my mouth and ears. Finally, she asked me how tall I was and how much I weighed. Ummmm, oopsy. Hadn't thought of this. Brazil's on the metric system so, I apologetically said, "I don't know" to both questions. She enjoyed a long, inquisitive frown and then said, "What do you mean?", with an emphatic "Are you dumb or something?" tone. I explained my funny conundrum (which she did not find funny) and she huffed. This meant she had to do extra work-- weighing and measuring me. This did not please her. But she did it and then turned me loose, informing me that my next stop would (finally) be a doctor.

I decided to use the restroom before I sat down again. I went to reception and asked where the bathrooms were. I walked down the indicated hallway and entered the ladies room. Of the two stalls in the bathroom, one was empty. I opened the door and was greeted by a technicolor display of vomit. Orangey-streaked-with-red (blood?) vomit was splayed across the toilet seat and up the wall behind the toilet. Ok, no, no, no. I waited to use the next stall; praying 1) it wasn't as bad as that, and 2) that no one walked in and tried to use the vomity one, thinking I did it or something. I peed quickly and....oh, great. No soap in the dispenser and no paper towels either. Thank god for anti-bacterial gel! Never leave home without it.

Traumatized, I returned to my seat. Maybe 10 minutes later, two men come running into the UPA. One is supporting the other--- who's holding a rag to his head as blood streams down his neck onto the front of his shirt. They're immediately taken to registration as I eavesdrop to get the story. Bloody guy is a roofer and works with his brother (the guy who brought him in). Brother guy accidentally dropped something off the roof onto bloody guy's head, who was on the ground at the time. Bloody guy gets rushed to the "sutures" room (how ominous does that sound?). In the blink of an eye, the "Grey's Anatomy" moment was over.

An hour and a half later (and halfway through my book), I get "eeewww"ed to go see the doctor. My lady doctor was pretty and young, which surprised me somehow. She re-capped the information from my intake and asked me a few more questions about my condition. She told me she wanted me to get an X-ray to help her diagnose what the problem was. This also surprised me a bit. She promised me it would be really fast and the room was right down the hall. I went to the room and got called in by the tech-- who was a young, attractive guy. Oh, great! Here I am getting a chest X-ray....wait, shit! I have an underwire bra on! Does that mean I have to take it off? How do I say that? Is that weird? A thousand things start running through my head. I'm barely listening to the guy as he tells me to remove my earrings and any clips I might have in my hair. Finally, I get the gumption to ask him about the bra. He gave me a "WTF?" look and said (deadpan) "Unless you're gonna put it on your head, there shouldn't be a problem". It was then my turn to give a funny look. He figured it out what the miscommunication was right away and said, "It's a head X-ray. Your doctor ordered a head X-ray. To check your sinuses." Ooooohhhh!

While I blushed for being the idiot I am, he quickly did the X-ray and told me to go back to my doctor. Upon return, she looked at the scans and concluded I didn't have a sinus infection, bronchitis or pneumonia. Simply put, I just had a bad case of allergies. Almost four hours, four "stations", half a book, two granola bars and two X-rays later....I had my diagnosis and a mild antihistamine medication. But it was all free.

I'm certainly not an expert in healthcare so, it's difficult to evaluate my experience with a "socialist", "universal" system like Brazil's. In terms of time, it was a total bitch. Conditions, basically what you'd find in an emergency room in the U.S. The nurses, physicians and techs seemed competent and interested, at least somewhat, in my well-being. You can't beat the cost, of course. However, it did make me wonder how things would've gone had my condition been more serious. Would the facilities have been sufficient? Would the care have been what I needed? In the end, there's no way to know. I do know, now that I've seen the other side of the coin, is that it wasn't bad. In any case, all Brazilians have some access to care so, in that way, they've already got one up on us. Hopefully, the future will see some changes for the U.S. system; we just need to be patient :)

Until next time...