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The Great Foldscope Adventure to South America, a Diary Series, Part 1

The South America Diaries is a monthlong series documenting Foldscope's first trip to South America. Starting July 13, the team travelled all over Peru, Argentina and Brazil to lead workshops and presentations with schools and organizations. We experienced new cultures, ate cool foods and met tons of people. This is a behind-the-scenes look into the beautiful and mundane experiences that come with our mission to give every person on the planet a microscope. This is part one in a series. 

Cast of characters in this post: 
The Foldscope team: Jim, Judy, Wenying, Paola, Alice (me)
The MACTec team: Javier, Johanna, Paola (again!), Carolina, Nigellia, Mariella, Coto

Day 1: ✈️ San Francisco, CA 🌉 —> Mexico City, Mexico 🇲🇽—>  Lima, Peru 🇵🇪

Wenying and I had to chug our water bottles (not unlike a college party, except it was water) at the Mexico City airport security line. The TSA guy was very impressed with me and a few people got upset at us for holding up the line. Typical airport drama. Lots of flying, some waiting around. The Mexico City airport is beautiful, and a perk of flying red-eye is that we saw the sun rise. 

The Mexico City airport to start our travels

First order of business in Lima is dinner with Peru's MACTec Team: Javier, Johanna, Paola, Carolina, Nigellia, Mariella, Coto. MACTec, which stands for Mini Academia de Ciencia y Tecnología (Mini Academy of Science and Technology) is a nonprofit organization that has lead workshops all over Peru to promote STEM education for young girls. Tonight, we're having dinner with MACTec founders Javier, Johanna, Paola, and MACTec fellows. Paola is joining the Foldscope team for workshops later in the week in the Peruvian Amazon. 

I can feel the hospitality so strongly already. Shared food, cultural exchange, Instagram exchange, the whole thing. We ate some interesting meats while talking with MACTec about their extensive work in Peru. Last year, MACTec created a public exhibition in the Miraflores district of Lima called "Visions of the Microworld" using images girls captured with their Foldscopes from MACTec Foldscope workshops. 

"Visions of the Microworld" photos courtesy MACTec

MACTec's dedication to globalizing education hits the heart of what Foldscope's all about, too. It's heartening to see all the ways in which organizations like MACTec and Foldscope eat together, break bread as the old traditions go. Both Manu and Saad from Prakash Lab at Stanford (where the Foldscope was born) are MACTec scientists, and we even got a chance to see Saad give a MACTec workshop on high-speed cameras with some local students the next morning. Johanna recently went to China to receive the UNESCO Prize in Girls' and Women's education for MACTec's work in education, particularly for a project where they converted a bus into a travelling lab to host workshops in rural Peruvian communities. In between all of this conversation, we tried anticucho, beef heart. Had some cau cau, tripe that had the texture of a carpet, but Coto loved it. Seco de carne. Papas de huancaína. Ají de gallina. Picarónes and mazamorra morada for dessert. This is our short stop in Lima and our first authentic Peruvian meal. Tomorrow we go to the Amazon.  

Alice Dai has worked with Foldscope since high school and will be a junior at Duke University this fall. She is the trip blogger/photographer. 

All photos taken by Alice unless otherwise attributed.