Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Travel Blog Days 2 and 3

Arrived yesterday morning after sleeping about one hour tops on the 9 1/2 flight to Rio de Janeiro.  Three times at Kennedy the pilot told us to buckle up as we would be backing up and getting ready for take-off.  The first time was at about 11pm on Monday night.

We took off after 2 a.m. on Tuesday morning.  When we arrived in Brazil at around 1230 pm on Tuesday morning, a friendly attendant met us at the end of the ramp.  He told all Brazilians to go one way and all non Brazilians to go another.  Nearly 95 % of the passengers were Brazilians.  But I knew that beforehand.  Had the passengers been New Yorkers, there would have been a riot on the plane when the pilot, at about 2 am announced that we were 26th in line for take-off.  To his credit, the pilot shut off the engine and figured he would just wait for number 26 to come up. At that time, the attendants came racing up the aisle with candy bars and soft drinks.  After 3 a.m. when we had in fact taken off and were finally at a cruising altitude, we had dinner.  I think 3 a.m. is the latest I have had dinner in my three score plus four trips around the track.

About 100 dollars by cab to the hotel. Lots of graffiti in route. I have been told that graffiti is a cultural norm here in Rio. It reminded me of the worst times in New York City where graffiti was on every surface of a subway car.

The hotel is very nice, beautiful view of the pool, very modern indoor pool as well with a gym. Even a soccer court on the premises which has kids kicking the ball until at least 1042 the time I am now writing this blog and when I can hear the kids playing.  I told the fellow at the swimming pool that I might come back later to do some laps.  He suggested around 8 pm. Never made it. After dinner I collapsed and tried to catch up on the sleep I missed on the flight over.

Wednesday morning was the first day of the conference. The hotel breakfast was far greater than standard hotel fare in the US.  Looked like a buffet you might pay 20 bucks for at a decent hotel. Hopped on a bus and took off for Universo, the university which hosts the conference.  I sit on the bus next to a man who fascinates me with his knowledge of basketball history.  He would be and did deliver a paper on the 1974 basketball World Championship game between Puerto Rico and the US.  A woman in front of me was talking about her paper related to the commercialization of college sport.  All around me are conversations about issues that are interesting to me.  Later in the day I would speak with a man no more than 25 from Western Canada whose knowledge of the New York baseball Giants simply floors me.  And he is not alone. At this conference with people from all over the Globe people just love sports.

The first formal presentation of the day deals with referees and refereeing in soccer. He is a Brazilian and makes a reference to the difficulty of speaking about soccer after the demise of the Brazilian team in the world cup.  My waiter the night before had shook his head about the game as well. (I had, however, prompted him).

I listened to several excellent papers Wednesday.  Stresses on referees, bullying of athletes in sports, the history of fighting in hockey, the Russian approach to dodging protests from gay rights advocates before and during the Sochi winter olympics, and my friend on the bus's fascinating paper on Puerto Rican basketball in the early 1970s.

Interesting conference so far and friendly colleagues.  Heard a few stories from other US folks who had trouble getting a visa and made some new friends.

The host is not shy about feeding us. The coffee break after the plenary session was far more than coffee.  Cakes and snacks and juices and waiters coming around with more beverages in case we did not want to wait on the line. Watermelon, and pineapple, and melons of various types--for a coffee break. What followed the coffee break was lunch which was a feast of foods I had never seen before. The afternoon break--in case we were hungry God forbid--included mini sandwiches.  The reception at the end of the day had waiters coming about with hors doevres, red and white wine, glasses of beer, and juices.  And at the culmination of the reception there was a bus ride to a dinner.  The dinner was billed as a representative excellent Brazilian restaurant.  Quite an experience.  Various meats carved at your table for each individual diner, fried bananas, sausages, potatoes...and then a salad bar which was nothing like I have ever seen.

On television back in the hotel the only shows that I can make sense out of are the continuous replaying of world cup games on a sports channel.  I did get a kick out of watching a segment of the Simpsons. Homer sounds especially goofy speaking Portuguese.

Looking forward to tomorrow's events.

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