June 16, 2009

Traveling to Rio de Janeiro

June 11, 2009

My plane arrived in Sao Paulo, Brazil at 5:00am, and my plane to Rio de Janeiro was not until 10:00am. The five-hour layover was helped out tremendously by the fact that there was a spa in the airport where I could get a pedicure. I went to the spa at 8:20 am. The manicurist wasn't there, so the receptionist allowed me to rest until she arrived at 9:00am. I really needed that extra 40 minutes of sleep after sleeping (or not sleeping) on my flight from Miami.

After my pedicure, I boarded my plane to Rio de Janeiro. I met my friend at the airport in Rio, and we took a taxi to our hotel, where we were sharing a room. Once we checked in, we went to register for the conference. This year, the Latin American Studies Association annual conference is at the Catholic University in Rio. Normally, these conferences are at hotels. This one was being held in classrooms at a university. Except for the big talks, which were held in the gymnasium – a big contrast to the hotel ballrooms I have grown accustomed to.

The ambience at the university (or lack thereof) was not helped by the fact that it was pouring rain for most of the conference. This meant it was cold in the open spaces between the conference rooms, and it was hard to get from one building to the other without getting soaked. There also was not a book fair, which, of course, was a major disappointment to academics who make their living reading and writing books.

Perhaps I have been spoiled by conferences in glitzy hotels, but this conference lacked more than chandeliers. Usually, conferences are at hotels, and the fact that people are sleeping in the same place as the meetings creates an abundance of opportunities for networking and running into people. At this conference, I was able to meet some people in the hallways, but I mostly hung out with my roommate, and a couple of her friends. I did meet a couple of people from Guatemala, which is important, as that is my next destination.

Perhaps due to the fact that the conference was several miles away from the hotels, the small size of many of the meeting rooms, and the general lack of amenities at the conference, the attendees noticeably diminished as the days went on. When I gave my paper three of the five presenters did not show up. And, we only had two audience members. That made for a cozy discussion of my and my co-presenters' papers. I think the idea of having a conference in Rio was better than the reality of having a conference in Rio.

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