The journey out to Brasil was long and uncomfortable. Despite being in premium economy I felt cramped and couldn’t get comfortable. I was sitting in a middle row seat, next to someone who had moved to get an aisle seat, then only got out of it once in 12 hours without me asking him to move. Watched Beowulf CGI, which was pretty dire, but the Grendel and his mother were very well done and worth watching just for them. I’m not sure that I’ll be able to read Seamus Heaney’s excellent poem again without thinking of the film version.
Arrived in São Paulo at 5.30 and had a cup of tea while I waited for Jonathan and Neil to arrive on the TAM flight an hour after me. They were very chirpy when they arrived, having flown business class and making good use of that. We were all met by Carolina from the British Embassy, who took us out for a coffee with Damian and Christina, also from the British Embassy, and we discussed science funding in he UK and Brasil.
Made a visit to the University of São Paulo and met a few members of the Department and made a tour of the labs. All very impressive. From there, back to the British Embassy for lunch on the top floor at Drakes: good buffet. The British Embassy is in a lovely modern building.
Christina went with us out to Águas de Lindóia, where we would be spending the rest of our time at the Brasilian Chemical Society Annual Meeting. The traffic was bad leaving São Paulo and the journey took about 2 hours 30 mins, to Aguas. We entered the spa resort via a Swiss-style gateway, which was a bit disconcerting even though Damian had warned us that it would like being in a Swiss Village (with palm trees).
I was a bit disappointed with my (albeit massive) room in the Hotel Monte Real Resort: spartan, empty minibar, boasting a mere three bars of soap. No pampering this week then. The shower was great though and had I by then forgotten how spartan the accommodation was until I grabbed a towel and found a limp, grey thing in my hand had seen a few too many washes.
Met up with the three others for dinner at 7, and then was introduced to Prof Mangrich the outgoing president of the SBQ. Dinner was very good, with lots of lovely vegetables from a buffet (buffets for every meal in Brasil) After dinner we went to the opening ceremony and met Norberto, the secretary of the SBQ. He gave a formal welcome speech in English and told us that we might as well leave after that as the rest would in Portuguese and no-one would be offended: so we slipped way silently after that and had a caipirinha in the bar before bed. This cocktail deserves a separate paragraph—
Well a caipirinha is pretty perfect and lovely. It’s a bit like a mojito without the mint and with a lot more lime. It’s made from cachaça, lime and sugar- very simple and very potent. One of these slipped down nicely and set me us for a good nights sleep (and having been awake since 3 am helped too!)