I’m going home

Slept remarkably well above the large party last night. Met Neil and Jonathan for a leisurely breakfast and then packed to leave at 11.00 after sorting out some e-mail things at work. The driver arranged by the British Embassy didn’t arrive at 11, and when I got though to him it turned out he’d been told to pick me up as 12.00. This was okay and I had an entertaining journey from Águas de Lindóia to São Paulo airport—the driver did a lot of talking and was very entertaining and intelligent company. We made it to the airport by 2pm, which was fine for the 4.20 departure. Super-fast check in and security and I was having sushi for a snack before I left, along with an empanada since it was there. Bought a couple of bottles of cachaça for making my very own caipirinha (they look dead easy to make!). I was mooching around the other duty free shops when I was lured into buying a new briefcase because of the good exchange rate with the dollar and the good price at duty free: bought a Tumi Briefcase Tumi briefcase in full leather, which is rather lavish, but very, very beautiful and well made. I still feel guilty!

The flight back went by quite quickly. The entertainment system was broken and we were offered 10,000 airmiles as compensation. I thought that this was very generous as we still had some access to movies. I sat through the Golden Compass and Narnia, both of which I’d seen before but it was comforting to see them again. i suspect I won’t get my airmiles as the cabin crew who took my form shoved it on a shelf out of the way!

Party night at the SBQ

Had to phone room service at 5am to order an emergency supply of water to slake my thirst! That will teach me for having three caipirinha. Had a couple of successful meetings with colleagues at the SBQ, and lunch and dinner followed the same buffer format. There was a special buffet selection of Feijoada Brasileira which is a black bean stew with dried pork. It was quite strongly flavoured and the pork tasted like it had been dried over a very smoky wood fire for weeks: it was black with smoke. It was good to try, but not as good as the regular beans we’d been having with rice.

The highlight of the day promised to be an evening party, from 10pm in the large Sala Real, At 10pm, I was the only person in the room and I quickly got fed up with being this untrendily early. Found Simon, Jonathan and Neil in the bar (drinking caipirinhas of course) and we stayed there until about 11ish. The party still hadn’t really got going even by then, but there was a large crowd in the room waiting for the live band to come on stage. By 11.30, I’d had enough waiting, and Neil and I both headed off—Neil had to give his plenary lecture the next morning. Jonathan hung around hoping to catch the first song, but failed and went to bed shortly after. The party went on late into the evening!

Jonathan and Neil

SBQ Party

Arrived in São Paulo

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 Brish Embassy São Paulo 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).

Hotel Monte Real Resort

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 a150px-Caipirinha2.jpg 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!)