Author Topic: Tales of a traveller: Such a rewarding experience...  (Read 2724 times)

Tales of a traveller: Such a rewarding experience...
« on: March 29, 2008, 02:24:08 pm »
I started this here this week.

Argentina is very politicised and unionised. This is after all Latin America. University students in particular are. Whilst UK students tend to be a lot more passive, there is such engagement and interest in the political system and education here that it is rather refreshing. These comments stem from a few days spent with colleagues and some of the UG and PG students who are doing their projects with them; but it is also something I noted the last time I came.

Research undertaken here in national labs is rather precarious with short term investments in equipment and programs and little in terms of long term vision, because the decision-maker of tomorrow may suddenly revise the agreement. This means that people operate on a shoe string and are incredibly inventive and have to be motivated. We have it easy back home. At all levels. And this is a rather humbling experience.

I was invited to give a couple of lectures on modelling this week and this being Latin America, they lasted for over 2h each; yet students stayed tuned in and I got one of the best questions I've ever had on turbulence modelling from an UG guy. Education is still a genuine aspiration here, something not granted, and consequently a serious pursuit.  I left the two lectures feeling so good. Getting a bunch of young scientists so interested and focussed was for me a rare, highly rewarding experience. I don't know how to put it, but I know I'll be back and I'll do my utmost to help these guys; and I have never, I think, felt this good after a lecture back home. Hopefully we can put a sort term PhD prgram in place to get them started and even for them to visit us back home. I am sure they'll put our facilities through their paces given any opportunity and help us along nicely and with enthusiasm.

In return the students invited me to a (surprise, surprise) fund raiser party for one of the local unions. I said yes. It reminded me of my own student’s days: Loud rock, simple drinks served in plastic cups and a few local hot dogs, good company and great chat. Everyone was happy, but nobody was trully drunk. People shared drinks, food and were doing their best to make me feel welcome. I actually felt a bit uncomfortable because of such attention, but I settled in and had one of the best nights out I had in a while. Simplicity and camaraderie are what one needs, above all. I think we ate and drunk well and my European-earned pesos will have found their ways nicely to the coffers of the union. This nice bunch deserves it.

Incidentally as one student picked me up at the hotel (the ministry is putting me up nicely) I noticed that he had nearly turned green and looked a bit annoyed. It so happened that the Fundacion Liberdad and a bunch of former Hispanic and LA presidents were meeting in town for a discussion on the challenges in LA. Some of the cohort is staying in my hotel, and a few have a rather dubious past it seems (remember this is LA) and a rather extremely liberal concept in mind when it comes to people rights and money. This does explain the politisation. People need to care for their future.

[img height=480 width=640]http://i130.photobucket.com/albums/p278/ZeFrenchie/Argentina/Argentina_March2008_001.jpg[/img]
Frenchie - Train à Grande Vitesse

Re: Tales of a traveller: Such a rewarding experience...
« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2008, 02:38:26 pm »
My new avatar is a picture of me on a SS racing across the site -- I was not allowed to cycle outside the compound because, as written earlier Argentina is Fangio's country as SP is Senna's, and I could easily pay the price for my naivety of the local roads! A pity. But I still had fun on one of thye guys brakeless (well it was effectively brakeless) SS. So to keep fit I have to run, which the local timetable easily permits early in the morning.

[img height=480 width=640]http://i130.photobucket.com/albums/p278/ZeFrenchie/Argentina/CopyofArgentina_March27th2008_009.jpg[/img]

To my left (back) is one of the small research reactors, BTW.
Frenchie - Train à Grande Vitesse

Flying_Monkey

Re: Tales of a traveller: Such a rewarding experience...
« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2008, 11:39:25 am »
Very interesting, Frenchie. I am going to be a visiting prof in Brazil for 4 months next year. I'd like to viist Argentina whilst I am there and am thinking of organising a conference in Buenos Aires on surveillance and social control. No doubt the dubious past (and present...) or both many South American countries will be discussed...

Re: Tales of a traveller: Such a rewarding experience...
« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2008, 03:00:29 pm »
My partner is Brazilian so I know the place rather well; if you need any help. I have visited several of the top universities there too (USP, UFRGS, UFSC, UNICAMP, UnB). I should be in SP later on this week. Fala Portugues?

I am currently visiting Rosario and having a great time, even if, in my (technical) field, I have to think about resources whenever I propose something. I have access to codes and very large computers at work which are here inexistant.

PS There was a discussion here locally on the theme of: How do you trust the Police when the Police does not abide by the law and is the "criminal".
Frenchie - Train à Grande Vitesse

Re: Tales of a traveller: Adidas Country?
« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2008, 03:12:39 pm »
Sun March 30th, 11:00. Rarely have I seen a country so embodied by a brand. Yes, Nike are trying their best with a fancy concept store on the main shopping street in Rosario and Diego Armando wore Pumas, but Argentina's heart belong to Adidas. The national strips it the brand strips too well and most people are happily wearing them on their trainers. And Adidas here, non content with being very present, is also big and bold. You wouldn't miss those strips on clothing and trainers. There is one exception though: Converse and their local copies are hugely popular too. It is probably due to the rather nice weather, which explains why a pair of converse and jeans, short or long, are the teenager and student clothing of choice.
Frenchie - Train à Grande Vitesse

Flying_Monkey

Re: Tales of a traveller: Such a rewarding experience...
« Reply #5 on: March 30, 2008, 03:41:27 pm »
My partner is Brazilian so I know the place rather well; if you need any help. I have visited several of the top universities there too (USP, UFRGS, UFSC, UNICAMP, UnB). I should be in SP later on this week. Fala Portugues?

Not at all! Well, not apart from a choice selection of swearwords I picked up from playing in a Brazilian football team. I am going to be based between the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and the Catholic University of Parana in Curitiba...

Quote
PS There was a discussion here locally on the theme of: How do you trust the Police when the Police does not abide by the law and is the "criminal".

Quite. The problems we supposedly have with surveillance and civil liberties do rather pale into insignificance when gangs of police kill street children...

Re: Tales of a traveller: Such a rewarding experience...
« Reply #6 on: March 30, 2008, 03:59:33 pm »
Learn a bit... I speak it well now, and it is very handy. People generally understand but if you want to make them at ease and get by when in the street, it will be useful. I am visiting a couple of schools/unis in the SP area next week and I was asked to give my talk in Portugues if I could in one place.

Rio, hummm... watch out. Curitiba is very nice and very European. You'll have a shock when you commute from Rio. Very different styles.
Frenchie - Train à Grande Vitesse

Re: Tales of a traveller: I thought of Hummer
« Reply #7 on: March 30, 2008, 04:45:28 pm »
Sat. March 29th, 14:00. I thought of Hummer. I don't know why. Maybe the picture below seen on the window of a local rugby shop following St Patrick's Day is for something in this... Rugby arrived here with the British, so did polo, and is in fact much more present in the South where the British settled as land owners and in BA.

Frenchie - Train à Grande Vitesse

Re: Tales of a traveller: La Hora dela Siesta
« Reply #8 on: March 31, 2008, 03:15:17 am »
Sunday, March 30th, 14:00 & 20:00. La hora dela siesta.I went for a run earlier today. The streets seemed to belong to a ghost town. I saw dogs. They too were asleep. I am exaggerating a bit here; there were also some humans, and they were comfortably slouched in the chairs at the terraces of cafes, in the shade. I run and run along until I hit the river bank at the Planetarium, and followed the river back toward my hotel. I entered the park and suddenly the whole town was there, in front of me, grabbing as much tree shade as possible, enjoying ice cream and listening to the game(s) on the car radios, with the door open. It seemed like a fairground, noisy and with the ice cream and pop corn sales people. The river bank and some of it old infrastructures have been reclaimed by the town population and turned into bars, cafes and areas of leisure where to spend the Sunday, starting with the early afternoon siesta. When people first mentioned this to me I thought it was an exaggeration. It is; to an extent. But people still work following the pace of the weather. Lunches are eaten late, last long; dinners are also eaten very late and working days start and end late(r) too. Maybe people are less materially equipped than their European and Northern American counterparts, but they enjoy life and live it at a pleasant pace. It is a bit surprising at first, but one could easily get accustomed to it and enjoy a daily siesta!
Frenchie - Train à Grande Vitesse

Re: Tales of a traveller: "Big" Ideas
« Reply #9 on: April 01, 2008, 03:19:34 am »
Monday March 31st. "Big" ideas. Students' elections are happening soon at UNR. In the student's common, room can be found the highest density of students at times, all busy hand painting large posters. The messages are bold, philosophical and very Latin American -- a certain native of Rosario, known by the three letters "Che" after a common Argentinean expression, would be very proud. I joke with a colleague: "This is (nearly) Karl Marx!", looking at one of the banners. The text is indeed laudable but rather high level and potentially vague. This gets me thinking at we all enjoy a Milaneza at the terrace of the University restaurant, in the shade. I suggest that one of the differences I note between the UK (Europe) and here is that "we" are more pragmatic where Latin American politics still appears very idealistic. It is not a criticism; rather a quick, broad-brush statement. Ideals are good and we certainly seem to be missing some back "home"; but a more down-to-earth message against which one can get measured is necessary to run a "business". I wonder whether the message is also accessible to all. Furthermore Latin American politicians do not have a good record when it comes to philanthropy and ideals, in particular after they have reached power. Reality kicks in and the difficulties in implementing an ideal, let alone a plan, appear together with bad habits in some instances. Yet this higher level type of political message and political ideal reflect the aspiration of what I described earlier as an engaged and politicised region. I wish in a way that we did have a bit of that though: Principles. Nowhere's perfect.
Frenchie - Train à Grande Vitesse

Re: Tales of a traveller: The Train Station
« Reply #10 on: April 01, 2008, 03:36:11 am »
Monday March 31st, 16:00. It strikes me that the building where I am giving my talk today looks like a train station. I had always accessed it via the main court yard, but as the courtyard is undergoing a major re-work today we walked through the back, along a platform and under a very Victorian cover. My colleagues confirm that this was indeed a British built train station. It suddenly hits me that the wooden-laid path across the grass is made of old sleepers.

[img height=480 width=640]http://i130.photobucket.com/albums/p278/ZeFrenchie/Argentina/Argentina_March312008_002.jpg[/img]

The station master has left many moons ago unfortunately and together with the last train the railway had gone as well. The station has however stood the test of time and is still waiting for hypothetical travellers. The timetable could easily be imagined by the station door.


 
The University Hydraulics Lab is what used to be a warehouse, located opposite the station and its courtyard. It too is a beautiful building which maim features have remained.

[img height=480 width=640]http://i130.photobucket.com/albums/p278/ZeFrenchie/Argentina/Argentina_March312008_005.jpg[/img]

In the meantime with the trains away, there is little sign of any activity. As I prepare myself for my talk I just notice the hockey team getting ready for their game. Another European heritage, and a strong one. The girls mean business.

[img height=480 width=640]http://i130.photobucket.com/albums/p278/ZeFrenchie/Argentina/Argentina_March312008_006.jpg[/img]
Frenchie - Train à Grande Vitesse

Re: Tales of a traveller: Bank Holiday
« Reply #11 on: April 02, 2008, 04:14:25 am »
Wednesday April 2nd 2008, 00:11. Bank Holiday. Today is a bank holiday in Argentina. 26 years ago the Argentinean troops invaded las Malvinas. It doesn´t seem that everyone agrees with it being a bank holiday I understand as there´s an element of shame attached to that event for part of the population, yet there´s definitely a deep scar in that bit of land being foreign. Let´s see what the next few hours show me. On June 14th 1982 the war was over with the Argentinean troops thrown back out and defeated. This defeat accelerated the end of the military dictatorship with the first free elections in 7 years held in 1983 and the return to democracy.
Frenchie - Train à Grande Vitesse

Re: Tales of a traveller: Hope you are not missing me too much!
« Reply #12 on: April 08, 2008, 06:50:16 pm »
 ;D

I am in Brazil. In Brasilia today. 29C and a bit humid. Back home and at work in the next days.
Frenchie - Train à Grande Vitesse

rudolph

Re: Tales of a traveller: Such a rewarding experience...
« Reply #13 on: April 19, 2008, 07:11:11 pm »
Frenchie, your comments about the country where I was born and where I graduated are the most unbiased and non-patronising I've ever read written by an European.

Well, I thought I must let you know that.

Flying_Monkey

Re: Tales of a traveller: Such a rewarding experience...
« Reply #14 on: April 20, 2008, 12:04:55 pm »
Keep it going Frenchie, I am enjoying the architectural and political comment - as well as the hockey-playing girls who bring back all sorts of school memories...  :-[ :P ;)

Re: Tales of a traveller: Such a rewarding experience...
« Reply #15 on: April 24, 2008, 11:09:12 pm »
Frenchie, your comments about the country where I was born and where I graduated are the most unbiased and non-patronising I've ever read written by an European.

Well, I thought I must let you know that.

Thank you.

I am reasonably well travelled and like to position myself, where I can, as the invisible observer, on my own, armed with my small camera, something I do as much as I can when I travel for work. It's my way of seing the world, of combining work with pleasure, which I prefer to big organised tourist things. In Argentina it is easy for me.

I am also somebody who notices things; details in particular. My ex-wife would confirm; she did remind me recently.

I really enjoy Argentina and Brazil, which I visit often. I am also now a visiting Professor at the University of Rosario where I have accepted to direct, in kind, the thesis of one PhD student and the work of a final year student, who should work under my direction toward a PhD from 2009-2010 onward.
Frenchie - Train à Grande Vitesse

Re: Tales of a traveller: Such a rewarding experience...
« Reply #16 on: April 24, 2008, 11:20:32 pm »
When I arrived in Rosario, the government had just angered the famers and land owners. With the soaring price of soya among others, local farmers have been doing well in and around Rosario in particular. That part of the country used to be famous for its cattle industry, but soya now dominates the landscape and the local port is very busy. The main consequence was that meat was running out, due to road blockages by the farming organisations. What disappointment! After a few days it was entrecot or nothing. Yet, it is a nice cut and I enjoyed a lot of it. One evening, coming back late to the hotel, from Siberia (you couldn't make it), the remote campus of UNR, I noted a demonstration around the Bolsa do Commercio disbanding. A large amount of flyers were left over; peronists. The demonstration was against the demonstrators (farmers). That too you couldn't make it!

Frenchie - Train à Grande Vitesse