Thursday, 7 March 2013

Another packed day in Sao Paulo!

I met Andre (the professor who wrote the SCALE-UP grant) at the USP (University of Sao Paulo) relatively early this morning and was definitely impressed by the beauty of the campus.  UnB was a huge university, sprawling all over the city and not too well contained.  However, USP had a relatively secluded, very green campus… you won’t even know it was in the middle of the crazy city. 
I learned that physics is a huge program- over 140 faculty members in 6 disciplines/buildings.  Unfortunately the SCALE-UP grant didn’t get funded this round and he thinks the size and traditionally-minded instructors will make it difficult to adopt SCALE-UP.  So we had a nice chat and four other physics professors joined us for lunch at the campus cafeteria (I wish my college food was that good!).  Fortunately for exhausted me, lunch was followed by coffee.  Brazilians are crazy about their coffee (even though I’ve met a surprising number of Brazilians who don’t drink it).  Here, they served your shot of espresso with a shot of mineral water “to cleanse the palate” and a crystallized orange rind.  I took a picture because it was so elaborate but then I deleted it by accident…
My talk went well and it’s nice to be done giving talks for awhile.  It was the smallest attendance so far (~20-30 but it didn’t seem well-advertised either) but everyone stayed and asked questions for 20-30 minutes afterwards.  One graduate student is currently studying condensed matter but he said my talk made him want to do Scientists without Borders in the US and spend a year with my research group, which is cool.
After that, Ivan and David met me at my hotel and we hit up the last major attraction I wanted to see in Sao Paulo- Parque Ibirapuera… which is a huge park with a river, ponds, fountains and some museums.  All the museums were closed by the time we got there but it was a nice walk, nice chat and nice to get fresh air before we spent 90 minutes in traffic getting out of the city.  David actually lives with two American missionaries so his English was great and he’s hoping to work on a cruise ship.  He thought I was hilarious, especially when I tried to speak Portuguese.  I taught them the word “stuffy” and they loved that word.  They taught me “What's up, brother?” so I could be cool when I got to Rio but I already forgot.  And supposedly the accent in Rio is really strange which I’m not looking forward to- I already noticed dramatic differences in the pronunciation between Sao Paulo and Brasilia.  I asked the two of them where they would travel anywhere in the world and by the end of our time together, David was convinced he wanted to go to “North Caroline” to visit me even though I told him Raleigh was a nice place to visit but a boring place to live.  So it was an absolute pleasure to spend my last few hours with them.    .  The fun cab ride back stood in sharp contrast to when the cab driver first picked me up- 90 minutes of awkward silence as I listened to “sexual healing” and other awkward soft rock tunes on the radio.
Ivan and I

Boys being awkward in front of Estatua dos Bandeirantes

David and I in front of a lion in the park
Ok, I’ve gotta head out soon.  I had an easy flight to Rio but I booked a hotel in a random place far away.  Interesting architecture and historic building but it’s in the middle of nowhere, slow internet that you need to pay for and no hot water in the shower!  So I will have had one nice, warm shower in the 16 days I spent in Brazil.  Today is my tour to all of Rio’s most famous sights but I told them the wrong hotel for some reason so I have to get to this other place… Wish me luck!