Porto Alegre
Porto Alegre, Brazil is the host city for the 2014 world conference of the International Society for Music Education. Uncharacteristically lax in my preparations, I allowed colleagues to arrange most of the trip, and agreed to it all without fully paying attention. Things at work were so crazy that anything beyond the immediate future seemed fascinating but unimaginably surreal.

I find myself on a plane to Miami, making an apparently urgent phone call to distant cousin who, tracking me on Facebook, got wind of my Colorado expedition and asks if he can have a jacket modeled by one of his favourite HBO stars delivered to my hotel in Fort Collins. Baffled, I agree, and spend the flight negotiating vigorously between my laptop’s battery life, the ridiculously over-reclined seat of the guy in front, and the pressing need to come up with five coherent presentations in under 48 hours (how the hell were they ALL accepted by the conference committee?! This never happens, and isn’t even allowed).

The overnight Miami layover is humid and brief, but features an excellent salad. After a run and some weights to take the sting out of the impending 16 hours on a plane, I pack wringing-wet gym clothes into an Asda carrier bag, bury them deep in my suitcase, and board the flight to Porto Alegre. Although the gate information monitors says we’re flying to Curitiba, my boarding pass works, so I keep quiet. The plane then indeed pauses in Curitiba, where the passengers “de-plane” (since when did we cease merely to disembark?!), visit the restrooms (a far-fetched euphemism that bemuses me time and again) and re-board for Porto Alegre.

The Brazilian authorities allow me through Passport Control without troubling themselves over the two vital immigration documents I painstakingly completed midair, and I am jostled into a taxi manned by an aspiring (or maybe retired) getaway driver. At close to 100 mph, with tyres screeching and pedestrians scattering we hurtle towards the city centre, the driver’s broken Portuguese distorted by the voice box that he holds to his laryngectomized throat. Outside Rua General Andrade Neves 90 at 11.30 pm I over-pay the cabbie, then my Floridian colleague Clint greets me in his pyjamas in the Air B ‘n’ B apartment he found online. I hand him $350 in cash for my room, and he gives me the tour. There is no heating, no cold water (although we do have warm), and no towels. The dimly lit bathroom is muddy and hairy. On the upside, my plug adaptor for the laptop works, and Clint successfully did a load of laundry that afternoon. From his balcony you can see most of the city and can access every other room in the apartment. None of the doors have locks. We have blankets, though, so in the absence of roommate Joe I assign myself the bed furthest from the window and curl up. It’s winter in Porto Alegre, and cold.

 

 

One Response to “Visiting Porto Alegre”

  1. I just love the way you write xx

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