Saturday, March 20, 2010

Peru Halftime Report

It's Saturday morning and exactly one week ago I was sitting in the Nashville airport waiting for my flight to Atlanta, then on to Lima. It's 8:30 am and I am sitting in the Lima airport waiting for my flight to Cusco. It's been a crazy week and a lot of great stuff has happened. Yesterday morning I woke from a dream in Spanish. It's been a while since I have dreamt in Spanish and I miss it.
I gave my presentation yesterday afternoon, and it's hard to be one of the last presenters in a conference. Most people are burnt out on papers and just want to get out and play. Others give their papers at the beginning of the conference and don't even stick around for the end of it. My session was right after lunch. All four of the presenters were there at the appointed start time, but nobody else. We waited eight minutes for anyone to appear, and then began, with the first presenter speaking only to us. One person showed up halfway through her paper, and then the people I had recruited to come listen to my presentation began trickling in. Hint: if you are going to attend a conference like this, it is usually wise to network by attending several other sessions and making friends with those presenters. Let them know you were interested in their work (even if you weren't) and they'll usually return the favor by attending your session, if only for your paper. People are also tired enough that Q&A or discussion is extremely limited by that point. Nobody had any questions for any of our presenters, so our session ended ten minutes early.
Last night was the last official night of the conference and we had the optional “cena de despedida” billed as a traditional Peruvian meal. I have been here nearly a week, and I have been eating traditional Peruvian food the entire time, so I was rather disappointed that I paid 3 times more than what the meal was worth. The one benefit was that I got to socialize with other colleagues. I met several people who teach at different universities in Utah, and we actually know some of the same people. It's quite fun to build networks and see my degrees of separation get smaller and smaller. Most likely, within another year or so, I will be encountering several of the colleagues from this conference at other conferences. It reminds me of David Lodge's novel, Small World.
After dinner, we were on our own to get back to the hotel, and a couple of the colleagues that I met at dinner wanted to get out and see something of Lima. (They arrived Thursday night, and has spent the entire day in the conference.) Having stayed in Miraflores for the first part of the week, I felt familiar and confident enough to recommend a couple of different options. All of my suggestions were shot down, and we ended up going back to El Barranco, the “area bohemia” where I had the privilege of seeing Uchpa in concert. After getting out of the cab, we went right instead of left, and ended up at the ocean. Our path was blocked by a stretch of solitary, dark walkway in which we could see the outlines of a couple of young men lurking. We outnumbered them 5 to 2, but three of our party were women, so it just wasn't worth the risk. We never got closer than 75 feet, and stayed well within the lit portion of the walkway.
After a week in Lima, I feel fairly comfortable with the geography of Miraflores, and have a vague idea of the location of a few of the more significant landmarks in Lima: the airport, Catholic University, El Barranco, the LDS Temple, and a couple of artisan fairs. I am most disappointed that I never made it to the centro, but time just didn't allow. I'll post this afternoon's adventure in another post later tonight. Now I have to get on the plane for Cusco.

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