Monday was one of the big days. We held seminars all day, from about 0900 to 1500 hours. Breakfast was fairly early and just before the chef began cooking omelettes. I was disappointed, a bit, but the various breads were quite good.
I might remark that the coffee here is just OK. It is brewed in a way that is unfamiliar to me. I expect that if I lived here I’d have to find a good source of beans, learn to roast my own, and then grind and brew my own coffee.
Along that line of thought, coca mate is legal here in Bolivia. Coca Mate is made from the raw leaves of the Coca plant, meaning that it contains a small amount of coca alkaloids. While we were working on our presentations Sunday afternoon, I brewed some coca mate using the hot water and tea bags provided by the hotel and added just a bit of sucralose. It is a very good tea and I enjoyed it a great deal.
Unfortunately, I cannot bring the tea home with me. It’s illegal in the United States. Also, I’ll now test positive for cocaine, although I have had none of the refined drug. I don’t actually care because the experience of tasting this wonderful tea is worth the risk of not passing a drug test.
Back to my story — we had two translators provided by the US Embassy. They are sufficiently skilled to do simultaneous translation while we are speaking. Those speaking in Spanish are translated into English and vice versa. It works amazing well… if the speaker remembers to pace him/herself such that the translators can keep up.
The morning sessions went well. One of our speakers was the head of a local resource agency, SEARPI. He is an experienced, animated speaker who has good command of his material. Even without being able to understand Spanish, his delivery of his material was highly entertaining and I enjoyed his talk. The translation was good enough that I was able to follow along.
After his talk, he invited those of us from the States to his home for dinner. That will have to be another story, I think.
Lunch was also fun. He sat down with us and one of our hosts (from Tarija) is fluent in both languages. So we were able to have a lively discussion over sandwiches.
My talk came right after lunch. I learned that I can still put them to sleep with the help of a food-induced coma. The room was warm and I was working to pace my talk to keep from getting ahead of the translators. I listened to the translation in my right ear with the volume down so I could track the translator. That worked well, although my pace was a bit slower than I usually use. It worked, nonetheless (unless you count putting them to sleep not working).
After the talks, it was time to mingle. One of the professors from Catolica Universidad Santa Cruz greeted me and we chatted a bit (small bit) in his broken English and my broken Spanish. I have his card and if I get back down here will attempt to spend some time with him discussing his work and students. A number of others asked for a photograph and then we did a group photograph under the university emblem.
Ing. Aquilera volunteered to drive us back to the hotel and we graciously accepted. That meant we had time between the seminar and supper to rest a bit. I did and it was good.
Today I’ll meet with a group of students (with my colleagues), spend some time with the dean of engineering here in Santa Cruz, and fly to Tarija this evening for more meetings tomorrow. I will have to write up my supper story in a second entry. I also need to retrieve photographs from my camera and choose some of the best.