Friday, June 05, 2009

Africa at war. Today, I gave a lecture to the International Relations dept at UNP (basically, Natal’s second university) on the subject of Africa at war: reflections on Somalia, Sudan and Chad. One of my students, Artur, is training to be a diplomat and we’ve struck up a good friendship. I suggested it and he made it happen. He also translated for me and did a good job of it too.

I didn’t really have nerves, even when Artur was 45 minutes late for our agreed meeting time. I used to break out in a cold sweat over lateness of that magnitude but I’m accustomed to it now. When the Director of the International Relations dept appeared (15 minutes late) I was astonished to find that he was the jovial chap who lived on the 11th floor of our apartment block. Lots of hugs and back-slapping ensued. I recognized several of the 30 or so students that were there for the talk. Had they been students at Cultura? Time to move on, I say, when you begin to feel you know the whole city.

Natal 2014. I mentioned a few days ago that Natal will host some games from the World Cup, the city has been abuzz with people vocalizing their thoughts on the momentous occasion. The current Mayor is pushing for everything to be completed by 2013 – one year early – so she can be the one to milk the praise before her term finishes and someone else comes in. This being Brazil, I highly doubt it will be ready one year early, however. The local newspaper estimated R5 billion (UKP1.5 billion) will enter the city in the lead up to the World Cup. Various people I know are rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of work, business opportunities or simply getting to watch a football match. Generally people are very happy Natal was chosen and hope to see a corresponding improvement in transport, health and sports facilities. Steve, my ever-enterprising father-in-law, is already thinking of how to market the services of the language school to Natal’s population as a preparation for the arrival of English-speaking tourists.

Life lesson learned: don’t let a stranger take a photo of you sleeping. On Sunday, we visited a fantastic mini-farm on the edge of Natal which has events for kids as well as the usual animals to see. Cultura had a stall there so we spent the whole day in gorgeous weather enjoying the facilities. Late in the afternoon, Gloria fell asleep on my lap and I nodded off too. A picture of my daughter and I having our nap has since appeared on the farm’s official site. D’oh!

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