Flying in and first day in Valencia

Background information:

I was awarded a dissertation grant to be specifically used for travel last year. I had a conference paper presented at INTED2013, which is held March 4-6 in Valencia, Spain. And so here I am.  Lucky for me, my spring break is the week after the conference; therefore, my week at a conference got extended to two weeks in Spain. Also lucky, I have a lovely gentleman who I invited to join me and agreed, so I have a partner in crime.

Other than an annoying ticket hiccup (they wouldn’t/couldn’t give Aneel his last boarding pass until Madrid even though I got mine and we were on the same trip, so we had to wait in a frustratingly slow line in Madrid) traveling to Valencia went well. After much appreciated showers and a quick lunch at the hotel (Gorgonzola tortellini), we went on a mission to find Aneel a SIM card. The clerk was funny, and he taught us the Spanish word for safety pin, which, of course, I forgot immediately (imperdible). We went back to the hotel where I very stupidly laid down, and we started trying to figure out a place to eat. Partially because I kept drifting off (and weirdly dreaming), we debated about staying at the hotel. It was 7pm our time, noon at home. I managed to catch a bit of sleep on the plane but nothing sustained because Aneel did not practice his pillow impersonation as much as he should have.

No rest for the wicked, though. We rallied, found a branch of a restaurant recommended in Lonely Planet, and were off. The tapas were only okay, fried Camembert cheese, salmon tartar, lamb for Aneel, and cheesecake. The drinks, however, were delicious. I had a mojtio and a caipirinha that was smoky but not too rough. I crashed very shortly after getting back to the hotel and slept so hard, I was angry when Aneel woke me up me next morning. I thought I hadn’t slept.

So Monday was my first day of the conference. I went for the coffee meet and greet then went to two panels, the first on Impact of Education on Development had good presentations, but I was even more interested in cultural interactions.  There was a pretty intense back and forth between a woman presenting on situational context of northeast India and an co-panel member from Turkey who wanted to draw universal commentary about cultures in general. The presenter wanted to emphasis, no, this was very specific and grounded in northeastern India. No, universal. No, specific. There were also intense comments abut Mexican/United States interactions from a professor from Mexico. (Ha… as a side not from today, I was asked by a gentleman where I was from and when I said I was from the United States, he sneered and said that it wasn’t impressive. He was from Mexico City. I’m me! Not my country!)

Another interesting but distracting part of the conference has been the very short presentation lengths. We can only speak for ten minutes, and they are hardcore about keeping to schedule.  Most people are not prepared for just how few pages this is. The woman from Turkey I mentioned above is one such person. We presented about the uncanny valley and animation, which could have been an interesting presentation, but she didn’t get past the introduction and introducing what uncanny is. Many many many many presenters don’t get through to the interesting conclusions of their topic.

The next panel I went to was Diversity and Ethical Issues. Stand out presentations were “Black Political Action Online” as well as “Positions and Ranks of Female Academics in the Public Universities in Ghana.” Great information overall. Would have preferred more in depth question and answer sessions.  Language has definitely been a barrier.

Lunch was next, not only was the food abundant and good, but the conversation and company was lovely as well. At my table there were women from South Carolina, New York, Germany, Finland, Saudi Arabia, and a man from Saudi Arabia. We covered disciplines including Chemistry, Biology, Engineering, Education, Marketing, and literature (me!). There was a feisty (read uncomfortable) conversation about the hijab the woman from Saudi Arabia was wearing.  International!!

I met up with Aneel in the late afternoon, and we went walking around the historical center-saw lovely architecture, graffiti, decorations for the upcoming festival Fallas. We had coffee and pastries. After getting caught in a downpour, which Aneel astutely prepared for by buying an umbrella when it was only drizzling, we took refuge in Taverna Alkazar and shared paella and wine. Tasty. I had to prepare for my panel this morning so we went back to the hotel, worked, and crashed. I slept for crap. Crap, I tell you.

The conference was exciting; I had so much energy and lots of comments. Hopefully it was jet lag and the rain, but I was feeling fairly useless and annoying during the latter part of the day. I tried doing some Spanish lessons the past two months, but I was not particularly successful. I did learn how to roll my r’s, and I can read somewhat. But I can only speak a little, and I understand spoken even less. So I am relying on Aneel a lot. He is very gracious and helpful, but I don’t particularly like how much I am turning over to him. Moreover, partially because we were using a cheesy and not terribly useful tourist map, I could not get my bearings while trying to navigate the city. More often than not I had no idea which way was which. Oh well. More days to play and learn!

More to come, including how well I rocked my presentation today. Oh, yes. I rocked it. I’m not a superstar at the convention (only in my head). I talked to even more people and made some good contacts!

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