Survivor Salvador: day one dedicated to James Mattingley

I’m generally up for an adventure, but this short sojourn outside New Zealand has been more consistently challenging than most.

After sprinting to catch my connecting flight in the vast Dubai airport I arrived in Brazil to find my luggage was still in Dubai. Thankfully the very nice people at Emirates gave me fifty dollars for some clean underwear and shampoo.

Arriving late at night to your destination is always a gamble but I felt confident, and the city was all shiny after fresh rain.  My terrifyingly efficient taxi driver whisked me to my charming pousada abode, and this where I began to feel like I was in an improvisational theatre game.

My receptionist didn’t speak a word of English, and I not a word of Portuguese, this would all have been fine if my credit card worked and I hadn’t just flown for 30 hours. Luckily he took pity on me and I was entrusted a room for the night. I thought this was jolly good of him, as I must’ve looked like a flight risk without any bags. 

After beautiful sleep, clean sheets and this charming view from my balcony when I woke up, I felt ready for anything.

Pousada charme fonte do boi, Salvador

Pousada charme fonte do boi, Salvador

Armed with a - not quite detailed enough- map to guide me I set out for the pre conference postgraduate day somewhere in Rio Vermelho. I made it to the beach before some kind woman took pity on this wandering stranger, turned me around and popped me on a bus. The closest landmark to my destination was a hospital, so as she yelled directions to the bus driver my fellow passengers leaned away from me.

I found the hospital, but couldn’t see the desired Centro de Pesquisas Goncalo Moniz. Seeking advice from a taxi driver and expecting to be driven, I was instead passed between armed policemen who escorted me through a winding labyrinth of official buildings and a vet clinic’s animal compound. I got there, slightly late, and more than slightly sweaty.  So began a morning of engaging discussion.

Like most good discussions you can leave with more questions than answers. I also got a few telling facts.

There are fewer science communication programmes in the US than in all of Canada.

What makes a science communicator? This is the professional version of ‘who am I?’ However unanswerable it is still worth asking.  Is it a scientist with a crash course in communication, a journalist or communication specialist with a crash course in science? I don’t really think we should be asking our scientists, our lab lovers to also be social media whizzes and bloggers. I’d rather they allocated a tiny bit in their budget so I could come in and talk, translate, and publicize their work for them.

This time I took the conference bus back to the hotel -the one that everyone else had come in - and a merry band of us went out for lunch. For this vegetarian in Brazil this consisted of a lot of beer and some French fries. The company more than made up for it.

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