March 21, 2007
A crazy hectic day. We spent the morning touring a steel mill where they produce steel pipe use in the natural gas and oil industry as well as for hydraulic cylinder bodies. It was extremely interesting for me, particularly since the environment was very similar to our own Ford Foundry. The Manager who gave us the tour said that I must work in medical when I told him about my experience in the foundry. His face fell when I told him what I do; there are no women working in this plant other than in management positions. We had some discussions about this but I’m not hopeful that things will change there any time soon.
After lunch we visited the October 7 school. This is their union education center like our Port Elgin. It is named the October 7 school in memory of a strike in 1963 where 33 workers were killed and 3,000 injured. I was impressed with the facilities and the programs offered. The problem is they had a very long power point presentation about their programs that once translated took over 2 ½ hours at the end of a long hot day. Needless to say we were struggling to look attentive and not offend our hosts while our insides were screaming.
Then it was back to the hotel for a quick shower and off to Rita’s for a home cooked meal. From my readings I had learned that Brazilians mainly entertain outside the home in restaurants, and that it is a great honour to be invited to the home for a meal. I made sure I shared that information with our delegation so that we would all appreciate the special status we were given here. And we had a blast! Rita cooked us a traditional Brazilian meal, and even though there were beans and rice the rice was better than any we’d had so far. Her son Tom joined us, and at 21 years old and an electrical student he was very charming and made his Mom proud. Tanja was trying to teach us Samba for tomorrow night, and it was hysterical! Let’s just say we had to translate “frog in a blender” to describe me and my lack of rhythm.
So a late night, got in about 12:30. Tomorrow we get to sleep in as we don’t have to leave until 9:30. :)
March 22, 2007
Holy Hannah, I’ve been here for a week already. And I still can’t speak Portugese. Ok, I can say hello, and thank you, and shoes, but other than that I’m stuck.
We spent our morning at a round table discussion with the Brazilian delegation. This was our chance to answer any unanswered questions on both sides. They presented us with a gift each of a brazilian woman statue that I will cherish. I can’t decide if it’s better displayed in my office or my home but I will absolutely cherish it no matter where I end up putting it. I can’t believe the close bonds we’ve made with these women despite the language barriers. There were tears shed and laughs laughed.
After lunch (I actually passed on the beans and rice and filled up on other side dishes) we attended a meeting of CUT (pronounced “coot”), the equivalent of our Labour Congress. We were under the impression that we were there to observe, but we were put on the spot when they asked us if we would like to present our issues to the group we couldn’t turn it down without being inappropriate. So our fearless leader Annie asked us who wanted to go first in a valiant effort to get one of us to take the heat. Unfortunately for her we all deferred to her status as “fearless leader” and her backback full of previous campaign pamphlets for display and her infinite knowledge of international issues (she’s been on a gazillion of these trips and the rest of us are all virgins) so Annie fell on her sword for us. And she did an amazing job, you’d never know that we had no idea that we would be expected to give a presentation. There’s a lesson here for me; study your materials as you never know when you’ll be called upon!
So with tonight being Samba night we headed back to the hotel but on foot. But this meant walking past many shops and you know what happens there. Yup; more retail therapy! But I did find an awesome little t-shirt to wear with my black capris and my new Skidoo yellow “hot mamasita” shoes. Got to the hotel with 45 minutes to get ready.
We had a great time at the Samba place, where we had a bite to eat and some drinks with several women from the delegation as well as some from the CUT. Rita showed up later with her son as a driver. Tanja and I were doing some mean Samba (ok, I think mine was “mean”, Tanja may not agree! LOL) Again lots of laughs and another late night. Not to mention that it’s now 1:15, I haven’t packed yet and I have to be packed and ready to go by 7am tomorrow. Good thing we’ve all agreed that whoever gets up first gives everyone else a wake up call! Lol