Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Stray dogs in Brazil and engineering events in the UK!

I have to divulge momentarily from my engineering talk and daily life as I had two weeks off work and out of the UK on holiday backpacking around Brazil. At least I thought I would be backpacking around Brazil, before really comprehending how huge the country is! We still managed to see a bit of jungle, lots of waterfalls, beaches and attracted a few very friendly stray dogs along the way around Rio de Janeiro state. 

I won't bore you with the entire details of the journey, but here is a bit of a summary: we stayed in eleven different places including Buzios (which was apparently discovered by Brigitte Bardot and her Brazilian boyfriend) as well as my favourite place, Maromba, where I faced my fears and jumped off a 7 m high cliff into a natural pool. Between the three of us, we consumed about 84 litres of water and 8 litres of Guarana (a Brazilian soft drink… tastes a bit like cherry… turns out they have it in the UK but I had never noticed it before). We had four power cuts; a chance to see the stars properly and gaze into the vast universe. I learned one new card game (El Presidente). I also learned that staring blankly at people because you don't understand Portuguese seems to encourage them to continue talking enthusiastically in Portuguese (I had several great conversations with some old ladies out there, I am not sure what about but I felt a grandmotherly sort of connection). Another important lesson to note is that people set off fireworks when goals are scored during football matches, do not be alarmed by this, the first night I heard it I was in bed trying to sleep and thought it was gunshots so you can imagine my horror. Last but not least, cake featured quite heavily in our hostel breakfasts every day for the entire trip and I did seriously consider continuing that tradition back here… 

Saquarema sunset, 12th February 2014

I'll be honest, I didn't want to come back to the cold and rain of the UK, but I have been back for almost two weeks and it has flown by. As well as being busy with work, I presented alongside and was inspired by five other women engineers last week at the Institute of Chemical Engineers' "Celebrating Women in Chemical, Biochemical and Process Engineering" event. I also attended the Institute of Engineering and Technology annual dinner and got to see one of my favourite science presenters speaking, Professor Jim Al-Khalili. It almost makes up for the cold and rain.

I have a few upcoming events and plans, but I am most excited about the Big Bang Fair (http://www.thebigbangfair.co.uk) in Birmingham in a few weeks! It was so much fun last year and I can't wait to take part again, I really hope the welding with chocolate company is there again so I can improve my welding skills and eat their milky bars.