Two full days of conferencing got a bit overwhelming, or rather a bit tiring as I struggled to keep my eyes open all day today! I seem to be allergic to South American mozzies and unbeknown to me they had a big feeding fest on both my legs from knee down. I felt nauseous sitting in the University exhibition stand at around 40 degree heat without air conditioning for 7 hours straight. The delegation of 12 has been taking turns in manning the exhibition stand here but for some strange reason I was rostered for all of Wednesday – which was both good and bad. Good in the sense it was in the middle of the week so I could take a bit of a rest, and bad in the sense I wanted to be anywhere else but. The crowd subsided substantially after the first couple of days – I guess most of the people who wanted to make the rounds would have already done so, and the fact that this area is not air conditioned (the steel warehouse is really just a giant sauna – which can be good for detox purposes for the first 20 minutes or so, but after that you run into all sorts of problems, like splitting headache, dehydration, irritation, stomach ache, loss of appetite, and nausea). I had to wear jeans  and cover myself in DEET, which was admittedly too little but too late, but I had to brace myself for spending the whole day in the exhibition area which was a known breeding ground for mosquitoes. I really don’t mean to complain, and I guess like with any experience, you have your highs and the lows.

I managed to sneak out at lunchtime to attend what I expected to be a comprehensive session on “how architects and engineers can respond in a disaster”, but it turned out to be all in Portuguese and there were no translation headphones available so I went to another session instead, which turned out to be great, and not just because there was full catering and air conditioning at the venue! It was called, “Refugees, Displacements & Emergencies in Cities”. As ignorant as this sounds, and even after having been aware of the stigmatism the refugees and IDPs tend to be subjected to, I don’t think I fully understood (in the sense that I hear, but I don’t listen enough) how serious the problem is. A good majority of refugees tend to be highly skilled workers in disguise who have been subjected to displacement, but who have huge potential for contributing to the economy of the nations they are taking temporary refuge in. The situation of refugees and IDPs will be exacerbated globally as majority of those refugees are concentrated in urban areas, often seen to be in competition for resources with local population who typically tend to be poor and underprivileged as well. Global warming has produced a growing phenomenon of ‘climate refugees’ which will compound the existing refugees of war and natural disasters.

Went out for dinner with the group just around the corner from where we were staying, and after not eating anything other than breakfast for the first few days, I wasn’t too excited at the prospect of eating and the meal just served to fill the gap in order for me to function. They overcook all their vegetables here, and don’t use any spice in their cooking except exorbitant amount of salt. People were shouting out for Wattie’s ketchup. I miss home!


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