Cuba: Day 1
    I woke up to the chatter of hordes of school children in the street outside the front of the hotel. There's an elementary school across the street.

    (You can right click and select "view image" to see the full sized version)

    Breakfast was served in the rooftop cafe which provided a really good city vista. Most of the buildings are very old and in disrepair and at first glance across the city, it looks a bit like a war zone But when you look closer, everything seem quite... organic. The rundown appearance has more to do with lack of consistency in materials, the lack of superficial decoration like paint, and because of individual modifications and repairs. In this respect it's quite beautiful.

    Not knowing exactly where the Instituto de Literatura y Lingüistica -- the host organization and site of the conference -- was, we got a cab to take us there. The conference was largely a pretext for going to Cuba, both for me and for Mike. Not that my presentation wasn't actual, valid work, but the fact that I chose to present it at this particular conference...

    The Institute itself is a grand old building complete with pillars and a central atrium.

    I very quickly gave up on the talks which were all in Spanish. I felt kind of out of place and not a little intimidated by lack of language skills in this environment. And because I'm an English speaker I felt kind of like an asshole -- like one of those Americans that expects to go anywhere in the world and be able to speak English. Of course I'm not that on a number of scores, but at least at first, no one could know that.

    The original call for papers said that abstracts for talks in English and Spanish would be accepted, which suggested to me that there would be about half and half English and Spanish. After Mike decided to do his presentation in Spanish (for the first time) and the guy from Israel didn't show up, mine was the only English talk.

    [The talk powerpoint and paper]

    Fortunately, my topic leant itself to graphic representation and so it was actually quite well received and I got some pretty positive feedback afterwards which made me feel a lot better.

    It wasn't really that far from the hotel to the Institute so we walked back, had dinner and called it a night! We were pretty exhausted by then.