Friday, March 18, 2011


Yesterday I volunteered to represent this Techical Specialization Centre (loosely translated there) at a show of several similar schools and universities. Basically, what it was for was introducing people, old and young alike, to the opportunities the country has available for their betterment and pursuit of career. It got me wishing they'd done something similar 10 years ago and saved me a lot of grief.

So I get there and they hand me a white t-shirt with the school's logo on it. Logo might be an over-statement. It was a blotch of ink about the half the length of my pinky. 'Ok,' I thought, 'at least we'll have balloons.

View from our stall
We didn't have balloons. Well, we did but there were three of them and they were all icky with something. We had no pens, no paper roses, no nothing. Except plastic calendar cards. I made do.

Got to see the backstage of something

I put on my least frightening face and decided to make the least interesting booth the Calendar Booth. I soon realized many people were strolling past us and eyeing them calendars so I decided to use them as bait. At a certain point this circa 14 year old geek/nerd-ish boy passed by, on the rear of his circle of friends. He made the mistake of making eye contact. I beckoned him and he shyly approach. 'Take one,' I said. 'You know you want to.' You should've seen the look on his face.

Eventually we got to leave the stall to cruise around the pavillions. I must say, Portugal has a wide variety of choices to pursue other than colleges. I never knew. The college pavillion was desolate and depressing. There were few booths and fewer people in them. College people will always have fun however and whenever they can, especially if you leave them alone to their own devices with a sound system (meaning, fat guys dancing topless to speaker cheering). A small note about academic dress in Portugal. It's hot. That doublet-like thingy just gets me all flustered. Must convince Mike to wear his again.

Massages and men in leotards
But our pavillion had the people from clown school, from robot school, from lifeguard school, from the army, from the navy, from beauty school, fashion school, cooking school, you get the picture. We had cocktails and fruit kebabs; we wad mimes (shudder) and models; we had free massages and free waxings; we had people interviewing each other and we had robots; we had an Adidas booth where you could kick a ball and we had consoles with FPSs and PES. It was fun. And I had calendars.

There were also representatives from several radio stations and paper merchants. Two stages provided the setting for some interesting cultural displays. Apart from the occasional fashion show and contemporary dancing display, the radio stations cooked up a few dance-offs. Dancing in Portugal, as in every other country, can take a variety of forms. Having been a colonialist country until recently, we've always had a great influx of african immigrants, of which I am a direct consequence. This has inevitably led to a massive cultural influence from all things african, be it music, dance or food. You'll hear about mainstream international musicians talking of going back to their roots but none do so quite like ours (<- oh please do click). Not to say that I enjoy it - because I don't - but it's still true. So, to the sound of these african derived sounds they had a dance-off with one of the afore mentioned academically atired men and the sons of immigrants. 'Twas awesomely fun.

Most of my time was spent cruising the other booths trying to smooch off pens and organizers and, in the end, I was sad that it was over. It wasn't a task that anyone that knows me would guess I was comfortable with, what with me having to actually interact with people, but I quite enjoyed it. It was a change of pace. It reminded me that I'm still young and that there is life beyond boredom and videogames. And balloons.

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