So I am currently lying here at 6:30am thinking about the day ahead. I have been in Rio for less than 12 hours and already I don’t know what to make of it.
Brazil is a country that wants to be invited to major economic summits, that wants to be on the UN security council. Rio is hoping to host the 2016 Olympics and is clearly taking the IAU General Assembly very seriously with various astronomy events going all over the city. However I have to admit that I was shocked driving through Rio last night.
The airport is located North of the city and to get to your hotel you must drive past the Favelas – shanty towns. Whole communities built from wood and breeze blocks without proper sanitation or other amenities. These are the places all tourists are told to avoid, but it is hard to miss them as you fly past on the main road, watching block after block of dark, teetering edifices go by.
Rio has a crime problem and statistically several of the nearly 3,000 astronomers will be mugged this week – apparently some have been already. The trick is not to be one of them. I have no laptop, will carry only my money for the day, and won’t travel alone.
Today we will take the metro to the conference centre and spend the morning in talks. This afternoon is the grand opening ceremony. Rumour has it that the President of Brazil will be speaking. I’m looking forward to getting into the talks now and chatting to all the other astronomers at coffee etc.
As for Rio itself, I plan on taking a better look at the weekend. There is a lot to see and if one has to do it all in daylight then it will mainly have to wait for Saturday and Sunday. Until then: on with the astronomy!