Day 2

I presented my paper to a packed room of eager and open conference participants. As usual, I worked myself up into a frenzy just before so by the time I was finished my head was pounding. I had a lovely young woman named Claire-Hélène, an undergraduate in Toronto on my panel as well as Gerdes Fleurant. LeGrace Benson chaired the panel. I went first, Claire-Hélène discussed several themes in Jacques Roumain’s Masters of the Dew and then Gerdes Fleurant came up the rear and pulled everything together. It really is amazing how two people can talk about the same novel, even pick up on the same themes, but conceptualize in totally different ways.

LeGrace decided not to present her paper. The other three of us took too much time, I think. We got some good questions and good discussion going; overall, a great amount of support for our presentations. Several people came up to me later and told me how much they enjoyed both my subject and my style of presentation so that were really encouraging. I guess all those years of practicing making eye contact while remaining true to my words on the page in all their complexity have paid off.

There was a screening of Poto Mitan Friday night and then a cultural program at the art gallery. I can’t say I heard much of what was said by speakers because I was busy reconnecting with Alessandra and talking with one of the film’s producers to see if I could screen Poto Mitan at Penn State. We’ll see.

I had to switch hotels because I messed up my arrangements but it was relatively painless. It was kind of a dingy motel that I ended up in, but it had wireless and the staff was super nice. The room was much bigger than IMU and much cheaper. I had to take a taxi and learned that there is only one taxi service in town. According to my driver, an upwardly middle aged woman, the owner price gouges, pays his drivers by the hour and if they don’t have fares he doesn’t pay them for their time on the lot. When I asked about healthcare, she said, “Don’t even think about that.” I’m thinking opportunities for other sources of income are scarce so she’s stuck being severely exploited.

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