So my drama at the Sheraton continued up to the last day. They only agreed that my breakfast has been covered the day before I checked out. This is after five days of them telling me that I must pay for my breakfast. Of course I only did that for day one and it costed me a hefty 33CAD, which is R325 in my money. The big issue was not only that it costs that much but that it was not good at all, for that R325 I was given a choice of two cereals and I could not order what I wanted. Okay let me just say the breakfast was nothing close to what Palazzo Hotel in Fourways here at home offers. And the less I say about the service the better. At Palazzo they treated me like a queen and they had no idea who I was and here at the Sheraton Wall Centre they treated me like someone who is lost and needs to be directed to the right place, until I insisted that I stay at the hotel. So my 33CAD was a damn waste! So I went to the supermarket and bought enough oat bran, yogurt and milk supplement. It was okay but their yogurt is not as good as my Woolies favorite – made me miss home more. Now I understand why these international celebrities demand all sorts of things when they are on tour. When one is very very busy and the level of demands and expectations on one’s time is very high then one should just provide the list of what one needs to survive and so that one can deliver on the expectations.
By the way I only got to know that my breakfast was covered only because I kept going to the reception everyday to ask, “Are you sure that you received no payment for my breakfast for the week?” From Monday to Friday morning the answer was an emphatic “No!” and Friday evening they said a lousy, “yes”. When I asked them why they did not tell me all along they said they didn’t know. I was furious. They assured me that the balance will be paid back.
Friday was the day of the conference excursion and even though I had signed up to go on the hike, I dumped it because my left ankle was swollen and I did not want to aggravate it especially before the plenary on Saturday. My friend, Nuria was flying back to Barcelona on Friday evening because she had an important family event to attend. Since her flight was only at 10pm we decided to work the entire afternoon at the hotel. We worked till 6:30pm when she took a cab to the airport. Okay, I love Nuria, I am sure I have said this before but I love her a lot. Not only is she smart and a highly respected scholar, she is also strong, sincere and hilarious. I love working with her. We did a lot of work on the afternoon, we wrote, discussed and critiqued each other’s writing and then agreed on work allocation for when we are both back to our countries. Of course we also laughed a lot and hugged. Yes I am a hugger With Nuria gone, I decided to have room service dinner while preparing for the plenary panel for Saturday.
The plenary presentation was on Saturday and so I also completed the paperwork for breakfast in bed on Saturday morning, which was delivered on time. So my Saturday started well and I left the hotel to catch the bus. I waited at the bus stop and after some 20min of waiting realized that bus 44 does not run on Weekends. I should have guessed this because since I arrived in Vancouver bus 44 has been a little temperamental for me – inconsistent and a bit unreliable. During the week it stops running too early (before 8pm) and so I have had to take two buses to my hotel late at night after working with colleagues on our collaborative writing projects. On Saturday I also discovered that if I change buses on my way to the hotel I can use the same ticket. All this time I have been paying twice! I looked at the tickets and realized that it is written until when I can use it again on the bus. Damn! It’s amazing what happens when one understands the language but not the Discourse! So I lost a few Canadian Dollars – it costs 2,75CAD for my ticket for a trip. Anyway, go tsamaya ke go bona.
After the plenary panel we had tea time at the conference and the the AGM which I attended. It brought memories of my time in the PME International committee and in the PME Executive. That ended in 2006. Gosh, I have been around and have grown! Yet there were still newbies at the conference asking me where I am studying assuming I am a doctoral student. I guess I should be flattered . After the AGM we had 90min before the conference dinner and I went with my very good friend, Richard Barwell and his student Yasmeen to the apartment they rented to stay in during the conference. Richard was tired so he went for a nap in his room and I chilled with Yasmeen in the lounge. This was the most enlightening hour! You see Yasmeen lives in Canada but originally from Iran. She grew up in Iran and completed her bachelors degree in electrical engineering in Iran. Thereafter she came to Canada to study towards her masters. She then got married I think before she even completed her masters degree and now she is doing her doctorate under the supervision of Richard. Yasmeen is very beautiful, cosmopolitan and so well put together, so I am not surprised that she got married so quickly. Yes, her husband is also originally Iranian, but he has been in Canada since he was 16. Clever guy to marry Yasmeen, if you ask me. Anyway, it’s none of my business ☺️ What is important is that Yasmeen gave me a different picture of Iran. Of course I have had conversations with another professor from Iran who also attends the conference and with her I always get the anger which makes the narrative on the international media plausible. This professor is everything that Yasmeen is not. I found Yasmeen’s narrative of Iran balanced – it is not just about war and the fractured relationship with the west, but it is also about the history, beauty, culture and spirit of the people of Iran. We also talked about Iran before and after the revolution. Yasmeen’s face lights up when she talks about Iran – for her the country is more than just it’s politics. Through my conversation with her I got a sense that despite the laws in Iran there are people, probably many who live a life that is very similar to mine. They may wear a burka in respect of the law but they are also passionate and proud of who they are as a people. In fact did you know that the Iranians do not pay tax? Education is free until university. Yasmeen is a good ambassador for his country – I am sure she is not recognized as such back in Iran but that’s how she came across to me. After the conversation with her, I decided that I want to visit Iran one day.
At the conference dinner I sat with the UK group some of whom now live in Canada – my very good friend, Richard Barwell, the well respected David Pimm – both of them are British but live in Canada; Eileen Phillips, who is David Pimms wife and probably the only Canadian at our table; Dave Hewitt and Alf Coles who still live in the UK. Somehow I felt the absence of Laurinda Brown in the group. She didn’t attend the conference. It was very nice to see David Pimm again – his seminal work on language and mathematics contributed immensely to my interest if teaching and learning mathematics in multilingual classrooms. It was after reading his book, “Speaking Mathematically” and article entitled, “mathematics, I speak it fluently” that I started asking myself questions about what it means to learn mathematics in a language that one is still learning. I remember back in 1998 when he visited Wits and I had a meeting with him as I was thinking about doctoral research. It was such an honour! That was sixteen years ago and David still looks the same. Not a day older! Anyway, it was great company as always.