Thursday, August 20, 2009


I'm in Morelia, Mexico this week, attending the most absurd convention I've ever been to. It's an exercise in complete and utter culture shock. Our booth, which we're sharing with the wonderfully hospitable Mexican association, is simultaneously playing opera and Christmas music videos at night club volume. The booth across from us is playing the music video for Thriller. Pharmaceutical ladies are rolling around on Segways; we all want them to joust. You have your choice of playing Wii, darts, blackjack, or craps while you munch on your popcorn and cookies.
You could buy our educational materials, sign up to receive them free for your hospital, or I would be happy to walk you through registering for the annual meeting (after you get over the part where it's going to set you back about 7,000 pesos as a non-member). But you're probably more interested in buying knockoff designer earrings and sunglasses, or perhaps some traditional Michoacan clothing.

I probably should have expected this after last night´s opening ceremonies. After two hours of speeches, the jefe of the Michoacan Buro de Convenciones asked everyone to stand and pronounced the meeting officially open at 9:52 and 13 seconds. This pronouncement was followed by a brass ensemble playing compositions composed specially for the occasion. A competition was held for Mexican composers, four were chosen. My favorite composition was Trombocito - thrombocytes, or blood clots. The composer was initially attracted to the subject because of its ostensible onomotopoeia to trombones. He began to create a peice on this theme, only realizing later that they had absolutely nothing to do with each other. Still, he won.

The brass ensembles were followed by the Ninos Cantores de Michoacan, who are modelled after the Vienna Boys Choir. The only problem is that by the time they took the stage, it was about 10:30 and way past the ninos' bed time.

It was also evidently past the bed time of my colega when the concert let out past 11. However, I insisted on my glass of wine - I'd made it through the ceremony and wanted my just desserts. I picked up a glass of wine and began to walk away, when the bartender chased after me frantically. ¿Espera! he called out. Apparently, one can't have a glass of wine without the pharmaceutical company-sponsored coaster, encouraging me to brindemos por la salud de sus pacientes (we drink to the health of your patients.) Well, OK! Still, my co-worker was unamused, and we had only one ride back to our hotel. I reluctantly acquiesced, and said good night to our Mexican counterpart. She was wholly disappointed. "The band hasn´t even started playing yet," she protested. "We`re going to party all night!" Indeed the crowd looked like it had barely warmed up. As our car pulled away from the convention center, the fireworks began. God only knows what we missed.

One of the postcards in the exhibition hall advertises a meeting in Chiapas. El evento es solamente un pretexto, it boasts. Evidently...
Update: We've started watching Carmina Burana at the booth. Someone just came to turn up the volume.


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