Notes from a Birmingham conference



The best thing about Birmingham is Stratford on Avon, an hour away. Where Birmingham is all glittering shopping malls and restaurants (reminds me of Beijing, actually), Stratford has 14th century buildings and zoning laws.







High tea..

Birmingham has all the shopping your soul can desire. From Armani to TJMaxx but not in the same buildings, God forbid. I took a canal tour which left right outside the Conference Center and was only an hour long, otherwise I wouldn’t have done it. This was NOT Amsterdam or Venice but nevertheless interesting in an Industrial Revolution sort of way. 13055094_10207686506832412_8369299327892486184_oThere were mostly people from the conference but a few REAL British tourists. They said they came to Birmingham for a weekend. Why? I wanted to ask.They tore down all the good stuff, gentrified the center, full of expensive lofts and restaurants made of red brick in keeping with the original Victorian buildings they just tore down and so ubiquitous throughout the gentrified, working class parts of European cities, the architecture and design so similar to the rest of the new, focused on money Europe. 

This was my walk home after I discovered it.


So much better than a busy, ugly street filled with traffic. This is the canal district full of restaurants and bars. Notice there are no railings. I wonder how many fall in after a night of drinking? I found it a bit scary so I always hugged the building side. Anyone could just push you in but that’s the American in me talking. No one else seemed to worry as they walked, ran and rode their bikes along the edge.


The best part of the Teaching English conference was the Cuban session or teaching English as Revolution. 12973085_10207653563528850_6388986204140124134_oThis had to be one of the most interesting workshops I’ve ever attended at a conference. First of all, the audience was full of Marxists – from teachers to publishers. Secondly, at the end of the session, half the room wanted to sign up and go to Cuba to teach ESL while the other half offered to publish or give free materials. That was certainly better than cutting sugar cane, the mass volunteer program of foreigners in the 60s. 12961428_10207653563488849_1929156753020971860_o

And finally, where else would the participants start handing out copies of the Morning Star, a British socialist newspaper? And political networking? Amazing….






Notice the Ché shirt…


And why do they need English so badly? For the usual reasons. For example, to continue their medical programs around the world.





So now I’m back in Warsaw after an event filled departure. And it all started out so well. An excellent breakfast at the Radisson in Birmingham (order the omelet), then the Business Class lounge at the airport, even though it was pretty 3rd rate after Warsaw. I mean, tomato soup as the meal? Really? But lots of alcohol and I mean lots. I couldn’t get to the water because of the crowd standing around the bottles of gin, whiskey vodka and everything else. Everyone was mixing drinks and coming back for seconds and thirds and the fact that it was only 11AM mattered not. One can only wonder where they were flying to where it would be acceptable to arrive drunk. The flight was over an hour late so I missed my connection in Frankfurt and had to wait 2 hours for the next one. While waiting to get off the plane, I’m talking to the stewardess about the chances of making my flight. I had 10 minutes. “No chance at all,” said the man in front of me. “There’s a bus instead of a walkway.” “Why? I whined. Very un-German, I thought. They knew I had a plane to catch and I was in Business Class. Business Class should get a walkway at the very least. Actually, they should pick us up in carts. “Because we’re coming from England which is not a Schengen country. This exit is only for Schengen so they are going to another terminal. And it’s not yours. By this time we’re walking down the the stairs and I say, “How do you know all this?” “Oh, I fly a lot,” he says as he gets into a Porsche waiting for him at the bottom of the stairs. “Hey, take me with you,” I yelled, but he slammed the door and sped off. Who was that man? So off I went to the Lounge where there was lots of alcohol too, but everyone there was eating. It was 4 pm after all. There was soup, salad, chicken nuggets and lots of other things.



And a sleeping room even.






Warsaw Business Lounge still had the best food in IMHO.13041346_10207686631635532_6618685971691566493_o



They are Poles after all.


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