Teaching and Socialising in Waterloo

The first term of teaching is over; the students are heading out for a short break: I have just one more assignment to grade and then I am done for 2015 in terms of formal course teaching. I asked the class to complete an evaluation form for me so that I would get a sense of what they thought of the course and how I pitched it. There is an evaluation done by the University, but it won’t suit my needs and provide the sort of feedback that I require. So far, and because it is voluntary, I have only had three responses. I hope I get some more.

Travelling over to the UK for the investiture, (and by the way there is a picture of the actual event on my website – ‘the Prince and I’) meant I had only had three weeks back here in Waterloo. However the city transformed itself. Initially there was still snow on the ground, and then the temperature climbed up to the mid-teens during the day becoming delightfully warm. Interestingly the temperature goes up quickly but there are still no leaves on the trees which is a bit perplexing. What a contrast with Norwich where the blossoms were out and the weather is already really fresh and beautiful. Mind you the swallows have not arrived yet.

One really good thing about the warmer weather is that going to yoga does not mean having to put on a thick winter coat; it is almost warm enough to be able to walk across to the studio with just a light jacket or a track suit top. This is very welcome. Indeed I even managed to catch the sun while actually sitting outside for lunch a few days before I left.

I have been busy, not only because of the teaching and marking, but because I am involved in delivering two reports. One is for the Global Fund which measures the impact of health, good or bad, on foreign direct investment. Implications? Do investors take public health into account as they plan their investments? What we seem to find is that it is a consideration, but it is very hard to extract this from all the other incentives and disincentives. I think, having a healthy society is taken as a given. Where problems exist, they are somehow incorporated into decision-making, but not necessarily explicitly.

The second paper is very interesting. It is to try and provide guidance on investment decisions for UNICEF. Where should they put their money? Where are the gaps? I have been fortunate with this work because I have had support from an extremely good Ph.D. student of Malawian origin as well as from Nick my researcher at the Balsillie school.

It was not all work in Waterloo. I have hosted a number of parties at the apartment and these have been great fun. Two of the young women who have attended the parties suggested that we have one where people were urged to dress up. I thought about this for a while and suggested that we might do a ‘dress for dinner’ event. This idea was taken up with enthusiasm and Busra, a student from last year, and Samantha who completed her degree two years ago agreed to take charge of most of the food if I would handle the tables, settings, and wine. We arranged to have everyone arrive by about 6.30 as one or two had subsequent engagements and we were able to seat 12 people around the table. Two of the men, one being me, had an excuse to get some wear out of their dinner jackets. As an aside, I am delighted that my tuxedo, bought over 20 years ago, still almost fits me. It is tight across the shoulders and I will enter into negotiations with Nelson and Sylvia who tackle the washing and ironing of my shirts to see if it can be altered. They have, however, indicated that they are not optimistic.

The evening was a great success; we seated people apart from their spouses and tried to do male-female; male-female although I managed to make a slight blunder and it didn’t entirely work. The food was baked salmon, a good Canadian dish, rice, and a range of salads. I had been down to the Kitchener Farmer’s Market to purchase their famous fruit pies, which was served as the desert. The conversations were wide ranging and the table was big enough so that at any point, at least two groups were having their own discussions. Although some people left at nine o’clock in the evening, we finished clearing up and everyone was on their way by midnight. About half of the guests were linked to Balsillie work and the others were a range of people from around the city working in different sectors. I try to cast my net wide and am seeking to establishing sub groups.

In addition to my event, there was a games night held in the apartment building. The idea of these is that a group of people gather together and play a range of board games. These too are great fun. It is interesting to see how there is a combination of both board and electronic games in use across the city and also how people use both. My building is geographically advantageous, especially for work in winter, and my flat a good place to meet.

On the Saturday before I left for the UK, I entered my first run of the year. Nick and I looked at the running calendar and paid up in advance for a few of the events. The first race was called the Endurance which is a bit misleading as it was only 5 km. It was held in the town of Elmira about 20 minutes north of Waterloo. the Endurance is effectively a run around the town on the roads. It was well organised with marshals and points and lots of police to ensure that there were no unfortunate collisions between traffic and runners. I did one training run and was not pleased to come in 183. I was, however, a little pleased with my time of 34:44 minutes which means that my time per kilometer is 6:57, significantly faster than I had thought it would be. The next entry is in a 10 km run. I really am going to have to do training for that one as I am certainly not fit enough at the moment.

The flight from Toronto to Amsterdam was not full and so KLM were selling business-class tickets at a discount. I bought one and so had a comfortable flight that included a lot of reading that was long overdue. I believe it was well worth it. The film that I watched though was very disappointing and I will not put my normal review at the end of the letter. This star was Simon Pegg, the excellent British comedian best known for Shaun of the Dead. This one, Hector and the Search for Happiness, is about a psychiatrist in pursuit of what true happiness is. It is a 2014 British film. Unfortunately it was extraordinarily weak. Having been attracted to it by Pegg, I then found myself resenting it being so long.

Well that is all for this posting. I travel to Nairobi and then from there back to Norwich before going to a meeting in Geneva. I then go back again to Norwich for Douglas’s 21st birthday, although I may not see much of him, before returning to Canada where I desperately need to get on with some major writing projects. The first has to be the revision of the Very Short Introduction to HIV/AIDS, followed by my Political Economy of Swaziland book… which is now years overdue.