A couple of weeks ago I went to Sao Paulo, Brazil to give a talk titled “What’s New in Concrete Construction.” I based my talk on the notion that what’s new in the U.S. is different than what’s new in Brazil. I had material on self-consolidating concrete, pervious concrete, jointless slabs, moisture testing, maturity methods, and stringless 3D paving, to name a few.

But as the trip approached, I had this nagging guilty feeling that I was being condescending to the Brazilian audience. Maybe they know just as much about what’s new with concrete as I do!

Nonetheless, my presentation was done and submitted to the conference organizers (Sobratema, the Brazilian equipment manufacturers association) so the translators could review it before the live presentation, so I was stuck with it.

Arriving in Sao Paulo after a 9½-hour flight from Chicago, I found a bustling, if somewhat downtrodden, city. There seemed to be a lot of concrete but what construction I saw seemed a bit behind North American standards. The worst part was that Brazil is in the midst of an economic and political crisis and turnout at the trade show was very low. The good feelings from last summer's Olympics seemed a dim memory.

Come the morning of the presentation, Rick Yelton (who gave a talk on concrete production) and I reviewed our material and launched right in to an audience of about 45 people, mostly Brazilian engineers who didn’t speak English. The translators seemed to do a heroic job of turning my rambling talk into Portuguese, although there were a couple of times the audience laughed when I hadn’t said anything remotely funny, so who knows what they were saying.

Afterwards, those few who spoke English told me that the content was appropriate for the audience and that they learned some new things. So, I guess I wasn’t totally off base. If you’d like a copy of the presentation, send me an email and I’ll respond with a copy: [email protected].