In Tanzania Again

It’s been 6 months since I finished the last training in Tanzania In a way, it’s great to be back…

It’s been 6 months since I finished the last training in Tanzania. In a way, it’s great to be back. It’s great to hear that people have attended your training and have applied that in practice. Before I flew in, my briefing said that they were ready to launch an open portal. Truly an exciting time to be assisting them with a final push.

I flew on Qatar Airways this time. I’m not too fond of Qatar Airways since the last time I flew via Doha airport, I didn’t like the experience entirely. It felt very crowded and I suspect that it was indeed very crowded. I had better hope this time, I was flying into the new Hamad International Airport. I managed to get some sleep the previous night, so I wasn’t completely groggy when I arrived at the airport at 1 am.

Chocolate Bar

I tried something new this time, flying only with check-in luggage! Frequent fliers are probably rolling their eyes right now. I carry very little check-in luggage anyway and waiting for it didn’t make sense. The check-in process was quick and I was through immigration and security in no-time. The flight to Doha was a pleasant surprise. It was one the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner . I found them quite good, though, I’m not fond of luggage racks on these. You push the rack up to lock it. I feel like these are more susceptible to falling luggage that the ones were you pull the rack down. The entertainment system at my seat didn’t work. Or rather, the remote didn’t. That was a let down after getting a fairly new aircraft.

In Delhi, I’d bought a copy of a new Robin Cook book called Cell. As always, it was an excellent read. I have mixed feelings about his writing. He tends to reveal too much too soon and then the reader tends to spend some time watching other people catching up with the plot. On the other hand, after that point, it’s entirely unpredictable and exciting! This one dealt with a smartphone app that would be your doctor.

At Doha Airport, I had just enough time to run to my next gate. In my hurry, I misplaced my glasses at security. I arrived at the gate for my flight to Dar es Salaam just as it opened. With my rotten luck, the entertainment system on my second flight completely failed as well. I figured I might as well read the book, but then I finished the book too soon and there was still plenty of time left over. I found a seat next to a kid where I watched Avengers (Don’t judge me).

There was a couple on a flight booked on a Precision Air flight to Kilimanjaro. It’s not their fault, but the airline canceled their original flight and scheduled them on a flight that took off about 20 minutes after we touched down. They tried to get the air hostess to give them the immigration forms before landing, but the airline didn’t have them on board. So, they were allowed to disembark with the business class passengers.

They didn’t have a visa, so they had to stand in line for that. I had time to fill up the forms and finish immigration while they waited. They tried to talk to a lady from security, but I’m not sure how much good it did. I feel sorry for them while also being a bit angry. They were a bit pushy. It’s not like they were going there to save the world. They had a safari booked. I figured out the stress-free nature of travel without checked in bags as I finished immigration. It realized I didn’t have to wait, I just walked out.

I introduced myself to the hotel folks who’d take me to my hotel and they managed to get me on a taxi that was just about to leave with another lady. She was from The Netherlands and working on horticulture. The taxi ride was about 40 minutes long thanks to terrible traffic, so we talked about our work and travel.

View out my room

I’m on the exact same floor as I stayed in last time. Just a room further down the corridor.

Weird IE8 error. Nginx to the rescue!

As a server side developer, I don’t run into IE-specific errors very often. Last month, I ran into a very specific error, which is spectacular by itself. IE8 does not like downloads with cache control headers. The client has plenty of IE8 users and preferred we serve over HTTP for IE8 so that the site worked for sure.

Nginx has a very handy module called ngx_http_browser_module to help! All that I needed to do was less than 10 lines of Nginx config.

location / {     # every browser is to be considered modern     modern_browser unlisted;     # these particular browsers are ancient     ancient_browser "MSIE 6.0" "MSIE 7.0" "MSIE 8.0";     # redirect to HTTP if ancient     if ($ancient_browser) {         return 301 http://$server_name$request_uri;     }     # handle requests that are not redirected     proxy_pass;     proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-For $remote_addr;     proxy_set_header Host $host;     proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-Proto $scheme; } 
It's Magic GIF

Yet another day I’m surprised by Nginx 🙂

A Week In Nairobi

Last week this time, I was packing for a trip to Nairobi, Kenya. The preparations for this trip started 2 weeks ago…

Last week this time, I was packing for a trip to Nairobi, Kenya. The preparations for this trip started 2 weeks ago with a Yellow Fever shot. You need the shot and the WHO’s International Certificate of Vaccination if you want to get in and out of the country. If you ever need one in Cochin, the place to go is Port Health Organization. They do it twice a week on Wednesdays and Fridays starting from 10:00. They only give 100 shots a day, so be there a bit early.

It was a work trip and our client booked my tickets. My flights were booked via DOH and I was to fly out of COK at 04:25. Kenya has visa on arrival for Indian citizens. On all the trips I’ve been on so far, I’ve had a visa before traveling. When I got to the check-in counter, the lady didn’t know which country Nairobi was in. I guess there isn’t a lot of Indians traveling to Kenya. I had to explain that Kenya has visa on arrival for Indians and all I would need was 50 USD and Yellow Fever shots. She took a few minutes to confirm that and finally handed me my boarding pass. When I went to the Immigration counter, I had to go through the exact same process again. It made me smile 🙂

The Cochin airport seems to have had a lot of renovation from the last time I flew through here (well, that was 9.5 years ago). The flights were okay, except I got the middle seat on the flight to Nairobi. All my worries about the immigration process was unnecessary. It was an extremely quick process. There were forms to fill up when we landed and I think I missed one. The customs officer asked me for a particular form, when I didn’t have it, he just waved me through.

Nairobi, Kenya by Eduardo Zárate on Flickr

As soon as I got out of the airport, I found a representative from the taxi company who were to take me to the ILRI campus. I had an extremely friendly driver and he pointed out places of interest along our route. When we got to the campus, I was taken away by how pretty it looked! After spending about 9 hours in planes and 4 hours in airports, I was exhausted and wanted to crash as soon as I got to my room. My hunger won out the exhaustion, I walked to the bar on campus, which doubles up as the restaurant in the evening. There were a few people already there watching a football match and I became friends with them quickly. We were talking about cricket as I ate dinner.

Hostel blocks by ILRI on Flickr

The next morning, I woke to the sound of rain. It was raining pretty hard and it was cold, surprising after the hot afternoon the previous day. Managed to find breakfast and I met my contact who guided me to the conference room where I’d spend most of my afternoons for the next 5 days. I’ve never done a training before and I’m not very confident about my public speaking skills. Over the course of the week, I got more confident and more friendly with the team I’d been training. We were joking around and they were helping each other by the end of the 5 days which nearly brought a tear of happiness to my eyes. Oh, a note of warning. If you ever have to train people all day, remember, it’s a very exhausting experience.

Mara House by ILRI on Flickr

Every evening was spent at the bar, having dinner, and sometimes a glass of wine. I took my Kobo to the bar, and amusingly, I was reading Quiet by Susan Cain, a book about introversion. I became good friends with everyone as the days went on and had interesting conversations. We talked about African politics, Swahili, research, and a few more things which I should probably not mention for the privacy of the people involved 😉 Kenya celebrated their 50th Independence day while I was there. The night before Independence day, the bar was extremely busy and I happened to sit next to the Director General of the institute. He was friendly and we had a nice chat about the Caribbeans. Later, he bought the house and drink and we had a big cheer for Kenya!

The week went by quickly and I was sad when Friday arrived. My biggest regret is not having had a chance to spend some time outside of the campus. I’ll leave that for next time. Yes, there will one, a personal one 🙂

And the other regret is that I didn’t take a camera.