Cambridge and London – Winter 2014

I’m sitting in the lobby of Clink 261, a hostel near King’s Cross, hearing so many languages that my brain hurts trying to identify…

I’m sitting in the lobby of Clink 261, a hostel near King’s Cross, hearing so many languages that my brain hurts trying to identify them (Nope, I can’t). To complicate matters, the reduced sunshine is confusing. The week has consisted of meetings, plotting (to take over the world, of course), drinks, ranting, and generally fun things. It’s been a tiring but spectacular week with my team at the OKF. As a remote employee, I enjoy meeting my colleagues in person and spending time together.

As always, my trips are more about people than places. In Cambridge, once I was properly awake, I met a colleague for lunch at Cambridge Blue, where we had deer pie for lunch. My Twitter followers seemed a bit mad that I ate Bambi. From there, we went to his friends’ and had tea with them, while enjoying watching their kids play and chatting about books, trains, and comics. Later in the evening, I caught up with an old roommate and his family.

I walked everywhere in Cambridge except when I had luggage or if I was, cough, otherwise unable to walk. Our hotel was a 40-minute walk away from the venue of our meetings. I took a taxi on a few mornings, but when I could, I walked. The cold manages to wake me up, and in a few minutes, I’m nice and warm (weather hacking?!). There are other advantages too, like a lovely pastry shop on way 😉

I spent 3 days with my team plotting to take over the world with CKAN and then 2 days with the rest of the team. An extremely produtive time during the day and a good time chatting with everyone afterward, especially people from other teams. We had a “Cheese Off”, which France won, closely followed by Brazil. The close of the summit involved a puppy and cake!

I’m in London now, taking a day off for myself. I might head out and grab some lunch or take a walk. No plans for today and I’m leaving it that way.

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.

US Visa Acquired!

I’ve been a little tensed about my upcoming travel to Santa Clara for the Mozilla Summit in October, because the last time…

I’ve been a little tensed about my upcoming travel to Santa Clara for the Mozilla Summit in October, because the last time I applied for a US visa, my application was denied. Today, my visa application was granted! I’ll be in Santa Clara in October and I hope to meet my mozillian friends as well other friends who live in SF (looks in the direction of pleia2).

Visa interview in progress, Consular officer guides an applicant to be fingerprinted. (Photo by U.S. Consulate General, Chennai)

Yesterday night, I spent about 20 minutes indexing all my documents neatly with Post-Its and sorting them by the order they might be asked. The visa officer didn’t ask to see any documents. He asked me about my travel, why I was traveling, who was paying for it, why Mozilla was paying for it, about my current job and salary, and if I’ve traveled out of the country before. At the end of it, he said, “We’re done. Have a good trip.” It took me a while to get past the shock, but yay! It’s going to be great fun and I look forward to hanging out with everyone 🙂