Training in Tanzania

On the last Monday of April, I found myself nervously standing in a room of about 15 people from the e-Government Agency and National Bureau of Statistics in Dar es Salaam. They were waiting for me to start training them in Python and CKAN. I’ve been programming in Python since 2011, but I’ve never actually trained people in Python. On the first day, I didn’t have any slides. All I had was one [PDF][pdf] from Wikibooks which I was using as material. I didn’t even cover the whole material. By the end of the day though, I could sense that it was sinking into the attendees a bit.

It all started with an email from my manager asking me if I was available to do a training in Tanzania in April. After lots of back and forth, we finalized on a date and a trainer to assist in the trainings, and I flew in. Dar es Salaam, strangely, reminded of growing up in Salalah. I got in a day early to prep for the week and settle in. The trainer looking groggy on a Monday does not bode well!

People who train often don’t tell you this – Trainings are exhausting. You’re most likely to be on your feet all day and walk around the room helping people who’re lagging behind. Looking back, the training was both fun and exhausting. I enjoyed talking about Python, though I feel like I need more practice to do it well. The CKAN training, I was pretty satisfied with the outcome, by the end of the week, the folks from e-Gov Agency went in and setup a server with CKAN!

Note to self: Write these posts immediately after the trip before I forget 🙂

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.

A year at OKF!

I cannot believe how quickly time has passed! Two trips to Cambridge for the summit, 100+ commits on CKAN and CKAN extensions, contributions to PyBossa, OpenSpending and satellite sites…

I cannot believe how quickly time has passed! Two trips to Cambridge for the summit, 100+ commits on CKAN and CKAN extensions, contributions to PyBossa, OpenSpending and satellite sites, and innumerable GIFs later – I’ve finished a year at the Open Knowledge Foundation!


It doesn’t seem like time has passed at all. I remember the first call I had with Rufus and making the Salary Converter. Among all the interviews I’ve had, interviewing at OKF is definitely among the top 3.

In the last year, I’ve learned a lot about working remotely and I’m now in love with being a remotee. Managing time better is also something I’ve become far better at than I used to. I’ve discovered that my best time for productive coding is 6 am to 12 pm. Any day that I start at 6 am is bound to be a very productive one; starting later makes me struggle to be productive.

The two trips to Cambridge have been a lot of fun – meeting my colleagues and planning for the 6 months ahead. Plus, it’s the one time I get to actually grab a drink with my team!

On the programming side, the biggest learning has been handling testing better. Thanks to my team, I’ve learned to write new tests and fix the ones I break, though I occasionally run into “how did these tests ever pass” kind of tests though, leading to a fun day of debugging. I’ve also volunteered to own projects in our team that’s leaning towards operations. This has given me a chance to work with Ansible and refresh my packaging experience.

Ever since I’ve started working as a programmer, OKF is the first time I’ve stayed on for a year, and I have to give full credit to my amazing colleagues who’ve made waking up to work fun!