Here I am, in Russia. I haven’t had time to write yet, due to the network not being available throughout the conference. That’s just as well, since I’ve attended some interesting talks, rather than wasting my time on IRC.
I left my Swiss Card in my bag, so ended up having to go through the TSA roadblock twice. I need to remember to pick it back up when I get back to Lexington.
I left Lexington a little early. After checking in, they said that they could get me on an earlier flight, so that I’d have a little more time in Cincinatti. That worked out well, since I was able to wander around the airport in Cinci, get some good photos, and get some folks to stamp Daba’s passport.
The flight to Paris was uneventful, but very long. I haven’t been on a 7+ hour flight in many years. I suppose since 2000 when I went to London. I managed to sleep a little, but not much. There was a couple on the plane, sitting next to me, who were on their way to a short vacation in Paris, and I had a nice chat with them.
I was in Paris for about 2 hours, and was amazed with how quiet the airport was. It wasn’t empty – there were hundreds of people there – but they were so much quieter than a crowd of the same size would be in the US. I wonder why that is.
Out of Paris, I was on Aeroflot. I mentioned earlier that this was something I was looking forward to. I’m happy to admit that the flight to Moscow was uneventful, and very enjoyable. The plane was in excellent condition. The staff was helpful and courteous. The food was good. The coffee was simply amazing. It’s not hard to understand why folks visiting the USA have so much trouble with the coffee. When I have a plastic cup of coffee on an airplane, and it’s better than most of what I’ve had for the last several weeks, that tells you something.
And I didn’t understand a single word that was said to me from the moment I got onto the plane until I was standing in line at customs in Moscow.
Moscow airport was the only place where I was unable to get anyone to stamp Daba’s passport. This was because I was unable to communicate to the gentleman at the passport desk. This is a running theme. I feel very ignorant in my inability to communicate. I greatly regret not taking some kind of language course, so that I would at least be able to communicate at some rudimentary level. As it is, I can say yes, no, thankyou, and please. That’s pretty pathetic. If/When you travel, do yourself a favor, and take the time to learn a few things. I meant to, but the last few months have just been so busy, and I didn’t even learn basic things.
When I got through customs, there was a driver with a sign with my name on it, and he took me to the hotel. It was a fairly long drive, and I was anxious not to miss any of it.
First of all, the driving in Moscow is … interesting. Nobody wears seatbelts. And lanes seem to be, at best, a polite suggestion. Significant stretches of the road had no painted lanes at all, and people were driving where they needed to drive to get where they wanted to. There were several times when I was certain that we were going to get smooshed. But what was great about this was that there was no evidence that people were getting enraged with the way that their fellow drivers were driving. Driving like that in the USA would very likely get somebody swearing pretty fiercly, if not shooting. Here, it was a little scary, but it was safe, in some strange way, because it appeared to be what folks expected.
The hotel – Hotel Belgrade – is in Arbaskaya, across the road from the Foreign Ministry, a *huge* structure built during the height of the Soviet Union. Wow. I also saw a tiny little church with beautiful domes. I got a set of those nesting dolls that I can never remember the name of, and a lovely little wooden egg with a painting of St. Basil’s on it.
For dinner, I went to a place that the desk clerk at the hotel recommended, and had a lamb shishkebab and some rice-like grain that was completely unlike anything I have ever had. It was *fantastic*.
This morning I had breakfast with Larry Wall and Peter Beckman. That was pretty cool. And then I walked over to the conference with Larry. If I had known it was that close, I would have come over last night for the reception, but I thought it was quite a bit farther.
The conference so far has been very cool. The passion that people have here for Open Source is completely understandable. 1) Why would they want to send their money to the USA? 2) Why would they want their mission critical code – particularly government applications – to be running on code written by people in the USA?
The ability to jumpstart a business with existing code, and then hire people locally, and keep money in the country, is just *great*, and very appealing to anyone outside of the USA who has really thought about how the global economy works. When you send money to the USA, it doesn’t usually come back.
The wireless network here has been somewhat unreliable, so we’re now using my Airport Express. 🙂 Wireless network proudly brought to you by Asbury College. Go, Eagles!
Oh, yeah, one more thing. I had a great little conversation with Maddog Hall about small regional one- and two-day conferences, and why they fail, and what can be done to help them not fail. I sincerely hope that out of this will come some conversations in Lexington so that Kentucky can have a regional conference that is every bit as cool as the Ohio LinuxFest was. We have great people in the area, and there are some definite things that we did wrong the first two times around. (The first one actually happened, which made it inifinitely superior to the second one!)
The photos (link at the top) are not organized in any particular way, other than date. More to come, I’m sure.