Finally got some time to write this blog post. DebConf for me is always something special, a family gathering of weird combination of geeks (or is weird a default geek state?). To be honest, I finally can compare Debian as hacker conference to other so-called hacker conferences. With that hat on, I can say that Debian is by far the most organized and highest quality conference. Maybe I am biased, but I don't care too much about that. I simply love Debian and that is no secret. So lets dive into my view on DebConf16 which was held in Cape Town, South Africa.
This was the first time we had conference on African continent (and I now see for the first time DebConf bid for Asia, which leaves only Australia and beautiful Pacific islands to start a bid). Cape Town by itself, is pretty much Europe-like city. That was kinda a bum for me on first day, especially as we were hosted at University of Cape Town (which is quite beautiful uni) and the surrounding neighborhood was very European. Almost right after the first day I was fine because I started exploring the huge city. Cape Town is really huge, it has by stats ~4mil people, and unofficially it has ~6mil. Certainly a lot to explore and I hope one day to be back there (I actually hope as soon as possible).
The good, bad and ugly
I will start with bad and ugly as I want to finish with good notes.
Racism down there is still HUGE. You don't have signs on the road saying that, but there is clearly separation between white and black people. The houses near uni all had fences on walls (most of them even electrical ones with sharp blades on it) with bars on windows. That just bring tensions and certainly doesn't improve anything. To be honest, if someone wants to break in they still can do easily so the fences maybe need to bring intimidation but they actually only bring tension (my personal view). Also many houses have sign of Armed Force Response (something in those lines) where in case someone would start breaking in, armed forces would come to protect the home.
Also compared to workforce, white appear to hold most of profit/big business positions and fields, while black are street workers, bar workers etc etc. On the street you can feel from time to time the tension between people. Going out to bars also showed the separation - they were either almost exclusively white or exclusively black. Very sad state to see. Sharing love and mixing is something that pushes us forward and here I saw clear blockades for such things.
The bad part of Cape Town is, and this is not only special to Cape Town but to almost all major cities, is that small crime is on wide scale. Pickpocketing here is something you must pay attention to it. To me, personally, nothing happened but I heard a lot of stories from my friends on whom were such activities attempted (although I am not sure did the criminals succeed).
Enough of bad as my blog post will not change this and it is a topic for debate and active involvement which I can't unfortunately do at this moment.
There are so many great local people I met! As I mentioned, I want to visit that city again and again and again. If you don't fear of those bad things, this city has great local cuisine, a lot of great people, awesome art soul and they dance with heart (I guess when you live in rough times, you try to use free time at your best). There were difference between white and black bars/clubs - white were almost like standard European, a lot of drinking and not much dancing, and black were a lot of dancing and not much drinking (maybe the economical power has something to do with it but I certainly felt more love in black bars).
Cape Town has awesome mountain, the Table Mountain. I went on hiking with my friends, and I must say (again to myself) - do the damn hiking as much as possible. After every hike I feel so inspired, that I will start thinking that I hate myself for not doing it more often! The view from Table mountain is just majestic (you can even see the Cape of Good Hope). The WOW moments are just firing up in you.
Now lets transfer to DebConf itself. As always, organization was on quite high level. I loved the badge design, it had a map and nice amount of information on it. The place we stayed was kinda not that good but if you take it into account that those a old student dorms (in we all were in female student dorm :D ) it is pretty fancy by its own account. Talks were near which is always good. The general layout of talks and front desk position was perfect in my opinion. All in one place basically.
Wine and Cheese this year was kinda funny story because of the cheese restrictions but Cheese cabal managed to pull out things. It was actually very well organized. Met some new people during the party/ceremony which always makes me grow as a person. Cultural mix on DebConf is just fantastic. Not only you learn a lot about Debian, hacking on it, but sheer cultural diversity makes this small con such a vibrant place and home to a lot.
Debian Dinner happened in Aquarium were I had nice dinner and chat with my old friends. Aquarium by itself is a thing where you can visit and see a lot of strange creatures that live on this third rock from Sun.
Speaking of old friends - I love that I Apollo again rejoined us (by missing the DebConf15), seeing Joel again (and he finally visited Banja Luka as aftermath!), mbiebl, ah, moray, Milan, santiago and tons of others. Of course we always miss a few such as zack and vorlon this year (but they had pretty okay-ish reasons I would say).
Speaking of new friends, I made few local friends which makes me happy and at least one Indian/Hindu friend. Why did I mention this separately - well we had an accident during Group Photo (btw, where is our Lithuanian, German based nowdays, photographer?!) where 3 laptops of our GSoC students were stolen :( . I was luckily enough to, on behalf of Purism, donate Librem11 prototype to one of them, which ended up being the Indian friend. She is working on real time communications which is of interest also to Purism for our future projects.
Regarding Debian Day Trip, Joel and me opted out and we went on our own adventure through Cape Town in pursue of meeting and talking to local people, finding out interesting things which proved to be a great decision. We found about their first Thursday of month festival and we found about Mama Africa restaurant. That restaurant is going into special memories (me playing drums with local band must always be a special memory, right?!).
Huh, to be honest writing about DebConf would probably need a book by itself and I always try to keep my posts as short as possible so I will try to stop here (maybe I write few bits in future more about it but hardly).
Now the notes. Although I saw the racial segregation, I also saw the hope. These things need time. I come from country that is torn apart in nationalism and religious hate so I understand this issues is hard and deep on so many levels. While the tensions are high, I see people try to talk about it, try to find solution and I feel it is slowly transforming into open society, where we will realize that there is only one race on this planet and it is called - HUMAN RACE. We are all earthlings, and as sooner we realize that, sooner we will be on path to really build society up and not fake things that actually are enslaving our minds.
I just want in the end to say thank you DebConf, thank you Debian and everyone could learn from this community as a model (which can be improved!) for future societies.