World through my eyes

Up at 7:30am after a good night’s sleep. Outside a loud bird was singing. WiFi worked now I had the password. I had breakfast with Mikhail and Christine. They arrived late last night after their plane from Paris was delayed by 3 hours. Monique had some problems getting permission to leave so had to delay a day. Breakfast was Chocolate drink, water, bread and jam or cheese, fortunately I was not hungry. The bus arrived at 9:00am and we drove in an old bus over un-tarmaced roads picking up other professeurs en-route. The building for the lectures was fairly modern and had air conditioning.
The minister looking after oil production arrived around 10m pm with his entourage followed by lots of introductions. We then waited for the Minister of Education and the president of the university to arrive about 30 mins later. After introductions we entered the salle de conference. It had seats for about 80 people, a few standing and 10 seats at the front. Among the students were several from Congo Kinshasa, one from Russia and one from Arabia. The student were mainly dressed in dark trousers and smart shirts often with a tie.The various big-wigs each gave a short talk welcoming all (greetings were relayed from the President and prime minister), explaining what the school was about, thanking the professeurs. After the last speach by the education minister there was a musical interlude with a male female chorus and en electronic device. Among others they made a splendid rendition of La Donna e Mobile and Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus.

Following the music we adjourned to snacks. Misha and I chatted with the president of the university (3rd from left in photo above). I took my Malarone/anti malarial pill. At around 1:45 pm we started the lectures with Marcelline (from U. Kinshasa) talking about Geographical Information Systems (GIS). She finished around 3:00pm when we broke for another 15 minute break. Following this I gave my first talk on the Internet’s origins, it’s goals, current state and future. My transparencies had been translated into French by Guillaume Cesieux. I explained that my poor knowledge of French meant that I would talk in English and would try to go slowly. It seemed to go well. I presented 30 slides in an hour and 15 minutes. Afterwards there were several questions which were translated and my answers were also translated back to French. Following my talk we had a lunch after washing hands with soap solution and water from a tap on an a barrel of water. Lunch consisted of fried bananas, casava, meat, mixed vegetables, spinich, followed by uncooked bananas. The last lecture was from Misha on databases. He spoke in English and his slides were in English so Christine translated, this also seemed to go well. During the lecture we lost house power twice. Misha had given me the password for the WiFi but though it appeared to allow my laptop to connect, I could not get Internet access. Funnily enough about 15 minutes later without doing anything the connection I started earlier started to work.

We returned to the Guest house by bus at about 6pm as it was getting dark. On the bus we discussed with Dinga Bienvenue of the Universite de Marien Ngouabi in Brazzavile a half day trip across the Congo from Kinshasa to Brazzaville on Friday Afternoon. We will need visas for $25US for which in turn we need photos so we are working with the local folks led by Prof. Dibungi Kalenda to see how to get them. The campus had lost power so the only lights were from a few buildings with motor generators. Fortunately the Guest House had a motor generator that they kept running until we had finished dinner of an excellent vegetable soup, bread ham and cheese. We also had WiFi access until the power and lights went out at 8pm, so now it is black with a faint light in the distance, possibly from the City of Kinshasa. Tomorrow morning breakfast is at 7:00am and we leave for the lecture hall at 8:00am. I will give a talk on how cell phones work at that meeting. Before losing power I had an email from Barbara reminding me to wear mosquito repellants. So far there has been no evidence (apart from screens and bed netting) of mosquitos. This is since we in the hills, well away from the river, it is the dry season, I am indoors most of the time, and when outdoors there has usually been a wind that prevents the mosquitos from flying. I am taking my pills religiously with breakfast.

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