World through my eyes

I arrived in Johannesburg on time at 8:25am, and made my way to International connections. There we had to go through more passport checks, and security. I was at the gate for the Kinshasa plane at 9:40. The plane started boarding at 9:50 and left a few minutes late. Coming into Kinshasa airport it was brown and scrubby. The runway was pretty bumpy. We were bused to the terminal where I was met by someone with a sign Mr COTTRELLES. The airport was ancient, without air conditioning .There was a slow line of about 40 people for customs that took about 45 mins to get through. They asked what I was doing there and where I was staying and carefully reviewed the International Certificate of Vaccination. I was then met by M. Sylvain Matoko head of Protocole at the University of Kinshasa. He took me to a lounge to wait while he and another went to look for my bag. This was about 2:34pm. After a bit (30 min) of a harrowing wait (hoping it had no been lost at Johannesburg) he returned with my bag and we went to a Toyota Rav4 to drive the university (about 20km away). The weather was warm (~85F and humid). The driver spoke Lingala (the local language), Swahili, French and a bit of English. At first the drive went well over a 4 lane highway (2 each direction). There were lots of signs with pictures of the re-elected president, Joseph Kabila, who looked handsome and youthful. He is about 39 and has been in power since about 2000. Lanes were not marked and driving was like a video game, with big trucks, buses, cars, blue and yellow taxis (often vintage VW wagons), and even funeral processions gaily decked out with flowers like a wedding procession. We drove past some pretty poor areas with lots of rubbish on the roadside. Then after about 6 miles the traffic ground to halt and the next 10 miles took about 90 minutes. Cars and vans were running out of fuel and had to be pushed (the traffic was slow enough that they could keep up). Eventually the traffic congestion eased up but the roads also deteriorated in quality, in some cases completely unpaved. We arrived at the university guest house at about 5:30pm. I was the first to arrive. Mikhail, Christine and Mikhail don’t get into Kinshasa until 5:30pm. The Guest House put together for me a tasty meal of chunks of cooked meat, peppers, and onions. The room has a tile floor a sink (the tap does not work however the one on the bidet works), a table with a table cloth and plastic flowers, a power outlet, a wardrobe, and a bed with a mosquito net and a single sheet for cover. The windows open and have fly screens on them. The roof appears to be mainly corrugated asbestos, with more recent patches in corrugated steel. Outside there is a guava tree that is bearing fruit that will be ready in a month.

Misha (Mikhal Zhizin From Moscow) and Christine Amory-Mazaudier at Guest House

Guava tree with fruit due in a month, outside Guest House

Saturday Oct 10th 2011
We slept at Phillip & Shiela’s house in Correns. We rose between 7:30am and 8:00am, and had breakfast (I took my anti-malarial Malaquine with my Weetabix). We left for Nice at about 10:40am after bidding sad farewell to Shilea and arrived at Nice at about 12:15pm where we said goodby to Phillip. Once again we checked our bags in, had some sandwiches and the plane left Nice on time and arrived at London Heathrow terminal 5 on time. Hazel’s taxi driver met her at the exit and we again bade fond farewell. Barbara and I took the Express train to terminal 1 and then both checked in at British Midland (Barbara for Manchester leaving at 19:00) and South African Airlines (Les for Johannesburg and Kinshasa leaving at 20:00). It took about 1.5 hours to get though passport control, wait for and pick up bags and get from terminal 5 to terminal 1. I had to check my bag since it was over the 8kg limit. This was worrisome since Johannesburg has a reputation for lost bags. Anyway I made sure I had my talks, computer and meds. Following this we got some iron rations and locks for cases at Boots, followed by sandwiches and drinks in the waiting lounge. I managed to get logged on via Boingo WiFi and caught up on email. At 6:00pm I bade farewell to Barbara leaving on her way to Manchester. At 7:20pm I logged off, after sending email to Guillaume thanking him for 2 translations and sending him more to do, and made my way to the Johannesburg plane. It was a new A322-200 beautifully equipped with large screens in the seat backs, lots of movies, TV shows etc. on demand, plenty of room under the seat and lots of leg room. They also handed out a little bag with socks, eyeshade and toothbrush, all of which made United look very poor. I watched 3 movies; Chocolat, Troy and another; all prettty hazy after a 10 hour flight gollowed by a 2 hour layover and another 4 hour flight, then 5 hours to get through customs, get my case and drive from Kinshasa airport to the University of Kinshasa.

On Monday March 14th, I attended the  ccNSO technical day at ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) at the Westin San Francis in San Francisco. I am giving an invited talk on “PingER End to End Internet measurements: what we learn”. The PowerPoint of the talk is available here:

Tuesday 5th October

Slept well, woke at about 7:45am to what sounded like a cup of tea being placed on the bedside table. No idea what caused the noise, there was no tea. I was just being prescient of things to come.  Called Sue on Skype but she was not there. She Skyped back about 5 mins later and we chatted for a bit. I went down for a 6.90GBP buffet breakfast English style (scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, beans, fried mushrooms and what looked like black pudding) with yoghurt, fresh fruit salad, apple juice etc. I left my room for the airport at 11:00am and caught the Hoppa bus to terminal 1 at 11:17am (runs every 20 mins).  At the airport I picked up my boarding pass at the eticket machine, did not check any baggage, passed though security, and since the boarding call was not until 12:55am I found a power point in the waiting area and connected up. I started to read the galleys of my chapter in the to be published (by the ICTP, Trieste)  book: “m-Science: Sensing, Computing and Dissemination. The modifications are due by October 9th. This book will be  released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivative Works 3.0 Unported License. I boarded the planeand took my aisle seat with an empty seat to my right. The flight attendants were very proficient if a little chronologically gifted with the youngest looking over 45-50. And miracle of miracles the plane had standard US or UK power outlets under the seat. However, the choice of movies was poor, so I watched Twilight Movie: the Eclipse(at least it had a good sound track)  followed by Predators.  The remaining choices were even less inspiring.


Monday 4th October

Awoke at 6:00am after a fitful sleep. Finished packing etc., met Mikhail and at 6:30am as we went outside at the Guest house, Osama showed up in the BMW. It was again fairly cool about ~80 deg F. We reached the airport at about 7:30, we bade goodbye to Osama and then Mikhail and I shook hands and said goodbye. His firm handshake reminded me of all the gentle handshakes experienced in Egypt. His plane to Moscow was not until about midday. I went through security with no challenges. I picked up a couple of toys for the twins and then caught my on time flight to Geneva.It was nice to hear the melodious French after the Egyptian with its glottal stops that often sounds as if people are arguing.  I added to the blog on the flight but ran out of battery power. In Geneva I came through customs in Geneva (there is no transfer lounge in Geneva) and then re-entered to catch my BMI flight to London which was pretty empty. In London I caught the Hoppa number 6 bus to the Ibis hotel. There was no problem booking in. The room was fine, no shampoo or soap in bathroom. I was in my room by 4:30pm. They had a deal 24 hours of Internet, TV movies etc. for 9.99GBP. So I decided to take since it was still early and I would not be leaving for the airport until 11am next morning. However the Internet did not work so after a couple of tries I had to move to a new room. About 7:30 after many calls to the front desk all was working and I started to catch up on my email backlog of the last 3days. I later had the English National dish chicken tika masala and an orange juice at the bar. I tried printing my boarding pass but the printer in the lobby was out of service. Into bed at about 11:30pm.

Sunday 3rd October

At 4:30am in Cairo it was finally a balmy and an enjoyable 80 degree Fahrenheit. We arrived at the airport an hour later and since we were early got a coffee, unfortunately they did not serve Egyptian coffee, so it was a latte.The flight to Luxor was uneventful about from being packed into a departure lounge from which 3 planes were leaving simultaneously, two for Luxor and one for Hurghada on the Red Sea. At Luxor the first thing we saw on entering the arrival area was a welcome sign for Roger Cottrell. Once again it was hot outside > 100F. We drove to the river and took a small ferry boat across to the West Bank of the Nile. There we met our guide for the day Ashwar. We piled into a Toyota mini-bus and introduced ourselves to  a couple from Greece, an Australian from North of Perth and 3 people from Bogota Columbia. All were in their 20’s. Our first stop was the arid Valley of the Kings where we entered three tombs (Tomb of Ramses IV, Ramses IX and Ramses III, which had the longest tunnel (410ft) in the area and a room with portraits of 2 blind harpists . The corridors were about 12 feet high so there was no stooping required. All the tombs were wall to wall decorated. In the next valley, the Valley of the Queens, we visited the Tomb of Titi and the Tomb of Khaemwaset (a son of Ramses III). We then went to the mortuary temple of Hatshepsut which is spectacular from a distance. Afterwards we headed back to the river where we caught a ferry to the East bank and stopped at a restaurant for lunch. After lunch we headed to the Karnak Temple.  It is “jaw-dropping” with massive columns and many statues. Several of them reminded me of Shelley’s poem Ozymandias (The Greek transliteration of Ramses II) . Over a period of 1300 years every pharaoh wanting to please the Gods added a temple, a hall or at least a shrine. Then it was back to Luxor to see the Luxor temple built by Amentophep in the 14th century BC. The two temples over 2km apart were linked by a long road lined with dozens of sphinxes. The temple was unearthed in the 19th century. There were 2 obelisks originally but one was gifted to France in 1829 by Mohamed Ali the Albanian-in-origin sovereign at the time, where it now stands in the Place de la Concorde. Built on top of the temple is a Muslim mosque. As it got dark it was very evocative being in the ancient temple and hearing the Muslim call to prayer. We left for the airport in Luxor at 6:30pm. The plane should have left for Cairo at 9:25pm but was delayed until 10:15pm. The flight was one hour and at Cairo we met up with Ahmed and Osama who drove us back to the Guest House. After packing etc. I went to bed at about 1:15am.


Saturday 2nd October 2010

After breakfast, Mikhail and I took the Metro to the Sadat station in the center of Cairo and then made our way to the Egyptian Archaeological museum. The museum is the Egyptian center for all ancient things. It has an amazing collection going back of 4000 years, but no air conditioning. The highlights were the artifacts from King Tutankhamen’s tomb and in particular the mask. By 1:30pm we had seen most exhibits and with the heat were pretty exhausted so we left and made our way to downtown, quickly learning the perilous art of negotiating traffic as a pedestrian. We found a small café and ordered bottled water, Egyptian coffees, a small pizza and a chicken burger. I must say I am hooked on Egyptian coffee it is really tasty, latte does not hold a torch to it. After relaxing and watching the locals wandering around the old town we left the cafe and made our way to the river. There we hired a Feluca (the traditional Egyptian lateen-rigged sailboat) for a hour so we could just relax slowly going down and back up river looking at Cairo and river traffic with most of the incessant honking of horns well in the distance. Back at the Guest House we sat around and ate the standard dinner liven up by a bottle of beer each. Monique and Catherine left at about 9:15pm to catch an early morning flight to Paris. Mikhail and I took an early nigh (9:30pm) knowing we had to catch a 4:30am taxi on Sunday to fly on a 7:25am flight to Luxor (the site of Thebes, Egypt’s old capital),

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