The road to debconf 2016, tourism and arts.
A longish blog post, please bear, a second part of the blog post would be published in few days from now. My fixed visa finally arrived, yeah 🙂 But this story doesn’t start here, it starts about a year back. While I have been contributing to Debian in my free time over the years, and sometimes paid time as well, I had never thought of going overseas as the experiences I knew from friends and relatives, it isn’t easy to get all the permissions and paperwork done to say the least (bureaucracy @ work). But last year, when Debconf 15 was being launched, there are/were 2-3 friends of mine who are studying, doing their Ph.D. in some computer/web stuff, living in Germany currently that they goaded me to apply. The first few times I gave some standard excuses, but when they kept on for a while, just to shut them up I applied to the debconf team applying for food, accommodation and travel sponsorship.
I didn’t have high hopes as there obviously are many more talented peers around me who understand FOSS and Debian at a much more fundamental, philosophical as well as technical level than me. Much to my surprise though, about a month (and around two or three weeks just before the event was about to take place) I got the bursary/sponsorships for food, accommodation as well as travel. I was unsure that the remaining time was enough to get a visa hence declined that time around.
That whole episode gave me the confidence that perhaps my application would be accepted if I applied again. Using my previous years understanding, decided to give it a shot again as this would also enable me to get a feel of visa bureaucracy as well as gain a bit of novice understanding about what factors go in choosing a flight and believe me the latter part proved to be pretty confusing. While the visa business seems easy, the form at least is easy and what they ask, it can be troublesome as far as visa-processing process is concerned. It took a better part of the month to get the visa which I needed. The in-between time is and can be a bit stressful as you have committed funds for travel i.e. the airline tickets and are in a limbo as you didn’t know that if the visa is cancelled for some reason, your tickets would be refunded or not. A little history is needed and hopefully is helpful for anybody who’s applying for a short-stay Visa in South Africa.
Exactly, A month and day back I had applied for visa. The visa I had applied for is 17 days as the flights within my budget was for those days only. The visa I got was for 10 days only which was ending in the middle of the conference. I tried many avenues to get information and was told that I needed to write a correction letter telling/sharing the information about the correct time period and dates in BOLD with a heavier weight/point which is what I did and gave to VFS office without any further payment on my part. It took a bit more time than the first time around but the consulate co-operated. While I can understand the oversight as they probably get more visas requests along with special and urgent requests so such occurrences can happen. I am and was happy that there was a recourse rather than starting from scratch which probably would have made me more anxious due to the first experience .
Apparently I was lucky that I had done with Qatar Airways as later came to know that there are other airways which don’t refund money even after visa rejection . This information I got to know pretty late in the game otherwise I wouldn’t have been much stressed. As had committed knew had to go the whole hog and whatever barriers are there, have overcome at least as far as the visa part/process is concerned.
Now after few days, will probably start to worry about the actual travel, part nervousness, part excitement, nervousness as it will be an alien land, am obese so traveling economy on 787-8 and 777-300 ER will be tricky. The 787-8 will probably be a rough ride as it’s a 9 hr. journey and the seat are a mere 18″, the cattle class as shared by one of our esteemed politicians. This blame has to do with Boeing 787 rather than anybody else. Hopefully, if there is a next time, would make better choices.
Anyways,have selected an aisle seat so that will be able to walk every hr. or so to get the circulation in legs going as leg room in economy is not much from my domestic air travel experiences. If I do survive the travel, then will see South Africa and try to get some free time and explore South Africa and try to figure out how are they able to get one and half time tourists while we get around half figure for a whole year even though we are bigger (area-wise) to South Africa. I did find something positive for us as well, it’s not all doldrums all around.
Now, I had been thinking about if I know any South African music and movies. I had explored djembe while growing up in teens but other than that, not much. The only music I have heard is Harry Belafonte . So I hope to bring some Indian movies and music with me so that people if they have not explored Bollywood as well as Indian classical music could explore some of it, of course it will be pale imitation of what ‘Sawai Gandharva Music Festival‘ for instance gives. I also hope to hear and get some music and movies to learn more about South Africa.