Friday, May 28, 2010

Chau to Latin America

On May 9th evening, Charles told us that he would be leaving early morning next day, and that Quiliro would come and pick us up to go to the Catholic University. I found out that we were going to the IT Department of the University and was wondering what I should speak and how I should start. I thought that I could start by asking them how much money they paid to the copyright holders for teaching about Turing machine. But at the University, we came to know that students and teachers from a school in the name of a freedom fighter of Ecuador had come to listen to our talk. And in the hall, I found that the people from the school far out numbered others. So I had to change my strategy. So I started by asking them whether they had studied Newton's laws and who the laws belonged to. Or who the theory of relativity belonged to. The students said that it belonged to Einstein, probably not grasping the meaning of my question. Then I asked them how they could learn or teach these theories without paying the authors. The students immediately said that they were free, and that they belonged to everyone. In that case, I asked, how come people were allowed to own some pieces of knowledge and not allow others to use the knowledge without payment. My job was done, and, I think, the children got the message loud and clear. It only remained for me to point out that software is like knowledge ant that, like knowledge, software also should be free (as in freedom). I told them that Free Software is like free knowledge and got them to agree that they will at least try Free Software. With that, I gave the stage to Juan and Rafael. Both of them talked for quite some time, and I thought that is better because they can directly speak in Spanish (rather than translate when I speak).

I met a small child there wearing a T shirt that said GNU/Linux. He became friendly to me and we sat on the floor of the dias talking for some time - he in Spanish and I in Malayalam, just as i used to do with the third child of Charles. But this time Quiliro was there to do a bit of interpretation for me. I met the family as I came out of the building and they had taken a few photographs with me carrying the child. I did request them to send me the photos, but I have not yet received them. I shall put them up here as soon as I get them.

From the University, all of us went to the airport. Rafael, his brother-in-law, Quiliro and others were there to see us off, and we soon left Ecuador on a TACA flight. The airport had free wifi access and Juan and I made use of the opportunity to check our mails. I just sent a mail to Lucho saying that we were leaving. Since the flight was in the evening, and it became dark soon, there was nothing interesting to see and the wait at Lima also was normal. We reached Asuncion early in the morning and Lucho and his girl friend were there waiting for us at 3 in the morning. We went straight to his house and soon were asleep. Before I went to sleep, I just sent a mail to my brother-in-law in Dubai, Ajith Kumar, saying that I was back in Asuncion and would try to get the flight from Dubai postponed by a few days.

The next morning, we went to the travel agency that, as Juan found out, had booked my tickets and got the flight from Dubai to Delhi postponed by a few days. It cost me US $ 150, which, I thought, was a bit high. Later, it turned out that I could buy a new ticket from Dubai to Kerala for a similar amount. That would have saved me the fare from Delhi to Thiruvananthapuram. Anyway, the money was spent and there was nothing I could do about it. From the travel agency, we had to go quickly back to Lucho's home because he was called to sort out some problem in some system that he was looking after. So he left us home and quickly went out. And I started wondering how I would go to the airport. Juan told me that Nicolas (Pereira) would come to drop me to the airport.

My flight was supposed to be at 6 pm and I should be at the airport by 3 pm. The drive to the airport was supposed to be about 30-40 minutes. So I was expecting Nicolas to reach by about 2:15 pm. When there was no sign of Nicolas, Juan called him. Nicolas said that he was in a meeting and would reach in ten minutes. He also said that he knows someone in the airlines, so there will not be any problem. Finally, both Nicolases came and we all went to the airport. On the way, Nicolas Caballero said that there were two pieces of good news. One was that the electricity company had offered US $ 100,000 every year to conduct a Free Software conference. That was good news indeed! I asked him how much that would be, in real terms, in Paraguay. Nicolas said that the Free Software Asuncion conference for which I had originally gone there, had cost only about US$ 55,000. Then I asked him whether they could keep apart some money for starting an institute for Free Software. Nicolas responded by saying that that was the second good news. The same company had offered a million US dollars to start such a Centre! That was absolutely great!

We must have reached the airport around 4:30 pm and I had no problem in checking in. They allowed my small suitcase and my laptop bag to be taken in the cabin so that I wouldn't have to wait for the baggage in Dubai. The only problem was that I had to cart it around in Sao Paulo. I did not have to pay airport taxes because that was included in the ticket. So we finally said good bye and Nicolas said that we should meet again. I suggested that he organise a Free Software conference in Canada (where he was moving to in a couple of months). They had to go in a hurry because they had a meeting at 5 pm, and I walked in. I had about an hour to wait before the flight took off, which I spent mostly reading Freakonomics. Soon we were ushered into a Boeing 747 which took off as scheduled. And that was chau to Asuncion and Latin America.