My PyCon Namibia Experience

My PyCon Namibia ExperienceAfolabi AdesholaBlockedUnblockFollowFollowingMar 20Attending conferences outside Nigeria was not something I anticipated would happen this year.

The enthusiasm that comes with learning something new and also having the opportunity to validate what I do is usually the main reason I attend local meetups and conferences (not the small chops of course ????).

I decided it was time I expanded the borders of my experience by participating in an international conference.

It was such a coincidence that while I was thinking about what conference I could possibly attend, a friend told me about PyCon Namibia.

At first, I thought “why Namibia?”- I didn’t know much about the country other than its location on the African map.

Preparing the application was quite a stretch since I only learned about the conference a few days to the deadline for talk proposal submissions.

The struggle that comes with preparing an application for submission cannot be overemphasised.

While celebrating the small win of my presentation being accepted, I became preoccupied with other aspects of the conference which included visa application, funding and most importantly for me, what the whole experience would be.

As is the typical story, the Namibian embassy, unfortunately, did not make the application as smooth a process despite my ability to provide all the necessary documentation requested.

Additionally, I was also aware that the sluggish response from the embassy was further exacerbated by the common suspicion that I could be a potential “run-away Nigerian” seeking greener pastures outside my country of birth.

However, despite the challenges with the embassy, my current employer, Terragon Group lifted the financial burden of funding by deciding to sponsor my travel and attendance at the conference.

I will continue to remain grateful for their unprecedented generosity.

This came as a huge relief because the biggest barrier to the amazing experience I had in Namibia was now taken care of.

On arrival, everything was seamless, from the airport pickup to getting to my hotel (thanks to a good friend, Gabriel Nhinda).

The most immediately noticeable positive aspects of the country were the beautiful clouds and the weather.

I wondered if the name “Windhoek” was formed because of the abundance of wind in the capital city (forgive my ignorance if otherwise).

Upon arrival in the windy capital, I met with Jessica Upani(one of the conference organisers) and Daniele Procida(an active member of the international PyCon community) and activities kicked off almost immediately.

We toured the city and we learned the historical significance of various monuments and places.

The interesting thing about this day was that we didn’t go to places with massive developments like houses on the hills and some fancy estates owned by politicians, instead we went to the more rural settlements; Katutura where we learnt how to sew local fabric and how Kapana (the Namibian equivalent of Nigeria’s famous Suya) is being made.

To end it all, we went to a local restaurant where we had authentic traditional dishes.

What better way could the day possibly end?The conference started the day after I arrived.

There was so much energy and it was obvious that the teeming young population of tech enthusiasts had dominated the event.

I am glad to also point out that there were lots of young girls in the audience.

Up until that day, I never witnessed a tech conference having that many ladies(kudos to all aspiring female tech enthusiasts out there).

The highlights of the day for me were the lightning talks and Enrica Pasqua’s presentation(speaker from Berlin) on using Apache Airflow for pipeline automation.

This was a potential solution to the challenge we faced with orchestrating our data pipeline flow at Terragon group.

I picked a special interest in this workshop and it later birthed the use of Airflow at Terragon.

A section of the crowd with many smart and vibrant ladiesLightning talks are always interesting.

They can be a deviation from anything tech-related and it is an opportunity to tell people something they may not know.

The second day for me was an opportunity to educate and inform people about my great nation, Nigeria.

I gave a lightning talk about Nigeria’s famous monuments such as Olumo rock and its significance, the great wall of Kano(our very own local wall with the night’s watch and no wildings or white walkers) and the Esie soapstones.

I got a lot of questions from the audience and it was evident a lot of people were interested in visiting Nigeria.

We ended the day at a restaurant with a lot of music and poetry.

I wished I had more confidence in my poetry to share with the group at that time.

The day of my talk finally came.

I was a bit nervous because I wanted to be perfect and not bore the crowd.

My talk was about A/B testing with Python, using some Namibian products/initiatives to explain the concepts.

While I was struggling with the projector and fussing about the demo gods, I remembered what Daniele said to me “everything always happens at the very last minute and it always turns out okay, but in the meantime, your stress levels go through the roof”.

This was exactly the feeling 30 minutes before my talk.

My laptop and the projector decided to pick a fight, and the resolution of my screen was the cause of the dispute.

Before figuring that out, I thought the HDMI was faulty and I had gone to every room in the conference hall to ask for a spare HDMI.

The feelings of anxiety, stress and worry at this moment was actually beyond “through the roof” levels.

Fortunately, things got sorted a few minutes to the presentation and the talk went better than initially planned.

After the talk, I remember Juan Luis (a speaker from Spain) walked up to me and said “I wish I took my stats class more seriously”.

Juan Luis’s statement left me with a good feeling and clear indication that the audience had enjoyed my talk.

The post-conference activities planned were equally amazing.

Daniele had planned a trip to the Skeleton Coast and that would be a 5-day desert drive.

I was only available for two days after the conference and as a result of this, I couldn’t join in.

Fortunately, I was not alone in this predicament so, myself and other conference attendees, we decided to go on a wildlife safari instead.

I never would have imagined I would be 500m away from a hungry cheetah.

Well, that happened (and I lived to tell the tale).

You may thinking- “how best can you not get eaten by a hungry cheetah?” the only answer is that you better come with an alternative snack for the cheetah to munch on!.As if that wasn’t enough, we also had to feed some hippos and a very hungry Leopard.

The experience that day was mesmerising.

We also visited the National Museum of Namibia ACRE (Administration, curation, research, library and education services).

The museum has a well crafted representation of pre-colonisation and colonisation eras with various artworks, artefacts, and other items used during the war.

The museum captures the story of Namibia as a country on each its floors.

The National Museum of Namibia ACRE (Administration, curation, research, library and education services)To conclude, the experience was amazing and I can’t wait to visit again.

Next time I would plan to leave enough time to explore other places in Namibia from the desert to the skeleton coast, stopping by the beautiful cities of Walvis Bay and Swakop, climb the big mama sand dune and many other tourist attractions that I missed out on during this trip.


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