I'd never been to South America before, so when Greg asked me if wanted
to go to FISL to help represent Fedora, I said sure. Yes, I'd have to
miss Lug Radio Live, but we weren't invited to that anyway. I'd never
heard of FISL before, and all I knew about Brazil was that it was in
South America, they like soccer, and they speak Portuguese.
When I arrived in Brazil, I quickly learned several additional facts:
1. Most Brazilians don't speak any English, only Portuguese.
2. There are noticeably more women than men in Brazil. (The Economist
says that the ratio is about 95 males to 100 females, but the locals
said that it was more like 60/40).
3. Brazilians are really really really excited about Linux and FOSS.
When we got to FISL on the first day, all that we saw were lines!
We really weren't sure which line to get into, because, well, there were
no signs and none of the locals spoke English, so we just got in one of
the lines. It took more than an hour to get inside and get our badges,
then we had to rush to the Fedora presentation (I'd made some F-9 slides
the night before, and David Barzilay had translated them). We missed all
of the presentation, but we got there in time for Q&A... which went
well, thanks to David's quick translation skills.
FISL had over 7000 people in attendance, it was really overwhelming, but
awesome! The language barrier was a pretty significant problem for me,
as I really wanted to talk to people visiting the Fedora booth and folks
in other booths. Eventually, I just gave up and just observed what was
going on, and helped out whenever I could. I got laptops working with
MPEG video to a TV output, installed Fedora 8 on someone's system,
researched a sound driver for a rather obscure arm handheld device, and
helped get Sugar running on top of Fedora (it is worth noting that
ghbuild kills kittens).
The Ambassadors did a wonderful job with their booth, and the attendees
definitely noticed. They had professional polo shirts, high quality
pressed media of Fedora 8 (livecds and installs), and they were
constantly talking to people. They even had a setup where people could
register as they got a free DVD. They were very helpful to us Americans,
and were very patient with our inability to speak to them. :) If it
wasn't for them, our trip could have easily been a real waste, but they
really made it worthwhile.
We ate a lot of good food, buffet style meals are extremely popular
there. As reported, I am indeed a "culinary coward", because I did not
partake in the eating of chicken hearts. The fact that I don't eat beef
or pork made things... difficult, but if you like meat, Brazil is the
place for you. We went to a churrascaria (aka, Brazilian BBQ) one
evening, and that was just wild. Never ending meat, plus dancing and
bolos! We also took some time to go sightseeing, hitting up some of the
local museums (no English there either, but we got the jist of things),
and to check out one of the large parks nearby. The park had a
"mini-zoo" with monkeys and birds of paradise (real birds, not flowers).
* Brazil is a HOTBED of Free and Open Source activity. We have a lot of
good Fedora talent in the region, and we're looking at ways that we can
get more involved with them.
* If I get the opportunity to return to FISL, I will surely learn some
Portuguese first. :)