Bishkek, Day 3

Our Kyrgyz hosts took us to a traditional restaurant last night for an excellent meal. What I wasn’t expecting, though, was how many toasts there were. We had Russian vodka and Kyrgyz cognac, and this morning I was feeling the effects.

I got to give a toast too. I said, “my dad once gave me some excellent advice when speaking in public: stand up so everyone can see you, speak up so everyone can hear you, and shut up so everyone will like you… To openness. Open borders, open source, open societies, and open hearts.” It was pretty well received.

Today I gave my presentation on the topic of open source and how it can affect media organizations. I’m starting to get concerned about piracy in this region, and how, if an organization uses pirated software, it’s an invitation to trouble from the authorities. So you basically have two options: pay for your software, which is probably going to be prohibitively expensive, or use open source software. So I showed ’em KDE, OpenOffice and our software tools, CAMPSITE, Digital Kiosk, Multimedia Archive (MMA), and the Cream CRM database.

The talk was relatively well-received. I got to hand out lots of CAMPSITE installer CDs, and gave it to these editors with the explanation, “to make this software would probably cost you $25,000. So consider this as a gift of $25,000 from me to you.” And I handed over the CDs. It was pretty cool.

Bishkek’s architecture is definitely Soviet. They still have a statue of Lenin on the main square downtown, and lots of Soviet-era monuments with heroic working people. But at the same time, there’s a definitely Asian feel to the place. It’s multi-ethnic, with Russians, Kyrgyz, even some Koreans living relatively harmoniously. There is a Muslim insurgency in the south of the country, but it doesn’t seem to affect day-to-day life for people in Bishkek.

The hotel is full of Westerners. NGO people, some military people, some Russian businessmen, some Western businessmen. There’s a bar on the 11th floor that has a good panorama of the mountains and of the city.

I’m working on the tech problems in getting my photos posted; in order to post, I have to burn a CD and bring it here to the Internet cafe, so bear with me.

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