A team of Armenian bloggers took part in Barcamp Central Asia held in Bishkek, Kyrgizstan, on August 1-3, 2003.
As I’ve written earlier, Bishkek felt very Soviet, the Barcamp, however, didn’t. Over 150 bloggers and internet/media people from Kyrgizstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakstan, Latvia, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and even – Spain, Australia, USA took part in this bizzare un-conference.
The Armenian team made a couple of presentations on Barcamp Yerevan and on VideoBlogging in Armenia, as well as hosted a BridgeCamp session (something like Q’n’A) on Internet security and overcoming state censorship. My presentation on Barcamp Yerevan is available for download or viewing online. There are also some photos of Barcamp Central Asia available on my Picasa Web Album.
Overall, the event was just great and now all thoughts are with the upcoming Barcamp Yerevan.
I avoided flying Aeroflot since 2001 – having had an unforgettably horrible experience of this giant Russan air-company. This year, however, Aeroflot seems to follow me – had to fly to London via Aeroflot this March – with most horrendous experiences of being stuck in Sheremetevo 2 airpot for 18 hours on the way back, with no reasonable explanations. This flight to Blogger Meatup – Barcamp Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan via Airflot again was so bad, that at some point I gave up making a frustrated face and started having a hell of a lot of fun, especially as my collegues, Reporter_Arm and F5Admin were equally frustrated and full of sarcasm.
Airflot deserves a separate entry, so I’ll stop right here, and tell about Bishkek – well, it fells like back in Soviets. One understands just how progressive Armenia is today. Russian is the second state language, Russian mobile operator Megaphone greets you with an SMS welcoming you to the Russian network, not bother to let you know that you’re actually in Kyrgizstan.
The situation is tense – horror stories start from the airport – with a startled competition between private and ‘service’ taxies. The private ones are dangerous for tourists, local friends who came to see us inform us. Don’t walk in the streets after 10 PM, they warn just in case – might be dangerous.
Well, it’s dangerous in daytime too – police are fierce, corrupt and lack sense of humor. Reporter_Arm and myself were stopped when crossing the central square – a fluffy lady in the police uniform smiled a cunning smile when Reporter_Arm said he left his passport in the hotel. The other lady in uniform had a harpy smile too – too bad they didn’t notice our excitement with this sudden happiness of meeting corrupt police and having the opportunity to do the blog-post of all times about them 🙂 Our bold behavior was clearly unexpected – the uniform ladies dangled around in disbelief, seeing that none of us thinks about attempting to bribe them despite obvious signals. The boss – a young officer-surgent of perhaps 12-13 years of age approached with a stern face and put his hand forward for a wet handshake. Spitting across the shoulder, the surgent-boy invited us into a toilet sized box – the police checkpoint on the square under trees, walking with wide open steps, as if something was stuck in his ass.
He looked at my passport with a bunch of visas for what seemed like a century, asking why are we here, what is a barcamp, what type of a conference it is and what are we up to here in Kyrgyzstan, walking without passports with our our Armenian faces. We are from brotherly-soviet-republic we insisted, we have not been bold or mocking with the lady-police, and Reporter_Arm will take his passport along as soon as we get to our hotel, yes Sir! we said. And just in case it didn’t go down with him well enough, that we’re not going to give him any bribes no matter what, I showed him my press-pass and said I’m ready to take a photo or interview him. Reporter_Arm let him know, that he’s from Internews, a journalist. The narrow eyes of the police-boy and the uniform-ladies narrowed down to dangerous sizes – the victims were slipping away! “You guys should give tourists some notes in the airport, stating that they must carry passports at all times”, I advised them with a knowing face – then you’ll have no problem taking them to jail for the violation. We turned our backs to the ‘tourist friendly’ Kyrgiz law-enforcement and half-walked, half-ran away. That’s a way to encourage tourism in a country – we thought. Horrible we thought. Oh how we love Armenia we thought…
…meanwhile in Armenia a major opposition event is scheduled today -still no news on A1plus, and we’re really worried.