Bara ala tî Bangui!

It has been already almost four weeks since we changed the rainy French weather for a hot and humid climate of the Central African Republic. Day by day we have been exploring and discovering more and more from this country in which, for example, the weather can play much more important role than in Europe. When the afternoon heat reaches the top temperatures, our computers are melting under our fingers which makes us think that the best place for working would be a fridge. When a storm replaces the hot sun, a question comes during a walk in the town – should we map this street as a road or is it already a river? Often electricity blackouts make us adapt our work, occasional water cuts make us adapt our lives. However these are not the only elements we have to consider during our work. As we learned during a presentation about the local culture prepared by our Central African colleagues Serge and Assania, there are certain specifics we should respect when dealing with the local community representatives. Appropriate dress code, respectful behavior towards supreme persons, knowledge of basic phrases in the local language – all that can help us to establish the future partnerships so important for a success of our project! And it seems that we have been on a good track so far. We have been collaborating with the local Ministry of Health, Ministry of Water Resources and Forest, with the University of Bangui and many others.  In most of these cases we were warmly welcomed and offered help and cooperation. There is also an interest in training in OpenStreetMaps and Sahana, especially from these actors who has been already working with different types of GIS. All these factors and small successes push us further in our efforts. This week we could also finally start with imagery mapping of Bangui (before it was not possible due to bad internet connection). Hours and hours in front of our computers turn us into real geeks, our world is now composed only of “buildings” and “roads” and “points”. The OSM computer bugs have become worse enemies then cockroaches in our bathroom and we are even dreaming in squares and lines. A clear sign that it is time to leave our IT hollow and go out! Next week we will have our first real African mapping party in our neighborhood. However, instead of cocktails and finger foods we will need GPS and walking papers (not for eating, of course!). Can’t wait!

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