Sunday, August 05, 2007

I wanna be somebody...

So... It's been just over a month that I've been on the road now, and I guess it's time for an honest review. What have we learned here?

Well, for starters, next time I build a successful career and a comfortable life, I think I might just hang onto it rather than pissing it away to follow some silly dream. But don't go thinking that means I regret this run, au contraire!

Besides the 'training' stint in South Africa, I've been deployed out to Nairobi in Kenya, Mbabane in Swaziland and Niamey in Niger. My scorecard is 2 for 3 so far with Kenya and Swaziland going off swimmingly despite the issues I had with support and backup. Niger is going to fail, but through no fault of mine. There's only so much you can help some people and I consider the fact that I've finally managed to convince someone that TCP/IP is not just magic but that some science is involved a big achievement. (some of you may have heard my rant about the /26 and the /24 that can't live in harmony)

Now, while that's all well and good, what have I really taken from this? It's not all supposed to be about giving, about enriching others; from time to time I have to get something out of this or my sacrifices were not valid. So lets go in increasing order or importance shall we?

I've learnt that I really do crave the acceptance and validation of others. That's bloody stupid, so I'm not going to do it anymore. I know who and what I am, and that'll do me. I've had my 15 minutes of fame and then some, so it's time to stop chasing the spotlight. I've spoken at international conferences, I've committed code and support into the Apache project, I've been published in a couple of magazines and I've made a small difference in the world around me. That'll do thanks.

Kinda related to this, I've started to understand my drive to do some of the slightly less sane things in my life. Skydiving is here to stay, it calms me down and keeps my head on straight. It's cheaper than therapy and the associated drugs and achieves more. But the BASE dream was for all the wrong reasons. Jumping off of and out of things isn't going to make me any better a person than anyone else, and it's not going to mean that I'm braver or tougher. It just means that I jump off of and out of things. "Yeah... and!?"

I've also discovered that I'm a chickenhawk. I'm an absolute coward at the beginning of anything new, but as soon as I'm bedded in for a day or two, I'm comfortable and in control. Confident, cocky, lazy, dead... On day 0, I am down around the 'nervous wreck - useless stage. Past day 1, I live at cocky. On Tuesday, coming into Niamey, all I wanted to do was welch on my contract and walk away. Fortunately honor and pride kept me in, and if it hadn't, I wouldn't have had dinner overlooking the Niger River on Friday night, wondering exactly what it was I was eating, while sipping an ice cold beer. I think this is my problem with interviews too and why I do much better than people expect at most things after the first impressions I give off.

I'm learning (but still slipping) not to judge people until I know them. It would be very easy to meet the slightly dodgy scouse lad (is there any other kind?), or the heavy sarf London boy, or the Dublin lads and assume that they're 'exiled' out to the sticks because they couldn't cut it back in the world. But then you watch quietly and you see that actually, they are a cut above the slackers and losers back in the world, and they're here because they are the only ones who can hack it.

Then you could go on to make a similar mistake in another part of the world about the slightly dodgy looking crew at a new site. After your previous misconceptions, you figure that they must be awesome to be out here, only to find they're a complete bunch of losers who's only saving grace is that at some point they will make good compost.

I've learnt to cope with loneliness. It's been 6 days since I had a face-to-face conversation with another human being. I'm definitely a stranger in a strange land out here; very few people speak English and things are completely alien. 10 year-olds roaring down the roads on motorbikes are as common as kaalgat (gotta love that word!) children following their older siblings as they herd goats through the telco compound. Vegetables are an unknown entity, so I'm physically not doing too well, but that's why we have supplements. I'm not sure I could cope without Skype and Adium, but I think I'm getting closer.

I've fallen in love with music again. I'm never far from a pair of headphones and discovering both new stuff and older stuff that I've not listened to in far too long. I'm also expanding my tastes somewhat but the old classics are still the best. Maybe that's why you slackers aren't getting the song title connections, maybe they're a little too old for most of you whippersnappers ;)

I couldn't do this forever - I'm not my old man; his breed is dying off sadly and the world is poorer for it. It's up to weenies like me to take this torch now, but we're too soft to be what he was. I guess his replacement will come from India or China or somewhere similar, where people like me do the job without whinging and panicking just because things are strange and scary.

So where next? Am I going to keep doing stupid things? Probably! Am I going to keep whinging about it to all of you? Of course! Am I going to grow, and learn, and prosper? Hell yes! Am I going to finally end this long and winding ramble so that you can get back to your regulalry scheduled lives? If I must...

/Lemming goes in search of a vegetable... or some SS7 packets... whichever is easier to find

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