Coincidentally, we ran into a friend of ours, Amita Sharma while we were getting through the immigration process at London Heathrow Airport (LHR). At the time of writing this article, she worked for Red Hat and contributed to the diversity, equity and inclusion efforts of the Fedora Project community. Funnily enough, this was not the first time that our paths crossed like this as back in February 2023, when we were travelling to Brussels, Belgium (BRU) to attend FOSDEM 2023, Sumantro and I met with Amita at Dubai, UAE (DXB) when our connecting flights got delayed for some reason. It is always great to see familiar faces in an unfamiliar place so we took our time to get connected with each other.
While we waited for the boarding gates for the next flight Aer Lingus EI715 from London, England (LHR) to Cork, Ireland (ORK) to be displayed, Sumantro and I headed off to explore the London Heathrow Airport Duty-Free stores to purchase some goodies. When we got back with some soft toys, keyrings, fridge magnets and other small souvenirs, we started heading towards the boarding gates for the flight with Amita. Our seating was strewn across the flight but as this flight had a much short duration, we did not mind the inconvenience much. I also happened to make friends with a couple of elderly women who were travelling to Cork, Ireland (ORK) who were visiting the place to go trekking.
We made acquaintance and as a reply, I mentioned that I was heading there for a conference about free and open-source software. It was fun chatting about how the Irish weather and the abundance of greenery were one of the most alluring things for anyone visiting this place for the first time. After a little over an hour, our flight finally Aer Lingus EI715 landed at Cork Airport (ORK) and we were welcomed by the on-brand cloudy and rainy spell that Ireland is arguably the most known for. I got up from a small nap on the flight to recover from the tiredness and found that the flight was landing in an airfield that had nothing but miles and miles of breathtakingly beautiful farmlands around it.
Once the flight taxied to the final docking place at 03:30 pm Ireland Standard Time on 01st August 2023, the stewardesses allowed for deboarding from both ends. As I had my seat towards the rear end of the flight, I decided to bring out my umbrella and deboard from the rear gate. I headed to the immigration queue and saw that Sumantro and Amita were already there ahead of me. With the immigration process done, we headed to collect our checked-in luggage and this is where we realized after waiting for a long time that those did not make it. It was sad news as my checked-in luggage had a bunch of snacks that I was carrying from Pune, India to distribute during the international candy swap.
My checked-in luggage also had a bunch of CentOS Project and Fedora Project branded threads that I wanted to wear during the event. It also had a raincoat but thankfully, I was carrying my umbrella on my backpack. I was also prepared for this eventuality by carrying a couple of sets of clothes in my backpack. Even Sumantro was missing his checked-in luggage which contained critical equipment like mobile phone adapters. We consulted the airport authorities and finally departed from Cork Airport (ORK) after filling up a form to notify them of delayed baggage. At around 04:00 Ireland Standard Time, Sumantro, Amita and I decided to book ourselves an Uber ride from here to the event venue.
We got assigned a chatty and friendly Uber driver named Rowland, who had an experience in information technology. While the conversation did start with him complaining about how kids these days do not put much effort and simply spend time with video games and social media, it quickly moved on to discussing software and technology when we told him the reason why we were visiting Cork. The excitement on his face was worth seeing when we mentioned that we work closely to develop and maintain GNU/Linux solutions in free and open-source software communities. He also mentioned that he had a doctorate in computer science and had been working in the data science field for a while now.
We also discussed the recent advancements in artificial intelligence technologies and how it had been both, a boon for people across the world in enabling them to do better in their jobs and a curse for people who lost their jobs due to their efforts being replaced. As the interesting nature of the conversation picked up, so did the rain and the amount of traffic on the roads, causing us little delays in reaching the event venue at Clayton Hotel Silver Springs. Once we got to the hotel by 04:30 pm Ireland Standard Time on 01st August 2023, we met our friend Justin W. Flory near the reception who helped us with the check-in process. Amita and I finished the process and headed off to the rooms.
Sumantro followed us soon after once his check-in process got over. As much as a rollercoaster ride the onward journey to Flock To Fedora 2023 was, the very sight of the friends from the various free and open-source communities there cured all the tiredness and I finally went on to talk with the folks I was looking forward to meeting there.