Rio de Janeiro, Iguazu Falls, the Internet Governance Forum, and the California Democratic Party Executive Board meeting: 1 - 18 November, 2007

Sylvia Caras, PhD

Advocacy Highlights:

Brazilian’s are fined if they do not vote.

I visited Pinel Psychiatric Hospital where the Committee for Democracy in Information Technology (CDI - www.cdi.org.br ) runs a project. CDI promotes social inclusion through ICTs, using IT as a citizens’ rights and development tool, mobilizing excluded segments of society and helping to transform their reality. There are seven mental health projects, two at psychiatric hospitals. The one I visited has 6 dial-up computers and 4 off-line, offers classes in basic skills and in internet use to inpatients, day patients, and community members. (Maintenance and hardware classes are offered elsewhere.) The project has 12 employees, all with salaries, rights and benefits. Class terms are two months or four months, morning or afternoon. The goal is not so much to teach a marketable skill as to motivate, to show that users can learn, that access to knowledge is important. The emphasis is to lower any barriers to community participation. The members said they were ‘tired of mental health’ so group discussions are about current events, music, arts, ... . I felt right at home! 18 May is Manicomio, an annual demonstration against long-term stay.

Law here requires that 5% of employees must be people with disabilities, but too often this is implemented in a segregated way, for instance by having an assembly line of all deaf workers.

Standards

Collaborative systems fail when there is so much compromise that, while the stakeholders grudgingly agree, they are not motivated to act on that agreement, and when the majority of stakeholders needs are not met within the system's rules and processes.

The current system needs to accommodate the broader base of stakeholders.

"Though technology has made us more connected, it has not removed the traditional geographical, organizational, and bureaucratic boundaries we impose on ourselves. Collaboration is essentially about the way that people (and companies and industries and countries) work together. To change that, we don't need policies, or lawyers, or complicated international infrastructures. We simply need the awareness and willingness to build the type of innovative collaborative infrastructure that we revere in our technologies."

Open standards means control is with the customer, not the vendor. A standard must be low-cost, re-usable, largely acceptable, and interoperable.

Giovanni Holanda: Brazil has e-government and e-health outreach projects, targeting people with disabilities, fostering inclusion, participating in OLPC. John Gill, UK: also outreach projects, concern for multiple disabilities and small cumulative disabilities.

Brazil made a forceful statement about multi-state control of the internet.

Pew Internet has representatives here - they are video interviewing and also surveying: www.imaginingtheinternet.org

 This is very long and has a lot about me and not so much about the meeting contents or even the tourist sites.  Most of this is travel journal, interior.

Rio de Janeiro, Iguazu Falls, the Internet Governance Forum, and the California Democratic Party Executive Board meeting: 1 - 18 November, 2007

This is very long and has a lot about me and not so much about the meeting contents or even the tourist sites.

12/13/2006: The dates for the 2006 Internet Governance Forum in Athens were not announced until the end of August for the late October 2006 meeting. Unable to get an airline award or a good fare, I spent too much on an air ticket, though I did still choose to go. So when the 2007 dates and place were announced a whole year ahead, right there at the 2006 meeting, I was eager to spend some time looking at routes and options. I felt like I’d won a contest, a big prize, when I was successful booking an award with American Airlines and was able to use Starwood hotel points for an add-on to Iguazu Falls. And, following a suggestion on the Fodor website, I booked safe but modest lodging in Rio. It’s comforting to have this all in place early. Left to do are the air from Rio to the waterfalls - I either need help with a web page in Portugese or a travel agent in Brazil - and a visa for Brazil. Mailing my passport gives me lots of anxiety - I may drive to San Francisco and get the visa in person.

I also subscribed to a Google Alert for Rio de Janeiro and since November have been reading about attacks on tourists, mostly robberies, at the airport, on the busses from the airport, in the resort areas and that gangs are in control and that Rio has the highest crime rate of any major city. I’m expecting things will settle down by the time I’m there.

I’ve been encouraging international disability groups and leaders to be sure there is disability visibility in Rio. There was little in Athens and I felt it was worthwhile that I attended and spoke up. And I mentally sorted through my clothes, have things to wear that pack well and are suitable for the weather.

April, 2006. After finding no travel agents who could ticket the flight I wanted from Rio to Iguazu Falls, despite being cautioned to not book online, I did buy tickets, from Rio on a non-stop on one airline and the return on another line on a one-stop because otherwise I would not get to my hotel ‘til around 9 PM.

July, 2006. Today I changed that long held air reservation so that instead of going home I would detour via Los Angeles and go first to a political meeting. It took me a while to mentally give up my non-stop flight across the country, I was advised by some frequent fliers that Santa Ana would be a convenient airport, so when I phoned I said I’d like to change to either a non-stop to Los Angeles or a one-stop to Santa Ana. "The non-stop is available, I’ll ticket," said the airline person. I hung up, pleased, verified by logging in, was appalled to see a one-stop to Los Angeles. "No, no," I thought, and began to panic. I checked the airline flight schedule, realized the error, phoned the airline, explained the mistake, and, with a little urging, got the itinerary corrected.

Then I got to look at my panic at the error, how my fingers fumbled when I dialed, why this felt so serious to me, the sense of deception at ‘winning’ the award I wanted and then finding it wasn’t true, frightened that I’d been presumptuous, was being punished, ...

Another panic experience is connected to this trip. I deliberately booked a flight back from Iguazu Falls to Rio as a one-stop, instead of the non-stop which doesn’t arrive until 7:30 PM. When I looked at the fine-print on the one-way ticket I had purchased it says one ways not allowed. I’ll have to deal with that at the airport and hope either no one will care or I will be able to talk my way out of extra fees - ‘the website sold me a one-way ticket; it didn’t say it was restricted.’

Subsequently, at the intermediate stop, Sao Paolo, an airliner crashed as it was landing and all aboard died. Has wanting to not check into my hotel late tempted fate? My heart is still pounding as I type this, thinking back to hearing the news of the crash.

Now I’m worrying about hurricane season, getting stranded at Iguazu Falls with only overnight things or buffeted in small planes or mis-connecting in Miami.

To retaliate against restrictions, US travelers need a $100 visa for Brazil, and must apply in person. So I printed out a completed application, my conference registration which promised a fee waiver, my e ticket, bought the required USPS express return envelope ($16.25), took my passport and photos and arrived at the San Francisco consulate at 9:05 AM. There were 30 or 40 people there, many picking up visa applications left there on a prior visit, a separate window for non-Brazilians. I took number 408, read 398 on the display, and sat down. A woman at the one open non-Brazilian window had a whole stack of passports, was filling out forms, I realized it would be a long wait, that she was either a visa service or a tour leader, another man came up with a stack of passports and chatted with her and the clerk, then another, this last man with two large stacks. So all the commercial people were going to be served first, and the display still read 398. In the meantime, all the pickups were processed and all the Brazilians, and the freed up workers began to serve the non-nationals. I watched people ahead of me, angry, frustrated - "No personal checks, no cash." Only USPS money orders. "No FedEx, no UPS." Only USPS Express Mail. "E Ticket. Photos." "Travel shots are required because you are entering from Peru." This to a woman who’d driven four hours from Truckee, decided to stay the weekend in San Francisco, go to a clinic for shots, return on Monday.

I had chosen a Friday because I had a conference to attend and would be driving 60 of the 75 miles anyhow, but I did realize that mid-week would be a better time, just in case of contingencies. After the wait, most had to return again. My turn came, papers in order, but there was no information about the free visa, about the conference, and no one was answering the telephone in Brasilia. Come back. "I’ll just leave the passport, and the envelope, and you can mail it to me." "No, we don’t accept passports." "I’ll mail it all back to you." "No, it must be in person." "It’s too far. I’ll just go and pay. Never mind." "No. Go have lunch. Come back in a few hours." It was 10:20. I did my errands, decided I didn’t want to again drive the 2 hours to San Francisco, would just buy the money order and ask if they’d return it if they didn’t charge me, and decision made, returned to the consulate. "Oh good, the minister is here, he will sign, you can have your passport back today. Sit down and wait." So I waited. And waited. And asked, and got snapped at, and waited. And at 1:10, had my visa. And an unused express mail envelope addressed to myself. I also stopped to buy some Traveler’s Cheques, free at American Express offices and this San Francisco office one of the nearest to Santa Cruz. I was startled to learn the smallest denomination sold was $50; the $20 Travelers Cheques are no longer offered. (Our post office traded the envelope for stamps; I didn’t use one Travelers Cheque.)

End September: I asked some advice from an online FlyerTalk participant who lives in Rio. He replied that the apartment I had chosen wasn’t in a safe neighborhood. I became very nervous that I had made a mistake, went back to the Fodor’s site where I’d gotten the suggestion, was told that posting was an ad and should never have been allowed, didn’t get a reply to my email for the apartment’s exact address, and whipped myself up into immobility, waiting. ... Then I got the address, was told it was in a fine neighborhood, ... and looked at what I had put myself through, first trusting a one-post stranger’s advice, then trusting another stranger’s cautions, and not at all trusting my own instincts. I’ve arranged one half-day tour, contacted an organization which facilitates several computer projects in psychiatric hospitals and have been promised a visit, and have laid out clothes and protein powder and green tea bags.

My mental executive function seems weak. I worry a lot about this and plan and plan and make all kinds of notes on scraps of paper, not trusting myself to do what is required and act competently without the reminders.

I had expected to be mostly an observer, but in this last week have been told I’m expected to speak in two workshops. For the disability one, I’m hoping to be able to recount my hospital visit; for the other, I’m going to talk anecdotally about what I learned from the CRPD about working with the UN.

48 hours before leaving my back started to hurt. Ice, heat, walks, anti-inflammatories (Celebrex), lots of anxiety, and very very careful moving around. My back hasn’t bothered me in a long time. I hope this isn’t a portent of a difficult trip.

At check-in, the clerk’s screen prompted her to look through my passport for the Brazil visa. "I’ve never seen one like this. It looks like you got it in August and it’s only good for 30 days. I have to check." She went to confer and I ran through various scenarios, starting with when did I actually get the visa, did I check it, did the Consulate make an error, if I had to go to downtown San Francisco and then sleep near the airport and fly the next day did I want to go at all or cancel, could I insist and deal with it in Rio, ... The clerk returned. Of course you know it worked out or I wouldn’t by recording this. "You have to enter Brazil within 90 days of getting the visa. You have another week. We wouldn’t want you to be turned back (or AA to be fined)." She handed me my papers and I walked away bemused, and as always, glad that I had had lots of time. (Later I looked at the visa; it was very clear to me that it was valid and I wondered why I hadn’t taken it back from her and studied it myself!)

The British Airport Authority has instituted a strict one carry-on rule and I walked over to their area to see if the bag I had with me would fit in the sizer. Nope, the bag fits, but the built-in wheels extend. So if I am to fly through their airports (I have enough airline miles for two more big trips), I will want a new suitcase of the maximum dimensions. I’m thinking maybe a duffel and detachable wheels.

At security and after boarding (and all along the trip), I asked a nearby traveler for help lifting my bags. My back felt fine standing and walking, and crampy sitting and lying down and I was very careful going from sitting to standing - that seemed the most dangerous, at an angle, as my hips and spine readjusted position. All in all I’m no worse, even a bit better. (And was fine throughout the trip.)

I changed planes in Miami (hot and humid on the jet bridge), had a taste when I asked for terminal directions of what I thought would be Latin style, lots of words that were ultimately unclear, and settled in for my overnight flight to Rio. Two different crew members addressed me in Portuguese, and when I landed, ground crew, taxi drivers, and then at the apartment building, people spoke no English, and I could only say "Hello" and "Thank You" in Portuguese.

So when I got to the apartment building, and the English speaker with the keys was not there, and the concierge had no external phone, I started accosting passers-by, until after a dozen or so, a trio from Sao Paulo made a cell phone call for me and within five minutes I was welcomed in English, shown upstairs, shown how to work the keys and appliances, and given suggestions for things to do and neighborhoods to avoid. The forecast is for rain, rain, rain, and as I explored the apartment I found an author I liked, Nicholas Taleb, and thought the plan to retreat with a book for a few days very appealing. The apartment is immaculate and spacious, insect traps in every room and moth-ball smelling ‘fresheners’ in the closets, includes a cell phone and an online computer, the bed sheets so soft I checked the label. Ikea. I smiled at the internationality.

The storm held off for a day and a half, and the first afternoon and the second day I walked in my neighborhood, Copacabana and Ipanema, finding small and large supermarkets, fruit and vegetable shops, sidewalk pineapple vendors, and vast lengths of beach crowded with sun umbrellas and bathers, craggy outcrops hovering offshore. Bodies are mostly trim and solid, skin tones medium to dark, some African. Clothes are scant and colorful, women’s beach suit tops are two small triangles with straps, the triangles seem the same size regardless of the wearer’s size. People seem noisy and gregarious.

The air is thick and moist, I’ve seen no flying insects, the uneven sidewalks are a mosaic of what looks like flat old pottery which is testing new small muscles in my legs. I’m being very cautious about balance.

This morning, more jet lagged than I realized, I went out without my address, phone number, hat or even a pen. Me without a pen to jot

down reminders and ideas! I walked16000 steps (I do enjoy having the pedometer my son gave me a few years ago for my birthday), perhaps 1/3 of those steps aerobic, and was back to my room about an hour before thunder and torrents. I only packed an umbrella and no flashlight, didn’t think of power outages and howlers.

In the food markets, shoppers are disorderly in the aisles, carts and baskets askew. Drivers use their horns often, short blasts, and the pedestrian does not seem to have the right of way! Signals are long at the intersections, and I respectfully waited for the green walk light. There’s lots of visible flesh even not on the esplanades, not as much obesity as I see at home, lots of bright color. But in the shop windows, the children dummies modeling babies and kids clothes are stocky, the body shapes not what I’m used to seeing on display. I have a travel watch, $20 Timex, large face - I was advised not to wear it, that it would be obvious and tempting and could provoke theft. Every other block on the main shopping street was a large display, time and temperature (31 C) so I was OK without my own watch.

Even though I was careful to drink water, I wasn’t used to the heat and felt weak and dizzy off and on. I have less resilience and endurance after traveling and am glad to take advantage of the siesta break. I’m not much tempted by advocacy email, am so far only checking my personal account which I’ve forwarded to Google (which does an excellent job of trapping spam, about 100 of those to each handful of interesting messages).

It’s raining today, I’ve cancelled my tour of the must-see vistas. In the apartment instructions, tenants are cautioned to be careful with garbage, to wrap tightly in plastic, to recycle, all in a small closet by the elevators. But the instructions in the closet are in Portuguese, the handles for the wall door for the garbage chute are stuck closed, I am leaving wrapped bags of garbage on the closet floor and guiltily scurrying back to the apartment, observing my unwillingness to ask and my fear of not following the instructions properly. <sigh> To guard against infection, I’ve covered the blister on my sole with a band-aid, I’m still feeling occasionally dizzy, and I’m enjoying logging on every few hours to check the weather and reading Taleb.

It’s taken me three days to notice a floor lamp in the living room corner and I have now placed it beside the bed for pre-sleep reading.

The kindly concierge used the house phone to call and speak to me in Portuguese and came to the door with queries. Today I used Google’s translator to write him a note and suggested he could write back to me and I would use the machine to translate. He replied in voluble Portuguese and held open the door for me and when he returned was glad to see I had an umbrella, ‘guarda shuva’. I had thought yesterday to purchase a light weight raincoat that would breathe, but so far none for sale.

I’ve had a lovely quiet day and was a bit reminded of the silent retreat I attended in the spring. I think the similarities are no one to talk with, and not very much to do. I preceded task by small task, success by success as I checked each off, the overall structure of meal and medication times, and then a note here, a chapter there, checking and mostly deleting email, organizing tomorrow, very peaceful.

My alarm was set for 6. The clock battery died. I also set a loud timer and slept through all 60 seconds of its very loud ring and was pretty startled to wake and see that it was 7:30. I scurried to keep the appointment for a favella tour I’d arranged, and along with six other English speakers, learned that the most famous African Brazilian is Pele, a football player, noted a large hill punctuated by tall resort-like rectangles, all with an ocean view. The image stays with me - perhaps imagine two by fours stuck in a large mound of clay. There are 800 favellas (community/ghetto) in Rio, side-by-side with very rich neighborhoods. The favella residents have squatter’s rights (more than five years on public land in brick and cement dwellings), there is electricity, satellite, sewers, most residents own a television, narrow roads climb steep hills which delivery trucks and public busses negotiate along with some pedestrians, private cars, and lots of motorcycles. Motorcycle taxis charge USD 1 for a ride up or down the hill. The Inter-American Bank has helped turn slums into coherent communities with rules of their own within the larger system. There are favella newspapers and radio stations.

Brazilian’s are fined if they do not vote, there are no write-ins (because recently citizens so spurned politics they wrote in the name of a renowned monkey, who almost won!, and the write-in law was changed), voting is via computer and results are know within 24 hours.

Brazil has excellent free public universities and poor free public secondary schools. Private schools are USD 500 - 1000 a month, the British and the American are among the best, school is half-day, for instance the morning session 7 - 12. School is supplemented by sports, projects, arts, ... , usually 9 - 11 and 3 - 5.

 

We visited a school supplement project that the tour company supports, in Villa Canoas, it turns out it was a CDI computer lab project, one of 94, (it’s also their project in the psychiatric hospital that I arranged to see) and that synchronicity was very pleasing, and I bought a pair of red crocheted booties for my newest grand-nephew. (And now wondering about the dye and ribbons, his putting them in his mouth, ... )

I waited in the van while the others climbed up in the rain for a non-view through the clouds. The driver talked on his phone, I received a call, I began to get very cranky, and realized how much I didn’t like phones, especially receiving unexpected calls which bump me from whatever state into on-guard public mode.

After the tour, I got off at an upscale hotel, enjoyed using the lush ladies’ room, resisted stealing a cloth hand towel to carry with me to wipe away the rain, was put off by the opulence and pleased by the helpfulness. I got directions, bought a battery for my clock, more minutes for the cell phone, stood in line at the only one (of four) working ATM’S at Citibank (which charged me USD 4 <groan>), and used the hotel-recommended taxi (safer, more expensive) to my appointment at the Pinel Psychiatric Hospital where the Committee for Democracy in Information Technology (CDI - www.cdi.org.br ) runs a project.

 

CDI promotes social inclusion through ICTs, using IT as a citizens’ rights and development tool, mobilizing excluded segments of society and helping to transform their reality. There are seven mental health projects, two at psychiatric hospitals. The one I visited has 6 dial-up computers and 4 off-line, offers classes in basic skills and in internet use to inpatients, day patients, and community members. (Maintenance and hardware classes are offered elsewhere.) The project has 12 employees, all with salaries, rights and benefits. Class terms are two months or four months, morning or afternoon. The goal is not so much to teach a marketable skill as to motivate, to show that users can learn, that access to knowledge is important. The emphasis is to lower any barriers to community participation. The members said they were ‘tired of mental health’ so group discussions are about current events, music, arts, ... . I felt right at home! 18 May is Manicomio, an annual demonstration against long-term stay.

Law here requires that 5% of employees must be people with disabilities, but too often this is implemented in a segregated way, for instance by having an assembly line of all deaf workers.

 

Glaucia translated. I had spoken with her on the phone before I left and made this appointment, and we were then in email contact. She also installed the Claro card minutes I had purchased in my cell phone by using a coin to scratch away and reveal numbers on the card and then following the phone’s instructions to enter them into the phone. This was a new and interesting bit of technology for me.

On the way out I met a patient, an artist, part of the paperwork project, who had just that day won a prize for his notebook cover design, and saw the cookies and challah (yes, ‘Jewish bread’, challah!) that the kitchen project made for sale.

More at www.papelpinel.com.br which links to Amocais, a non-profit which supports the projects and also links to the Pinel Institute.

It rained all day. My mood dropped by the time I returned to the apartment. I’ve lost the calm I’ve felt these first three days, am confused by the notes for myself about the next leg, keep replaying, planning, ... . Even when I think of a good plan, I don’t feel relief. It would be easy to credit the weather, or visiting a psych hospital, or checking my email and reading inflated and bruising posts, or loneliness, but I think mostly I am quite afraid of oversleeping and missing Wednesdays’s plane, and quite unclear how I slept through the noisy timer today. I woke early and anxious, remembered that the timer has a multi-function, can time four things at once, so I will set them all for wake-up two minutes apart, and I replaced the battery with a fresh one. It has been very nice to be in an apartment during this bad weather, but lacking are the conveniences of hotel staff who speak English, wake-up calls, taxis used to tourist.

In Santa Cruz I go once a week to a noon meditation sitting in an industrial area. Being aware among metal workers, diesel engines, and sometimes lunchtime radio are part of the practice. It was good preparation - this apartment is at a stop-light intersection. The idling motors are familiar. And it is otherwise noisy. Music resonates through the internal open core on which all the kitchen windows open.

I thought my repetitive stress injuries had returned, but I’ve recently been diagnosed with Dupuytren’s Contracture in my hands, and some osteoarthritis here and there, anti-inflammatories and stretches help, and I realize how much of a difference less typing makes. In particular I have a resistance band which I’m glad I decided to take with me. Relaxing my shoulder muscles and then stretching my fingers is helping a lot.

It’s still raining. I have spent this morning typing, checking email, getting ready for an early AM taxi to the airport tomorrow and my next stop, where it is also raining <frown>. My hand laundry is not drying, my hair is curly, my skin is soft.

I decided to take one suitcase by taxi to the hotel to which I’m returning for the IGF meeting. I phoned to make sure it would be allowed, no problem, went downstairs to ask for help phoning for a cab, was told by two men not to phone, just walk to the corner, I said no I didn’t think it was safe, they didn’t want to use the cell phone for me, then a women came in who spoke some English, agreed I shouldn’t walk to the corner, phoned, quite an exchange, they would call back with a cab number and pick up time, # 060, 20 minutes, I sat in the lobby with a mother and two children waiting for the school bus, my cab came, I noticed a man on the sidewalk with such a round taut belly he looked 9 months pregnant, not yet dropped - I was really startled, I saw lovely beaches on the way. I saw the meter, pocketed the change I’d asked for, gave a bill back, the driver at first looked surprised/unhappy, looked at the meter, added the balance to the extra I’d given him, noted it totaled 10%, and looked at me with I’m not sure whether appreciation or disdain. I asked for the concierge, the bellman responded "To leave a bag?" so this seems common practice (I think it is no longer allowed in the US "for security reasons"), got my claim check, walked a bit in the neighborhood, tasted and smelt the salt, heard and watched the waves, felt how compelling is the ocean, felt my mood lift, all through drear mist and drizzle, taxied back to finish up and pack.

I am wearing tan canvas lace-ups and feel like a white-shoed character from Havana or Miami, lacking a stogie, either looking quite odd or quite fashionable. In the neighborhood, at the grocery store, I am just one of the shoppers. In the hotels, I am playing the role of guest.

I hadn’t paid attention to Brazil’s renown for gem stones. At the hotel a clerk welcomed me and offered a tour of H Stern’s world headquarters, free transfer, no obligation. We chatted, I politely played along, then when I left started thinking it might be fun to go and get something for my granddaughter.

 

Back at the apartment, I took one last stroll towards the beach in the light drizzle, gems now on my mind, was drawn to a turquoise tourmaline gem stone rarer than diamonds, oh well, came back to the apartment, the concierge offered to call me a taxi for the morning, I managed to say no thank you that my friend had made the arrangements, opened the apartment door, turned on the lights, shook out my wet umbrella, and the lights went off. No power in the apartment anywhere. I heard voices in the hall, decided it must be the whole building, and while I thought about how to finish packing in the dark I turned around and went back into the corridor, where there were lights. Hmm. Is the building on generator? I managed to communicate that I had no light, was told to use the inner phone to call the concierge, asked what number, was told ‘nove quattro’, dialed, and up came the friendly only-Portuguese-speaking concierge. He found the fuses and circuit breakers (behind the open kitchen door which I would never have closed while inside the kitchen, likely never found) and after a trip downstairs and back up, everything worked! And I am learning words. In the midst of this the women next door came by and checked her apartment, her lights are on, she offered to help in any way she could, and the cell phone rang with the taxi arrangements for the morning. Not my one-thing-at-a-time style, and my wet things are still in the hallway along with me, the concierge, the neighbor and the cell phone. A neat denouement.

 

Events linger in my mind. I revisit. In bed, reading, anger flared, connected to a discouraging email I’d read three hours ago. At least I made the connection to why I was internally raging about something so remote and its antecedents. I was anxious about the next day’s travel, calmed myself by planning two more trips, one 13 months away, one 19 months off. All the while thinking travel is too hard!

Despite the forecasts, Wednesday dawned clear and by the time I got to Argentina the sky was bright and the temperature in the 90's. I allowed plenty of time in case of rain and traffic, found neither, so wandered around Rio’s airport, not much interesting, a cafe refused to sell me a side order of beans, insisting I had to have the steak it came with <smile>.

After a 30 minute ground delay, a smooth flight, luggage arrived promptly (but the special lock I have that allow TSA to open and inspect was stolen, this is the second one I’ve ‘lost’ a lock, but at least the bag wasn’t opened), and a drive across the border into Argentina, to the hotel I’m staying at, within a national park. Iguacu Falls are visible from the lobby, the pool, the rooftop terrace, from the distance, the real views are just like the postcards, everything looks like a video.

My room has so much Sheraton stuff on every surface that there’s not room for me. I’ve put away tissues, two plants, a basket of snacks, for-sale water, remotes, magazines, but couldn’t move the soap dish glued to the center of the counter near the sink.

The key card controls the room electricity; there’s no way to leave the a/c on. However, it’s very efficient; the room cools down in a very few minutes. There’s no overflow drain under the tub faucets; instead there’s a drain in the bathroom floor. The stone floors in the room and in the lobby are very slippery.

Argentina is an hour ahead of Brazil and I’m getting very confused about what time to leave for the airport and to make a tour appointment tomorrow. I’ve had to make a chart to figure out when to set the alarm <rueful grin>.

 

There’s a note on the balcony door advising locking to protect from bugs and monkeys. In the late afternoon I took the nearest trail to the falls and wandered down several paths to view spots. Tomorrow I’ve arranged with the driver who took me from the airport to take me to the Brazil side and a hydro-electric plant, 8:30 Brazil time, 7:30 hotel time, breakfast opens at 7 so that should work out just right. I’m tired, maybe early rising, maybe flying, maybe the heat. I don’t feel quite here yet.

I mis-set the alarm, woke at 4 instead of 5, have time to type here and check my email before the dining room opens at 7 for the included breakfast.

There are ramps in several places in the lobby, instead of a single step, but they are rhomboid shaped and several times I almost stepped on the side slope. I have seen a few people with canes, and two people in wheel chairs on the trails.

The driver was also at breakfast, we left at 7:30 (8:30 Brazil time) for the Brazil side of the falls, rode a bus to the trail head. When he found I was from California, my seat mate told me this National Park was the same size as the area devoured by the San Diego fires. I took the trail midst a group of about 60 kids, reached the outlook, rode the elevator, met the driver, stopped at the hotel within the park on the Brazil side (now owned by Orient Express, reminiscent of the series of grand railway hotels, a bit faded, calm, discreet), disappointed the driver by not wanting to wait in the long admissions line to see the bird zoo, strolled a bit in the town on the Argentine side, bought olives, returned to the hotel to rest during the height of the heat. In the town, there was a shaded alley, a half dozen vendors all with the same wares - olives, cheeses, preserved fruits. First the vendor suggested I buy a glass gallon chair of olives. I demurred, made signs for less, he held up a quart plastic container, I made a sign for half that, he refused to include a container with such a small amount, offered only a plastic bag, sold me maybe a cup of green olives, for about one (US) dollar.

The jewelry on display, Brazil is known for its gem stones, is to my taste over-done. I’m reminded of the museum display of Jackie Kennedy’s clothes, her wardrobe for a South American trip, maybe even Brazil, bright clear colors and chunky jewelry, a skillful combination of her own elegance and the more decorative style here.

In the late afternoon I took the park train for a 10 minute ride, then walked a trail for about 15 minutes, to Devil’s Slide lookout, walked, rode, walked and got back to my room about 6 slippery from the heat. Definitely no Amazon jungle trip for me!

There was a long disorganized line at the train station, and following one or two others, I ‘asserted’ myself near the front of the line. The hotel stop is not the first, and when the twice-an-hour train arrived it was quite full. Again I was assertive, insisting that a woman claiming a seat with her gear let me sit. She stared for a moment, slid to the edge to allow me to climb over her to the center.

At the end was a sign offering a discount for a second visit, have your ticket stamped, anxiety rose, I have no ticket, I have not even brought much money. But there was no ticket taker. I guessed that those who boarded outside the park, at the beginning of the train, those who had all the seats, also had tickets. There were a lot of people, the walk was slow and hot, slow and hot, no shade, I thought about the River Kwai march, maybe 250 clustered at the outlook at the end, ladders for photographers, or I guess even gawkers.

The waters: I am reminded of caramel syrup over crushed ice, tumbling into coffee ice cream until the end of the ever-present rainbow, then becoming white chiffon and finally disappearing in mist.

Ebon butterflies dart by.

I didn’t like so many people and left early so I could walk at a quicker pace. It was very hot and the sunblock I had so carefully decanted to travel size was in my room.

I passed an old woman covered head to toe in black, being wheeled, as preciously as a first mother would wheel her newborn, the woman’s head tilted, a perpetual smile, the tableau warmed and energized me. It felt like a magic moment.

The next morning, there was the woman in the lobby. While we waited for our drivers (there was a delay at the border crossing from Brazil), I said I had seen her the day before, asked if she spoke English, and her reply shattered the magic image. Garrulous and wandering and seven minutes of how ‘of course she spoke English; wasn’t she from Dover, ...’ and it turns out she’s 81 and got her first passport at 75 and has been traveling ever since. She’s with a small tour group and they are enjoying her.

There had been a thunder and lighting storm during the night and that created morning border crossing congestion. The driver arrived apologetic, only 20 minutes late (the guide for the others was an hour late) and I went to Itaipu, a hydro-electric plant jointly operated by Paraguay and Brazil, co-located, half of employees from each country, half of generators in each country, ... http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/hybiggest.html - one of the seven modern wonders (Golden Gate Bridge, Empire State Building, Channel Tunnel, CN Tower, Panama Canal, Netherlands dam project)

For all its needs, Paraguay uses only 7 % of the power generated, sells the balance back to Brazil. There were 17 on my tour, three guides, several languages, strict security (no tote bags, they provided water, I had to insist to take my snacks along; but cameras were OK. Go figure.). The construction started in 1980, 32000 workers, day and night, ... I can’t absorb the scale and again am experiencing reality blurring with spy novels (I’m reading Robert Ludlum’s Bancroft Strategy) and futurist movies. For me, more than ‘natural’ wonders, this engineered harnessing of existing forces, the creativity of design stuns. Itaipu supports local projects, researches, many dignitaries have visited and to mark those occasions a memorial tree is planted. A tree is also planted for 15 years of employee service. How much more harmonious than retirement watches, and honorary wall plaques!

This afternoon, cooler after all that rain, I took the short upper trail from the hotel to Mbigua Falls and even had a few minutes there alone, watching the water spill not in sheets but streamers. The bridges are made of a mesh that grips, but the borders and joiners are of solid slippery metal. I only skidded a little a couple of times and am very pleased with the tread of the canvas shoes I bought especially to have a good grip.

It’s raining hard again. No, it’s clear and hot and sunny. No, it’s pouring and blowing and the power goes off. And on. And off and on and off and on. The hotel has a generator. All’s working now and there’s a wet grey veil out my window. No the power is off. There’s a hall light, it’s 8 PM, I took a sleeping pill and went to bed.

I was at a retreat during the Virginia Tech shooting; I am now out of the country during the Finland shooting. I have the opportunity to not read every column inch, not hear every news bite.

It’s Saturday. When I woke I was pleased to find electricity restored, went up to the terrace for a last look, breakfasted early, checked email one last time, and went out to arrive at the park entrance just at the 8 AM opening. I went straight to the view I’d so enjoyed the day before, had the lookout to myself, realized I could spend all the light hours and not run out of things to see - I kept noticing different motions of the waters, birds, varieties of greens entwined and the sights and sounds and the spray on my arms and the heat. Sated, I returned to my room, zipped my bag, checked out (no unexpected charges to protest).

The taxi to the airport took 35 minutes, despite a long line, the driver negotiated Argentine passport control, carefully scrutinized my passport before assuring himself and me that I didn’t need a Brazil stamp, and stored my things for me in an airport luggage cart. Though the fine print on my ticket stated that it was valid only as part of a round trip, I had no trouble with that. Hurdle one. However, my carry-ons were questioned, weighed (5 kilo limit), a supervisor was called from in back, I said calmly that the computer didn’t count and that the wheels were a disability accommodation and when I pointed to my wrist braces, there were nods and permissions.

I was handed a long and a short piece of paper, narrow, like strips from a cash register roll, tucked them away, exchanged my last pesos from reals at a rip-off rate (but better than not exchanging them at all), could not find a cash machine that would take my US debit card, explored the airport (the only elevator to the restaurant area out of order, no carts on the escalator - a porter would help if I wanted to ascend), overheard lots of French and German, went easily through security (computer out, nothing else questioned), watch the preceding flight board, TAM weighed hand baggage, knowledgeable passengers put on their coats, stuffed their pockets, roll-a-boards were gate checked, no orderly queue, a crush around the gate, so when my flight was ready I positioned myself near the gate, midst the crowd, had the wrong piece of the boarding pass in my hand and had to rummage for the required part, fortunately I knew just where it was, walked to the steps, climbed aboard, settled myself and am now typing on a one-stop GOL flight via Curitiba to Rio. As on the incoming TAM flight, the women attendants’ uniform is a tight white T shirt and they are wearing bras so padded there is no sense of flesh underneath. Drinks were served and we are now landing. I take enough for lunch from breakfast buffets and I had ham and cheese and some of the olives I’d bought before I boarded.

The plane didn't crash; I didn't die. The escalator at the airport was out of order, no elevator, I got help with my wheeled bag, bought a taxi voucher at baggage claim, and arrived at the hotel around 6 PM.

There's a bride being photographed in the lobby. At check-in, I asked for a quiet room with two beds and ended up accepting an upgrade to a junior suite across from the noisy ice machine. A bad choice or an opportunity to get used to the noise? The room has a wet bar, sofa, whirlpool tub, and a (currently sealed) refrigerator, also humming, and it's own air purifier. The balcony looks out on pools, city lights, mountains, the corresponding tower balconies, dozens of high rises. The tariff sign says the rack rate is $361 + 5% tax; I am getting good value from the award points I have used. The buffet breakfast, not included, costs $20. After a delay, the hotel provided a 220 to 110 transformer so I could use my teapot. I miscounted and am lacking several days of cholesterol and blood pressure meds. I'm surprised, not sure how that happened. I think I misplaced the pills I’d organized for the Falls - maybe they are with what I FedEx’d to Anaheim (Nope.). I spent two hours unpacking and regrouping and went to sleep.

I woke early to a warm and cloudy day, found a sandwich shop that sold me a chunk of cheese, walked to the conference hotel, registered, saw Cynthia Waddell and Milton Mueller, was disappointed in the breakfast offered by a vendor - orange juice, cookies, coffee, sorted through the olive plastic-smelling conference bag, tried on the yellow and green conference T shirt, and am now wearing headphones listen to a Brazilian introduce this session.

I attended an invitational commerce focused meeting on standards. The morning started 45 minutes and never caught up. Break included hot hors d’oeuvre, sandwiches, guava and mango juice. Lunch was complimentary, a ticket to the hotel buffet, a spread of hot and cold, fish and meat, pastries, ...

 

Standards

Collaborative systems fail when there is so much compromise that, while the stakeholders grudgingly agree, they are not motivated to act on that agreement, and when the majority of stakeholders needs are not met within the system's rules and processes.

The current system needs to accommodate the broader base of stakeholders.

"Though technology has made us more connected, it has not removed the traditional geographical, organizational, and bureaucratic boundaries we impose on ourselves. Collaboration is essentially about the way that people (and companies and industries and countries) work together. To change that, we don't need policies, or lawyers, or complicated international infrastructures. We simply need the awareness and willingness to build the type of innovative collaborative infrastructure that we revere in our technologies."

Pew Internet has representatives here - they are video interviewing and also surveying: www.imaginingtheinternet.org

Georg Greve knows about a group in India training blind technicians in hardware and software installation, by voice from the beginning. He is trying to organize a presentation for next year in India. I made sure he spoke to Hiroshi about it.

Open standards means control is with the customer, not the vendor. A standard must be low-cost, re-usable, largely acceptable, and interoperable.

ODF, Open Document Format has been agreed on internationally. OOXML had a rushed review, countries rejected it, and rejected the proposition that there could be two standards, a very bad idea. So OOXML is not an ISO standard. Yes, a standard freezes change, sets one foundation, then many can build on it, and inclusion is maximized.

Giovanni Holanda: Brazil has e-government and e-health outreach projects, targeting people with disabilities, fostering inclusion, participating in OLPC. John Gill, UK: also outreach projects, concern for multiple disabilities and small cumulative disabilities. Giovanni@cpqd.com.br

One conference room has wiring and ISDN jacks at every other seat, another has jacks and electric outlets in the floor and many have brought their own internet cords. There is also wireless.

The afternoon break had more juices and cakes and sandwiches, roast beef, cream cheese, ... and then more canapes at the reception. I have spent the day stuffing myself with things I rarely eat. I thought these breaks were special, for the pre-conference. (Not. They served canapes mid-morning and mid-afternoon).

There are familiar faces from prior meetings, Milton, Derrick, Parminder, Avri, Jerome, Bertrand, Jeremy (and Dominica and Dylan), Frances ... and familiar names from the governance list. I’m having so much trouble with confusion and memory that I’m delighted that I’m recognizing the faces and remembering the names.

I went to a little of the Giganet meeting and a little of their business meeting. http://www.igloo.org/giganet They are very intent on walling off the scholarly aspect of their community from those who haven’t published. (A benefit of that stringency is that presenters could get funding to attend and present academic papers.) Then I went to a little of the civil society meeting which started 30 minutes late, and came back to my room to rest.

There are 2000 registered, perhaps several hundred already here. Planes from DC and from Japan and Thailand were delayed many hours, underscoring the advantage of coming a few days early.

Rain this morning, gray and drizzling. The bathroom scale is weighing light, it says I am 119 pounds <giggle>. A 10 page, single-sided, 8.5 x 11, stapled NY Times Digest is slipped under my door every morning. I borrowed a large umbrella from my hotel, walked to the conference, went through security twice, the second time my bag was opened, my dropper bottle of Rescue Remedy questioned, but my lunch and water ignored. The man before me had had two bottles of Evian confiscated. Then a crowd around the entrance, finally the room opened, events started about 15 minutes late and the opening formalities were brief, then another break, more sandwiches and juices.

I see no wheelchair spaces. I also see no wheelchairs, nor any other visible disabilities. There is a large visual screen displaying typing in all caps in English or everything said - this will be the meeting record too. The remarks will be on the IGF website, so I will not type in much content. Brazil made a forceful statement about multi-state control of the internet. The later the Brazilian chair underscored the need for balance among sectors, not any particular country (that means US/ICANN), equal treatment of all nations, governance must focus on human individual, internet is a public good, ...

Klensin: risk of substituting discussion for deployment, early decision to roll out good enough instead of access for all.

There’s a woman here form US GSA - she keeps introducing herself as being from ‘the federal government’ as if there was only one federal government.

 

Disability Forum

The prior panel wouldn’t leave. I really wanted some time to sit myself down before speaking and focus. I was rude, just brought my stuff forward, cleared off the water bottles, ... but they wouldn’t leave, kept standing talking <sigh>. But I enjoyed being rude <sigh>.

The disability forum went nicely. The other speakers emphasized their organizations. I realized I change my message for each presentation and I don’t so much emphasize madness as inclusion.

The core of what I said:

We can model for all of civil society in this information society process, the success of the International Disability Caucus in shaping the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

We can further the spread of justice and social equality through the universalization of access to knowledge. My goal is that all People Who ..., all people with disabilities, all people, shall be computer literate, and have access to hardware, connectivity, information, and each other.

And I concluded:

The UN work started with the premise of shifting away from medicine to a social model, a rights-based paradigm, and "rights-based approaches require the full participation of all relevant stakeholders." That’s key. I can’t close with anything better than the global motto of the disability community: Nothing About Us Without Us.

The audience was small and engaged and interested in the technical accommodations for blindness and deafness.

Walking back to my hotel, despite a plastic poncho, my slacks and sleeves and bag were soaked by the driving rain. After drying off, I retreated, watched House and went to sleep.

This morning was only drizzling and in the afternoon I took the free Shopping Bus loop to a huge mall, refrigerators next to jewelers next to McDonald’s, race-walked around and caught the bus back through an upscale forested area, finally found a supermarket, inside the gated entrance to the condominium community, bought rice crackers and cottage cheese, and decided to go to the ICANN session. Which is packed and hot and I have a seat in the very back.

Pets are popular here, I’ve seen several grooming shops and people walking pairs of dogs. The high-rise towers are peach and blue and green and red and khaki and beige.

 

I’m thinking a lot about aging and death and push to not leave loose ends, like making sure to type up my notes each day.

I woke early, had cottage cheese and rice crackers in my room, went for a stroll along the beach on this clear warm morning, changed some money ($4 Citibank charge per transaction <sigh>), walked to the conference, found the early morning session on entrepreneurship cancelled, and am now in the main hall, plugged in and typing. Half the attendees have laptops and during the sessions, like me, many are answering emails and otherwise working.

There’s a woman here from the UN in Paris who is wearing elegant accessorized jackets over plain black slacks. The jackets draw the eye and are becoming, but the whole doesn’t quite work.

 

Multi-stakeholder Partnerships

I went to a session about multi-stakeholder partnerships. But it didn’t seem to me to be really talking about inclusion but rather about expanding the existing hierarchical government system just a little.

Who/what makes something legitimate? Other advocates have questioned my own legitimacy, only groups allowed, who is your board, whom do you represent? (This perpetuates existing vertical models.) Who ensures that a multi-stakeholder process happens, how set accountability?

Issues: common goals v conflicting agendas; mutual respect; enabling participation with funding, access, languages, ... ; that people are using different mental models might not be explicit, therefore begin with issuing a paper; define the value of sitting together.

 

Online coalitions

How do the work, make decisions, what are the values? First discussion - only open source? Scheduled online meetings more successful for some tasks than asynchronous email. How make working by internet work? Linda participated via chat.

Today I skipped the full sessions and went to workshops, which were more interactive and interesting.

At the dynamic coalition on internet principles, which the IDC joined, I talked a little about how the IDC worked with the UN. Monthian, Hiroshi, and John Mathiason were there. I felt as if my delivery was flat and fast - I didn’t feel very energized.

Many participants here seem to me ‘ready for battle’ at each introduction, with an agenda to further and much more interested in telling than listening - who are you and are you worth talking to ... . I’m finding the vibe unpleasant and am avoiding conversations.

I woke from a dream where my two suitcases were taken as I walked through security and placed amidst a long line of many similar bags. I scanned the line of bags in both directions, couldn’t find mine, my sister found my dismay unwarranted, said I could easily replace the contents, but I felt she didn’t understand my needs for uniqueness. I woke very unhappy, connecting this to losing my identity via ETC.

The civil society struggles here about organizing and being heard remind me some of WNUSP and WFMH, how WNUSP had its own parallel conference at the WFMH meetings and then broke away. I am not sure that the link with government is useful, that multi-stakeholder is really valuing all. It seems to me that government is discussing, business is doing, and civil society is confused about where to collaborate at to what end. Even though there weren’t agreements after WSIS, I am wondering at the worth of these IGF meetings. As well, there are the formats required by the UN and by the host country and those trump other requests for less formality and more input.

Some of the meeting spaces are laid out so that the single entrance is at the speaker end of the room. The wall aisles are blocked by loud-speakers on tripods, so one must enter in front of the head table and walk up the center aisle and then climb over people to find an empty seat in the middle of a row.

I thought is was good advice to avoid negotiated outcomes which result in the lowest common denominator.

Work is being done on the edges, the core presentations are mostly formulaic and for those of us who’ve been here before, repetitive.

I couldn’t find a meeting room, then found it on a floor with new carpeting, regretfully left, annoyed that I couldn’t go to the civil society meeting, then couldn’t check my bag fur lunch because it wasn’t briefcase size and that’s all the check room would allow - slots for briefcases, went to lunch and allowed myself to be seated at a bad table, and ate too much (very large servings) while I felt uncomfortable. I think that started with the carpet smell, and it’s the worst I’ve felt on this trip.

I’ve had lots of fruit juice and no veggies on this whole trip.

New to the IGF and welcomed were child protection advocates, universal concern about controlling child pornography. "We all agree ... " always makes me uncomfortable, as if something was unsaid. I also saw in this morning’s paper, an article about children being accused of witchcraft and being blamed and punished for unexplained community events, sudden deaths, ... Somehow the emerging reporting of varieties of child abuse and victimization, the emerging attention, makes me wonder if children are feeling the brunt of inadequate resources and crowding. Were these things always happening? Is this a beginning of population control?

2100 registered for IGF, 1363 badges actually issued, 109 countries, 100 from press. Not enough from governments. US/ICANN management distresses many but changes aren’t happening, though ICANN is opening up (People Who is an ICANN North America member).

It’s raining again.

A woman from New Zealand spoke to me at the break, first about women’s issues, then asked my interest, I said ‘disability’, she said she’d read the Athens transcript, there was a woman who spoke so clearly about disability, women need to be as clear about the gender issues, was that woman you? I nodded, smiled, she reiterated how careful and concise my comment was, I felt good.

 

Emerging Issues

Combative, panelists correcting each other on trivia, there’s concern about spectrum, about how better to include the end-user,(I’m feeling ‘off’, have changed my seat three times and am now way in the back of the room), youth need to be invited, user behavior is changing, mobile internet, how make internet forget and expire data (for instance on social networking sites)

Photos have been taken of all the events. They are 15 Real each, about $8, and a disk with four is $25. I didn’t buy any. Then I ended up with 22 Real and no place at the Rio or Miami airports to change back to dollars. (Let me know if you are planning a trip to Brazil and I’ll mail them <smile>.)

I thought it was only drizzling, got drenched during my walk back to my hotel, dried off in the lobby, took a shuttle to the airport, broken escalator, no elevators, was refused help with the stairs ( when I asked about disability and wheelchair access I was told "You can walk!"), asked another passenger to carry my suitcase upstairs, and then was told "Oh, there are elevators; you need to ask specially." In general, rude and unhelpful. The plane rides to Miami, Dallas, and Santa Ana were uneventful. I dozed on and off, was able to check in early, went to the California Democratic Party Southern California platform hearing and in the morning to the Disability Caucus, lunched with friends I’d met in Tozeur, Tunisia <grin>, went to a Committee meeting which argued over commas and ‘what-if’s’, this morning will go to the general session and then fly home.

The hotels and restaurants here have ‘water-saving’ toilets which require several flushes to clear.

The resolution asking the California Democratic Party to urge the President to sign the CRPD didn’t make it to the agenda. I was told it got caught in the Resolution Committee Chair’s junk mail and wasn’t retrieved in time. I feel very disappointed, betrayed, deceived, ... One of the reasons I changed my tickets to come to this meeting was to defend that resolution. Now I’m told it will be on the March agenda, but that will be much more competitive - it’s the full annual state meeting and there will be national platform and candidate issues drawing attention. And the Resolutions Committee meeting will be long and late into the evening. I’m not a happy camper, and do feel I have to see this through. The chair of the Disability Caucus is on the Resolutions Committee and he took complete charge of putting the resolution forward, not even sending me the draft until past the deadline, so I had now way to proceed or confirm or ...

<shrug>

It turns out there will not be a Resolutions meeting in March, only a Platform meeting, so my (only) hope is to get the issue into the Platform. The next opportunity for a Resolution will be summer ‘08, too late, I think to effect the Platform or the election.

There were delays in San Francisco that dominoed the flight schedule. My reserved flight was to be an hour late, I was able to change to an earlier flight which eventually arrived at the time my later flight would have, a baby screamed the whole flight, in the shuttle coming home was the Austin, TX mental health director, here to visit his sister, who recognized me, and when I got home there was a notice of a planned power outage for the next day.

Word Perfect tells me there are more than 10000 words here. Thank you for your attention <smile>.