I flew in a couple of days early to meet up with a friend and explore the city. The jacarandas were blooming and the excitement for spring was palpable. I had changed seasons over night! My friend met me at the airport and escorted me through the crazy BA traffic back to the city. We walked around San Telmo where I found an inexpensive hostel ($10/night) for the first part of the trip. Over the next few days I got to know the city, found a few great cafes, explore the markets, and practiced my Spanish. It was easy to get around and pretty friendly considering there are approximately 3 million inhabitants. Taxis are available, but the subway system is efficient (but crowded), and there is also an inexpensive shuttle to the airport.
During the conference I moved into an AirBNB apartment near the venue, a gorgeous building - Centro Argentino de Ingenieros - just off of the major arterial Av. 9 de Julio. It was a three day program that began around 10am - the later start making more sense after that first day! It was a small conference, which allowed for easy networking and a real feeling of community. There was a wide geographic representation, but not too many women in attendance (perhaps 10-15). Presentations were given in both English and Spanish, and in some sessions there was a parallel track. A favorite presentation was given by Fernando Raffo, who led a workshop with youth to put Rio Chico, a rural town in Argentina, into OpenStreetMap. The students came and spoke about the experience, and it was translated into English as well. Another standout was a presentation by Digital Democracy about the creation of an offline mapping stack based on iDEditor for use by indigenous communities in the Amazon rain forest to map their territory and resources. Bikestorming, Mapillary, and Mapazonia are also efforts I learned about that I would love to support through education and consulting. I signed up to present a lightening talk, but unfortunately was last on the list and we ran out of time... A disappointment, but perhaps at the next one!
The conference organizers put in a great effort, and did a good job despite a few hurdles. There were social events each day after the conference, and in Buenos Aires people stay up quite late! Group dinner could easily turn into a night at the tango club or seeing live music. One night a group of us ended up at Niceto in Palermo. When I heard 'club', I imagined fog machines and high intensity, but I was pleasantly surprised. The band was amazing and the crowd was delightful. Another night a group ended up doing tango, and the final day some attendees had a code sprint and bike ride. People were excited to be a part of the event, which created a positive vibe throughout the week.
I did not sample the local beef, but I heard rave reviews. The malbec and alfajore combo, however, was delicious! It was well worth the 6 day trip - I made many new connections, learned more about the positive impacts of OSM around the world, and walked away with inspiration and 'spring' in my step ;)
Couldn't make it? Check out the program here and sign up for SOTM US 2015.