Team Dinner with a Funny Suprise

Another (extended) CSC team dinner in a fancy location in Casa. The “Ocean View Cabestan” is a chic restaurant at the coast, Porsches and Mercedes parking in front of it. Thew view on the Ocean is amazing, but in fact the washrooms caused more funny conversations: what is the purpose of a couch within the restroom next to the water-closet? :-)

Sunset @ Ocean View Cabestan A couch in the restroom?

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Collecting Operational Data

One of our three sub projects for ALCS is the program data collection. As a short summary, the “field workers” (the doctors and volunteers who are in direct contact with the target population all over Morocco) collect and report activity specific data, e.g. how many education sessions were held, how many known or new contacts they worked with or how many prevention material for STD (sexually transmitted diseases) they could distribute. This is a good amount of data which get gathered, merged and validated on different organizational levels. Currently, this process is based on Excel sheets and a lot of copy-paste work – obviously with the risk to corrupt data and a long processing time. But to make it clear: even we as IT guys were impressed by the effort, quality and functionality in these files. The macros helped us a lot to understand dependencies and design requirements.

Operational data collection reporting sheet

This is the point where we came into picture. Dr. Ouarsas traveled from Agadir to Casablanca to give us further details and to explain the desired future state. This meeting changed our viewpoint a little – it is not only about setting up a database to replace Excel files, but to give recommendations and a draft for a framework, targeting a configurable and extensible application. Also, we recognized the similarities and dependencies between the budget-related challenges and those of Dr. Ouarsas. We have to think big and to combine our findings in order to be able to provide a sustainable solution for ALCS’ future requirements.

Dr. Ouarsas explaining the requirements

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Jogging Experiences in Casablanca

Parc de la Ligue Arabe from aboveYes, this evening I finally managed to take my sportswear (representing my sports association TV Obersiggenthal!) and went for jogging! :-) I was a little bit skeptic about it, I didn’t know how a western guy in running outfit in the middle of this busy Moroccan city would be perceived. Also, I didn’t want to get lost, so I decided to head for the big park near the hotel (Parc de la Ligue Arabe) and do some laps there.

Parc de la Ligue Arabe

TV Obersiggenthal in CasablancaIt turned out to be a nice experience. The park itself is well maintained, even though some playground installations from the sixties are locked away (at least it looked like). I saw couples walking hand-in-hand or sitting on a bench, young boys playing football, families with their dogs and old men playing Pétanque. I was the only jogger, but I still didn’t feel like an alien from outer space. A young guy with Rasta hair smiled at me and gave a thumbs-up. Such gestures and a sound mix of Linkin Park, Sunrise Avenue, Toten Hosen and QL in my ears gave an additional boost for my exercise. :-)

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Analog Database Modeling and Data Security

Ram and Patrick with Nidal working on the project finance toolingToday we split up into two groups: Ram and Patrick interviewed Nidal about her requirements regarding the project finance tool while Cathy and I analyzed the existing field data collection sheets from Dr. Ouarsas. Doing that, we learned a lot of technical terms (in French) and got a good overview of the “field”-activities.

The CSC program is an opportunity to try something new. For me, I never made database modeling by using paper only. It was fun and flexible, just the data security worried me a bit (ventilation vs. light paper, overeager cleaning personal).

Analog database modeling by paper

I managed to introduce two security layers before we left the office:

Data security in analog form

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Meeting the ALCS-VIPs

Presentation of our SOWSo far we could not meet several important people from ALCS, as they were engaged at an international HIV conference in Montpellier (FR). Today we finally had the honor to meet them in personal, e.g. Madame Fouzia Bennani, the head of ALCS and Madame Hakima Himmich, the founder of ALCS. We presented what our team has been working on so far. Generally we seem to have the same understanding. So, we continued to work on our SOW and almost finalized the objectives.

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Tangier – Europe ahoy!

Imane and her brother met us IBMers in the hotel lobby and guided us through the city of Tangier (“Tanjah” in Arabic) to the coast, the Caves of Hercules (which were closed unfortunately) and to the Cafe Hafa (opened in 1921) where we got sweeeeet coffee and mint tea and could take a look at the close Spanish coast.

Europe is just a jump away

Europe is just a jump away (background)

A Cinema in Tangier

An old cinema in Tangier

Later we entered the medina of Tangier via the Kasbah, where a street dealer offered t-shirts for 100 DH (US-$ 12.-) – not that I really wanted one, but I was already bargaining. I made him down to 60 DH (US-$ 7.-) finally. That’s the nice part about bargaining – both parties have the feeling of a good deal. It doesn’t matter to me that it was for sure the seller’s better business (Seven Dollars for a t-shirt with cut-off “Made in”-label??? From the street??? … I’m really an amateur currently… ).

Before we left back to Casablanca the team was invited at Imane’s (from DOT) place for Moroccan snacks, sweets and tea. Thank you Imane for the hospitality!

Medina of Tangier Moroccan sweets at Imane's place

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Chefchaouen – The Blue City

ChefchaouenFortunately we were not in a big hurry after last night’s adventurous ride. Chefchaouen, also called the Blue City, is relatively small and easy to explore on one’s own. So we wandered between the beautifully blue painted houses, found our way to the mosque within the Talassemtane national park, captured the WiFi code in a panoramic restaurant (with the most narrow staircase I’ve ever encountered) for another social media lesson and worked on our bargaining skills. Many of us were also asked if we’re interested in marijuana (plantations are close to the city) – but as far as I know, our group stayed drug-free. ;)

Chefchaouen Chefchaouen - Patrick the multiphotographer Chefchaouen Chefchaouen - Duki, Cathy, Michael, Lauren, Sayoko; Gerry + Ana Paula in front

Chefchaouen - Colors!!! Successful WiFi code obtained A very narrow staircase... or pole dancing? Kasbah of Chefchaouen

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A looong Journey with some Obstacles

We were aware that the way to Chefchaouen would be long, accordingly we planned to leave quite early and to pick up the “SMIT” team in Rabat. The aimed departure time of 4:30 P.M. was missed by one hour (that was expected somehow and nobody is to blame). So, we met our colleagues at the same shopping mall as Wednesday and filled our stomachs at the food court. When we wanted go continue our ride we realized that the hotel staff had not put the bags of the SMIT team into the bus as planned.

Long journey, long faces...

But it was too late for going back, we already made almost 2 hours drive. We decided to ask a hotel taxi to bring the bags to where we stayed at the moment – a transport up to Chefchaouen was no option. So we waited… and waited… and waited. At 10:30 P.M. the driver finally arrived with the missing items.

It was late and our poor bus driver still had a long distance yet to overcome. It seemed that to prevent falling asleep he cruised much aggressively on the curvy roads up to the hilly region of Chefchaouen. Even though some of us almost got motion sick we were grateful for the fastest possible way to our destination, which we reached at around 2:30 A.M. in the night.

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Work at Home

alcs_sow_paper_1024Due to some absences and the need for an early departure to Chefchaouen at noon, the ALCS team made a work at home day and used the meeting room of our hotel. We had to summarize the input from ALCS and to refine our SOW (scope of work) – which also means to prioritize the suggested workload of seven different key issues! We hope to get a common understanding early next week.

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