Friday, February 17, 2012

muy bueno!

unlike my time in Lima, Quito has been a bit of a crash and burn. ministry meetings just gone awry, bad scheduling,miscommunication, institutional memory loss (this is when someone you met in october tells you they love your project and want to meet you in quito in february to engage more, and in february they have no idea who you, or your project is, what the heck are you doing in my office, go away) that kinda thing.
so, my week is basically open! but, as much as i'd like to go to the galapagos, i'm going to perservere and try and get what i came here for: data. so if the ministries don't want to hand it over why not go to the actual source: the military geographic institution, which is the ecuador equivelent of NIMA. so i get the question lady to make an appointment for us and the columbia consultant, juan.
so in the taxi ride i'm telling juan how some guy in the hotel told me that flights going to europe can't go straight to europe, that they need to refuel somewhere nearby, because planes can't fly out of Quito with a full tank of fuel, because of the altitude and the mountains and oxygen, or something (the guy spoke really fast). and i wondered, how did they figure that out? and the guy said "lots of lots of accidents!" and wow, whadya knowmy flight to amsterdam has a 2 hour Technicalzwischenstopp somewhere, probably Curacao. so, i'm trying to tell juan this in the taxi and first of all, it's one of these pimped out taxis, all low riding with the obnoxiously loud muffler. so, whenever the foot is on the gas it's PBBBBBBPPBBPB. and then, when we're stuck in traffic we can talk. so juan totally doesn't believe me, because, duh, planes fly at 33,000 feet, so why would they not be able to fly that high over the mountains with a full tank of fuel, and basically the rest of the time is just mocking my gullability. PBBBBBPBPB. oh look! there's a plane! it only has half a tank of fuel, what do we do??? whatever.
so we get to the military base and meet question lady there. the view is awesome.
killer view

the place is full of dudes in jungle camouflage (we're in the city?) and they apparently aren't exactly fans of my excessive smiling or question lady's singing voice. SO grumpy, i mean, they demanded my passport as if they just found drugs in my large intestine. jorge laughs, "no le gustan a las gringas" and they snapped at him, "no le gustan a los colombianos tampoco!" and remind us that everyone leaves work here at 4:30, so we better hurry.
so inside is the 70's pastel colored vinyl floors, long boring hallways and those old school wooden cubicles, oh man, just like the department of commerce in dc! though here there were framed Landsat images from 1986 on the walls, or fuzzy areial photos of the volcano. great.
we meet a senor miguel something, in charge of satellite imagery. he's an old guy wearing a dark suit and tie, very serious sitting at a desk with *nothing* on it but a mouse and a screen. he's kindof dazing out the window - oh, how may i help you? and we say we're here for satellite imagery they might have, for this province here, and his old fuzzy eyes light up, instantly, and he says, have you heard of this new German satellite, called RapidEye??
well yes, actually, i live in Germany so i know those folks pretty we-
they have 5 satellites! they take images every day!
yes, of course, i know! so you have rapideye data? that's fantastic!  
no. we don't have any. but you can buy them! look!
and he turns his screen around and takes us to the rapideye page and types and clicks s  o   s  l   o   w   l   y  it's brutal, he starts searching for imagery, which, anyone can do, in fact, i already did this, because it's kind of my job, but i let him show it to us anyway. i ask him the prices, which of course are 11 times what we pay in Germany, this goes on and on.
at one point a lady screams over the cubicle "miguelititoooo! llamatitaaaa!!" so cute. he screams "gracias marcitaaaaa" and answers the phone. question lady whispers under her breath what we all know, they do have data (they are mapping the entire country from border to border), and there's a receipt on the desk for 200,000$ of RapidEye data, but, they aren't going to give it to us. so we should go.
but first, senor, i have a little question...i mean, he is as much an expert as anyone, right? and so i ask him, about the planes? and the fuel and the mountains? and he gets very serious. "the planes do not carry full tanks of fuel because of the high altitude and the mountains, they can't fly quickly over the peaks! there were many accidents." ahhhhh! i TOLD you juan! and i'm all yesss and punch his shoulder.
oops. totally inappropriate. here we are talking about plane crashes and i'm jumping for joy. we better go.  
so we go to the bottom floor, which is a more commercial space where you can buy paper maps and aerial photos and stuff. there's oddly a tour bus of old embarassing loud americans that sound like my dad  "hey jean, check out the size of that old map! it's huuuuuuuuge!"  but otherwise the place is empty. we talk to another old guy at a desk who tells us to go to the machine and get a number, and then when our number comes up he will help us, right here at his desk. but, why do we need a number if we can just ask you -
EL NUMERO! and he points to the screen which is showing the next number, which is B30. i touch the screen for the number and wow! there comes b30, what a surprise. 
so the guy shows us a map which indicates the coverage of aerial photos, and basically, for our region all the aerial photos are in black and white, from 1999, and don't have any cooridnates associated which means you have no idea in hell where they were taken, it's basically a pretty picture. and they cost 8 bucks each. 
he basically shrugs and says "mala suerte!" and says we could hire a plane or whatever, and so...there's a bit of a silence and i ask, what is this thing?
i have the answer!
it's a large bright box with letters flying across it and a choice of buttons (i had to take a sneaky picture), from very good, good, ok and bad.
and he says something like "that is where the judgement comes" and so i guess it's a rating system, like how helpful i was today? this thing is fantastic. i want to press all the buttons. i'm very intrigued, where does the answer go? do you get to see what i choose?
and well, sadly, he does because after i huddled with my colleagues, asking them what they thought, bueno? muy bueno? which one? we finally laugh okkkk, muy bueno! and he turns his screen around and there's a giant smily face with the number B30 on it!
and i have to say, of all the meetings we had this week, this one was definitely the most bueno of them all!

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