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Home / Stories from the field

A Short eRider Life Story

2004-03-03 16:17:35

eRider short life story.
Whenever I meet people that never heard about eRiding they ask me what's this?
How did you started? Why are you doing this? And I'm telling them my story.
Maby this is not my detailed life story, but a very, very big part of it.
Of course you can find a lot of documents about this project on the internet
and other places, but I think this is the first, not so official story of eRiding
in Poland.
All started from my passion to radio, music and computers. I alaways wanted
to work in a radio station, talk to people, play some good music they would
like to listen to etc. And finally my dream came true. It was in 1996 when I
was in high school just 15 years old crazy about radio young man. In my home
city Jelenia Gora a new radio station started. The owner of this station was
an NGO working with youth and addicted people. At that time I didn't have any
idea about what NGO is and how it works. I've worked there for 6 years. Then
some very big company bought the station and I had to look for another job.
Suddenly one day my ex boss called me and asked if I would like to get a very
good job in Wroclaw (about 100km from my place). His friend was starting a new
project and needed a techie person. So after few weeks I was on my way to Wroclaw
for some kind of job interview. As it appeard it was the beginning of the pilot
eRider project in Poland and my adventure with eRiding.
The next day after the interview I met my job partners. They were mainly not
techie people, with a very good NGO background - four girls and one guy. They've
all finished their studys, got masters degrees etc. And I was just a guy from
high school. So at the beginnig it was pretty hard for me to get their trust,
and to make them treat me serious :)
After few weeks of together training we've created a team, team of eRiders.
But at that time we didn't knew what an eRider is. We just heard that in the
USA there are such people, and they are pretty successfull. This was the time
when Marek Tuszynski showed up, .the whole project coordinator. He told us about
circut riding, Roundup and created the whole vision of our work. After that
I was asked a lot of technical questions and my biggest failure was that I haven't
work with Linux before. So when Marek noticed that he asked me to set up an
Internet router in our office in Wroclaw. I told him that it's set up on Windows,
so why should we change it if it works fine. He gave me the choice: you will
set up the router on Linux or you'll loose the job :( This was pretty serious,
but I have to admit that this was a great motivation to learn some new things
:)
I've spent more then 70 hours without sleep to learn basics of Linux and setup
the router. And this was also the moment when my adventure with Open Source
started.
All NGO's chosen to work in the project where divided into groups - Homeless,
Disabled, Mother with children, Addicted, Free time and recreation so that every
consultant had his own group - besides me, because I was working with all the
groups.
I couldn't understand why all those people wanted me to learn more about NGO's.
I was saying all the time, that I'm the techie guy and I'm doing my job well
- what else do you want from me? When we had some training on writing proposals
or some other NGO related topics I was arguing with Marek Tuszynkski that it's
a waste of time. Finally after few months I've understood that eRider job is
not only the techie part but also a great NGO knowledge. I think this was a
great step in my eRider work. I saw that my job doesn't ends on fixing some
equipment but I shuld go further and help my clients how tu use the techology
in a better more efficient way. So this was the moment when eRiding for me startred
for real :)
Because more then 70% organisations I've helped had offices outside Wrocalw
I had to travel a lot. At the beginning I took my mother's VW Polo, then I could
afford to buy my own car. This was 18 years old BMW 318. There were days when
we had to travel more than 200km to reach some NGO's. One day we were going
to Glogow (pretty big city more than 100km from Wroclaw) when suddenly the car's
engine stopped. We only managed to get to the nearest gas station. Didn't know
what to do :( I've tried to find some broken parts in the engine. Finally I've
decided to find someone who can pull me to the nearest car repair station. After
one hour of asking all the people I've found one guy. I've bought a special
rope and attached it to his car. We got on the main road and I've found that
my breaks are not working (the engine was off, so the breaks pump was off as
well). The guy was going faster and faster. When we were going more than 100km/h
I felt that my shirt is all wet. This was the first time in my life when I was
so scared driving a car. Finally we stoped in front of the car repair. I was
so happy that I cuold get off the car and touch the ground. The guy from the
other car just cut off the rope and left waveing for goodbye. I was very happy
that he helped us, but on the other hand I was wonderind where did he come from
- some rally team ...
Another time we were in Zgorzelec (190km from our office) in an NGO working
with addicted people. We've met there 45 years old Basia. She has never worked
with the computer and never tried to use Internet. So we took her to the Internet
cafe and started with basics of Windows and Internet Explorer. After few meetings
she was able to send e-mails, search the web and use the discousion group. She
didn't want us to leve Zgorzelec without having a dinner with her. So everytime
we were visiting her organization we had a great dinner. When we were there
for the first time we met her adopted doughter - Marta was nine. During the
meal Basia told us that Marta has some problems with maths and she can't afford
for private lessons. So every evening we were in Zgorzelec we spent time on
learning Basia some new features of the computer use and Marta basics of maths
:) This was a really great time. After some time Marta passed to another class
without maths problems and Basia is in touch with us till this day using internet.

The greatest supprise was a visit in one NGO that stopped replaing to our e-mails.
We didn't knew what happend so, we've decided to go there. After few hours driving
we finally got there. The ED told us that they had a problem with the equipment
and now they can't use Internet. In the first moment I thought that their modem
got broken or a hard drive. Something that doesn't allow them to use internet
or computer at all. I've switched the workstation on and everything was ok.
I even managed to connect to the internet. Couldn't understand what is wrong.
So I went to the ED's office and he told me that their techie guy took their
printer to repair it and told them not to use internet until the printer will
be back :D Maby he thought that this is some kind of special printer combined
with modem :)
When the project was going to finish I got an e-mail from Marek Tuszynski.
It said that if I want to go to USA for Roundup (every year eRiders meeting)
I have to send him my passport number and some personal info. I was shocked.
Visiting USA was my dream for many years. My grantfather was born i the States
and was alaways telling me about it. How it was before the war, and that I shoud
some day visit the country where he spent half of his life. I thought that this
day has come. It was amazing. We were going to Orlango - Florida one day before
the conference to spent some free time there. We rent a car and wanted to see
the Apopka forest, but suddenly we've lost the way and went to Daytona beach.
It was march so the water was like 21 degrees c. People were only surfing and
no one was swiming. For us the water was so hot, because in Poland the Baltic
sea hardly ever gets 20 degree. So we've bought swimming pants and jumped into
the water. Waves were so big that we were totaly coverd by them. I felt like
in paradise. Then we went to the Canaveral Space Center, but it was alredy closed.
Everything was so new to me - the streets, the houses, the Atlantic Ocean. Finally
we got back to the hotel and prepared to the first conference day, "the day
of service".
In the morning I didn't knew what to put on me. I thougt that I shoul were
something very official. When I've entered the conference room in my suit with
tie and shirt I was very supprised seeing all the guys wearing jeans and t-shirts.
I felt - THIS IS GREAT those people are so normal! They are so open and happy
of what they doing. My job on this day was to go to the SPCA - medical clinic
for animals. We went there toegether with Teresa Crowford, Marek Tuszynkski
and Ewa Kobus (eRider from Poland). They needed few computers for new staff
and had a lot of old parts and monitors. So We've collected 5 working workstation
and connected them to the local network. They were so happy that they've invited
us to the Magic Island in Disneyworld. We thought thath we won't find time for
this but we did it :) I felt like beeing a small boy again in the world of cartoons.
Every other day of the conference I was learning how eRiding in USA looks like,
and meeting new great people. I understood that eRiding is no longer just american
thing, that it should be implemented all over the world.
After comming back to Poland I was very sad. Because the project was almost
finished and I had so many new Ideas for eRiding and so much work to do with
NGO's I've served. But as it apeard later it was not the end :) Marek Tuszynski
suprised me with an information about first european eRiders training in Kosovo
where we spent more than week learning about consultation and getting all the
skills that good eRider needed. I said "we" because I've met there eRiders from
Africa, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Slovenia, USA, Gorgia, Kosovo, Mongolia and
Kazahstan. The atmosphere of the training was so great that I had this strange
feeling I know those people for ages. We spent toegether not only time on training
but also all the evenings talking, making jokes and dancing. I really felt that
we can create something unique..
And that's how it started - we've built an international eRiders team I was
part of. Next year almost all of us met in Oakland on another RounUp conference.
Another unforgetable experinces and pictures were written into my memory - Day
of service, conference meetings, new friendships and anmazing places in San
Francisco. This was the time when we started thinking about building the eRiders.net
website with a great coordination of Teresa Crawford. This was a big job for
guys from Bulgaria - Kaladan and his Interspace team. We were given a great
tool for promoting eRider movement and for our communication.
I though that I got used to getting this suprising e-mails from Marek Tuszynski
with invitations into different places, but I didn't because when an e-mail
with Summer Source Camp invitation came I was totaly suprissed :) All took place
on island of Vis in Croatia where we got from Split by boat. The weather was
great, no clouds just a lot of stars and the moon. We spent all time outside
just watching the sky. I just couldn't imagine that situation in a commercial
world, where everyone is looking for himself and sometimes doesn't have even
time to stop and just like we did watch the stars. On Vis we were staying in
an old military base about 10 minutes away from the city center. This was something
incerdible, so many anmazing people in one place and all of them working with
Open Source - developing and implementing. They didn't treat it as a job, I
could see that this was their passion and some kind of mission. I came back
to Poland full of energy for using and implementing Linux OS and other Open
Source software. I made a confesion to myself that I'll spent at least one hour
a day for work with Linux to improve my skills and to better serve my clients.

After two months in Poland I've organized a presentation combined with two
day training for my local NGO's about Linux OS and bootable Linux distribution
- Konppix. People were shocked, because for them Linux was something magic,
unaccessible, something only for crazy techie guys. And suddenly it apperd that
f.eg. KDE is a normal and accessible graphic enviroment. They've learnt how
to partiotion the hdd to use two OS and how to install Knoppix on it. The biggest
challange was mounting and unmounting removable devices.
Now I'm working as an independent consultant in Poland serving 10 NGO's in
my region as a volonteer.
Few months ago I got some old computers from Germany. I didn't have place to
store them so I had to put them into my room. Now it looks like a magazine.
When I was draging the computers into my apartmant on the firs floor some people
from the neighbourhood called the police beacause they thought that I've robbed
some computer store. I had to show the police officer all the documents to prove
that this is not any robbery.
10 of those computers I gave to the Craftmans associacion in my home city with
Linux installed on them. Now I'll spent some time on training the staff and
implementing a MySQL database to improve their work.
This is only just a little part of this what happend in my life after starting
eRiding, but as you can see this isn't just a boring office job. I'll give you
a piece of advice, be carefull with eRiding, because it is very easy to get
addicted ;)

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