SQLSaturday #103 Curacao Recap – Planting Seeds
This past weekend, there were two SQLSaturday events: #108 in Redmond and #103 in Curacao. I heard all the “Oh sure, tough choice there” comments, but my plans early on were to be in attendance at the Curacao event.
The original vision for this new role as PASS Community Evangelist was to get to one first-time venue each month to talk to attendees who might not be familiar with PASS. In addition, my being onsite to assist with some logistics and last-minute details at these events helps out the first-time organizers as well. Plus, I can see what areas I need to make sure I’m mentoring on before event day.
This trip was only 3 hours from Miami. I was greeted at the airport by event leader and local PASS chapter leader Roy Ernest [blog|twitter]. Roy went out of his way to not only pick me up, but to also pick up each speaker who came from over from the US. None of us arrived at the same time, so it wasn’t exactly convenient for someone already with so much stress of his approaching event. SQLSat #103 had three non- local speakers – Bill Pearson [blog|twitter], Rob Volk [blog|twitter], and Tim Radney [blog|twitter] – and two local presenters: Roy and one of his volunteers and co-worker Rohan Joackhim [twitter].
Friday evening’s speaker appreciation dinner was at a great Indian restaurant – one of many in this renovated fort called Rif Fort. From the outside, it looked like a castle, but when you walked in, there were all kinds of restaurants on several levels, all with open seating. You could look out in one direction and see the beautiful crystal-clear, aqua-colored ocean and then look inward around the fort at all the entertainment, from drummers and bands to folks dancing in the open center area. It was really a unique setting; I would say the only downfall was that the band was so loud, it was hard to hear even someone sitting directly across from you.
The event had two tracks, DBA and BI, and was held at the University of the Netherlands Antilles, courtesy of the head instructor, Rinnus Felipa. It’s always nice to meet those who help make a SQLSaturday happen, and kudos to universities such as this, which offer their venues for free to the IT community. It was obvious that the success of this day was important to Rinnus – he was onsite all day and meticulous about details that the university was responsible for, such as lunch. On the lunch menu was “Steak de Wea,” a local combination of rice and steak covered in a savory sauce, with fresh green beans and salad. It was delicious, and I enjoy trying something local and new to my taste buds. SQLSat #103 didn’t charge attendees for lunch, and the university kept the cost very reasonable (I believe each plate was around $7 per person).
The morning of the event, there were 95 registrants, including those who opted out the week prior. Actual attendance ended up being around 60 – so as typically seen at SQLSaturdays, about a 30%-35% drop-off. The event had only three sponsors: PASS, Redgate, and O’Reilly. But even with the little budget he had to work with, Roy managed to put on a great event for his community. As I talked with attendees during breaks and addressed the group as a whole at the end, many comments rang a common tune – they want to see another SQLSaturday… and most don’t want to wait another year for it (hint, hint, Roy!). As always, I stressed to the attendees that they should work on becoming presenters themselves for the next SQLSaturday event, and they could start sharpening their SQL and presentation skills by speaking at their local user group.
This post would not be complete if I failed to mention another key Curacao volunteer: Surenda Djaoen [twitter], another of Roy’s co-workers and someone he is mentoring to become the new leader of the Curacao SQL Server User Group. With Roy doing so much running around on Friday, and still prepping his own presentation for the big day, Surenda took on a lot of the last-minute details for the SQLSaturday. One of the highlights of the trip for me was getting time to talk with her about running a user group and some tips on growing the local speaker pool. It’s always rewarding to see volunteers’ eyes light up with excitement as their minds start racing with ideas. That’s all it takes – just plant a few seeds, and watch them grow!
Some personal comments and tips on this trip. Nearly all the hotels are with an ocean view, most have casinos, it is also a port for cruises, so lots of great shopping, snorkeling (which Tim Radney and his son managed to get a couple of trips in while there), and all kinds of great cuisine to choose from. Like most islands, you just instantly feel relaxed, even with the feeling that there is a nonstop party going on all around you.
Admittedly there was one thing that kept me from completely relaxing and that was the interesting local wild life, a wide variety of lizards. Most know that Florida is covered with lizards, but these were no ordinary lizards folks, we’re talking mega sized lizards, some with double tails (I kid you not, freaky looking!). The so called small lizards were about 7-8 inches in length, and just like lizards here in Florida, you’d walk down the side walk and they would scurry out of your way, however the lizards on my way to the cafeteria were closer to >12 inches in length and a bright green. I was jumping my way down that sidewalk, not walking. Then your next size up after that were the 18 inch and larger, these. Let me tell you, they don’t have armadillos or possum as road kill, they have iguanas, and yes, I had the unpleasant chance of seeing one on the way to the hotel. But don’t let the lizards and iguanas deter you from making a visit there, they are all harmless and either run or act like you aren’t even there.
One interesting thing you must see when you go is the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge. This bridge is supported by 16 floating pontoon boats, it separates the two halves of the city, and swings many times daily to allow ships and large barges access through the harbor. If this happens when you are ready to cross, a ferry free of charge will transport you to the other side. Here are some other great pics of this bridge: http://lazytoad.com/travel/cruise/curacao-Pages/Image6.html and http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g147278-d148574-r32109942-Queen_Emma_Pontoon_Bridge-Willemstad_Curacao.html .
A couple of benefits for US citizens visiting Curacao, you don’t need a special converter for your electrical items, they take US dollars everywhere including the slot machines, and most everyone speaks very well English. It was like being home without all the “noise” that comes with day to day life. I’m already planning a mini-vacation in September for Rodney and me, as he didn’t get to go this time, and it is indeed a great place to escape to for a little romance!