Brasília-Dallas – March '06

Available Trip Reports
PVH – NOV '05 BSB – JAN '06 BSB-DALLAS – MAR '06 APS – FEB '08
APS-BSB – MAR '08 CTC – OCT '08 BEL – AUG '09
LIMA – APR '12 TIB – 2012-13 TIB – 2014-15

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This was a “combined trip”. Originally, the plan had been to travel back to Brasília to do the second phase of the computer networking project. However, before March arrived I received an invitation to attend the first (annual?) Publishing Technical Consultation, to be held in Dallas at the end of the month. Although publishing is not my specialty, I have had some experience (I have helped finalized 7 New Testaments!). And being the only computer specialist in Brazil Branch, I was therefore elected to go.

Rather than race home on the bus after finishing the work in Brasília, I and the Powers-That-Be in Cuiabá decided that I would fly directly to Dallas from Brasília, then directly to Cuiabá on the return trip. As it turned out I did end up going back to Brasília on the return, but only to change planes at the airport. The original idea was that I wouldn't even pass that way, but things don't always work out as planned, especially in international air travel.

By the time I returned home, I was ready to take a rest. It had been a very full three and a half weeks.

The Trip Over

Like the last time, I traveled from Cuiabá to Brasília by bus. This time I did not travel alone. Bob Wright, who came down from the States along with his wife in order to renew their permanent visas, came with me. The plan was that we would work together to accomplish this phase of the overall project.

Unlike the last time, the bus did not break down. Overall, it was a fairly uneventful trip. After two more months of rainy season, the roads were in worse shape, but we still arrived at a decent hour on Tuesday, in time to actually begin some of the initial work and planning. Of course, we did not work long into the night, following an eighteen-hour bus trip. But we did get started.

Working in Brasília

During our last visit, we set up a computer lab in one of the classrooms, complete with a (crude) network. Other than that, we spent most of the time planning for the future. This trip was the first installment on that planned future.

Our main job this time was to install a network infrastructure in half of the main office/classroom building. After arriving, we looked things over and quickly decided that we wouldn't be able to do it the way we had originally planned. However, after a bit more thought we came up with an alternative that worked quite well.

Billiard passing cable

Me passing cable overhead

We were able to install cable and network outlets in half of the building, and were able to clean up the mess of cables that we had left on the floor in January. By the time we finished, the computer lab that we had helped set up in January was working better than ever. And it was sure being used!

We were quite pleased to find that everything we needed for the networking project was available in town. It wasn't all that many years ago that much computer equipment had to be imported from the States. These days, we can get everything we need locally.

David making patch cables

David making patch cables

Not everyone at the ALEM center is Brazilian, nor even American. There is one family from Germany, and their oldest son has studied computers and proved to be an invaluable help in our work. Plus, when we are not present, David provides help for the people there.

Patch panel

Finished patch panel in computer lab

We built a type of architecture that uses a “patch panel”. This allows us to set up a large number of network access points, far more than are actually needed, and only activate the ones that are necessary at any given time. In the photo above, every access point in the room (and in the next room over) is connected to the panel running across the top. However, only the ports actually needed are connected to the network hub (the black box on the wall just above the shelf), using short lengths of cable. This permits flexibility (new computers added, old ones moved, guests), while at the same time allowing for enough available ports to be truly useful.

Students using computers

Students using finished computer lab

Here is a picture of the classroom being used by students after the job was finished. Many of these people shown here will eventually be working among indigenous peoples, both in Brazil and abroad, translating the scriptures into their mother tongues. This is exciting!

Life in Brasília

Once again, I stayed in the student dorm at the ALEM center. And once again, linguistics classes were in session. As before, Bob and I took our meals in the dining hall. This provided a great opportunity to meet new people.

Students eating breakfast

Group of students eating breakfast

Many of these people are planning on doing translation themselves. Some will remain in Brazil. Others will go overseas. It doesn't matter; the ALEM linguistics course exists to serve all. And Bob and I were both tremendously gratified to discover that the computer lab that we had set up during our previous visit was being heavily used. Both teachers and students were very grateful for it, and ALEM looks forward to years of benefit from our work.

Publishing Technical Consultation

There are big changes taking place in the electronic publishing industry, and it was with that in mind that a number of our publishing technical people in Dallas decided to get everyone together to make sure that we were “on the same page”. They believed so strongly in this that they even paid for room and board for around twenty-five people from all over the world. So on the 27th of March we all gathered together to begin five intense days of technical discussion.

SIL Dorm in Dallas

Front of dorm on Dallas center

Here is the dormitory at the International Linguistics Center. This is the place where not only guests such as myself stay, but many linguistics students also live here while taking the course. My room was to the left and in the rear.

PTC session

Publishing Technical Consultation in session

Here is the group during one of our many meetings. Most of the time was spent doing presentations such as this one, which were followed by question and answer sessions. Much information was exchanged, and I learned a lot.

As I mentioned above, this was merely the first of what the sponsors hope to be a regular series of meetings. With issues such as Unicode, text conversion, publishing programs, and such, we expect to have much material for discussion for many years to come.

In Conclusion

This was a valuable time. Not only in helping out in Brasília, but in everything that I learned in Dallas. In order to do the job of supporting Bible translation in Brazil, it is often necessary to travel. The Body of Christ has many parts, and each must contribute to the whole for the body to function correctly.

And sometimes I wonder just how much someone else may have benefited from my presence…

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