TL;DR: It was fun
I had a great start this year: I got to experience the high of seeing my name in Google's GCI winners announcement. The months that followed were not so great though- dealing with school is exhausting. Finally, June was approaching. All the winners were starting to get increasingly active in the Telegram group, chatting excitedly. I knew it was time to get revved up for my Google Code-In trip.
I'd like to start this story with my flights. In total I spent 22 hours in the air, crammed into an undersized seat. The Air Mauritius plane had two good things about it: friendly staff and on-board WiFi. The bad parts I'd rather not describe, else this article would never end :P We stopped at the (very busy) CDG airport in Paris. Their staff were less pleasant which is understandable; the job must be very tiring. While boarding my second plane I spotted my Drupal mentor, Tameesh. We realized we were on the same flight! Air France provided us with a much better experience, though there was no WiFi this time.
Day 0 - Bounty Claim
We took the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) and finally made it to Hyatt Regency, San Francisco. There, we got refreshed and met with the Googlers. Together, we walked towards the Google SF office. Once we reached, Stephanie from Google made proper introductions. We received a hearty round of congrats and then she talked about the week's schedule. The team understood we were all exhausted and jet-lagged, so they kept it short and announced that we'd be receiving our goodies! You could see everyone's eyes open an inch wider ;)
Some of the stuff in our goodies backpack was:
- A Google Pixel 2 XL (128GB version)
- A Google Home Mini
- An awesome GCI bomber jacket
- Much more!
Have a look for yourself:
Then we played an ice-breaker game while having dinner. We had to guess who preferred using IRC, who liked red the most and so on. There were specimens who couldn't whistle and those who could speak more than 3 languages. However, no one in the crowd liked red. Take note, gaming laptop manufacturers :)
Before returning to the hotel we took a stroll to buy a sim card. Unfortunately, sim cards are only available in network providers' shops in the US. The closest T-Mobile outlet was already closed by then, so it ended up being just a walk. I must say though, transportation is awesome in San Francisco. A lot of electric/hybrid cars and buses and even cable cars :D
Day 1 - Infiltrate Google Headquarters!
Another day, another Google office. This time we went to Mountain View, where this day's events would take place. We got to meet the Director of Open Source at Google, Chris Dibona, who handed us our awards.
The GCI team had the amazing idea of matching each winner with a Googler from their home country. It sure was an unexpected surprise to meet another Mauritian in San Francisco! Chatting with Olivier over the delicious food at Google was one of the highlights for me.
After lunch, there were talks delivered by Googlers: Ciphers, Google internships, Waymo and more. The rest of the day was spent touring around the Google campus, splurging our $150 store credit on tech and merch, and messing around in the Google Museum. They say a single picture speaks a thousand words, so here's a visual essay:
Day 2: Segway Tour!
Honestly, this must be everyone's favourite day of the trip. So many good things in such little time. First, gliding through the streets of San Francisco is one of the most satisfying things ever. If you ever have the opportunity, do not miss out on the Segway. Second, we went to visit the iconic San Francisco bridge. Finally we had dinner in a cruise :D
Day 3: Talks, Visiting Reddit, Goodbyes
We were at Google San Francisco one last time for a few more talks. Prior to the trip we had got in touch with Reddit, who offered us a visit to their HQ! It was awesome to be there, very cool office and very cool people.
If you've read till here, you have good focus. In short, those were the 1st four days of my trip. I am ending this post here; I might talk about the non-Google parts of my trip in a future post. Before you leave however, I just want you to know that the grass on the other side is not as green as you think:
On almost every street, you can see a homeless person. On 16th Street San Francisco, people in the flea market sell you stuff, then proceed to use your money to do meth, right in front of you in broad daylight. The median rent for a 1-room apartment is around $5000. People think you can become filthy rich in the US. But is it worth it? Especially when the opposite is also true.