I enjoyed many Europython conferences in my life, but 2023 was my first time trying to combine the full family life (wife, mother-in-law and very active 2 year old son) with a visit to the Europython 2023 conference in Prague, Czech Republic.
Background information: Both my wife and my mother in law come from Odesa, Ukraine. We live in Vienna, Austria where i run a small business teaching Python to children and adults. Recently, my wife started learning Python as well to help out with my programming courses for children. As she needs a new career path anyway after the baby break, i wanted to introduce her to the python community so that she can see "python people" (aside from me) herself and look for career opportunities in the tech field.
The Europython conference organisators offered child care during the conference and we took my mother-in-law with us to have an babysitter for the evenings... we even dreamed about going out dancing after the conference. So far the dreams.
In reality, I started to organize the conference visit months in advance. Buying conference tickets for me and my wife, buying train tickets (our son likes to run around a lot during traveling) and, most important, securing an place to stay close to the conference center.
If i learned anything at all during my past conference visits, it is that the physical distance between the conference and the hotel should be as short as possible. And i learned how important to catch enough sleep by arriving one day before the conference starts, and by departing one day after the conference ends.
I finally found an good-looking place at AirBnB just a few walking minutes away from the Prague Congress Center were the Europython 2023 conference takes place.
I even found time to print out business cards for my wife and me and to selected carefully a train from Vienna to Prague that terminates at a train station close to our home in Vienna and has toddler-friendly departing hours. We borrowed a foldable stroller that could be stored inside the train compartment without problems.
Looking proudly at a big stash of printed-out tickets and telling my wife countless times about the amazing Europython conference experience I had, especially the funny lightning talks, i felt very confident before the traveling started. what could possibly go wrong?
In the night before our departure, i got an email from the AirBnB host, informing me that there was a serious water problem in my booked apartment and they could not host me. However, they offered me another Airbnb apartment instead. I accepted and got an confirmation email while already sitting in the the train to Prague. So much to carefully planning the location, but i guess it was better to have an apartment at all than to have to search one at arrival time.
While the (thankfully very empty) train traveled trough the Austrian countryside toward the Czech republic border, it dawned upon us that each of us had a valid passport - except our child. We simply forgot to organize travel documents for him in time. While our son was busy hiding his toy cars in the train compartment (it's not an easy job for an toddler to keep 3 adults busy during an 5 hour train trip but he managed it masterfully) I practiced in my head dialogues of how to convince armed border guards that my son is indeed my son and i am neither a kidnapper nor an human trafficer.
In the end, we profited from the fact that there are seldom any border controls in the European Union anymore and the train stations of Gmünd (Lower Austria) and Ceske Velenice (Czech Republic) are only 2 kilometers apart. Nobody wanted to see any passport from anyone of us at all.
The very comfortable Czech wagon that we usued to travel had many praiseworthy features: climatisation, cozy 6-person compartments with chairs that can be transformed into one big sleeping area and (inside the Czech republic) flawless working wireless internet. It had however one feature that i did not like very much: electronic reservation displays. Those displays were black when we entered the train in Vienna but became activated after the border crossing from Austria to Czech Republic.
As our son was finally sleeping (for not-yet parents: it's the only time in life were parents can have such luxuries as deep breathing, looking zombie-like at nothing or even trying to remember how to communicate with other adults), a very loud lady tried to enter our compartment and to sit at her reserved place. We tried to indicate to her to please be silent (there were enough free seats in our compartment and enough complete free compartments in the train) but in the end she preferred to sit in a different compartment (maybe she spotted our ready-to-use potty). The damage was however done and our child woke up, with all the emotions you get from disrupting a peaceful after-lunch-nap.
After arriving in Prague, I managed to navigate my family up and down through the streets of Prague, during a hilly park and finally to our AirBnB apartment. The apartment was a bit small (one room), but functional. I buyed some groceries at a local vietnamese-run mini-market and we all headed back to the park for our first taste of Prague food in a nice beer-garden area with big playground.
When returning to our apartment we noticed that the fridge was not working (lukewarm beer is a crime against humanity). Fortunately, the AirBnB hosts came to our rescue with an replacement fridge.
After an hour-long walk (45 minutes according to Google maps) we arrived with the whole family at the Prague Congress Center. The volunteers at the registration desk were all very nice to us. One super friendly lady from Brazil even managed to get some kind of badge for my mother-in-law so that she could enter and leave the conference building without problems and even enjoy free fruits and coffee. As my mother-in-law speaks only Ukrainian and Russian, i wrote on her badge "I am a grandmother, please guide me to the childcare area". We gave our son into the childcare area (two nice rooms full of toys, with own toilets/wash rooms and plenty of young nannies). While signing in our son, the kindergarten boss lady (Zuzana Hrubcová, the owner of Susi's babysitting) took both phone numbers from me and my wife so that she could contact us in case of emergencies.
This task done, we went to search for an ATM machine to get some local cash (Czech Republic is member of the European Union, but not part of the Euro zone).
When we returned (ca. 15 minutes later) to the childcare zone, we found our child crying his heart out and a desperate Susie mumbling "This is not working out...". Our son is used to kindergarten in Vienna, but a complete new situation and the sudden disappearance of parents and grandmother was too much for him. Poor Susie had tried to reach us by phone but for technical reasons neither of us heard her calls.
In the end, we settled with the procedere that one of us (grandmother or parent) would always be with our son in the childcare zone during the conference and it worked out good.
During the conference, we were mostly busy with:
- Making sure child and grand-mother have arrived good in the childcare zone
- Making sure grandmother get enough food and coffee and breaks for resting
- Making sure our child got his daily after-lunch-nap (best method is to walk with stroller in park)
- Frequently checking for child-related catastrophes
The remaining times between those activites was filled with:
- Getting food/drinks/coffee for tired parents
- Choosing talks to attend
- Talking about attended talks
One of the advantages of going to the conference as a couple (vs. going solo) was that we could attend two different talks at the same time.
One of the disadvantages of going with a little child to the conference was that at around 16:00 everyone of us (child, parents and grandmother) was super tired and had a strong wish to go home.
To my regret, i never managed to show my wife the atmosphere of a lightning-talk session, as all lightning talks were sheduled at a day's end around 17:00.
My wife managed to attend a PyLadies lunch (she liked it) but was unable to attend the follow-up PyLadies social event in the evening because of child-care priorities.
We did managed to chat with (and got some valuable insights from) representives of companies who had a representation desk at the Europython conference (I got a T-Shirt and a "don't panic" towel from Kiwi.com). We had the opportunity to chat with and get photographed from Braulio Lara, an very friendly professional photographer. Also, we could chat with some conference speakers and participants and had an overall very nice experience doing so.
My personal goal was to introduce my wife to the wider Python ecosystem which consist of people - the amazing Python community. In this aspect, i reached my goal, my wife was impressed with the amount, friendlyness, openess and diversity of the people she saw at the conference and she has now a far better idea of pursuing a career with Python than before.
My other goals, like visiting lighting talks, attending social events in the evening or even to go dancing with my wife after a conference day because a well-rested grandmother will take over our child remained unrealistic dreams.
Children grow older, and we noticed that we were not the only parents at the conference but our child was among the youngest. For the next Europython conference, we will have more practical experience and more realistic expectations.
At the time of writing, the vidoes of the conference talks are not (yet) online. Those are the talks I (tried to) attended:
|conference day||title / link||comment|
|1st||serve-notebook-as-a-web-app-with-mercury-framework||sounds interesting, but I missed the talk and only could see the poster|
|1st||continue-thinking-small-next-level-machine-learning-with-tinyml||interesting topic, but i slept during the talk because I was tired|
|1st||async-robots||AWESOME! Spider-like Do-it-yourself robots! Programmed in Python!|
|1st||spiral python||I missed this talk, but my wife was very impressed. About teaching.|
|1st||polar vs. pandas what's the difference||I missed this talk somehow|
|1st||interactive-animated-reports-and-dashboards-in-streamlit-with-ipyvizzu||RECOMMENDED! Nice guy, cool product: Animated graphs and diagrams|
|2nd||pyscript and the magic of python in the browser||Very good talk. Use micropython in the browser to avoid the long loading time of pyscript. And: Turtle is coming to the browser via pyscript!|
|2nd||story generation using stable diffusion in python||Cool (and a bit scary): AI generated animated videos from text prompt. We are not fully there (yet).|
|2nd||vector data-cubes as a bridge between raster and vector-worlds||Interesting talk, but I was very tired|
|2nd||Music information retrieval with python||Nice!|
|2nd||the standard library tour||ok talk, I learned a few things|
|2nd||games of life - generative art in python||FANTASTIC talk. A cool guy plays around with python graphics. I instantly wanted to re-do all his experiments|
|3rd||Python 3.11 What's new||It was ok but I think i slept a bit|
|3rd||time made easy - simplify date and time handling with pythons pendulum||I wanted to watch but missed it somehow|
|3rd||Hitchhikers guide to D&D||Good talk, but it's about Graph theory mostly, with a few references to Dungeons & Dragons|
|3rd||What my 300 fantastic young stutdents taught me about python||Nice talk, very personal experience of a school-teacher using python.|
|3rd||teaching children pthon: what works||VERY good talk about teaching Python to children and adults|