Doing My Job

Chris George, the head of the development group, and I, the head of the research group, were replacing Dines Bjørner during his absences. The first time that I had to replace Dines was on Monday 5 February, about a month after I had started my job at UNU/IIST. The mother of Coffee das Dores, one of the Macanese members of the support staff, passed away and, as the acting director, I was expected to be present at the obituary ceremony. I did not know what I should think of it with the hideous and ominous racket that was made with musical instruments throughout the ceremony.

The next day, I accompanied a guest from the Philippines as the acting director to the University of Macau. It was my first visit to this university, and I was quite surprised. The university premises were much too large for the three thousand students that were up at the university and the numbers of unused desktop computers that I saw in rooms that I happened to pass by were strikingly large. I wondered who was responsible for this waste.

The guest that I accompanied to the University of Macau was the boss of one of the fellows from the Philippines at that time. Another fellow from the Philippines got picked up by the Macanese police a few days before, just because he was a Filipino. Like all others who worked officially for UNU/IIST, the fellow had diplomatic immunity. The rumour was that the ordinary police officers, who had Chinese roots, picked up Filipinos, as well as people from some other non-Western countries, to embarrass their superiors, who had Portuguese roots. Once Boutros Ghali had to intervene when a fellow from the Philippines was detained throughout the night in the police station.

The guest that I accompanied to the University of Macau became quite popular at UNU/IIST during his short stay: before he left, there was a farewell lunch, a farewell tea, and a farewell dinner. When he was about to leave, he gave gifts to some people from the development group and to me. I was quite surprised because I had only had some short discussions with him. The gift was a bamboo kings flute, a kind of flute which is only made in the Philippines. He also insisted on the taking of a picture of him and me.

What struck me about the fellows was they were always in good spirits and keen to learn. They were so happy with the opportunities which they were given. All this was quite different from what I had experienced at Dutch universities. The fellows often had a family with small children and an income too low to see their family during their stay of usually about nine months in Macau. However, they put up with this situation and considered themselves privileged by the given chances. I think that it is long ago that Dutchmen would put up with a similar situation.

At the beginning of March, there was a workshop on formal methods in software development at UNU/IIST. On this occasion, there was among other things a closing dinner. We were invited to the closing dinner by the Macau Foundation, which dedicated itself to leave behind in Macau as many signs of the Portuguese influence on the Macanese culture as possible. The dinner was in the Clube Militar de Macau. I sat next to Antonio Rodrigues, the president of the Macau Foundation. He turned out to be a nice man with clear-cut views on historical and cultural matters, which he could explain in a pleasant way. Antonio Rodrigues told me that he was a Portuguese who was born in Macau, but that he had a distant Chinese ancestor. He had studied economics in Portugal, and worked on virtually all continents before he returned to Macau. Meeting interesting people such as Antonio Rodrigues was a nice incidental of my job at UNU/IIST.

My tasks at UNU/IIST was beginning to take shape. One of my tasks was to make efforts to set up collaborations with business entities and research institutes in Europe, in particular collaborations funded by the European Union in the framework of programmes of cooperation with developing countries. I already had many years’ experience with this kind of work, in particular with regard to collaborations funded by the European Union in the framework of programmes of cooperation within the European Union.

I approached each of my acquaintances in the European Union of which I expected that he or she could be interested. Some I approached with the request to think of me and UNU/IIST when they again submitted a project proposal for funding to the European Union. Some I approached with the request to inform me when there were fellowships available for which fellows at UNU/IIST and former fellows at UNU/IIST could apply. And, of course, I sent a plea for financial support to the highest officials in Brussels that I knew. I also thought seriously about the possibilities to build out the research area of UNU/IIST, using my own research background, so as to increase the interest in collaboration in the European Union.

Managing the research group was another one of my tasks. That was more than seeing to it that the research fellows in the group supervise the fellows in the group well and that the new research topics of the group are in line with the preceding ones. It also implied acquisition of fellows for the research group and fund raising for incidental expenses. Still other tasks of mine would become training young graduated people from developing countries in doing computer science research and giving post-graduate computer science courses in developing countries. The idea was to use the courses to acquire fellows from the countries where the courses were given.

I prepared a course based on the results of my recent research and I planned to give the courses in spring in some Central and Eastern European countries and Turkey, all considered developing countries or, more precisely, countries in transition at that time. Thus, I could have acquired fellows to supervise before the beginning of September, the time that most new fellows would arrive in Macau. As soon as I had worked out the programme of the course, I approached some of my acquaintances in Central and Eastern Europe and some of Dines’ acquaintances in Central and Eastern Europe with the question whether they were interested in my course and the acquisition of fellows.

All this led to a trip to Amsterdam, Bremen, Newcastle upon Tyne, Toulouse, Ankara, Bucharest and Kiev. I would visit the first four cities as part of my efforts to set up collaborations with business entities and research institutes in Europe and the latter three cities to give my brand new course and to acquire fellows. I considered my job highly enjoyable and exciting.

© Kees Middelburg, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kees Middelburg with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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About Kees Middelburg

Retired computer scientist
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