A weekend in Capetown was a nice way to finish a trip to South
It’s very different from Johannesburg,
with more tourism and less Africa.
Thanks to Christel, we had an action-packed
two days upon arrival Saturday morning.
We got picked up by a driver, Mr Fish, who took us to our hotel to drop
bags, then on to the wine country.
was raining slightly as we visited two small wineries in the town of Franchhoek,
and one in Stellenbosch.
The views in
the wine country were beautiful.
From there we drove back toward Cape
Town as the weather cleared nicely. This was our chance to visit Table
Mountain, so named by its distinctive flat top. It is accessible via a rotating
cable car,and offers dramatic views overlooking the city and the area.
With Cape Town’s
unpredictable weather, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity, and it was well
worth the trip. The views really are
magnificent from high above the city. It
was cold and windy up there, but we stayed until nearly sunset before taking
the tram back down.
Sunday morning the rain returned, and we took the ferry to Robben
Island. That’s where black political activists and
others were imprisoned during Apartheid.
The most famous prisoner is Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years there
before his release in 1991 and ascendance to the presidency of South
Africa. His is a remarkable story, and 46664 is a
famous number, as he was the 466th prisoner to arrive in the year
1964. We toured the island, the inside
of the prison, and Mandela’s actual cell.
The rain added to the somber mood of Robben
Because they are so much a part of South
Africa, we spent a lot of time on our trip inquiring,
observing, and talking about Apartheid, race relations, and the continuing
effect of both on the country. With us,
we were incredibly fortunate to have Renee, a black IBM
executive. I can’t speak for the others,
but through our conversations she helped me understand things about these
topics in new ways. We also had many
natural conversations like this with South Africans, black and white, and
gained a better understanding.
Getting back to Cape Town,
the rest of Sunday afternoon and Monday morning were spent walking around and
packing. Too quickly it was time to
leave and travel 24+ hours back to NY.
I watched Invictus again on the flight home. I had a very different perspective after our
experience in South Africa. The first time I saw it http://invictusmovie.warnerbros.com/dvd/index.html a few years ago, I recall Morgan Freeman
excelling as Nelson Mandela. This time,
I noticed more of the background and sights.
The union building we visited in Pretoria
was the set for some of the political meetings.
Also, Matt Damon and the rugby team visited Robben
Island in Capetown to see Mandela's
cell. It was also interesting to see the
team visit a settlement and interact with the kids like we did at Ivory
I recommend seeing the movie, but more
than that, I recommend you visit South Africa. I hope to return soon.
#ibmcsc South Africa
Today we met early and for the last time in the York room at the hotel to complete the follow-ups on our work. We spent a lot of time over the past three weeks in the York room. It’s a bit small for a group of six and there will be no love lost leaving it behind.
It’s strange to be gathering for the last time, and eventually as the day went on, it became the last supper and then the final goodbyes. We didn’t know each other three weeks ago, and now we are old friends. Yesterday and today we signed each others Joburg books with messages like school kids.
I don’t yet know if ESC was life changing, but it was definitely the work experience of a lifetime. It was an intense, satisfying, exhausting three weeks filled with the opportunity to meet many new people and see many new things. Best of all, the work we did is already making a difference for the city of Johannesburg through the new ideas and plans we gave its officials. I’ll be keeping an eye out for news on the city and feedback on what happens next with our roadmap.
At midday we were hosted for a tour and lunch at the Joburg Zoo. Best of all, at least for me, was the chance to see the African Cape Buffalo. When we presented our report, we put in some local color and organized it into sections using “the big five,” (elephant, leopard, rhino, buffalo, and lion). We each owned a section and mine was aligned to the buffalo.
The big five are so named because they were the five most challenging South African animals to hunt, and any of them could turn the tables for the hunter to become the hunted. Apparently the African Cape Buffalo is very cunning and quite dangerous.
I almost missed the chance again to see a buffalo as it was not on the tour. Although they are in Pilanesberg, we did not see any the day we visited the game reserve.
Jurie spotted its location on the zoo map and I left lunch early in pursuit. After 3 weeks of working on the buffalo section, I figured I had to take one last shot. I was not disappointed and got a first hand look at a 4th member of the big 5 (we never saw a leopard). It’s got an intimidating look with a scowling face and a thick curled set of horns. The horns run in one piece with a thick band across the forehead.
We turned over our phones and said our goodbyes and thanks to Jurie. He was a big reason for our success and handled a lot of the scheduling and logistics to make our jobs much easier. We then spent the rest of the afternoon packing and catching up on email.
We met to go out in the evening, and for the first time in three weeks it was raining. We taxied the short distance to the Sandton convention center and went to Winex, an exhibit and tasting of South African wines. At various times, Subu, Renee, and I were each interviewed by a South African tv station and provided plenty of material for their segment on the event.
Following Winex, we returned to the hotel and had the last supper at Tivoli, an Italian restaurant next door. It was close with good food and became our most popular hangout when we had little time for a meal or were eating late. We must have eaten there a half dozen times between lunches and dinners and got to know some of the staff.
After that it was goodbyes as everyone is heading in different directions. I am traveling to Capetown for the weekend (as are Renee and Christel) before flying back to NY on Monday. Subu is meeting his wife to head north to Kruger National Park and Victoria Falls in Tanzania. Vania meets her husband to go to the Mauritius Islands. Pat is heading directly back to Houston. We won’t speak together again until our final ESC program debrief call in a few weeks.
#ibmcsc South Africa
Outstanding! Outstanding! Outstanding! We finished our final report presentation Thursday night with the mayor on a very high note. The IBM South Africa general manager said he was “blown away” by the quality of what we delivered. We delivered a 16 slide final presentation, with a 97 slide detailed roadmap. Ten copies of each were bound, hand signed, and presented to the mayor along with CDs of all files.We also provided a 50 page written report. More specific feedback will follow when I return. We also got our Joburg books signed by the mayor.
I started Thursday with my last run in Joburg and completed my “big 5” loops of Mushroom Farm Park, then circled the long way around Sandton back to the hotel. The march of the African National Congress Youth League was coming through the area as I discussed yesterday, and even very early in the morning the police presence was already strong. When I got back to the hotel, they were rolling out razor wire as a barricade –yes, that’s right, not barbed wire, razor wire! I’ve traveled a lot around the world, and it is the first time I’ve ever been razor-wired into a hotel. They say there’s a first time for everything.
The marchers were expected to come through in the early afternoon and the hotel was taking no chances. We learned it’s the first time the hotel ever did this, so we felt special.
Likewise, across the street there were fence barricades being put up in front of the Johannesburg stock exchange.
Our meeting with the mayor wasn’t scheduled until 6 pm, so we had to stay away from the march so as not to have our travel interrupted. IBM security and Jurie made sure we were to be no where around the hotel when the main activity took place. They shuttled us off to Pretoria, about 40 miles away, to tour government buildings and other sites. Pretoria is the center of South African’s national government, so it was good to get a feel of a sister city while we are here. It is also known for being covered in purple blooming jacaranda tress this time of year. The plan was to have us return after the march went through so we could change for the meeting.
The best plans sometimes don’t work out. The march started quite late (apparently they didn’t attract as large a crowd as hoped:
http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/Latecomers-delay-ANCYL-march-20111027). As a result, the marchers were now scheduled to arrive in front of our hotel at just about the time we planned to return to change for the meeting. We had to accelerate our schedule and return from Pretoria early. We got back and were given 30 minutes to go in and out, entering and departing via the underground parking garage because the front of the hotel and the road there were completely sealed off. We made it out in time and headed off to see the mayor. It was mildly exciting, although we were never in any danger and never actually saw the marchers.
#ibmcsc South Africa
One big day of presentations completed with flying colors, and one to go. Today was a great success in discussions with the senior CoJ public safety MMC and top officials including the chief of police and head of Emergency Management Services. Our approach and ideas, now complete, resonated really well. At the end of the meeting, we got more signatures in our books.
We followed with a late briefing of the local IBM team an d the formal turnover of the project to them for follow-up with the city. A local IBMer from public sector who worked directly with us on the project to prepare for this turnover stated how favorable our engagement has been in improving and forging relationships with city officials. That was great to hear, and was one of the project goals in addition to completing the work itself.
With the help of the local team, we obtained bound copies of our slides and written report, in which we included a letter, delivering our results. We each hand signed ten copies of both documents which we will deliver tomorrow evening as we present the work to the mayor.
In celebration of Diwali, Subu organized dinner at the House of Curry. Three of us joined him and agreed to eat vegetarian for the meal. It was outstanding and we got Subu to explain the origin of Diwali, the philosophy of kharma, and Ghandi’s relationship with South Africa.
Subu befriended the owner in a few prior solo visits, and we were welcomed as honored patrons for the night. The owner, Eggie, is a huge man of Indian origin, very well connected in the city. He commissioned a large mural painting on several walls in his restaurant to show the history of Indians in South Africa as it paralleled the country’s history. Many leaders and famous people are depicted in the mural, which is very impressive.
On the way out after dinner, Eggie introduced us to a table of diners, some of whom were from the city government. We ended up talking and laughing with them for another 45 minutes, on a variety of topics including South Africa’s future, US politics, and India’s history. One of their group was an Indian man who got into an entertaining and lively debate with Subu, topped off with his repeated use of Subu’s full name, “Listen,
Subramanian, let me tell you what really happened so you can understand…”
Tomorrow we’re headed out to avoid the African National Congress Youth League march taking place. 5,000 people or more are expected to demonstrate in front of the Joburg Stock Exchange, on the street and directly opposite our hotel. http://www.timeslive.co.za/politics/2011/10/27/joburg-pretoria-brace-for-malema-s-march
What we’ve accomplished in the last few days (and weeks) is nothing short of remarkable. Our roadmap for Smarter Public Safety is very strong, and the first review today proved it. We’re wrapping everything up by midday tomorrow, planning to print and bind copies of our presentation and written report for a session with the CoJ Public Safety officials in the afternoon. This is aligned very well with the city's internal activities, and we are giving them a clear implementation plan at just the right time.
We got a nice surprise after a meeting with the city manager today: coffee table books on Johannesburg. They are really nice, and we already got our first autograph in them from the CIO. It looks like they’ll become our yearbooks from this trip, collecting signatures. They weigh a lot, which will push luggage limits.
We began handing out small gifts brought from our home countries to those who’ve helped us on this project. They go over well and help with the relationship building. That will also help reduce some weight on stuff we don’t need to bring back with us.
Tonight we got letters in our hotel rooms warning of a major protest march occurring in the area on Thursday. We can’t risk having our logistics disrupted so will leave early and return late to avoid the expected 10,000-20,000 crowd size. That reminds me, most buildings in Johannesburg have high walls with barbed or electrified fences on top. Our hotel is no exception. Sometime in the future, I hope there is a “take down the walls” campaign, but that’s not likely in the short term.
We’ll miss the warm weather and long daylight hours here, as they head into summer here. It was hot again today (35c). There are lots of nice flowers in bloom and the jacaranda trees have purple blossoms that brighten up the landscape. Most meals we ask for an outside table as it’s very nice weather all the time. It’s dry so that even when it’s hot, it’s not unbearable.
Not many days left, and running hard for three weeks with low sleep is catching up. I feel a good collapse coming on once we finish. I've worked for it, earned it, and nobody's going to deprive me of it. I’ve also been in this time zone long enough to get adjusted, so switching back is going to take a few days. This has been an amazing experience, but the time to return to reality is approaching.
#ibmcsc South Africa
Today was a wfh marathon. That’s work from hotel, (not work from home) as we spent the whole day here locked up in a conference room. The best thing was it was really hot today, by far the hottest day yet, and a few of us worked in shorts. We split off for a while, but spent the beginning and end together. At the conclusion, we have our main slides in good shape, appendix in reasonable shape, paper about half done, and detailed roadmap spreadsheet to follow. With a good effort tomorrow morning, we should get pretty well there and tune over the next two days. We have a first presentation tomorrow late afternoon at 5 pm with the CIO, and one last high priority interview to complete just before that.
I gave Renee a hard time when she strolled in right at 8 am followed by one of the waitresses carrying a plate of breakfast with a metal cover. The restaurant would not let her carry her own plate of food in the hotel. She entered like a VIP with an entourage following with the details.
Pat discovered today was Vania’s birthday. Late in the afternoon Pat and Renee walked in with a couple of pieces of cake with lit sparklers. We met late at 8:30 pm and all went to dinner at an African restaurant where Vania also got African face painted and serenaded by local drummers.
The South African wines offer a lot of variety, and some are quite good. Early on we worked out a system to keep track of which brands were the best. Christel was taking pictures of the labels, but after a few days there was no recollection of which specific bottles had been the best. So we added a rating system to the label pictures of 1 to 3 fingers and the more fingers, the better the wine. There’s never a complete consensus, so Christel as the photographer is the final arbiter, since she will own the photo. I’m usually the hand model, and lately there have been a few 1 ½ and 2 ½ ratings, so I’ve had to be dexterous.
#ibmcsc South Africa
Today is Sunday, and two weeks are complete, with one to go. We have a lot to do in the next 3 days as we begin presentation reviews late on Tuesday. As a result, we’re getting together at 5 pm today for a team review that’s likely to last into the night. We all know we’re very well positioned in our work, we just need to close strongly and get a bit of luck on our side to ensure all the final reviews hold on calendars.
As I was sitting at breakfast early today, I noted it’s always strange to be on the road on a weekend. Most business travelers get home for the weekend, and weekend travelers are usually couples and families having a good time. So it’s an odd feeling to be alone and out of place when everyone else appears to be doing something ordinary. It’s especially odd when you’re in a strange land.
Over the years, I’ve spent many weekends away in a lot of foreign cities. During the work week it’s not so bad, as things move so quickly you don’t really have time to notice. On the weekend, things slow down a bit, and you realize you really are far from home. It’s not the worst thing if you can do some touring, and you just do it, but it feels weird, a little like being a nomad.
Today is more business mixed with pleasure. We made a run over to Rosebank and the Sunday African craft market that we missed last week due to our safari trip. We heard a lot about it, and it didn’t disappoint. There were hundreds of vendors, selling just about everything. I spent about two hours there before heading back with a few things.
One of those things was a small bag of ostrich biltong, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biltong. Biltong is something like jerky, basically dried meat with flavoring. It’s pretty tasty, and at least the ostrich variety has very little fat. On days like today when end late and a big meal would be too much, it’s a dinner substitute. At the GDS 2040 launch on Thursday night, they had bowls of it alongside peanuts and potato chips as snacks. When in Rome...
Saturday we had to mix business with pleasure. As a result, we started early, on the pleasure side, of course. We traveled out to the Cradle of Humankind (http://www.cradleofhumankind.co.za/index.html). It’s a World Heritage Site displaying and explaining the origin of humans in Africa based on archaelogical discoveries in the area. It’s fascinating to see the displays and read the history. It says we're all descended from the same common female African ancestor. I believe that was Meryl Streep*. The view from the top of the site is also quite beautiful and gives a feel for the surrounding savannah and its original inhabitants long ago.
*co-star of Out of Africa with Robert Redford
From there we moved on to Lesedi Cultural Village, http://www.lesedi.com/. At Lesedi, there are five recreated villages of different groups that formed the population. Each displayed its own architecture, customs, and clothing. There was a tour of the villages and a chance to try a few local delicacies like dried worms (high in protein and yes, I did) and a grain and bean paste that was a diet staple (not bad). After the tour, there was a lively display of native dance and an African buffet lunch.
We got back to business by mid-afternoon, and by 7 pm I finished my draft deck of slides. That was fortunate, as Subu and I went to see a very popular South African play, Chilli Boy, http://www.joburgtheatre.com/show.asp. It was our first venture into the CBD at night, and we were warned to go only to the theater and back by taxi. We did, the play was good, and the rest of the trip was uneventful. The city of Johannesburg is very beautiful at night. The Nelson Mandela bridge is lit up in colors, the skyline is attractive, and despite its reputation, this place has tremendous potential. Our smart safety roadmap is sorely needed.
Here are some videos:
1) Sound of South African birds that wake us up in the morning: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2qHFK8a3ic
2) SA Anthem by William Hung? Not the greatest rendition, but I tipped him 10 Rand anyway: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Ac0uQ1H6PY
3) GDS 2040 Launch opening video (long, but interesting): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yj51iiFh15I
#ibmcsc South Africa
The city offices are located in what is called the central business district (CBD). Like in a lot of cities, it used to truly be the center of business, but due to crime and safety concerns, many businesses moved out to other places. As a result, what remains is an area with mixed use, blight, and hope to regain its former glory. In the meantime, it also houses the city offices to show of confidence in the area. As we travel into CBD each day for interviews, we see a mix of street scenes.
We had some excitement on Wednesday when someone peered into our van while we were parked at a traffic light, then opened the door. We usually keep it locked, but somehow it was left unlocked. It was unexpected and one of us was pretty startled, enough to do some light screaming. That also frightened the person who opened the door. It turned out to be innocent enough, as our van was mistaken for a public taxi, which are multi-person vans following defined routes, and the individual was just looking to get in for a ride. There’s never a dull moment.
In between interviews today, we got a tour of the women’s prison at Constitution Hill from the MMC (Member of the Mayoral Committee, an elected official), Mally Mokoeno, who was jailed there for 9 months in solitary confinement during the race riots of the 1970s (http://www.economist.com/node/4269771) . She was then quite young, and yet her memory of the details of the experience is very vivid. She told us detailed stories of her incarceration, and we were amazed she was able to go back to her actual prison cell and relive the memory. She told of how she was allowed out of the cell for only 30 minutes of exercise daily. She told of the miserable food, sleeping on the hard cement floor with only a blanket underneath, and the dehumanizing treatment from certain guards. It was a powerful experience for us, and a real life testament that the scars of apartheid run deep. Yet it was also great to see Mally is able to return, even though we can’t really know why or how.
It may have been Friday afternoon, but we had to come back to the hotel for a 5 pm team meeting to start looking over early slides for our final presentation deck. We were displaced from the hotel conference room typically reserved for us by a weekend bridal show. We met at a table near the pool and got our business done anyway. So much for happy hour.
Things did get a bit happier later on Friday night when we made a trip to Carnivore (http://www.carnivore.co.za/) billed as “Africa’s greatest eating experience.” It was a game lodge theme restaurant, borrowing from Brazil’s churrascarias to serve native meats on giant skewers, sliced onto your plate. We had crocodile, impala, kudu, and a variety of other tasty treats. I’m happy we went for the experience, but wouldn’t rush back – we already visited better places to eat game.
#ibmcsc South Africa
Thursday night we were invited to attend the launch of GDS 2040 http://www.joburg.org.za/gds2040/gds2040.php . GDS stands for Growth and Development Strategy, looking toward the year 2040. It’s the city’s newly launched vision of the future, and strategy to get there.
In just a week and a half, we’ve almost become a part of the upper echelon of Johannesburg society. There were several thousand dignitaries, officials, and other key members of the social scene in attendance, along with the IBM ESC team. We received a special invitation associated with our project. Among these members of the Joburg elite were a number of officials we’ve interviewed, so it was nice to be recognized and have the chance to chat. I was happy to see the city’s Chief Information Officer wearing our button when we were talking and photographed together.
It was also quite a launch party, held at Soccer City, a stadium used for the 2010 World Cup. There were food, drinks, music, dance, and fireworks. Of course there were a few speeches too, but it was mostly a festive affair. There was a native drum positioned at each seat, and attendees, including the IBM ESC team members, beat the drums for applause, and on cue in certain songs. We had a blast.
Our mayor, Parks Tau, reviewed the GDS 2040 collaborative input process, and the highlights of the strategy. He spoke about the next key step to translate it into the coming 2012 annual integrated development plan for the City of Johannesburg (CoJ). We have an opportunity to influence that with our project work. Then he led a group of youths toward a soccer goal positioned at midfield in the stadium. A ball was kicked into the goal to light up a giant “2040” and fireworks appeared over the stadium.
That closed the formal ceremony, but the launch celebration party continued inside. On the way in, we met the mayor on the stairs and congratulated him on the launch. He asked how the project work was going and we set up next week’s final presentation. Inside, there were large white boards and containers of paint. To mark commitment to the strategy, attendees dipped a hand in the paint and put a palm print on the board, then signed next to it. We joined in, of course, and certified our commitment to Joburg GDS 2040. If all turns out well with our project, we will have a role in its execution.
We got the attempted tourist scam at a restaurant late last night. It was a native African restaurant in the small mall attached to our hotel. The waiter brought over the wine list and menu. He recommended a bottle of wine, which he also brought to the table. It turned out to be the most expensive on the wine list. When we said we’d rather have this one or that one instead, other less expensive choices on the list, he said each was sold out. It appeared the expensive one was the only bottle of wine available. Then he proceeded to tell us that the prices shown on the menu were not the real prices, because they had been changed. We’d get the real prices on our final bill. He appeared serious, and it was almost comical he was trying this on seasoned travelers. So we just walked out without ordering anything with his expensive wine bottle still sitting on the table. We ate at another place nearby.
Today was hump day, Wednesday of our second week, the midpoint of our three week project. It was another day traveling around the city, first at IBM for another round of mentoring, then Renee, Vania, and I traveled to city offices across town for interviews with city officials, while Pat, Christel, and Subu stayed at IBM and conducted interviews with key people who agreed to travel there. We all reunited for a late afternoon 2.5 hour session with a top ranking official and several others from related areas. Sorry I can’t be more specific. I will point out that this official asked me for extra Joburg ESC team buttons (see Holiday Lighting entry: https://www-304.ibm.com/connections/blogs/RonJoburg/entry/holiday_lighting_already3?lang=en_us ) for her children. And that's given me an idea for one of our recommendations...
The long days are running together now, and we’re feeling the pressure of the deadline. We really have to finish at least two days early, meaning Wednesday of next week, to begin final reviews. We had a night session to revise our day-by-day calendar, and a minor panic is setting in with the amount of work ahead of us. We hoped to work late and save as much weekend time as possible, but there’s too much to do for that to happen. Everyone’s a little on edge, but so far the “testy” interactions have been minimal.
The IBM facility here may be the most protected, yet beautiful site I’ve seen of many around the world. It sits behind high walls and a steel gate with security guards out front. Inside is a multi-level building forming a perimeter around several courtyards. The largest surrounds the cafeteria on the lower level, and contains gardens and a koi pond. It also has a patio and tables, making it a nice place to eat outside. That’s where most of us held our 1:1 mentoring discussions.
#ibmcsc South Africa
#ibmcsc South Africa
Another very long day.
We started with mentoring at IBM, of
high potential people selected by the local management team. The idea is for our experienced ESC
team members to pass along advice that can help the careers of these
individuals. With the growth
opportunities that will be realized in Africa over the
next ten years, top people will have great chances to achieve career
advancement. I was very impressed with
my first mentee, and expect we will continue our discussions going forward
about once per quarter. We will each
meet with a second mentee tomorrow morning.
Next we held several round tables with other top performers before
leaving IBM for interviews with city
One of my interviews today was with a top public official
who was imprisoned for being an activist during the apartheid struggle. At the end of the interview, she started
talking about aspects of her life. She
said her imprisonment lasted 9 months.
She told us she was forced to stand for the first seven days and seven
nights, and at times was beaten. After
that she was placed into solitary confinement before eventually being
released. She promised to show us the
prison cell, when we tour Constitution Hill. http://www.constitutionhill.org.za/
It was a captivating and emotional story, and we stayed another 45 minutes beyond the allotted time to hear it. The Constitution Hill visit is going to be an intense experience.
No photos today, but here are a couple of short videos of the elephants we saw at Pilanesberg Game Reserve:
Today was a long day, and we didn’t get out until 7pm. That wasn’t the end, just an opportunity for dinner break, then back at it. The good news is, not only are we going to deliver something significant for the city of Johannesburg, we are likely to extend the IBM frameworks for Smarter Cities. We are apparently breaking some new ground with our approach. I say apparently because so far we’ve not found prior work in some areas in our scope.
But I said I wouldn’t talk much about the project, so what else happened? Well, not much per above, although four of us walked over to Mandela Square for dinner. Each day they are adding more holiday lighting, although it’s only mid-October.
Knowing we were going to work for the city of Johannesburg and the mayor, I had 50 small lapel buttons made before leaving home at a site I found on the internet. They are a big hit, and in addition to the team wearing them to show support for the city, we’ve handed them out to the city officials we meet, a few of the local IBMers, and some of our support team members like Juri, our daily driver, and the security guard at the city offices. We tell them we’re making them a part of our team.
From the city website, I grabbed the emblem of “Joburg, a world class African city,” and centered it over a background of the skyline. On top it reads “IBM ESC” for the executive service corps. On the bottom is “South Africa.” It’s a subtle way to show support for the city, and seems to go over well. The emblem is widespread across the city, on buildings, signs, and publications. Each day before we leave the hotel, there's an informal check of who is not wearing their button.
#ibmcsc South Africa
We went on our “safari” today to Pilanesberg game reserve . http://www.pilanesberg-game-reserve.co.za/ It was about 2 hours drive outside of Johannesburg, and we left before 6:30 am and got back at almost 7:30 pm. In between we toured the South African countryside outside of the city. The landscape is very open and beautiful, with some resemblance to the American west. It’s typical “savannah” for Africa. You see a mix of scenes as you drive, including impoverished settlements, many people walking, and cows and goats crossing the roads (our mini-bus nearly nailed a large cow in the road and had to break at high speed to avoid it). There are other scenes of fruit trees, lakes, vistas, and expensive high-end properties.
Touring Pilanesberg was very interesting. The park is the fourth largest game reserve in Africa where a variety of mainly native species are free to roam. You drive slowly on mainly dirt roads that run through the park, and peer out into the landscape, looking for something atypical to the grass, trees, brush, and dirt forming the background. That is frequently an animal, but other times just a log or rock. It’s a lot like hunting, because you need to constantly look carefully or you will miss something, or like fishing, because you never know when or if something is going to happen until it does. It’s also a little like Jurassic Park, a very large “natural” environment managed by humans, and I couldn’t help but make the comparison.
We had a successful day measured by the number and variety of animals we spotted, but just two were among Africa’s “Big 5.” (The Big 5 are lion, leopard, elephant, African buffalo, and rhino.) We spotted wildebeest, impala, kipspringer, zebra, ostrich, guineafowl, hippo, wart hog, giraffe, elephant, waterbuck, rhino, crocodile, kudu, and springbok. So that’s at least fifteen different species including elephant and rhino from the Big 5, but no luck finding lion, leopard, or buffalo.
The elephant sighting was the best of all. It was just before noon and we’d not seen any of the Big 5 to that point. We stopped at one of the watering holes which have a “blind,” an observation area protruding from the edge of the water. Shortly after our arrival a group of giraffes walked up on the far side of the water to drink. We also saw elephants moving in the brush, but they were well hidden. We watched and photographed the giraffes for a few minutes, and then the elephants began to move in. They walked as a group out of the brush and up to the water. There were at least ten, several of which were still young and very small. From our viewpoint, they appeared to cross in front of the giraffes, which remained in the distant background.
The elephants drank for a while, each sticking its trunk into the water, sucking in a large amount, and putting its trunk up to its mouth to pour it in. It was fascinating to watch. Once they finished drinking, they marched off in a row back into the brush. As we drove away from the area, the road got closer to their path, and we got a closer view. They stopped to eat by pulling down foliage from large trees, and stuffed big bundles of leaves and branches into their mouths. The trees shook from the force they used to pull down their meal.
At a game reserve, timing and luck are everything. Had we been at this watering hole 30 minutes earlier, or 30 minutes later, we would have missed the entire elephant encounter.
#ibmcsc South Africa
#ibmcsc South Africa
Things got even busier toward the end of the week than they already were and I haven’t blogged in a few days. Now it’s Saturday and I’ll catch up a bit. One week is already past, and it felt slow at midweek given the long days and nights, but now that it’s over, it also seems it went quickly.
We are very deeply involved in our work project now, having taken the first few days to sort it out while talking to the city officials and local IBM team. We have just 10 work days left, and really less than that since we need to finish most work a few days before our final presentation to the city. We built a schedule of what needs to be accomplished on each day between now and the end. Next week is going to be brutal, with many interviews to be completed, analyzed, and integrated into the overall Smarter City roadmap. We’ve also got to work some today, to catch up to where we wanted to be at end of week 1. I won’t write much more about the project, which is better as I was told the last few entries were getting boring.
So I’ll focus on things that happen outside of the project. Running around the hotel is dangerous, and you do need to run fast, but not for the reasons you might think. It’s dangerous because the cobblestone sidewalks are coming up in places from tree roots and things, and you really need to watch where you put your feet. You need to run fast to cross a few intersections and in weekday traffic, the cars zip by and come at you on the left side of the road, opposite the US. I found “Mushroom Farm Park, a couple of blocks away, and running there is much better. It’s about a half mile around, hilly, but safe and well kept. Once you get going, the altitude still catches up on the hills – not yet acclimatized, but this should be great ski season prep. I run every second day, and in between have visited the small gym. There’s been no shortage of food here, and the daily exercise is the only way to fight it off, and survive the long hours.
There’s a mini version of the Wall St protest going on this morning at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, which happens to be right across the street from our hotel. I asked one of the photographers about it, and it’s basically a similar gathering. There were a lot of political signs, and I wondered what was going on. It appears peaceful.
We got in a few hours of shopping in the middle of the day by taking the subway, Gautrain, one stop to Rosepark on the other side of Sandton. It’s a modern system and very comfortable. At the Rosepark mall, lots of gifts and souvenirs were purchased, including some at an appropriately named store, “Big Blue.” It sells South African designer goods, not computers.
For anyone wanting other perspectives on the trip, a few of my teammates are blogging: