Tuesday, 16 December 2008

The city of beautiful landscapes

Finally some time to chill, and not having to worry about work, we drove our car to the Joburg Tambo airport, where the rental service picked it up, and we boarded the plane to Cape Town. Flight went well, and our shuttle to the hotel was there in time. After we got our stuff to our room, we headed to the pool for the next few hours. When everyone had had their share of the sun, we booked a shuttle to the Waterfront, which revealed to be a really beautiful place with lots of tourists, great atmosphere and the smell of fresh fish! After wandering around for a certain amount of time, we booked a few tours to go along during the weekend, picked up some groceries, and headed to the hotel to prepare ourselves to the next day.

Weekend started with a tour along the Clifton beaches and the Camps Bay. Next stop was a harbor at Hout Bay and then we continued all the way south, to the Table Mountain National park. There we stopped at the Cape Point, where we climbed to the lighthouse for a fantastic view of the False Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. We also visited Cape of Good hope, which is the most south-western point of the African continent. From there our journey continued to Simon's Town, where the Naval base of the military is located. There we saw penguins at so close distance, that you could have pet them, which we of course didn't because they bite really hard, if you try to do so.

After the tour had ended we had a lunch in Waterfront, which were followed by some quick showers at the hotel, so that we could explore the Long Streets nightlife, which was located only one kilometer away from our accommodation. We went to different bars and enjoyed the local nightlife to the little hours, after which we got safely back to Best Western.

In spite of the late Saturday night Anniina, Jussi and Katariina were cheery enough to wake up early in the Saturday morning. We visited the famous wine area of Cape Town called Stellenbosch. Our guide Pim picked us up at 8 am from our hotel. Luckily the weather was very beautiful and it was not too hot. The views were amazing while we drove to Stellenbosch.

First we visited a small wine farm called Hazendal. The place was very pretty and the wines were excellent. It was our first time ever to do wine tasting so luckily we got Pim and the waiter who guided us. After Hazendal we headed to Blaauwklippen. It was a bigger farm and breathtakingly beautiful. The last farm we visited was Spiers. After the pleasant trip we headed to the hotel with a couple of wine bottles. After a quick lunch we took a taxi to Camps Bay beach where our other three group members were lying on the white sand.

In the evening we went to see the Table Mountain. It was very windy and cold up there but the incredible view was something that’s difficult to forget. The sunset was very beautiful and we took hundreds of pictures. We met Safipa and Nokia groups there too. After the sunset we took a taxi to Waterfront where we ate a lovely dinner.

On Sunday we headed to Waterfront again because the boat to Robben Island left at Nelson Mandela Gateaway at 9 am. First we toured around the island by bus and our guide Nandi told everything about the history of the island. We saw many interesting places like an old lighthouse and prisons. After the bus tour we visited the Maximum Security Prison where we were guided by an ex-political prisoner Glen. The place was very touching and interesting. We even saw Nelson Mandela’s former prison cell. After this historical part of our trip we had a lunch in Waterfront.

In the afternoon it was time to say goodbye to beautiful Cape Town. It would have been great to spend a couple more days in Cape Town but it was time to travel back to cosy Pretoria.

Monday, 15 December 2008

It's been really busy since Monday, when our "supervisor" Taina Tukiainen, head of the program of industrial management came to RSA. We drove around the city with Taina, since it was also her first time here. So we visited the Meraka Institute at CSIR research center, where two of our South Africa project groups are working. There we picked up Kristiina Lähde, their coordinator and we headed for a long lunch at Botanical gardens. Then we drove Taina back to her accommodation and headed back to Colbyn, to do some research about the universities.

On tuesday, we headed to SAP offices, where we met Max and Taina, and talked for a few hours about what we had been up to here in RSA. First it was quite hard to memorize all the things we had done here, since we hadn't had a single boring day in this trip. Everyday we have been circuling around Pretoria, Joburg or areas around them. Things started to came in to our minds when we got our heads together and eventually we managed to explain everything in the right order. Best parts of our trip had been visiting Tokoza, and Soweto, the CIDA-academy and Pilanesburg. We realized that we hadn't even thought about Finland, when you have had such a wonderful time alltogether. Meeting went well, and then we had lunch at SAP offices for the last time, because people are closing the offices for Christmas.

Taina had arranged a meeting with Riitta Vänskä, the coordinator of the Nokia groups, so we went to Monte Casino for a glass of wine. It was such a big contrast when we arrived at the casino because at the second last turn there was a man begging for money and on the last turn there was this five-star luxury hotel with customers who absolutely had no shortage of money.It seemed so unreal, but unfortunately that's the way it is. After the drinks, We drove Taina to the Waterkloof guesthouse, where the Idean group were having a dinner where the ambassador of Finland, and Max Fuzani was also invited. We joined them later in the evening for a couple of drinks, but unfortunately we arrived so late that the guests had already left.

In the middle of the week, we went to Menlyn to finally invest a bit in ourselves. The girls in our group are a bit of shopaholics, so we managed to spend half of the the day there. In the evening we went to theWoodlands boulevard, to have some dinner with Taina at the HEAT restaurant, with all of the students and guests we all had invited. We had a fantastic three course dinner, with some excellent wine, and some good company. Sadly, this was the last time we would see Max on this trip, and we tried to get the most of it, but it still wasn't enough. The gentleman managed to entertain the whole group by himself, and at the end, all of us were really satisfied. We headed back home to Colbyn quite early,because we had an early flight to Cape Town, and all of us needed some sleep before that.

Sunday, 07 December 2008

Halfway through

On Tuesday we had some meetings at SAP Offices in Woodmead. We met people from SAP South Africa and heard about SAP generally, how SAP works and about the different departments of SAP. Listening to the professionals speaking about their areas of expertise was very interesting. We had interviews with Freek Malherbe, Simon Carpenter, Alvin Pauls, Lerusha Nayager, Hildburg Hofer and Pumeza Bam. First Freek Malherbe told us about SAP’s industries. We learned many useful things about the company. Then we met the HR director and discussed about HR matters. It was really interesting and mind-opening

After the HR we had a session with the Learning Talent Manager. LTM was quite new concept to us. Main topics were how to get the right person to the company and how to keep him or her on duty. We haven’t really studied that yet, so probably in later studies we will get to it. Then we met Simon Carpenter, the director of strategic initiatives at SAP Africa. He told us about the platforms of SAP systems.

After these interesting meetings we had lunch with Lerato. It was probably the last time we met her during this trip. We will miss Lerato. Yet again, another nice day with people from SAP South Africa.

On Wednesday we head to the department of education in Pretoria. We had a meeting with the personel of the department of education. The meeting was actually about briefing about African and Finnish educational systems. Also the Idean group was accompanying us over there. People here are really interested in Finland and so we talked alot about the possible collaboration between Finnish and South African universities.

On Saturday Max had prepared us a nice dinner with his family in his place in Pretoria. We enjoyed each other’s company and didn’t talk too much about work. Max has a lovely wife and his daughter is great too. “The Braai”, like they call this grilling together event, was perfect. There was meat for everyone: beef, pork, chicken and fish. We couldn’t have wished for anything more. Oliver Mtukudzi playing, Max showed us his best dance moves and finally we all found ourselves next to him on the dance floor. The evening was excellent and we all went smiling back home to Colbyn.

Today we woke up really early. Our plan was to leave to Pilanesberg National Park at 6 a.m., but because of the boys, the departure was at 6.30 a.m. Finally we got to the park and booked us a tour. We drove around in the park spotting different species. We saw zebras, impalas, gnus, hippos, elephants, giraffes, rhinos, lions (from a distance though), a coyote, an eagle and even a little turtle beside the road. We took hundreds of photos and the trip went well. Some of us exhilarated from the African jewellery and statues outside the park. After some shopping we got back into the car and started our journey back to Pretoria. In Pretoria we ate some Indian food and walked around the market place at the Hatfield Plaza. Exhausted we came back home and almost all took a little nap. In the evening we had still some time to work on our project and write the blog.

Monday, 01 December 2008

Friday at Soweto, weekend at leisure

We set on the road from the SAP Woodmead office park at 10am, with Max, Sheena and Lerato, our knowledgeable tourguide. Our first destination was Siyafunda community centre, at Tokoza township, south of Joburg. The centre gives the local people opportunity to access internet and e-mail, and the possibility to learn basic IT-skills. All the people, like everyone we have met on this trip, were extremely nice and welcoming! We met students from the program, and a gentleman called Smiley, who was in charge of the centre’s functionality. A really nice man, whose family offered us some delicious, traditional Indian food. We even got to hear the National anthem of South Africa, and we also sang the first verse of Finland's national anthem.

Our next destination was Batho Pele social centre, located also in Tokoza, where people were given food, education about HIV and help coping with the disease. They also had a computer class, which held approximately ten working computers, and they co-operated with Siyafunda, which provided them internet access in Siyafunda. Batho Pele had realized, that just giving food to people isn’t enough. They need to get regular income, in order to generate well being in the community. That’s why they have founded a small restaurant and trained some cooks to provide jobs and food to the community. Really some fantastic work in a place where it is truly needed.

After that, our trip continued towards Soweto, a township that accommodates approximately 1.6 million people. From the popularity in Soweto, 70 % are unemployed, and about third are infected with HIV.We visited the Church of Regina Mund, where Nelson Mandela, and other apartheid opposition held their secret meetings. Then we drove to the Hector Pieterson museum, which is named after a 13-year old boy, who got killed during the riots which were caused by police, when they tried to break up apartheid resistors. We saw really impressive pictures, which truly made us think about the hectic times all the people there went through.

After these wistful images, we continued the tour to the famous Vilakazi street. It’s the only street in the world, that accommodates two Nobel Prize winners, Nelson Mandela, and Bishop Desmond Tutu. We had traditional African lunch and some drinks, and headed back to Woodmead. After we left Max, Sheena and Lerato there, we had yet another glimpse of the traffic in rush hours. We think it’s not that bad, only two hours to get back to Colbyn, but we couldn’t help feeling a little bit sorry for the driver, who still had to drive back to Joburg. After the long, but interesting day, we all got quick showers and headed to Brummeria. The SAFIPA project group had organized a Christmas party where all of the Finnish project teams in South Africa were invited. All found their way, and for the first time since the arrival to RSA the whole group was in one place. The evening was successful in all ways, and everybody had lots of fun!

Rest of the weekend passed off with a relaxed atmosphere, we just laid low until Sunday morning, when we finally got our rental-car, which revealed to be not too beautiful, and powerless. Still, it gets us all from point A to point B, without any problems and the GPS isn’t really doing any harm. Today we orientated ourselves for tomorrow, when we are going to meet people at Woodmead, and discuss about the University Alliances program.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

The beginning of the second week

On Monday we woke up early after a pleasant sleep. Last weekend was so much fun! But now it was time for some work. We ate a little breakfast and got dressed up. After the basic routines we headed again to the SAP Offices. There we met Max and Sheena. Sheena Ramphal took us to building 5 and showed us our desks and the place to work.

It was a nice office with plenty of deskspace. So we got our desks and got a little time to discuss about our interesting project before Max and the Idean group came. After a nice discussion with Max we had a lot more information about what they are expecting us to do and agreed about the details. Then everyone was happy and we headed back to the building 1 to have a lunch. It was a nice place to eat either inside or outside. We ate and got back home.

On Tuesday, we worked at the Colbyn Guest Lodge. We realized that it was just too much for our budget here in RSA, to travel to Woodmead five days a week, and so we now on try to minimize the trips to the SAP offices. We worked with the project plan, and prepared ourselves for Wednesday, when we visited the SAP Research Center to meet with some students.

On Wednesday, we planned to visit the SAP Research Centre in the Technology Park in Pretoria. Unfortunately, we first went to the Meraka Institute in CSIR research area, where we were though warmly welcomed. In a minute, we found out that we were in the wrong place without our drivers, and the nice lady had just thought that we were part of the SAFIPA project group. After the misunderstandings, we phoned Danie Kok, who was kind enough to pick us up with Elmarie and drive us to the right location.

After everyone had found their way, we joined a group of students who work at the research centre, and along the day we listened to a lot of presentations about the research topics they are researching for their Ph.D. We had lunch and continued with the presentations, and after the day was completed, we had a little discussion how we could co-operate in the future. After a long day, Max offered us something to eat, and then we headed back to Colbyn to gather our thoughts of the day.

The first picture of us with Max. From the left:
Hanna, Juuso, Katariina, Janne, Max, Jussi and Anniina

Today we went to visit the CIDA Campus in the centre of Johannesburg. The CIDA ICT Academy is a university, which gets funding from companies, such as SAP, Cisco Systems Networks, Sun Microsystems, T-Systems, CompTIA, DEG and so on. The students have usually very rural backgrounds, where the parents haven’t had the opportunity to support their children financially. CIDA takes around 200 new students to study the programmes every year.

The CIDA ICT Academy gives the students basic IT knowledge during the first year. After that the students choose their specialisation for the next two years. The options are the SAP training, the Cisco training and the Java training. The students get the Bachelor’s degree after that.

First we gathered in a meeting room with Max, the Senior Manager Marketing Nesan Chetty, ICT Academy Manager Khulu Ntuli, a former student who now works in the marketing section of CIDA and a couple of 3rd year students. They showed us a video of CIDA, Max showed them a video from the User Group Meeting, which was held in August 2008 and then we had our presentation about our project, our school and Finland generally. We find CIDA a great concept, that can help lots of people and also slowly reduce the unemployment number in South Africa by increasing the skills and knowledge of young people. We hope that CIDA gets more support and recognizability.

We met some SAP students at the CIDA campus

After the meeting we got toured around the campus and after that we went to have a lunch in an Italian restaurant. The food was good, which we could expect after all the other places we’ve eaten in already. Then we went back to the campus and met some students, who study the SAP programme. We had a great discussion. They answered our questions about SAP, their future plans and studying generally. The atmosphere was very welcoming and warm and the students were great. They were really curious about Finland, so we of course showed them some pictures. We might see them again on Saturday, when they are having the CIDA Sports Day, but we’ll see. Now we’re just waiting anxiously for tomorrow, because we’re going to visit Soweto

Monday, 24 November 2008

First weekend in RSA

Saturday morning, finally recovered well after a long, long flight. Max came to our place at noon, and introduced us to our driver Dingani, who was really a nice guy and he told us that we can call him whenever we needed a drive. Max invited us to watch some live Jazz music to a place called Brooklyn Espresso in Silver Lakes.

When the sun set, we headed to Brooklyn Espresso and got a very pleasant ride from our driver. Music started playing and we were very enthused. We met a wonderful singer Linda Kekana during her break and she sold us some of her records. Soon as she got back to the stage, she announced that there are some Finnish guests, and warmly welcomed us to the country. Close to the end she even dared Janne to get up, take off his shoes and come to dance with her to the front. Night was amazing and very memorable!

So, did Janne dare?

On sunday we went to a local mall called Menlyn Park. The mall was really huge and european / american like. It's funny to see how the stores were decorated for christmas, when you've gotten used to the "fact", that christmas comes with snow. After wandering around the mall for couple hours we bought some clothes better suitable for the weather around here, went back to Colbyn Guest house and spent rest of the day resting and preparing for the start of the new week.

A view from the Menlyn Park mall

Saturday, 22 November 2008

First days in South Africa

We arrived in JoBurg at around Thursday noon. Our transportation from the airport departed at two o'clock, and we instantly got a picture of the African road culture. Because of the 2010 FIFA World Cup tournament, the highways were under a lot of construction. It took nearly 2 hours (with a short pit-stop) to get to the Colbyn Guest Lodge in Pretoria, where our group is staying for the whole trip.

As soon as we arrived, we got a message from Max Fuzani, our contact person in our co-operation company SAP. He was going to visit us in about two hours, and inform us about our visitation to the SAP offices at JoBurg on Friday. We just got our stuff unpacked, grabbed something to eat, and if like suddenly, there was this gentleman standing behind our door. After introductions, we quickly realized that this was the project, and the person we had been hoping for. We got the schedule and found out a bit of the visit to the SAP Office Park in Woodmead, JoBurg.

We woke up early in the morning, freshened ourselves up, and headed for the office. We felt warmly welcomed, and waited for a short while for the other team to arrive. After everybody had found their way to the offices, we all gathered in a meeting room. There were members of the University Alliances-, and Global Communications teams. We introduced ourselves to the teams, listened some lectures about SAP operations in Africa. The day gave us a general image of our project, and was very enjoyable.

SAP Office Park in Woodmead

At the end of the day, SAP arranged a business lunch in Melrose JoBurg. We were accompanied by Max's ex-colleague from the deparment of education. The lunch was fantastic, we got a glimpse of the fine African wine culture, and some delicious food. After lunch, we headed back to Pretoria, eagerly waiting for the next day and what it will contain.

Our project team