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.