For six months work has been relatively slow and now I have five projects on the go – all of them urgent high priority (bloody sales guys). Last week I had a business trip to South Africa.
For a while there, I was getting worried about maintaining my frequent-flyer Emirates gold card. The thought of being downgraded to silver card status fills me with a ghastly horror. I have nightmares (yes, more of them) of turning up at the airport, walking up to the check-in counter, reaching for my gold card and – AAAaaaaargh! – it’s only silver!
[And then I look down and find I’m naked.]
Anyhow, it looks like – phew! – I’ll maintain my gold card this year. During the week I flew to Johannesburg incorporating a round trip to Namibia. It was my first time visiting South Africa; and the only other time I’ve been to the continent – to visit a client in Sudan – I didn’t see very much of the place.
Luckily my client in Namibia had the right idea – our meeting was held in a Game Park Reserve, in an open-air bar beside a watering hole. We discussed multimedia message centres, WAP gateways, customer detail record formats, billing interfaces and message transcoding against a live soundtrack of snuffling warthogs and birdsong. Understandably my client was more interested in the wildlife and the contents of their beer glasses than my presentation. I can’t say the presentation held much thrill for me either – but if there’s a better way to do business I haven’t come across it yet.
Johannesburg has a reputation for violence. Even driving through the city centre is risky and it is inadvisable to go out alone in the city after dark. Perhaps this is just the same as any other large city and I am too accustomed to the relative safety of Dubai.
My client drove me through the shantytowns of Johannesburg, revealing poverty on a phenomenal scale. These ghettos cover acres of the city; sheds constructed of corrugated tin and/or scrap wood with poor sanitation and strewn with rotting piles of rubbish. In contrast, the suburbs of Johannesburg are pleasant leafy areas populated with opulent villas. There appears to be little in between.
I am glad to be home