Saturday, 30 May 2015

OTNEMEA - South Africa

As I mentioned in the first of the OTNEMEA blogs, our flights for South Africa had been changed and we went via Dubai. The first flight was less than three hours and no problem at all and we arrived in Dubai about 10pm. The plane was parked away from the terminal and we were hit by 35'C heat, in the dark. It took a long time to get into the terminal and we had only just enough time to get something to eat before boarding the long flight to Johannesburg.

I enjoyed the flight and managed to sleep about three of the eight hours but either way it is hard when you arrive somewhere at 5.30am you are tired. We had arranged for a car to collect us from our hotel and it was so nice to be greated by a driver.

Heli & Bjoern
Animals at large
Sleepy kitty
Our friend Dina who lives in South Africa came up to meet us an hour later (just time for 42 minutes sleep and a quick shower), and we met again for breakfast. Why did we not sleep later? Well travel is a privilege and it is important to ensure we see a little of where we go, and that means sleep misses out. Dina took us to the Lion Park to experience some of the rich animal life of the region and we had the chance to play with the lion cubs.

Then we visited the Sterkfontein Caves, were the oldest known human skull was found 3 million years ago in an area now called the Cradle of Humankind a World Heritage site.

Java Man Skull
Java Man 

nice knees and headwear

There was a museum before we entered the caves and here we found that even million of years ago Oracle had a presence, or rather Java man did.

Tariq who took a different flight to us, meet up with us in the evening at the Carnivores restaurant. I had been there before on my first visit in 2013 but this was even my idea, a fantastic opportunity to sample the game Africa is so famous for. They didn't have candles on the table which perhaps they should as South Africa is currently experiencing planned (although they don't follow the plan) power cuts or load shedding and 3 times the lights went out and we had to wait the 42 seconds until the generator kicked in. It was a great evening and wonderful end to our free day, but we were all glad to get to bed, catch up on that sleep ready for the conference.

The event was held in the Oracle Offices in Woodbridge and as a novelty for this tour started on time, and the day flowed really well, in fact as they have horrible traffic at peak times they are happy for us to give additional content with both Heli and Bjoern doing an extra session.

During my cloud session we had the data residency discussion, but actually in South Africa there are far more fundamental issues than no oracle data center (yet) to run cloud, they have no reliable internet and as we had already found out not always reliable power. I know South Africa does have cloud customers but there could be a long wait whilst people have enough trust in their countries' infastructure despite the Oracle marketing on the wall outside.

I also gave my #PaaS4SaaS presentation in full here and was a little concerned that the audience might find it a little technically light, but actually Bjoern and a delegate both independently gave me great feedback that they enjoyed the story telling of what my company had done.

There were also delegatesi had met in 2013 although the user group people are new, they have had a lot of changes recently and the support they got from Oracle to put on the day was greatly appreciated. For us Dina, who I hope we have persuaded to do more with SAOUG was our best resource, not only did she look after us as friends but she was responsible for at least half the delegates who attended.

Tariq left straight after his sessions, but Bjoern, Heli and I had another wonderful evening with Dina at another local african restaurant, Moyo by the zoo, where we had not only traditional food but also our faces painted and great music played in the background.

Before Heli flew home the next day we did the traditional quick visit tourist 'red bus', which I was very much split on beforehand. I know that Oracle travel warnings are always exaggerated and for this trip we were told there had been shoot out by our hotel and the advice was

"In the event of a shoot-out, take cover behind the nearest solid object and minimise physical exposure to the violence. Criminals are unlikely to aim directly at individuals who pose no threat to their escape."

Normally I would laugh it off and be (a little) brave, but Dina the local is always telling us about incidents and told us to take no valuables at all on the bus. But we had Bjoern so off we went and it was quite enjoyable; it is sad to see so many things run down but Dina did say she saw small signs of regeneration that made her hope for the future.

Having packed Heli off in a taxi, Bjoern and I went with Dina for a family evening and then before we left the next day we had a leisurely breakfast at Stonehaven on Vaal, and a boat ride.

All too soon OTNEMEA was over (well except for the long journey home).

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