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During my travels newspaper columns were published weekly in the Dutch daily newspaper
Dutch newspaper Spits

This project has been supported by these great and warmhearted companies:
Netherlands: Paping Buitensport, ODLO, IPtower.nl, AVRO Dutch Broadcasting Org., Travelcare, TunaFish, Book A Tour, StadsRadio Rotterdam; UK: Lazystudent, KissFM, The Sunday Times, The Guardian; Isle of Man: SteamPacket/SeaCat; Ireland: BikeTheBurren; Belgium: Le Temps Perdu, Majer & PartnersAustria: OhmTV.com; Norway: Scanrail Pass, Hurtigruten, Best Western HotelsSouth Africa: eTravel, British Airways Comair, CapeTalk, BazBus Spain: Inter Rail, Train company Renfe; Australia: Channel 9 Television, Bridgeclimb, Harbourjet, SeaFM Central Coast, Moonshadow Cruises, Australian Zoo, Fraser Island Excursions, Hamilton Island Resort, FantaSea Cruises, Greyhound/McCafferty's Express Coaches, Aussie Overlanders, TravelAbout.com.au, Travelworld, Unlimited Internet, Kangaroo Island SeaLink, Acacia Apartments; Malaysia: Aircoast; Canada: VIA rail, Cedar Springs Lodge, BCTV/GlobalTV, St. George Hotel, VICKI GABEREAU talkshow, Ziptrek Ecotours, Whitler Blackcomb Ski Resort, Summit Ski & Snowboard Rental, High Mountain BrewHouse, Cougar Mountain Snowmobiling, Whistler Question Newspaper, Snowshoe Inn, First Air, Nunanet.com, Canadian North Accommodations by the Sea, DRL Coachlines Newfoundland, The National Post and Air North.


Reports

Tuesday, 2 October 2001
--> Johannesburg (SA) 2nd day

Before I start off with my report about this second day in South Africa, I just need to reflect on some incoming emails.
Journo Jim, my former host in Dublin, Ireland, expressed his concerns about me falling in the hands of corporate advertisers. Where would it end with my project?

To response to his posting on the messageboard I have to say that I will NEVER be able to get to another continent without the help of a company that says "Great project you have, we'll help you out."

Please know Jim, that without the help of the Steam Packet Company, who paid for the ferry, I would never had the opportunity to visit Ireland and stay at your place.

And in return for companies helping me out with my travels they do deserve all the credits. Don't you think that would be right too?

Etravel spent over 50,000 Rand to get me over here and lets me stay in the Tenbompas hotel, followed by a tented camp park tomorrow.

For me it is a great way to get settled in a country I have never visited before and to prepare for my journey through the whole country.

Yes, I will also visit the normal private people inviting me here, as I wrote in yesterday's report, so it is absolutely unnecessary to be concerned about me staying in hotels from now.

As you might have read in previous reports too: I don't always like hotels. I rather stay with the people who have their stories to tell.

But for these first days in South Africa I really needed to have my project promoted in the media. Without the media I would never have made it this far!

And though it would be a pity, if I would stay with a host during this complete media circus. Hosts won't get the attention they deserve. So, please agree with me that the 'hotels thing' is a balanced solution. Temporarily.

From now on I am collecting more and more invitations from more people in South Africa who want to let me stay for a day. Now just hope I won't stay here too long, or I get emails of people being concerned about me never ever leaving this continent.



This second day I woke up around 10am. I felt more at ease than yesterday, with the only 3 hours sleep on the plane.

On the patio, just out of a warm sun (temperature just 27 degrees Celsius) I had baked eggs for breakfast.

This would be the last day of intense media promotion of my project and as I just wrote, pretty necessary.

Lesley-Ann picked me up a few hours later, so I decided to enjoy the time I actually had nothing to do with my feet in the swimming pool and a good book in my lap.

Lesley-Ann, the pr-consultant of Etravel and ordered to be my 'agent' for these first few days here, first took me to her office of Image Communication (in her own back yard), where I could check my emails while awaiting for a television crew of ATV.

They were going to shoot a story about my project for the national news broadcast.

The three members crew first filmed me on a computer, before taking me out to the nearby suburb Rosebank where I had to walk around with my backpack, asking people for directions at the mall.

Finally I had to pretend to be hitchhiking and Lesley-Ann picked me up from the street.

From there on we drove straight on to Radio City, a big complex where most of the radio stations of South Africa are located. In the big maze of hallways and floors, I somewhere had an interview with Anita Visser for Radio Sonder Grense (Radio Without Borders), a native South African station where I could speak Dutch and I understood her Zuidafrikaans!

It was interesting to see how everything I have entered in Johannesburg is heavily secured. Either gates will open to let cars in, or I'll get screened with a metal detector as my belongings will go on a x-ray belt.

At the radio city I even got a security notice that I had to take along with me in the building, saying that I had a digital camera from X with serial number 123 with me.

At the radio city complex Lesley-Ann treated me with a drink and introduced me to the South African biltong, salty dried meat, available in various tastes.

I remember eating this in the US when I was there a long time ago and there it is called Beef Jerky, but the whole concept is unavailable in Europe.

When Lesley-Ann took me to an original Biltong shop, because she noticed how enthusiastic I became about this simple product, I wasn't that amazed to hear from the proud shopkeeper that he sends out big boxes of biltong to private addresses in European countries on a monthly basis - as it's just not available there! Just list my address too whenever I get home for real.

After the interviews it was already to the end of the afternoon, so back at the hotel I had a nap and prepared myself for the Johannesburg First Tuesday Internet Convention, where I would have to speak to a group of over one hundred internet VIP's about my project.

At 6.30 pm it was Etravel-chief Garth Wolff who picked me up to go to the Wanderers Club, a big upper-class mansion and conference venue in Johannesburg.

This was the location where the monthly meetings of the members of First Tuesday South Africa are. Influential people working in the internet business gather here to communicate with each other, share ideas and listen to stories of success or how to create that.

Tonight there was only one guest speaker, and that was me. And it felt very strange to see how a group of over one hundred people had attended this meeting to listen to the story of my project.

When the formal talking in the hall, together with some drinks and the usual sharing of business cards, was over, the speaker welcomed everybody and introduced Garth Wolff to talk for a few minutes about what Etravel had to do with my project.

Then it was my turn to walk up to the stand and talk to the people behind the microphone. I wasn't really nervous, although I never spoke to a group of people like this. I knew what kind of story I had to tell, but the only thing I had to think about was that I was speaking with people who were normally used to listening to economic success stories, speeches about how to do things online and other subjects that a normal person might find pretty boring intellectual stuff.

And I was there to tell them about a project that was not at all about money. It is a project where people are worth more than money and where I could not survive without the help of people.

You should have seen the surprised faces in the audience.

I told the complete story in about fifteen long minutes and I hoped to keep it interesting and I hope I did not jump from one subject to another too fast, making sure that everybody really understands what it is all about.

It was appealing to hear people sigh when I told them at the end that I travel completely no-budget. Nothing.

I hope that I delivered the message that the world can never be living on money if there is no such thing as people meeting each other and communicate.

We can only understand world problems by communicating and understanding each other.

Of course I had to tell them too how much I get involved in global things, something I only discussed about in the pubs with my friends when I was a student, but which now means much more to me as I get confronted with people all over the world.

I told them about the days that I searched in my database of people inviting me over in the United States and where I had to 'delete' 35 addresses of people who are on the list of the missing people after the WTC attacks. Every time a name did pop up on my screen it struck me as somebody hit me on the head very hard. It hurts and yes, I had to cry when I was doing that. It's very emotional.

It is unbelievable and mind dazzling that ordinary people who invited me are not alive anymore due to terrorist attacks.

And it hurt so much to be chatting with American citizens in my letmestay-chatbox who only felt hate and anger to a whole group of people who seemed to be the suspects of the assaults: the muslims.

Fortunately the Europeans backed me up during the chat and I tried to explain everybody how I thought that the Americans didn't see a difference in culture. I don't mean to offend American (again) by this writing, but I have been emailing a lot with some people who after some more research by them, found out that they were really withhold information about other countries, other cultures, etcetera.

Just follow the postings on the messageboard from last week and you get just a little impression of what goes on in my mailbox everyday.

That and all that was what I told them about my project at the speech I gave. When I was finished I answered a handful of questions from the audience.

One of the questions was what I have been learning the last five months of travelling. It is respect. A lot of respect to people who just open their door for me and give me the possibility to come over the forward the way those people live to the rest of the world. You don't read that in travel guidebooks or even in the newspaper. It's just another form of communications with the world.

I hoped they were satisfied by my words about the internet as they came especially for me. I was intrigued and overwhelmed when they clapped for me when I was finished.

I asked Garth how I did and he was pretty much brought to silence about my speech. He said that "it was probably the first time that these people heard a story that is coming from the heart and not from the back pocket where the money is".

I was numbed by these words. Particularly when afterwards people gave me hands and congratulated me with my special way of life and the success it has. Without even making money or spending it. A few people even said to me that I opened their mind and that is where I get satisfied myself.

Just understand the purpose of live and how to live with it. How many people on this planet, work hard to get everything they want but aren't really happy? And know there are many ways to get happy. And I get happy by sharing my philosophy to others.

I was once one of those people who said 'who am I to change the world?', but I know that I might be able to change the minds of just a few people by just telling them where my happiness comes from. And then it is not about money, business cards or having everything I want.

Wow.
Forrest Gump: "And that's all I have to say 'bout that."

When the whole meeting was over, Garth took me out to dinner to an excellent steak restaurant. It was located in the Monte Casino, a big (no HUGE!) palace-like how-should-I-call-it...

We parked the car on the 4th floor of the parking deck and took the elevator down to the second floor. Suddenly I was walking in an original Italian city. Complete streets were rebuilt with exact originality, housing restaurants and pubs, with on the squares the one-armed bandits of the casino.

It stroke me how something like this was possible in South Africa. I have been thinking too negative about this country.

The ceiling was the blue sky as clouds were painted in one part of the place and stars simulated the night in the complete roofed city elsewhere.

In the early months of 1944 tens of thousands of Allied and German soldiers lost their lives in the battle for Monte Cassino, a sixth century Benedictine monastery in the mountains south of Rome. The 2nd New Zealand Division was all but wiped out.

In South Africa today, however, most people seem to live for the here and now. When a giant leisure conglomerate opening the 1.4 billion rand ($A33.3 million), Italian-themed gambling, retail and hotel complex north of Johannesburg two years ago, "Montecasino" must have sounded like a perfect name.

It is definitely a gigantic replica of a mediaeval walled Italian town, plonked down amid the dust, gum trees and slip-routes of the suburb Fourways, just north of the concrete highway.

There are many things one could say about Montecasino, but the most important one is this: the people of Johannesburg absolutely love the place.

We had dinner at the Meat Company, by words of mouth one of the best steak restaurants in South Africa, where Garth treated me on a meal where I definitely had to eat with my hands. It was delicious.

And during the dinner Garth was really still overwhelmed by my speaching. Just a little longer and I'll get shy now...

On the way back to the Tenbompas hotel Garth told me about what makes him happy. He puts a lot of time and efforts in the company, loves the people who work there and really want to go for it. Everything is going good and nothing is being rushed.

And he agreed on the power of personal communication. That is what Etravel is based on. "If you book a trip online, you are not a number. You'll get yourself a person that helps you out with everything, from the flight to your car and this person is even available 24 hours a day. That is commitment. That makes me happy. To be there too."


I had a great day.

However I must say that doing those press things earlier today can frustrate me, as of course I know that people would like to see me move through the country and spent time with real people who invited me at their homes.

Don't worry and trust me, I will go there. And I even think it will take a very long time before I will leave this country.

Good night Johannesburg!

Ramon.




Today in the national newspaper Business Day:
"Spinning a world wide web"




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