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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:
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Reports

Friday, 30 November 2001
--> Johannesburg (SA) christmas?

How hard is a life of a computer journalist in South Africa? Today I was taught all about it by Shayne and his colleagues at the Computing SA newspaper.

During a Christmas lunch I was remembered again that alcohol and media people has a stunning effect if you mix them together. And I fortunately did not join in with that.

And I ended up in a swimming pool at my next hosts' place, thrown in with my clothes on. Strange day this was, but very impressive!

After last night’s party time in Johannesburg’s nightlife, Shayne woke me up this morning with a cup of warm coffee.

It was Friday morning and I felt if I could sleep another three hours longer, but of course for the Robinson’s: Friday is just another working day.

After a shower and cereals for breakfast, I passed on the letmestayforaday-gift from Jeanne Rogers on to Shayne and Karin. They were very overwhelmed with this present: a limited edition, numbered, bottle of red wine dating from 1975. I gave the Robinson’s a pretty hard task to come up with a present for my next hosts, this way.

To do some working on the web, Shayne took me along to the offices of Johnnic Publishing, where he works as a news journalist at the newsroom of Computing SA.

And Shayne was also one of the reporters that attended the press conference that my South Africa sponsor eTravel had organized for me on my second day in South Africa. He even wrote an article about me in the magazine.

It was interesting to be backstage of the media (once again). I heard all kinds of stories about new games (like the online Star Wars game that will be released mid-2002), companies and wow!, can journalist complain about all the ‘functions’ they have to go to every week!

Companies invites them where they are informed about some newsworthy thing, but of course it all goes together with food and drinks and a lot of spamming about the company. Sometimes, the journalists at Computing SA say, a small press release and a demo would be enough.

I wouldn’t mind if people invite me over for a drink and a meal in order to write about them. Never. But of course I am in another business.

I worked my few hours online, until Shayne took me along to this Christmas lunch where the complete newsroom was invited to, organized by a local PR Agency.

We drove through Johannesburg to the Sandston Square, where we entered the fancy Greek restaurant Pappas.

We were given a nametag and could choose a seat on one of the three long tables on the covered terrace.

And before we knew it we where surrounded by public relations agents, reporters and other human disorders. But I do like them, they have an opinion about anything.

We got drinks, drinks and drink and everyone got Christmas hats to put on, and this was eventually a Christmas lunch.

And why do they have Christmas lunches in November in South Africa? I had that question too, because it doesn’t sound logic for non-South Africans.

Christmas in South Africa is here in the middle of the summer. Schools are closed until the next year for a long summer holiday. So of course, offices also close for the summer. And if you close early in December, you’ll have to party in the end of November. It sounded great to me, unfortunately I am not going to experience a hot South African Christmas. I’ll depend on the weather in Barcelona at that time...

After the starters plates we all shared on the table, we were given even more and more drinks and some folks were challenging to go for tequila. “No, no, no,” Shayne said, but of course he lost it when the shooter glasses were passed around. I was happy enough with my Coke…

At our table I was amused with a lot of gossip from the office floor and some ladies sitting on the other side of the Sandston Square distracted some of the men – they used my camera to get a fine zoom. When the photograph of two ‘interesting’ ladies was taken, my camera was passed around along all three tables. Some guys even asked for more material like that, as the food took another while.

So you can guess that the alcohol was doing its job in their media minds. Ha.

It was around 3pm when we finished the Greek chicken meal and Shayne and I prepared to take off again. But suddenly Greek music was played in the restaurant, pretty loud also, and the waiters started throwing their plates on the floor. Of course this was an introduction to the Greek tradition of plate breaking (to break with the old way of doing things, seeking new freedom and of course having fun while breaking the plates).

And needles to say, soon everybody was breaking their plates on the floor. The restaurant owner happily passed around more plates and soon the entire floor was filled with fractions of broken dishes!

And it is even a great way to loose some aggression too!

Back at the Computing SA offices, I heard again how hard a life of a computer journalist in South Africa is. Colleagues of Shayne told me how they get a big pile of mail every week and about how hard it is to test the supersonic new Nokia-cell phones, game demos and new software releases all the time. Wowy, this sounded like a little paradise spot for me. Just give me a desk and I’ll be playing around with those gadgets and I’ll even write about it! (And I am not a real computer geek)

At 5pm I said goodbye to Shayne and thanked him for the pleasant night out yesterday and for taking me along to today’s Christmas lunch.

I met up with my new host, Gerhard Oosthuizen, who collected me at the Johnnic Publishing building.

On the road to his family home in Kelvin, a (secured) suburb of Johannesburg, he told me that he was fascinated with my concept and that he and his wife had travelled a lot too. And always when they met somebody on their route, those people were invited to stay at their place in South Africa.

Gerhard and his wife Colleen have two spontaneous young daughters, Nakita (11) and Storm (10). After years and years of working for a boss in big companies, Gerhard is now distributor of MindMapping Software and with an in-house office he has much more flexibility in behind a dad and a businessman. Which of course makes life a lot more fun.

When I arrived at their home and settled with a drink, I enjoyed the discussion Nakita and Storm were having with Gerhard about pocket money. They didn’t get any and they now want it, but Gerhard negotiated very long with them and finally they would be doing the little things as keeping their rooms clean, washing the cars, and etcetera for every Rand they would get. Things in life are hard to get, so they were taught to do something for it.

Very amusing to experience of course, because those kids always have their appealing motivations for their needs and use fascinating expressions on their faces when they don’t agree with anything.

What also was fascinating was the shyness the ladies had when I pulled out my camera. They were running through the house, hiding from my digital eye and of course I took some interesting shots of that. They weren't going to be very happy when I would put those pictures on the internet, so I made a fine deal with them.

I would delete those pictures, if I could throw them in the swimming pool in their garden. And the ladies immediately agreed, giving me the fun experience of flying them into the pool. What I didn't really expect, was their revenge: to be thrown in the pool too. Darn! Please feel sorry for me...

Colleen had prepared us all a delicious oven-baked pasta meal for dinner and after dinner I had to tell Colleen all about my adventures. Because Gerhard had not told his wife about me when he submitted his invitation to me.

After dinner we were somehow stuck on the kitchen table, while we were having interesting discussion about the crime in South Africa, its economy (the South African Rand has devaluated to its lowest point ever. 1 US-dollar is currently 10,26 Rand, making the country very attractive for investors and tourists as a meal in a restaurant is about 30 to 601 Rand) and the image of this African country.

According to Gerhard, the South African government should start to realize it still is a Third World country and it should not be reaching to become a First World country, while it still has so many big social diversity.

“The black majority voted for this black government in 1994, but they still don’t get what they were promised at the elections,” Gerhard explained to me. “So someway those people will protest against the current policies and probably they’ll expect more results from a white government. It’s all because the current government is ruling the country the European way, while it still is a country in the South of Africa. They can’t just change that!”

I have heard this mentality before, even from black South Africans. And they were very honest to me when they told me that the country was much more stable during the Apartheid, than it is now.

And of course, Apartheid was a bad thing (and mostly in the eyes of Non-South Africans!), but the working black people at least knew what they got for what they did.

Now things have changed, the government should first change the mentality of all of those people in order to have everybody understand the situation of the country and what can be achieved with it. But try to change a country in six years time, while you also have 4,5 million people who speak 11 different official languages. Don't dare me...

The eyes of the kids were slowly closing as our talks about the country went deeper and deeper and around eleven o’clock at night also Gerhard and Colleen went to bed.

They left me alone behind their Internet computer where I worked until 3am that night to finally have things worked out.

If you would know what went on in my head this last week, you might understand why my reporting has been below average (for my own standards), but I’ll just keep that backstage information for later.

Some things I am not even allowed to publish here or I’ll get in big trouble with my backup-team in Holland, haha! But you should always remember that it will be in a book sometimes. I just need to get rid of it somehow... - big smile.

Good night Johannesburg!

Ramon.




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