Getting Settled in Jo'burg

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Day 1 - So, the day started with a Cab picking me up to take me to the Accenture South Africa office. I must say, it’s a very beautiful and different office from the ones that I have seen in India.

Actually the drive to the office also was very beautiful … The city is full of small mount sprinkled all over, so the roads go up and down as you travel through the city. I reached the office to finish some paperwork and some banking formalities. I had discussed hiring a car when I was in India, but I didn’t know that it would be arranged for me on day 1. So they gave me a Volkswagen Citi Sport 1.4 – a very basic car that would get me around the city with ease. But the thing was that I didn’t know the roads !! So I went about downloading the road directions from my office to my home. I got directions after some search and assistance from my office colleagues. As I started driving back home and I realised my driving discipline had been spoiled after driving in Pune City. Driving in Joburg is about strict discipline and very less room for error. The traffic is fast and requires complete focus. But as I started driving I actually started enjoying the drive. I also started learning some local driving jargons. In Joburg, Robot = Traffic Signal and Garage = Petrol Pump. So after getting lost a bit, luckily for me I managed to find my way back home. The flipsides here is the security concern that eliminates options like stopping by and asking locals for directions – as it increases the risk of your getting car-jacked (evolved from the word hijack). So I realised that there are some hitches with the map strategy to get around the city.
Day 2 - I had to drive to the centre of the city called the Joburg CBD to my client’s office on the Monday morning. So I decided that I should do some rehearsal over the weekend to reach the office. I decided to give my Map strategy another chance and it was a good start when I started to get to the area with ease. As I approached the area I realised that it was a highly crowded area with crisscross roads that confused the hell out of me. To make things worse there were many one-ways and I had lost track of my map. I also got tensed and distracted by the fact that the one-ways roads would mean - the way I come would not be the way I go back - and I realised that I didn’t have a proper map route to get back home. And moreover, I had lost my way to the office also. Somehow I used some commonsense to take some turns etc and suddenly I found that I was in front of the office. I again continued to move on and somehow I managed to get my way back on the road to home. That day I realised the map strategy would not work for me in a city like Joburg which was full with its security issues. One wrong turn and I could lose my way into one of the “unsafe” areas and become a potential candidate of mugging !! So I went straight to the shopping mall and got myself a GPS system (Global Positioning System – well, for the uninitiated it’s a device that would tell you the way to your destination)
Day 3- So then the next day I took another ride to my office to have a rehearsal with the GPS and I found the ride smooth and me feeling safer and driving at peace. So in 2 days straight I was “all set” in the new city – Stay, Travel and getting around without getting into much trouble all taken care of.
So I now had a nice home to stay in Joburg, a neat car to drive and a lady’s voice that tells me, “After 100 meters take right and then go straight on, then you have reached your destination!!” - Not bad at all !!

Off to Jo'burg

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Firstly, please accept my apologies for the inactivity in the past few days/weeks/months … whatever. So the thing is that lots of developments have been happening at my end. The career change that I was talking about has started to happen and is slowly taking shape. Ok ... as a result of all of that I am now in Johannesburg, South Africa on a project as a Banking Business Analyst. I am here to be a part of a large Core Banking Transformation Project on of the largest bank in South Africa.
So the fun part of all this is that I am here on my first ever onsite (foreign visit) to a country I would never have imagined coming on a project. But here I am. Just like many others, I also had this preconceived notion about South Africa. Whenever we think of South Africa, the pictures that comes to our mind are poverty, jungle or wildlife or some tribals and some talks of security issues. But I was pleasantly surprised by the completely different scene I saw after coming here to South Africa. So let me tell you the story as it unfolded infront of me.
I took a flight from Mumbai to Johannesburg via Dubai. The flight was at 4:30 in the morning IST and was going to reach Dubai at around 6:00 Morning local time. There was about a 4 hour stopover at the Dubai International Airport. Not the most ideal time to reach Dubai International Airport (DIA), which looked a bit sleepy to me. So was I as I had not slept a wink in my flight to Dubai. Anyways, here I was at probably one of the biggest and the busiest airports in the world so I decided to explore it as that is what I could do given that I had only a 4 hour stopover. As I walked in, I was greeted with sweets as it was the first anniversary of one of the terminals of the airports. I must say it was a pretty strange feeling as I stepped foot on my first foreign country. Different looking place and different looking people but everyone was busy with to get somewhere. So I thought it would be cool to call up folks at home to inform them that I had reached my first stopover at Dubai. I got a calling card for about USD 9 and called my wife and then my father and then I decided to call a friend in Dubai and then a cousin in Dubai and I still had loads of time on my calling card (now you know guys don’t talk much on phone !!). So I thought I’d keep it for a bit later and decided to check out the DIA. The first impression I got is that its more of a Shopping Mall and less of an airport … :) … Its full of Duty Free Shops and more shops and more shops. There are also many restaurants and lounges. And in between all of that there are some 200+ check in counters from where passengers take various flights to all over the world. I took some photos there which I am sharing with you all. After all that roaming around, I remembered that I had some more time on my card so I called my wife again and then finally I called my friend when the time in my card came to an end. It was also time for my next flight.
From Dubai I had to take a 10:15 AM flight that would reach Jo’burg at around 4:30 in the evening local time. I got into the flight and somehow I couldn’t take it anymore and so I fell asleep. I woke up with a strong headache and a weird feeling that something was not alright. It was about 12:15 and we had not taken off at all. Due to some refuelling issues the flight was delayed. I don’t know, probably the loss of sleep or the stuffiness of the aircraft I was having a bad headache. I called the hostess and requested for Asprin or someone from his family, after having which I was slightly better and the flight also decided to take off. I decided to then check out the inflight entertainment that was in offer. Found that there were some Hindi Movies. I decided to see the movie 99 as this was my chance to complete seeing the movie that had been interrupted in between when I had seen it the first time because of a corrupted file. I also remember seeing a Tamil Movie which seemed like a remake of a Hindi movie. Anyway, I was starting to get a bit bored in the delayed flight and also a bit worried at the prospect of reaching Johannesburg post sunset. The prospect of finding an stranger cabbie who waiting for me to take me home was getting me a bit nervous. Home – that I had found on my own from India through a real estate website and contacted and finalised over phone. Thought I had someone from my office go see the house and verify it, still there was some uncertainty that I was giving me some discomfort. Moreover, what if I had difficulty finding the cabbie? Anyways, after some walks around the plane, a lunch, an evening snack and couple of extra sodas, the plane landed on the Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. So I set foot onto my second foreign country, South Africa. The immigration went off more smoothly than expected and by 8:00 PM I had collected my luggage and was off to look for my cabbie. I went outside to find no one. So I decided to make a phone call to my point of contact in Johannesburg. I had to anyways get a cell phone number so I brought a SIM and some airtime and loaded it on my cell phone. I called my contact who gave me the phone number of the cabbie. I also drew some money so that I could pay my house owner the rent and the advance for the home. I then traced the cabbie who then drove us down to our flat after getting some directions from our house owner lady. The old lady was very sweet and had arranged the house beautifully. It is a fully equipped home with all the amenities. I paid her the money and took over the house. I called home to inform that I had reached home safely. I had some ready to eat food for dinner and crashed on bed. I had slept just 2 hours in the last 36 hours so I slept off within minutes. I got up early in the morning as I had to go to the office that day to get the joining formalities done. I looked out of the window to see a view that game me a sure shot realization that I was in a foreign country. I saw a beautiful view of trees with violet flowers all over them, the kind that I have never seen in India. I am sharing the photo of the view for you all to see.
I am also sharing a photos of the house too.