South Africa

immi doing the speech at the press event

My speech at the "press event" on our last day.

 

Molo. Igamalam ndingu Immi. Ndivela e Stuttgart eJamani.

I am grateful for the opportunity to share a few brief thoughts with you.

You might ask why I wanted to join IBM’s Corporate Service Corps and come here to South Africa. It’s because I wanted to get a greater understanding and a different view of the world. I am a photographer and I like to take photos from different angles and I can see that when you have a different angle it provides you with a surprising and sometimes completely different picture. So I was very lucky to now get the perspective to see things from here in the Eastern Cape.

When I learned about my team I got very excited because I realized that each of us brings in very different skills. It’s the diverse skills which helped me see very different perspectives. So Thank you Melissa, I pray each night, to be as sophisticated in language as you. Thank you Anna, you have shared a wealth of different project tools and I can totally see why you are an expert in process simplification. Thank you Anil, you have a gift for conceptual understanding and applying technology.

Our assignment with Ruliv was to develop a communications strategy. On our first day, Professor Mazibuko reviewed our assignment and said “here is what I think we need from you but please tell us what you think you need from us.” So he was very open minded and Professor Mazibuko and Kizito Nsanzya (the Information and Knowledge Management director of Ruliv) and his team were very helpful and provided us with all the information we needed and gave us many opportunities to get insight into their work in facilitating economic development in the Eastern Cape.

We agreed that we first needed a greater understanding because that would yield solutions that matter to Ruliv and Ruliv’s clients. We have been in Machubeni, we have been in Bisho for a tour of the provincial capital, we have met with the Ubuntu Ma-Afrika organization who delivers home-based care for HIV & AIDS patients and others in need, and we have been taught some Xhosa words and the Ruliv team openly shared their business world with us.

Now if I compare their world with my world at home in Germany I realize that everything in Germany is all set up. Everything is standardized, a strong infrastructure is available, business processes, communication processes are clearly defined, and education is quite easily available for everyone. While here in South Africa the Ruliv team builds their bridge as they walk on it. Professor Mazibuko, Kizito Nsanzya and his team understand the value of having a strong IT system and strong communication process in place.

The four weeks was an exchange of information on an even level. We have learned that Ruliv is growing fast and organically and we helped them by structuring a communications and management system. Our recommendations provide concrete and practical advise and a solid foundation for Ruliv’s growth.

Last weekend I took the time to share a 10 page letter to my lovely 9 and 10 year old daughters at home in Germany. I told them about the major challenges that people have in Machubeni, such as getting water to their garden, education for their children, and enough to eat. When I go back home to Germany I want to share those different perspectives with my IBM colleagues, with my friends and family and many others.

I want to thank Ruliv and IBM. Thanks to Professor Mazibuko and Kizito Nsanzya for giving me this very exceptional experience. The pictures which I have physically and the experiences which I have made truly gave me completely different and new perspectives.

So to summarize in Xhosa
Sifumene abahlobo [We have found friends]
Ndifunde lukhulu. [I have learned a lot]
Ndiyayithanda i South Africa [I love South Africa]
Enkosi [Thank you]

Cat

Final spurt

Monday

Today we learned that tomorrow we’ll have our final presentation. Huhhh that’s quite a short notice. But I think we welcomed it. It’s good to get things done as early as possible and we had things pretty much in our brain … just we needed to get some of the things still documented. So today was a day I got a loooot done.

Cat

It is amazing what can be achieved within such a short time frame but looking at the great teaming and the support we got from Ruliv I think it explains it. Maybe also that we never got into too much stress. Thanks to Anil for keep reminding me that really it is important to keep my mind free and give it some space to breath.

Anil, Anna, Melisa, immi

Tuesday

Today was our final report. It’s been going fairly well. I think we can be proud about what we have archived anyways.

Melisa, Anil and immi

But today there was another thing which I want to mention… it is the Website. I have been working on it for the past 4 weeks. And as we tried to migrate the site I actually misconfigured it and the whole Website broke and I was not able to get it back on again. I called my friend and colleague (Frederick) at home and he helped me. I think it took him 3 hours but at the end he was able to fix just everything.

How great is it to have friends who help out when I need it. Thank you Frederick.

Good food in South Africa

And when I think about it this morning there was a similar instance where one of the Ruliv employees needed help. She actually didn’t dare to ask the person who I know has the expertise. So I was asking that person if he can explain and help to get the problem fixed. After a short discussion the problem could be fixed within no more than 10 minutes. Wow the Ruliv employee was soooo happy.

Kholiswa

I think that’s how things work out best: We help each other, with what we’re best at.

Anyways there is one more thing to talk about today and that is that my colleagues have asked me to speak tomorrow on the press event. Huhhh I am really excited… I’ll tell you more about it tomorrow.

Even better

Thursday

Together with my colleague today I chaired a second workshop. As a follow on to the photography workshop I have talked about image processing and graphics design.

So take a look at this:

A major part of my assignment is to re-design the current Ruliv Website but also to come up with a new content management system to simplify things.

To give you an impression on how the Website currently looks like:
Ruliv - Old homepage

And here is the new Ruliv Website as we have designed it now.

Ruliv - New homepage

What I love with the new Website is that it takes so many features of the shelf.
This includes:

1. Search engine optimization
2. Search bar, incl. an employee directory
3. An embedded Google form to collect data
4. Embedded PDF documents
5. Embedded Picasa photo gallery
6. Embedded slideshare presentations
7. Embedded maps
8. Mobile/Cell phone support

Web 2.0 functionality is sooo amazing.

Whisper - Ruliv employees

This picture is from the workshop that my colleague Anil gave. He whispered someone an Indian sentence into his ear who then had to whisper it to the next person and so on. At the end something very funny came out. The lesson of this was that really information can change as it is passed along. First hand information might need to be documented and is most valuable.

Tak Karaoke

At this evening we also went for Karaoke… Tak can sing like Elvis Presley himself. In fact he was even more entertaining. I have to post one of the songs …

Saturday

Last weekend I said: “What a great weekend and I would never have thought that after such a great weekend last time there such another great weekend.”… This weekend however topped it all. Cindy and Steve (the owner and host of the B&B guest house) invited us to join them to their hangar. All of us got onto a Chesna like airplane.

immi flying over East London

Some of us when they were on the plane and just above the ocean (we were all taken to the beach where we live) saw wales with their young “child”. Some of us got onto a really adventures low level flight. All in all it’s been exceptional. …

East London coast

We spend time together with their sons and friends on the airfield. We played cricet, drove quadbike and even gave a try in shooting. Basically Cindy and Steve shared their enjoyment with us. That day was just soooo amazing. Thanks to Cindy and Steve. The most special is always when people share their life. And this truely happened today.

immi in cockpit

Sunday

I needed today to write a letter to my daughters. In fact I wrote quite a long letter and included pictures in it to make my letter more appealing. I hope Alina and Ann-Sophie will like to read my letter. I really feel I want to share my experiences with them and want them to get some feeling for what I am doing and how the world is here in South Africa.

Wild coast - Michaela's restaurant

In the evening we have been in Chinsa. A beautiful beach at the Wild Coast and a gorgeous restaurant (Michaela’s).

Wild coast - Michaela's

My favorite dinner here is Kingclip … The food in general is much better than I thought :-D.

Beautiful restaurant

The only thing that I am missing is my daughters, my girl friend and my sleep.

immi rather tired

Sustainability and real stories

Monday – it’s to be theirs, it’s all about sustainability

My assignment is making progress. Kholiswa (the employee at RuLiv responsible for their Website) asked me: “immi, let’s step back and do some brain storming. We then reviewed what we really want to achieve with a redesigned Website. It’s been so valuable because I felt that we are together working on something which at the end of my assignment has to be Kholiswa’s work. Not mine. Kholishwa said: it’s all about sustainability. We discussed quite a lot and I think we created completely new ideas and a much improved concept for the new RuLiv Website.

Kholiswa profile

Tuesday – numbers vs. real stories

Kizito (Mgr. at RuLiv) took us on another field trip today. We met the Home Based Care team. Sweetness (leader of the team) and her team help, educate, coach and advise people who have HIV or have sexually been assaulted. Her own aunt has died due to AIDS. One of her team members told us that she joined the HBC because she’s HIV infected herself. Alcohol and rape is another big issue. The team told us about people in their neighborhood are screaming left and right during the night. It’s a mess, Sweetness said. They also miss financial support. But they bring in whatever they can.

Listening to Sweatness really touches me. It makes such a big difference as to just read it at home in the newspaper while sitting in a nice, safe and cozy room. Kizito suggested to create a Website for HBC so that others have access to what Sweetness’ team does. … but maybe we can do more?

Take a look at the blog entry of my colleague Melissa.

Another amazing weekend

Saturday – Port Elizabeth … observations

We stood up very early on Saturday to go to Port Elizabeth for the weekend. I think it’s been about 4 hours drive to get there. We’ve just walked around in the city and had a great time.

Vijay from car boot

There are very nice and historic houses in the center of the city but it’s a pitty that a lot of them look run down. Seems those houses are not maintained very well.

Port Elizabeth painted wall

The harbour looks really impressive. There is also a great view point (Fort Frederick) to oversee the harbour and the city.

Fort Frederick

immi - View from Fort Frederick

My impression is that there are more black people in the city as there are in East London.

Black people selling in Port Elizabeth

The beach and the boardwalk is probably the most exciting and worthwhile place to be in PE. We had a very nice time there.

Beach and the boardwalk

The boardwalk is an entertainment place to do some fun stuff, to shop (there are beautiful shops) and to eat (we’ve been dining at the China restaurant).

Boardwalk entertainment

China restaurant

The best thing of the day was that big baloon which you get into and then you can try to “walk on the water”. It looks easy but it is damned difficult to stand up. You’ll quickly fall again. It’s soooo much fun and laughter. You have to try it as well.

immi in big baloon

We slept in a youth hostel in PE. For some of us this was the first time in life. I had good luck and got a room just for myself… anyone else shared a 6 bed room.

Port Elizabeth youth hostel

Sunday – Addo Elephant Park and Port Alfred

We’ve been at the Addo Elephant park and Port Alfred. I’ll let the pictures speak for itself.

Addo elephant

Speed limit for elephants in Addo-Elephant park

Addo Elephant elephant

We’ve also been at the “Born Free” park where rescued animals have a shelter. There was a lion called “Aslan” (which we didn’t see). He was rescued from Greece. The story about him is quite sad but he and his “girl-friend” are now well taken care off. I got a stuffed “Aslan” for my younger daughter Ann-Sophie.

Lion in Born Free park

Another great day is over. On our way back to East London/Gonubie I was thinking about how can I best summarize my experiences after the first two weeks here in South Africa? What did I learn or what will I take away from this amazing time. So here are my “learnings”:

1. Step back, think and then make a plan which is aggressiv. When executing it then try to reduce to what’s really needed.

2. Go the extra mile if needed but alway enjoy and have fun.

3. Friendliness is very contagious. Everyone is so friendly here. As long as it’s not for to hide something friendliness is a wonderful thing.

4. Seeing the poverty it makes me feel that all my problems are super small. How lucky am I? I better appreciate what I have.

5. The teaming here is great. Everyone is trying to accomodate but also to bring in themselves as much as possible. Those are probably the two key factors for a great teaming.

Kids playing soccer - On our way back home

Shaking – Helpful – Photography workshop

Wednesday – A shaking experience

Today we’ve been in the field. This means we have been out in the rural area. This means we have been there were the people live from whatever they can get into their stomach. Some of them have some plants in a community garden: potatoes, lettuce, spinach, carrots, onions, peaches. But really it’s very few plants for a whole group of people. They work hard for what we would call a very little garden.

Community garden

The biggest problem is lack of water. It’s a very dry area. Soil is distorted. Another problem is too much livestock result in overgrazing. RuLiv has build an auction place where the rural people can sell their cows. They don’t use their cattle for meat anyways. So in other words the cows are more like a status symbol as a means to get something to eat.

Cow - A status symbol in South Africa

RuLiv is trying to get the people there more organized. They suggest the rural people to set up action groups. That way they can bring in their concerns into even more organized and legal entities. Eventually empowering the people to find ways out of their poverty.

Community trying to sell some handwoven stuff

Women are working out in the field while men are hanging around at home. Unemployment is huge. Some of the guys there seemed drunken.

Women work - Man hang around

We have been welcomed with songs and dances by the women. They tried to sell us some handcrafted ornaments. The prices that they wanted to charge us were incredibly high and inappropriate. You could tell they don’t have experience with pricing.

Traditional dance

People are really friendly. And even though they are so far away from the more civilized world they might live a happier life as some of the people in the shacks in townships near the bigger cities.

Kid on the back

Our way there to Queenstown, Lady Fere and Machubeni has been long and dusty. Driving in the rural area is a “shaking” experience. We would drive like an hour or two just on a very dusty and stony sand street. Cows, sheeps, goats or even monkeys are showing up on the street.

Township houses

Arriving back home I was so happy and grateful for life that I have been given. I have more than enough. I consider myself being very lucky.

Thursday – Everyone is very helpful

The day before our midterm report. Our team is just wonderful. I can learn so much from them. Each of us brings in a wealth of experiences and skills and everyone is happy to share and contribute as much as possible. Also I get help from some of my colleagues at home. Thank You Daniela, Frederick and Michael.

The pains in my neck started to get worse. Melissa showed me a daily workout that will improve my neck muscles. I want to record the exercise because it is so helpful. Thanks Melissa.

Friday – Presentation day

RuLiv has been very happy with our midterm report. I feel they appreciate our work and try to use their time with us IBMers as much as possible.

In fact most of the employees of RuLiv including the management team have participated our project management workshop and photography workshop. Even the Prof (CEO) has been with us all day and continued to contribute his smart questions and thoughts.

I have covered the digital photography workshop. I felt the people loved it. Nick (Mgr. of SURUDEC team) has even asked me to run it again. Take a look at the presentation online.

Melissa, thanks for leading through the midterm report. I seriously wished I can speak and write as sophisticated and professional as you do.

Anna, thanks for the great and insightful overview on PM. I can see you are a black belt on lean six sigma. :-)

Hänschen Klein, Feierabend and Kartoffelsalat

Sunday — Hänschen Klein

Today we’ve been at the hogsback. I feel I am very fortunate to be here in South Africa and to be part of such a great team. It’s been quite a long drive to Hogsback but we were using the time in the car to learn more about each other.

Team in restaurant near hogsback

I found out that Tak (from Japan) can drive much faster then I do (Steffen, Tak and I were driving). What exactly that means you will need to find out by watching the video clip that I will upload a little later. In any case Tak is also a great negotiator (apart from it he’s a great eater).

We wanted to go hiking. So when we arrived at hogsback we started by stopping over in a very cozy restaurant. (It’s a pity I have lost most of my pictures from that day) … The restaurant provided an extraordinarily nice ambiance.

Hogsback trail

Beefed up with lot’s of energy from the coffee and crepes we went for hiking. On top of the hill we had a wonderful view sitting right beside the waterfall on hogsback looking down to the valley.

Beautiful view from hogsback

On our way back each of us were singing some songs from their home country. From a German point this included “Hänschen Klein” and “Guter Mond, Du gehst so stille”. Priya sung beautiful Indian songs with romantic lyrics. And when we arrived home we actually felt that this was a very special day with lot’s of laughter and joy.

Monday – Feierabend

Our boss at RuLiv (“The Prof.) has actually been living in Germany for 18 years. He speaks perfect German and knows and appreciates the German culture. After a very interesting interview with him (Melissa, I would love to have your skills!) we packed up to call it a day. There is a wonderful German word that we use when we call it a day and go home to spend a nice evening. It’s called “Feierabend”. We talked about that and the Prof. added to it. He said: “German language is very clear. There is no ambiguity in this language. If you say something it doesn’t have different meanings” … What a good observation I thought! Maybe this explains why Germans are considered very orderly and punctual.

Self made bread

Anyways my colleagues love the word “Feierabend”. It’s now a buzz word for our lovely evenings.

Tuesday – Kartoffelsalat

Another wonderful day. We’ve done a lot of practical work at RuLiv. Melissa is a five star in communication, Anna is a five star in process and Anil is a five star in terms of integrating us as a team and with RuLiv. I am so happy to be part of this team. Sometimes it’s not so easy for me to follow all the conversations in English and I feel I am slow in picking up some of what’s been discussed. But my team colleagues are wonderful team players and make it easy for me to catch up.

CSC meeting room

Tonight the Germans were to cook the dinner. This means Steffen and I were onto making a potato salad (Kartoffelsalat), green salad and sausages. We started out yesterday with the cooking of the potatoes. We were peeling and cutting them and then pored hot water with vegetable spices over the potatoes. Then today we put a lot of salt, peeper, some cucumbers and mustard into it and steered it all up. Steffen kept asking me how much and what’s next and so on. I kind of got the feeling that we both had no clue about cooking. But we did it …

Swabian Kartoffelsalat

I am writing this blog right after our dinner and we are all very happy … so it seems it worked out :-). I must admit that the apple pie did contribute to the happiness a big time… So here the kudos go to Anna and Melissa.

Apple pie from Anna and Melissa

Tomorrow is Patrick’s birthday … and we are going to the rural area Emalahleni… we might see and talk to some traditional leaders. So stay tuned for more stories.

Me at the end of a great evening