A Business Mindset
Being part of a multinational enterprise, efficient collaboration between different sites across the globe is one key to a successful operation. Even if such is attained however, there are times when remote supervision and cascading of information generally does not suffice specially during critical periods where time is of the essence. As we all know, there exists time zones across the globe. At one point, we would either have queries or the need to respond immediately to another site so as to avoid waiting for a certain period of time that will often lead to lost hours. We are talking about business here and we don’t want to waste time for such cost becomes an expense. So how can we address this? Business trips! Yes, you read that right. Being in a single place lets two sides share information in a more efficient manner and learn far better from each other as they do not have to write very lengthy e-mails to each other or schedule web based meetings to explain what they could easily discuss when both are basically in the same room.
Right Set of Circumstances
So then came a time when such opportunity knocked and you know it. They needed one representative each from two teams, one of which I belong to, who will be sent for a training to Cape Town in South Africa. For the other team, Marefe, who has been with the company for a few years already, volunteered. For our team, most of the members were still handling specific projects which are planned to be released soon so they were left with 6 people to choose from. One more requirement they had was that the representative must have a regular employment contract with the company. Since 3 of the remaining people to choose from are still under probation, they were left with 3 people and that includes me. Thinking about it, who would decline such a great opportunity, right? Yet, it was not something you could easily say yes to for everything comes with its own pros and cons. One thing that held me back was the thought that I am still new to this company. Apart from that, I can’t help but think about not meeting the expectations of others. Perhaps, I was someone who was afraid to fail and commit mistakes which was more assimilated after working in a Japanese company. Yet, all those did not matter after talking to my line manager who is a really good persuader making me take risks and do things knowing that it is okay to fail for it is from it that we learn and grow more not just as a professional but as a person. So yes, after contemplating for more than two weeks, I decided to accept the offer.
Learning Never Stops
South Africa. Being not so good in geography, there was this thought in me that it is just the same with North and South America wherein South Africa pertains to the whole southern region of the African continent. Yet soon as I started reading about the place, I hereby say that I stand corrected (Forgive me for my ignorance :p). South Africa is just actually one of the countries within the southern region, particularly the southernmost country in the African continent. (For other facts and trivia, I will try to insert them along the way and hope not to miss one bit.)
The Start of a New Journey
So here comes D-Day. Our flight was scheduled for February 3 at around half past six in the evening. What was I feeling that time? I really don’t know, nervous and excited perhaps. Being used to traveling far away from home, going outside the country felt just like taking another ordinary trip. There were no emotions at all that would make me think twice about going. What has only made me worry was the twenty long hour trip. Thoughts about planes crashing and going missing just went through my mind. Guess I watch too many movies :p.
First stop: Doha, Qatar
Since we are having a connecting flight, we had our first stop at Hamad International Airport, often referred to as the “gateway to the world” connecting you to almost 150 destinations worldwide. Here, we took the opportunity to roam around.
As this is not a personal travel where budgets were planned thoroughly over the past few months, we are here on a tight budget 😀 so we just spent most of the time window shopping and after some three hours or so, we now boarded the plane bound for Cape Town.
Reaching our Port of Call
And so after more than 20 hours of being on-board an airplane with more or less 3 hours of waiting time in between our two flights, we have now finally reached Cape Town in South Africa. Soon as we got there, we took the chance to have our money in Philippine Peso (PHP) currency be converted to South African Rand (ZAR). There aren’t much banks that converts money from PHP to ZAR. Knowing this, I suggest the most tactful thing to do is have your money converted to the most common currency i.e. in USD. Luckily for us, there is Bidvest bank. The conversion rate during that time was that for every 1 ZAR, it is equivalent to PHP 4.40.
Soon after, we decided to buy a SIM card. From what I have noticed, there are 2 dominant providers i.e. Vodacom and Telkom. SIM cards offered by Vodacom is priced at around 30 – 50 ZAR if I can remember it right. As we just got to know the conversion rate from ZAR to PHP, we would automatically multiply the price by around 4. Comparing it back with those in the Philippines, the price of one SIM card is just around PHP 40.00 or less. So we thought that their pricing might be a little too expensive since we were at the airport that time. Their plans are even limited where you would need to purchase separately for your data, SMS, and voice calls. There are bundles. However, it is not as flexible as to what Smart and Globe do offer. With that, we just planned on dropping our things first at the hotel and go to the mall and see if there are cheaper SIM cards being sold.
So we then headed out for the exit and on our way, it was at this time that I have learned something new about Cape Town. It is known to be one of the greatest wine capitals of the world. (Before writing this however, I thought it was the official Wine Capital of the World but after reading what is written (see image below) and doing some Google research, I am once again wrong. Oh, I really need to read more. :D)
#STRONG INDEPENDENT EMPLOYEES
Contrary to the usual business trips being offered by other companies where someone would actually fetch you once you are at the airport, ours is somewhat different. Since we’ve arrived, Marefe and I were basically on our own. We had to find our way going to the hotel we had our reservations booked with which is in Protea Hotel in Tyger Valley.
Good thing, there’s what we call the Internet where you could practically search everything and that there is this one site, TaxiFareFinder, that let’s you estimate the fare from your current location to your destination (with the traffic included). This is good to know because as we were at the taxi bay, some drivers have been offering us a ride for 500-700 ZAR (that is almost PHP2,000.00 up!). Upon using the given site, we came to know that from our current location, the fare should only be around 200 ZAR. Again, thanks to modern technology, we have Uber and checking out the fare from the app, it is only around 215 ZAR (that is just less than half of what the drivers have offered us.) Knowing the huge difference, we opted to book a ride with Uber. (As for those drivers offering us a ride at a very expensive rate, I guess this is something really common almost at any given place where tourists flock and we have to admit that it does happen at NAIA terminal as well. So as a tip, always prepare yourself to have an Internet access or do some research beforehand. It could save you a lot of money, and by that, I would mean a lot!)
An Interim Dwelling Place
So as earlier mentioned, we will be staying at Protea Hotel Tyger Valley located in Bellville. From the airport, our travel took us around only 25 minutes or so despite the distance. It was like an expressway as there was no traffic. And upon arriving at the hotel, we had ourselves checked in and decided to take a rest for a while before going out to the mall and have ourselves familiarize the place. Despite the 6 hour difference though, it was quite a surprise we didn’t experience any jet lag.
From our hotel, we can have a view on one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature which is the Table Mountain. What makes it so beguiling every time is how simple yet grand its structure is, making you wonder why the peak is plane (which lies as one mystery for me even now that I got back from South Africa).
Of Ancient Greek Architectures and Modern Day Malls
Once we had a rest, Marefe and I decided to go to Canal Walk Shopping Centre. What was our mode of transportation? Since checking the maps, the bus station is more than five hundred meters away and we were unsure of what time does it operate, we just decided to go by Uber. The fare is quite reasonable if you go as a group so we had no second thoughts about it.
Upon arriving at the mall, I have to admit I was moved by such an intricate structure for a building. To give a quick fact, Canal Walk Shopping Centre is built around a canal, hence the name. The place is wide enough, with over 15 entry and exit points from the lower level up to the roof level. From your banking needs to your Friday night entertainment activities, this shopping centre almost have all that you need. As for our dinner, we decided to try out the already South African owned fast food chain restaurant Wimpy.
After, we decided to buy some groceries, mostly food and some personal care. Here, we learned that there are three dominant supermarkets which are Pick N Pay, Checkers, and Woolworths with the latter being the most costly. With regards to food, we can say that their staple food is mainly bread, fruits, and vegetables. Fortunately, I was able to do some diet before that involves no rice so staying here won’t be a problem :p.
Once done with our grocery, we then went back to the hotel. Again, through Uber. And oh yes, before I get to end this, I have to say that their drivers are really courteous and very friendly. They are so fond of having conversation with their passengers and with that, we got to ask a lot and know a few things from time to time.
In my next write-up (or write-ups :p), I will be covering some of the most visited places within and near Cape Town, which is not limited to the following:
- Table Mountain
- V&A Waterfront
- Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden
- Boulders Beach
- Cape Point
- Groot Constantia